December 31, 2011

Celebrating near the leading edge of the New Year

New Year's Eve was probably our last night aboard Totem in Sydney Harbour. We're heading north to Brisbane now, but couldn't miss out on what must be one of the world's most stunning fireworks displays.

Experience told us to arrive a day early, so we staked out our prime spot in a rapidly filling anchorage on the 30th. It's adjacent to the Taronga Zoo, which gave us the advantage of some great wildlife audio. Totem got dressed up in her party clothes. By the forestay, a string of courtesy flags; countries shown in the order that we visited them. On the port spreader, a string of our Seattle Yacht Club burgees and flags. On the starboard spreader, our pretty Australian ensign: the maritime flag was a thoughtful parting gift from the crew at Amnesia.

Flying our pretty ensign

The only thing we couldn't find (embarrassignly enough) was our American flag to fly off the stern.

We had two beautiful days of bobbing in the water...having friends visit from shore and other boats. I think the most unforgettable was the parting gift from our marina neighbor, Peter, from s/v Kittani. He claims Scottish heritage and decided we needed a proper sendoff.

With bagpipes.

Oh yes, he did!

Bagpipe serenade!

The serenade began at Kittani and circled around Totem. The piper, John, was met with such an overwhelmingly positive response he decided a tour of the greater anchorage was in order. Many songs were played...and many, many drams of whiskey were drunk.

As sunset approached on New Years Eve, we all got a little tingly. The skies cleared completely, opening the way to a spectacular show.

Sunset harbour views

There's a warmup display, "for children," at 9pm. Kind of reminds me how my favorite celebrations in our Bainbridge Island neighborhood involved families getting together in the early evening to count down and bang our pots and pans at midnight on the dot...Eastern Standard Time! We watched the preview with Frank and Karen on their beautiful catamaran, Tahina, then returned to Totem for hot chocolate with a vow to stay awake until midnight.

the "warm up" at 9pm

My photos of the grand display aren't quite up to par (something about being pinned under a sleeping child, behind the dodger- well most of us stayed awake anyway!), but the pictures in my mind's eye are beyond compare. It is a spectacular show.

Thanks, Sydney! It's a sendoff we'll never forget.

Amazing show!

December 26, 2011

Aussieisms: Cherries are for Christmas

We plunked ourselves down around the community tables in the marina last Friday for our weekly barbecue. The informal "it's going to happen anyway" gathering is comforting in its unplanned simplicity...we love this regular reconnection with our boaty neighbors.

Plates of munchies were around. Jacqui brought out a bowl full of fresh cherries, sighed, and said "now it's really Christmas." Cherries? Christmas? Yes, if you live in Australia.

cherries = Christmas

Validated the cherries=Christmas theory at Christmas dinner with Aussie friends... apparently it's true. Being just after the the midsummer solstice...of course! Why not?

December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas from the Totem crew!

What a week full of ChristmaHanuSolstiZaa! Perhaps feels more sensible now that Aussies call this "The Silly Season"? I think I'm a fan of Festivus.

We're keeping it low key on Totem, but there's no getting around how the decorations put us in a holiday mood.

the festive mast

I think this tinsel dates back to Mazatlan 2008- hopefully we can get a few more years out of it!

Wishes to all for the happiest of holidays, wherever you are & however you celebrate.

December 16, 2011

This is how I'll remember her

Diana Jessie at the helm of Totem, tacking through a fresh breeze on Banderas Bay: smile on her face, wind in her hair.


We have lost a dearly loved member of our family.

Diana and her husband Jim came into my life through through Jamie: he originally met them while backpacking through Europe in the 80s. There's a story that involves wandering the docks in Dubrovnik, and being irristibly drawn by a friendly hail to the pretty sailboat with "San Francisco" as her hailing port.

They've been an integral part of the fabric of our lives. It's a simple fact that this life I love so much- choosing to live afloat, embrace a nomadic path, be proud of what makes us different- I owe to the Jessies, and to Diana in particular.

A spiritual mother, and a very grounded one, Diana opened the door for me. She demystified what felt like an unattainable dream. She was passionate about sharing a woman's perspective and experience of cruising, to put open-eyed women in the drivers seat of what had long been a male-dominated realm.

As our life goals shifted to follow in Diana and Jimmy's wake, she stood by and supported our steps to realize the dream. She was there to encourage us, to answer any question: some we asked, most she simply anticipated. She knew what we needed to hear, and she always had an opinion.

We knew that eventually we'd probably experience the loss of a loved one from far away, where we wouldn't have the option to physically join the collective grieving and remembering process... the gathering to mourn and celebrate and share and heal that our culture uses to mark a passing. We knew it would be difficult. There's just little irony in the fact that it was Diana who taught this lesson anticipate and make peace, as we lived every day to the fullest.

December 15, 2011

Love them. Can't stand them. But still, love them.

I should hate the destructive cockatoos, but now that we've taken down our headsail (so they can't shred the sail cover!) removed all instruments from the top of Totem's mast (since they wrecked the wind instruments and expensive weatherstation anyway!)- leaving little left for them to demolish- well, they are kinda fun to watch.

Cockatoo antics
Cockatoo antics
Cockatoo antics

At least, until they threatened our friend Warren's beautiful NEW(ly refurbished) mast, rigging and instruments.

Cheeky buggers. Look at that guy on the anemometer. Yeah, he's feeling pretty high and mighty!

Tactics have been discussed. They are a protected species.

Cockatoos on Warren's mast

Siobhan to the rescue: little miss Small But Mighty throws her weight into swaying the forestay, and annoys the cockatoos just enough to convince them change roosts.

Siobhan charges down the dock

The marina rests.

December 11, 2011

Aussieisms: the sausage sizzle

Anyone remember the Tourism Australia campaign from way back where Paul (Crocodile Dundee) Hogan said he'd put "another shrimp on the barbie" for you? Aussies would never use the word shrimp: here they are prawns, thankyouverymuch. But they do love their barbies, and what you'll find most often on an Aussie barbie is a sausage (also known as a snag or at least 3 other slang terms that my children know better than I do).

As far as I know, the Sausage Sizzle is a uniquely Australian phenomenon. They are fundraisers, a kind of bake-sale-meets-barbecue event. We've seen them raising money for everything from childcare centers to cancer foundations. On election days, there are even Sausage Sizzles at polling stations (finding a captive audience for fundraising: Aussies are required to vote).

the aussie sausage sizzle

On weekends, pop-up barbecue stalls at the local equivalent of Home Depot grill sausages, onions, and serve them on a slice of bread. Tomato sauce (ketchup) and H&P sauce (which isn't exactly steak sauce or barbecue sauce but a little bit of each) are avaialble to squeeze on top.

the aussie sausage sizzle

Like most fast greasy food, it smells incredible. There is huge expectation for the first bite (you probably went out erranding on little more than a cup of coffee). And, like most fast greasy food, your gut tells you to regret the entire event soon after the last bite is finished.