Liebster Award for Sailing Blogs: The Kick in the Ass I Needed

This weekend I went to the Annapolis Boat Show, which is a dangerous thing to do when you’re temporarily estranged from your boat.

Boat shows have a way of both inspiring and frustrating me. I am inspired by the sailors I meet and the adventures they’ve had, and yet I’m also frustrated that I don’t have a spare $2.5 million lying around to drop on a Gunboat. I mean, seriously? The toys I would buy…

turf to surf annapolis boat show 2014I might have gotten a little attached to the Hylas 63 at the Boat Show, as well.

But back to my estranged sailboat and, as it happens, my estranged sailing blog.

Just as the Annapolis Boat Show has given me the kick in the ass I needed to start online shopping for our next boat (sshhh, don’t tell Hideaway), I have also had a nudge from 4 amazing sailing bloggers, who have unwittingly encouraged me to get back to doing what I love – writing about sailing. And this Liebster Award nomination — like a blogging chain letter of sorts — is the nudge.

So, I’m extending a big thank-you to Genevieve of It’s a Necessity, Jessica of MJ Sailing, Dave and Alex of Sailing Banyan and Mark of the Cygnus III Blog for their amazing sailing and blogging feats and for reminding me that, yes, I still have a sailing blog.

And even though it might not be talking to me anymore since I went over to the dark side and moved onto a motorboat (look, it’s a temporary thing, alright?), I will be dragging my new web site and all its stories with me to the Dominican Republic next month where I will finally be reunited with s/v Hideaway and those enticing Caribbean waters.

The Big Kahuna Turf to SurfThe Big Kahuna might not be a sailboat, but look how much liveaboard space she has!

But before that happens, it seems I have some things to answer for. So I’m doing a little mash-up of a selection from Genevieve, Dave & Alex, Jessica and Mark’s questions, in no particular order.

Just think of this as Turf to Surf’s 15 Q&A Greatest Hits — we’ll tie bandanas around our heads, roll up our shirt sleeves, light cigarettes and get rockin’.

1) Describe yourself in 5 words. No more, no less. 

Loud. Competitive. Giggly. Hungry. Passionate.

2) What do you blog about?

I blog about sailing and travel and all the stupid ways I manage to hurt myself. Because stupidity always makes for a good story.

3) How much wine is too much?

I apparently answered this out loud when I said, “You can never have too much wine.” Which resulted in a dirty look from Ryan.

So I’m editing my response to say too much wine is exactly the amount that makes me rugby tackle strangers, argue politics with my parents, climb very tall trees or perform other stunts that I generally don’t do successfully when sober.

Some of these things may or may not have happened recently.

(Stop looking at me like that, Ryan.)

4) What is the worst travel spot you have been to?

There was this time in Russia — all my worst stories start that way – when I was backpacking through Siberia with this English guy who wanted to do some pretty remote hiking and needed a Russian speaker (me) to get to these places.

I don’t remember the name of the little village we were in, but we went there on a mission to get a boat across to the other side of Lake Baikal. Except when we arrived to this town — which took us several days to get to — we discovered the boat had left that morning. And it only goes once a week.

So we walked over to this little “baza” in the woods run by a semi-drunk owner who reluctantly agreed to rent us a room, albeit an unheated one. We didn’t really want to stay a whole week in this frigid town, which looked like the village where Lenin was exiled, but then again we had to figure out how we were going to get out of there, considering we had hitched a one-way ride and couldn’t count on a boat anymore.

We were only there for a few hours when two sketchy looking men turned up – a Russian and a Chechnyan – and seemed to appear wherever we happened to be. If we went for a walk, they were there. If we went to buy beer from the kiosk next door, they were behind us in line. If we cooked dinner in the kitchen, they showed up and started cooking next to us. Eventually, they introduced themselves, asked our names, made polite chat and, before long, insisted we sit down and drink vodka with them.

I didn’t have a good feeling about these guys, so I kept giving them excuses about being tired, ill, suffering from liver failure. But they wouldn’t give up. They insisted, as Russians do, that we had to drink together. So we cracked open the vodka and started tossing back the shots and telling stories. The boys matched each other shot for shot, but I dumped every other shot out on the floor under the table. The last thing I wanted was to wake up in the woods with a kidney missing, or worse.

The weird thing was, the more we drank, the more sober these two guys seemed to get, and the more personal their questions got.

Where are you from? How did you get here? What is an American doing in the middle of Siberia? Does your family know you’re here? Can I see your passport? What kind of work do you do? Do you work for the government? No, really, you work for the U.S. government, right?

Despite all the vodka we were throwing out on the floor, my travel companion and I were taking quite a clobbering, so our defenses were low. And before long, we found ourselves talking about where we were going next. And when the conversation turned to plans to get out of this town, the Russian and Chechnyan insisted that they personally drive us to wherever we wanted to go. And they wouldn’t take no for an answer, in a rather creepy and sober way. I kept trying to convince them we had another ride lined up, but they wouldn’t have it.

Yet when we woke up early the next morning, the two guys were gone. The owner of the “baza” said they had left in the middle of the night, shortly after we went to bed.

Let’s just say any place that leaves you feeling like you might have just dodged a bullet from the KGB definitely floats to the top of my list of worst travel spots ever.

5) What are you afraid of?

Other than the KGB?

I am always afraid of time running out on me, that there’s not enough time in this life to do all the incredible things I want to do, like sail around the world, row across the Atlantic, write a book, run 100 miles, live in Cambodia, build a house in Bali, go heli-skiing, cycle across the U.S., get really good at surfing, plus all the other adventures that have yet to enter my mind.

6) If you could have one wish granted, what would you ask for?

9 lives. If I weren’t so afraid of dying, I could take on some seriously crazy shit.

(Ryan is giving me that look again.)

7) What made you decide to live this lifestyle?

I have always loved traveling. It’s the thing that drew me to English language teaching – I could get a job almost anywhere in the world and support myself as I moved from country to country, seeing new places, learning languages, meeting interesting people and experiencing extraordinary cultures.

When Ryan first told me he wanted to sail around the world (back before we ever owned a boat), I thought he was nuts and that that was the craziest thing I’d ever heard of.

But when we bought Hideaway and learned to sail, I was completely smitten with the thrill of turning up to new ports by boat. It seemed like an amazing way to see the world, so it didn’t take long to get me on board (see what I did there?).

8) What is the best thing about your lifestyle?

Total, absolute freedom. We can go where we want (visas permitting), when we want (weather permitting) and we take our home with us.

When we’re sailing, we’re completely self-sufficient and yet at the same time, we’re always surrounded by communities of knowledgeable, adventurous, generous sailors. It’s an amazing lifestyle.

9) What is the worst thing about your lifestyle?

Boat work. So much boat work. And maybe my fashion sense. It deteriorates in equal proportion to the distance I sail from New York City.

Every time I step off the boat wearing the same pajama pants and salt-soaked T-shirt I’ve been wearing for a week straight, accessorized by my matted hair and comfy fur-covered Birkenstocks, Ryan gives me a look like, “Really? This is what you think is publicly acceptable these days?”

10) What do you carry on your boat that is completely useless?

Tomato paste. I have no idea what to do with it, what to make with it or what to lubricate with it. We bought a ridiculous amount of it in Florida for the trip South and I still have no idea what it’s for.

11) What is the stupidest thing you have done aboard your boat?

I once got into a very heated argument with Ryan (over something he was most definitely wrong about) and, in a huff, I tried to get into the dinghy and row myself to shore where I was hell-bent on finding alternative sleeping arrangements.

After rowing furiously for several minutes, I realized I wasn’t going anywhere…because Ryan had gone and tied the painter to a cleat when I wasn’t looking. So our mooring field in Long Island got to witness me spitting obscenities while rowing in place like a madwoman.

It wasn’t my finest moment.

12) Is there anything you really miss living aboard a boat?

Downhill skiing and roller derby. I would bring my slalom skis and roller-skates on board, but I’m not sure where I’d get to use them.

13) When was the first time you ever set foot on a sailboat?

It was my second date with Ryan in Doha, Qatar. We were both teaching English there and I think he was hoping to impress me by taking me out in a little Hobie catamaran he’d rented.

It was rather impressive, actually – particularly when Ryan flipped us over and had no idea how to right the catamaran again. We just stood there, neck-deep in water, mast pointing downward, balanced on the bottom of the boat with our mobile phones completely wet and fried, laughing our heads off.

14) What did your family say when you told them you were going to up and leave everything in order to travel?

My mom said, “Don’t talk to strangers.”

My dad said, “Here’s a can of mace. Just make sure the nozzle is pointing away from you when you spray it,” which shows how well the man knows me.

In reality, I didn’t feel like I was leaving anything behind because I didn’t have anything to leave at the age of 22. I’d just graduated from college and was joining the Peace Corps to teach English in the Russian Far East. My future seemed completely wide open and I just wanted to move towards it as fast as possible.

I’m sure my parents thought, “It’s only 2 years. Then she’ll come home and get a real job.”

(Sorry about that, mom and dad.)

15) Do you think you’ve found the place you’d like to retire to?

