Monday, 31 December 2012

2012: These months gone by

What. A. Year.  So many experiences, so many destinations and so many incredible people.


Picture via
Started off with a bang on Sydney Harbour. Aboard the Southern Swan, I got to experience one of the best fireworks displays in the world.


I then took a week holiday visiting friends in Melbourne. Still living on the Southern Swan and returning back to Sydney.


We moved on to the Soren Larsen and the mini refit begun!


 And so we set sail for the South Pacific Season.  Leaving Sydney and sailing across from oz to New Zealand.  Then we began the epic sail from NZ to the cook islands...


Reached the cook islands and Hello to the tropics!!! Visited Rarotonga, Aitutaki and Suwarrow, Before embarking to Western Samoa.


After fresh water caves and a swing rope in Samoa, we sailed to Tonga. Here I swam with whales, drank carva  and visited beautiful beaches. Not to mention fell in love with Tongan dancing.


The Soren departed Tonga, which I vow to revisit one day down the track, and sailed on to Fiji. It was also at this point that I became a full time deckhand and no longer a galley wench.


From Fiji to Vanuatu - The Soren's home for nearly two months and one of the planet's most gorgeous places.


In Vanautu I was able to see not only one, but two life volcanoes.  It rocked my world.


This month was the age of New Caledonia, and then the return to Sydney via Lord Howe.  It signalled the end of the South Pacific season and my exit from the Soren Larsen.  I got on a plane and headed home for my Sister's wedding.


Back in England, I made the most of the Kent countryside in late fall and hanging out with family and friends. It was a time of finding employment and enjoying some creature comforts.


My first Christmas home in a while and I even got to decorate the tree! A time to watch the Queen's speech, drink Baileys and eat until I want to pass out. Magic.

 The new year will be seen in surrounded by my Family playing board games in my parents home. Nothing exciting, nothing glamorous. Just exactly where I want to be.

10 nations, over 8000 nautical miles and 2 flights, 2012 took me to destinations I never could of imagined in my wildest dreams.  I learnt so much, not only in sailing, but in human nature and what it means to be part of a close knit community.  My year was dominated by The Soren Larsen and I will always be grateful for what she gave me.

However, 2012 would have been nothing without a supportive crew, a loving other half, great friends and caring family.  Because of them, 2012 was the best year to date. Thank you all. x

Friday, 28 December 2012

In December...

A little early but as my head is now filled with January, I think its time for a round up.

Naturally this month was a festive frenzy, enjoying some quality time with my family. It was also a time for seeing some monumental times with my Friends.

Spent Most Time; Working the 9 to 5, hanging out in the Kent countryside, visiting Brighton and finding presents for all the family (which is a lot harder than I remember).

Mostly Watching; My old school chum Andreia marry her fiancée Aaron.  A beautiful ceremony, with a stunning dress, the best weather you could hope for and a rocking retro London Bus to transport the guests! Congratulations guys. x

Besides that Christmas wouldn't be complete without a Muppet's Christmas carol and a Doctor who special.

Listening;  I mentioned in last month's update that I've been a little obsessed with Lana Del Ray. This has carried on into December, as I'm now in possession of her album 'Born to Die' - Thank you Santa.

Reading; Half way through When we were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro.  So far its been an intriguing tale of memory and loss. We'll see how it turns out.

Activities:  Shopping, boxing day walk, drinking, eating, wrapping and opening presents.

Eating;  Christmas food! Which means all the goodies you can think of. Roast beef, turkey, bacon, veg, creamy potatoes, roast potatoes, cheeses, chocolates, pate, grapes, crisps, sausages and more. I think I might be putting on some 'holiday weight' this Christmas...

Drinking: Baileys. The classic Christmas day drink.

Wearing: Russian styles hats. The Soviets are back!

