A New Lease of Life

A recent health scare has taught me many life lessons and has somehow cured my (blogger) writers block!

Ive written before about ““Luck” and spoke how lucky I felt having good health

Staying healthy isn’t just about eating right, not smoking and taking exercise, its about monitoring your health, attending for routine screening and checking yourself – its not all about luck!

I recently noticed a problem with my right breast and went to chat to my GP about it. As I sat waiting to see her I made some notes about how I was feeling –

  • Scared
  • Chest feeling tight with stress
  • Denial – I must be mistaken/foolish/wrong
  • Totally confused

Lots of emotions tumbling around. My GP was absolutely brilliant, she put me at my ease, asked me lots of questions, checked me over and said she would refer me to the local Breast Care Clinic.

Within 4 hours of seeing my GP I received a telephone call with an appointment to attend the hospital – that appointment being within 2 weeks of being referred – how ace is that!

Two weeks is such a short time, but I must say it felt like an eternity – and it is so hard to control the thought processes. The illogical side of your brain kicks in and takes you along tangents you just dont want to go – its so hard to control! I used some of the strategies I had been taught by my lovely life coach Sandra which helped enormously, especially when I tried to sleep, and I worked as many hours as I could to take my mind off everything as the days ticked off and the appointment got close.

I hardly told a soul about my concerns or my referral, not even my kids(that was hard!) – I really didnt want to worry people, and somehow by talking about it to family and friends, it made it just too real – I could parcel it up and hide it into my subconscious far more easily if people just didnt know. I couldnt bare to think the of “C” word! So if you’re a family member or friend reading this – please do not feel offended or cross with me that I didnt pick the phone up to you – I knew you would be there if I really needed you x

The NHS produce Guidance on best practice, and Im happy to say my unit at Torbay Hospital ticked all the boxes. With a “one stop shop” they can offer everything needed – counseling, consultant opinion, mammogram, ultrasound, biopsy. Most results are given within the same day. Unfortunately, the radiographer was off sick on the day of my appointment and I had to return the following day.

Having a mammogram isnt very pleasant, bit like having your boobs squashed in a panini press, but it doesnt take very long, its uncomfortable but has got to be far easier than a mastectomy or dying from cancer! I was so relieved that as soon as my procedures were all completed I was given the most fabulous news, the words that I dared not hope for – NO PROBLEM….ALL CLEAR!

This was yesterday, and I did indeed feel very lucky! Another life lesson – something I already knew of course – not to take life for granted. To cherish every day, greet the morning with optimism and joy and make the very best of everything we have around us.

I have a beautiful niece called Helen. She was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago and was absolutely amazing. Happy to say she kicked cancers butt and now knows better than most how to appreciate good health and not take health for granted.

Our NHS is so absolutely AMAZING! Please never ever take this wonderful organisation for granted, it truly is wonderful. Although I have worked with it for over 23 years, Im happy to say Ive rarely been at the receiving end of its services so it was good to be reminded of it!

So please, take your health seriously, attend your routine screening appointments,  Regularly check your breasts and dont take your health for granted. If you have any concerns, dont spend months worrying yourself mad with your thoughts – please go and see your GP – I did and so glad!

Now I can plan more adventures and continue my lovely life…….

 

Keep Checking Yours!

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Taking a moment….

Life moves by so quickly, often without us taking the time to appreciate the good things that surround us. Something I’ve learned during my life coaching with the wonderful Sandra Walsh (check her out, she is amazing!) is to take a moment to sit in stillness and notice what comes up for me.

Sandra Walsh - a fabulous Life Coach!

Sandra Walsh – a fabulous Life Coach!

This morning I woke frustratingly early, as I seem to more and more as the years advance (well, as I tell everyone, I have jumped in age from 21 to 35!) I tried to sleep, but as I lay there tossing and turning, I kept thinking of all the things I needed to do, so I decided to get up and get on with my tasks for the day!

Washing sorted, dishes cleared, paperwork organised, emails checked…….then I stopped myself, remembering some of the lessons learned during life coaching. I took myself and a cuppa and sat out on my balcony, to take 10-15 minutes to enjoy the start of the day.

I am very fortunate in that I live in a very beautiful part of the world. You may notice that I didn’t write “lucky”. I do believe that you have to make luck happen, I didn’t land here by accident, it has been through choice and following through decisions, and I sure am going to appreciate what I have.

A beautiful start to the day with an amazing sunrise –

The gorgeous colours of the sunrise

The gorgeous colours of the sunrise

Sandra has taught me to try to use all my senses – to be “mindful”.  I sat for ages watching the colours in the sky change, the clouds move by at different levels and speeds, lasting far longer than any sunrise I witnessed when living in the Tropics!; I listened to the sounds around me, the fish market springing to life, the different birds enjoying the thermals as they whooshed through the air, the sound of the breeze, the small waves lapping at the harbour side, the  sounds of halyards clacking against masts. I could smell the salty air, the distant scent of fish and the feel of the breeze on my face. I could feel myself relax as the minutes ticked by, my shoulders less hunched and my breathing slower and more steady.

I’m now ready for the day!

I love watching the seals as they swim by searching for scallops

I love watching the seals as they swim by searching for scallops

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Get A Life….Coach!

As I sailed along the beautiful North Queensland coast, I sat on the toilet staring blankly at a bottle of shower gel.

TIme for contemplation sitting on the loo!

TIme for contemplation sitting on the loo!

The toilet can be a great place to contemplate life don’t you agree? Palmolive say that if I rub this mixture of Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Cocamidopropyl Betaine over my skin they promise it will help me  “Rediscover my well-being and inner harmony as it is inspired by Ayurvedic traditions”

“Rediscover your well-being and inner harmony"

“Rediscover your well-being and inner harmony”

This made me giggle, and as I washed my hands using this elixir of life wondering what on earth an “Ayurvedic tradition” could be, I couldn’t even pronounce the word as I walked back up on deck feeling very relaxed, calm, harmonious and at peace with the world, I wondered if Palmolive really had the answers after all! What great value, to rediscover my inner well being and harmony with a $6 bottle of shower gel

Then I thought back to my life just 2 years ago, far removed from my life right now when I was feeling very frustrated, sad, insecure and unfulfilled and considered how and why things have changed to where I am now.

I live in a beautiful part of the world, and enjoy a wonderful life.  I have many lovely friends who enrich my life, here are just a few –

Andrea

Andrea

I love sailing with Doug!

I love sailing with Doug!

My meat and seafood pal Nancy!

My meat and seafood pal Nancy!

and enjoy most of my time on or in the ocean, sailing and scuba diving.

Sunset G&T's

Sunset G&T’s

 

 

Ive sailed so much Ive worn my Welsh flag out!

Ive sailed so much Ive worn my Welsh flag out!

 

Heres me at the top of a big hill on a remote island out on the Great Barrier reef

Heres me at the top of a big hill on a remote island out on the Great Barrier reef

I don’t own a car, cycle everywhere I need, rent a room to live when I’m not traveling, have few personal possessions, keeping my outgoings low so I can just work when I have to and travel and take adventures when I want.

I get to go on many adventures with one of my daughters who lives here too!

I get to go on many adventures with one of my daughters who lives here too!

I work on as casual basis either as a dive instructor

Jilly Fish The Dive Instrucor

Jilly Fish The Dive Instrucor

But mainly, as the pay is far better, as a midwife!

Jillyfish The Baby Catcher!

Jillyfish The Baby Catcher!

Some may say I’m lucky (click here and have a read about that one…), but this huge transition didn’t happen by accident or by sheer luck. It happened through taking a deep breath, trusting in the universe, being courageous but not least of all to the skills of a dear friend! A wonderful woman called Sandra who works as a life coach, I would like to tell you about her work with me now.

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The Lovely Sandra Walsh – not only a Life Coach but a fab face painter too!

 

Before I start, I would like to share with you that I felt very hesitant about this, and didn’t really discuss it with anyone. It felt akin to agreeing to go to counseling or take antidepressants, as if there should be a stigma to taking on some “outside help” This may sound silly but I’m a very independent (some may say stubborn!) person, and I felt very reluctant to open myself up to someone about how I was feeling. However, I already knew Sandra and aware that not only was bright, insightful and easy to talk to but I could be assured of absolute confidentiality.

I entered into an agreement to engage with Sandra for 8 sessions. We “met” using Skype which gave us both greater flexibility as it didn’t matter where in the world each of us were, so long as we had access to a computer or smart phone we could talk. We both entered into a contract and I completed a pro forma which gave Sandra some guidance as to the direction she would take. We agreed to a time to Skype, something that was flexible for both of our busy lives, and after each session Sandra would email me a summary and my “homework” – not as bad as it sounds, but she would ask me questions for me to ponder as well as suggested reading materials and activities.

At her suggestion, I downloaded an App called “Take Ten” which guided me through short meditations which I found really helpful (give it a go!)and read some books among which were Gary Chapmans “The Five Love Languages” and books on “Mindfullness”

Mindfullness is something I try to engage with as much as I can. Next time you are going for a walk, try to engage with your surroundings, smell the air, how the wind feels on your face, the colours of the leaves, shape of the bark on the trees, the sounds of individual birds around you. If you’re not keen on going for walks, then next time you do the washing up, do the same – feel the water as it flows around your hands, the shapes that form as you wipe the warm water around the food remains on the plates and the satisfaction that is gained when the dishes become shiny. It all sounds very basic doesn’t it, we are all too busy rushing around and easily miss or take for granted many of the simple things in life that can give us such joy.

If you rush by and not look up, you would never see the 2 Lorikeets in the tree!

If you rush by and not look up, you would never see the 2 Lorikeets in the tree!

The life coaching sessions gave me an opportunity to explore my thoughts and feelings, to try to see what I wanted out of life and how I could achieve my dream.  It was a chance to look at where I was and examine why I had made the decisions that had brought me there and look at the changes I had to make to get where I needed to be.  Sandra believed in my ability and capacity to make changes in my life and watched and listened as I gained the strength I needed to do so.  She reminded me that what I gave energy to grows and expands and I could follow a dream.

It wasn’t always easy, she didn’t give me the answers, but helped me find my own.  At times I felt a mixture of anger and frustration as Sandra challenged me, and it took some time for me to appreciate she occasionally acted as a devils advocate and provoking me into thought and action – it worked!

The biggest surprise for me was the realisation of the huge impact the experiences of my childhood were still making on my thoughts and emotions.  Sandra pointed out how much I used the word “secure” and “safe” – things that were sadly deficient for me as a child.  During one of our sessions, she took me right back to me as an 8 year old, I found this very difficult, almost disturbing at the time, but it prompted me to face the past once more and try to lay it to rest at last.  Gradually, through the sessions I felt more in control of my life, started to trust in the universe once more and start to follow my dream.

I hadn’t appreciated how much my energy has been directed into pleasing and helping others throughout my life, and I realised I didnt need to do this any longer as the time had come for me to do what was right for me, to make the very best of my own life.

Sandra asked me to provide her with feedback following our last session, this was 19 months ago, and I promised her I would do so, but I have procrastinated. In truth, I didn’t do it at first as I didn’t really know how I felt about it, and it is only over time as I have settled into my life that I can fully appreciate the contribution life coaching with Sandra has made.

I would like to thank Sandra for all her hard work, and her continued support since.  I would highly recommend anyone to contact her, (click here and find out more) she should be available on the NHS!

I love my life!

I love my life!

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Going Bananas!

When I first arrived in Australia over 3 years ago, my daughter, Francesca and I were invited to crew on a boat on a race around Magnetic Island. We prepared a packed lunch with scrummy sandwiches and crisps, and completed the meal with a banana or two and turned up at the marina eager to start our trip.

Upon our arrival, the skipper of the boat and his wife (Mick and Val Gillum)

The lovely Mick and Val on their boat Panacea. They were to become my very dear friends!

The lovely Mick and Val on their boat Panacea. They were to become my very dear friends!

ordered us to eat the bananas before we embarked as it was felt unlucky to have them on a boat. We did think it a little strange, but humoured our fabulous nautical hosts and scoffed our bananas before stepping aboard.

I have thought little about this superstition and it was far from my mind as I planned a four day trip to Cairns with the lovely Doug on his beautiful boat Shazam.

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Doug and I out on the water

Feeling chilled out as I steered the boat out of Nelly Bay harbour

Feeling chilled out as I steered the boat out of Nelly Bay harbour

Doug and I set sail on Friday with all food for the trip onboard, complete with a bunch of bananas.