I don’t believe in a “forever place,” the same way I don’t believe in a “forever boat.” There is a perfect place for every time, age and purpose, just like there is the perfect boat for every kind of sailor and sea adventure. The place I would love to go to right now isn’t going to be the same place I want to be in 20 years’ time.

I loved living in London, Nakhodka, Doha, Barcelona, Seville, New York, Cabarete and Ubud – each of these places had something to offer me at different times and phases of my life. Some of those places I’d go back to in a heartbeat and some of them I wouldn’t, because I’ve moved on and I want different things now.

I have the same feeling about boats as I do about places. We’re still sailing on our first boat, our Catalina 34. She’s been good to us as a training boat and for cruising through the Bahamas and the Caribbean. But when we wanted to go racing, we left her for 18 months and got on 70-foot racing yachts for the Clipper Race.

Next, we’ll be looking for the boat we want to do our circumnavigation with and we’re toying with the idea of buying a catamaran. I know, I know, you monohull lovers are recoiling in horror as you read this, but we like the idea of sailing around the world in something with enough space that the next time I get mad at Ryan, I can just go sleep in my own hull, rather than try to row to shore.

When we finish our circumnavigation on whatever kind of boat we decide to buy, I have no doubt we’ll want a completely different boat (a monohull racer/cruiser would be awesome) for whatever it is we want to do next. Or maybe we won’t want a boat at all – I have no idea. What’s in the future remains in the future.

The only thing I know for sure is that there is no place or boat on this earth that can hold my interest forever. So the idea of “retiring” somewhere for the rest of my life terrifies me.

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Sharing the love by passing on the…

Again, a big thank-you to my fellow bloggers for the nomination; it’s been a lot of fun reading the Liebster Q&As on almost all my favorite sailing blogs these past few months.

However, there are a few blogs that seem to have gotten left out of the chain. And they are some of the most kickass sailors out there writing and making videos about their adventures. Which is why I’d like to nominate the following folks for the Liebster Award…

Liz Clark & The Voyage of Swell – Captain Lizzy is a truly incredible sailor, surfer and all-around human being whose blog I’ve been following for a few years. Her impressive feats sailing solo around the world looking for the best surfing spots have me in constant awe of her strength and tenacity.

Sailing, Simplicity & The Pursuit of Happiness – You probably already know Teresa Carey and her story, as she is an incredibly inspiring solo voyager. She amazed and confused the sailing community by responding to her partner Ben’s desire to solo circumnavigate the globe by buying her own boat to take on her own solo journey. At his side. On a separate boat. She is also the reason why every time I get fed up with living on a tiny, floating vessel with Ryan, I demand that he get his own boat. Or that I get my own boat.

S/V Delos – If you haven’t seen the awesome and inspiring sailing videos these guys make yet, then get yourself a nice cup of tea, glass of wine, or whatever you need to settle in for a few hours, and just start watching. I’m not certain, but it’s very possible the young folks on board s/v Delos are having the most fun EVER on a circumnavigation. Mind you, this is primarily a video blog, so hey, Delos crew — if you guys feel like answering questions on video, that would be fine by me.

More Hands on Deck – These young guys are also inspiring and entertaining video bloggers who have put a TON of sweat equity into their old boat, s/v Destiny, which they’ve revived with very little money and a lot of hard work and resourcefulness. And they’re having a lot of fun doing what they do, which is getting ready to sail around the world however they can.

Summertime Rolls – Rebecca and Brian generously invited us out to sail on their catamaran with them in Nantucket this summer and I couldn’t be more grateful for their hospitality and friendship. They’re fellow New Yorkers and they’re headed South this year to the Caribbean where we’re hoping they’ll raft up to us and share a few Painkillers.

10 questions for you intrepid sailing bloggers:

  1. Where are you now and where are you headed?
  2. What’s the feature you love most about your boat?
  3. What things are broken on your boat right now that urgently need fixing/replacing?
  4. What’s the most scared you’ve ever been on a journey and what happened?
  5. What do you wish you were more skilled in and why?
  6. What adventures other than sailing across oceans would you consider taking on?
  7. Who taught you to sail and was it love at first experience?
  8. What is the most important thing your sailing experiences have taught you about life?
  9. If you were left alone in your favorite anchorage for a week, what would you do with your time?
  10. What’s next on your list of things to achieve? (Sailing or non-sailing related)

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And if you haven’t already checked out the blogs of the lovely folks who threw these questions at me, you need to open a few new browser tabs and go check them out pronto. Here’s a little bit about them:

It’s a Necessity – This blog chronicles a gorgeous family of four who I was lucky to be able to spend time with in the Dominican Republic. They sail on a boat called s/v Necesse, and they’ve been charming the world with their adorable children and their giving nature. They just spent a year in the D.R. working for a non-profit organization called Live Different and we’re hoping we’ll get to hang out with them again when we get down to the D.R. next month.

MJ Sailing – Matt and Jessica have just made it across the Atlantic and I’m looking forward to following their adventures, as they have just closed the deal on an aluminum boat, which they’ll be picking up in Florida some time this year. They’ve had some pretty awesome adventures since we last saw them in St. Augustine, Florida in 2012.

Sailing Banyan – Dave and Alex are a wealth of fun, energy and expertise. We’ve shared many anchorages and rum punches with these two in the Bahamas and are looking forward to tracking them down in the Caribbean this winter so we can carry on getting into trouble with them.

Cygnus III – Mark is, hands-down, the funniest story-teller in the sailing world. So if you don’t check out his blog, you’re missing out on a good chuckle. His dry wit allows you to laugh at his blunders as he sails around the world with his family in tow.

annapolis boat show 2014 turf to surfThe Boat Show is always a good reminder that we have friends out there at sea.

Crazy Calm: Day 5 of the Clipper Race from Derry to Den Helder

It feels like a homecoming of sorts, getting back on Henri Lloyd after seven months away from the boat. When I said good-bye to my crew in Albany, Australia, I had no plans to do any more legs of the Clipper Race, so I moved on with my life and revisited Clipper solely as a spectator and Henri Lloyd supporter.

Now that I’m here, sailing around Scotland in the final two races of the ’13-’14 Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, having made a cheeky escape from work for a few weeks, I find it hard to suppress a smile, even when faced with exhausting sail changes and the weary round-the-worlders whose facial expressions seem to say “Been there, done that.”

As far as I’m concerned, the toughest day at sea is still better than the easiest day in the office, so even a hurricane couldn’t wipe this grin off my face.

At the time I signed up to do the Clipper Race, I had no idea I was going to love it so much; in fact, I wasn’t sure I would like it all, considering this was Ryan’s crazy idea and certainly not something I would have thought up on my own. But I also knew when I stepped off the boat in Albany that it was going to be hard to watch my crew carry on racing around the world without me…which was contrary to the other feeling I had, which was an intense desire to get off the boat and go places where I could run and cycle and explore land away from water for a while.

But here I am, back on the water, feeling like I’ve been reunited with an ex-lover. And like rekindling an old flame, coming back has been a little awkward and disjointed, but soon the sailing felt as exhilarating and familiar as it did when I was in the thick of it on the Southern Ocean seven months ago.

clipper race derry to den helder leg 8

I’ve missed these boats.

The close competition in this race out of Derry has also helped spark the passion I remember so well. As soon as we clawed our way through the Pentland Firth narrows and emerged with the tide against us at 4 knots, Great Britain and Garmin were so close to us off our port bow we could ask what they were having for breakfast without really having to shout. Then, shortly after we rounded the headland of an unpronounceable Scottish point, the weather started to get schitzophrenic, calling for multiple sail changes while the rest of the fleet pushed on hard, matching our boat speed and keeping the pressure firmly upon us in this short race to the Netherlands.

The last 24 hours have seen more sail changes than the weary crew of Henri Lloyd care to count, as we fight to keep our first-place position while Switzerland and Derry~Londonderry~Doire battle hard for the win just 2 miles behind us, with the rest of the fleet not far behind.

henri lloyd clipper race leg 8 derry den helder

The hard-working crew on Henri Lloyd.

But for now, I am just happy soaking up these moments on board and all of the thrill and discomfort that comes from ocean racing. And I am reflecting on all of this at the ridiculous hour of 5 am, as our spinnaker pulls us smoothly along a blue, shimmering, moonlit surface, giving the crew of Henri Lloyd a momentary pause from frantic sail changes and allowing the sweat from our hard work to cool on our foreheads.

Strangely, I feel alone as I look around at the drooping eyelids and lolling heads of my crew, who are propped up silently on the rails, waiting to be released from their watch to retire to their bunks.

I’ve seen these weary looks before on the Southern Ocean and it amazes me how quiet the crew can become with hardly a word exchanged for hours and, sometimes, days in rough seas. What are we all doing out here on the ocean, sitting in silence?

I’m staring wide-eyed at the blue glow of the sea, thinking about how lonesome the sport of sailing can be, even when you share a boat with 20 other people. Partners, lovers, friends and children are left behind as we fight our way across vast expanses of water in search of things we can’t describe, places in our minds we have yet to discover and goals that are, to many, too intangible to be understood.

Back in Derry, a Clipper crew from another boat said to me, “How on earth do you survive on a boat full of introverts? You have the personality of a firecracker that’s been set off in a crowded room. What do they do with you?!”

