Monday, March 31, 2014

Sailing Gold Coast to Melbourne!

One week ago I replied to an ad on the internet looking for people to help deliver a boat from gold coast to Melbourne, I replied with my experienced and prayed I would get a call back. Today I am sitting on a 43ft catamaran and leave in a couple hours for a 6-10 day sailing voyage down the coast of Australia. How I have been so lucky on this trip I don't know but let the adventure start again. 

43 ft Catamaran in Gold Coast, Australia

Day 1 update: Leaving the harbor was a bit hairy, 12ft swells chop and wind for the first couple hours. Had a seagull hope on the boat and hung out till the morning for a free ride. I got some sleep before I had night watch from 8-11pm and then 2-5am wasn't to bad. Woke up to a delicious omelet breakfast and the sun rising on the horizon. Pod of dolphins followed us for 10 minutes a bit ago it was beautiful. Were cruising about 15-20 miles off shore, motor sailing at about 6 knots, the sea is a lot calmer today and the sun's out! Should pull into Sydney harbor by Sunday morning, get some fuel an some more supplies.

Day 3 update: the last 24 hours have been quite interesting, other than making good timing from gold coast to Sydney. Had watch this am from 5-8 and witnessed by far the most beautiful sunrise I have very seen in my life, photos wouldn't do it justice. After a quick nap some fighter planes flew over head doing some training maneuvers, followed by a pod of 100 pilot whales! Later on after playing a couple cards games we noticed a storm with a waterspout following us from behind, so we prepared for the worst. There are a couple in cyclones in the area that we have somehow have been barely dodging, just before sunset our port engine went out. For dinner I prepared a huge pot of spaghetti Bolognase, then we worked on the engine while still motoring towards Sydney about 50 miles away at the time. After an hour of helping work on the engine I bunked down for a nap before my watch later that night. Woke up to lightning storms all around us, the port engine running again, and the wind howling. Had to immediately attach lifelines to myself to stay on the boat and reef the sails to make them smaller so the wind wouldn't toss the boat around as much. We rode out the wind for awhile, it's now 3am and were about 5 miles away from entering Sydney harbor finishing our first leg, going to anchor for the night, get some sleep, gas up in the morning, and head out again! An amazing experience so far and it's not even half over yet, the craziest leg is yet to come, the bass strait....known as one of the worst seas in the world, but luck has been on our side so far!
Off the coast of New South Wales, most beautiful sunsets ever!

Day 5 update: Yesterday we got into Sydney harbor at 5 am, tied up to a mooring and all got some good sleep, since we had been non stop sailing for 3 days. After waking up and getting some breakfast, the captain and I bleed the fuel system of the port engine which was the problem why it was acting up and cutting out on us the day before. When finished we headed to shore to get some food from the store, a weather update, refueled, filled up the water tank, and lastly cruised by the Sydney opera house for a quick photo session! We departed the harbor around 5pm yesterday and headed south into some moderately choppy conditions, was a pretty low key night but made some good miles. All day today was quite bumpy and not to eventful, except we tried to get close to an island that had said in the book there are little penguin species and fur seals that live there. We didn't see any which was disappointing, but at least we tried, about 24 hrs after leaving Sydney we had sailed about 200 miles which is much better than we expected. It is now a Lil after 1am on Saturday morning and the wind is howling, but we are cruising at about 10 knots, hopefully making it into the bass strait by sunrise! Some crazy conditions out here, couple good knock arounds, some how have yet to be sea sick, and been dodging some storms passing by us as if were in a lil bubble. At the moment we are on course to make it to Melbourne Sunday evening or early Monday morning which would be a great accomplishment! Wish us luck 

