February’s Endings

As the second month of the year draws to a close, it feels unusually overdue. Time has been moving quite slowly in my world, due mostly to my recent hermiting tendencies and self-focus.
I’ve been living off Portal for the last month, house sitting a friends apartment and the calendar tends to flip slower when I’m not on the water. It’s part of the ‘deal’ Charlie and I have had to work on – how to divide our one tangible joint asset: the boat. As any ending relationship is, it has been a difficult and emotional process. I owe you, my community, for the heartfelt support and non-judgement you have offered us. If I haven’t personally said it yet, Thank You.
We have finally settled on a deal – he has Portal to himself for February, I move back in, alone, in March and buy out his share of her value. We now both feel significantly better and some of the tense frustrations have dissipated.
I also started a pretty hectic, time-demanding job at the start of the year, workshop manager at Reid Cycles. It has been challenging but rewarding and despite working massive hours, I’m glad to be playing with bikes again.
You know how they say don’t make more than one big life change at a time? Home, Work, Love. Oops.
I’m accustomed to change though and the obvious truth is, it sits well with me. My reaction has been to take a time-out for myself, focusing on meditation, health and diet. It’s liberating to be sleeping 8 uninterrupted hours a night, to be filling my body with green smoothies and veggie/raw-rich meals, to spend my precious free-time cycling around my city or going to the cinema alone or shopping and cafe hopping, a good book always at hand. A part of myself that had been long neglected is developing again, and yes that’s partly due to a change in my love life, but it also has a lot to do with being back in my ‘hometown’, in a challenging new job, and for the first time in a long time, not thinking about boats or projects or travel plans (much).
After two months of lone-living though, I’m starting to emerge again, make more plans with friends, stay out past 10 occasionally and even consider inviting others to join me at the movies! Sometimes I worry this will get harder again, but maybe it’s all been too hard for too long, and maybe all (at least most) of the tears have fallen. Maybe it’s time to just let love flow it’s flow, to sit in fields of green grass, sun on my face, smile on my lips, and just say “be here now”.

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What I havn’t told you

Why do I write this blog?

Is it to simply share my travel experiences? To inspire, to encourage, to reflect? To give a voyeur-view into my life, as a young woman on the road? Or maybe just to self-indulge? I always said it was a platform for me to practice my writing, to keep me writing. And to share in this human-experience, to explore ‘the meaning of life’ together, as part of a community, all searching relentlessly for answers to questions or questions to answers.

I believe strongly in the value of transparency, of openness, so that we might all learn more, grow faster and understand one another better. I write because it’s a way to share life, to connect with people both known and unknown and explore ideas as part of the bigger picture.

But it’s not always easy. Sometimes I find myself slipping into the tedium of “I went here, I did this”, or glossing over my experiences so they all sound like passionate, fulfilling adventures. And when I am living my dream (to sail my own boat across the Pacific) it’s all too easy to leave out the rawness of it, the tears and grit that are inevitably involved in risking yourself while following your heart.

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Charlie and I have always questioned the institution of marriage, challenged the assumptions made by society, by couples in love. It’s why we had a commitment ceremony and not a wedding, it’s why we tried open relationships, it’s why we’ve travelled apart for months at a time and it’s why now, after 5 years of being together, we’ve decided to separate.

I shared very little of our slowly disconnecting relationship, even with closest family and friends. I felt embarrassed at our failure to make it work, felt other people’s disappointment, those who love us both dearly and think of us as a team, felt that so soon after our heartfelt and powerful Union Ceremony, we should be doing better.

But then we sailed into Brisbane, and the time came to share our lives with others. It came as a shock to most, as it might to readers of this blog, because (through my own fault) what they didn’t see was the fighting, the misunderstandings, and the differences we found in each other. Our relationship has always been a balancing act, a hard won passionate battle of communication and empathy – always talking, working or moving our way through big impossible issues. We haven’t made it easy on ourselves, and maybe this is just what happens when you live through so much together in such a short time. I don’t know. Thankfully, what Charlie and I do know, is that we don’t want to go on with the struggle – we need to go our separate ways, to follow our dreams in different directions.