I laughed and shrugged my shoulders. It’s true – I am no introvert. Not even close. But I look around at my silent mates on deck, some quiet with discomfort, some withdrawn with introspection, some just sleeping, and I am still smiling. I’m exhilarated by the hard work and high level of performance on Henri Lloyd and, in this moment, I’m wide awake and alone with my thoughts as the wind pulls us towards the finish line, the waves spitting blue and white froth out along the hull.

on board Henri Lloyd Clipper Race Leg 8

I love it when the boat heels so much the rails are in the water.

Sure, racing this yacht requires 20 people to work together. But I’m certain the place we all go to in our minds when we’re sailing is different for each of us. At times, the racing can feel as lone an experience as climbing a mountain in solitude.

Perhaps what I appreciate is the experience of getting to know myself as I’m tested by the elements and my interactions with the characters on board Henri Lloyd. There’s something about the harsh environmental extremes and the moments where you have to work as a team to harness the power of nature to achieve a common goal. This may be a realm in which true introverts thrive, but just as I try to bring a little of the extrovert out of each quiet soul I meet, it seems the boat has introduced me to a calm part of myself I don’t often get close to.

So, for now, this extrovert is going to be still and allow the ocean to quiet her mind. Just being here, racing through the North Sea, feels like a privilege.

clipper race night sailing derry to den helder

The view at night has a calming effect.

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Vote for this blog post to get me drunk!

Clipper is running a contest where the writer of the most popular crew diary entry will receive a limited edition bottle of the commemorative Clipper Race branded Old Pulteney single malt whisky, signed by Sir Robin Knox- Johnston.

Wanna get me tipsy on whisky? Vote for my Crew Diary from the Clipper 2013-14 Race by emailing info@clipper-ventures.com with the subject line ‘CREW DIARY.’  Please include the link to this original post (http://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/470), first published in the Clipper Crew Diaries, and a few words on why you chose it.

The deadline for entries is Friday, August 1st, 2pm UTC/GMT +1. The winner of the commemorative single malt Old Pulteney whisky will be announced on Monday, August 4th.

Cheers! I’ll be toasting to you if I win!

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The Clipper Round the World Race

Tasha and Ryan both raced in Leg 1 of the Clipper Race from London to Rio de Janeiro and Leg 3 from Cape Town, South Africa to Albany, Australia. Tasha then got back on her boat to compete in the last two races of Leg 8, going from Derry to Den Helder and then Den Helder to the race finish in London. Tasha competed on CV21 Henri Lloyd – ahem, the winning boat — with Skipper Eric Holden and Ryan competed on CV28 PSP Logistics – ahem, NOT the winning boat — with Skipper Chris Hollis. You can read more about the crew and the boats here at www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew

Clipper Race from Derry to Den Helder: The first 48 hours

Day 1 – Reintegration

*cough* *hack* *sneeze* *sniffle*

The cacophony of sputtering, sniffling, hacking and honking erupt from various locations above and below deck on Henri Lloyd as we pull away from the coast of Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland to prepare for the race start.

Before I left New York on a flight to Derry, my schedule was overflowing with work projects while the days I had to complete them in quickly dwindled. As such, I was probably run-down already by the time I boarded Henri Lloyd to take part in the final two races of the Clipper Round the World Race.

Almost immediately after I stepped on board Henri Lloyd in Derry-Londonderry, I felt a scratchy tickle in the back of my throat. A few dry coughs exploded from my chest, making me think perhaps I hadn’t prepared my immune system well enough to be dropped suddenly onto a 70-foot-long confined space with 20 cold-ridden sailors.

My crew insinuate that my acquisition of the boat cold that’s been circling around the bunks for a month now is part of my “hazing.” I haven’t been on board since November 2013, so I’m essentially a rookie crew member again, and therefore I deserve a little bit of a beating.

Since I got off the boat in Albany, Western Australia, Henri Lloyd has sailed from Albany to Sydney, Sydney to Hobart, Hobart to Brisbane, Brisbane to Singapore, Singapore to Qingdao (with an emergency stop in Hong Kong to fix the rigging), Qingdao to San Francisco, San Francisco to Jamaica, Jamaica to New York and New York to Derry-Londonderry.

And here I am just jumping back on for the glory leg and the last two races of the round-the-world race, thinking the boat is already well on its way to winning, so what’s there to worry about?

As I hack up half a lung in my bunk, trying desperately to get some sleep on this five-day race to Den Helder, I think to myself that perhaps I deserve this plague I’ve been given. After all, it was naïve of me to think it would be easy to hop back on the boat and just pitch myself into the swing of things again.

Festive Race Start

The whole city must have come out to see us off!

The whole city must have come out to see us off!

The race start out of Derry is one of the most exciting I’ve seen, starting with the Parade of Sails along a completely packed waterfront. Every inch of the boardwalk is covered with waving fans, families and kids. The Maritime Festival in Derry was organized around the Clipper Race coming in this year, so the end of the festival is being celebrated as we parade the boats in view of the boardwalk for the thousands of spectators to cheer us on.

There are circus acrobats, food stalls, ice cream trucks, cotton candy and hordes of enthusiastic Irish families.

When we get out to the harbor where the race start is, the Red Arrows give the Clipper crew and spectators a 45-minute show of aerial stunts that have the fleet transfixed, staring at the sky as we float around and prepare for the race start at 1600 hours, jostling and tacking and digging our Yankee headsails out from under the piles of spinnakers in the forepeak to get ready for the start.

red arrows derry-londonderry clipper race web
The Red Arrows give a spectacular and distracting show. (Photo Credit: Ollie Phillips)

With the mainsail, staysail and the Yankee 1 hoisted, we now hover and sail in circles, positioning ourselves to get across the line smoothly and quickly. 750 miles is a short race in which to make a difference, unlike the long races of thousands of miles that have come before this one. The smallest advantage can make a huge impact in our position, so we want to do well from the start.

When I ask Eric what he’s thinking about this race, he says, “I want this wrapped up and in the bag by Den Helder, so we can relax and just enjoy the last race into London.” And in order for that to happen we need to make sure that GB doesn’t beat us by more than two places. By the look on Eric’s face, as he focuses on the start line, he is determined to leave GB in our wake.

great britain clipper race derry-londonderry

We need to make sure these guys stay behind us.

Eric does a great job positioning us as we shoot straight for the start line alongside GB while the rest of the fleet are still on the wrong tack, headed straight for land as they hold out to tack at the last minute towards the start. It is a little hairy heading for the line, as we’re aiming straight for Switzerland, looking like we might t-bone them. But we peel away at the last second to skim the water just off Switzerland’s stern with 20 meters to spare.

I’m not sure who shot through the start in first but it was either us or GB, which brings back the old feeling of competitiveness with GB that I remember so well from previous races. And I know they would love nothing more than to beat us into Den Helder and have a chance at grabbing the round-the-world title in the final race from Den Helder to London.

24 hours on now, the fleet’s positions are being shuffled around as we all experience light and fluky winds. We’re all aiming to come around the headland to head north in the best position possible, and it looks like Henri Lloyd and Garmin are in the best positions to come out of our tack favorably. Time and a little distance will tell, as we are still in 4thplace, according to the last position reports, with GB in 8th. But in such a short race, and so early on, these positions really don’t mean much.

clipper race start selfie henri lloyd

A little race start selfie for good luck.

Day 2 – The Hard Work Begins

The last 24 hours have been a blur of excitement, frustration, boredom, freezing, sweating, confusion and leaderboard shuffling.

In just a day, it’s gone from temperatures cold enough to need my mid-layer salopettes to warm enough for the crew to be on deck in their swimsuits. Even I’ve stripped down to nothing but my outer salopettes with just a bra and underwear underneath. I never thought I’d be barefoot on deck, needing sunblock as I sail around Scotland, but here I am. I can just imagine Ryan’s family complaining about Britain’s unbearable “heat wave.”

We’ve been moving along at a nice, steady pace through the night, clocking 7-8 knots of speed in lights winds of 8-9 knots. And though we were in 3rd place, with Switzerland and Old Pulteney just ahead of us, as soon as we round the Hebrides of Scotland, near the Isle of Uist, we pull into first place.

There is a short celebration over gaining the lead just before the winds suddenly die and we started scrambling with sail changes as Garmin comes up on our rear so close we are joking with the crew that we’d like some bacon and eggs passed over to us. But before long, we have to drop all conversation to get to work. We drop our Yankee 1 and hoist our windseeker and staysail, then we drop our staysail and keep our fingers crossed that our windseeker stays full.

clipper race henri lloyd no wind

Life on deck gets a little dull when there’s no wind.

Over the next few hours, as the winds creep back up to 10 knots, then die down to 4-5 knots, the crew of Henri Lloyd are busy doing constant sail changes – down with the windseeker, up with the Yankee 1, down with the Yankee 1, up with the A2 kite, up with the A1 kite and down with the A2 kite. All of which calls for constant wooling of spinnakers and flaking and stowing of sails.

For a while, we seem to be making good headway towards the next headland, except then the wind dies off again to a painful 0-2 knots, leaving our A1 kite hanging limp and sadly flagging against the rails.