I do like to plan for a healthy diet!

I do like to plan for a healthy diet!

Doug, a very experienced sailor but grounded in common sense with a scientific brain merely raised an eyebrow as I cocked a snook to superstition.

I did have my kids with me for good luck!

I did have my kids with me for good luck!

Those non-sailors reading this may be wondering what is wrong with this. Quite, I agree, but it has long been held that bananas shouldnt be allowed on board.  Not only this, but apparently neither should you start a voyage on a Friday, nor for that matter, should you have women on board – we were breaking so many rules.

I had this thought in mind as we anchored off the beautiful island of Hinchinbrook, beneath its beautiful soaring mountains, fabulous bird life and gorgeous blue waters, I wasnt feeling at all unlucky. Pah to superstition!

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That was, until the skies blackened and a tremendous electrical storm took hold.

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The latest radar!

The latest radar!

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Here we are – right by the red arrow – in the heart of the storm!

I love storms, and have always liked to stand at the window at look at the sky being lit, learning as a child to count the seconds between the flash and the clap of thunder to estimate the distance between me and the spectacle of nature. I was doing just the same, taking as many photographs as I could until I could barely discern a time lapse as the storm grew ever closer and I retreated into the boat!

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A bolt of lightening and crack of thunder as loud as I have ever heard appeared right by the boat, I leapt a meter into the air, my heart pounding, wearing thick rubber soled shoes I had taken the precaution of donning,  My childhood storm watching days were not a patch on sitting exposed on a boat out on the sea in a tropical storm and I was not sure whether I should feel exhilarated or scared to death.

The storm continued, with lightening bolts all around, it gradually moved north leaving us to gorgeous warm rain that gave me an opportunity for a refreshing shower!

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I like to make the best of natural resources, and fresh rainwater makes a great shower!

So, no bad luck at all, it was just a storm that gave us some entertainment and let us be.  The storm clouds departed and everything settled down beautifully

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We settled down for a G&T and watched the sun set feeling very lucky, that was until the following morning when we raised anchor and I noticed our chart plotter couldn’t tell us out position – our instruments had no idea where we were!

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I hate the “F” word!

Our GPS antennae had been blown by the lightening……maybe there is something in this “Bananas” and “Fridays” superstition.

Doug is now busy trying to fix it, and not enjoying fitting himself into a tiny lazarett!

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It really is no wonder that superstitions abound when you think of the history of mariners.  Imagine life on a boat many years ago, no weather forecasts, radio or satellite communications, GPS, not even facebook or twitter, just raging seas around after weeks of no sighting of land, its no surprise that superstitions abound!

I know its not wise to throw a banana skin onto a pavement for obvious reasons, but I struggled to see why else it could cause harm to others, but as Ive conducted my research Ive discovered that bananas have long been thought to bring bad luck.  There are tales of ships disappearing between Spain and the Caribbean in the 1700’s, where they happened to be carrying a cargo of bananas at the time, and I guess a ship overloaded and spilling its cargo – the bananas would float leaving testament to their curse.  We know that bananas spoil quickly, and that not only do the vapours they emit help other fruit and veg ripen, but they can be noxious too. They also attract deadly snakes spiders and other venemous creatures which can suprise the crew causing them to die suddenly

As for the superstition of not starting a voyage on a Friday – a tricky one this, probably based on Christianity and Jesus being crucified on a Friday. Believe it or not, its a long held belief, so much so, the British navy’s attempted to lay that superstition to rest and christened a boat HMS Friday, launching it on a Friday and setting sail on its first voyage, you guessed it – on a Friday – it disappeared over the horizon and was never seen again! A legend of course – but it is in the mind of most saiors!

As for the superstition of not allowing women on board, well, what twaddle. What an excuse for men who make mistakes and blame it on women distracting them from their duties! Women were welcomed on board at the end when sailors who had been at sea for a long time were in port, and many a relationship was consummated on the gun deck – which is where the term “son of a gun” originated!

Curiously, naked women do not draw such superstition (strange that!), as it was thought naked women calmed the seas – which is why many ships had a topless woman bearing her breasts as a figure head on the bow of a ship.  I guess while she is strapped to the front of the ship calming the seas she can’t go out buying bananas!

Happy sailing!

 

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A Very Merry Unbirthday To Me!

I’m starting to find my feet now I have arrived back in Australia, and it certainly feels like I have come home.  I miss my family and friends in the UK so very much, but I am now close to one of my children, Francesca, who lives in Cairns, just a mere 330km- well, close by Australian standards!

Taking advantage of this, and the fact I’m not yet in gainful employment, I caught a greyhound to Cairns to spend a few days with her.  So lovely to hang out with my baby girl, do a bit of shopping for girlie things for the forthcoming Melbourne Cup day (The race that stops a nation apparently!) and chat to our hearts content.  Our first evening we took a sunset cruise up the river complete with bubbles!

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Francesca  had a few things up her sleeve for us…..

I had a “big birthday” this year,

My clever daughter had this made - depicting the many aspects of my life!

My clever daughter had this made – depicting the many aspects of my life!

but was unable to celebrate it with my family as I have been on a boat for several months, so, just like The Queen, I had 2 dates for my birthday! She had been collaborating with her siblings and their respective partners about a treat for me, and what a treat I had.

We were checked into luxury accommodation for 2 nights, in an apartment directly overlooking the harbour, this made me feel like a Queen! The first night, I just didn’t want to go out, I decided to cook for us overlooking the lights of the harbour whilst sipping a G&T in style!

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The next morning, Francesca had booked for us onto a boat

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for a day of R&R at the Great Barrier Reef.

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Francesca feeling very relaxed!

Francesca feeling very relaxed!

A spot of scuba diving

Look how beautifully clear and blue the water is.

Look how beautifully clear and blue the water is.

An "OK" Day!

An “OK” Day!

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FInding Nemo!

FInding Nemo!

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and of course, following that, a nice cold beer

Cheers!

Cheers!

There is a helipad near Hastings Reef, and we had been watching the tourists take their 7 minute scenic flights,

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no sooner were they in the air that they seemed to be landing once more.

My special treat was still to come!  We were far too posh to travel back into Cairns on a boat, we had our own helicopter to escort us back to shore!

Meet Casey - our friendly pilot!

Meet Casey – our friendly pilot!

Casey helps her with the lifejacket as she informs him she has her own set of "buoyancy aids"

Casey helps her with the lifejacket as she informs him she has her own set of “buoyancy aids”

and being a sensible pilot - he checks them out!

and being a sensible pilot – he checks them out!

Safely settled into the helicopter….I get front seat!

Yay! My first time in a helicopter!

Yay! My first time in a helicopter!

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We had the whole chopper to ourselves and less time pressure and a journey over several reefs back to the airport.

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I felt very much at home in the helicopter!

I felt very much at home in the helicopter!

Cairns!

Cairns!

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Our journey plotted on my navionics

Our journey plotted on my navionics

Back on land at the airport

Back on land at the airport

Next came a pampering, with a “Shellac” pedicure,

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before returning to my luxury apartment to chill with a G&T, chatting with Francesca, then time to relax in a lovely bath, get dressed up

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and head out for a scrumptious meal – a seafood platter.

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So lovely to spend such moments with my gorgeous daughter.  An absolutely perfect day, could only be made better by having my other babes with us!

Many thanks to Francesca, her fiance Mikey, Natasha and her boyfriend Will and my son Callum for clubbing together and treating their mum like a Queen for a day.  I loved every moment of it, almost as much as I love them all!

As for the title of this blog….a song I would sing with my children many years ago!

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A Taste of The Top End!

I found it very sad to say goodbye to Indonesia, but had to admit, in many ways, it was a welcome change to be back on Australian soil.

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I no longer have to struggle communicating with my smattering of Bahasa and google translate, and I took great delight in wandering around Coles drooling over the range of bacon, ham and cheeses, my purse no longer stuffed full of thousands and millions of rupiah, but nice clean crisp waterproof Australian dollars where I could buy lovely red wine and gin by the litre without feeling bankrupt – welcome to Australia!

This was my first time in the Northern Territory, but not for Daryl who has lived here before and wanted to show me around.  He hired a car and spent a day giving me a tour of the finest outlets of motor spares the state could offer.  Joking aside, we did have a considerable amount of boat maintenance to catch up on and Daryl was in seventh heaven with the retail range available to him having been in Asia for so long.  I helped him change the oil in both the engines,

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did some tidying up and was rewarded with a tour of the area and lunch and a beer in the “Humpty Doo Hotel” – yes, that is really the name, sweet eh!

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This place seemed to hold many fond memories for Daryl, he has clearly spent some special moments here eating crocodile burgers and watching the local Hells Angels gangs meet up and compare bikes.  I enjoyed my croc burger and checked out the local talent

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My dear “Dive Goddess” friend Sonya asked me “What do you call a sexy man in Darwin” The answer of course is “A Visitor”!! Cheers for that Sonya, think you might be right!

Classy folk in NT

They have standards to maintain!

They have standards to maintain!

This was dry season in The Northern Territory, and still enjoyable temperatures

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Residents of the Northern Territory are often known simply as ‘Territorians’, or more informally as ‘Top Enders’ and ‘Centralians’.  Its a tough place in many ways, not somewhere I would choose to make my home, but I was keen to explore the local countryside. The Northern Territory is massive, covering an area of over 1,349,129 square kilometres (five times the size of Great Britain), yet it has a sparse population of 233,300,  (less than the population of Wolverhampton!)

The Territory is home to 400 species of birds, 150 mammals, 300 reptiles, 50 frogs, 60 species of freshwater fish and several hundred species of marine fish and of course some of the scariest creatures on this earth

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Sorry I missed this snake before it shed its skin!

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A bit of useful advice!

Crocodiles, the most famous of the Territory’s creatures, can be seen in most rivers and billabongs in the Top End or at the wildlife parks around Darwin. There is almost a one-to-one ratio of crocs to humans in the North, a sobering thought as you travel through.

Eye Eye!

Eye Eye!

There are many very small settlements scattered across the territory, but the larger population centers are located on the single paved road that links Darwin to southern Australia, the “Stuart Highway” known to locals simply as “the track”

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How Far?? Not to be confused with the A1 in the UK!

Just a little truck.....a "Road Train" which can have up to 5 trailers!

Just a little truck…..a “Road Train” which can have up to 5 trailers!

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Now in the UK, if you get crowds of people enjoying fish and chips by the seaside, you undoubtedly get flocks of annoying seagulls.  Not so in The Northern Territory of Australia. We finished our day with a visit to Stokes Hill Wharf, started sipping a beer

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and gazed down into the water and saw their seagull equivalent

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People enjoying their suppers on the wharf above were tossing remains of their meals into the sea below which was being enjoyed by the friendly shark! It seems the local sharks have a liking for leftover chips!

I was keen to taste more that the Northern Territory had to offer, and Daryl suggested I book myself on a tour for 3-4 days, he seemed keen to have some space and I wasn’t unhappy to be away from the long list of boat maintenance jobs!

Along I went to book a tour at a hip hop and happening place called “Youth Shack”, I arrived, all smiles having done my research and asked to be booked onto a 3 day 2 night Kakadu and Litchfield National Park Tour with Territory Expeditions –  It was described as designed for the “Fit and Active” thats me!  All was well as the agent went through the booking process until she came to a question and hesitantly asked me, (not sure if she was being insulting), asking if I was between the ages of 18 and 45.   Being an honest person I proudly said “No, I’m 50”, this necessitated a phone call to be allowed permission to book an elderly woman such as myself on the tour.  Now I feel really special!

So it was, the following morning that a lovely guy called Heath came to collect me

The lovely Heath Whiley

The lovely Heath Whiley

in his company car

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Ready for a fun filled 3 days of culture and delight.  I must say I had a wonderful time with Heath and the band of young things sat in the back of the van being jostled around on dirt tracks.

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The group were very quiet at first then livened up as time passed and more alcohol was consumed around the camp fire!  I was glad to see that I was not the only old thing on the trip, but was also joined by Gary, a good egg, just shy of his 60th birthday who certainly proved his value, as his “maturity” and experience came in useful when the starter motor went on strike!

Everyone loved Gary!

Everyone loved Gary!

I think the company may like to rethink their age policy and appreciate how useful us “oldies” can be!

Us two old things got on just fine with the young ones!

