Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Wedding Day: Our Commitments

We would like to thank you all for joining us in our journeys and to express our deep gratitude to you all for having helped to shape our lives and who we have become today. Each and every one of you mean the world to us. Many, many thanks coupled with big hugs and big love. We would like to share as so many of you could not be with us at the time. Now please join us in remembering our big day (already 6 months ago!?) in San Pancho, Mexico with ocean and sunset as the beautiful back drop to our celebration... Well, in life there is celebration, there’s ritual and tradition. It’s something we experience from the day we are born. It’s something we cherish and hold dear to our hearts. It’s something we look forward to, we go back to, and we always remember. March 2nd, 2013, we gathered on the shores of San Pancho, engulfed by the mighty Big Blue. Feeling our toes in the sand, the pulse of the Ocean's power, we embarked on a true celebration and journey of love. 

by officiate Lisa Whisnant
I’d like to share a story with you all. A story of courage, of love, of real devotion, and it takes place behind me in this vast sea, this wilderness we call the ocean… We see a small boat on the Big Blue, the mighty ocean rocking her back and forth, and then heeling to one side with sails full, cutting through the swell with such precision, passion, and determination. The hull strong and sturdy, her foundation solid. It groans with joy as it tilts from side to side readying itself for any unimaginable challenge.

TAO ~ a little boat engulfed by the energy of the deep sea. TAO ~ transition. To be tossed to and fro, to ride with the currents of life, the currents of Mother Nature, of water, whether small stream, big river, or Mother Ocean. TAO ~ the transition of being alive and being human. On her deck, there are two plus one small furry one and they dance in their synchronicity as one. But in the beginning they came from different walks of life.

HE was drawn to water, perhaps born of it and from an early age it had been passed on to him that water and nature were his medium. He played in it, wallowed in it, day dreamed and pursued the unknown with great abandonment. Its massive energy calmed him, yet ignited courage. He was one with it, he was fluid.

SHE came from the Earth, grounded and rooted in the soil. She understood the Earth’s energy. From seed to sapling, the perseverance of nurturing in order for growth to succeed. Her legs were roots to the Earth, but her arms stretched endlessly to the sky. In between there was breath, and this linked her between the two. Her growth was radiant and it reached out like the rays of a setting sun. It was there that she saw her reflection, her joy.

TOGETHER, they were complete. It is true that the Earth craves water and water craves Earth. It is the great balance in life, the great dance. Their meeting is not a collision in life, but a collaboration of love and respect for one another. Tao’s crew fell in love with her as she did them. As they moved together through the waters of time, their love grew to unimaginable depths. Relying on one another through all the whims of the natural world, living side by side on a journey that only echoed life in its purest form, they saw each other in every fiber of their being. Pure, simple, and beautiful.

TAO ~ a little boat engulfed by the energy of the deep sea. TAO ~ transition. She moves with ease now, strong and sturdy, the currents of the wind dictating her course. From the belly of her hull she rides with confidence and conviction into her next adventure, into uncharted waters… life as one, not life as two, but life as one.