Today is Canada Day, apparently, which I only know because the boat is now covered in Canadian flags, maple leaf tattoos, chocolate cake and red and white balloons. Some of the crew sing “Oh, Canada” as the rest of us Americans and Brits look on with amusement. Eric is gifted a red maple leaf tie, and has been wearing it over his race gear the entire day, also to the crew’s amusement. During my years of traveling abroad, I used to joke that I’d never met a Canadian who didn’t have a red maple leaf plastered to his person or backpack. And it looks like this boat is no exception.

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The Canadians on board certainly know how to celebrate.

But perhaps that damned maple leaf is good luck after all. No sooner do we finish listening to “Oh, Canada,” than the wind picks up and we start moving again. Going 5 knots may not sound that exciting, but when you’ve just spent 3 hours going 1.5 knots, any wind is cause for celebration.

And if that means singing “Oh, Canada,” another 100 times to keep the wind blowing, well, then that’s the sacrifice we’ll have to make. I’ll do anything to win this race. Even if it means plastering a maple leaf to my face.

Go Canada!

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The Clipper Round the World Race

Tasha and Ryan both raced in Leg 1 of the Clipper Race from London to Rio de Janeiro and Leg 3 from Cape Town, South Africa to Albany, Australia. Tasha then got back on her boat to compete in the last two races of Leg 8, going from Derry to Den Helder and then Den Helder to the race finish in London. Tasha competed on CV21 Henri Lloyd – ahem, the winning boat — with Skipper Eric Holden and Ryan competed on CV28 PSP Logistics – ahem, NOT the winning boat — with Skipper Chris Hollis. You can read more about the crew and the boats here at www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew

Clipper Race Leg 8: A legend-Derry stopover

Kevin, my Henri Lloyd teammate passes me the rugby ball and I take off running. Running is generally where I do well, whereas catching…well, let’s just say I’m better with my legs than I am with my hands. So when the ball lands in my palms without bouncing into the arms of an opponent, I do what any self-respecting player would do and I take off down the field, sprinting as fast as my legs will carry me.

There is screaming and yelling and whistles blowing somewhere behind me, and I am pumping my arms like I’m aiming to win the 50-meter dash, staring straight ahead and telling myself over and over again, “Don’t forget to put the ball on the ground, don’t forget to put the ball on the ground…”

As I cross the goal line, the screaming grows louder, which I take as wild enthusiasm for my incredible achievement. Placing the ball firmly on the ground, I raise my arms victoriously and spin around to face the raucous praise that seems to be erupting from halfway up the field. At which point I think to myself, “What’s everyone doing all the way back there?”

“Where are you GOING?!” Someone in a black shirt screams as I now notice that OneDLL, our blue-jerseyed opposition, are high-fiving each other and smiling while my teammates are all standing with their hands on their hips, shaking their heads.

The spectators at The City of Derry Rugby Football Club are all pointing and laughing and snapping photos with their iPhones, shaking their heads incredulously as I sink to the ground and smack myself in the forehead repeatedly while saying to the referee, who is now doubled over, barely able to breathe, he’s laughing so hard, “My rugby-playing husband is going to be SO embarrassed when I tell him about this.”

“Dear, just tell him you scored, and leave it at that,” the ref says, chuckling and patting me on the back.

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Yep, that’s Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, showing off his rugby skills.

I’m in Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland, getting ready to rejoin Henri Lloyd for the last two races in the Clipper Round the World Race and this week has been chock full of events organized by the city around the Clipper Race arrival, like the Maritime Festival on the waterfront, a live concert by The Beach Boys (yes, they are still alive!), walking tours of historic Derry and, today, a Clipper Team rugby tournament organized by the enthusiastic players of The City of Derry Rugby Football Club.

Derry is the 9th port I’ve visited while the ’13-’14 Clipper Race has been in town, with London, Brest, Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town, Albany, Sydney, Singapore and New York before this stopover. And Derry has by far been the port that has given the Clipper Race the warmest, most enthusiastic welcome that I’ve seen.

12 different pubs and numerous businesses in Derry have each adopted their own Clipper boats and provided them with discounts, support and overwhelming affection. And the Derry Rugby Club members were just as generous and hospitable with dozens of men coming out to play with each of the Clipper teams, grilling hot dogs and hamburgers for all the participants, handing out free pints of beer and cider and breaking out into spontaneous song every now and then, as the Irish seem to have been raised to do.

Before the rugby tournament, the last few days have been full of keen questions about the race from taxi drivers and barmen who all want to know what it’s like to spend weeks on end at sea with 20 crew on board. “It sounds like hell, but good on ye!” Is the general response.

But it’s the rugby tournament, not the Clipper Race, that transforms me into a legend of sorts in Derry-Londonderry.

In the pubs around town, rugby players appear at every corner to pat me on the back and chuckle, “You! You were brilliant!” As they call over their mates, shouting, “Listen to what this girl did…!”

One guy drags the female president of the Derry Rugby Club over to me in the pub and giggles as he says, “I just HAVE to get a picture of you together. Do you mind?!” The rugby club president, slightly confused by all the laughter, looks me up and down and says, “You must have been quite impressive!”

I just shake my head and mumble, “You have no idea…”

A handful of rugby players hop off their barstools and pull out their iPhones to snap pictures of me and the president. And as I walk away, keeping my head low, I hear an Irish lilt in the background, saying, “So she picks up the ball and she runs like the clappers, like she’s being chased by the police! And the whole pitch is screaming at her ‘STOP! WRONG WAY!’ and she just keeps running! It was BRILLIANT!”

It’s not the kind of stunt my husband was hoping I’d become famous for, particularly since he’s played rugby his whole life, but at least I can say I’ve given something back to Derry – I’ve provided comedic entertainment to a town that’s welcomed me with open arms.

And there’s no doubt, as I sit here wide awake and prickling with anxiety the night before the second race of Leg 8 races out of Derry, I am using this opportunity to laugh at my sporting stupidity and distract myself from my nerves.

Henri Lloyd is currently in first place with a cool 13.9 points over Great Britain in second place, and the last thing I want is to jinx my team. So, I have to wonder if that rugby game was my way of purging any last idiotic mistakes from my system before venturing out onto the ocean again, or if it’s an omen of more bad decisions to come.

I guess I’ll find out in about 5 days’ time, when Henri Lloyd pulls into Den Helder, the Netherlands. In the meantime, I’ll make sure to stay away from anything involving navigation. If my rugby talents are anything to go by, I’ll end up sailing the boat in the wrong direction.

team henri lloyd derry rugby club

Team Henri Lloyd on the rugby pitch after a valiant effort to regain our dignity

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The Clipper Round the World Race

Tasha and Ryan both raced in Leg 1 of the Clipper Race from London to Rio de Janeiro and Leg 3 from Cape Town, South Africa to Albany, Australia. Tasha then got back on her boat to compete in the last two races of Leg 8, going from Derry to Den Helder and then Den Helder to the race finish in London. Tasha competed on CV21 Henri Lloyd – ahem, the winning boat — with Skipper Eric Holden and Ryan competed on CV28 PSP Logistics – ahem, NOT the winning boat — with Skipper Chris Hollis. You can read more about the crew and the boats here at www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew

Inspirational Nomads: Andrew Solod, Geologist

Welcome to Inspirational Nomads, a Turf to Surf series where I interview travelers around the world about working abroad and living their dreams.

I’ve met dynamic characters all over the world doing every kind of job imaginable and I’ve been inspired by their stories about where they’ve traveled, what they’ve done for work and the amazing adventures they’ve had. Read on to learn more about the people who travel and work and how they got their start.

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“This sounds awful, but I could never date an American,” Andrew says to me after a few glasses of wine and whiskey, which made me laugh…because he is American. “I just like being with people from different cultures, from completely different backgrounds – it makes things so much more interesting, you know what I mean?”

“What, are you kidding?” I say. “I’m married to a Brit who’s not lived in the UK since he was 17. I know exactly what you mean.”

When I turned up on Andrew’s doorstep in Perth, we were essentially strangers who had met once before in college, at St. Lawrence University in upstate New York. But when you spend your life on the move, making new friends in every new city, even the smallest connections can draw two people together.

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Andrew, chatting with me about life in his back yard in Perth

As Ryan and I dragged our sailing bags into Andrew’s living room, we shared news about our mutual friend Tim, who was the reason I at Andrew’s house in Western Australia. Tim had sent me a message when I arrived to Albany with the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, telling me to go visit his friend Andrew in Perth — that I would like him. And Tim was right.

I knew lots of geology students at St. Lawrence University because it seemed to be one of the school’s most popular majors, other than environmental studies. Located just north of the Adirondack Mountains in a rural town, St. Lawrence attracts outdoorsy students — mostly from New England — who love hiking, skiing, rock climbing, organic produce and, I guess, geology. But I would never have guessed back in college that a degree in geology could lead to a life of travel. Who knew?

Andrew shares how he built his geology career and his life abroad.

What made you study geology in college?

At St. Lawrence, I originally was majoring in anthropology with a focus on archeology, but at the same time I was taking geology courses. And I realized there are a lot of parallels between the two disciplines, especially when the type of archeology is focused on proto-humans, early hominids, like in Africa. Eventually I decided to major in both of them and pursue a career in geology, as there are a lot more jobs out there for geologists than archeologists.