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Our tour started at the picturesque Billabong at Corroboree

and within minutes we caught our first sight of our first croc with the macho name of “Rocky”

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and many more

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This Billabong was home to an abundance of wildlife, numerous crocodiles, salt as well as freshwater, and many birds

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A beautiful white breasted Eagle

This is a Jacinta, otherwise known as a “Jesus Bird” due to its ability to walk on water……

Take A Look At Its Feet!

Take A Look At Its Feet!

The gorgeous Lotus Flowers were so abundant

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I was fascinated by the Crocodiles, such ancient looking creatures, so highly evolved, yet so feared.

Crocodiles are of course to be feared, and the area is littered with warning signs

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Many people do not heed these warnings and then there is an outcry when a crocodile attacks a human for they certainly make headlines!

Apparently, there are four reasons why crocodiles attack humans: One, of course, they (particularly the large ones) see humans as prey.  Two, they are of course protecting their territory. Three, crocodiles attack to protect their young. Four, some humans are bitten by mistake (e.g. attack is targeted at some animals near or accompanied by humans).

It seems unfair to me, that when a human enters its territory and it attacks, the crocodile is then dealt the hand of justice.  I will give you some recent examples and you can see what you think.

Last month, a  58 year old fisherman waded into the Adelaide River to retrieve a hook he had lost.  This happened to be the territory of a well known crocodile called Michael Jackson!)

"Michael Jackson" given this name not for his musical talent but due to his unusual colouration

“Michael Jackson” given this name not for his musical talent but due to his unusual colouration

Like most wild animals protecting their territory, he killed the invader, poor MJ was later shot. Tragic for the anglers family, but not great news for the croc either!

On the Adelaide River, tour operators take groups out on boats, they feed the local crocs, which jump to take pieces of meat hanging from a pole. Its called “Jumping Croc Tours”.

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Not a great surprise to hear that in June this year, just further downstream, 62-year-old Bill Scott was taken from the rear of his moored boat. Another absolutely tragic event, and the first known fatal attack involving a person in a boat. Poor Mr. Scott became the meat on a pole for the crocs which had been trained to do just that! 

The largest crocodile in the area is known as Brutus, who recently attracted worldwide attention when photos were taken of him eating a large shark.

Brutus with a bull shark

Brutus with a bull shark

brutus and bull shark

So for me, if I were to spend time on a Billabong or anywhere near the territory of a crocodile – I would be hiring one of these

A "Croc Safe" boat!

A “Croc Safe” boat!

We spent 2 out of our  days at Kakadu National Park which is enormous and covers an area of 19,804 km2 (7,646 sq mi).  It extends 200km from north to south and over 100km east to west – about half the size of Switzerland.  It contains one of the most productive uranium mines in the world, right in the middle of a National Park.

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Heath took us on a lovely walk, up and over boulders to stunning scenes

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The name Kakadu comes from the mispronunciation of “Gaagudiu”, which is the name of an Aboriginal language formerly spoken in the northern part of the park

Aboriginal people have occupied the Kakadu area continuously for many thousands of years, and this area is renowned for the richness of its Aboriginal cultural sites. There are more than 5,000 recorded art sites illustrating Aboriginal culture and demonstrate Aboriginal occupation for at least 20,000 and possibly up to 40,000 years.

Ubirr is a group of rock outcrops in the northeast of the park. There several large rock overhangs that would have provided excellent shelter to Aboriginal people over thousands of years.

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This site is internationally recognised as outstanding example of Aboriginal rock art. The sites are found in rocky outcrops that have afforded shelter to Aboriginal inhabitants for thousands of years. The painting in these rock shelters were done for various reasons, from stories and learning, to sorcery and magic as well as religious significance.

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Heath is an excellent guide, full of fascinating facts about the area and nature

Heath is an excellent guide, full of fascinating facts about the area and nature

Ubirr’s proximity to the East Alligator River and Nadab floodplains means that food would have been abundant and this is reflected in much of the rock art here. Animals depicted in the main gallery include barramundi, mullet, goanna, catfish,turtle, wallaby, possum and even a Tasmanian Tiger.

There are also images of the Rainbow Serpent said to have created much of the landscape as well as mischievous Mimi spirits and the story of the Namarrgarn Sisters. Many stories connected to Aboriginal rock are highly complex and linked to other stories. Often the true meanings have been lost, but they all have a purpose which is usually to serve as a lesson or a warning to the young or to those passing through the area.

The Indigenous cultures of Australia are the oldest living cultures in the world.  I am keen to learn more about these very misunderstood and persecuted people, a people steeped in culture, tradition and spirituality.  People who once were so connected to the land and a deep respect for the environment, with their culture brutally destructed by the European settlers. Enough of this for now, a subject for further research and exploration for me.

We spent 2 nights in Kakadu, making a campfire where the food was cooked

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And sleeping in tents which were little more than a mosquito net (some of my friends would love this….Im thinking of you again Lisa Little!

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They may be basic, but they afforded great views of the stars and the sunrise!

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The whole group got involved with the organisation of food and setting up camp

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and we all enjoyed swims in plunge pools and waterfalls, and were told the area was monitored for crocodiles…..they even have traps for them….

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and of course a visit to Jim Jim Falls

No "Falls" In Dry Season!

No “Falls” In Dry Season!

The termite mounds were amazing to see

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Looks like a graveyard doesn’t it, these termite mounds in Litchfield National Park are magnetic, they are aligned in a north-south direction as a response to the environment, this acts as a temperature regulator, and allows the temperature to remain stable

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it dwarfs me!

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and Heath pointed out many trees, plants, birds in true “Ray Mears” style.  He stops the bus as he spots an interesting plant

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and explained that were a traditional favourite among Aborigines for their sweet nectar. This could be shaken onto the hand to enjoy (as we all did) or mixed with a little water to make a sweet drink. They might be referred to as the original “bush lollies”!

This is Quinine, it tasted so foul - it was missing the gin!

This is Quinine, it tasted so foul – it was missing the gin!

Heath showed us Banksia (I do hope Im getting all these facts right Heath – there was such alot to remember!)

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Indigenous people would light old seed cones and use them as firebrands, these lasting for up to two hours. A hot smoking flower spike was used to cauterise leprosy sores, and people suffering from diarrhoea would squat over smoking cones in the hope this would relieve their symptoms. The thin woody spikes that did not develop follicles were used as nasal ornaments by aboriginal women, and flower spikes were used as combs (Gary tried this – he looked fantastic afterwards!

The Kapok tree was extremely interesting.  It produced pods which are filled with a soft feathery material which aboriginal people used for bedding

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You can even buy products which use it now, check it out!

Our tour over, I emerged feeling humbled by the knowledge and skills of the aboriginal people and how in keeping they were with their environment.

I had a wonderful trip, and met up with many of the group that evening

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My time in Darwin nearly complete, I await the arrival of my daughter and her new finance tomorrow, they are joining us for our trip round the north coast……more to follow!

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Sailing to A Land Down Unda!

When I started this blog in July 2011, it was at the start of my circumnavigation of Britain. I set myself a task of writing a journal detailing each day, trying to keep it lighthearted, and dare I say, funny, it was not so much a guide to sailing but an insight into my thoughts and feelings as I embarked on my adventure.

Being a prolific blog writer can become a very onerous task, and I could be found in my cabin, long after everyone else had gone to sleep, busy typing away to capture the day’s detail whilst everything was still fresh in my mind. When we all went on land, whilst others were browsing or relaxing, I was busy seeking out places to use wifi to post the blogs, and glancing around for power sources to recharge my camera batteries and laptop.

Although onerous, I am so glad I did, because now I have a great record of my journey around Britain, something I treasure, and have created a blog which seems to be growing in popularity, with over 176,000 hits. You have just added another hit to the counter – why dont you leave a comment too, I would love to hear what you think!

Since that trip, Ive not kept my blog so much as a journal, just occasionally adding posts when the mood takes me, or when I find I’m doing something interesting, hence an increase in the frequency of my posts during this wonderful adventure sailing from Malaysia to Australia.

I am now about to set sail to Australia from Indonesia, from Kupang on the island of Timor, down to Darwin, taking an estimated 100hours (conservative estimate). I thought I might take the time to write my thoughts and feelings along this part of my journey, and write it as a journal, in Bridget Jones Style (minus the self help books!). It might make dull reading, but then again it might be enlightening, or maybe even cathartic for me, if nothing else, it will occupy my brain on this journey! As you sit at the helm with nothing to see but the ocean, it does give lots of thinking time. Thoughts constantly run through your head as you gaze out across the water, so I thought it might be useful to connect my fingers to these thoughts and see what comes out, here goes!

I normally write a blog which will occupy you whilst you sip a cup of tea, this time, I think you need to make a pot and relax, maybe even a nightcap, as this may well send you nicely to sleep…….

I have long had an ambition to sail around the world, and with this world consisting of 71% water, a significant proportion of this is in the Southern Hemisphere, there are alot of oceans and seas to cross. This journey from Indonesia to Australia, across the Timor sea is a mere hop skip and a jump, but to me, it is my first big crossing as it will take 4 days (and nights of course – no popping off to some cosy marina or anchorage on the way!). With only 2 of us on board, that means taking it in turns to be on watch and sail the boat while the other takes a rest. We have decided to do this in 3 hour stints, 3 hours is sufficient to take a decent nap, and just long enough to concentrate without respite, but for me, a woman who likes her night sleep, it is going to be a bit of a test.

When I sailed around Britain, on the Round Britain Experience We had some “crossings” but it was only down to the Scilly Ises from Falmouth, then from Scilly Isles to Milford haven (South Wales), and then again over to Northern Ireland. Definitely little hops, and with 6 of us onboard, we were always on watch with another person and never for longer than 2 hours, and of course, we only did this for one night. Now I’m faced with the prospect of 4 consecutive nights

I take my hat off to those who solo sail, how amazing that some do.  Look at Jessica Watson, who completed the 23,000 non-stop trip just before her 17th birthday! Or indeed to my dear friend Rachel Smith who crossed the Atlantic with a friend – but she wasnt in a cosy yacht like me, she was rowing, yes ROWING across the Atlantic, just her and a friend in a small rowing boat, no cosy cabin like me, and having to row the whole time. Their endeavours gained a place in the Guinness Book Of Records! So, click this link on Amazon Pop  “From Antigua to Bust” and order her fascinating book (go on….buy her book, she has worked so hard for it!)

So, this is my first crossing, it isnt an ocean as such, just the Timor Sea, but it will give me a good insight into how I might feel if I do embark on a big Ocean Crossing. I would love to sail across the Pacific, and think of all the lovely places on the way – Galapagos Islands are definitely on my bucket list, as are French Polynesia, Samoa, Cook islands, the list is endless.

Its very exciting crossing a sea, I have my fingers crossed for sightings of more dolphins, perhaps even a whale who knows. Trouble is, if we do see something in the distance, Daryl and I get very excited about these things, and we have to steer towards them and take a look, taking a detour. This is what we did when we sailed down from Adonara to Timor

Just a tiny 2 mile detour to see dolphins!

Part of our track from Adonara to Timor, with just a tiny 2 mile detour to see dolphins!

Thursday 11th September 3am-6am -Rest Time

The start of our journey down to Darwin.

The alarm sounded at 3am, we were all ready for action. Well, I wasnt particularly, as I decided I needed to finish and post my latest blog – “My Love Affair With Indonesia”, it felt only right that I should submit it whilst I was still in Indonesia, that, and the fact I had spare credit left on my internet that I wanted to use up before I left the shores (well, I am Welsh!!). The vagaries of the internet meant that uploading a blog with so many photographs was a frustrating task, and just when I thought I was nearly ready to publish, somehow half my blog just disappeared in front of my eyes! Being a determined character (some might say stubborn!), I gritted my teeth and continued to set it right. This led to a vey late night, and, having not showered since my dive earlier in the day, I went to bed feeling very unprepared, I knew I was going to start this journey knackered, and feeling quite grubby, not a great foundation for a 4 day journey!

Kneeling down on the bow, dragging up the anchor, thick with mud at 3am, I was rather regretting being a blogger and having such a late night, but, with the moon full in the sky, with just a gentle breeze, I had a good feeling about this journey and relaxed a little.

