Category Archives: Slow travel

The fun of ad-lib (i.e. making it up as we go along)

Hope everyone has had a wonderful Christmas and New Year break. The Skipper, Orbit and I had a great time catching up with family and friends. I was reflecting on our time over Christmas and New Years (as you do when downloading photos), and I noticed a similarity between some of out adventures … there was a fair bit of ad-lib or making it up as we went along. Nothing major, just the little things we did to fill in time waiting for significant events to occur, e.g. waiting for our coffee to arrive, waiting for dinner to cook – filling in the space Dr Seuss calls “The Waiting Place”.

Waiting for breakfast to arrive

One of the things we like to do as a family is go out for breakfast. The time between ordering breakfast and waiting for it to arrive can be a bit time consuming for a small child. So to keep Orbit occupied we made up a game to keep him sitting in his seat. This technique involves a few pre-requisites, disposable serviettes, a pen and a toy car. Once or breakfast is ordered, we draw a map on a serviette. Myself or the Skipper draw the roads and Orbit quite happily fills in the details. Orbit then has a map on which he can play with his cars. This is a bit of a variation to the roads-scape I described last year (I still have to finish the nautical version). We can usually drag this game out to about 15 minutes which is usually enough time for our breakfast to arrive and if we’re really lucky it can be dragged out after breakfast too.

Waiting for the Skipper and I to stop talking

One of the joys of being on Medina and cruising is being able to stop in picturesque anchorages. Where there is a good beach, we take the tinny into the beach to have a swim and  explore. One of Orbit’s “waiting places” in this situation is when the Skipper and I are having a chat with other people on the beach. Orbit usually wants us to play with him and doesn’t necessarily appreciate the joy of meeting new people. So what we do? It’s usually a case of looking around and finding something for him to do, luckily one of Orbit’s favourite things isn’t too far away – sticks! Once he’s found a stick to his liking, its just a case of  giving him a list of things to draw, it can be anything shapes, pictures or letters. Even finding the ‘right’ stick can occupy a significant  portion in time!

Waiting for me to cook dinner

We have been very spoilt this summer, the Skipper installed air conditioning on Medina! It has been absolute heaven to be able to have a good sleep at night and be able to get things done during the day without sweating. What to do while waiting for the Skipper to install the air conditioning? Simple, make a game out of the left over core flute the Skipper was using to make a temporary cover (similar to what we do when out for breakfast). And being back on Medina, Orbit had some extra toys to incorporate into the game. Over the last few days, while waiting for me to cook dinner, Orbit has been adding extra bits of core flute to his original piece, making extra roads, bridges, tunnels and turning the whole thing into a cubby house! However, unfortunately it all came to a very abrupt end when the cubby house was used as a very slippery slide.

I am learning that the “waiting place” is not a bad place to be, in fact, it’s the place where our imaginations can really thrive!

On the road again

Orbit at the beach in Hervey Bay (part of his usual routine)

Orbit at the beach in Hervey Bay (part of his usual routine)

The last few weeks have been quite hectic as we’ve spent a fair amount of time in and travelling to and from Brisbane for work and other commitments.

We’ve had a number of different people ask us ‘why didn’t you just stay in Brisbane?’. We could have, and it would have been a lot easier on everyone involved, but we would still be in Brisbane, waiting to leave. Being in Hervey Bay means we have left, we have started the next stage of our adventure.

We also want to slow travel. It’s not just about hopping from one destination to another on our way to somewhere else. Its about spending time in a place, getting to know it and the people who live there.

The ‘messiness’ is not going to be like this forever. We have parameters around how long we plan to be here, how much money we would like to have in the bank and jobs that need to be done prior to starting the next leg on our adventure. It’s easier to keep the ‘messiness’ in perspective and just take each day and week as it comes, making the most of each location we find ourselves in.

We are extremely fortunate to be able to alternate between staying with our respective parents. They are happy to look after Orbit when both the Skipper and I are at work. What we are doing would not be possible without them. Being able to spend this amount of time them is priceless, particularly as we won’t have the opportunity to do so once we start to head further north.