What did you do after college?

I moved to Jackson Hole, Wyoming to be a ski bum. There were a lot of St. Lawrence grads living out there, so it was a really fun time.

When did you start thinking about traveling with your geology degree?

You know, I really didn’t think about it at the time. I ended up moving back home from Jackson Hole to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where I took a job as a geologist working at an environmental consulting company.

What was your first leap abroad with work then?

I moved to Colorado and I’d been working for several years as a geologist in Colorado. At the same time, I had done some pro bono work for an NGO doing water projects in Africa. So I had done several trips at this point to Africa with this geology company and we had a lot of work going on in Mongolia. I applied for a job to work on one of the big projects we had in Mongolia and they selected me. So I went to Mongolia for about five or six months to work over there.

At that point, were you looking to seek out more work abroad or was it just something that evolved from that project?

Definitely that project and the work that I was doing in Africa was a catalyst for me to want to work more and more abroad. In 2010, I was offered a job to work in east Africa for an NGO dealing with their ground water projects there, which is the type of geology I had been doing in the U.S. And I felt like it was quite an opportunity to be offered the job, so I went to live and work full-time in Africa. It’s a part of the world I really loved from previous trips and, at that point in my life, I really wanted to live and work abroad. So I took that opportunity and I moved to Malawi.

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Andrew, working on a water project in Malawi

How long were you in Malawi?

I was in Malawi for about two and half years and I finished up there in March of 2012. I’d already had an interview at that point for a job in Australia and I wasn’t sure I wanted to move back to the U.S. So I took the job in Australia.

Were you surprised that there was so much work in your field abroad?

No, because a lot of geology involves working in remote areas, especially if you’re doing geology related to mineral or oil and gas exploration. I mean, geology really encompasses everything on earth. So it’s pretty normal that geologists work in remote areas of their own country or even work abroad. Plus, in addition to living and working in other countries, I’ve also worked in some pretty remote places in northern Canada and western Australia and even in the United States. In Canada, I worked in a place called Fort McMurray, which is a big oil mining area in North Eastern Alberta. I’ve definitely been to places that you would never, ever visit if it wasn’t work-related, and that’s certainly one of them.

Do you like those kinds of places or do you kind of endure them because you go for work?

I think it’s a bit of both. It feels nice to get out and see new places and experience new challenges, but it can get tiring to be living in a camp in the middle of nowhere for a long time. In Canada it is quite cold and I worked there in the winter. But I think it’s these kinds of challenges that also make the job interesting. In Mongolia and Africa, I feel like we ate goat all the time. Especially in Mongolia. I think I ate goat for every single meal for weeks on end, which is kind of funny now, but it was terrible at the time.

When you had time off from work, did you get to travel much?

Certainly, and I should clarify that when I worked in Africa, I had a pretty normal work schedule. I worked in an office most of the time and would only go out to the field as needed. So I actually had a pretty typical routine minus the fact that I was living in the middle of Africa, so everything around me was quite abnormal. And I definitely took opportunities with work to travel around Mongolia in between periods of work. I traveled around the country and saw some pretty unique places. It’s nice when you can shoehorn in a little bit of travel on the end of a work trip, especially if you can get work to pay for it!

What were some of the most memorable or enjoyable places you’ve traveled to?

I’d probably say east Africa. I mean, it has a pretty special place in my heart. I like Mozambique a lot. I never worked there but I traveled there when I was living in Malawi. And I also went to Vietnam last year, just for a little holiday, and I also thought the northern part of Vietnam was just fantastic.

What did you like about Mozambique so much?

I like countries that are a little bit rough around the edges, if you know what I mean. They had endured a pretty long civil war and yet the country was really blossoming. It had a lot of culture and great food and it was scenic and beautiful. I really enjoyed Mozambique a lot.

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Andrew with one of his six bikes / Andrew designs and builds water wells

What was it like when you first got to Australia two years ago? Was it much of an adjustment?

It was a pretty easy adjustment moving there after coming from Africa. But, I mean it’s similar to the U.S. Obviously it is a different country – well, they drive on the other side of the road — but that’s not much of a difficulty. People are really easy going. Things are very expensive, as you’ve noticed, but it’s all relative. The salaries are good, so it’s not that expensive if you’re making Australian money.

Do you still like it or are you thinking about moving or traveling again?

Yeah, well I’ve been interested in working in Kenya for a while, but I’d like to stay here for a while. I might look at taking a year off and living in France, maybe; kind of like a sabbatical. I think you’d agree that so many Americans are so focused on working. And they kind of just throw themselves into these jobs because they have mortgages or car payments, and I just feel like, as an American, you have to work hard and focus. And most Americans don’t really think about taking a year off and traveling. They just don’t think it’s possible, or they don’t see the point – not even people in their 20s, or even people in their 30s, and definitely not Americans with a family and children… There’s just this pressure that your whole life has to revolve around work.

I know what you mean. It’s recently come out that about 2 million Americans will become unemployed because they only reason they had a job was so they could get access to health insurance. And now that health care isn’t linked to work, the media is saying, “But what will all these people DO if they don’t work?!” Personally, I could think of a LOT of things…

Yeah, I completely agree. You know, I was between jobs for about three months here and, as part of my visa, I am required to carry private health insurance. And private health insurance here is so affordable compared to the U.S. It’s $220 a month for insurance that that covers absolutely everything – you can get cheaper insurance, but for $220, I thought, hell, give me everything! It has excellent dental and vision coverage and it covers prescriptions. It even covers getting massages! I mean, you go to the hospital and everything is 100% covered — and I mean everything. It’s really shocking what you get for your $220 here. And since it’s not tied to a job, you don’t really have to worry about losing your job, or if you decide to quit your job and take a break.

So how does someone studying geology get into your line of work, which allows them to travel and live abroad?

Well, in a lot of countries like the U.S and Canada, you can get professionally certified. You take an examination and you pass a test, kind of like a lawyer or doctor would, and that certifies you to be a professional geologist. That kind of certification doesn’t exist in every country, and Australia doesn’t have it, so in a way, anybody can call themselves a geologist in Australia. But you do need a bachelor’s degree. In the U.S. and Canada, you would probably get professionally certified.

What are the kinds of jobs a geologist would look for if they are looking to break in to the field?

Well, a lot of geology majors nowadays probably go to grad school. So that’s going to focus the type of geology even further. And from there, you would probably try to work at a company that specializes in the type of the geology that you studied in your masters program.

I would say there’s three to four main types of geology work. There’s the oil and gas type of geology, there’s minerals, like mining, and then there’s water and the environment. Those are the three to four main areas that most geologists get jobs under. Maybe a fifth one would be geology and engineering combined, and then most geologists would be employed either at a mining company, an oil company or a consulting company that provides services to these types of companies.

What would you say is the best part about your job being a geologist?

Well, I get to be outside occasionally. I get to do science-related stuff. And I get to travel.

And what is it that you like so much about living abroad?

I guess living in different cultures and meeting people from other cultures. There are always new experiences to be had when you live abroad. And if you live in a country like Australia, most of your friends are expats. So you meet people from all over the world and it’s just really nice to see how other people grew up and how your life compares to theirs and the experiences they’ve had.

And in Africa, obviously, there a lot more unique cultures compared to, say, Australia, which is more similar to the U.S. But just being able to meet people from different backgrounds and experience things that you didn’t experience growing up – that, I find pretty fascinating.

If you met someone now who wanted to travel and work abroad as a geologist, what advice would you give them?

I’d say that there are definitely a lot of opportunities. You know, for the most part, the people who travel abroad for work aren’t the newest employees. Usually, it’s those employees that have few years’ experience under their belt because if you’re talking about working in different countries, then you need the experience to be able to not only do the work, but also handle living in a different country.

I would also say there’s a definite advantage if you work for a larger, international or multinational company because there are opportunities, too, within the company itself to relocate to different parts of your country or different parts of the world. And often times the bigger companies take on more complex projects in different countries. So a bigger company — not always, but usually — will offer more opportunities to travel than a smaller company.

Great! Thanks so much for sharing, Andrew! I imagine we’ll run into each other again…hopefully in another country.

Do you have any questions or comments for Andrew? Don’t be shy — now’s your chance!

Bit by the bug: Sydney to Hobart Race 2013

A few days before we get to Sydney to meet up with the Clipper Race arriving from Albany, Australia, I get an email from the CYCA (Cruising Yacht Club of Australia), saying there is a boat looking for last-minute crew in the Sydney to Hobart Race, and would Ryan and I be interested?

Would I?! Hell, yeah!

The boat is a Davidson 34 called Illusion, and its picture hangs on the wall of CYCA because it won the Sydney to Hobart Race back in 1988. And, yes, this is quite a little boat to be out in the kind of seas the Sydney to Hobart Race is infamous for, but I am itching to get back on a boat, any boat, so I can chase the thrilling high of racing across the Southern Ocean.

illusion sydney to hobart race

So I send in my and Ryan’s sailing resumes to CYCA and within a few days of our arrival to Sydney, Ryan gets a call from Travis Read, the Skipper of Illusion.

“Oh hi, Travis! Yes, great to hear from you…yes, it was quite an experience doing Clipper…yeah, really fast…30 knots, surfing down waves…well, I usually work the foredeck…oh, you’re looking for a helmsman? You really want to talk to my wife, then. That’s her thing.”