Daryl was taking the first watch, so I knew I would be on duty again at 6am, so I hurried to my cabin to get some sleep. That was of course, until I decided to check my emails, I knew I would be without internet for 4 or 5 days (imagine that!!), so here I am, also writing this. So, at 4.30, I’m snuggling down for a nice sleep!
Sleep during this rest time = 1 hour 15 mins

Thursday 11th September 6am-9am – On Watch

My first watch.

What a serious looking sailor!

What a serious looking sailor!

Yawning, I took my early morning brew and sat at the helm to get a hand over from Daryl, who said he had been very pleased that we had “sneaked” around the corner and not been hit by a choppy sea as we had predicted. I already knew this, as I lay in my cabin and felt the boat just glide through the water, making for a much easier rest.

I still have access to a signal and receive facebook messages. Ive already sent a message to my children telling them I love them, and that if I don’t make it to Australia, my last Will and Testament is to split everything between them

What a kind Mummy I am!

What a kind Mummy I am!

I’m sure they will see the funny side of it, and if I do die on this journey, it will hopefully raise a smile when its read out at my funeral!

We have around 1 knot of wind, which isnt great for sailing, but it is right on the nose at the moment, which means it doesnt slow us down as we motor forward. Its forecast to back (turn in an anticlockwise direction), and increase, so we should be able to get the sails up when it does.

Daryl is prepared for a bit of motor sailing!

Daryl is prepared for a bit of motor sailing!

The sea is nice and flat, the sun has risen and is glistening on the water, and life is good! Hopefully Daryl is fast asleep in his cabin and will feel rested when he emerges ready to relieve me from my watch at 9am. When he does, I’m going to jump straight into my bed and snooze for as long as I can. Then at the end of my break, before my next watch, I’m going to take a lovely shower and smell fresh again.

Thursday 11th September 9am-Noon – Rest Time

Daryl returned, and with no encouragement needed, I scuttled to my bed and to a blissful sleep. With nice, gently rolling swells, the boat felt beautifully steady, and I relaxed in my cabin and let the gentle roll of the boat rock me off to sleep like a baby in a cradle.

Have you ever had one of those lovely warm fuzzy dreams, you know, the one where the man of your dreams is there with you, not only is he there, but he thinks you are a goddess, and just as you are getting to know one another particularly well, the bloody alarm goes off!! Well, I had one such moment! In a lovely deep sleep, the man of my dreams and I were getting to know one another very nicely when a change to the movement and sound of the boat brought me back to reality. I was no longer in the arms of my Adonis, but opening my window hatch to take a look at why the boat had slowed right down. What I saw more than compensated for the disturbance of a lovely dream!

Look what I saw peeking through my cabin window!

Look what I saw peeking through my cabin window – not only could I see them but I could hear them all calling to one another!

As I mentioned earlier, I had hoped we would see whales during our journey. I knew they would be around, as I had read that one of the last whaling posts in Indonesia was on Timor, but I didnt dare hope we would get sightings.

These beautiful creatures gave us quite a show. We sat in amazement and watched them swim around us, curious it seemed about our boat. They would swim around, then head into the distance, and we would restart the engines and move slowly towards them.

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I have completed more than 350 dives in my time, but never been in the water at the same time as dolphins or whales, so I couldn’t resist, on went my fins, mask and snorkel, and with camera in hand, I jumped into the water

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I found it difficult to see through the viewfinder of my camera, due to the glare of the sun, and the fact that my maturity is creating an extra optical challenge, but I was treated to sightings of 4 whales who swam with me. Thats me in the water on the left, the whale on the right in case you are confused!

Whales with a woman from Wales!

Whales with a woman from Wales!

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All divers know what this sign means - for me, this means "bloody fantastic"!

All divers know what this sign means – for me, this means “bloody fantastic”!

The whales had moved on, I reluctantly exited the water, hoping we would get further sightings and I could jump back in again when we had caught up. I wasn’t prepared for what happened next!

I have experienced some very special moments during my diving. There have been many occasions when I have done my bit to protect the environment and felt that I have been repaid by mother nature. During a reef clean up 5 years ago, having filled a large bag with rubbish, five eagle rays swam by, in perfect formation, as if to say thanks for cleaning up our home.

"Cheers for tidying up mate"!

“Cheers for tidying up mate”!

On another occasion, as I was snorkeling, I had stuffed discarded plastic cups into my bikini (it was amazing how many my bikini held!), soon afterwards, a beautiful manta came by at the surface, swam past me, did a barrel roll and swam right back again to keep me company. He stayed with me for over 20 minutes, the divers on the reef below unaware of the wonderful spectacle at the surface as I had a manta all to myself!

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Karma at its very best, it was as if these wonderful creatures were expressing their gratitude.

Well today I experienced another such spiritual moment.

So excited from my swim with whales, we hoped to catch up with them again so we were overjoyed to see them rise again to the surface, I was ready to jump right in when we saw something amongst the pod we couldn’t make out. As we got closer we were shocked to find that 3 poor turtles had become entangled in a bundle of discarded fishing net, completely trapped and helpless, a very sorry sight to see. We immediately stopped the yacht, lowered the dingy into the water, and each armed with a knife, went to their rescue.

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This net looked like it had been in the water for some time, it had crustaceans attached to it, and had attracted a great number of fish, it was a like a mini reef system floating in the middle of the sea.

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The turtles initially struggled as Daryl gently cut through the tangle of rope, then almost as if they knew we were not a threat to them, they lay still for us to do our work, until they could feel their limbs becoming free.

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The first one freed, Daryl started to cut the tangle of rope from around the second, the rope was so twisted, particularly around its neck, it was amazing how it was still alive. How long had these turtles been here like this, just stuck there, each limb tied, just waiting to eventually die?

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Look at its poor face, how distraught it must have been

I cut through the net for the third, he was in such a tangle, with the unrelenting rope twisted and restricting every part of this poor creature!

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What a wonderful sight it was for us to see each of them gradually being released and watch them swim away to freedom!

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We were able to save the lives of 3 turtles today, and the whales had led us right to them! I don’t really think that was a coincidence. The whales had let us play, then asked for our help which we were more than ready to give.

I wanted to avoid any future turtles from getting stuck in this death trap again, as well preventing a hazard for any boats which may come by. My instinct was to get this net out of the water, to collect it up, take it onto the boat and dispose of it when we got to Australia, As the quarantine regulations restricted us even bringing a piece of fruit or a chicken egg into the country, I didn’t think they would react too favourably at the idea of us bringing a mini-reef system back! Daryl and I gathered it up as tightly as we could,

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tying it up amongst itself, it became slightly negatively buoyant, and with a duck dive and a push of the oar, the ball of net started to head into the depths, hopefully it will descend the total 1100metres below us

Down goes the death trap

Down goes the death trap

And hopefully descend so far it doesnt cause any further harm

And hopefully descend so far it doesnt cause any further harm

Sleep during this rest time = 1 hour

Thursday 11th September Noon-3pm – On Watch

My “rest” over, I was back on watch. Just in time to sort my photos and update my blog! I was tired, but exhilarated. What an experience.

One of the advantages of a shift pattern on a boat is that it gives you a defined period to be on duty, a time when you can relax when you are not on watch, without thinking you really should be doing something, like keeping the skipper company!

The other thing I like is the space it gives me, I have really enjoyed my times of isolation, just me and my thoughts. It can be very intense being with just one other person on the boat, like a married couple, but we are not a married couple, (I have to be mindful of that as I’m ripping my clothes off to quickly jump in the water to swim with the Dolphins!), Daryl already has a lovely wife, she is busy caring for her family in New Zealand (hello there Laurel!), and I’m assisting him take his boat back to their homeland to enable him to spend more time with his family.

Daryl and I have spent 10 weeks living together in a space measuring 50’ x 28’, before I arrived in Malaysia on July 7th, I had never met him before, and in true “Big Brother” style, we were thrust together to live in a confined space for 4 months. Don’t get me wrong, Daryl is an absolutely smashing guy, I love his company enormously, and have sat and talked about what seems every subject under the sun for many hours but I really value the time when I can have some space of my own, and I’m sure it swings both ways, and Daryl values the time and space he has away from me too!

Thursday 11th September 3pm-6pm – Rest Time

My second watch over, I retreated to my cabin, hoping to take a rest at last, not even bothered about meeting my Adonis again, when Daryl called me up once more as he spotted 2 more whales! We stopped, took a quick look but they had dived down, no chance to swim with them this time. Time to try to sleep. We are now more than 12 hours into our trip and Timor is still just about visible in the distance, it feels as if we are never getting away from it.
Sleep during this rest time =1 hour 30 minutes

Thursday 11th September 6pm-9pm – On Watch

My shift misses out on the sunset, and as well as its rising, so, feeling a little hard done by  I emerged early from my rest period to watch the sun set, thinking how lucky Daryl was to have this beauty during his watch when all I got was darkness (poor me!).

However, my shift had a beauty all of its own – the sun had already set, and with very little light left, the world around me got darker and darker, and gradually all the stars revealed all their glory as the little light from the sun slipped away.

An hour or so later, looking out into the darkness, I could see a shape, it looked so near, getting brighter and brighter, for a brief moment I thought, “surely that can’t be a ship” until my brain went into gear and I realised it was the moon rising on the horizon!

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I find it hard to find the words to describe its beauty, certainly my camera struggled to capture it, but I sat mesmorised as I watched it gradually rise, looking less like a ship burning on the horizon.

I was then surprised to see a bird circling around the boat, possibly a sea eagle, it didnt have the angular shape of the Frigates we had seen earlier, it passed by the boat, then came back round again, and around, in ever decreasing circles, I thought it was going to land on the boat and we were going to have an extra passenger.

I remembered my time sailing around the coast of Scotland, when a skewer did exactly the same thing. One of the other trainees onboard was a wonderful guy named John Varty, the Reverend John Varty no less.

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At the age of 66 he took on this trip to gain his skippers licence and circumnavigate Britain. He was a great companion on that trip, and writing this has reminded me how remiss I am not to have contacted him in so long, (an email coming your way shortly Reverend!). John is a keen ornithologist, something I know very little about, and any bird I saw I used to ask John to identify and tell me about it. I could really do with him now. What large bird would be out at sea in the dark and would complete circles of the boat, gradually making the circles closer and closer? I’m not giving you much information to go on here for identification John, no photos and no description, except it was large and didnt seem to have the frigate shape to its wings.

Anyway, my watch passed by quickly, and in what seemed no time at all, Daryl emerged from his cabin in a sleepy haze. My handover consisted of “The moon rose….oh, and I saw a bird!”

Thursday 11th September 9pm-Midnight – Rest Time

It was now 9pm on our first night, to my cabin for some sleep (and to update my blog!).
Sleep during this rest time = 2 hours
Total Sleep in 24 hours = 5 hours 45minutes

Friday 12th September Midnight – 3am – On Watch

Midnight soon came and another watch, Daryl had even less to hand over as he slipped away sleepily to take his rest in the cabin.

The sea was lit by the beautiful moon,

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there was barely a breath of wind as there had been for the entire journey so far, our folded sails untouched, the motors were purring beautifully away. The downside of little wind is no sailing, but having to motor, the upside is the sea state is usually very calm with a very gentle movement through the water.

I sat gazing out at the moonlit sea with nothing but my thoughts as 3 hours slipped effortlessly by. Just before Daryl emerged at 3am, we had now been on the move for 24 hours, and covered 118 miles, thats an average of 4.9nm/hour, not bad considering we had stopped to spend over 2 hours swimming with whales and rescuing turtles earlier in the day. We felt very chilled about this progress, and knew we could relax and take time to rescue any wildlife in need of our services along the way!

Friday 12th September 3am-6am – Rest Time

Just 24 hours into my journey to Darwin from Kupang, and already I have written more than three and a half thousand words, how can one day on the water provide me with such material to write about?

Back to my cabin for more sleep! I drifted off to sleep about 3.30am, into a deep and blissful sleep, woken only at 5.40 to sunlight streaming through my cabin window as the sun rose very quickly in the sky

My cabin is in the starboard stern (right side at the back), and as we were traveling in an Easterly direction, I was a little surprised to have such a good view of the sunrise, why was it rising in the South this morning? Of course nature hadn’t got it wrong, it was Daryl who had become excited by the prospect of some “sailable” breeze and turned the boat into the wind to raise the sails. I emerged sleepily as Daryl uttered “sorry, did I wake you” I’m not sure how anyone could sleep on a yacht when the sails are being raised, particularly when we were on a port tack and the Genoa had to be pulled on the winch directly above my head. Never mind, I really didn’t mind being woken ahead of my watch, Daryl unable to wait just another 20 mins for me to rise to get the sails up when we had been motoring for nearly 27 hours. It was a sight for sore eyes to see wind in the sails, the motors finally given time to rest, at least for the time being.

