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 fiancĂ©e 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.

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