Jul 262012
Day-off with crew: opening a beer the sailor way aboard Silphide, Matt's family's sloop.

Day-off with crew: opening a beer the sailor way aboard Silphide, Matt's family's sloop.

Hello out there! It’s been so long since I’ve written that I wonder how many will read this. But to those who do, thanks for continuing to tune in to my adventure!

You might have guessed that I’m home again, back in the USA. I flew out of Hobart, Tasmania at 6:30 AM on Saturday, July 14th, and arrived in Los Angeles at 6:00 AM on Saturday, July 14th. (Awesome. I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of that one. :) I spent a few days hanging out in LA with friends and volunteers from the American Tall Ship Institute, where I was First Mate in 2010-2011, and then continued on home to Massachusetts. In a few days I start a new job as Bosun on the Clearwater, a gaff-rigged sloop that sails the Hudson River. It will be a whole new culture and environment, and I look forward to reporting…

But for now, what things stand out to me in my first two weeks back in the country?

Cinderblock city in Guatemala

Cinderblock city in Guatemala

Re-entry shock: It’s amazing how challenging a return to home can be after an extended period of time away. I remember having reverse culture shock after just 2 1/2 weeks in Scotland when I was 17, and even more of a dramatic adjustment period in 2009 after returning from 10 weeks in Guatemala. After Guatemala, I remember noticing how all of the buildings seemed exceptionally solid — even over-built — in comparison to the flimsy-feeling cinder-block and corrugated tin structures in Central America. One would think that Australia and the USA are so similar that reverse culture shock would be almost non-existent, but I’ve learned that any change in cultural environment, no matter how subtle, can stir up emotion and reflection. We often don’t know what we’ve been through until well after, when the dust has settled.

U.S. Airport Security: Both times I went through International customs and security in Australia, I felt the process was effective, fair and efficient. Large throngs of people surged beneath signs in many languages, passed quickly through baggage checks and metal detectors, and finally several sets of  TRUE random check points which took no more than 2 minutes to complete in most cases. I actually saw grey-haired people and a business woman randomly stopped! Entering the US, even as citizen, took hours. I was shocked to see a sign at the metal detector exempting seniors from the need to remove shoes and jackets…a chivalrous gesture, but one that surely creates a weak point in our national security. Customs agents suspiciously looked back and forth between visitors’ faces and their passport photos, and one fringe-looking person after another was pulled aside for a “random” check. It’s hard to explain the perspective one has after being away, but after a six month fast from the constant fear-inducing American news landscape, my gut reaction to this inconsistent and intimidating show of muscle is that it is inefficient, flawed and disrespectful to our visitors. I was distinctly aware of America’s inflated sense of self-importance.

My first experience of Vegemite.

My first experience of Vegemite.

Re-adjustement to local customs: Some things have been easy, some difficult. The whole time I was in Australia, I constantly got mixed up about which side of the car was the passenger and driver, first thinking my instinct was wrong, and then second-guessing that. It has been a relief to be able to trust my instincts in such things again. On the other hand, I’ve caught myself pronouncing “tomato” like a Brit more than once, and taking to the left side of a foot path when meeting another walker head-on. I am a little sad to have to drop my favorite little Ozi phrases like “Rightio” and “I reckon…” People just give funny looks. Reliable internet and relatively inexpensive food are great luxuries that are a rare thing down under, so that is a nice change. Also, readily available cookie-dough ice-cream, inexpensive beer, and fresh bagels. I am not sad to say goodbye to Vegemite.

Wild Oats, Sydney-Hobart winner, with future boyfriend Iain sitting in the foreground. Taken before we met. :)
Wild Oats, Sydney-Hobart winner, with future boyfriend Iain.