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Sleep during this rest time = 2 hours 10 minutes

Friday 12th September 6am-9am – On Watch

A very satisfying feeling moving across the sea with wind in the sails, it was short lived unfortunately, and would continue to tantalise me by building, then dropping, trying to resist reaching for the ignition to fire the engines back into life, it would then build again. Hey, it doesn’t matter, we have time up our sleeve, who cares if the boat is moving at 2mph, its just like walking to Australia!

Never matter, my watch is coming to an end and I can have a lovely peaceful rest in my cabin in these lovely still waters….that was….until….whats that, a pod of bottlenose dolphins heading towards us from behind. With no further thought, I shouted Daryl to come see.

I grabbed my snorkel gear, stripped down to my underwear and jumped into the water to go swim with my friends. How lovely to swim with Dolphins. Ive never done the typical touristy thing –

“sit in a pool with a tame dolphin who adorns the walls of thousands of family homes around the world, have a photo taken stroking its snout, and pay my extortionate fee”

A lovely thing to do I admit, but here I was in an ocean with my very own pod to play with. They do look so playful in the water, sliding along, passing over one another, rising to the surface, breaking through and diving once more. I was captivated. No photos I’m afraid this time, I was far too busy just enjoying the moment, the image is in an album in my memory.

Friday 12th September 9am-Noon – Rest Time

Time now to rest and await my next watch, my mask, fins and snorkel are at the ready, and I am already wearing my bikini to save Daryl’s embarrassment if I find the need to jump right in again….fingers crossed!
Sleep during this rest time = 2 hours 30 minutes

Friday 12th September Noon-3pm – On Watch

I had a lovely restful sleep, dreams of swimming with Dolphins (well, I didnt, but it sounds good doesnt it), and at midday, I took over my watch once more. Daryl had been taking a look at the electronic charts he is using. Its a system called “Open-CPN”, apparently something other sailors can tap into and update. So much of the oceans are still unchartered, everyone does their best to share information.

Daryl had seen a 5.5m deep reef on the chart, measuring about 1 mile across. He thought it a good idea for us to take a 3 mile detour there and see if we can scuba dive. We are always looking for potential diving spots, and we tell ourselves that we might just be the only people to dive on that particular spot, well, its true, we just might! As we were not pushed for time, I agreed it sounded like a good idea. This was to be disappointment number one.

Searching for the reef!

Searching for the reef!

We cruised around the whole area, and this was our depth….

oh spooky, I can just see my frown reflected in the depth sounder!

oh spooky, I can just see my frown reflected in the depth sounder!

I think some joker must have added this imaginary reef to the charts on April 1st, whoever you are, I’m loving your sense of humour!

This afternoon was becoming much less exciting than yesterday, ready for disappointment number two which occurred just as we were leaving our “phantom” reef. Remember I said you get attuned to the sounds on the boat, both Daryl and I raised our heads when one of the motors made a completely different sound. Immediately shutting the motor down, he went to inspect. It was either going to be a broken impeller, a plastic bag sucked up into the motor, but no, the belt for the raw water pump had completely snapped in half rendering the starboard engine unusable.

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I call Daryl “Mr Fix It”, with a large workshop area on his boat and several cupboards stuffed full of tools and “spares”.

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Daryl deep in his man cave checking out his spares!

Unfortunately, no spares of this particular belt. An advantage of a multi-hull is the fact you have two engines, lucky, now we still have one to take us there and if that should fail, well, we always have sails, just might not make it to Darwin on Monday morning on this particular week with the wind we have forecast.

Friday 12th September 3pm-6pm – Rest Time

An altogether disappointing afternoon, I retreated to my cabin to rest up, a little later than normal due to the mishap. When there are clouds around, I usually try to look for the silver lining – the cloud was one engine was out of use, the silver lining was the fact its  located right under my bed, so my cabin was going to be a far quieter place with no engine noise inches away from my body!

At just gone 4pm, I drifted into a delicious sleep…..but just one hour later, I was woken by Daryl shouting and hammering on the hull to wake me. It sounded urgent, I raced out of the cabin, grabbing at some clothes as I went, wondering what the emergency was, hoping he had seem a whole family of humpback whales…. only to find he just wanted to get the main sail up. I tried to bite my tongue, but felt really grumpy for being woken so urgently for something he had obviously been contemplating doing for at least the last half hour. I tried to explain, it wasn’t the fact that I had been woken which I resented, its expected we will be woken if the other needs assistance, but it was being woken in a way which made me race out of my cabin, at breakneck speed whilst still half asleep that was irksome. Daryl just smiled and ignored his grumpy crew!
Sleep during this rest time = 1 hour

Friday 12th September 6pm-9pm – On Watch

Again, looking for silver linings, I was at least up in time to see yet another stunning sunset

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and at 5.30, I suggested to Daryl who was looking weary, that he go rest and I would start my watch early. Needing no persuasion, he muttered he would come back early, I dismissed that notion and told him to just return at 9, and enjoy an extra half hour, that it was best for us to keep with the same watch times. Anyway, do you know the phrase “when you give someone an inch, they take a mile”, well, here is an example.

Friday 12th September 9pm-Midnight – Rest Time

The moon had just risen, in its 18th day now and waning, but still looking magnificent as it emerged over the horizon. As 9pm approached, I felt ready for some rest after 3 and a half hours gazing out across the water, the minutes ticked away, no Daryl. Knowing how tired he was, I didnt go to remind him of the time, then 9.30 came, still no sign of my skipper. My brain started to work overtime, and gradually, into hyperdrive and I started to imagine the very worse.

Your mind can play tricks on you when you are very tired, and I certainly felt very tired. “What if he couldn’t wake up?” ”What if I went in there and he was out cold?” “What would I do?” I really don’t want to run through the scenarios I was working through in my head, I knew I was just being silly, but when you are tired, you can get a bit irrational. I was relieved at 10:05, a sheepish Skipper emerged with the words “You didnt wake me”. Well, of course it was my fault he is over an hour late for his watch,  silly me.

As I headed to my cabin, he muttered the kind words “You can take an extra hour if you want, come back at 1am” Where was the extra hour I asked as I stumbled into bed.

I didnt think it harsh to  imprison my skipper in a locker for being late for his watch!

I didnt think it harsh to imprison my skipper in a locker for being late for his watch!

Sleep during this rest time = 2 hours
Total Sleep in 24 hours = 7 hours 40 minutes (result!!)

Saturday 13th September Midnight – 3am – On Watch

1am soon came, a fitful sleep dreaming of sleeping in past the alarm and missing my watch…as if I would ever do such a thing! Daryl sounded chirpy as I relieved him from his watch, he informed me he would return at 3am, I didnt argue! Such a peaceful night, a light breeze, just one motor running, and a totally flat sea. I could hear fish jumping from time to time, save that, nothing to report when Daryl did return at exactly 3am. I struggled to stay awake during this watch, I felt tired through to the core.

I know reading this it seems as all I do is rest, but the sleep is split between 4 sessions around the clock, and that is usually fitful.

Saturday 13th September 3am-6am – Rest Time

So much for fitful sleep, I slept like a log, I so needed that!
Sleep during this rest time =2hours 30 minutes

Saturday 13th September 6am-9am – On Watch

I awoke ahead of my alarm, in fact, I have woken ahead of every single alarm so far, I have either woken naturally, or woken by Daryl as Ive mentioned!

You see, we have to set alarms, and not rely on the other to wake us, as Daryl explained, what if something happened to them while you have been asleep, and they fell over the side, and you carry on snoozing for the full 8 hours! Imagine eventually waking up and not knowing where your shipmate is! So, if for some reason Daryl fell overboard, and it happened an half hour into his watch, that means I can turn the boat 180 degrees and sail for 2 and a half hours and I should find him, that is unless he has been eaten by a shark, or bashed by big waves and current and taken off course! Its these little thoughts which creep into your mind when you have so much thinking time. I think if I anyone fell into the inky black waters during their night watch, its pretty much curtains for them, unless they were wearing a life jacket and, even in these warm tropical waters, an exposure suit, as it would be a long time before we would be found. The golden rule therefore, is to remain in the cockpit at all times, even in calm waters, and only go on deck wearing a lifejacket, or certainly, only if the other person was around.

A beautiful quiet, calm day. I was feeling very peaceful, started off with the sails up, but as the sea got more and more glassy and the wind dropped to <1knot, it was time for the engine to be fired up and time to catch up on some writing.

Daryl had a short rest, but obviously couldn’t sleep and emerged at 8 to begin some maintenance work on the boat. There is always something to do on a boat, the list just keeps growing. I reported last night to him that the bulb had blown on the bow navigation light, that was an easy job, now for some polishing of the stainless steel and a chance to check out the spare parts in stock on the boat

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Polishing the stainless is like painting the Forth Bridge…..as soon as you think you have finished, where you started needs doing again!

A Wardrobe door needs fixing!

A Wardrobe door needs fixing!

As for me, well, I’m on watch, I couldn’t possibly multi-task

How could an"Anchor Wench" leave so much mud on the chain?

How could an”Anchor Wench” leave so much mud on the chain?

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As the end of my watch drew near, the water was so calm, like glass, I gazed across and thought how lovely it would be to get a dolphin sighting right now.

My blogging office and the glassy ocean beyond!

My blogging office and the glassy ocean beyond!

I was not to be disappointed! I spied a small pod of dolphins and wasted no time to alert Daryl, get my snorkel gear on and jump straight into the water. I had seen the dolphins in the water, albeit briefly, but these animals didnt hang around to play with me today. Daryl followed with the dinghy and picked me up out of the water. And I plopped into the water once again. We looked around until we could see them surface once more, and raced up to them Daryl raced around in the dinghy, trying to steer them towards my waiting camera. A mother and her young headed towards me, swam right past, turned and sped off in the other direction.

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I suddenly felt very guilty, as I came to the realisation these animals were not playing today and may well feel hunted by us. I called to Daryl to come back to me, and told him what I thought, that this was so against our philosophy of the ocean. He said he had felt the same way at the same time, and we decided it was time to leave the dolphins to their ocean.

It just wasnt the right time. Not only did the dolphins not want to play, but l had seem some stingers I didnt like the look of. The last thing I needed was an injury so remotely situated.

Saturday 13th September 9am-Noon – Rest Time

We spent about an hour with the dolphins, got back to the boat, and I headed for my computer to take a look at the photos whilst Daryl gave his bottom a scrub (his boat silly).

Out of the blue a small plane emerged, came up very close, then scooted off quickly. Grabbing for my camera, I was too late to photograph it! We reached for the VHS, sure enough, it was Australian customs checking us out. They had read the boat name and called us on the radio. They must have had a fantastic VHF as we picked them up as clear as crystal, with no sight of them in the air. They wanted to confirm our destination was Darwin, and confirm our port of departure, how many people on board and if we had any animals.

What a job! Spending the day in the plane, watching out for vessels. Australia are already aware of our planned arrival. Daryl has emailed them all many details, including ships papers, copies of our passports, but it is good to see that Australian waters are being watched. I guess there are so many vessels trying to enter the country illegally, its a constant nightmare for the country, many take such risks to get there

Australian navy personnel rescue asylum-seekers from a sinking boat off Christmas Island in October 2001

Australian navy personnel rescue asylum-seekers from a sinking boat off Christmas Island in October 2001

This must mean we are now in Australian waters, with 200 miles to go to Darwin.
Sleep during this rest time =1 hour 15 minutes

Saturday 13th September Noon-3pm – On Watch

As I lay on the trampoline, the sails up, gently moving across the sea towards Australia, I thought what a tough life being on watch is, the responsibility of it all, its very arduous indeed!

Its A Hard Life!

Its A Hard Life!

My skin has turned very brown as I have been on the boat, I don’t really spend much time sun bathing as such, but as I pretty much wear a bikini most of the time, and being in the tropics on the water, my skin has turned golden brown. Life is good!