The car trips do get a bit boring at times

Because of the amount of driving we are doing and the distances we are covering, the Skipper and I decided to upgrade my old car to something a bit newer and a bit safer. It has been a strange feeling upgrading cars. I had a certain pride in driving around in my early 90’s car. It was far from flash, daggy even. But that was ok, it was unpretentious and I didn’t have to worry about anyone dinting it in the shopping centre car park or stealing it. It wasn’t worth anything as a whole or in parts and I don’t think any self respecting car thief would be seen in my car!

I’ve realised that I have made a rookie error by stopping off at a McDonalds about half way between Hervey Bay and Brisbane to have something to eat, go to the toilet and stretch our legs each time we pass through. I am not saying that taking your child to McDonalds is bad, it’s just Orbit now wants to go to McDonalds each time we pass one. I had never noticed how many McDonalds there were until Orbit points each one out to me and I have to tell him that we’re not going in.

Each trip I remind myself I need to be more organised and take a packed lunch for us to have a picnic one of the lovely parks with a fantastic playground. But it just doesn’t seem to happen – maybe next trip …

Passing the time in the laundry - waiting for our washing

Passing the time in the marina laundry

I have been a bit concerned about our travel, its randomness and what it would mean for Orbit settling in as there is no routine to our time in Brisbane. I try to be in Hervey Bay for Orbit’s swimming lessons and day care, but sometimes that is not possible. He seems to be taking it all in his stride and hasn’t complained yet. The hardest part is when Orbit and I are in Hervey Bay and the Skipper is away for more than a few days, but we keep ourselves busy exploring and finding new things to do, as well as the usual everyday things.

Each time we pack up to go back to Brisbane, Orbit says he is going on holidays, which I think is a fantastic way of looking at it. I can see where he is coming from, because it is a bit of a holiday for him, its a break from his ‘normal’ routine, he gets to hang out with family and friends and do things he would not normally get to do. What may seem mundane living in a house, is still new and exciting for Orbit. It’s the little things that he loves, like watering the garden, playing in a backyard and having a bath.

Some people assume that because we live on a boat that we are on a permanent holiday and I can see how they think that. But as a lovely friend who also lives on a sailing boat recently told me, we still have to do all the usual everyday things one would do in a house, the laundry still needs to be done, meals cooked and the boat cleaned, its just we get to do it in some pretty amazing locations.

Whales on the starboard bow

As you may know, we are in Hervey Bay, Queensland. Hervey Bay is listed as one of Australian Geographic‘s top 10 places to see whales. So what to do when in Hervey Bay during the whale migration? Go whale watching of course!

Orbit looking to starboard for whales

Orbit looking to starboard for whales

We picked up a few last minute things from the shops, filled up the water tanks, did a quick tidy-up, and after the Skipper checked Medina’s vitals we were off on a whale watching adventure.

Orbit is going through a singing’ phase at the moment and he randomly breaks into a tune that he adapts to what he is doing. For example, when walking to the marina showers, he sings “We’re going on a shower hunt, I’m not afraid, I’m as brave as brave can be”, to the tune of “We’re going on a bear hunt”.

This is all very cute, but what it also means is I get “lovely” ear worms of children’s songs in my head. Ever since we have been on our whale watching adventure, I’ve had in my head, the very inappropriate “we’re going on whale hunt”! And, I still can’t get it out (please don’t tell Sea Shepherd).

As we sailed to our first overnight anchorage the Skipper and I were pretty happy with ourselves for seeing what we think were 3 or 4 whales, if only in the distance. Not close enough interrupt Orbit playing happily below, but at least we knew we were in the right area.

Orbit looking to port for whales

Orbit looking to port for whales

The next day we decided to start our whale search in earnest. Orbit started his search after breakfast while we were still at anchor.

He started on Medina’s bow (her ‘front end’), looking to port and to starboard, calling for the whales and looking very hard. He then moved down to the stern of Medina (her ‘back end’), looking to port and to starboard, calling the whales. But the whales did not come.