The Tasman Sea is relentless

Day 6 update: About 2 hours after the last update I had posted shit went haywire, our so called safe bubble we have had all trip pop'd. We got around the southeast corner of Australia where New South Wales and Victoria border is, heading towards the bass strait right into a storm.... 8-12 ft swell and whitecaps smashing over the bow. The boat was rocking all over the place, water washing through the cockpit, and pots flying off the stove. Haven't had much of an appetite in the last couple days and it finally caught up to me this morning during my 5-8am watch had to throw up twice, then finally got to bed when my shift ended. Took about 30 minutes to get to sleep since waves hitting the side of the boat makes the inside of my cabin sound like a warzone. Trying to fall asleep in the seas were in is equivalent to trying to sleep in the back of a trophy truck doing an offroad race, but sleep is the only way to feel better and get rid of the stomach ache and nausea feeling. After waking up and being on watch again around 11am the sea had gotten worse, we had to bring the sails in(reef them) and slow down. Were not making much head way since the wind and swell is not in our favor, making it so we have to zig zag(tack) back and forth taking 3 times as long to go towards our destination. We've decided to head towards land and hug the coast a bit more in case we need to go for shelter (even tho the closest sheltered inlet is 80 miles away). Waking up after another small nap around 6pm the Tasman sea has calmed to a bare-able chop, wind has changed south (to our favor) and were finally making headway again. Got a bit of pasta and garlic bread for dinner in me and couple waters, crew and myself are hoping it stays like this throughout the night so we don't have to head for refuge and can just get to Melbourne on schedule! As crazy as this has been and even during the times of feeling like shit these couple days I wouldn't change this voyage at all, it has showed me mother nature and the sea in its most raw form, which not to many people get to experience. It has also got me thinking about my career path I have been working towards (becoming a captain), not that I don't want to anymore but that I need more experience just like these voyages. Being on a boat miles off the coast not being able to see land and at the mercy of the sea's raw power is the most adrenaline and mixed emotional excitement I've ever had in my life!
Lighthouse island somewhere in the Tasman Sea

Day 8 update: Haven't had any signal for the last couple days here in the Tasman sea about 30-45 miles off shore. After my last update we had a pretty calm morning, then later that day got hit by another decent storm, not as bad as the one I described before, but still a good amount of chop to knock shit around. Yesterday evening I got a pretty good nap in before getting some food in my stomach as well. Watch last night from 11pm - 2am was pretty bumpy, with a bit of action, dodging couple islands, a ferry, and fishing boat while heading around South East Point. As the rest of the crew has been sipping away at hot tea or coffee on night watch, I've been living of the delicious lil cup of noodle packets you dump into a mug then fill the rest with hot water, been keep me alive haha. It's been really fun navigating at night reading the chart and GPS, looking for the lighthouses and there light patterns. Then putting all that together to find out where you are on the chart and what points of references you need to stay between to navigate through safely. I've always loved navigation, maps, and geography for that matter so doing all of that while on the ocean has been a lot of fun! Last night the captain didn't wake us for our 5am watch and I didn't notice till I awoke at 7:30am, but he had it under control as well as getting us sailing at 11 knots for a couple hours. It's now 9am on Monday morning, were 83 miles from the entrance of Port Phillips (Melbourne), if we keep up our current speed should get to the entrance around 9pm tonight. Which would be good timing since the tide rising will help us get through the inlet which acts like a river since it's so narrow. After entering the inlet we would still have roughly 30 miles to the Marina we are delivering to, the bay which Melbourne sits on is huge and might as well be a sea of it's own, but at least we will be sheltered from the swell and be able to make good time once inside. So as of now our ETA to arriving at the docks ending our voyage is 2am tonight if everything goes to plan, that's about 17 hours from now, fingers crossed. Oh and we had a pretty epic rainbow pop up after sunrise this am so hopefully that will give us some good luck for the rest of the day.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Byron Bay.....

     It's been a couple weeks since I have got on the blog here and I have good reasons for that. I am currently in Byron Bay about 2 hours south of Brisbane and have been here for a couple weeks. When we arrived we instantly fell in love with the atmosphere, people, and scenery. The town has turned in a backpackers haven in the last decade, almost completely catering to a backpackers every need. The town is full of young people with stories from there travels around the world, I have met so many amazing people that are now friends for life.
     The first night we arrived in Byron we stayed at a hostel called Nomad's which is a well known world wide hostel business chain. It was a pretty cool spot, we grabbed some beer and had a couple drinks with friends before hitting the bars. The bar we went to was hilarious, it was a Wednesday night and it was packed, dancing on tables, pretty decent music, and 5 dollar beers. Basically danced the night away and had a last drink down on the beach before making our way back to the hostel and trying to find our room.
travel surf live
Art work all of over the hostel, its very inspiring.