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Santa Claus is Sailing to Town

Yo ho me heartys!!!!
Its that time of year again. I hope everyone is feeling festive and gets whatever they wished for from the big man and his helpers.  Looking through my facebook photos, I came across this gem taken by my oldest friend and travel companion, the tall one.  Taken last year, on a rather unusual charter aboard the Southern Swan.  To promote a Santa fun run in Sydney, ABC chartered the boat and filled it with 50 Santas. In addition, all crew had to suit up, which led to some confusion.


'Rob* can you throw the Main when we come in?'
'I'm Simon.'
'Sorry sir....Rob can you throw the main over?'
'Still Simon.'
'oh....ROB there you are, can you throw the main over?'
'I'm Sarah."

It took some getting used to.   However, this was one of the funniest charters we ever had and the first (and at the moment last) time I was paid to where a Santa's outfit and climb the rigging.  While they took photographs from another boat, we were asked to take our time over hauling the sails, and so the above photo was born.

Picture from ABC news

* An example name only. I don't think I've ever sailed with a Rob...

Monday, 17 December 2012

Sailing Essentials

Before working on the Soren Larsen, I didn't really know what I'd need to get through my watches.  However, I had a lot of experienced people around me to give me guidance. It was only a few items that I had to learn the hard way how important they really were.

A Knife and Spike 
For the first three months of the trip, this didn't get used as I was in the galley. However, for the other half out on deck, my birthday present came in handy.  Keeping your spike about to tackle shackles and willful knots, this was a god send.  Although I mostly used my knife during maintenance, it was great to know, that if there were any emergencies, I could cut a line.

A decent wet weather jacket
 As stated before, I first joined the Soren for galley work, so I thought 'wet weather jacket' but my flimsy water proof will do fine.' Error.  Three months down the line I'm outside. Although for most of it the weather is warm, even at night, New Caledonia to Sydney was a little different. The coat I found on board was rubbish, warm but was in no way waterproof. So in the end, as me and the other half were on separate watches, he let me use his!   Luckily we were never both called up when it was raining and dark.  But next time, I'll definitely buy a decent jacket.

Your own snorkel gear
Bought mine when we stopped in New Zealand, which was one of my brighter ideas.  Knowing you have a decent mask and mouth piece at the ready was a definite plus.

Or any snacks for that matter. When you are out in the open water, or at an isolated spot, I guarantee you'll start graving something high in sugar/fat/salt.  I learnt the hard way that bring some treats and attempt to ration. A Mars bar could get you through some tough times.

Sea sickness tablets/patches
If you are one of the lucky ones immune to the rocking, good for you. However, if you've never put it for test  or know you're prone, take the pills or patches.  I tried not taking them (as they can make you drowsy) and it was a bad idea.  Although over time my body became a lot better at dealing with the motion, I began taking pills and then later patches, at the beginning of all voyages.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Fantasy travel wishlist

Money. Along with imagination and information, money is a primary factor of where and how long you can travel.  Sometimes I like to play the 'if I won the lottery' game, where I plan how I'd spend the money. I've never bought a lottery ticket but still, its great to dream.
So what would I do in 2013 if money was no problem?  This ladies and gents, is my ultimate travel journeys.

1. Sail to the Antarctic aboard a Tall ship.  I first heard about The Europa and its voyages to Antarctica,  I was hooked on the idea.  Visiting the white continent is definitely on my wishlist. And if I won the lottery, I could afford to do it in style.

2. Trans-Siberian railway: Beijing to Moscow. I'd take my time, stopping off in Mongolia (one of the countries I'm kind of obsessed with), before making my way through the Russian lands.

3. The American dream. Its been in recent years that I've had a desire to visit the land of opportunity. And if I had the finance, I'd buy a decent pick up truck, put a swag in the back and zig zag across america.

4. South America baby. I'd learn to Tango in Argentina, drink lots of wine in Chile, drive across salt flats in bolivia and see ancient cities in Peru.  And as money is no problem, I'd do a Spanish language course too!