What I feel in my heart is that we are no longer meant for each other. We have growing opposing opinions about some fundamental philosophies, and despite still loving Charlie as the beautiful man he is, I recognize that’s not the man that helps me be the best woman I can be. Our vows to each other were clear: we would make our independent selves our first priority, always love the other, and live life together as a team so long as our happiness benefited.

Our roads have forked, our lives are separating, but we have stayed true to that commitment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas With Family

It’s been 6 years since my sister Ella and I had Christmas together with Mum and Peter. When I wasn’t biking or sailing, she was in Spain, so the years have ticked by without a ‘full’ family. We are now all gathered in Sydney, Ella and Daniel’s home, enjoying the traditional celebrations and each others company at last.

Joining us this year for our Danish eve dinner were our friends Jess and Duncan (of “Alliance”) and Jess’ Dad, Jeff. It was a ton of fun, and we are all still recovering!

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The bike gang sets out from Newcastle

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75kms later, we rest in Wyong, waiting for the train to Sydney

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We’re not alcoholics – we’re pirates!

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Ella and I in the kitchen

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Jess and Duncan join our family!

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As does Jeff, Jess’ Dad.

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The “Head Monkey Bear” and the youngest Monkey Bear gather around the tree

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It’s Danish tradition that lets the youngest take charge of the presents – thankfully, i’m always the youngest!

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Ella and Daniel getting excited

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Jess gets a Cornish-pirate dvd!

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The anticipation…

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We love our bikes!

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Duncan getting into his new cookbook

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Charlie better get brewing!

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Mum unwraps her humungous present – a Moroccan tagine!

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Charlie and Duncan fight it out at backgammon

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Peter and Susan (mum)

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Gather round the christmas table..

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Ella and I practice the ‘squinge’ (a supposedly ‘seductive’ photo-face Daniel has been teaching us!)

Dad Turns 80!

                                                                     DSCF1247This weekend was my father’s 80th birthday. 80 years! Wow! And he hasn’t wasted a single second of it – as the dozens of friends and family who came to his party could attest to. He’s got the stories to back it up, and we spent a wonderful weekend laughing, eating and drinking with fun people from near and far. Thank you all for making such an effort to join us, I feel privileged to meet or reacquaint with so many interesting, lovely people! Huge thanks to Mum and Peter for their place at Boonah, the perfect setting. And to the whole family for all your input and creativity – what a wonderful celebration!

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Mum, Ella and Dani make all the delicious food, as usual!DSCF1238DSCF1230

Lily, Carolyn, Ricky and Charlie get down on the decorations!

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Air Tropicana flight attendants:

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Ella MC’s, then Suzie (eldest daughter) gives a speech: DSCF1365 DSCF1367 DSCF1371My turn (youngest daughter)… unsuccessfully holding back the tears:

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“Just last night, Rosemary was telling the story of the time Dad, landing in Emerald one early morning, had to rouse the sleepy-eyed traffic controller. Upon Dad introducing himself, the young man immediately grabbed his hand and shook it furiously, saying “You’re a legend!”

 That pretty much captures how I feel about you Dad – and I know i’m in good company. Your ability to make anyone feel welcome, to always get a laugh, and to look at life with optimism and adventure. The way you so humbly impart your vast knowledge, and always take interest in helping if you can. Your hard to ruffle nature, and the many many varied crazy and dangerous expeditions you’ve done in your 80 years on earth – That’s what makes you a legend, and the legacy you continue to create in every community, is why I’m so proud to be a Keith Barlow daughter.”

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Bob Wylie gives us all the giggles as he pulls out the Vanuatu Custom outfits:

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Mum read’s Peter’s wonderful invitation poem and says a few words:

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Then Dad gives us the giggles again:

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Dad cuts the amazing Airplane cake (courtesy Ella):

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And finally, an amazing summer hail storm, seen from the (relative) comfort of the deck:

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YOU

The end of a grand adventure is always a special time. Time to take a moment to reflect on the history of the journey, the work, the heartache, the joys, the tears. To remember when it was just a dream in the pipeline, to remember how it came to be reality. It seems a lifetime ago that I was here in Brisbane, dreaming of a boat I had only seen in pictures, and convincing Charlie to help me take her home. Now, two years later, here we are again, in the river-city of Australia amongst friends and family.

