These are the diary entries and thoughts of Steve as I cruise from the Mediterranean half way around the world and back to Australia. These aren't meant to be a concise or chronological record, but rather this is a place where I can record my thoughts that don't necessarily fit into the log.
8th February 2009
It's sad that my first entry is an upsetting entry, but today I heard that a good friend of mine at GPA passed away on the 4th February. He was only my age and died of cancer. Not that long ago he was in remission and things were looking good after his chemo. Then is came back suddenly and he had to undergo more chemo. I remember chatting with him about six months ago and we were talking about our dream to go sailing. We were discussing the fact that life can be so short and as you never know what's arount the corner we'd decided that given the opportunity we would rather live our dream now, than later – life can be so unpredictable. It is sobering to have someone close die so suddenly. I'll miss him, as will everyone at GPA, but what I take away is that I've made the right decision to spend time with my family and make some memories that will last a lifetime. Farewell Andrew Ursini, my friend, it's been a pleasure and a privilege working with you.
Thoughts on Turkey
Today I went to a place called the Senai which is on the outskirts of Marmaris. It's a curious collection of small scale industrial workshops where you can get almost anything done at a very reasonable price provided you can haggle a good price and can be clear on what you want. The last few weeks, I've been working on adapting a stainless steel bracket on the transom of Connect4 so that I can mount my new pasarelle (boarding ladder) to it. This job has been hanging around for quite a while. You see the reason for the work is that the week before we arrived in Turkey there was a big storm and we lost most of our boarding ladder when our yacht must have got too close to the pontoon and hence the boarding ladder was crushed between the yacht and the pontoon. An unfortunate event, but better to lose the boarding ladder than to have the back of the yacht damaged against the pontoon. Yesterday I'd done the walk through the Senai and after getting quotes from a couple of “Inox Shops” for the modifications I'd haggled a reasonable price with one particular shop and was fairly confident that although they didn't speak much english, they understood the job and could do the job to the standard I required. They'd taken my drawing and mounting bracket and told me to come back in the evening of the next day – so here I was. The shop, like the other sixty or seventy shops in this area are small and show many signs of cheap renovations to extend them another metre here and there. The walls are mostly concrete, except where the extensions have been made; then they are most usually steel clad with corrugated iron. They all pretty much look the same, dirty, small and always filled with three or four men working machinery that looks like it was surplus from the 1950's. Contrary to first impressions, the men working in these little workshops are very skilled at their work and they can make almost anything you require provided they you can be clear with your expectations and requirements. When I walked in, one of the men smiled and greeted me with the obligatory “Hoshgeldenez” which in layman's terms basically means “welcome to my shop”. In reply, above the noise of some guy in the corner working an angle grinder, I called out “Hoshbuldook” which is an expected reply; loosely translated it means “thank you for your welcome”. I've noticed that the Turkish people are very polite and have many different greetings and thanks for different tasks. For example, after someone has made you a dinner, rather than saying “thank you for the beautiful dinner” the Turkish custom will be to say a thanks that basically means “thank you to the hands that prepared this meal”. Their language is so polite and respectful. My bracket was brought out from the back of the dimly lit workshop and at a quick glance, I could tell they had made the bracket as per my specifications; the stainless steel had been polished to a shine and as I rotated the bracket it moved smoothly and freely. Sadly though, the top of the bracket was made of 3mm stainless steel instead of the 6 – 8mm stainless steel I had asked for. I showed this to the owner and demonstrated how much the 3mm stainless flexed when I leaned on it – there was no way it would support the weight of a person. When we'd discussed the design, the owner had asked me how thick the top plate was to be, but this knowledge obviously didn't get transferred to the workers. He brought out my drawing to show me, and sure enough this was the one dimension I hadn't put on the drawing, however “0,6cm” was was scrawled on the top of the drawing by the owner highlighting that we had discussed and agreed on this missing dimension. With much arm waving, and mimes of clock faces and time moving, I was told that my bracket would be fixed in about 1hr. As it was late and quite a walk into town, having nowhere better to go I elected to stay and wait for my part.
