Friday, May 31, 2013

Tao goes Aussie, Part 2

Now that Tao is officially Australian, what does that mean for the crew and our adventure? We have been mulling over cruising plans for more than a year and have been deeply divided about this very emotional topic. Frequently, we discuss the other half of a circumnavigation of the Pacific- NE Australia, Indonesia, Japan, and back across the Pacific via Alaska to the west coast (the next leg around to complete the other half of a global circumnavigation just did not appeal to us as the Pacific). However, for now, we both agreed the time was right for us to move back to land. After 4 years of preparation and 5 years of marvelous, phenomenal, life-changing cruising, there are still many additional adventures in life we want to attempt (not to mention, over this last incredible year, we've missed Grizzly!). So, although we have absolutely loved our dream trip, the downside of our big plan to continue cruising across the Pacific was that we knew at the other end we would likely have to look for new owners for Tao- or at least have that option available.

A tumultuous time, we organized Tao and marched forward with our additional tasks; wedding planning, applications for Chris to one year intensive Master’s of Education programs, and yoga. Early on Chris had pushed us to make a decision about a date to fly back. We didn’t have all the details, but narrowed down approximately when would be good to provide us enough US pre-wedding planning and graduate school interview time. Chris found some decently priced and timed flights from Sydney and we purchased them. We hoped to have enough time to head to Sydney early and see sites along Australia’s eastern “Gold” coast along the way. We continued with selling big ticket items, final wedding dress fittings, more yoga, and worked with our boat broker (Anita Farine), providing detailed information and beautiful pictures of Tao to be added to her online page. The marine garage sale was a poignant whirlwind, and we continuously organized our gear, dividing what to carry with us and what to ship slowly east. As we pulled the blue tape off the glistening newly varnished woodwork, our broker brought an interested party to look at Tao. We took extra time to show her around the details of Tao that other interested parties would indeed want to know about. It was a busy and painful time. Suddenly, and not surprisingly, our stateside flight was just around the corner and we didn’t want to leave Tao any earlier than necessary, so we made reservations on TransCountry train for a one day trip from Brisbane to Sydney. We washed the upholstery once more, transferred what had been the invaluable bicycle and trailer to its new owner, relocated the pile of boxes we had packed at our storage unit to a shipping company, closed out the storage unit, returned keys to the marina and laid down for a few moments of unsettled rest.

 Saturday 12 January our alarm woke us at 0330. Darkness was shrouded with clouds and a misting rain. Not good weather to carry several 50-lb bags and a wedding dress (carefully covered so Chris would not get a glimpse) the half mile uphill to the TransLink train station where we planned to catch a city train to the city center to board our 12-hr CountryLink train set to depart at 0630 for Sydney. Fingers crossed, we called a local taxi for a 0430 pickup and took our last look around. As Chris waited in the mist, Shawn ran back inside and unable to stop herself, lemon oiled a few more spots of the interior before finally snapping the lock shut on the weatherboards. Together with our gear in the wet darkness, we touched Tao once more, and tears already shed, without looking back, we headed for shore. Punctually, our taxi driver, an Indian named Ruby, lighted our sad mood with his constant chatter and crazy driving getting us to the city center in record time leaving us plenty of lead time to return our TransLink passes, collect money still on them, and catch our cross country train.

The 12-hr train ride was surreal, racing away from busy city into open countryside of rolling hills dotted with eucalyptus (aka Gum) trees and ocean crashing into land to the east. Record temperatures soared igniting blazes across the country and we watched from air conditioned comfort of our seats as we sped (though slower than normal due to heat restrictions) along the railway. Very little cell service, at one of our stops we received a message that our broker was showing Tao that afternoon at 1400. We were a little perturbed that we had not been previously informed of this, and had buttoned Tao up as we would for months of absence with canvas covers and shade tarps in use, but were happy that Tao would have visitors so soon after our departure. A mere six hours later as we pulled into Sydney and exited our train we received word from a voicemail that the viewer had already made an offer and committed by signing a sales agreement and paying a deposit of 10%!!

