Thursday, March 29, 2012

Tao's 2012 Cruising Plans

Cruise Track Overview:

Several people with whom we’ve spoken have asked how far it is to Australia and where we will be stopping between Hawaii and there. When we provide the names of the islands we hope to stop at we often meet blank stares. In an attempt to share our plans with everyone interested, we’ve made the above basic map outline of our planned cruise track, which will inevitably be reworked as we go. Our longest mileage passage will be right out of the gates (Hawaii really is all by itself in the middle of the Pacific Ocean) between Kona and Fanning Atoll of the Republic of Kiribati (pronounced kiribas). We hope to spend a couple weeks there catching some surf, meeting the community, and then watching for a weather window to head south to the Northern Cook Islands. If it is not too far up wind, we hope to make Pehnryn Atoll and then sail SW toward Suvarrov Atoll. Approximately 2 months after setting sail from Hawaii, we hope to reach the US Territory of American Samoa to re-provision. Shortly after, we will continue west in the archipelago to enjoy the independent nation of Western Samoa. From there, it will be on to Tonga, a Kingdom of 170 islands, followed to the west by Fiji, an independent republic consisting of 332 island and islets. Having heard stories of the multitude of beautiful protected anchorages only a day sail from each other, it is in Tonga and Fiji that we hope to do the bulk of this season’s cruising. Finally, around October we plan to make our way to New Calendonia and hopefully visit the Isle de Pines in time to await a safe weather window to make our final (and second longest) passage to Brisbane, Australia. In total, this proposed cruise track is nearly 4,500-nm of sailing over a 7-month period. We estimate that we will be sailing approximately 1/3 of this time and at anchor or exploring ashore for the remaining 2/3s.

Background to our decision:

Always attempting to keep open to whatever comes up, we’ve been steadily working toward several options since we landed in Hawaii last June. We have tossed around several ideas, including:
  1. putting Tao on the hard in Hawaii and starting a yoga studio/land life on the Big Island,
  2. sailing or shipping Tao back to the mainland and then Mexico where we could reasonably keep her on the hard while we transition back to a land life, and
  3. selling Tao (which pains me to even write let alone think about seriously) in Hawaii, or California, or Mexico and move on to our next adventures.
What kept coming up is that neither of us is ready to let go of the sailing dream and lifestyle just yet. We've put so much into it and are so close to that lingering dream of the idyllic “gentle” South Pacific... There are many challenges that we face daily in this lifestyle that will not work for us in the long term (i.e., daily fear of survival, limited refrigeration, no showers, no income). But, it is easy enough for us to put up with those things for the opportunity to enjoy one more beautiful season of unparalleled cruising through otherwise inaccessible Oceania in our well-honed, perfect-for-us, Tao.

The next question is from there to where, New Zealand or Australia? Well, they are both amazing places that we want to see. NZ has been our “dream destination” since before we bought the boat. However, the reality is that even northern NZ is far enough south to greatly increase the possibiliy of encountering unfavorable heavy weather conditions. On the other hand, Brisbane is still far enough north to be located within the tradewind dominated region. Of course, the description of our planned cruise track never seems to be enough, as most people follow up with the question, “So, what then?” Well, we have realized that we are downwind, fair weather cruisers, and like to linger in areas once we get there. Therefore, we do not want to sail against winds or through typhoons to get Tao back around the Pacific to where we started. Nor do either of us want to continue to sail west through pirate infested waters or push through long passages rushing by exotic lands for a “quick” circumnavigation. In addition, we both have other hopes and dreams to pursue that require land based lives in the not-too-distant future. So, our current answer is that there is no better place for Tao to find her next adventure than Australia. The market is good and the sailors are adventurous. We have not quite come to terms with that eventuality yet; instead we are focusing on the borrowed season of cruising before us that having that end will allow. Or maybe we'll have her shipped back from Australia to Mexico. Though, we have always promised to do our best not to own a boat that just sits and grows old, unused…

Another difficult cruising reality is that traveling with pets, though completely worth it, is not easy. If you can imagine, it is even more difficult to get a pet into Australia or NZ than Hawaii- to the tune of 6-months required kitty jail time no matter how much preparatory paper work is done. The combination of the front end work and quarantine time on the back end are unacceptable to all of us. For a short while we discussed having Grizzly stay with a friend in Hawaii while we journey down to Australia, and then having her shipped directly (from rabies-free area to rabies-free area) with only a 30-day quarantine upon arrival in Australia. But, that didn't settle well with us. Although nearly ready to throw in the sailing towel if our feline crew couldn't come along, the idea of a finite limit to the trip made it nearly palatable, as we can chalk it up as merely “being away from Griz for a few months.” With her Gramum's offer of Shangrila-de-Judy care, Grizzly will likely be much more comfortable in a non-moving home.