As I waited, the first thing I noticed was the mis-match of the worker's clothing. He wore a pair of old trousers and a stained shirt, which you might see many a factory worker in, but his shoes were black pointed leather shoes that looked like they would have been worth quite a bit of money and would have been very stylish and modern had they not lived in a workshop for a good many number of years. He set to work, first with a welder where half the visor was broken and missing. He welded with one eye closed. Once he'd tacked the steel, he set to cutting and grinding using a large angle grinder – no hearing protection or safety glasses in this shop. I stepped out into the narrow street to get away from the noise and watched as a two cars traveling in opposite directions down this narrow street, made narrower by the fact that there were a couple of cars double parked, tried to get past each other. The driver who had just come around the corner tried to back up, however by this time a van had pulled around behind him, so was stuck. After a minute of nobody moving, the van backed back up around the corner, followed closely by the second car then the first drove through the gap and disappeared around the corner. The second car and the van then went back to their business as if nothing had happened. The people here don't ever seem to be in a hurry and I've never heard or seen anyone get impatient or claim their rights when they are driving. They seem content to sit and wait, or move their car to let someone else through – even if they are on the wrong side of the road. The van went by, then I saw a young guy on a little 125cc motorbike race by, weave around the corner then down the lane. In a world where almost everyone rides scooters, to own a motorbike, even such a small one, he must feel like a king. He went off down the lane revving his engine, so that everyone could hear he was coming – no helmet, no leathers, no regard for his safety by our standards. I turned as I pondered the differences, only to see two men on a scooter riding toward me down the lane. The pillion was sitting facing backwards as he held a stainless steel cylinder off the back of the scooter – it must have been at least a meter high and half a meter in diameter. Again, no helmets, no thought for what may happen to either of them if they came off.
Turning to go back into the shop I saw a kid of about 11, dressed in a mix of soccer clothes. He had the soccer shorts and t-shirt but had a pair of tattered black school shoes on his feet; his socks were mis-matched but he didn't seem to notice – nor did anyone else. He walked into the workshop with a small glass cup of chai. Here in Turkey everyone seems to drink chai all the time. We first noticed this early on during one of our trips into town. I needed a new leather belt and having found a suitable one in a small clothing store I paid the man and was preparing to leave the shop when he asked where I was from. When I said I was Australian, he quickly insisted I sit and have a chai with him. I felt very conspicuous as he brought out a small table and a couple of chairs and set them up right in the middle of the shop indifferent to all the other customers walking around him. There we sat, drinking chai, in the middle of this shop as first his father, then a family friend who I later found out was a TV presenter for some local TV news channel, came and joined us. By any other standard, sitting in the middle of some clothing store drinking tea over a small table would be considered embarassing, but not here.
Family is very close and important here in Turkey. The young boy in his soccer clothes had just finished school and brought the glass of hot chai for his father who was still working. The boy just sat near his father and watched him as he worked. He didn't talk to his son much, but you could feel that just hanging out together after school was a common occurrence. After school the children will often come to where the father or mother works and just hang out with them until they finish later at night. In fact, if you wander around any of the family shops after about 6pm you'll notice that there are many children just sitting with one or both their parents, as they work. It seems to be the accepted thing. The children will come to the father or mother's place of work and stay with the parents until they finish, which may be as late as 8 or 9pm. Children are very special to Turkish people, the boys especially so. Almost anytime I go out with Nick, he'll always have someone patting him on the head or saying “how's it going?” or putting an arm around him to give him a hug.
The plain looking man with the fancy leather shoes in the inox shop finished with the modifications to my pasarelle bracket at the end of one hour as he had promised. When he handed the bracket to me, I turned it over in my hands looking for any defects, looking to see where he had welded the additional bracing to it, but I couldn't discern a single weld between the original bracket top and the bracing. I looked at the man and told him he had done a very good job of finishing the welding and polishing, and you could almost see his chest puffing up as he swelled with pride for a job well done as my english words sunk into him. There was no animosity that I'd given him another hour of work to do, or that the original job hadn't been good enough, but rather he was genuinely proud to hand me a job well done. Such is the attitude of most of the workers here in Turkey – they are proud to have a job well done.