by Shawn and Chris

 Together ~ I PROMISE
Shawn ~ to ask for your help
Chris ~ to lean on you when I need to
Shawn ~ to communicate fully and fearlessly
Chris ~ to give you time to sort out your feelings
Shawn ~ to make sure I'm not just hungry before I yell at you
Chris ~ to give you the benefit of the doubt
Shawn ~ to take a break from reality and let in a little romance
Chris ~ to surprise you with flowers and hold your hand
Shawn ~ to accept you with all your faults and strengths
Chris ~ to accept you with all your faults and strengths
Chris ~ I PROMISE to pay attention to the details
Shawn ~ to try to see the big picture
Chris ~ to remind you of your talents and cheer for your successes
Shawn ~ to respect your mind and encourage your love of learning
Chris ~ to appreciate your patience when I'm being too stubborn to admit you're right
Shawn ~ to defend you to others, even when you're wrong
Chris ~ to tell you I love you and need you
Shawn ~ to show you I care and that you matter
Chris ~ to support you in whatever you choose to do
Shawn ~ to support you in whatever you choose to do
Shawn ~ I PROMISE to seek your opinions and trust your judgments
Chris ~ to ask your advice and consider your suggestions
Shawn ~ to honor you, cherish you, and hold you in my heart
Chris ~ to respect you, hug you, and keep you in my thoughts
Shawn ~ not to keep score
Chris ~ to be responsible in our finances but not let money run our lives
Shawn ~ to help you when you need help
Chris ~ to turn to you when I need help
Shawn ~ I PROMISE to love you
Chris ~ I PROMISE to love you
Shawn, over the course of our relationship, you have truly shown me what love is in all of its splendor. Your unyielding strength, patience, and steadfast commitment to our relationship has, and will always baffle me. Even when I have tried, in the depths of my most hopeless moments, I could not swerve you. You have demonstrated time and again your acceptance and patience with me, even when I was undeserving. You are my north star * when my compass is broken. You are the glue that holds us fast. Through your love, a portion of my soul has been entwined with yours.

Shawn, I promise to give you the best of myself, to love and to cherish you at your best and your worst, as you have always done for me; and, I pledge to ask of you no more than you can give. I love you with all my heart. With this ring, I give you myself completely.

Together, so close to nature, with all of these people in my life that have shared with me their love, friendship, and guidance;

Chris, I pledge to be:

Your lover, companion, best friend
Your comrade in adventure
Your greatest fan and toughest adversary
Your student and your teacher
Your ally in conflict
Your consolation in disappointments
Your partner in parenthood
Your accomplice in mischief

I give you my hand, my heart, and this ring as a visible and constant symbol of my love and my faith in our strength together. As it encircles your finger, may it remind you always you are surrounded by my enduring love. As I join my life to yours, with my whole heart I take you as my husband. I CHOOSE YOU, YOU ARE MY PERSON.


With all of the love that is right here, right now amongst your dear family and friends and along side the endless rhythms of the mighty Big Blue, I now pronounce you
Husband and Wife, Wife and Husband
Partners forever
Seal it with a kiss


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 (http://storiesfromithaca.com/).

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!!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tao goes Aussie, Part 1

We had set a date (definitely a cruising faux pas), 2 March 2013, that we agreed to be back on the other side of the Pacific (obviously not via sailboat). Our excuse to setting a date seemed reasonable to us: to get married, in Mexico, nearly a year and a half after getting engaged. So, after landing 15 November 2012, time was tight and we knew we were not going to be able to even scratch the surface of exploring Australia as we would like to. After a quick two weeks up the Brisbane River recovering, we set to work. To test the waters, we invited a highly recommended boat broker to visit Tao before leaving the pile moorings and decided on the spot to have her do a “Valuation.” Throughout December and early January we struggled through the Australian Import process, getting Tao more beautiful than ever, and figuring out what to do with all of the gear we have accumulated over the years. The downside of our big plan to cruise across the Pacific this past year was that we knew at the other end we might have to look for new owners for Tao. We have (at least Shawn) mostly avoided even thinking about the possibility since it was (and still is) too painful to bear. Chris, though, has been instrumental at pragmatically moving us forward. To this day we have not fully processed the emotional side of this whirlwind. Instead, together, we determined what needed to happen to keep our options open, making Tao both legal and as attractive as possible to find a new owner in Australia if necessary, and proceeded to move forward on the massive amount of tasks.

