Thursday, March 7, 2019

International Women's Day

I was chatting to my Mum today who was just home from the funeral of Nancy Stephens.  She described the funeral as lovely and went on to say what a huge support and mentor Nancy had been to her as a young mother in a small town far from family.  I then happened to read Jac Stephens’ beautiful post to her mother and her “Sticky Lemon Delicious Cake” on Facebook.  And Richard Cornish posted about his Mum on International Women’s Day, the beautiful words he posts each year and never fail to send a shiver down my spine. 

I look at the family and the community I grew up in and see, not just an idyllic childhood of farms, beaches, horses, sailing and home-baked cakes but also the number of extraordinary women who influenced our world.

From my grandmother who was widowed in the late 1940s with three small children, who ran an orchard and privately educated her children, to my mother who believed her girls could … so we did.  There was the big group of kids who travelled an hour each way to the private schools of Toorak, Peninsula and Woodley because our parents wanted to ensure we had a progressive education.

The women who did, because they just did: Robyn Cornish, also widowed young with four small kids who ran a dairy farm; Sue Lawson, through whom a generation learnt to ride; Margaret Bell, our kindy teacher and later a politician and to this day I remain both in awe and just a little bit scared; Betty Taylor; Judy Hines; Nancy Stephens; Isabelle Trahair, our baby sitter who taught us to deal a mean Canasta hand; Sue Winneke, one of Victoria’s first women barristers, who told me being a female engineer would be tough but get over it.  And so, so many others…

And I watch as this amazing group of women, now mostly into their eighties, support each other through divorce, widowhood, ill-health and all the associated joys of ageing.  And all the while they still live on their farms, maintain their large gardens, grow veggies, bake and make jam.

On this International Women’s Day, thanks to all the amazing female role models of Flinders/Shoreham/Main Ridge/Red Hill who, by doing, allowed us to believe that girls could do anything – and guess what?  As it turns out that, we can!

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity - 51° 10' 18" N 115° 33' 41" W

The Banff Centre of Arts and Creativity is an absolute gem and an amazing institution to have in our backyard.  From opera to the Banff Mountain Film Festival, we are spoilt by the range and quality of performances - and we get to wear our hiking boots!

Billboard on Highway 1 going to the Rockies

Last night we went to see Alan Doyle, a favourite Canadian folksinger/actor/author from Newfoundland best known for being the lead singer of the band "Great Big Sea".  Unfortunately, a major snow storm and a vehicle breakdown caused the performance to be delayed for two hours.  As we were readying to leave Canmore, an e-mail pinged through that told us this, so instead of having to wait outside the locked concert hall doors, we just settled back into the sofa, topped up our drinks and left at 8:45 instead of 6:45.  We arrived at the concert hall with just enough time to briefly catch up with some friends, then we filed in to find our seats.  The band, on the other hand, literally screeched into Banff and ran on-stage.

It was fabulous! The stories, the Celtic-influenced songs and the fiddle made for a kitchen party (a Newfoundland tradition of food, music and stories) vibe.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Phuket Boat Lagoon - 7° 57' 49" N 98° 23' 15" E

Upon arriving at Phuket airport at 1 am, we exited the terminal and made our way past the gauntlet of tourist-hardened taxi drivers and carried our backpacks out into the humid, tropical night.  We had cleverly booked a hotel just 350 metres down the road from the airport.  After checking in, we quickly fell asleep after the 25 hour journey.

Nai Harn bay

In the morning we woke up, checked out, then made our way by taxi to the south end of the island to Nai Harn beach where our friends, Mark and Julie, were waiting for us.  Nai Harn beach is one of the quieter beaches due to its distance from the airport (farthest on the island) and lack of accommodation close by.  It is a sheltered anchorage from north- and north-east wind and swells, and it also has a convenient public dock for dinghies so the bay is well-used by yachties.  Kokomo, our home for the next few weeks, was happily anchored there, waiting for us to join it and start the adventure.