I am frantically wiping the sweat off the palms of my hands as Ryan hands the phone over. “He wants to talk to you.”

“What do I say?!” I whisper. “I’ve never interviewed for a crew position before!”

Ryan mouths back, “Just tell him you can do it! You helmed across the Southern Ocean. This is a five-day race…piece of cake!”

“Hi Travis! I hear you need a helmsman! Yeah, the Southern Ocean was wild…hurricane force winds, but we kept sailing! Well, I learned to sail on a J-24 and we cruise on a Catalina 34, so I am familiar with smaller boats…oh, it has a tiller? How interesting…”

I’m now making panicked faces at Ryan while mouthing, “A tiller?!” While he waves his hand to say, “Piece of cake!”

I get off the phone feeling less confident than I sounded in my interview, but I’m also feeling like an opportunity like this only comes up once in a lifetime. I’m in Sydney right before one of the world’s most famous yacht races – I’d be crazy not to jump at the chance to sail in the Sydney to Hobart race.

“So what did he say?” Ryan prods.

“He says I’m his second choice for the helm and I should go see the boat when we get to Sydney.” I should be smiling, but I’m cringing anxiously. “His first choice is a guy who’s sailed Illusion before, but he’s in Taiwan.”

“That’s great news!” Ryan says, as I shoot him a nervous look. “What?! It’s a seaworthy boat! I mean, she’s small, but she’s seaworthy.”

“A tiller?! On the ocean?!”

“Eh, whatever! It’s the same thing…well, except turning is the opposite…”

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Seeing our crew in Sydney was the best part about our visit.

When we get to Sydney, Ryan and I are immediately swept up in crew celebrations and late-night drinking sessions with our boats. So, one night, I grab Eric, the skipper of Henri Lloyd, and I tell him about the helm opening on Illusion and beg him to come have a look at the boat with me.

With beers in hand, Eric, Ryan and a few of my tipsy teammates walk along the docks to find Illusion, as I desperately search for some sign that either my skipper thinks helming in the Sydney to Hobart on a tillered boat is no big deal, or that this could be the death of me.

“Huh,” Eric says, looking the slender race boat up and down, from mast to deck. “It’s so… cute. Like a big race boat…but little. Look, it’s got a little staysail, little running backstays…”

“What about the tiller?” I ask.

“Well, you know. It’s still a boat. Same idea.”

I’m staring at Eric, trying to read in his face whether he thinks it would be suicidal for me to helm for five days in a high profile race when the last time I used a tiller was in 2003, or if I’m just being overly dramatic and it really is no big deal.

But all he says is, “You’re going to do it, right?”

“Will you come pick me up if I radio Henri Lloyd for a rescue?” I ask.

“You probably won’t get through,” he says, smiling. “It’s a small boat. You’ll be pretty far behind…”

In the end, I don’t know if I got lucky or unlucky, but Travis called the next day to say his first-choice helmsman was flying in from Taiwan, so he’d filled all his positions for the Sydney to Hobart.

I thanked Travis, then sighed with relief, though a small twinge of disappointment prodded me from within. Clearly, it wasn’t meant to be. And yet, in my disappointment, I recognized something else…a feeling like this was something I really wanted to pursue, something I was missing out on.

“There will be other races,” Ryan said, putting his arm around me.

“I guess,” I said. “I just really wanted to get back on a boat. Any boat. I miss the racing.”

Ryan looked at me and laughed. “This, from the girl who once said she would never EVER live on a boat.”

“Did I say that?!”

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I guess this really is good-bye to the boats…for now.

Illusion came in 2nd in its division in the Sydney to Hobart Race and was 77th across the line out of 94 boats. Henri Lloyd had to forfeit the race because of a rudder problem and motor to Hobart.

What the…?! (Interrupting our regularly scheduled programming)

Hey everyone!

Ooh, sorry! Didn’t mean to scare you! You probably weren’t expecting to find anyone in here since I disappeared a few weeks ago. Really sorry about that. I even got a few messages from people asking if I would please respond to their emails so they could stop worrying that I might have boarded Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

I’m here! It’s okay, everyone. Recall the search teams. Well, not for the Malaysia Airlines flight… those folks need all the search parties they can get.

Anyway, I’m jumping in here to interrupt our regularly scheduled blog to bring us forward to the here and now. It’s a little confusing, I know, since if you follow this blog, I’m somewhere in Australia on my way to Bali, and yet if you follow Turf to Surf’s Facebook Page or our Instagram Feed, you know just a minute ago I was sitting in a hammock overlooking a remote beach in Thailand… then WHAM! I’m in New York!

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This is my view one minute…

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…and the next minute I’m here. On a ferry to New York.

Let me explain…

Since I wrote this post about the unglamorous realities of working full-time while traveling, Ryan and I have been working our butts off on new and exciting plans for our TEFL teacher training schools in the U.S., Teaching House, and using our free time to zip around the island of Bali on our motorbikes. It was like working in paradise, and I will be writing about all of our travels in Bali when I pick up this blog where I left off.

And then we bought new backpacks, transporting me back to 2001 when I spent 9 months backpacking through Russia, Estonia, Finland, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, Georgia, Armenia…

“Why on EARTH did you spend your twenties backpacking around some of the coldest and least glamorous parts of the world?!” Ryan demands to know every time we compare travel resumes. And then he proceeds to list all the warm countries he spent his twenties traveling through: Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Burma, Indonesia… I would go on, but that would just be bragging. STOP BRAGGING, RYAN.

I didn’t really see what the big deal was, until we got to Bali, Indonesia. Glorious warm, friendly, cheap, beautiful Bali. And that’s when I started thinking maybe I did my twenties wrong. Well, maybe not wrong, but it was definitely the post-Soviet-try-not-to-get-thrown-into-a-Russian-jail-for-suspicion-of-being-a-spy version of what Ryan did in his backpacking years.

Based on this and my love affair with Bali, we came up with a travel plan: Ryan was going to show me all the most amazing spots in Southeast Asia that I missed in my younger years so he could carry on bragging about being a Southeast Asia backpacking extraordinaire. He’s a smug bastard, really. One day, I’ll have to take him back to my old stomping ground, Russia, and then we’ll see who’s really a backpacking extraordinaire. (Ryan is shaking his head furiously. I probably shouldn’t have told him about the time I stayed in a hotel in Siberia with a shared bathroom that was less like a bathroom and more like a large room with 6 toilets in it. No stalls. Just toilets. Ryan is still shaking his head.)

So we put our backpacks on and headed for Thailand and, well, WOW. Let’s just say there are absolutely NO similarities between Thailand and Russia. NONE AT ALL. Apart from the fact that there are about a bajillion Russians in Thailand. So many, in fact, that restaurant menus are all translated into two languages: English and Russian. And, hell, I don’t blame them for fleeing to warmer places. Just don’t tell Putin how great it is – it’s better for everyone if he just stays where he is and doesn’t try to annex anymore seaside locations.

But as we hopped from one beautiful, remote island to another, setting up our mobile offices on one white sand beach after another, it grew harder and harder to implement some of our company expansion plans from a hammock. (If you want some insight into what it is we do for work when we travel, read this interview I did for TeachingTraveling.com).

interrupting our regularly scheduled programming turf to surf

What? Me, work?!

Teaching House is set to open two, possibly three, new locations in the U.S. this summer, and when that happens, it needs people on the ground to recruit staff, rent space, go out to those locations and teach our CELTA certification courses. And our staff was starting to become a little stretched without us.

Which is why we made a snap decision before leaving Thailand that we needed to be in New York for the summer to oversee this expansion ourselves. And that meant cutting our Southeast Asia travels short and booking the next plane out of Bangkok to snowy New York, even though we no longer own shoes that aren’t also flip-flops and all I have for a wardrobe are a lot of bikinis and a few Balinese sarongs.

So the adventure continues in colder climes…

Since we’re not going to be in New York for long, we decided to find somewhere to live that wouldn’t be too expensive and would allow us to maintain our offbeat lifestyle even while in glitzy, polished New York. And since we have friends in the boating community who know other people on boats, we found the perfect solution – ta da! We will be living on a motorboat near the Statue of Liberty, taking care of it for the owner this summer.

And, boy, does it need care! The Big Kahuna, as she’s called, is a 55-foot motorboat that’s been a wee bit neglected over the years. So stay tuned for more adventures in boat electrics, since we have none at the moment. Here’s what she looks like right now:

the big kahuna interior

The interior needs some cleaning up…and some electricity.

interrupting our regularly scheduled programming

The exterior needs…well, let’s not talk about that right now.

But once we get her cleaned up, and we figure out how to get the heat working, she’ll be a grand home in Liberty Landing Marina where the Clipper Race will be docked this summer! My crewmates on Henri Lloyd are going to spit their beers through their noses when they reach New York and find me there, living on a motorboat in their marina. You weren’t expecting that, were you, guys?! This is all a coincidence, by the way. I’m not stalking you, I swear.

So stay tuned to Turf to Surf to read about our continuing adventures in boating and to follow our adventures through Bali and Thailand, as I will be writing up all those tropical stories of the last few months in an effort to keep warm in this snowy, freezing weather here in New York.

