Oct 122012

One big mast, one big sailAlright, it’s time for some updates. The last two and a half months on Clearwater have been incredibly full. Lots of beautiful sailing up and down the Hudson, visits to the city, a festival here and there, and lots of teaching. I can’t believe it, but my contract is more than half over, and my planning for next steps is in full swing.

I found out while I was in Tasmania that I’m eligible for what they call a working holiday visa. I didn’t know about this visa when I went. Everyone should know about this! If I had I’m sure I would have applied for it and worked (rather than volunteered) during my time there. This 12 month visa is available to people with undergraduate degrees up to and including the age of 30, and allows them to seek temporary employment, spending no more than six months in each job. The idea is to facilitate cultural exchange between participating countries by making it easier for young people to visit.

Outboard practice in Tas.So, with a partner in Tasmania, a closing window of eligibility for this visa, and some Tasmanian qualifications, I’m planning on returning to the apple isle again in the New Year. My most exciting prospects for jobs in Hobart are working on a sight-seeing boat as a tour guide, running boats at a fish farm, and working on research vessels for UTAS or CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency. My goals for my next job are to get a lot of experience handling a small boat, or work on a boat with some scientific overlap, be it field observation or research.

Hopefully Iain and I will also have time to do some travel around the mainland, see some of the outback and the great barrier reef…maybe even another trip to New Zealand? A transit by sea is of course also in the world of possibilities. Right now I’m still in the planning stages, but I’m getting excited for a return to such a beautiful place.

Wineglass Bay, just one of the many gorgeous spots I'm looking forward to visiting again on my return to Tasmania.

Wineglass Bay, just one of the many gorgeous spots I’m looking forward to visiting again on my return to Tasmania. Photo by Iain.

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.


Apr 292012
Sunrise at sea

Sunrise at sea

I can’t believe it’s been two full months since our voyages began. This was a sunrise photo I took during the first one in February, so long ago! It was a fantastic trip with a group of adult MBA students from Deakin University in Melbourne. As part of their studies, they have to take a course called “Audacious Leadership” which they can complete either in a usual semester, or in a week on Windeward Bound. Here is an excerpt from my journal, same day this photo was taken.

Sunday February 26, 2012, Afternoon of day two

Four bunks packed into one cabin...not a bit of space wasted!

Four bunks packed into about a 6'x8' cabin. Mine is behind the red curtain at the top. Photo by Lauren Elliott.

The boat is rocking gently as I write this, tucked down below, all dark and quiet in my bunk. The bunk I got placed in this voyage is possible the smallest I’ve ever had. There is about a foot and a half of head room above where my butt sits. When I first saw it I groaned inside, but as I always say, humans are very adaptable. Already I’ve tied and stowed things here and there, enough to make it comfortable and feel like mine.

Last night my watch was on 4AM – 8AM. The sky was brilliant – the Milky Way stretched across as bright as I’ve ever seen it. No moon, so the dimmest stars seemed to twinkle brightly. Glowing globes that I can only guess were phosphorescent jelly fish bobbed by us in the night.

Sailing was nice but steering was challenging. We were almost directly down wind, and somehow no matter how slight my corrections were, the boat would veer off course. Eventually the watch officer turned the engine on and we took in all sail so that we could navigate around some reefs. There was a fair bit of wind, and even with the sails in, I was still struggling to stay on course, so I handed the wheel to Alex. It was good to see that he was finding it a bit challenging as well, but I also picked up some things watching how he steered and corrected.

Now we’re at anchor, taking a little rest before heading out into the Tasman Sea. We’ll be heading up the East Coast and perhaps even crossing Moitessier’s 1969 route past Tasmania! It’s exciting to be heading out into open ocean, but I also know the sea-sickness will be rough.  I’ll just have to toughen up, as they say…

Feb 042012

I’m slowly collecting words and phrases that my crew and other Ozzies use that I think should be universally adopted throughout the world because of how great they are. Try them out today, if you have the chance. It just feels so good.

1. Replace “What?” “Okay?” “Right?” or “You know?” with “Hey?”
“I don’t care what the rest of the crew says, Richard, I think you’re great.” “Hey?!”
“Mattie, that last one was a bit harsh, hey?”

2. Replace “Hey!” with “Oy!” As in “Oy, Jack! Hold onto this line for me, hey?”

3. “I can’t be bothered…” I don’t think there’s an equally ubiquitous phrase in American slang that just means ‘I don’t want to do that.”

4. “Mad-dog” can be used as either a noun or a verb, and describes overzealous, obsessive behavior.
“Alex is a mad-dog in the galley today.”
“That’s just Alex mad-dogging again.”

5. “I reckon” replaces “I think.”
“Oy, David! Do you reckon we’ll be setting the t’gallant today?”

6. “She’ll be right.” A classic Australian phrase meaning “It’ll be fine.”  Best to be on alert and use extreme caution if you ever hear these words.

And here’s a pretty sunset shot just to satisfy the photo-philes out there. :) See you mañana!

Sunset reflected in water

Jan 292012

Well, it’s finally my weekend! We had a really full week on the Derwent River. On Wednesday, we took a group of about 50 ten year olds out for a two hour sail. We were really lucky with wind that day…we didn’t have any. No need to worry about kids dropping off the lee rail. So we spent the whole day raising and lowering sails and answering questions: “Can I pull on this? What about this? What does this do? I’m finished pulling on that, what should I do now?” I love kids. :)

Thursday was Australia Day, Australia’s national holiday. Interestingly, they seem to celebrate it much as we celebrate ours: with beer and barbeques! We put out a really excellent spread and I’m sorry I didn’t take any photos of the beautiful pavlovas that my crew-mates made (think soft, gooey meringue topped with fresh whipped cream and fruit). I wandered about in an apron printed with the Australian flag, serving little hot-dogs called “cheerios” and crackers spread with Vegemite to passengers, telling them that it was authentic, traditional Australian food. (I’ll explain Vegemite some other time…)

The wind was incredible that day, with gusts into the 30′s. I continue to feel grateful for the opportunity to rebuild my confidence and joy at being out in strong weather. I got a pretty nice shot showing what the seas felt like. It’s always so tough to get photos that reflect the real/perceived size of waves out on the water…they always look so disappointingly small in photos! These weren’t big compared to what you experience in the open ocean, but for enclosed waters they were decent, and definitely big enough to be fun! I love sitting in the stern and watching the white-caps emerge and fade again beneath the surface, rhythmically. You can almost imagine the wind as a big hand plowing them up and then pushing them over again.

Anemometer (wind-gauge) registering 29.6 knots!

Now I’m off to get brunch with Grandma, and then with a friend to the MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) where I hear they offer NUDE TOURS, where museum-goers can “become” a part of the museum! Will NOT be participating in that today, and kinda hoping nobody else does too. Readers, please belay inappropriate comments (you know who you are). Remember, my mom reads this.