I cannot believe it has been 1 year since we left our home in Perth and sailed away to attempt to circumnavigate the world. What a incredible year it has been for us. People ask us all the time the following questions: Has it met our expectations? Have we loved it? Would we change anything? Have we had any major disappointments? Will we continue? Well – we have certainly had an amazing time but I must admit there are aspects of cruising that I didn’t know about and there were far more adjustments to make than I realised. I had been planning this trip for 5 years and had read just about everything I could on cruising and the lifestyle – including many blogs and articles. In fact the only source of information I had not tapped into was personal info – neither of us knew anyone cruising full time to give us the warts ‘n all version. Ian had harboured this dream of sailing round the world for 40 years or more, but I didn’t even learn to sail until I was 51 so we were obviously coming from completely different directions. Ian is the sailor/engineer/mechanic and I am the planner/cook/administrator. Basically anything outside is Ian’s domain and anything inside is mine. Yes we really do have blue jobs and pink jobs and this works for us. So when we left Ian had as much done on the boat as he thought necessary, I had files and files of downloaded info on visas, charts, legalities, safety, places, anchorages etc and we stocked up on food and sailed off into the sunset. We were expecting breakages and engine problems, but all the time??? Within 5 days we were stuck in Carnarvon waiting for a part to be sent up – because we had every size belt except the one that we needed – and I think we realised then that plans are not made – they make you. Ian has worked tirelessly on the engines, electrical system, eletronics and general fixing – usually with sweat pouring out of him in really tight spaces ensuring we can continue but what’s really frustrating is that the smallest little breakages can stop us dead in our tracks for days – first he has to isolate what is wrong, then remove the offending part, then either replace (love it when we have the part) or jury rig another part, then re-attach offending part and fingers crossed it works. Sometimes this takes days – but to date he has always sorted out the problem. He is so patient and tenacious – spending hours in the heat working it out. I really feel for him and can only really try and keep him hydrated and give him words of encouragement. The other thing that is a source of irritation are the electronics. Computers, Ipads, phones, AIS, etc – One of them always seems to break down or stop working at the most inopportune moment. We fix it and then something else happens – at present we have no connection between our AIS and our laptop – but everything works individually – so again a connection error but WHERE?!?!?
Spending 24 hours and day, 7 days a week on a 40ft boat with the same person can also sometimes be a challenge. I’m sure this is why cruisers are so social. I found this the hardest aspect of cruising – my job on land was autonomous, we lived on a 10 acre property and we had no extended family in Australia. I had learned to really enjoy my own space and never being alone was getting to me. When a couple of friends in Indonesia told me they were also craving their own company I knew this was quite a common problem for cruising girls. Us cruiser girls know we are living in a very male orientated world and do accept that there are many things our Captains know more than us (mainly down to experience) but it is still frustrating for me!
Spending 24/7 with the same person – After 30 years of marriage we thought we had this one nailed and we actually have. There is really no such thing as private space on board – I admire people who have crew for any length of time.
We have been to 6 countries, covered over 6,000NM, done lots of overnighters, weathered a few squalls, and spent hours and hours and HOURS of motoring. In all these miles covered we can count on our hands the amount of brilliant sailing days – days in excess of 8 knots beam reach type day – and most of those were within the first 3 weeks! The tropical climate is hot and sticky but not very windy, so I think that’s why the engines have had a few problems – they are protesting… Next year when we head into the Indian Ocean we will be sailing much more (hopefully) and the skipper will be very happy.
We have been to East Timor, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand. Each country has its idiosyncrasies – its good and bad points. Favourite place? I think Myanmar because it was so unspoilt and honest.
BEST BITS OF EACH COUNTRY:
East Timor: First overseas stop, first rally. Bests: Best snorkeling (Atauro), Best day out in Oceusse. I wrote an article about East Timor & Oecusse in Cruising Helmsman May 2017 edition.
Indonesia: Joined Sail Indonesia Rally: Great friends, great place, great fun. Bests: The people – they are always smiling and helpful, Best laugh of rally – our trip to Borobodur – police escorts and Hello Kitty vans. We all giggled for 3 days, Best tour of Kumai to see the oranutangs, Best island visit – Ketawai. We were completely spoiled for 3 months – just brilliant.