Also, I’ve received the nicest messages from readers all over the U.S., offering Ryan and I a place to stay on their boats if we end up in their neck of the woods this summer to open up our new centers. This just warms my heart to no end, so thank you. All of you. This blog exists because of you all reading and supporting us even when our plans sound a little hair-brained. I’ll give you a clue – ALL of our plans are hair-brained. But I love that you always write in and talk to us like we make perfect sense. It feels kind of like being a kid telling my parents I want to be a concert pianist one day and an astronaut the next day, while they nod their heads and say, “Why not, dear? You can do whatever you want!”

I told you all one day we were sailing from New York to the Caribbean and the next moment, “Hey, you know? I think I’m going to do the Clipper Round the World Race!” And you all were like, “Sure, Tasha, that sounds like a great idea – not crazy at ALL.” And then it was, “I’m going to drive across Australia! And then I’m going to backpack across Asia…oh wait, no! I’m going to move onto an unheated motorboat in New York in the middle of winter!”

So thanks from the bottom of my heart for just going with it. If I haven’t told you already, you’re the BEST. And I guarantee we have more surprises in store for the future.

Love,

Tasha (& Ryan)

tasha and ryan interrupting our regularly scheduled programming

This was the last time Ryan and I wore winter clothing, as we prepared to sail from South Africa to Australia back in November. I really wish we hadn’t gotten rid of these thermals…

The dog on the tuckerbox

“We’re seriously low on petrol. Do you see any service stations on the map?” Ryan asks.

“Oh, that’s what you call them!” I say. “I’ve been searching ‘gas stations’ all this time and nothing came up.”

Ryan lets out a groan of exhaustion. We’ve been driving for a good five hours through the nothingness that lies along the Hume Highway between Melbourne and Sydney, looking for a good place to stop for the night. And now that we’re running low on fuel, I realize I’ve been typing in the wrong word on my iPhone map the whole time.

“Um, here’s something. Wait, that can’t be right.”

“What?” Ryan asks. “Is it a service station?”

“I don’t know, but there’s a town, I think. I mean, it has a Subway. Maybe it’s not a town?”

“You’re not making any sense. What does the map say?”

“Dog on the Tuckerbox.”

the dog on the tuckerbox mapRyan looks at me blankly.

“I’m not kidding,” I say, showing Ryan my iPhone. “It’s labeled on my map as Dog on the Tuckerbox.”

“Well, I don’t care what they call it as long as they have a petrol station and somewhere to park. I’m exhausted,” Ryan says.

“But, what if it’s a mean dog? What if it barks so loud we can’t sleep? I mean, he must be a really memorable dog if they put him on the map.”

Ryan doesn’t respond. He just pulls the camper van off the road, and we’re delighted to discover both a gas station, or rather a petrol station, and a Subway sandwich shop.

While Ryan is pumping diesel into our camper, I go inside to browse the Subway menu and ask where we can park our van for the night.

“Well, you can park behind the building with the lorries, but they can be pretty loud with their air brakes and all. The best place is over behind the dog on the tuckerbox. It’s nice and quiet over there,” the attendant says.

“I’m sorry, behind the what?” I ask, looking for clarification on what this thing is, exactly.

“Behind the dog on the tuckerbox.”

I stare blankly.

“It’s a historical thing. An internationally famous tourist attraction,” the girl says without irony. She seems genuinely proud.

“But what is it?”

The girl seems confused by the question. “Um, it’s a dog. On a tuckerbox.” There’s a pause and a light bulb seems to go off in the girl’s head, alerting her to the fact that she’s speaking to a foreigner. “Oh, it’s not a real dog. It’s like a statue. Is that what you’re asking?”

“No. I mean, yes. What’s a tuckerbox?” I ask.

“Um, it’s a box. For tucker.”

At this point, it’s midnight and I’ve had very little sleep, so I chalk up the confusion to not asking the right questions. But it seems fair to say this girl has never played a game of Taboo in her life and therefore hasn’t been educated in the art of explaining words without using the same vocabulary. What is tucker? And why does it need a box? Or, better yet, Why is there a statue of a dog and a whatever-box?

I decide to abandon my questions lest I exhaust the poor Subway sandwich girl further. She seems relieved by this arrangement, saying to me as I walk away, “Google it. You’ll see, it’s famous!”

“Did she say there was a good place to sleep?” Ryan asks when I approach.

“Yeah. Behind the dog on the tuckerbox.”

“What?”

“Yeah, I know. I mean, I don’t know. It’s over there, away from the big trucks. By the way, what the hell is a tuckerbox?” I ask.

“A lunch box,” Ryan says.

“A dog on a lunch box? Huh,” I say. “That explains nothing.”

In the short trip from the diesel pump to our camping spot, I take the Subway girl’s advice and Google “Dog on the Tuckerbox” on my iPhone. And I discover that rather than answer the question of “why,” I’m left with even more questions than I started with, after reading this explanation on the www.thedogonthetuckerbox.com:

“The Dog on the Tuckerbox is an Australian historical monument and tourist attraction… The statue was inspired by a bullock driver’s poem, Bullocky Bill, which celebrates the life of a mythical driver’s dog that loyally guarded the man’s tuckerbox (Australian English for lunch box) until death.”

I particularly like how the word “tuckerbox” is explained, and yet “bullock” isn’t. Is it not British English for testicle? I once knew this stray cat that hung around my college dorm, who we called “Big Balls,” for obvious reasons. Is that how Bill got his name? Wait, who is mythical here? The bullock driver or the dog? So many questions.

It seems Ryan and I are both way too tired to ask these questions out loud, so in silence we drive our camper away from the big trucks and in the direction of the famous, historical Dog on the Tuckerbox, parking in a quiet space next to it. We climb out of the van and approach the tiny statue with the chain link fence around it, hoping it will all make sense as we get nearer.

“Well, I’ll be damned,” Ryan says. “It’s a dog. On a tuckerbox.”

the dog on the tuckerbox australia ryan

Ryan. Dog on a tuckerbox. ‘Nuff said.

the dog on the tuckerbox australia map

An Australian friendship tour

“My friend Andrew lives in Perth…”

I’m squinting from a hangover and the overly persistent Australian sunlight as I try to hold a coherent conversation with our new friend Andrew, who graciously let Ryan and I roll out our sleeping bags and sleep on his living room floor the night before.

As I stroll slowly along a quiet street in the seaside town of Fremantle, which is lined with brick townhouses reminiscent of a colonial neighborhood in Boston, Massachusetts, I nearly trip over a glass bottle left on the sidewalk. As the bottle clinks and rolls on the concrete, I’m reminded of the whisky I set down in front of Andrew as a gift when we arrived to Perth, an offering to show how grateful we were that he took in two total strangers for the weekend.

It was my friend Tim from home who introduced us by text message, lighting up my phone as soon as I arrived to Western Australia. “My friend Andrew lives in Perth. Go visit him.”

A few seconds later, I got a message from Andrew, saying, “Tim tells me you’re coming to Perth.”

I’d heard plenty of stories about Andrew over the years. And now I was finally meeting him while also dragging 50 kilos of my and Ryan’s sea salt-encrusted luggage into his foyer. But I knew immediately that I was going to like him. His house was filled with dark wood artifacts from his years working as a geologist in Malawi and his walls were covered in contemporary paintings that he’d collected in his travels around Asia and Africa.

“I love living in third-world countries. Life is just so much more chilled out,” Andrew says, as we amble through sleepy Fremantle, talking about Andrew’s decision to take a job in Australia after his contract in Malawi ended. “Australia’s okay too, but it’s too much like the States in some ways.” To which he added, “But, hey, at least I get good health care here.”

fremantle beach love

Love for Fremantle Beach near Perth

We chat like old friends about how I met Ryan, what it was like sailing a boat to Australia, the quirks of being married to an Englishman and what Andrew loves about dating his French girlfriend. It feels like we’ve known each other since college, and yet we’ve only really spent a whisky-fuelled 12 hours together.

As Ryan walks ahead, lost in his own hangover reverie, Andrew says observantly, “Ryan loves asking questions, doesn’t he?”

I laugh and tell Andrew about the time I found him talking to a group of War Reenactment enthusiasts, asking them to explain their costumes and where they got their props. I remember how the guy’s face brightened as he proudly showed off his handkerchief and explained that it wasn’t a reproduction, but a period antique. He had no idea that Ryan was just amusing himself by getting the guy to gush about his obsession with war memorabilia.

“He’ll talk to anyone and everyone,” I say to Andrew. “Speaking of Ryan, where is he?” Looking around, I realize we’ve reached our destination, the Maritime Museum, but I can’t see Ryan anywhere.

Then, in the distance, I hear a familiar English accent asking, “But who do you talk to on this thing?” I look over and see Ryan standing under a tent, surrounded by a group of overweight, older men parked in lawn chairs next to a large van with some kind of metal contraption sticking out the back.

Andrew laughs. “What is he doing? Who is he talking to?”

I squint in an effort to read the crudely painted banner sign by the van. “Huh. Radio operators. He’s talking to some ham radio guys.”

“Your husband cracks me up,” Andrew says.

