This is what I recently wrote for a book launch. It is one of THE best cruising stories I have read and worthy of a read. The book is available from Amazon as an ebook and hard copy.
Scenic Route to Paradise
My introduction to Jay was only recently via a third party, being Gordon Dunbar. It is through the experiences of both my husband and myself that Jay invited me to talk today.
Our cruising having being 40, 000 miles over the last 10 years pales into insignificance with Jay's 200,000 miles, but in those miles comes the shared knowledge, enjoyment, discovery, experiences of local communities, understanding, and the camaraderie of all of us who go cruising. Its the sum total of your personal endeavour to survive, especially in adverse conditions and the pure enjoyment of what life on the ocean brings.
|Di and Gorbar with Peter and I at the book launch|
The hardest part of going cruising is letting go the dock lines and heading out on your first passage. Although we had a lifetime of sailing experience by the time we departed in April, 2003, a dear friend who was so worried about us being able to undertake this adventure, came as far as Shark Bay with us to at least make sure we did not sink in the first 300 miles.
As Jay wrote....
It’s funny those first few miles of a passage. I was only going as far as Cowes before stopping for the night,though I couldn’t kid myself into believing that it wasn’t the beginning of something much bigger, just as the departure from Fremantle three years before, there’s a curious mixture of excitement at the voyage ahead, apprehension that perhaps one has bitten off more than one’s teeth can handle, joy to be finally at sea after all the preparation and fear that after all that preparation you’ve been a bloody idiot and forgotten something really important. Maybe it’s a normal feeling experienced by all, whether novice or master mariner, certainly I’ve felt it and it can be most disconcerting.
Although Jay had done many miles before he set forth on his adventure on Mavoureen, he left with his mother and an additional crew member. When he departed Fremantle in October 1994, neither he or his mother had planned a circumnavigation. Cruising for many is just like that. It starts with a small step and a wonderment of what is over the horizon....but the horizon is always just a little further over there and it is easy to get caught up with just going a little further...just because....it's a bit like walking those extra steps to see what is around the corner or over the hill!
On departing FSC, getting past Geraldton seems to be the first milestone......surviving too many Geraldton races seems to spring to mind as to the reason for this.
Jay's circumnavigation was done without out a lot of creature comforts that we have, being a bigger boat, electronic charts, an autopilot that is reliable and steers the boat 99% of the time and protection from the elements in the cockpit. Our bedding is always dry and we tend to keep the ocean out of the inside of the boat.
Technology has enabled us to choose better weather windows and have more enjoyable passages, however there is always that wonderment at times as to why you are a actually out there? ( One instance for us was in our crossing of the Gulf of Panama. There are many horror stories of yachts sailing up to Panama from the Pacific coast. We had blown out our mainsail due to our own complacency, had light winds up to Punt Mita and thought how hard can 80 miles be? We soon found out as the sun set, the wind rose to 45 knots, the seas up to 4m and we were crossing them, falling into huge holes, in a shipping lane, awfully underpowered with our small trisail and an engine that kept cutting out. Our AIS screen looked like a dot matrix for most of the night.)
Of course the sun comes out and another day dawns, there is a nice calm anchorage waiting for you and all is forgiven. We did feel a little better when we heard that a power boat that had passed us earlier in the day took the coastal route around the Gulf and got equally hammered and a smaller yacht took 3 weeks to sail up the Gulf having to contend with the strong northerly winds on their northerly course.
Jay's experience in transiting the Panama Canal had its pucker factor moments.
The only point of danger for us in the whole transit of the canal was at the last lock. The tide was low and the ship behind had to get up a fair rate of speed to plow through the mud at the outer door of the lock. At the top of the Miraflores lock he had got stuck and it took over an hour for tugs to come through from Gamboa and shove him from the stern into each of the bottom locks. The one piece of advice all skippers had been given is not to get ahead of the pressure wave of the ship behind, otherwise you could be pushed sideways and be run over by the ship. You are supposed to keep aligned out of the lock and stay in the lock’s muddy water until the ship pushes the water with you floating on it clear of the entry walls of the lock proper, a distance of about 150 metres. With the ship already close behind and he hoping to get a run up to clear the silt, a pressure wave a metre and a half built up at the front of the lock. We went surfing when there was no water passing by and because of that there was no steerage. We were lucky that we had the boat lined up for the exit and lucky too that Mavourneen has a long straight keel. By the time the pressure had dissipated into the wider waters of the Balboa harbour we were perilously close to some of the concrete pylons marking the guide walls into the lock. Harry’s full revs and the big three bladed prop dragged us away from the rough wall and even the pilot took some time for his eyes to change from dinner plate size to mere saucers. I think we all just watched as the barnacle and mussel clad poles shot past.