Apart from this, there is a whole tide of fresh political awareness that I am subject to after being immersed in an outside perspective. And I wouldn’t be fully reporting on “my quest for a life at sea” if I didn’t summarize the last year thusly: I traveled to the other side of the world, sailed in the Southern Ocean, fell in love, got my first bit of professional licensing, and turned 30 minus 1 year. These major life events are leaving me feeling aswirl with looming life pressures and some new doubts and questions as to how I am going to make it all happen. But then, I suppose that the real reason we travel round the world is for a good mix-up so we can get to the tasty stuff at the bottom of it all. And I certainly feel mixed up at the moment.

For now, this is Stephanie’s blog, signing off.


Dec 302011

Dear readers,

Well, I’m at Logan International in Boston, computing amidst the closed kiosks. The sun is rising pale pink from violet clouds. The baggage weight limit was NOT 70 lbs as the nice man on the phone told me two days ago. I guess $60 isn’t a bad deal if I can get to Tasmania with all of the thermal long underwear I desire.

I won’t be able to post for a few days, since I will be traveling for a grand total of 36 HOURS (don’t worry I have a double travel pillow). So I thought I’d leave you with my very first interview with a real live sailor. You know, people, normal people, talk about sailors and the lifestyles they lead…but who amongst you actually knows a real live sailor (okay, besides me)? Well now you have your chance. I met this one-eyed, red-haired potty-mouth aboard the Liberty Clipper of Boston in 2009. My life hasn’t been the same since.

How did you get your start sailing?
I started sailing because I started building boats, and it seemed like a natural progression, oddly enough. Actually, no, that’s not entirely true. My father volunteered us on SoundWaters in CT when I was 13 years old. We did a couple of trips and I wasn’t old enough to sail with them regularly, but I always enjoyed it. And then I started building boats because that’s what I wanted to do. In middle school I did a marine science program and I ended up building some small boats and it was complicated but really rewarding. Then I ended up going to boat-building school after high school.

What was your favorite destination?

Sailing? I don’t know. I think actually going up to Rockland, ME. I once sailed there from Massachusetts. Harold (of H.A. Burnham Boat Building and Design) and I used to take that trip. We’d stop at the Isles of Shoals, and other nice places. It was like a weekend vacation. Like going out to get coffee. Actually, my favorite destination was sailing a Friendship sloop 1/4 mile to a coffee shop in the middle of January.

What’s your best sailing story?
I don’t know…I have to think about these. My best sailing story. Hm. My best sailing story was when Harold and I transited the schooner Maine with myself, him and Jeff Lane from Robinhood Marina with five bilge pumps going all the time, 10 batteries going, the engine overheating the whole way, one rotten mast jury-rigged as a sloop rig and sailed the shit out of it all the way back. Nothing went right the entire trip. The chain-plates fell out of the side of the hull at one point while we were heeled over. We lost the dory. The engine quit on us halfway through, so we ended up having to sail it in the fog in Maine. We didn’t have a GPS. I think the compass was broken. No radar. It was a hell of a trip. We took on water the entire time. It was one of my favorite trips because it was nothing but laughing about how bad everything was.

What is your dream boat?

OH. OOooh. Oooh that’s a tough one. I’m gonna have to say….oh wow. An english style channel cutter. A bluff bow, that comes up straight out of the water. Most of the shape of the boat you don’t see until the midsection where it comes streaming out the water to the transom. Bloodhound is the name of the boat. The mast is placed far forward, giant main, huge bowsprit. Headsails as long as the day. Gaff sails, fisherman. Gorgeous boat. Underneath the water…the boat just keeps on becoming the keel. There’s no deadwood. The decks are flush but there’s so much room below that a tall guy like me can stand up. And you can have a deckhouse that’s 8 inches tall with beautiful glass butterfuly hatch. Big cockpit with a lot of seating, big side-decks, a little focsle hatch. Deck planking running with the sheer. Oh yeah. That’s what I want. And they’re built heavy. Double sawn frame. You can run over small craft with em and keep going.

Angus says:
I love misery. If I didn’t I’d be a pretty unhappy person.

Thanks Angus! And I will be back in touch when I’m in Australia! Love you ma!