These are the sacrifices we make to live this charmed lifestyle. All of that and more thought went into our current season's cruising plans. Hopefully, the above map will satiate some curiosity and give you all an idea of what we're thinking. As always, we have no date for throwing off the docklines (because that's the way we roll), but we hope to start our sail south sometime between April 15 and May 15, 2012. Before we can go, several looming projects must be completed, and we will fill you in on those as they happen.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Grizzly's Wintertime (?) Visit to New England

The last day of January we took another overnight flight leaving LA and arriving on the East Coast in Boston with Grizzly early the first day in February. Griz is a great traveler; in Boston, she and Shawn snuggled down on the airport floor for 1.5-hrs next to our bags loaded with winter clothing. At the same time, Chris bravely worked his way from the airport to catch connecting T-trains, then walked to the location our chariot-to-borrow was parked, and finally made his way back to pick us up (many thanks to our smart phone). Another 2-hrs later after a stop at Pet Smart for a new litter box and Panera for much needed food, we rolled into Jane and Abe’s West Barnstable Cape Cod home, turned on the water, fired up the heat, got Grizzly settled, and finally crashed.

Our month overlooking the Atlantic was idyllic and quickly slipped by. We both practiced yoga near daily each morning and the rest of each day, Chris studied for the GRE (one long term plan includes earning a Maters of Education) while Shawn taught at Bikram Yoga Cape Cod (5 classes a week) and studied for two HAM radio exams. We spent our first Valentine's Day in years ashore, and celebrated by having dinner at Inaho, our favorite Cape sushi restaurant and even went for a bundled up beach walk. Jane and Abe visited us for nearly a week at their Cape house and we even managed to fit in a visit with Michael and Scott at their home in Boston. It was supposed to be the heart of winter and we did fire up the wood stove (which all of us loved, especially Grizzly) to ward off the chill of cold temperatures and a little snow, but the overall weather was more late-spring-like and by the time we left in early March, snow drops were blooming!

It was great that BYCC and its wonderful yogi community was 1.8-mi from the house, and it was also fortuitous that weather was good enough to allow Shawn a weekly Tuesday trip 1.5-hrs north to Bikram Yoga West Roxbury in Boston. A weekly beginners class from senior teacher Diane Ducharme, followed by advanced class, and culminating in yoga talk over lunch, enabled Shawn to learn an incredible amount. Amid studying and a trip to Boston to visit the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Chris also took a Sunday off to accompany Shawn and several students from BYCC the 2-hrs north to BikramYoga Portsmouth in NH to attend an inspirational and informative all day posture clinic from Diane. Both of us really enjoyed her attitude toward making doing Bikram Yoga a fun lifelong practice, she patiently answered many of our questions in a knowledgeable and loving manner. We enjoyed our month on the Cape immensely and all too quickly Chris's GRE date of March 6, and hence the end of our visit, was upon us.

After a focused day of taking our last BYCC class, scouring the Cape house, and taking the car for an oil change, on Thursday March 8, we took a road trip to Ithaca (aka Shangrila-de-Judy to Grizzly). Originally worried that winter weather might make the drive difficult on either end, our streak of beautiful conditions continued allowing us to maximize visiting with Shawn’s family. We spent the first weekend up in Syracuse with Chuck, Maura, Liam (5-yrs) and Ainsley and Campbell (3-yrs). We did have to weather a winter storm Saturday morning, but it cleared up enough for Chuck and Chris to take Liam to basketball, Maura to take Shawn bridal dress shopping (?!) that afternoon, and for the girls to run around outside in swimsuits and boots on Sunday. Great visit, and thanks for the celebratory engagement champagne and sushi dinner too!
The next week we based out of Judy’s house, consuming lots of great Mum-food including a traditional St. Patrick’s Day dinner and thoughtful early birthday celebrations for both of us April babies. We also visited Shawn’s father’s house twice to help with a pellet boiler tank installation, and enjoyed a nice evening with Leah, Gretchen and their twin boys (already 1.5-yrs!). We managed to fit in a few yoga classes, but spent much of our time in final preparation for our trek back to Hawaii including cuddling/playing/photo shooting with Grizzly as our separation date drew near. Chris fought an ear infection/cold, apparently we both had to get sick at least once while back on the mainland. Sunday morning March 18, we packed up and with hugs and extra Grizzly snuggles (since she's staying with Mum for the next leg of our adventures), we got on the road and headed back to Boston. We made it there in time to get our borrowed car to a full service wash and clean, for Shawn to grab an 1800 BikramYoga Harvard Square yoga class, and to crash for a few brief hours of sleep at Abe’s Cambridge apartment. Many thanks to all of our family members for offering and allowing us to visit and stay in their respective homes for a wonderful trip to New England.

O-dark-hundred on Monday morning (0315) we were up and ready for the airport shuttle. We flew from Boston to Atlanta (2.25-hrs) to LA (5-hrs) to Kona (5.25-hrs), and having traveled nearly twice as far and so unbelievably much faster than we sailed across, a mere 19-hrs later after waking in Cambridge, we once again deliriously landed in Hawaii after exactly 2-months away. The next few days will be quite busy, but once we’re settled onto the water again, we promise, this season’s cruising plans will be elucidated.