5. Volunteering in Kenya.  Helping out in an area in need and improving the lives of others is some thing I'm interested in for my future. And if I had the money, I'd use some of it improve conservation and also the health care of people less fortunate than myself.  The next time I'd do volunteering, I would want to do it for at least 6 months.

I truly believe that if I put my mind to it, I can do all these things in my life time. However, without a windfall, it may take a while...

* Pictures courtesy of,,, and

Thursday, 13 December 2012

The Soren Larsen: A Ship's Bio

I've been dropping her name in and out of conversation for a while now, but I never properly introduced you to this lady while she took me around the South Pacific. Meet the Soren Larsen. Not many ladies have a dudes name, but that's down to her creator. Born in a Danish shipyard in 1947, a shipwright decided that the last ship, would bear his name. I think you can guess his name....

A well travelled lady with a few circumnavigations under her belt, The Soren Larsen has had a interesting life.  Beginning life as a trade ship, transporting timber and grain throughout the Baltic and other parts of Europe. In 1978, The Soren Larsen found herself out of date, in disrepair and up for destruction.   Enter the Davies family.  Restoring and refitting the Soren Larsen to the design she is now. It was after this facelift that The Soren Larsen caught the eye of the BBC. She found international fame in the TV series 'the Onedin line' and also featured in films such as 'the French lieutenants woman,' the count of Monte Cristo' and 'Shackleton.'

After working as a sail training ship for the physically disabled, The Soren was chosen as the flagship for the re-enactment fleet of the first fleet. Celebrating the bicentennial of Australia's founding, the 1988 eight tall ship made the journey to Australia from England.

She then made it back to England, but still she couldn't forget quite forget the shores of New Zealand. In 1993 she rounded the cape horn and returned. For nearly twenty year, New Zealand remained her Home, spending the winter in the south pacific islands and the summer in the bay of islands.

Her only break from the South Pacific came in 2000. To celebrate the millennium  the Soren took on a world voyage - heading to Britain via USA, Canada and Europe and returning through the panama canal.

In her years cruising the islands it wasn't always smooth sailing.  One year, during horrendous seas the deck house was destroyed by a rogue wave. However, her owners of the time (The Davies family selling a few years pior) did all they could to get The Soren sea worthy again and out on the waves!

Come 2011 and The Soren Larsen ended her South Pacific Season in Sydney, where me and her crossed paths.  Bought by Sydney Harbour Tallships, she was to work out of Sydney for the summer seasons at least.  At the time I was living aboard the Southern swan and I remember how big she seemed in comparison. Over the next six months I sailed on the Soren in the harbour, but it was not until we began the 2012 pacific season that I began to appreciate and fall in love with the old girl.

At the time of writing this, after some essential work on her engine and a little bit of tender love and care, The Soren Larsen is now out on Sydney Harbour where she will be going out on charters for the foreseeable future. She will definitely be in Sydney for the 2013 Tallship festival taking place, which sounds amazing, I'm even tempted to go back for it.

One things for sure, at 65 years old, there is still go in the old girl yet and I can't wait to see what other adventures she'll have.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

The Last Explorer

There are some true stories greater than fiction, and this rings true with the life of George 'Hubert' Wilkins.  For within this Australian's existence, was enough adventure and experience for seven life times.  One of the great Arctic explorers and so much more, it is sad that so many do not know more about this pioneer.

I read 'the last explorer' by Simon Nasht during our New Zealand to Rarotonga leg.  This was a long passage where the endless blue ocean stayed uninterrupted for eighteen  days.  I wanted to read a book that would engage my brain and inspire me. When curled up in my bunk, I wanted to escape into an exciting life (however I did not want this in reality - mundane straight sailing beats storms any day).  Hubert Wilkins' story certainly did that.

Born in South Australia, along with his Arctic and Antarctic exploration (where he pioneered early aviation and in the Arctic used submarines), he constantly cheated death, coming across firing squads and world war one's front line. Yet he also suffered devastating set backs that would break a weaker man. Stranger than fiction, I read whenever I could.