Jay's sailing was a lot tougher than ours has been.
His ability to find the needle in the haystack with a sextant and navigate coral reef by sight, without detailed charts is real seat of the pants stuff. Every year yachts cross the Pacific (Jay and I agree that the name is such a misnomer) and come to grief because they do not understand the colour of the water around coral reef. When we crossed last year, there was 1 tragedy with all hands lost and 4 yachts that we know of landing on reef, some yachts saved and some not.
Jay alerted one yacht coming out of Auitutaki in the Cook Islands, who ignored Jay's warnings and promptly ended up on the reef.
Coming into the Canaries on a delivery, Jay shows us how it's done....bear in mind that this was just after Jay and his crew almost lost the boat off the North African Coast.....a bit of a nerve wracking experience.....
The wind was again around 40 knots as I steered towards the entrance doing better than 6 knots. I tried to stall the rudder to slow us down to no avail and I didn’t want to get into the harbour without some sort of sail in case I had to abort and sail out again. We powered into the basin and were horrified to find that the harbour was chockerblock full of yachts and that the 40x25 metre space had shrunk to 25 to 15! I went past the fuel dock at 6 knots and prayed that I could get Maitresse around in her own length (a feat that would be impossible for Mavourneen). I kept the headsail aback as we came through the wind which pushed her bow round smartly, then called for it to be dropped. A few heads popped out of yachts’ companionways at the racket of flogging sails. We were still going fast and I reached across the wind for 20 metres before tacking again and reaching back to where we had dropped the sail. Our speed had halved and as I pushed her up into the wind to approach the dock the speed dropped even further. I had a sickening feeling that I had lost too much speed and that the head wind against our spars and rigging was going to stop us before we got there. We drifted up to the leeward end of the dock and Matt made an heroic leap to the wharf taking the bowline with him. He ran forward and secured as far forward as the rope would reach before getting the stern line that Bronwen had thrown. We moved the boat forward to lay securely against the piles. We heard a smattering of applause from our audience on the other boats. The fuel attendant came grumpily out of his office and told us we couldn’t stay there. I said we had no motor to which he replied “Bravo signor!”
Captain Ron comes to mind! (If you have never seen this movie, I suggest you do! A good laugh!)
With our Pacific crossing we knew that the last 500 miles or so, approaching the Australian coast had the potential to be the worst weather. Last year with a front crossing the Tasman every 5 days, we waited and waited in Noumea for a window. We had a wild ride on the back of a front for a few days before the wind died. At least the wind stayed behind us. Other yachts who left before us got hammered and one almost sank, having two choppers staying overhead until they made it behind an island for shelter. Jay took a bit of a beating in his crossing.....
Three days out from the Bay of Islands we encountered a rather stiff northwesterly which stripped us of a third of our miles made good and made us beat into the seas. After two day of winds in the 30-35 knot range, they backed through to SSW and we began scooting to the WNW. Enormous swells of 12-15m topped by seas of 2 or more metres made descent of these slopes precarious. Under triple reefed main and our diminutive storm headsail, we roared down the faces of these leviathans. Occasionally a rogue sea would smack into us from abeam and, as Mavourneen is a low wooded craft, we often had our own paddling pool in the cockpit’s footwell. Shortly after noon on the 28th we were surfing a beauty, when we were hit by a corker on the port beam and down she went. As the starboard side windows looked down into 4000 metres of Tasman briny blue, we both wondered if she would continue on her rotation. A seemingly never-ending hesitation as she thought of tripping on her gunwale, before deciding it wasn’t worth carrying all that lead if it wasn’t going to be used in situations just like this. She rattled upright, shook herself like a wet dog and blasted off in hot pursuit of the offending waves.