As I walked from the inox shop, I turned the mounting bracket over in my hands, admiring the quality of work done and reflecting on my experiences with the people of Turkey. Turkey is a country of such contrasts: the chaos of the driving, the patience of the drivers, the fact that everyone drops rubbish wherever they want, but then comes out to help at the clean up days. But if I had to pick one thing, I'd say the honesty of the people here and their friendly ways are what I notice the most. You could leave your purse on a table and walk off for 20 minutes and be pretty certain it would still be there when you came back.
Our First Overnight Sail
Well it had to happen sooner or later. I'm sure that after we've sailed across the Atlantic and across the Pacific, sailing overnight will be a small thing, but when you've never done it before it can be quite a daunting prospect. But … we're proud to say that we're no longer overnight virgins!!! On the 20th June we set off on our first overnight sail from Santorini north to Serifos, It should have been a pleasant sunset cruise through the caldera, then a relaxing cruise north. As it happened, we snagged a mooring line leaving the shallow harbour – one of our own that we'd just dropped. It wrapped tightly around our starboard propeller and brought us to a quick halt, much like a dog with his hind leg tied. The relaxing overnight sail wasn't off to a good start, as I spent the next couple of hours removing the tangled line from the propeller. It's amazing how tight a small line can entangle itself around a turning propeller! The short of it was that we departed that night, but a couple of hours late. The pleasant cruise at sunset the Santorini's caldera turned into a nervous, high tension motor, Cheryl at the helm with me glued alternately to the radar and chartplotter scanning for anything we might not have seen in the almost moonless night. Our autopilot worked well, taking along the predefined route I'd programmed several hours earlier. We finally emerged out the other side of the caldera, and settled into a routine watch. I'm not going to repeat my blogs on this page, suffice to say that the sail was interesting at times, but also very rewarding personally. I think I speak for both of us when I say we enjoyed it immensely and found it hugely satisfying. The solitude and peace of just having time to yourself, to watch the stars or to ponder is such a gift. In our world it's so easy to keep so busy that you never stop to reflect. When you sail overnight, there's nothing to do but watch and enjoy the feeling of now. Everyone else is asleep and you have time to yourself – to do whatever you want (so long as you keep the 10 minute watch happening). For me, it's a great time to just chill and reflect on my life and my world, to reflect on what brought us here and how privileged we really are to have the opportunity to do something like this. Yes – life is such a privilege.
Thoughts on living aboard and Clothing – from someone in the middle of the grave yard shift
It's kind of ironic that I'm typing this entry at 2:00am Saturday morning on the second night of our sail across the Ionic Sea from Greece to Italy. Re reading the entry above, I reflect on how far we've travelled and with how much awe and trepidation we approached our first overnight sail. Now we're some 120NM into a 191NM trip west to Rochelle Ionica in Italy, having left the last of our Greek Islands Thursday night gone. When we left Santorini for our first overnight sail, we were making our way between islands, as we wound our way north, never far from land, really. This time we're out in the middle of nowhere – no islands or anything to see.
We've been living aboard “Connect4” for about 6 months now, and before we moved aboard, I had ideas on what would be different between living aboard vs my life before. I was mentally preparing for the necessary “adjustments” I'd have to make and weighing up the “sacrifices” vs the “gains”. Looking back on it now, I think some of the things I've struggled with the most have been the things I wasn't even aware of before I moved aboard, and many of the things I thought would kill me, actually have turned out to be easy.