     We had to leave our van at one of there other locations a couple minutes down the road at The Arts Factory Lodge, since it would fit in there underground car park. When we went to pick up the van we found out that at that hostel they have a car park where you can pay $15 a night to just camp in your van instead of the $46 a night bed in the dorms. You were still able to use all the amenities of the hostel including there showers, restrooms, laundry, cafe, pool tables, pool, ping pong, volleyball court, they have it all! We payed for a week since we knew we wanted to be here awhile then got some wifi to start looking for a couple lil jobs.
     We spent the first couple days meeting new people around the hostel, going to the beach, then to the library for some free wifi to look for small gigs to get some money. We struggled finding jobs for the first week and a half we were here, but finally the research and emails paid off with two labor jobs for 3 days of work! After a week at the hostel we were able to sign up to work for free accommodation at the hostel which would save us about $100 a week. Plus I was getting a lil bored and definitely wanted to do something, so we started working at the hostel last week. It has been a blast, the way it works is you work 2 days in a row 3 hrs each day, then you get two days off, then it starts over again. The 2 days you work gets you 4 nights accommodation, so it is really a good system plus when your working you get to meet some other great people that are working there as well and have been around for awhile.
    So the 3 days of work we had was going to be a crazy 60 hours but we decided to just push through it to make some good money! It went a lil something like this, woke up Monday morning and worked at the hostel for 4.5 hours since we weren't going to be there the next day. After we got in the van and headed straight to Burleigh Heads about 45 minutes north, we started work at 6pm. The job was renovating a section of a store called Big W (basically a Walmart), redoing the home entertainment section and moving things around. The work the first day was tough since we had to demolish some desks and clothing racks to throw away in a large dumpster, but the guys working were all really cool and easy to get along with. We finished at 4:30 am the next morning, 10 hours of work, when we got off we headed straight back to the Byron area and got a couple hours sleep. Our other job was helping an older lady move some of her things into a storage unit, cleaning her office, doing some yard work, and washing windows. The lady was awesome and had lived a very interesting life being married to an author for 45 years as well as traveling her self being a cook for archeologists on dig sites! We started at her house at 9:30, worked till noon and she made us a delicious lunch, worked a couple more hours and was off by 3:30 with $90 each in our pockets. We headed directly back to Burleigh again to work at the Big W for one more night, this time we started at 5:30pm and finished at 7:00am. After finishing in the early morning we jumped in the van and headed straight to the ocean for a refreshing morning swim! It woke us up a bit and then we cruised back down to the hostel to get some sleep.
travel surf live
Bryce taking the Go Pro out for fun in the water.

     The following days we definitely took it easy and relaxed at the hostel and hit the beach a couple times. The waves were picking up so I got down there for a couple of fun sessions. Thursday I had a feeling this one beach break right out front the hostel was going to be good so we went to check it out and it was so fun! Had a bunch of good waves and got some fun Go Pro shots as well, until I somehow snap my fin box on my board out and ended the session :( . After we grabbed some lunch I stopped by Patagonia where my friend Emilie works here in Byron. We chatted for awhile and I got a number form a good ding repair guy. I went to drop my boards off asap so I could get them back soon before the swell dropped!
     The next couple days we worked at the hostel in the morning and kept improving our tent setup we had going. It an awesome setup we have here at the hostel and couldn’t be more stoked to be in such an awesome environment where everyone is stoked everyday. A couple days earlier as Bryce and I were at the library getting some wifi, Bryce found an ad looking for a couple people interested in delivering a boat from Gold Coast to Melbourne. I instantly jumped on the opportunity since this is the career path I’m working to get into and it would be a great opportunity to get some great experience. We both sent emails and awaited a reply, the reply had come and I was going to be heading to the Gold Coast Sunday night to board the boat Monday morning.
travel surf live
Surfer's Paradise skyline

     Flash forward to Monday morning and I’m standing on the dock looking at a beautiful 43 foot catamaran that I will be sailing with 3 other crew members for the next 7-10 days down the east coast of Australia. The captain Ed Brennan is 28 years old from England, he has been sailing and on boats his whole life, and in the recent years doing deliveries all around Australia. He also heads of to the Mediterranean to work over there during there season as well, lots of experience and a super cool guy none the less. After I got my backpack on board and got a tour, we headed for the store to get food for the next week! The other two guys were flying in from Sydney and their plane was running a bit late so we decided to get some things done in the mean time. After a couple hours and $500 later at the store we made our way back to the boat to start putting everything away and get ready to depart later that evening.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Our way to Byron Bay