Jay also takes a step further of being 'out there' as a single hander; out of the 62,700 miles sailed on Mavoureen, 18,800 miles was single handing. We have sailed some 10,000 miles in company of a single hander. The question arises....are they all a little strange....and the answer.....of course! When the single handers meet up they generally all hang out together .....meeting of like minds!
So when Gordon told me about Jay and the book, my immediate reaction was high on the 'wow' factor.
How honoured I am to have been asked to talk today as Jay has captured the essence of all that it means to go cruising. His vast sailing experience is as understated as he is. Jay has written this book with such elegance and precision. Maybe his mother, suggesting he should have been a writer and not a boat builder was right!
Jay takes the reader from the early beginnings, through the decision to go cruising, the buying of the boat and the preparations and of course the adventure itself. Jay has not only shared his adventure with us but also a fascinating insight into the wonderful places he has visited and the wealth in experiences gained from the people he met along the way.
Whilst the camaraderie of cruisers is second to none, its the unexpected interaction with local people that is so very Inspiring. Scenic Route to Paradise is an adventure rich in experience that goes beyond the obvious of Jay's sailing adventure, which happens to be his passion, being on the ocean; where the less firma, the more terror.
Jay's decision to go cruising was not because he was looking for any accolades or extrinsic rewards but because of the pure joy of being on the ocean and dealing with what ever Mother Nature threw at him.
Mother Nature can be so awesome. The countless sun rises, moon sets and gliding along under a full moon or a star studded sky is something you just don't forget or tyre of. Jay's description is so vivid.
The predawn light brings a touch of colour to the otherwise sepia hue of our nightime vigils. This time of day is particularly enchanting, the waning moon still several hours to set casts her silvery path for us to follow to the west. The strongest and boldest of the stars remain in the sky despite the enlarging and blossoming glow of the soon to arrive sun. About the horizon are a few random and friendly, fluffy clouds. The morning star the brightest of all appears to be straining mightily on the sun’s umbilical to draw over the lip of the horizon to begin the new day; knowing all the while that with the sun’s appearance so the star will die.
Jay continues with a wonderful description of the sun set and moon rise. This daily sequence of life at sea is something to behold and indeed there are times when you are sitting in the cockpit after a rough, wet black night hurtling into oblivion when you praise the coming of first light....or maybe it's better not to see the waves coming at you!
The cruising lifestyle allows one to have time on their hands, which is a good thing as it can take a day to fuel, another to obtain gas and yet another day or two to re-vital. In an isolated anchorage in Sulawesi, we decided to take a young boy upon his offer to get fuel for us. We gave him all our jerry cans, enough money for what the fuel should cost and a small tip, promising another reward on his return. We had a bit of a laugh at the thought that we may never see him again, however the next morning he paddled out to us in his dugout and the fuel. In cruising you have to believe in the inherent goodness in everyone you meet and we have yet to be disappointed.
There is always the unexpected as Jay found out on one fuel run when he was rowing over unexploded ordinance on his way to the fuel dock; which can be a tads alarming, as can finding out that your copper lined tank for sherry storage on tap, may not have been your best decision.
As with any cruising story, the antics of anchoring is always entertaining, but eating goats eye soup does go a little beyond one's imagination, especially when the eyeball is looking at you! I nearly fell over from laughter reading about a knee trembler.....I have not heard that term for a long time and it may need a short explanation for foreign readers!
There are actually two adventures shared here.....the journey itself and the writing of that journey.
To quote Helen Keller, "Life is a daring adventure or nothing".
There is adventure in all that we do from club racing, exploring what ever our passion to raising children. Life can certainly be a juggling act with the wonderment of how you manage to keep all the balls in the air and of course some times you don't. Imagine if we could write down and record all the adventures of you all here or the people from SoPYC.....what amazing stories would be told. Perhaps Jay's book might inspire others to do just that.
Whether you are setting out to sail to distant shores, dreaming about an adventure or just sitting down to enjoy a great yarn, you will very much enjoy Scenic Route to Paradise.
Everyone has a story to tell and this is Jay's story.