Three Year Saga, prt 1, the Voyage.

Three Year Saga

Furthur and Big Chill buddy boat down the West Coast, great adventures ahead.

Three years ago I left my familiar home, waters and friends and set out of the voyage of my life. Excitement, joy, fear, apprehension and wonder filled my head as I rounded Cape Flattery and followed the big S on the compass. The original plan was to circumnavigate the Pacific Ocean. This would put me back in Seattle in two years. I was sure that was all the time away I would like, thought I might miss the seasonal weather changes of the northwest.

I left knowing I had the experience to handle the boat and make good decisions about routes and weather. I was confident in the boat, I had put 1000 hours on Furthur and had her in some horrid weather. Actually it turns out had experienced much worse weather and seas in the northwest than I would ever see across the Pacific. I had the top of the line equipment and was confident in most of it. As typical I installed some gear too late and did not test it properly causing minor problems down the path.

Essentially I was leaving alone; I had crew lined up for the trip to Mexico and the leg into Mexico. I had two chaps wanting to cross the ocean with me, one bailed at the last minute. From then on I was counting on fate to bring me crew, amazingly enough it did.

rounding Cape Flaughtery and following the big “S” to great adventures

My Marquases Tatoo, the tale of crossing the Pacific

The first year took us across the Pacific Ocean. I did the long crossing from Puerto Vallarta to the Marquesas Islands in 18 days. This will be the longest crossing of any circumnavigation. For the next months the wonders of the South Pacific unfolded to me one at a time. The beauty of the land, the diving and most of all the people were so much more than I expected. The lessons I learned in the first year were simply life changing. My entire way of seeing things changed as did my level of happiness. I often thought this was all a daydream and I would awaken back at my desk at work in horror. Life simply could not be this good, yet it was. At this time I knew this was the life style I wanted and the plan changed to a full circumnavigation, and a few years were added to the trip.

I hit Australia with a mixed heart, the South Pacific was behind me and I was sure I had seen the best the world had to offer. About this time the pirate attacks in the Indian Ocean hit and I lost two dear friends, Bob who was crew of Furthur crossing the Pacific and Phyllis form my Yacht Club at home. My plans had been crushed, no way to move forward on the circumnavigation.

a typical “Furthur Party” my Dannish friends

I spent eight months in Australia and covered thousands of miles of her expansive coastline. The people were great, the land so huge and so beautiful. The cost of living there is high and the cost of keeping a boat abusive. I love Australia but i know I would not return as a cruiser. In times to follow I find this is the sentiment of most cruisers who visit Australia, love it but would never go back, just too ridiculously expensive.
One of the many crew members, this one hailed from Russia

I had good luck and only luck finding crew across the Pacific. I was blessed with on crew who stayed four glorious months. Lucka was joined by a revolving group, who all worked out well. My luck was running out as I neared Australia and I needed crew from New Caledonia to Brisbane. This is where I discovered, the life saver. From that time on I had an abundance of choices.

Sunset in Wakatobi, Indonesia

Another plan came and went, to explore the most remote country on earth, Papa New Guinea. I had the choice of doing this solo and with unknown crew or joining some old cruising friends and many others on the Sail Indonesia Rally, I picked joining my friends. We headed for Darwin and joined over one hundred yachts for a gala time in what turned out to be one of the highlights of the Furthur Adventure.

So I started the third year of my saga, cruising with a great crew, many friends and discovering the hidden treasure of the world, Indonesia. If the South Pacific was the bachelor’s degree in life, Indonesia is the master’s. My life changed in ways I can only try to describe. The people of Indonesia are kind, fun, generous and honest at levels not seen before. All from the poorest people on the planet and all from the followers of Islam, nothing I had learned in the western world prepared me for the Indonesian people. We also found fantastic cruising grounds, spellbinding natural beauty and epic diving in Indonesia. After my three months in Indonesia I vowed to return.

Some of the many new Indonesian friends

The most profound change in culture happened when going from thatch hut villages and dug out canoes to the shipping lanes of Singapore. It is like a Twilight Zone episode or a time warp. We entered the shipping lanes with an AIS screen showing hundreds of targets, a frightful sight. Soon I realize most of the ships are at anchor and only the shipping lanes have moving vessels. We dash across the lanes and land in one of the most advances and culturally diverse places on earth, Singapore.

