Just sit right back
And you'll read a tale
A tale of a fateful trip
That started from this frozen port
Aboard this tiny ship
***Note, the trip to Oz has been cancelled indefinitely. This article and the site is being kept for historical reasons only***
How did we get into this mess? I can just imagine many people asking. A small catamaran, two cats, and a husband/wife crew sailing from Virginia, in the USA, to Australia.
It all comes down to me (the husband) wanting to sail across the Pacific for well over a decade - long before I met my wife and long before she ever wanted to set foot on a sail boat. We met in 2004. I was in Australia, she was in the USA, and we met on a science forum. I went to the USA, in December of 2005, and we got married. I came back, while she stayed to continue her schooling, and then, she joined me in Australia. I convinced her to come to Australia because, "Hey, Australia doesn't have natural disasters." Infamous words, as time would later reveal.
Since she'd been in the 1994 Northridge Quake in L.A., a hurricane and several tornadoes, she figured Australia might just work out.
We stayed in Australia for about five years and managed to get caught in the middle of one of the worst bushfires in history. We lived through it, saved our house, and along with a neighbour, saved a few others as well. There is a bushfire link down there, if you'd like to read more about it.
Anyway, we figured it was time for a change so we moved to the USA, opened a restaurant, and generally worked out butts off to go backwards.
After the sale of the house we'd lived in during the bushfire, and due to a general dissatisfaction with our restaurant endeavor, we decided to see what we wanted to do next.. The plan had been to stay in the USA for a lot longer, but, as it happens, the wife's permanent residency visa in Australia was about to expire. After spending a lot of money on fixing the house in Virginia, as well as getting the cars all sorted out we found out we had to get back to Australia by July 2014.
We applied for a five year visa extension but she missed out on the required two years of living in Oz, with a permanent residency, by a couple of months. That holiday we took to the USA for about four months, shortly after the bushfire, ended up not counting as part of the two years so we were told she couldn't get it extended. They naturally kept the $300 application fee, so we paid through the nose to learn this. They'd also just changed the rules. Prior to that, it was one year and she would have qualified. Even when abroad you have to follow policy overseas. If they change the rules, in my humble opinion, it should be so that if you leave Oz after the change, then the new rules apply. If you left Oz before the change you should still be on the old rules. That makes sense to me, but this is government bureaucracy, and it's not meant to make sense. So we got caught in the middle.
To cut a long story short, we weren't going to leave the cats behind - Gracie, my wife's older cat, and Spaz, the little kitten that decided she was adopting us. Trust me when I say she is appropriately named. Too many pets die in aircraft in the USA and the general attitude of the airlines is to give you a free ticket or a discount on your next airfare. We're not going to trust any company with such an attitude towards loss of life. Thus, we looked at our options and the wife has known for many years that my goal was to sail the Pacific so the solution was obvious.
I don't like monohulls. It's not that I think that they aren't sea worthy. I just don't like the heel, the draft and the living down below features they have. I have seen a few I would have no reservations crossing oceans in, and I understand a lot of people prefer monohulls to Catamarans. To each his own. Thus, we got ourselves a highly renowned catamaran that is relatively unknown. The Catalac. Made in the UK by Tom Lack. Cat'a'lack... get it? Most Americans didn't like the name, so sales were low here but the boat is great. Strong, seaworthy and safe. Just what we wanted.
In September 2013, we transferred the funds to a broker and secured our boat, sight unseen, but with the option to bail if it wasn't in the condition described
So there you have it. The trip was born. We sailed the boat from Long Island Key (near Tampa) in Florida to Virginia.
That was roughing it. The boat's engine was under powered, so we changed it from a 15hp, 4-stroke Yamaha to a 40hp, efi Yamaha, in Jacksonville Florida. This turned out to be a big issue which didn't get resolved until a year later. We had limited supplies and were eaten by no-seeums from hell.
We berthed the boat in Colonial Beach, Virginia, where we prepared it for an ocean crossing. There was a lot to be done: changing the steering linkages, which were rusted; and the mast stay brackets, which were also rusted, and prevented us from sailing on the trip to Virginia. The details of the work done will be detailed in an upcoming section.
The winter was long and hard; we couldn't do everything we wanted, but had to start the trip anyway or we wouldn't make the weather window in the Pacific. Keep in mind, we' were under a time crunch due to the wife's visa situation.
The travelling South part of our story starts in Virginia: two men in freezing conditions, followed by my wife and cats, who would meet up with me later in North Carolina. From there, we started emailing Captain's logs, almost daily, to keep friends and family informed, as well as fulfilling a requirement for sailing long distance, though not exactly the way I did it. The email list kept growing.
Apparently, we were like watching a train wreck, so the audience is building and keeping an email list was becoming a problem.
Apart from that, we got our first spam on the email because the email address was harvested by some bot.
That was enough for me to bite the bullet, get a website, and start documenting it that way. It made it easier to keep track of where we were and are, as well as making it easier to post pictures.
The original emails in the email list are reproduced here without corrections for grammar, spelling, and, most importantly, comprehension. I was writing them after long cold days on the boat or early frozen mornings so in neither case was comprehension a big winner. We're still editing them so no need to point out mistakes. You'll be writing long emails. (Note: we are now fixing all the grammar and spelling mistakes in a luxurious apartment by the beach, while planning for the next phase of the trip. -December, 2014).
Our position. Courtesy of George
Yes, this is a boat, frozen in water. That day I literally walked on water like some other famous guy.
boats namesake, Spaz our nutty cat.
Gracie our possibly more sane or nutty cat. We're not sure yet as she likes big waves.