Australian Importation. Chris spearheaded getting Tao imported into Australia. It took perseverance, but with patience, was manageable. First we lodged an import declaration with Australian Customs and AQIS (Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service) which included: filling out a ton of paperwork including a five year history of every country Tao has visited- with dates, providing proof that Tao was built in the USA (a letter from Chuck Burns, her naval architect) to satisfy requirements for the Free Trade between Oz and US, and determining Tao’s GST goods and services tax (10% on the valuation minus several elements of costs regarding “shipping” the boat to Australia). For Biosecurity clearance, a timber inspection of our “highly suspect” (i.e. very wood based) interior was required. We thought we would have to hire the one, very expensive dog in Australia that is trained to sniff out such bugs, but after research, we found that we were able instead to have a licensed pest controller with a Termatrac device (http://www.termatrac.com/ using radar, thermal, and moisture sensors for motion detection), supervised by DAFF (Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) staff for the inspection. It was quite a process to organize around the New Year holiday the licensed pest controller with two DAFF staff in bright yellow shirts required to carefully observe him and to get all the gear out of the interior so the pest controller could test all wood. Of course Tao passed with flying colors, and was cleared from any quarantine hold. Finally, not to be forgotten, we had to pay for all inspections and the GST to obtain “Authority to Deal.”

Tao upgrades. Over the years, there have been projects that have continually been shuffled to the bottom of the list as being form versus function. Since Tao was basically in the best functional shape of our tenure when we got to Australia, we chose to finally put time into some form projects that would make her look even hotter. Of course we still did all routine maintenance including one more Yannie oil change and bottom clean. But mainly, our work included triaging the well-worn varnish-work, sanding and painting the aluminum portholes (shout of thanks to Britannia for helping), polishing stainless parts around the deck (with acid), getting our gear out of every nook and cranny inside Tao, and making maintenance lists of Tao’s history for others to follow. We even *finally* made a mast boot cover in terracotta, so the shift from blue to red, started with our big bottom job in 2010 was finally complete. When these projects were done we took pictures of Tao looking spectacular inside and out and wrote up detailed information for our brokers website: http://farine.net.au/sail/sb351/Nor-West-33.html.

Our stuff. As anyone that ever visited us aboard Tao knows, we have a ton of stuff. Our excuse is that we never want to get caught in the middle of nowhere without the right toy or tool or food. Rarely did we want for anything. However, a deep cleanse was necessary for Tao to look her best. So, we started the painful process of determining what needed to be sold with Tao, what we could sell separately, what could be given away, and what we wanted to keep for the future. We (okay Chris) bought a bicycle and pet trailer and rented a storage unit a few miles from our slip to move gear off the boat. Days were spent pulling gear out of Tao, taking pictures, putting valuable items for sale on GumTree (the Australian equivalent of Craig’s List) and Ebay-Australia, and trip after trip were made between Tao and storage unit with chosen items that brought together made our cubic meter of gear that we decided to have shipped (via cargo ship) back to the States (tons of tools and boat paraphernalia that will indeed be used in the future as well as memorabilia).

Our Australian phones turned out to be invaluable to take calls from Aussie parties interested in viewing/buying our GumTree items (unlike in the States, if someone was interested enough to call on an item in Oz, they were likely to buy it). We put together a flyer of all of our amazing gear, set a “Marine Yard Sale” date, and many of the bigger ticket items (sextant, dive gear, desalinating hand pump, Fortress anchor, Gale Rider, 2 sweet surf boards, Elna 5000 sewing machine) found new homes long before the date. Saturday 5 January and our yard sale came too quickly. A brief spit of rain just after we’d mostly set up discouraged us but did not slow the selling of items. Before we were able to completely set up most valuable gear had been claimed; flopper stopper, anchor rhode, hyside pump, 9X9-ft Kelty tarp, dry bag back packs x3, and just like the last painful garage sale we had in Berkeley, someone offered Shawn a pittance for her entire art supply box. Luckily fellow cruisers Brittania, Convivia, Celiydah and their kids came by, bought up all sorts of left over canned goods and tequila, and made the yard sale a pizza party. It was a sad day as we transferred Fatty to Convivia. We hope to sail her next in Maine after she makes it the rest of the way around the world. On a happier note, after this boat cleanse, Tao’s water line was a good 7-inches (yes seven!) higher in the water!

So much less traumatic with friends...
Love that you can see the yard sale reflected in Amanda's sunnies.
Although we've now opened the option of selling Tao, on several levels we hope that she will await our return to continue our journey together...