Saturday 13th September 3pm-6pm – Rest Time

It is lovely having the sails up, and I felt wide awake. When you have to have the motors running, they seem to drain  the energy from you.  Now with the sails up, I really didnt feel the need to take any sleep in the same way. I sat and chatted with Daryl for a while, then decided I really ought to be sensible and catch up on some sleep to ensure I keep fresh overnight. I had a lovely doze, and emerged at just before 5 in time to sit with a cuppa and watch the sun set. (Do you really want another sunset photo here?)

I really didnt feel I should let Daryl go on his break early, look how he repaid that favour last night! Instead, I went to give my cabin a little tidy, and I needed to get some clothes on, having worn my bikini all day. I decided to tidy my hair up a little. I thought of some of my dear friends, Lisa Little in particular at this moment. I have been jumping in and out of the sea over the last couple of days, only allowing myself a little quick rinse off with some fresh water when I get out, so much so that when I came to remove my hairgrip, I found it had gone rusty where it had been placed a couple of days ago! Wouldn’t you just love that Lisa! I really do let myself go a bit when I’m on the boat

Looking fabulous!

Looking fabulous!

We are going to be in Darwin in a couple of days, and, customs allowing, we will be able to replenish our water supplies. With this in mind, I took a lovely shower and gave myself what Daryl would call “a fussing”
Sleep during this rest time = 1 hour 15 minutes

Saturday 13th September 6pm-9pm – On Watch

I’m now sat at the helm, feeling all fresh and clean from my lovely shower, no rusty clips in my hair, and I’m even wearing a spray of perfume! The sun has set, there is a gentle breeze blowing, less than 5 knots, but with a current with us, we are making 4.5knots. The motors have been off all day, it has been blissful. We are so glad we allowed ourselves plenty of time to get to Darwin so we didn’t feel under pressure and have to clock watch.

We are only 160 miles away from our destination, and to arrive there at a good time, we only need to sail an average of 4.4knots.

Its totally dark, not a bit of light pollution. As we are not under power, the only light we have to show is our tricolour (right at the very top of the mast), no other boats around, no moon and the nearest land ….miles away. Its a magical place, and I can hear the lapping of the sea around the hull, the slight hum as the wind generator ticks away converting some of the breeze into power for us, and I am sailing into a canopy of stars. It really is a very spiritual feeling.

Part of the preparation for a journey on a boat is to check the weather forecast, its as essential a feature as ensuring you have sufficient food and water on board. I use an app which gives me “Grib Files”, basically, maps of areas showing the wind speed and direction over a period of time. It was no surprise to me that the beautiful breeze we had been enjoying all day was soon to stop. As we were under no time pressure just yet, and the only working motor lay under the bed of my resting skipper, I decided to just dawdle along, albeit at a speed which barely made the boat steerable.

I warmed up one of the meals I had prepared ready for the journey, and at just before 8, Daryl appeared, unable to sleep.

Sails furled, engine on, he placed his hand on my shoulder and said “why don’t you go take that extra hour now”! Cheers Daryl. I felt wide awake having had a peaceful day, but the thought of a whole 4 hours rest was delicious!

Saturday 13th September 9pm-Midnight – Rest Time

Just before Daryl sent me to my cabin with a scrumptious extra hour to sleep we had been chatting about setting alarms to start our watches. He told me he wasnt sure why he missed his alarm last night, that perhaps he had set it to AM rather than PM (I did tell him I wasnt falling for that old chestnut!) I informed him I had always woken before every alarm and not once has it sounded. In truth, I have always woken several times before my alarm! Being the absolute angel that I am, I informed him I set 2 alarms.

So at 8pm, I settled into my cabin, felt very wide awake, spent about half an hour typing away, then decided I rely ought to be a good girl and make better use of my extra time to sleep. I set 2 alarms as usual and settled down to sleep.

Oh dear, oh dear, I now have egg on my face!

I was in shock when a knock came to my hull at 00:57, and it took several seconds for me to compute that I was an hour late for my watch! I emerged very sheepishly, trying desperately not to blame him for not waking me earlier, asking Daryl if this now meant I had to walk the plank! He just looked at me, a knowing smile on his lips and said it really was no problem as I apologised for abandoning my post!

One of my alarms looks absolutely fine, I clearly just didnt hear it, the other, well, what can I say, it is set absolutely fine, at 11:57, am that is……that old chestnut itself! The shame of it!

In truth, I’m not at all sure what time I would have eventually woken unless he had stirred me, I was so very sound asleep, the best I have slept in a long time!
Sleep during this rest time = 4 hours 30 minutes
Total Sleep in 24 hours (9 hours 30 minutes – result!!)

Sunday 14th September Midnight – 3am

Wow – I slept nearly 10 hours in the last 4 hour period, something I struggle to do unless recovering from an overindulgence of my favourite red! I must have been more weary than I realised, or just feeling far too relaxed. Either way, lesson learned on the “holier than though” stakes! I wonder what punishment Daryl will be concocting, surely he can’t just let me get away with it as easily as I have!

So how was it that I felt more tired than normal? I feel totally spaced out. How was it that I didnt stir, not even once during my sleep. I do think the body clock has alot to answer for, I was getting used to a set time, and having been given an extra hour had clearly upset this clock. So, it turns out I’m not perfect after all!

So much thinking time on a boat. I became very thoughtful, thinking about reaching Australia. I’m starting to feel emotional about returning to there. I left these shores in 2012 to follow my heart back to the UK, it didnt work out and I’m returning as I always said I would, even sailing back. I have had so much time to think in the 10 weeks I have been on Cool Bananas. I have shed many tears, but gradually my heart has been healing. Now I’m close to Australia, the wound is somehow opening up a little, and Ive been reminded of all the hope I held when I left these shores.

Sunday 14th September 3am-6am – Rest Time

Time to go to my cabin to give my dull halo a polish. Just 2 hours available to rest as my penance for being a naughty girl earlier! You never sleep as well when you know you have limited time, and sleep came to me very slowly, but when it did, it needed the alarm to raise me, this time, I had set my own correctly and didnt rely on Daryl to hammer on the hull! Sooooo sleepy!

Sleep during this rest time = 1 hour 10 minutes

Sunday 14th September 6am-9am – On Watch

Just 108 miles into Darwin, we are well on schedule. No wind again, it has crescendoed to 4 knots at one point, quickly lapsing back into the doldrums, all night the same, but our trusty engine has coped with the work all by itself..

Beautiful morning and I was feeling very relaxed. Sitting at the helm with just my thoughts to keep me company when suddenly I heard a loud noise and an aircraft wizzed in from behind, swooped down, then directly up and away. Yep, it was the trusty coastguard plane again. I reached for the VHF which soon burst into life with a call requesting our intentions yet again.

This time, I managed to get a quick sneaky photo!

 

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Sunday 14th September 9am-Noon – Rest Time

What little wind we had has dropped right down, barely a whisper of a breeze. The sea has a glassy haze

At 11.30, call from Daryl – “do you want to get up to see a shark basking in the sun?” What do you think?

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What could it be???

Can you see what it is yet?

Can you see what it is yet?

I shot up and was delighted to find that a scalloped hammerhead shark was enjoying the calm waters and was basking in the sunshine!

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imageimageWhat an absololute treat! I have been fortunate to dive with these wonderful beasts, have hung out in the blue waiting for a glimpse – this one just lay there for us to admire!

Sleep during this rest time = 40 minutes

Sunday 14th September Noon-3pm – On Watch

As I prepared lunch, Daryl said he would sit at the helm for me, I told him to keep a watch for something, I asked for a whale shark. Well Daryl, you truly disappointed me, you only found me …….

My absolute favourite - Manta!

My absolute favourite – Manta!

What a treat we were having on this journey, we had seen many dolphins, pilot whales, a hammerhead shark and now a manta. On top of this we saw many sea snakes too.

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We hadnt expected such a show of wildlife on our journey. Beautiful crystal clear waters, we are really enjoying this trip!

Sunday 14th September 3pm-6pm – Rest Time

So very hot today, 34oC, I had expected it to get cooler the further away we got from the equator, and indeed it had as we traveled trough Indonesia, but the closer we now get to Australia, the hotter it seems, and the water is much warmer.  Its as if Australia is radiating its heat to us out here!

I suggested to Daryl that we turn the engine off, we are ahead of schedule still, and at this rate we would get into Darwin in the early hours, whilst it was still dark. Why don’t we turn the engine off, put the sun covers up over the tramp and both of us rest for a while. Super idea!

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Making a shady area to relax. Look at that glassy sea!

When we are on the move in the boat, we do not drink any alcohol, you have to have a sober brain if you really need it. In fact, apart from our “Sundowners” we drink very little really. However, the boat had now stopped, we were taking a break, so I led Daryl into wicked ways and suggested we share a bottle of Bintang – yum! Just the thing in this heat.

This is a bottle left over from the contribution a lovely couple made who visited us  – Catherine and Paul.  We met them when we visited the Orangutans in Borneo. They came to visit us on the boat when we were in Bali, and again in Gili Air – I think we spent at least 6 evenings with them – we really “bombed” their honeymoon
So Catherine and Paul, thanks for the Bintang! It was delicious!

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Cheers to you Catherine and Paul!

What a stunning sunset, it seemed the whole sea turned a mixture of red and pink, a delight to watch.

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Sleep during this rest time = 40minutes

Sunday 14th September 6pm-9pm – On Watch

As the sun set we could feel the temperature drop, a blessed relief, it has been a hot one today. Almost as soon as the sun had set, you could see the wind before it was felt. The sea state changed in an instant! Daryl headed to bed just after we set the sails, the wind unusually for this trip coming from behind. The wind went from less than 0.5knots to 12 in no time at all. We were well ahead of time, in no hurray at all but the elements just seemed to bring us closer and closer to Australia.

A half hour before the end of my watch, a ship was coming our way, he didnt seem to want to change course, and I knew we would need to gybe to avoid him. As this is only the second time we have had the wind behind us on the whole of this journey, and that was with a spinnaker, I really didnt want to run the risk of getting it wrong. I reluctantly woke Daryl. Although dog tired, he was good natured about it. I tried to make it up to him by sorting dinner for us both.

I have been sorting the food and meals for us, and had planned the last few meals for our journey. I didnt think I would want to be cooking during this passage, so I had prepared meals which just needed to be heated up each evening

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I had been eeking out the food, as I knew once we landed at Darwin, part of the landing procedure would be a visit from quarantine.

I remember when Francesca and I arrived in Australia for the first time in 2011, we were like excited schoolgirls and scoffed at the security video shown as the plan was close to landing. This film showed a couple entering Australia, she had an apple in her bag, and they were led off like heroin smugglers! I soon had the smile wiped off my face when the sniffer dog picked me out of the line of arrivals, and I was made to stand in a cordoned area like the naughty schoolgirl I really was.

With this in mind, I have been planning the food supplied to last just until we arrive in Darwin, as I fee sure quarantine officials will certainly arrest any stray carrots we have left aboard!

Sunday 14th September 9pm-Midnight – Rest Time

I was so ready for a sleep. I remember the same feeling as a new mother.
Sleep during this rest time = 2 hours 40minutes
Total Sleep in 24 hours (5 hours 10 minutes)

Monday 15th September Midnight – 3am – On Watch

My last night watch for this part of the adventure. As Daryl headed to bed, dog tired, he said he could just see the start of the light of a ship ahead, he said there were 2 boats, but one had just gone. These boats were to occupy my mind for my entire watch!

The ship just got brighter and brighter, I assumed it was just getting closer, and tried to guess its direction as a collision really would spoil a lovely trip! Soon several other ships came into view, and I altered course to try to avoid them, then their lights changed and they changed course, I changed again – it felt like a game of cat and mouse.

What my inexperience didnt tell me was I was reacting too far ahead, as these boats were still miles away, but their lights were so very bright as they were 3 tug boats working with a very large ship loaded with machinery and cranes. As I got closer, I could see why I was confused earlier. The ship which I thought was coming towards me was just so large and illuminated.

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We do have a system on the boat for being able to look at the presence of shops in the water (AIS), but it didnt register until I was getting pretty close, you can see their track and perhaps understand my confusion?

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All collisions avoided, Daryl took over shift and could see the parade of lights left in our wake!

Monday 15th September 3am-6am – Rest Time

I went to bed wearily, but knew we were only 24 miles from Darwin. I slept for just over an hour and a half, and peered through my window to see the sun was just rising, and we were close to land

No more watches, it was now team work to get us safely into port, await customs, immigration and quarantine and settle the boat either to a marina or to anchor.