 In Hubert Wilkins biography, you are able to capture a time in history when the world was made smaller by forward thinkers like him.  Because while I read about the Antartic landscape and am in awe, I know that one day I could visit, if I really wanted.  This is because of men like Hubert, that the world is that much more accessible  to the likes of you and I.

Definitely worth a read.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Wildlife in the South Pacific

Sailing the Pacific Ocean, I had presumed our ship would be inundated with sea creatures along the way. I thought open water would include regular visit from Dolphins, wanting to hitch a ride on the bow - or whales taking a breather near by.  Very Naive and very wrong. In our major open water crossings (OZ to NZ - NZ to Rarotonga - New Caledonia) we were stalked by Birds and attacked by flying fish, but had very few Whale sightings. It was closer to land that most interactions took place.  When animals did come out and play, they certainly were memorable.  Here are my top wildlife highlights sailing the South Pacific.

Starting with the Smallest - Crabs. In Suwarrow the abundance of hermit crabs creeping along the beach fascinated me. It also led to some crab races and placing them on another crew member's head.* And then at night we got to see the big daddies. Meet Mr Coconut Crab.

These guys are huge when fully grown. Unfortunately it takes a while for them to grow up big and strong, and in many islands with a human population, they have found themselves on the menu and in fewer numbers.

Representing the reptile family is the chilled out hippy of the ocean - The turtle.  I mean let's face it, lizards and sea snakes just can't compete with the laid back philosophy of these guys.  Our first sighting was in Aitutaki but it was in Lamen Bay that we swam with these beautiful creatures. I never imagined we would see so many in one location munching on the sea grass.

Again with Suwarrow, but Crabs were not the only marine life flourishing without human interruption.  Reef sharks and other bigger scarier ones were thriving in the atoll.  And although we saw the odd reefy and a mako, we never saw them in such pacts as in Suwarrow's waters. So incredibly graceful and no matter how small the shark, my adrenaline always kicked in when I spotted one!

Well...I had to really. No marine wildlife composition would be complete without the trusty Dolphin.  From Oz the New zealand, stretching across the islands, there they were, ready to greet us.  Differing in Shape and size, the majority of the time they wanted to play. Seeing dolphins was a good indication that we weren't too far from land. It is also worth noting that fake killer whales played a similar roles to dolphins, but with a weird nose.

Sea birds were one of the few marine wildlife to venture with us in deep open water.  My favourite was when a Albatross would follow us for hours on end, circling us, watching for food.  We were also joined by Gannets and closer to land, the odd tropical bird.  Very close to land and parrots would pop by.

But finally  a picture of the most amazing sea creature in the south pacific.  I am still boring people with how amazing swimming with humpback whales in Tonga was.  It remains one of the best experiences of my life and would love to do it again.  The sheer size of these guys blew my mind and left me humbled.  As time went on in the South Pacific we had a lot of whale sightings, predominately in Tonga, Vanuatu and New Caledonia.  Every time someone yelled 'whale' from  on deck I would rush up like a kid at Christmas.   

 There is also one group of South Pacific wildlife I need to Thank. To all the the wahoos, mahi mahi and tuna who so kindly took our lures and made it onto our dinner plate.  Thank you  for the sacrifice - you tasted delicious!!! 

* please note no crabs were harmed in these activities. In fact, I'm quite sure they rather enjoyed the break in routine.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

My Kentish Heart

When I think of home, this is what my brain sees.  And when the sun shines, its what you get.  Kent truly has some beautiful spots. In my first few weeks back in England, I spent a lot of time roaming footpaths and remembering my land.

Here I am not a stranger, a traveller or passer through. On the beautiful days when I wander fields and footpaths, I belong.

Friday, 30 November 2012

In November...

Back to the UK. Back to home comforts and all the things that make settling somewhere great.