From Singapore we headed north up the famed Malaka Straights. This has been a primary shipping route for thousands of years. The trip is done with the Sail Malaysia Rally and we are hosted to several fine events. It is on this leg I celebrated my sixtieth birthday. I had company as my good friend Steve and I shared this date. We bantered on who was oldest but it was clear he was as he was born in Australia, hence a day before I was born. 

We also celebrated Thanksgiving on this Rally. One of the cruisers and I organized a feast. Robin got us real turkeys and all the trimmings. Thirty people, most not Americans, enjoyed a Thanksgiving feast that could not be beat

the Big Buddha,

We left the Sail Malaysia Rally and entered the Land of Smiles, a name that would become so perfect. We joined several of our friends who teamed up on a sailing yacht for the King’s Cup, one of the premiere sailing events of the world. As racing is not my thing, I stayed behind to discover the wonders of Thailand on shore. In no time I had a wonderful Thai friend who showed me the natural and human beauty of this enchanting land.

I was in love, in love with a people, a faith, a King and yes one special lady. Nuk showed me the wonders of the land and people. She taught me of the profound love all Thais have for their King, a love I learned to share. She taught me to receive the ultimate in treatment, a level of devotion I had not experienced. She taught me the essentials of Buddhist thought. I was in bliss and then harsh reality hit. The cultural difference came on me as she announced her departure and need to resume her trade. She, as most Thai girls, supports her family, it is the primary drive for them and a dishonor if they do not provide for their parents, all else is secondary.

Long Live the King!!!

With new found state of mind I went on to find many new Thai friends and enshroud myself in the culture. I visited the Big Buddha often and the best times were with Thai companions. I also found the Phuket music scene and sat in with several bands, one great guitar player and friends, Hootey, often. We played old rock and blues on Monday nights at one of the girly bars. The combination of Thai ladies, rock music, incredible boating and diving was all mine, I had found Nirvana.

Phuket is also a great place to have work done on the boat and I did a haul out and several other major projects all done expertly and cheaply. We left Thailand with Furthur standing tall.

It was with a sad heart that we saw the Big Buddha fade away as we headed south. I had splendid crew for the voyage and the boat was in good shape, all was promising. We made the voyage around Singpore and headed east to Borneo, a new land. We explored the north coast of Borneo and landed in Kota Kunabalu. At this time I left the boat and flew back to Seattle for a month of business and seeing old friends.

Again I found a place that felt like home, the marina was sublime with full amenities, four swimming pools and a friendly livaboard community. This was one of those places cruisers land and do not leave. I brought back a new large water maker and had it installed by a cruising chap who did a great job. It was here that my crew luck took a turn and I learned some lessons establishing a good crew to go on with. With some extra time and being familiar with the local dive shop I enrolled in the PADI Dive Master course. This was a huge challenge and resulted in a great amount of knowledge. As I had been serving as Dive Master for years, it was good to get the formal training and some new knowledge. I especially gained from the Rescue Diver Course.

We left KK, again sad to see such a wonderful place fall away in the distance. We rounded Borneo and left all contact with other cruisers. We stopped at several small towns, none had much of tourism or Western influence, we were really in Borneo now. We did go to Mabul and Sipidan, the dive center of the area and experienced world class diving.

Another crew change and another lesson learned and we left the Malaysian side of Borneo and took the long trek around Saluwasi Island. Here I picked up former crew member, Simone; it was so good to have her back on Furthur. We ventured into the most remote parts of Indonesia going three weeks without seeing another cruiser or Westerner. There were no cruising guides, blog info or any of the other data I use in cruise planning, we were on our own.

Glad for the experience and gladder yet to see other cruisers we met up with some of this year’s Sail Indonesia Rally participants in the familiar grounds of Wakatobi. After a short stop we did the two day crossing to revisit the jewel of Indonesia, the Komodo National Park. We met up with old friends and made many new ones as we merged with the Rally. We played, dove, hiked and just took in the familiar splendor of the area. I had the great joy of being in one of my favorite places with my favorite people.

So ends another year of the life style I have grown to cherish more each year. We will head back to Phuket for the winter, do boat projects and enjoy the Land of Smiles. I am not sure of the next year plan. I want to shorten my travels and immerse myself in the places I visit more. I may just pick my two favorites; Phuket and Komodo, each have polar dry seasons so I can stay in the sun year around. At some point the passage west will be safe again and I will resume my circumnavigation but I am in no hurry. SE Asia has it all and I have many lessons yet to learn here.