Once we started motoring he was up on deck again, looking to port and to starboard, working his way from the bow to the stern, calling for the whales and looking very hard but alas they still did not come. So, he went down below and started to watch a movie to pass the time. By this time I don’t think Orbit believed us when we said there would be whales.

Later on during the morning, when we were sailing, the Skipper did see a whale. He yelled, “whale on the starboard bow, and it’s breaching!”. I had to give Orbit a good nudge to get up on deck to see it. He was watching his favourite movie and as he hadn’t seen whales when he was looking earlier in the morning, was a bit reluctant to move. With a look of ‘you had better be right mum’ he hit the pause button and went up on deck, encouraged by the Skipper and with me close behind. I prayed the whale would breach again, or at least show itself so Orbit could see it. As we went on deck I made a mental note to better manage Orbit’s and my expectations, when a high degree of the unknown is involved.

Luckily, we didn’t have to wait long. The whale continued to breach, putting on a wonderful show as it traveled east, while we headed west. We managed to get a pretty good look at each other as we passed (even if I didn’t get the best photos).

"Look, a whale!"

“Look, a whale!”

Orbit was super excited to see the whale, but after that he was happy to continue playing below. This was fortunate as we didn’t see any more whales that day. And we haven’t seen another whale since, but who knows what tomorrow or the next adventure may bring!

An adventure hangover

Is there such a think as an adventure hangover?

Orbit and the Skipper off to explore the bush at Garry's Anchorage

Orbit and the Skipper off to explore the bush at Garry’s Anchorage

If so, I was suffering from one the day after we came into our new marina. I was crabby, tired and could not shake my bad mood. Although I didn’t have a physical headache, I felt like I had an emotional one and I needed space to come down from the high of the previous two weeks.

To cure my ‘hangover’, I decided to have a ‘hair of the dog’ and have another adventure. Orbit had been asking for some chocolate cake for weeks and I had planned to make one while we were cruising, but never got around to it. So off we went, on an adventure, looking for chocolate cake (and a decent coffee!).

It was only a relatively short walk to the local coffee shop and it did wonders to clear the emotional cobwebs. I am sure the consumption of chocolate cake and caffeine also helped. By lunchtime I was feeling a lot better, so I had a nanna nap!

Orbit exploring the beach at Kingfisher Bay

Orbit exploring the beach at Kingfisher Bay

Fast forward a few days and we are easing into our new ‘normal’. We are working out where things are, developing new routines, enrolling Orbit into day care, swimming lessons and so on. 

Our plan is to stay in Hervey Bay for about six months while we prepare to go further north. This preparation includes ticking jobs off our new to do list. Our new to do list is focused on the things we need to cruise for a lot longer and rely less on marinas during our travels further north.

Although Hervey Bay is only a temporary stop, I can appreciate how people come here and never leave. Everyone has been really friendly and helpful. The beaches, parks and services are fantastic. 

Orbit swimming in the 'day bar' pool at the Kingfisher Bay Resort

Orbit swimming in the ‘day bar’ pool at the Kingfisher Bay Resort

From a sailing perspective, the Great Sandy Straits are absolutely perfect for short cruising adventures. On our journey up the Straits we passed a number of anchorages and identified a number of areas we would like to go an explore while we are here.

We also identified a number of anchorages we will be going back to, as they are perfect for toddlers like Orbit. Kingfisher Bay is one of them. Orbit can play on the beach at high tide and go exploring the sand flats at low tide. Kingfisher Bay Resort has a day bar that welcomes yachtie. It has a pool where Orbit can go for swim and we can grab an early dinner and an ice cream for dessert before the sunset.

One adventure we are hoping to have is a sail out to Lady Elliot Island at the very southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef. It will be a great way to see how we go on longer cruises as it is at least a three day trip, if not longer.

So after my ‘hangover’, I am more than ready for our new adventure in Hervey Bay, after all, we only have six months, so let the adventure begin!