Displaying the "Q" (yellow) flag, awaiting quarantine inspection to enter the country

Displaying the “Q” (yellow) flag, awaiting quarantine inspection to enter the country

A change to the clocks were needed – by 90 minutes. Customs and Immigration arrived on the boat – 3 women to check all our details. They decided not to search the boat – Daryl and I don’t particularly look risky characters!

No Goods To Declare!

No Goods To Declare!

We then waited for what seemed like an age for the quarantine official to arrive. He was such a character. He seemed more interested in telling us all his stories than he did checking the boat. I handed him the leftover food we had, and he took away the few bits and pieces we had and said we were a “quarantine inspection dream” – I bit back the comment – “I bet you say that to all the girls!”

We hosed down the boat, filled the water tanks and headed our to the bay to anchor up and have a well earned snooze ready to start our Australian Adventure!

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My Love Affair With Indonesia

My love for this wonderful country has deepened as I have explored many of its islands and met many of its people.

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I’m now preparing to leave Indonesia and sail to Australia, we set out at 3am to begin our 455 nautical mile journey to Australia, it will take us 4 full days, wind and current dependent, each working 3 hour shifts (yawn!)

Our journey to Darwin, Australia.

Our journey to Darwin, Australia.

But before I leave this magical country, I would like to reflect on the place and its hospitable people. I have had so many wonderful experiences here, so its difficult to know where to start, I have so much to say (as usual!)

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Looking a little damp! Well, I had been rafting! (please look at the view behind me, not my stunning figure!)

Indonesia is an enormous country, it is a vast equatorial archipelago of 17,508 islands (only 6000 of these are inhabited) extending 5,150 kilometers (3,200 miles) east to west, between the Indian and Pacific Oceans in Southeast Asia. I really had no idea before I visited how large this place was. I have spent nearly 6 months here, but feel that I’m just scratching the surface of what Indonesia has to offer.

The country extends from Northern Sumatra in the West right across to the east at West Papua Guinea. It would take you over 12 hours to fly from one side to the other. It crosses the equator, and spans 3 time zones.

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I have travelled from North Malaysia, through the Mallaca Strait along the side of Sumatra, crossed the equator, been right along the north and east coast of Java, up to Borneo (I did cheat and fly there – another blog coming on that one – that was so amazing!), along to Bali, Gili Isles, Lombok, Komodo, Flores, Adonara, and now Timor. There are so many more places I want to visit, islands of the Banda islands, Sulawesi, New Guinea, I will need to return!

Indonesia has a massive population of over 238 million people, making it the fourth most populous country in the world, just behind China, India and the USA. The population are clustered amongst the different islands which are almost like mini countries in their own right, 60% of its population live on Java (130 million people), this is the most populous island in the world!

It is very ethnically diverse, with over 580 languages and dialects spoken. 86% of the population are Muslim, the largest Islamic country, with 12.7% of the Muslim population of the world living there. It seems like wherever we decided to anchor, even where we felt we were remote, we had a high chance of being woken by the call to prayer at 4-5am!

The beautiful island of Bali where I spent 3 months of my time training as a dive instructor, is mainly Hindu. Balinese Hinduism is rich with ancient superstitions. One that endures to this day is not letting a baby’s feet touch the ground for the first six months of the infant’s life. It’s done to prevent the devil entering the child and as a result, infants are continuously passed from relative to relative, or held in slings suspended from stands (or trees!).

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A beautiful photograph outrageously stolen from my daughter Francesca!

I found it fascinating to discover that in Bali many people have their teeth filed down. The practice is rooted in the belief that the six vices – anger, confusion, jealousy, drunkenness, desire, and greed – all enter the body through the top six teeth. By filing away the demonic ends, the vices are easily thwarted (perhaps I had better visit my dentist to mend my ways!). There is a ceremony for this in Bali during the months of July and August.

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Indonesia is very rich in natural resources – its oil reserves alone make it the only South East Asian member of NATO and it is the world’s largest producer of palm oil. But despite being one of the G20 group of leading economies, roughly half of Indonesia’s population lives on less than $2 USD a day, I find this quite staggering.

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I have seen such poor people as I have travelled, and I was keen to visit a local village. If you have read my blog about the “Dragons” you will have met our guide “Vidhel Castro”, he told us about his family and his village and encouraged us to visit! Here was my chance!

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It was interesting to visit their village and see their way of life. I was quite nervous of this at first, its one thing visiting a tourist place, where the locals want you to come, eat in their restaurants, buy their souvenirs to take home, stay in their hotels, its set up just for us. But to land a boat into a small fishing village is quite another thing.

I was staggered by the welcome Daryl and I received as we entered their village, tip toeing our way in, I held my camera shyly at my side, feeling it was too imposing to use (not realising Daryl was clicking away behind me – thanks for some of these photos Daryl!)

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I became braver as the warmth from these wonderful people spread through to me, the children gave me their biggest smiles as I held the camera towards them, their positivity and zest for life was infectious.

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It wasnt long before I was waved over by a woman who wanted me to join her and her family underneath her home, a crowd soon gathered….

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An 18 year old boy served as our guide, his English was pretty good, he works as a guide to show the people the Komodos on the island of Rindja!

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He knew our guide Vidhel and took us to his home to meet his family, they welcomed us like old friends

Being introduced to Vidhel's wife, our "guide" told her we had met him and he told us to come and say hi!

Being introduced to Vidhel’s wife, our “guide” told her we had met him and he told us to come and say hi!

The family of "Vidhel Castro", Daryl and I look like giants next to his lovely wife!

The family of “Vidhel Castro”, Daryl and I look like giants next to his lovely wife!

Vidhel’s wife invited us into her home

So very basic, but such a lovely atmosphere. You can see through to the ground in the gaps (some very large) between the floorboards) So very little in this one big room, yet so full of love!

So very basic, but such a lovely atmosphere. You can see through to the ground in the gaps (some very large) between the floorboards) So very little in this one big room, yet so full of love!

So interesting to see the way of live for these lovely people,a real community all brought together in a supportive way, like one big family. Amazing to see them living side by side with their livestock,

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Their homes were so very basic, many looked like they could be brought down by little more than a breath of wind,

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chickens, ducks, goats wandered around, fish drying in the sun,

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The Indonesian people are very warm and welcoming, but as we journeyed out of the tourist belt, we were greeted by the warmest of smiles, children seemed very excited to come and see us. The children seemed fascinated by our colour, our shapes, and I guess, our sheer size (sorry Daryl!) Some just wanted to touch us to see what our skin felt like!

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These boys been sent to the sea to have their bath and hair washed!

These boys been sent to the sea to have their bath and hair washed!

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These two boys rowed over to us in their little wooden boat, one was 12 (looked about 8), his brother was 7 (looked about 5) Young looking, with an ability to fish - they seemed pleased when we purchased their catch for our dinner!

These two boys rowed over to us in their little wooden boat, one was 12 (looked about 8), his brother was 7 (looked about 5) Young looking, with an ability to fish – they seemed pleased when we purchased their catch for our dinner!

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People are so very upfront and not afraid to tell you what they think of you. As we took a taxi one day in Bali, the taxi driver reached across and rubbed Daryl’s belly and told him he has had too many Bintang’s! Daryl politely informed him that if a Kiwi taxi driver did this in New Zealand, he would get a smack in the mouth!

As a midwife, Im always fascinated when I travel by the local health care, but I am glad to say Im a very healthy person and have had little need to access the local service. I did spot a local optician service however, and was amazed at the screening facility there

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They sorted me out with some new glasses (these are for real and not drawn on!)

How sexy are these!

How sexy are these!

I have had to arrange a consultation with a local GP for an ear problem that was making diving uncomfortable. I telephoned a number given to me and arranged to meet him in a cafe. We sat there at a table, and in 5 minutes he had taken a brief history of my ear problem, examined me, (I was relieved it was just my ear and not a gynaecological problem I had called him with!), made his diagnosis, written a prescription and dispensed the medication there and then at a cost of 850,000Rp (around £45) I really am in the wrong job!

I have never felt unsafe here in Indonesia, no matter how poor the people, they have always been warm, friendly and usually pleased to see us. They must think us millionnaires in this big white fiberclass boat.

Daryl's boat sometimes looks so incongruous

Daryl’s boat sometimes looks so incongruous

We are usually asked how many of us are aboard (and our standard answer is always 4…just in case!), we think about security, they are wondering how many families it could house – 2 people on one big boat, surely not!

The further east we have travelled, the poorer the people seem, yet they are much less shy at coming to greet us.

Here are a couple of guys who came to visit us –

This guy just stood there watching us!

This guy just stood there watching us!

This guy however, had a bag of tomatoes he wanted to sell to us!

This guy however, had a bag of tomatoes he wanted to sell to us!

There was only one occasion, when a boat headed to us with 22 men on board that I felt very uncomfortable. I shouted to Daryl that I wasnt happy, I closed all the hatches, closed the door, key in hand ready to lock, turned the VHF on, got my phone ready and armed myself with my can of “OFF” (a nasty insect repellent) to squirt in their eyes. They were only curious about us and wanted to get a closer look. Once they had taken a look, they waved to us and moved on. I was left feeling rather silly!

I only became brave enough to photograph them when I was certain they were leaving!

I only became brave enough to photograph them when I was certain they were leaving!

Indonesia is a most geographically and geologically interesting country. The islands of Indonesia are stretched out between the Australian and Pacific tectonic plate, making Indonesia one of the most changing geological areas in the world. It is situated on the Pacific Ring of Fire and is home to around 150 volcanoes. Every day, the country experiences three vibrations and at least one earthquake.

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They’re mostly not a threat and make great tourist attractions – but the country does experience around one volcanic eruption per year. Occasionally, the eruption is catastrophic – the Mount Tambora eruption of 1815 on the island of Sumbawa was and still is the largest observed volcanic eruption in recorded history.

We anchored off an island called Adonara, with breathtaking views, we could see five volcanoes at one point. Majestic mountains rising up from sea level, creating some interesting winds for us as we sailed by. We could see active volcanoes too, like the one just off Sumbawa, as we turned the corner south eastwards to head to Komodo, with smoke billowing out of the top. There was a volcano erupted on Java on valentines day this year and created a news headline for the BBC!

Indonesia was a regional superpower before it was colonized by the Dutch. Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, was known as “Batavia” during the Dutch colonial period. Having discovered this fact, I understood why the marina we stayed in at old Jakarta was so named. An old colonial style marina building, huge and elegant (with fabulous food I would like to add!)

Batavia Marina (9)

Jakarta is now known as a major global city, but it still has no high-speed railway system. Its population of over 10 million people rely on private cars and busways to traffic around the city – resulting in some of the worst traffic jams ever. I experienced this for myself as I had to direct a taxi driver through the streets to take me from a mall back to the boat – thank god for ipad!

I thought you might like the look of this hotel I spotted on Timor..

Imagine your face when your tour rep drops you off at you hotel.....

Imagine your face when your tour rep drops you off at you hotel…..

Then you see the view from the room (from the bed!)

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We have of course spent many hours in the water scuba diving, but we have been blessed with sightings of sea creatures as we have sailed. We have seen mantas, numerous pods of dolphins, stingrays jumping out of the water and many turtles.

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Some of Daryl’s stunning photos of Doplhins

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On land we have seen orangutans, komodos, deer, wild pigs, varied bird life like eagles, sulphur crested cockatoos, hornbills and kingfisher, various types of monkey like proboscis and macaques.

Komodo Island (234)

A wild buffalo in the distance

A wild buffalo in the distance

Komodo Island (236)

I have witnessed some amazing sunsets, and equally stunning sunrises, but the sunsets seem more special as Daryl and I enjoy our daily “sundowners”

LBJ (6)

I really dont think you can have enough photos of sunrises or sunsets, and I just cant help myself. Sorry for the endless posts on Facebook!

I have so many other aspects I want to tell you about. I want to tell you about the orangatans we visited in Borneo, loads more to say about diving, loads to say about the food we have tried, the shopping, the different fishing craft and the fishing methods we have seen, the hazards we have met in the water….but I think maybe the cuppa you made to settle down and read this with is now finished, and I should leave all that to another day, I have so much “blog fodder” to work with!

So it is with a heavy heart that I say goodbye to this lovely country. We are ready to make our journey now to Darwin, we are checked out of Indonesia with customs and immigration, provisioned up, I have ready cooked meals in the freezer to just heat up, all local currency used up, but we are still toying with staying just another night……do we really have to leave? Yes, of course we do, onwards and upwards, we have a very exciting journey ahead of us.