Singapore: 3 day visit. Bests: Best drinks bumping into more friends up the Marina Bay Sands Tower. 5 of us running around the underground like kids. Staying at the gorgeous Raffles marina.
Malaysia: Joined Sail Malaysia rally. Bests: Ipoh – discovered this arty, funky town and exploring it with my girlfriends. Rebak Marina: Christmas with our cruising pals, fabulous Xmas lunch, glorious setting. Lepak Bar: Sundowners on the beach every evening with friends watching the sunset…. Langkawi duty free stocks…
Myanmar: Land travel for a change. Bests: People: Few tourists so we are still a novelty. Inle Lake: Such a beautiful place to spend a day. Circular train ride around Yangong – an education in itself.
Thailand: Island hopping: Bests: The food – unbeatable and so cheap. Surin Island – just loved the serenity. Koh Bulon: Just what a little island paradise should be. Motor bike riding round Koh Phayam – no cars, few tourists, such fun.
The similarities of all countries:
HOT HOT HOT (except Mandalay in Myanmar) – the heat and humidity wears you down but we have got used to it I think.
Beautiful, happy and helpful people. The Indonesians and the Burmese are the stand-outs here. I can honestly say I never felt unsafe or threatened. Considering the amount of tourists in Thailand I am impressed with their tolerance.
Rice: Rice with everything – or noodles. I love the food and each country has their own recipes, but rice is definitely the staple here. Food is always fresh, really tasty and cheap. We eat out more than we eat in and I reckon its cheaper that way. Thailand is mainly pork and chicken, Malaysia is chicken, chicken and chicken, Indonesia is mainly chicken, seafood, and occasionally beef. We rarely saw lamb – we had to wait until we went home to Australia and then we feasted on it.
Environmental issues: This has been our main disappointment so far. We knew they didn’t have the waste management down pat over here but we cannot help but be saddened by their lack of education with regards to the oceans. Not only do they use the ocean as their private rubbish dump, but these countries consume so much plastic. I refuse to buy veg in Australia that come wrapped in plastic on a polystyrene tray and think its appalling that a first world country like ours still practices this. I was just as sad to see that South East Asia are going the same way, particularly in western style supermarkets. Individual pieces of fruit wrapped. Every time you purchase anything – they put it in a plastic bag and seem dumbfounded when you refuse it. Most of us cruisers carry our own shopping bags – that’s how you can tell us apart from the tourists – we are carrying cool bags.. and we try and do our best for these beautiful places but when you see flying projectiles of plastic coming out of local boats and see men women and kids throw their rubbish into the sea – you can feel you are fighting a losing battle. We did see a couple of places in Indonesia that were actively trying to educate the locals – and we wish them all the best with there endeavours.
No Wind: All through South East Asia we have mainly motored to our next destination. When there is wind, it is very often on the nose so we are still motoring and also battling currents. Those friends of ours who have motor boats were really quite sensible.
So back to the original questions:
- Has it met our expectations? A resounding YES – in fact more than met them. I could never had imagined doing some of the stuff we have managed to get up to – and didn’t even know about most of the places we have visited.
- Have we loved it? Absolutely -It did take me a few months to relax and settle down – maybe I should be moved on board earlier. To retire from a high pressure job, move on board and leave to sail round the world all within 5 weeks was a bit daft and I should have taken more time to adjust. I still get homesick sometimes but love this lifestyle now and certainly I am ready for more.
- Would we change anything? – Not really – just stuff on the boat – but that’s just living on board. We are very glad we managed to stick to our time budget and get out here – we have seen a few people with health issues, mainly because of their age – we are still very fit and healthy.
- Have we had any major disappointments? See item re environmental issues above.
- Will we continue? ABSOLUTELY…
So – the first year has flown passed. We’ve had a brilliant time and we are really looking forward to more exploring. Next year will be very different with a major ocean crossing but just as much fun I hope.