Lets take for example the shower. I'm a guy that loves my shower. I could stay in the shower all day, and nothing feels better to me than standing under a steaming shower, letting the water run down over your body for, well, a lot longer than I should! To move aboard a yacht that only carries a limited amount of precious water means you can't just have a shower whenever you feel like it. It also means that when you do get a shower, you have to limit the water usage – I'm proud to say I can now have a “shower“ with about 2 litres of water. Perhaps 3 litres if I wash my hair! My shower, in my past life, was something precious and dear to me - I'd hardly start a day without it. Now my beloved morning shower appears as nothing more than a memory, a figment of my imagination, from a life past. It's been replaced with something that's cold and functional. Let me explain. For starters, my shower 'cubicle' also contains my toilet, my hand basin, my vanity and mirror, my towel rail and my two lights. It might seem funny that I mention a towel rail and two lights, but when your 'bathroom' measures outstretched elbow-to-elbow and has a width of about half that; well, you get the picture - even our linen cupboard at home has more space. Now once you're in there – typically you strip off in the bedroom and make a sprint to the bathroom, here's not enough room to get undressed in the bathroom. You leave your towel outside, and after throwing out the hand towel and the waste paper bin (more on that later) you commence something resembling a shower – just without the water. Imagine pouring the equivalent of a glass of water over your head, trying to direct it so that it wets every part of your body on the way down, then without any more water, lathering up all over until your covered in suds. You then get the privilege of running the shower just long enough to rinse off all the suds, an act that shouldn't take more than 5-10 seconds. There's no standing in the shower, brushing your teeth, or just enjoying the caress of the water over your body. Nope, you get in, you get wet, you wash yourself, you rinse off then you get out. If the water in the shower drain comes above the bottom of the floor plate, then I've used too much water.
But you know what – before moving aboard the yacht, one of my biggest concerns was for the loss of my beloved shower. But now I'm here I honestly don't miss it as much as I thought I would. That big ticket item – limited shower water; well, I've learned to adapt. However – and this is the big However. Before I moved aboard, I never gave a thought to toilet paper. Don't cringe too much, relax – we do still have the luxury of toilet paper. It's not being done away with yet. But something I never considered before was how cruisers deal with toilet paper on the yacht. Prior to moving aboard, I lived in blissful ignorance - I never thought about. Perhaps that's what threw me so much when I first encountered it. We can't put the toilet paper in the toilet, because it'll block the toilet, and believe me, we go to any length to ensure we never block the toilet – trust me on that one! Our toilet paper goes in a little rubbish bin, inside the bathroom, and we empty it every chance we get. In Turkey, and Greece, most public toilets have a small bin to put your toilet paper in, so perhaps over there it's just the done thing. But in Australia, we flush our toilet paper! This was a big ticket item to me and took some getting used to. Perhaps because I never gave it a thought before moving aboard, but it's been hard to get used to. But I'm dealing with it.
This brings me to my next adjustment. Clothing! Clothes used to be something that you wore to get “dressed up” in. Something that shows your individuality, something that shows your creativity, or even your ability to match colours – whatever your persuasion to clothes, aboard a cruising yacht it all changes. I used to take pride in getting dressed up nicely – well as much as can be expected from an engineer anyway. Now, clothes are just a functional item, a bit like a life jacket. We wear our clothes, but it doesn't matter if they match or not, at least not while we're underway anyways. Today was hot and as we were on passage, I wore shorts and a t-shirt only. Actually I think I was still wearing them from the night before. Half way through the day, because I smelt, I had a 'shower'. It was still hot when I came out, so I put on a pair of boxer shorts and that sufficed for the rest of the day. In fact it's now 3:20am and I'm still wearing just my boxers, oh, and my life jacket. Cheryl spent most of the day just in knickers, a bra and a singlet top. The problem with clothes is that whenever we wear them, we just get them dirty. Then we have to hand wash them, which is an arduous job and one that uses more of our precious water. Some friends of ours who'd been cruising for quite a few years, told us a funny story. Not long after they set our cruising, they met some other cruisers. These other cruisers looked at them, and after chatting a while, made the statement “you guys haven't been out cruising long have you?” Perplexed Michelle answered, “No, how did you know?”. “Ah”they said, “Your clothes are too clean and white”. After you've been out cruising a while, clothes lose their white - it's hard to get them super clean just by hand washing.
Sailing from Galaxhidi the other day, we passed a cruising yacht going the other direction. Looking over and waving as we passed, I noticed neither the husband nor the wife were wearing any clothes. Sailing naked - “Hmmm!!” That could save on washing water.