In the meantime, we have learnt how to be plumbers, electricians, riggers, mechanics, sailors, navigators, captains… and we didn’t get here on our own. So many people have made this dream a possibility, and it’s you we want to thank. Yes, YOU. For your support, for your funding, for your wisdom and lessons and encouragement. We could never have grown into the people we are today without you. Thank you for helping us achieve this gargantuan goal, and for sticking with us when we really had very little idea or experience. Thank you!

Our Support Team:

First and foremost, is of course, our parents. Mum (Susan Bothmann), Peter Franks, Dad (Keith Barlow), Mom (Pam Alsum), Dad (Charley Brigham). Wow. You guys threw money and love at us when all we had were dreams, and your trust gave us wings. Thanks for taking the time to visit and for helping us achieve so much in that short 9months! Thank you, from the deepest depths of our hearts, for believing in us, and supporting yet another crazy endeavor that kept getting crazier. We’ll stop now for a while, I promise.

Family has always been our rock, and our sisters have always been there to lean on. You guys reminded us what a special adventure this one was, and to keep on truckin’. Thanks! Ella Barlow, Carolyn Barlow, Suzie Norman and Johanna O’Tigham. You ladies rule! Special thanks to Carolyn for making the effort to join in Tonga, and for all the fun we had sailing home to Vila!

There’s one person that single-handedly put Portal in our hands. If not for Mr John Reid, we would probably still be two ragged hitch-hikers, wondering which rope to pull and what the hell a GRIB file was. From the planting of a dream four years ago, to the weather-routing-rescue mid-Pacific, John has never failed to encourage, educate and support us on this mission. He stood firmly as a pillar of support for us newbie sailors, and literally talked us through every step of the way. I would never have even considered this a possibility, if not for his firm encouragement. Thank you for helping me become the sailor and skipper I am!

Our crew deserves a top-of-the-list thanks – Barbara Graf and Lydia Witter. Thank you for putting all your trust in us, for never asking too much, and for always giving your all to this amazing adventure! Thank goodness we had your help!

And to their families: George, Laurie, Werner and Gabriella. For trusting us to sail away with their children, for always lending support, and for taking on the burden of worry so we could have an amazing adventure! Thank you!

There are two people that didn’t just make this trip special, they made it unforgettable. For their friendship, love, support and constant help and hospitality, we could never thank Jess and Duncan of Alliance enough. From the life-saving tows when we were in trouble, to the countless late nights of giggles and good food – we will always be grateful. We love you guys so much!

A big all-round thanks to all the friends and family back home (both in the US and Australia), who sent us words of encouragement and for believing in us. Thanks for keeping in touch, for reading the blog, and for following us on the Tracker. We loved having you along for the journey!

In chronological order:

Jerry Purcell: Our broker in LA, for his rule-bending early on, and the push to get us OUT!

Robert Brown: Our first friend in LA! Thanks for all the buckets of wise advice and never doubting we were going to make this happen.

Mariners Bay Marina: We really owe them thanks, though I doubt they know it! For turning a blind eye to our “sneak-a-board” lifestyle, and having such relaxed marina rules that meant we could use the dock for projects!

Arturo the rigger and Ken of Maritime Communications: For being one of the few voices of reason in California! Honest and knowledgeable advice was hard to come by, so thank you both for being the exception!

Downtown LA Bicycles – Rod and his family: From the beginning you helped make this happen! Thank you for giving Charlie a comfortable and enjoyable work environment, and for always taking such an interest in our journey. Your gifts and support made our life so much easier and safer!

Huckleberry Cafe – For being a fun place to work with great pay and conditions. Thank you for dealing with my frequent stress-migraines and supporting me on this project!

The Ship’s Store – RIP. The last of the Marina Del Rey small business marine shops – you will be missed!

Max and Stefan: We owe you two doggers! Thanks for letting us use your address, and for receiving dozens of bizarre packages of all shapes and sizes – it was a major help!

A big thanks go to Michelle and Ryan, Kevin, Nicole and Wendy, Augustine, Cyprus, Cathy, Jon, Giovani, Travis, Robin and Kevin, Doug and all the other friends that kept us sane while we worked unhealthy hours, pouring everything into this. Thank you for breaking the monotony and cheering us up just when we needed it!