Spent Most Time... In the Kent country-side sifting through online job adverts, attempting to revamp this blog space and enjoying the perks of modern life that you just don't get on a ship. i.e. internet, food/hot drink when you want/ personal space etc.  Half way through the month found work and have been working like a mother trucker.

Mostly Watching; Spaced, one of my favourite comedy programmes of all time. So far avoided day time television (its a slippery slop). but if I do indulge I'm pertial to a bit of 'the big bang theory.

Listening; To the song 'one day' by Asaf Aviadan over and over again.  Lana Del Ray has also become a mini obsession. I've replayed 'ride' more than once.

Reading; "Down and out in Paris and London" - not the best choice for someone looking for work!

Activities:  Meeting old friends for catch-ups in Cafes, taking walks in the countryside.

Eating; Cheese and crackers - with France just over the pond, it would be rude not to.

Drinking: Mulled Cider - its a taste of the future I'm telling you.

Wearing: A Green Parka.

* Picture of Lana Del Ray via Pinterest

Getting to the church on time

Ladies and Gent's, I made it. But more importantly, so did these two.  The day after landing into Heathrow, I watched my big sister get a new surname.

It maybe that I'm bias, but what the heck: THIS WAS THE BEST WEDDING. EVER!!!!!

Let me set the scene.

A thousand year old church where the Bride was baptist in as a baby.
Pews jammed packed with friends and family. Musicians at the front to help give some 'oomph' to the hymns.
A best man doubling as a vicar to marry them.
Bridesmaids waiting outside, realising that sure, our dresses looked good but did not keep the chilly British weather at bay.

Then a Bentley pulled up and a beautiful dress (attached to a beautiful bride) appeared. Walking down the aisle, I was put in charge of her trail, which is a lot harder than it sounds!!

At the reception we ate and danced in celebration. It was also at this point that I saw my sister dance with the flower girl, and for some reason this image made me a little emotional.  Probably because this had been  her day and it was amazing.

Congratulations Mark and Caz - two great people who deserve great happiness.

* Picture taken by my father. Other photos to follow soon...

Monday, 26 November 2012

Flying Home

Now I have a confession to make.  Whilst sailing from Noumea to Sydney, I was S*%#ing myself most of the way.  This wasn't due to storms, a fear of pirates or picking up dysentery, it was because I'd taken a gamble.  I had a choice between two parts of my life and I attempted to have both. You see after beginning my Pacific Adventure, I found out that my Sister became engaged, HIP HIP HORAY!!!!  and then a little later they set the date for the 27th October HIP HIP HOR- what? but that's only two days from when I get into Sydney!!!

Air travel from Sydney to London takes about 24 hours, and that's with the minimum time for a stop over/refuel. You can then take away the 12 hour time difference, but the biggest factor was that I'd be on a sailing ship, which was dependant on weather conditions to get in on time. If luck wasn't on your side, we could be out there for days, bobbing about.  It took a lot of thought. I wanted to be there with my family, celebrating a major life event. I also didn't want to let my crew down and not finish my trip where I'd started.   So I looked online, chose a flight and made a gamble.  I'd be flying out on the 25th October, the day the last voyage officially ended.

At the beginning it didn't seem the best idea.  There was zero wind. I may have cried a little and cursed myself for not putting my family first and trying to have it all.  But as we know the wind did change, I did get to Sydney and with two days spare to boot!

My flight boarded at 4:25 pm.  For the first part of my journey I slept (briefly) and watched films (mostly). In between this I ate (surprisingly yummy).  For around an hour and a bit I got off the plane in Singapore, went through hand luggage security again, only to get on the same plane again, in the same seat.
Part two of my journey pretty much mirrored part one. The whole time I was blown away by how awesome Quantas were and how well the flight was.  Comparing it to my experience flying out to Australia,  I'm now fully convinced that if you can stay on the same plane the whole journey, even if you do have to get on and then off, just do it.  The $200* more I had to pay was well worth ridding myself of the added stress. Wondering whether you'd make a connection or waiting 8 hours in Beijing airport, are all well and good when you're not on a time limit, but with the wedding looming this was definitely the best choice.