I have the excitement of meeting with my eldest daughter Francesca in Darwin, along with meeting her beau, and fiancé, Mikey for the first time.

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Poor guy, he gets to meet his future mother in law for the first time, and then gets stuck with her on a boat for nearly 3 weeks, with no escape!

They are very excited about joining us for 2-3 weeks on the boat and sailing across the North East coast of Australia, little do they realise, we have some of the most challenging sailing of the whole journey ahead of us, and they will be there with us!

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With the wind straight at us, its going to be a challenging sail!

With the wind straight at us, its going to be a challenging sail!

So please, no one tell them!

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Blowing Bubbles With A Hookah

I had fun thinking up titles for this blog, but decided to keep it clean!

When Daryl was looking for someone to help crew his boat, one of his selection criteria was a love of scuba diving as he wanted a dive buddy as he travelled through Indonesia. I needed no convincing this was a good idea, what I did need was persuasion with was to ditch tanks and use a surface supplied air system with a 6HP motor at the surface keeping me ventilated via a hose as I explored the underwater world!

Welcome to the world of Hookahs!

My underwater ventilation system!

My underwater ventilation system!

Daryl reassured me that he has been using this method of scuba diving for nearly 10 years, and proudly mentioned that it had only ever failed on him on 3 occasions. Not feeling particularly happy with experiencing even one failure, I gave him a wry look and wanted to check it out for myself, but, being a dive professional, and well versed in the CESA (a “Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent -an emergency ascent method using just one breath of air), I felt I could carry those odds, after all, diving isnt without its risks is it and tank diving can bring its problems too.

Daryl has a “Brownie Third Lung” It is a motor which sits in an inflatable “donut”, you make sure there is petrol in the tank, turn it on (always a good idea), push it into the water and let the long hose uncoil at the surface.

Komodo Island (13)

The hose then forks into two individual hoses, with a regulator at each end. So, wearing only a weight belt, mask and fins, dive computer, and a smile, thats all we need to go diving, oh, not forgetting our cameras to capture the beautiful underwater world.

Komodo Island (49)

Watu Peni3 (22)

Komodo Island (80)

Getting the weighting is always important when you dive, but when you have your BCD, (buoyancy control device, a jacket connected to your air supply) it is more forgiving. With no BCD, you have to get it just right. It took me just 2 attempts to get my weighting just right, and now all I wear is a bikini and 5kg on my weight belt, and off I go.

Watu Peni (2)
Gillies (9)

Its a very liberating feeling, a bit like free diving without having to come to the surface to breath. “Peak performance buoyancy” is easy to practice, and I find that I can make tiny changes to my depth and movement with slight changes to my breathing and slight movement of my fins.

Komodo (42)

One aspect I like about tank diving is the peace you feel once you submerge, just the sound of each breath being taken. With a hookah it is different, as you can hear the noise of the motor sitting above you, and I found this a little distracting at first, but it has become less of an annoyance as it is a sound which reassures me my air is being delivered to me as I enjoy my dive.

Gillies (42)

It feels pretty much the same as tank diving, except you do feel a difference the deeper you dive. Ive not dived below 19.5 meters with it so far, have no real intention of doing so. I can feel a difference in the ease of breathing once I descend below 14 meters, certainly 16, and have to “ask” for the air a little more, that is an off putting feeling. Most of our dives average about 10-12 meters.

I feel like a proper Jillyfish!

I feel like a proper Jillyfish!

There are pros and cons of hookah compared to tank diving. Whilst traveling on a yacht, its so much easier. The kit stores away in a small locker, and is ready for use as soon as you want to dive, just throw it off the stern and away we go. Its great just wearing a weight belt, and jumping in, no encumbrance of jackets and tanks, just like going snorkelling.

Komodo Island (17)

You always know where your buddy is, you just look for the hose, they can’t go far. I do find though that when Daryl dives, he often wants to race off and move along, whilst I’m busy exploring bommies looking for the small critters, and I feel a tug on my weight belt as his hose is trying to tow me along. It does work both ways though, as its a method of communicating with one another too of course, when I spot something, I grab the hose and pull him towards me to come see the my latest find!

Sometimes the hose takes a little untangling (dont worry, its not as bad as it looks!)

Sometimes the hose takes a little untangling (dont worry, its not as bad as it looks!)

Before we jump in, we check the current, the wind, and, with a knowledge of the tides we try to make sure we stay safe. The last thing we need is to get caught in a current and find we can’t make our way back to the yacht. If we think this might be the case, we attach the donut to the dinghy, and tow both along with us as we drift, we always know where our boat is!

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It can mean that we are sometimes towed along by it, and have to fight with the hose and pull it with us if we want to remain in a certain area to continue taking photographs. I guess, thats no different to tank diving when you are in a drift.

As you do when you take your car on a journey, you have to make sure you put sufficient fuel in the tank to last until you get there, so it is with the hookah, we don’t want to run out in the middle of a dive.

The 7 P's!

The 7 P’s!

At the end of one dive, as I was removing my fins on the stern of the yacht, the hookah which was still out on the surface, coughed, spluttered and went to sleep, thats how close we were to running out of petrol. I try not to nag Daryl about it now!

Watu Peni4 (108)

I do try to relax and just enjoy diving

I always dive in sunnies!

I always dive in sunnies!

We are very careful with our diving. We have dived in some pretty remote places, and I have no idea where the nearest hypobaric chamber is, and we would have to get ourselves there first. You have to have a respect for the ocean, its currents, its tides, the creatures which can cause harm and the risk to your lungs if you don’t dive safely, and we certainly have this.

We cruise along in the yacht, and spot somewhere we think might be a lovely place to dive, and so long as we can anchor the yacht, we jump in and go exploring.

So interesting to be able to check the anchor. Such little current here, the anchor just sits on the sandy bottom

So interesting to be able to check the anchor. Such little current here, the anchor just sits on the sandy bottom

We have been to some amazing reefs, no idea if anyone has ever dived there before, we could be the first! With no local knowledge, it can be a bit of a lottery. I have tried to look up dive sites from some of the areas we have travelled, but it is tricky in areas where there is such little tourism. In touristy areas, we just watch to see where the dive boats park up and jump in when we fancy it

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Medang (15)

As we prepare to leave Indonesian waters, knowing we will be checked upon entering Australia, we gave the hull a little scrub, the hookah makes this far easier than constantly having to take breaths with a snorkel as you scrub. Daryl did want me to put on here “Daryl wanted me to go down on a hookah and scrub his bottom”, but I certainly couldn’t print that…..could I?

I worked my fingers to the bone cleaning those hulls!

I worked my fingers to the bone cleaning those hulls!

Oops, inspecting a bit of damage

Oops, inspecting a bit of damage

I have loved my diving in Indonesia (another blog to follow), and I’m loving diving on a hookah, it will feel strange to go back to tank diving after this

All kitted up to dive in a reservoir in the UK, such a difference!

All kitted up to dive in a reservoir in the UK, such a difference!

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The land of the Dragons

I have so enjoyed traveling around Indonesia and am quite taken by this beautiful place and the warmth of the people. Onwards from Bali and Lombok to a very special place – Komodo national Park.

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Rincha (14)

This is comprised of two main islands, Komodo and Rindja, both hilly, desolate and beautiful. Situated between Flores and Sumbawa, they are home to the legendary creatures – Komodo Dragons.

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David Attenborough visited this area in 1956 and wrote his book “Zoo Quest for a Dragon” as well as filming a documentary, he has been followed by many since and BBC film crew are regular visitors to this amazing place.

Komodo dragons are actually monitor lizards, with tapered heads, long powerful tails and an even more powerful jaw.

Rincha (212)

Komodo Island (207)

Most of the dragons we saw on Komodo and Rindja were very docile creatures, laying out in the sun to keep warm, this aids their digestion and preventing the food which sits in their stomachs for some considerable time from rotting. I was initially a little disappointed to see the first sitings of them on Komodo, we arrived in the afternoon, and they were splattered out on the ground, seeming unable to move.

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The best time of day to visit them is first thing in the morning, so its useful to be at the ranger station ready to make a visit by 7 in the morning, we did this on our visit to Rindja and saw several dragons on the move, maybe not the best thing I thought when I discovered more about their feeding habits and their capacity to move. If chased by a Komodo, you have to run in a zig zag pattern to outrun them, as they can only run in a straight line, but they have the ability to run twice as fast as even the fittest human.

Komodos eat only once a month, then it is a feast. The seek their prey, be it a goat, wild pig, a deer or indeed a large buffalo which all live side by side.

Wild Pigs roam the islands, fresh meat for the Komodos

Wild Pigs roam the islands, fresh meat for the Komodos

Rincha (201)

When they catch their prey, they inflict a deadly bite, with shark like teeth which interlock and pull out a large piece of flesh.

This poor Buffalo is waiting to die

This poor Buffalo is waiting to die

A wound inflicted by a small Komodo, but the effect is the same, the Dragons are waiting in the area for their next feast

A wound inflicted by a small Komodo, but the effect is the same, the Dragons are waiting in the area for their next feast

Their saliva contains 60 different bacteria including listeria, as well as venom in their teeth which inflicts a lingering death in the animal. They wait nearby waiting for the animal to die, maybe taking 2 to 3 weeks as they wait for their feast, very much in the way a crocodile catches and feeds on its prey.

The dragons will also attack humans, and it requires a course of powerful antibiotics to stop this bite becoming fatal. In February last year a guide on Rindja was bitten, the whole of his calf muscle engorged in the attack, fortunately he survived. The children in the local village grow up knowing this threat, and are always looking out for them as they play, chasing them away by throwing rocks when they are spotted. A local woman wasnt so lucky recently, as she picked leaves from a tree to feed her goat, a dragon attacked her from behind. She was near a local watering hole where local people had gathered to collect their drinking water, and came to her rescue chasing the dragons away. It seems strange to me that they do not store the necessary antibiotics locally, and if there is an attack by a dragon, the drugs needed to prevent a fatality have to be sent to the area via fast speed boat.

The females breed in July and August and lay their eggs in a nest which they guard for 3 months,

A Komodo Nest

A Komodo Nest

they then leave, returning in 6 months time for them to hatch, not to care for their young hatchlings, but ready to feast on them, for Komodos are cannibals. The babies, weighing only 80g seem genetically programmed to flee from the nest, avoiding the appetite of their mother and hide in hollows in nearby trees where they live for 3 years until old enough to defend themselves

No one really knows why the male population of Dragons outnumber the female by 4:1. Certainly the newly hatched males are slightly larger than the females, and we also know that the sex of the new creatures is determined by temperature, with males more likely to be produced when it is warmer, the mating season being in July and August. The males are noticeable by their larger heads and tails and of course the females by their weary look from the demands made on them by their macho suiters!

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The dragons can swim, but only for about 500 meters which means they are isolated only on Komodo and Rindja islands. The human population of Rindja is approximately 1800, outnumbered by the 3000 Komodo dragons there, but their presence ensures a steady income from the many tourists who travel many miles to this area, not just for the splendid diving, but to see these unusual creatures.

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I felt much more frightened of the local Macaques  who preyed on the tourists!

I felt much more frightened of the local Macaques who preyed on the tourists!

Our guide, Vidhel Castro was a local man, born and raised in the local village.

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His English was excellent, from the 5 years he had spent leading tourists through the area spotting wildlife. He was extremely informative, and I soaked up his facts and figures along the way as I enjoyed listening to is tales.

Vidhel is paid 40,000 Rupiah (about £2 or 3.6AUD) for each tour he leads, in the high season, July and August, and Fidel leads approximately 3 tours a day, and for the other 10 months there are many days with no tours at all.

I really enjoyed listening to Videl, our lovely guide

I really enjoyed listening to Videl, our lovely guide

When it is quiet, he returns to his village, a 5 hour walk from the park HQ to his family and spends his time fishing. We took time later to visit his village and found his home and were warmly welcomed by his family, I will write about this is another blog as I want to spend time talking about the Indonesian people, Indonesia is certainly inspiring me to write, I hope you are enjoying reading!

Daryl explained to him that I was a Welsh Dragon, and that I needed controlling..... (cheers Daryl!)

Daryl explained to him that I was a Welsh Dragon, and that I needed controlling….. (cheers Daryl!)

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