     After having a great night camping on the beach we got back on the road heading North! We stayed overnight in the town of Forester, pretty low key night cooking up some chicken rice and beans. We have been eating very well on this trip, all of our cooking while were camping is always delicious and filling. Waking up in Forester we headed down to the water for a morning dip and brought the mask to do a little diving. travel surf live Nice relaxing morning before a couple hour drive up to our next destination Port Macquarie, where we were going to catch a ferry across the river! As we got into town we searched for a quick lunch and went to the mall to get some wifi for a bit. After chatting with the fam and some friends we decided to go down to a cool lil beach and get in the water and find out what to do for the night. As we got outta the water and had a look at the map we realized were only another 45 minutes or so from Crescent Heads.
     Flash forward an hour and I'm looking over at Bryce with the biggest smile on his face driving down this dirt road, the van shaking so much we wouldn't be surprised if it falls apart. After hoping on a quick ferry and dodging potholes for about an hour we had finally arrived in the lil town of Crescent head, we immediately left the town again in search of camp for the night. After finding a perfect spot on the beach outside of town we started cooking dinner under a tarp held down with a couple sticks and string as it started raining. When we had finally finished dinner the rain had stopped and the millons of stars had appeared behind the clouds. I thought being out in the middle of the desert I saw a lot of stars but nothing compares to the nights here on a deserted beach!
     Waking up to a couple cars nearby I knew there had to be some waves, I suited up and got out to head high peaks with 3 guys out and plenty of waves for everyone. Surfing is getting so popular nowadays, when surfing at home in Huntington Beach with a hundred people in the water and hassling for every wave, it makes me wonder. I wonder why don't more people stop complaining about going out to crowded waves, just being on this trip I've surfed by myself multiple times without
having to go that far to search for that wave. The waves were hardly perfect, but it makes you appreciate surfing and the ocean so much more when your relaxed and not getting angered by other people in the water. Anyways, we chilled on the beach for a bit cleaning up the van and making some improvement, and of course as I look back out at the water I see another fun head high wave roll through. Being a surfer seeing unridden waves coming you have to go out if it's the middle of Australia and there could be a shark out haha. It was hard leaving that beach since it was such a beautiful setup with nobody around, but I know I will come back here again soon and I'm sure it won't change.
     We hit the road back to the highway and to our next stop Coffs Harbor which was about 120km (75miles) so a pretty easy day. We try to not drive far or fast everyday so we can keep the van running good and not breaking down. Coffs harbor was a cool area but we didn't do much but take a nap and cook up some dinner before hitting the bed.
Iluke, NSW, Australia
     From Coffs Harbor we cruised for a couple hours to the town of Grafton where we stopped for awhile to get some good internet at the library. It's hard to find a decent internet spot on the road and that's also why I have had a hard time updating the blog! On our way towards Byron we had one more night to stop, we decided on a super chilled spot in Iluka, just north of Yamba. We got to the parking area and immediately headed down to the water to go for a dip, fun lil bodysurf waves out front. After chillen on the beach and taking in the sun and scenery we headed back to start cooking up dinner. Nobody around but the sound of the wind through the trees and birds chirping in the distance, after no time dinner was ready and we chowed. It started pouring rain during the night which sounds like guns shots on the metal roof of the van! In the morning I got up a bit early to check the surf, I met a guy named Pete down by the beach the only other person around for miles. He ended u being a super cool guy as we chatted for awhile about where we were from before deciding to hit the water with no one around. As I found out he had worked on private yachts for the last 8 years and has traveled the world by boat, we exchanged emails so I could send him my resume to potentially get a job around here. After surfing with 2 other guys out for 2 hours I finally headed in to snag some breakfast and decide where we were headed next.
     On the road again headed towards Byron with no plans what so ever, getting into town we already saw that this place was special! We parked the van and just walked around for awhile checking out all the shops, food, and went to a pawn shop to look at longboards (mauw, they call it here) for Bryce. Couple minutes later as Bryce was at the ATM I ran into my friend Emilie who had been living here for a couple months. I hadn't seen her since I was in Bali last year and it was awesome catching up and we planned to hang out while we were in town. After asking a couple people the best option for the night we ended up at Nomad's probably the most famous hostel in Australia. There were young fun people everywhere and we knew it was going to be a good night, stay tuned for what else to come from our stay in Byron!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Leaving Sydney and camping up the coast!

Hey everybody first off sorry for not getting to update the blog as often as I did last trip. This adventure has been awesome and totally different since were camping every night now. So as the first blog said we bought a van, 1991 Mitsubishi Express, stick shift, sliding door, everything locks, windows work, no leaks in ceiling. Were stoked, we spent 5 days setting it up to road trip up the coast to Brisbane, gutted the whole thing and started from scratch. Im trying to upload an awesome video i made of the restoration but haven't gotten decent internet to do so, but please stay posted!