It was night now in a new city, with all our gear, we made our way to our pre-booked “Great Southern Hotel,” a half mile walk from the train station and attempted to catch our breath. This was way too fast. Tao was supposed to sit around and wait for our return! Checked into our room, we got internet and found more awaiting us. The buyer was in a hurry and had offered us slightly less than our asking price. Anita was being persistent that this was great, we should accept immediately and had already emailed us a sales agreement and set up a sea trial, survey, and haul out for Monday. Chris was ecstatic and ready to sign. Shawn, less trusting (and maybe less ready to let go), was pissed. We own this beautiful vessel, we have the upper hand, we do not need to be rushed or bullied into signing anything. Plus, the difference in price was not much to Anita (who we had discussed with at length that we were not willing to go much below our requested price) only a bit less in her pocket, but it would pay her ridiculously large percent! Equally stubborn, Shawn slowed everything down and requested the details, who is the buyer, why are they in a hurry, why do they think any less than our requested price is okay? Could we counter offer? And slowed it down even more by saying we would respond by the next evening. 
One day we had to enjoy Sydney, Sunday 13 January, and now all was overshadowed by impending decisions. The morning dawned grey and stormy, reflecting our moods. We jammed in with tons of other tourist onto the free shuttle just up the street from our hotel and were whisked to Sydney Harbor. After making our way through hordes of tourists watching fire throwers, aboriginal didgeridoo players, and countless other interesting diversions, we finally found a place to have lunch (nowhere served late breakfast) outside. Situated on a little finger of land nestled between the famous Sydney Opera House, we had a looming view of the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Determined to soak in Sydney as much as we could during our brief visit, we decided against an adventure to any of several close Bikram studios. Instead, as we watched ferry traffic, walked along the shore, through the opera house, adjacent gardens, and climbed atop the Sydney Harbor Bridge Pylon where clouds finally descended upon us, conversation went around in circles about accepting or declining the offer.
Oh Oz, not a sight you would see in the US!
That evening from our hotel room we spoke again to Anita. If we wanted to sell to this buyer (she was very persistent about this likely being the best offer we could hope to get) we had two options; either we hold steady with our requested amount and expect to lose up to what the offer was in nit-picky things the buyer might find in the survey or we accept the offer- as is meaning that we will not sell for any less no matter what they find in the survey. The latter seems to show good will between buyer and seller. If we were to go ahead with the sale, and hence the survey and sea trial, Anita all of a sudden requested proof of insurance- which seems like a late request and something she should have previously collected from us, but we were able to provide her proof of it digitally. We weighed our options again and again, and reluctantly (at least Shawn) we decided to move forward with the sale. The next morning, Monday 14 January, from the Sydney Airport, Chris filled out, digitally signed, and e-mailed the sales agreement contract with an added condition regarding the buyer paying for propane gas set up that we knew would have to be upgraded to comply with Australian regulations. We requested that Anita be clear with the buyer that we were firm at their offer price. In a dreamlike state, we boarded our flight, headed first to Fiji, then continuing on to LA.

Photo from the air of the Malolo Group of Mamanuca Islands in Fiji where we anchored many nights in deep Musket Cove

Enjoying brief moments of Fijian sunset

During our flight, Tao was surveyed, hauled out, and taken for a sea trial. Once we got to LA- still Monday 14 January with the time changes- we had troubles getting in touch with Anita to find out how all had transpired. Finally she contacted us saying all was well and that the buyer had decided to go ahead with the offer. After some prodding, she provided us more details regarding the survey (demonstrating to us once again that surveyors indeed miss big issues and tend to focus on items quite unimportant for true safety at sea) and sea trial. Apparently, there was concern about water in the cockpit during the sea trial, but when the extremely windy conditions were described to us, it was obvious that Tao had been way over-canvased and she would have moved much more efficiently with no water entering the cockpit if they had simply reefed the mains’l...

Our first week was a rocky re-entrance into the US, overshadowed by lingering requirements of the deal gone through. Bill of Sale filled out and notarized, USCG deletion process (how traumatic does that sound?!) started, international money transfers and snail mailing original documents across the Pacific. It may not sound like much, but it was indeed emotionally taxing as well as our broker hounding us for additional papers to prove the Australian Import and telling us the buyer wanted to move aboard immediately, yet our bank account hadn’t yet received a penny of payment and we were working like dogs to get things moving through appropriate channels, still wondering if we were even ready to sell.

Things finally started feeling better 28 January when we were provided the new owner, Preston’s, e-mail. Chris wrote a very nice note congratulating him on his new boat and offering our information if they ever had any questions (one of the things that we really missed out on when we bought Tao was a decent connection with the previous owner). The next day, Chiara, Preston’s Italian partner wrote us a wonderful e-mail and she included pictures of their particularly large dog Mannie aboard Tao. Now we knew that Tao was going to be well looked after and loved, allowing us to start the difficult process of letting go. Since then, Chiara has been frequently in touch (usually during the 6-week stints when Preston leaves the boat to go back to Darwin and work as a tug boat captain) asking all sorts of questions allowing us to keep connected to Tao- now renamed Ithaca. It has been quite bittersweet but we never wanted Tao to be one of those unloved boats sitting in a marina awaiting some attention from an otherwise occupied owner. Chiara has started a blog through which we will be able to follow Tao's continuing adventures (

Over the past two months we have been unbelievably busy, and Shawn has been avoiding writing this post as it really solidifies that our adventures with Tao and on the ocean for now are currently on hold. However, we hope to spend time reconnecting and processing our amazing journeys as we get re-acclimated to land-life. Please check back for updates- next we'll fill you in on our amazing Mexico wedding!!


  1. Thank you for the update and good luck with your land based life. I too will follow Tao/Ithaca as she sails on.

  2. I am sure that was a very difficult decision. But know you two will continue your adventure - just without Tao. Best of luck to both of you!

  3. Hugs. One step at a time . . . . Love you both muchly!