And just as I hear Ryan start to ask, “But couldn’t you just call them…?” I step in to rescue the ham radio crew from my husband’s incessant probing so we can see some of what Fremantle has to offer.

australian friendship tour andrew perth

Ryan, me and Andrew: This selfie’s for you, Tim!

“So I met this guy in the bar…”

Not every husband would understand if his wife met a stranger in the bar and invited him to stay for the weekend. But Ryan is different. He’s traveled for as many years as I have and he knows I have a soft spot for footloose travelers and interesting company.

This was four years ago, back when we were living in Manhattan, running our schools and looking for a way to pack up and go traveling again. Ryan was out of town for a few days and was driving back to New York to pick me up to head to our cabin in the mountains for a long weekend of skiing. What he got, instead, was me and a random Australian guy I’d picked up.

See, the way it happened was I had dropped into Milano’s, a dive bar on Houston Street, on the way home from a rather late night in the office. With Ryan out of town, I was on my own, a little tired, and just looking for a glass of wine and some weird atmosphere.

If you ever find yourself in SoHo, go park yourself at Milano’s long, mahogany bar surrounded by antique memorabilia and faded photos of Frank Sinatra, Joe DiMaggio and other mafia-related New York celebrities, and you’ll know what I mean when I say this place is a seedy relic of old Manhattan.

I wasn’t seeking conversation. But I looked up when the shaggy red-haired guy next to me politely ordered a beer from the surly, tattooed girl behind the bar, to which she glowered and asked, “Where you from?”

“I’m Australian. From Melbourne,” the guy said, smiling proudly.

I thought I was eavesdropping on a friendly meeting between two Australians abroad until the girl spat back, “I fucking hate Aussies,” and walked off without even attempting to pour a beer.

It was late and I’d just worked a 12-hour day, so I wasn’t much good for a chat. But now I was intrigued. Exhaling a nervous laugh, I stared after the bartender as she walked off with stiff shoulders and a tense jaw. Then I glanced over at the Aussie, who was sitting before an empty glass, looking as though he’d just been slapped across the face.

“Is she kidding?” I asked. “She’s joking right?”

The stranger ran his hands through his long, thinning hair and shook his head slowly. “You know, I don’t think so.”

“But isn’t she Australian?”

“Nah. She’s Kiwi,” he said, throwing up his hands to signal his confusion. “My name’s Damien. What’s yours?”

It turned out Damien had only been in New York for a week. He didn’t know many people and already he’d managed to piss off the only bartender at his local watering hole just by being Australian. I started to ask if there was some rivalry between Aussies and Kiwis I didn’t know about, but the bartender reappeared, standing by the taps with her arms folded across her chest, not making eye contact. So I waved at her.

“Yeah?” she said, not moving.

“Can I get a pint of cider and a Blue Moon for my friend here?” I said.

The girl glared at Damien and, without a word, walked over to the taps, poured a cider and a beer and placed them down in front of me, making it clear the beer was for me, not for Damien.

I looked at Damien who looked back at me, wide-eyed, shaking his head as if to say, “She’s crazy, right?”

That’s how I came to meet Damien, a jazz drummer who’d come to the States for the first time with a dream of diving into the music scene in New York. I don’t know if it was the ciders, the fact that Damien was a genuinely nice guy, or if I just felt sorry for this ostracized Aussie, but even before Damien told me he was a snowboarder, I knew I wanted to invite him to stay with us in our upstate ski lodge.

It seems whenever I meet travelers in the States, I recall the countries and cities I’ve traveled through alone and the lovely people who took me into their homes on a whim, broadening my experience and allowing me to get to know them.

Ryan didn’t even question it when I called him up to tell him I’d invited a stranger to come stay at our house and go skiing with us. He’s lived with me for 10 years, so he’s used to this.

What I didn’t anticipate, however, was that four years later, we’d be knocking on Damien’s door in Melbourne and hugging him like an old friend we’d traveled thousands of miles to see. After all, we only knew him for what amounted to a week.

But that’s what travel does. It accelerates friendships. You don’t know if you’ll ever see each other again, so you don’t hold anything back. Your time together is now. Tomorrow, who knows where you’ll be?

an australian friendship tour melbourne

A weird introduction in NYC results in a friendship rekindled in Melbourne

luna park melbourne australia

Luna Park was one of my favorite quirks of Melbourne

melbourne an australian friendship tour

Ryan and Damien, taking this bar tour to a whole other level…

Good ships and friendships

12 days and 5,500 kilometers after leaving Perth, we pull our dust-covered camper van into the Apollo parking lot in Brisbane. We’ve only just unloaded all our bags from the van when Travis pulls up in his car to pick us up. And once more, on this epic trip across Australia, we are swelling with gratitude that we’ve been taken in by friends.

We met Travis and Emily for the first time at a BBQ in Fort Lauderdale, when we sailed in on the way down to the Bahamas. Travis introduced himself as a mega yacht captain from Brisbane and his wife Emily as a lawyer from Iowa who was living abroad when he met her. We talked for hours about boats and travel and, by the time we left, Travis had graciously offered to help us change our engine oil and we had insisted they have cocktails the next day on board our boat.

And now here we are, being generously offered the guest room in Travis and Emily’s newly acquired home in Brisbane for as long as we want it. Which is an offer that could have lent itself to us over-staying our welcome, if only Australia hadn’t done it’s best to strip our bank accounts clean. (The cost of the diesel alone to get from Perth to Brisbane was $1400.)

But it is worth the Ramen noodles we’ve been living on for two weeks to reach Brisbane and be offered the most in-depth low budget tour I could ever have of a city. Travis, being from Brisbane, fills our itinerary for 4 days with cheap eateries, great food, cocktails on their sprawling back porch, visits to Brisbane’s most delightful public parks, mountain hikes and afternoon picnics at scenic viewpoints.

brisbane vista australian friendship tour

Emily and Travis: Best Brisbane tour guides ever

By the time we finally say our good-byes to board our flights to Bali, Indonesia, bound for a new adventure in Asia, we are genuinely sad to leave.

Because that’s the thing about making good friends on the road: every time you say good-bye, you never really know if you’ll see each other again. You promise to stay in touch and you hope your paths will cross again. But it could be years. Maybe decades.

But I know if we ever meet up with Travis, Emily, Damien or Andrew again one day, it will be a reunion full of laughter, good conversation and a genuine appreciation for the moments we have together, here and now. We are truly present in our friendships. And those friendships are a gift.

travis and emily australian friendship tour brisbane

I’m going to miss these guys

australian road trip map

We’ve come a long way, and now, sadly, it’s time to say good-bye

Photo Essay: Great Ocean Road Australia

We are saying our good-byes in Melbourne after spending two days with our friend Damien, a jazz musician we met in New York four years ago, when he asks, “Where are you headed now?”

“I’m not really sure,” Ryan says. “We’re heading towards Sydney and we thought we’d hit the Great Ocean Road on the way.”

“Um. You know that’s in the other direction?”

“What?” Ryan says, pulling out his iPhone.

“The Great Ocean Road is between Adelaide and here. On the coast. It’s in the other direction.” Damien says.

“Shit. We missed it?!” Ryan looks at me, crestfallen. I just shrug, feeling a little guilty I never looked at the map myself.

We were so desperate to reach civilization after crossing the Nullarbor that we made a bee-line for Melbourne in search of good wine, real coffee and, well, people.

“Ah well. Maybe it’s not that nice?” I say, trying to comfort Ryan.

“It’s the most beautiful road in the whole of Australia,” Damien says.

“Shit. I guess we’ll have to go back then,” I say, looking at Ryan and shrugging my shoulders again. “It’s the most beautiful road in the whole of Australia.”

With that, we drive off in the wrong direction to go find out if the Great Ocean Road really is as great as everyone says it is.

australia coastline great ocean road

We drove a long way in the wrong direction to wake up to this view.

great ocean road parking camping australia

Our little Apollo camper in the background has never had a prettier parking lot.

12 apostles australia great ocean road

2 of the famed “12 Apostles”.

great ocean road australia walkway

Walkways like this along the ocean call for a lot of reflective sitting.

echidna great ocean road australia

Look at this cute little guy I found in the grass! An echidna!

12 apostles selfie great ocean road

It wouldn’t be a true photo essay without a “selfie.”

12 apostles great ocean road australia

But the view without our heads in the way is much better.

grotto overhead great ocean road australia

The Grotto is just another great spot along the Great Ocean Road.

the grotto great ocean road australia

I think Ryan is glad we didn’t miss this road out, in the end.

unstable cliffs you may fall and die great ocean road

“You may fall and die.” I love Australia’s warning signs.

tasha great ocean road australia

Something about the water… I may not be on a boat right now, but I love the water…

seagull great ocean road australia

Okay, I know it’s a seagull, but isn’t he pretty?

vw camper great ocean road australia

I really really want this to be my next adventure home

ryan and marty great ocean road ayries inlet

The best thing about any road trip is we always have friends to drop in on anywhere in the world. This is Marty, who Ryan sailed to Australia with, in Ayrie’s Inlet.

perth melbourne Great Ocean Road Australia

Now that we’ve seen the Great Ocean Road, we can carry on. We’re 3,600 km from Perth. Brisbane, here we come!