We want to thank the rightful owners and inhabitants of all countries and lands we travelled to – thank you for allowing us to visit your home by sailboat, for letting us eat your fruit and catch your fish. We respect and admire your welcoming attitude and open hearts. Thank you.

Thank you to Laurence, Kai and family of Lilikoi Garden Cafe in Moorea – you guys made our Moorea experience unforgettable, and we just loved meeting your beautiful family. You helped us get through tough bike-theft times, do laundry, and always had a safe haven for us to crawl to! Thanks for the great hikes and the good times!

Thanks to Mike of the Aquarium Cafe in Tonga, for creating such a friendly, useful space for cruisers and always making us feel welcome.

A huge thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, to my Ni-Vanuatu family: Gladys, Samuel, Mothy, Mark, John, James, and Jack. You make Vanuatu HOME for me, and seeing you again was beyond amazing. Thank you for welcoming us so truly and completely, as well as our friends, Jess and Duncan. I’ll see you again soon!

A big thank you to Paul James, for all the help and support while we were in Vila!

A huge and special thanks to the Beeson family – your hospitality and help saw no limits! Thank you for really making life in Vila fun and easy, for the delicious meals, great adventures and for the sailing interest! Cam, we loved having you join us, and we are truly sorry it was such a horrendous trip! May there be another someday to make up for it!

Thanks to Mic Mcgra for opening your home to us, and giving me the pleasure (and comforts) of memory-lane!

Thank you to our family-friends Tess, Bernie and Lachlan, for the delicious old-school dinner at L’Houstalet and the wonderful welcome.

To Malcolm and Jackie from Cornwall, thanks for your help in Tanna!

A big thank you to Esteve in New Caledonia, for all the car-rides, and for making the Blue River national park so easy and fun to explore by bike.

And finally, a thank-you to all the people un-mentioned, for picking us up when hitch-hiking, for giving us help and direction when we were lost, for letting us sit in your cafe for hours using the free internet, and for generally making our lives easier as travellers and sailors. Thank you!

Pacific Cruising Community:

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These are the friends that accompanied us across the ocean, and you are the ones that  made this trip something special. Every landfall was made sweeter by your company, and every bottle of Abuelo and Clos was tastier with you to share it! The camaraderie and support that we received from you often pulled us out of sticky situations, and we thank you for all your help along the way! Fair winds and following seas to you all!

Paul and Celeste of The Beguine: Thank you for all your amazing fishing advice, all the gifts (especially the incredible equator-crossing Scotch!) and for believing in the crazy youngsters with the tiny boat!

Jared and Scott of Reisender (and Pixel, their cat!): for being our very first cruising buddies, for always lending a hand where it was needed and for that last roll of duck-tape – it really came in handy!

Jess, Duncan and Jeff of Alliance – because it just doesn’t get any better than you.

Bruce, Catherine, Luka, and Don of Marionette; from delicious dinners to help with boat projects, we miss you and want to thank you for just being great sailors and great friends. Bruce, you are an inspiration to us all.

Henrick and Morton of Night Hawk; For that first ‘Hamburga’ party, and being the charming vikings that you are. We loved being next to you in port!

Toby, Simon and Louie of Warskavi; 3 vikings on a tiny boat – you won our love from the start, and we thank you for being the good friends you are and always up for some fun!

Travis and Joanne of Calico Jack; For your amazing cooking and wonderful hospitality, and for being part of this years crossing crew!

Neville of Compass Rosey; Thank you for that spare solar controller – it was a wonderful back-up!

The whole crew of Llyr; For inspiring us with your unique research-sailing vessel, and for being such a wonderfully open and friendly family!

Mark, Paul, Inaki of Sikim; Oh, you guys! We miss you and can’t wait to see you again some day – Thanks for always filling life with more laughter!

Robin and crew of FlapJack; For the regular radio help and information when entering a new place – thank you for making our lives easier!

Chris from Santa Cruz; Dude! Thanks for joining our circle for a while, and we hope to see you again!

David and family of Suvarow; Thank you for the wind-vane! And for inspiring us with your dedication and cutie-pie family!

Charles and Heather of Chilli Cat; Thank you for helping us get our bikes back in Moorea! It was great to have you as part of our travelling community.

Graham and Dianne of Maunie; For the hospitality and great laughs – and for loving our cat so much!