And so after around 24 hours in the air, I landed to an English morning. A cold, dark and wet British day just about to begin. But it was not cheerless. The customs man let my Pacific carvings and shells through, and on the other side of arrivals, I found my dad waiting for me, ready to take me Home to have one final meal with my 'single' sister. After over two years, I was finally Home.

Picture taken in Manly, Sydney, Australia - 2012.
* $ refers to the Australian dollar.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Two days in Sydney

After we came alongside in the rocks and cleared customs and immigration, I couldn't believe we were back where it all started. Where had the last 6 months gone?  On our first night back we went to the Mercantile for a few. Mine was a nice cold Cider, something thing I'd been craving for months.

In the morning I popped to a local cafe for a few take away coffees - one that had been a favourite when we lived on the Southern Swan. It was all so Normal and yet so bizarre. After 6 months in some of the planet's most isolated spots, here I was, back in one of the world's major cities. The weather was still gorgeous but I was still feeling rather 'funny' about reaching our final destination and therefore, my departure from the Soren Larsen.  This old lady had been my home and the centre of my world.  Although I was excited about what the next few months had in store for me, I knew life outside the ship would take some adjusting. And those on board had been there with me, experiencing all the ups and downs as a collective. The Soren's motley crew were my Family in many ways.  Living, working, eating, sleeping and hanging out together, suddenly 'poof' they'd be gone. The whole thing made me feel uneasy, and I didn't like it one bit!

However, I was determined to enjoy my final night in Sydney. On our mini pub crawl of the rocks, I might of had one too many swigs of rum, which made my last day in Australia a little 'delicate.' Tip of the day: hangovers do not help goodbyes and it makes dragging your arse away even harder.
 But I did manage to break away from the Soren and its crew. Feeling a little worse for wear, I got myself to the airport, with one more goodbye to say.  For over a year, me and Zim had rarely a day a part and the idea of our temporary separation was hard to comprehend.

But no time to get mushy. I had a 24 hour plane journey to make and a wedding to storm. Adiós Sydney and stay beautiful!

Mother England was calling and it was time to go home.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

The Final Voyage: New Caledonia to Sydney

From New Caledonia to Sydney, Australia.  In the beginning this voyage had it's set backs. On the day we left Noumea I was crippled by stomach cramps.  Only lasting 24 hours and still not leaving the reef (thank god -open sea and an upset tummy do not mix well) I was optimistic about the final sail.  But good old mother nature wasn't playing ball. The wind was totally against us, which is pretty hard to work with in a square rigged ship.Let the motor sailing begin! And as we reached our first planned stop, Lord Howe, the wind just died.  Approaching what seemed to be a lone rock in the ocean, Dolphins came out to welcome us, and we even had a shark sighting! Despite the anti sailing weather, reaching Lord Howe was a show stopping moment. It was so calm I felt all right bringing my camera, a.k.a my baby, up on deck.

However, anchoring up in the evening, the wind picked up and we were told by the authorities to clear out in the morning. A fierce wind was coming our way, which would make the anchorage a dangerous one. So we left Lord Howe, without even going a shore. However, at least the wind was in the right direction and we could get on with some sailing.   My watch (8-12) carried on as usual, rain came and went, the final fish were caught and the cooks kept bringing out delicious food.   

It wasn't long until we reached Mainland Australia - Horay! After spending a night or two in broken bay, we then picked up our local knowledge ticket holder (requirement for ships over a specific length wanting to go into Sydney harbour) and went through 'the heads.' 
Under clear blue skies we came into Sydney.  After six months away, the Soren Larsen was back, Ready to clear customs and immigration in the best position possible.

* In regards to the final photo, I would like everyone to look at the amazing paint and turgo job.  It deserves an 'ooowwww' or an 'ahhhh.'

** First picture of moi and the 6th taken by Mr Biddlecombe.

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