Kokomo (in the marina)

When we are on Kokomo with Mark and Julie, we are instantly relaxed because: a) Mark is an excellent mariner who has been 'round the world multiple times on multi-thousand ton cargo and container ships and therefore knows almost everything about navigation, boat maintenance, weather at sea, etc., and b) we're not solely responsible for the boat.  Mark and Julie aren't as comfortable with "the white, flappy things," ... and that's where we get to lend some expertise.  After settling in on the boat, we spent a few days provisioning, relearning systems on the boat and overcoming our jetlag and planning where we were going to go.  The plan was to sail north along the coast to Ko Phra Thong and spend two weeks sailing, snorkeling and exploring the island and the waters around it.

Once everything was ready, we pulled up anchor and started north.  The winds were brisk at 15-25 knots and coming from the northwest, which suited us just fine.  It was looking like a lovely day for a sail.  We ran into some trouble with the in-mast furler for the main sail, so decided to pull out the smaller "yankie" headsail to get some forward non-engine speed.  The headsail popped out on the breeze and things started to feel very familiar.

This isn't how your rigging is supposed to look
Kate and I were standing on the foredeck, discussing how we could get the main sail deployed when there was a loud "poing" from the starboard rigging.  The heavy 5/8" steel cable that held the 17 metre mast upright was beginning to fail ... under just the relatively light load of a small headsail.  Most of the strands had snapped at the swage, but six of them were holding fast ... for now.  Kate was facing forward with her back to the shroud and I was facing Kate.  I saw it happen and we both quickly hustled to the cockpit where the lines led to bring in the headsail.  We were able to get the headsail rolled up before a catastrophic failure happened, but we knew that we weren't going to be pulling out sails before some major repairs happened.

Suddenly, we were bound for a different adventure.

In order to get the rigging fixed, we would need to inspect ALL the rigging and replace anything that looked suspect.  It would be a costly exercise, but no where near as costly as if the rigging had completely failed and the mast had collapsed and/or broken off.  We changed course south and motored around the island of Phuket to a marina that had riggers, sailmakers, engineers (for casting/welding/machining metal and plastics) and all the necessary expertise to get our rig back in working (and trustworthy) order.

heading into Phuket Boat Lagoon
Even just motoring into the marina was not straightforward.  As the marina is up an inlet that is heavily affected by the tides (and Kokomo's keel hangs down 2.5 metres below the water line), we needed to wait for not just a high tide, but the right high tide. Luckily, the right high tide was just a day away and an overnight anchor outside the inlet was all that was required.

While we were here, Mark and Julie decided to tackle a few other boat jobs.  Here was our work list:
  • inspect the forestay, back stays (2), shrouds (4), running back stays (2), all turnbuckles (7) and topping lifts and replace as necessary 
  • lay out, measure and reflake the two main sails, yankie, staysail and genoa
  • inspect sails for damage and wear and repair as necessary
  • whip all line and sheet ends as necessary
  • remove the in-mast hydraulic motor, which requires disconnecting the hydraulic lines at the foot of the keel
  • replace a forward bilge pump (which had been acting a bit flaky anyway)
  • freshwater flush the cooling systems of the engine, generator and get-home engine/backup generator
  • rebuild the carburetor on the outboard engine
  • re-glue one of the oarlocks and one of the handles to the dinghy
  • have new chaps made for the dinghy and put them on
we get sails re-rolled after inspecting and reflaking them

Jai, our rigger, gets new steel shrouds
connected to the spreaders
Sean installing a leather wheel cover for Kokomo
- a little thank-you gift for having us onboard.

Our worklist is long, but we start (and then finish) early so we are not working in the afternoon sun.  The Boat Lagoon has a very nice fresh water swimming pool with coconut and palm trees all around, which makes for a great place to escape the heat once the boat jobs are finished.

where you will find us most afternoons

So, even though we aren't out sailing, it's gonna be hard to get sympathy from our friends for being here.