Beth-Anne and Doug of Sinbad; Thank you for the ‘golden egg’ theory, and for being so open and humble – your boat & tour was the best of the trip!

Tray, Amy and Ryan of Blue Moon; Thanks for the help in Raietea, and for good meals and good chats!

John of Ocean Jewel; Thank you for that great Brisbane chart and the brand-new boat hook! What a life saver!

Karen, Andreas, Esra and Angie of Happy; It was so great to meet you guys! Thanks for the great bonfires and good times!

Rona of Hello World; Thanks for being so bad-ass and inspiring me to single-hand someday! We hope to see you again…

Phil, Connolly and Travis of Sea Monkey; Thanks for the water that night… and for the fun and hijinks that followed, it was great meeting you!

John and Nia of Zeitgeist; Our new friends! Thanks for being cool and inspiring us with… everything!

Harry and Dagmar of Moyo; Thanks for the offered refuge in Tanna, for the fish and the friendship!

Peter and Vanessa of Akimbo; Thank you for the great hospitality, all the wealth of information, the delicious food and all the fun we had in Noumea!

Peter, Peter and Jess of Quest of Signet; Thanks for being there when we were going crazy, and for going crazy too! We loved the bonfires and late nights with you guys.

Mike and Jules of Sirius; Thank you for keeping our spirits up when the weather wasn’t cooperating – for the fun board games and great nights together.

Mathew and Karen of Gallanego; It was great meeting you both, thanks for the all the fun!

Tom of Earl of Tasmania; Thanks for being such a crazy dude, for having an even smaller/older engine than us, and for really cheering us on!

And Finally:

A last-but-certainly-not least final Thank You, to the most valuable crew ever to sail the south-pacific. Mr Gramps, Auto-helm 2000, despite the ups and downs, became our friend, mentor and right-hand-man. Thanks for getting us here Gramps! We did it together!

 

 

 

 

 

Portal’s Pacific Complete!

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At 165 million square kilometers in area, the Pacific Ocean covers about 46% of the Earth’s water surface and about one-third of its total surface area, making it larger than all of the Earth’s land area combined.

Translation: Crossing the Pacific Ocean on a 30ft sailing boat, often going no faster than a brisk walk, takes a really, really long time. It’s big. Really big. Big enough to contain thousands of paradisaical islands, a whole bunch of curious whales, dozens of delicious Dorado, miles and miles of treacherous waves, kilometers of tranquil still seas, squalls, thunderstorms, pelting rain, rainbows, turtles, sunshine, parades of fast moving ships, communities of slow moving sailors, black people, white people, weavers and carvers and builders, and a whole bunch more of COMPLETE UNKNOWN.

But, all crests are conquerable, and after 9 months of sailing, Portal has made it to Australia. We are tired, dirty and hungry, but we’re here!

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Waiting for the Weather

After our spot in Tanna’s town of Lenakel turned nasty, we decided it was time to leave. Despite getting a migraine, not having an autopilot and it being dusk, the building swell and increasingly uncomfortable anchorage meant we had to go.

And a good thing we did! In complete contrast to our previous sail, this one was the best of the trip yet! It would have been perfect if not for the hand-stearing, but with a light breeze beam on and flat seas, it came close anyway. Our two day trip to New Caledonia passed quickly, but we were quite exhausted once inside the protecting reef. We found a small bay close to the pass, and anchored for the night, again with our friends on Alliance.

The next day we picked up the hook and continued on to Noumea, city of lights. Some hiccups with Pixel meant she had to be quarantined while we waited for our newly ordered auto-pilot, but soon both were back on the boat and Portal cleaned and ready for Australia’s harsh regulations. We were ready to go.

Neptune however, has had other plans. We are still here, still waiting. The weather for the last 2 weeks has been less that savory for a passage to Australia. We rest in wait for it to change, along with a dozen other sailboats all chafing to get to their final destinations.

We have made the most of it though; Jess, Duncan and I rented a little red car, ‘cherry’, and visited a national park near by. I loved it so much that I returned the follow day by bike, and explored it on two wheels. I was brought almost to tears by the largest living Kauri tree, and the cute Cagous, a native and endangered bird that is close to my heart. Boat projects have also been getting done, and Luckey’s sailing rig officially complete – more details on that to follow!

May there be fair winds and following seas soon!

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