Working from Medina

Most people are surprised when they find out I work from Medina. Maybe it’s because they don’t see me ‘going to work’ or as one previous colleague put it “you don’t look like you live on a boat”. I wasn’t sure whether this was a insult or a compliment!

Orbit supervising my work - making sure I meet my deadline

Orbit supervising my work – making sure I meet my deadline

Since living on Medina, I have been very fortunate to be employed by companies that not only talk about having policies of flexible working environments, but actually put them into practice. In my current job, I work a set number of hours per week, when I work these hours is flexible, as long as I meet my deadlines. It doesn’t matter if I am in an office or on Medina.

When Medina is in the marina, working is pretty easy from a logistics perspective. 240 volt electricity is on tap, we have a strong internet connection and are close the airport for when I have to travel. We are also close to grandparents and family daycare, which provides Orbit with an opportunity to enjoy time with family and friends (without me cramping his style), and playing in houses with backyards two days a week.

Working at anchor is similar to working in the marina, the only things I need to be conscious of is the battery life on my laptop and connection to the internet. I try to manage the battery life to match the engine running schedule, charging it using the inverter (with the other 240 volt appliances that have batteries). So far so good with internet connection in anchorages, we haven’t had to hoist the wifi modem up the mast … yet! The Skipper looks after Orbit if I have to work outside his sleeping routine, which usually involves a fishing lesson of some description.

Orbit reviewing raw data sheets

Orbit reviewing raw data sheets

I have had to learn to read from a screen because we just don’t have the space to have loads of printing laying around the boat. We do have a printer, but I deliberately have it tucked away in an awkward space, so I only get it out when I have too. My work does rely on using reference books, which have presented a storage problem that I am yet to solve. At the moment I store them in bags and stash the bags around the boat, with the most used books in the bag that is most accessible. I did contemplate scanning them into my computer, but that has just seemed to daunting, given the number of books and number of pages in the books.

From a parenting perspective, working from Medina has been an evolving experience based on Orbit’s routine. When Orbit was a baby, I worked while he slept. But if I had an urgent deadline, he was happy to sit and supervise me (for short periods of time). Once he started being more interested in what I was doing, he wanted to ‘work’ too, which meant he wanted to type on the computer or read the report for me. I got nothing done, so I could only work while he was sleeping.

Working together in the saloon - yep, that's a printer on the floor

Working together in the saloon – yep, that’s a printer on the floor

Now he’s a bit older, Orbit is happy to ‘work’ along side with me, either playing with his cars, doing puzzles, drawing or working on ‘his computer’. Things can get a bit cramped with us both sharing the same space, but we usually come to a compromise, i.e. I slowly get moved off the table, relocating to a chair and/or the floor. I do enjoy working together though, it means I often get more hugs!

But it’s not all about work, it’s all about Orbit. We spend mornings together, going on adventures (when we are anchored) or scheduled activities like swimming lessons or playgroup (when we are in the marina). In the afternoon I focus on work while Orbit is asleep, but how much I get done is dependant on how long Orbit sleeps for and his mood when he wakes up. So depending Orbit, on the type and how much work I need to do, there can be some early mornings, late nights and very busy afternoons.

Working when Medina is anchored

Working when Medina is anchored

At the moment deadlines, meetings and travel commitments are a consideration when and where we go sailing and this will be the same when we are cruising. When we are cruising, we won’t have as easy access grandparents (unless they come to visit or we visit them), there will be no family day care, access to the internet won’t be as reliable (I’ll be relying on local knowledge about anchorages that are a bit remote) and getting to an airport won’t be as easy. But all this can be managed with a good planning and adjusting our schedule to suit. It means we’ll be travelling slowly, but this will also have its advantages. But most importantly, Orbit and I will have the Skipper full time. It is going to be hard staying behind on Medina to work while the boys are out having adventures without me!

So raising a toddler and working from a sailing boat can be done, it just requires organisation and coordination.  A big thank you to my employer and my support network for allowing it to happen for me!