After we set off from our friend Troy's house, which is about an hour and half south of sydney, we adventured to pick up the last couple things we needed for the van which included, an esky (what they call an ice chest here in aus), solar panel, and an extra battery. Found a nice lil park next to the harbor to setup camp for the first night, cooked up some pasta, threw the discs around, and watched a rugby team's late night practice.

bryce brantley
Palm Beach, just before it started pouring rain!
The next morning we were up early and after a bowl of cereal headed towards the coast to check out the harbor and some of the sights on our way to Narrabeen! I have a couple friends in Narrabeen that I met while traveling in Indo last year. They met us for lunch and we chatted about our trip to Indo last year, there lives here in Sydney and any cool spots they could tell us about up the coast. They pointed us to a place  up the peninsula a bit, we got there and it was beautiful harbor with huge green lush mountains on one side then beach and hikes trails on the other. As we got set up and took a dip in the water it just started pouring, didn't stop for about an hour, we watched a movie and went to find camp. My buddy showed us a super legit camping spot in Narrabeen on the beach that we went back to to setup and cook diner for the night. It had now been raining on us on and off for about 5 days, we were pretty over it, but finished dinner, watched a movie and crashed out.  

Camping on the beach, next morning was beautiful, see below!
After the rain had finally stopped
Waking up the next morning it was finally beautiful, sunny, no wind, and a couple waves just out front. As I went for a surf Bryce went on a run down the the coastline trail hugging the cliffs going through the forest and rocks. Waves were small but water was warm and crystal clear and it was finally sunny so I didn't care! We got a bit of a later start but hit the road in no hurry which has been the idea of this trip so far, only doing about 80-100km fast (50-65mph) on they hwys. After a stretch of drving stopped off to jump in the water, fun little waves to body surf while parents were cheering on there kids doing a paddle around a buoy. The kids were in a program through the surf club similar to junior lifeguards like we have in the states. But here in Australia every good size beach has a surf club where the community has meetings, they serve food daily, have public restrooms/showers, and there always right on the beach! It was getting late so I looked on the maps and found a spot that looked like it could be perfect to crash for the night, and if you see the photo below, it was!
bryce brantley
Camping outside of Newcastle, no photoshop needed!
After waking up on the lake and making some breakfast sandwiches we went to a disc golf course nearby, it was a super chill lil course with no one around! We got 18 holes in and had a goal to find a laundry place since we hadn't been able to the last couple days, found one and also got our laptops a little charged as well! While waiting we snagged a wrap for lunch at a lil spot around the corner, wraps are huge here in Aus basically its a burrito but inside they put either chicken, beef, or schnitzel (breaded chicken also very popular here). Most commonly they will also add tomato, carrot, cheese, some sort of salad, as well as all sorts of different dressings if your into that. Another cool thing is a couple towns we have been to have free Wi-Fi on a couple hundred meter stretch of the main city street near food, malls, and pubs it's genius! We heard there was a surf comp at the local beach so went to check it out, waves weren't to good, so decided to break out the solar panel and try to hook it up to the battery and inverter we had previously bought. It wasn't working out so we took the battery to a couple mechanics that told us it had a bad cell and wouldn't help us out to make a deal on a battery, we finally found a shop with these two legends pictured below!
They helped us with so much I could never thank them enough! We rolled up there with a shit battery and asked if he could check it for us, he assessed the battery and said it was shot and could not be used for our inverter and solar panel setup we wanted. So I chatted with him for a bit and we came to terms to buy a used battery twice the size of the one we had for $50, new ones here are $150! Right then his business partner rolled up in the work van, and offered to help us wire up the inverter to our new battery, he let us use his tools and some parts we needed no charge! We were all ready to go when I started checking out the boxes you can store the battery in thinking it was a good idea to keep it contained. An hour later and we have a piece of wood screwed down to the floor behind the driver seat, battery box strapped down with our new battery inside, inverter attached to the outside, and solar panel wires hooked up and ready to go! We were now set up to power our phones and laptops from an extra battery that gets charged from the solar panel! We thanked them so much and had a couple more laughs as we set out to find camp for the night.....

It was one of those times where I looked on the map and said hey that looks like a cool spot, and it ended up being legendary. Coming down a little dirt road and over a hill to see miles of dunes and a car park on the sand steps from the beach.
There were camels on the beach when we arrived, waiting for a group of people for a sunset ride, we set up camp on the sand with the beach 150 yards away and huge dunes surrounding us. After walking down to the water we starting chatting with some campers next to us, they told me about an app called wikiCamps (iphone and android, link here) which I ended up downloading. The app shows you all camp sites in Australia, with details about them, a comment section, rating system, pictures, and amenities they have all user base driven! Cooked yet another great meal with steak, potatoes, and corn while watching the camels riding over the dunes with the sun setting in the background!

There's nothing like waking up to the sun shining through the window, the sound of waves crashing in the background, then realizing your in the middle of Australia! It has honestly only been two weeks in this amazing country and everyday is something or someone new around every corner it makes me stoked to be alive everyday.

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Thanks for reading, stay tuned :)