There has been a lot of discussion both on Lukim Yu and with other cruisers recently about our enjoyment of this very different lifestyle. October to January were very tough months on the boat. Jamie and I were almost totally alone (no other cruisers around for the most of the time), and we were travelling through The Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. Both countries had different challenges, and besides a few highlights (diving primarily) we did not enjoy cruising through either country. Backed up with a horrible 10-day passage from Kavieng in PNG to Biak in Indonesia (see The Definition of Adventure) we were seriously questioning continuing this journey. Our first month in Indonesia though was fantastic, what a warm, welcoming part of Indonesia and we had the great pleasure of hanging out with our friends on Waterhorse in the AMAZING Raja Ampat. Still, during our month in Australia we agreed that we needed to put in a 6-month review. Fast forward 5 months and conversations have naturally turned to: Do we continue?
Other cruisers have similar discussion, around their challenges and/or the inevitable question what do you miss most from home? My inevitable answer is choice! I miss being able to choose, choose anything. I’ll break it up into a few categories
Jamie and I get on incredibly well, but being confined in 11 x 6 m day in day out can sometimes be challenging and quite frankly some days I’d just like to be able to talk to someone else. As luck would have it, and we are relatively remote, those days tend to align with us being out of range. Satellite texts are limited and frustrating. At home, I would just drive somewhere and have a coffee (or most likely a wine or two). Also, due to differing work commitments I would often have times at home alone to just potter around and do my own thing. Yes, there are locals you can talk to, however our Bhasa (Indonesian) is limited (although improving) to daily functions – shopping, laundry, fuel and food. The vast majority of the Indonesians we meet speak almost zero English (remote villages why would they?) or it is limited to Hello Mister, Hello Missus. Not a great recipe for a robust witty repartee! Having other cruisers around is great, however the last 6 months we have been in cruising areas where there really aren’t any other boats.
Despite taking my cooking creativity to the next level, I am completely limited to the accessibility of seasonal ingredients. Indonesia has been vastly better that PNG and Solomons, and the quality of vegetables has been very good. However, there are only so many dishes you can get excited about that contain cabbage, carrot and pumpkin. It is not helped by the fact that the Land of Plenty (as we call Australia) has so much variety that most conversations at home start with what nationality do you feel like eating tonight. The huge amount of immigration that Australia has experienced over my lifetime means that Vietnamese, Thai, Indian, African, Middle Eastern and Italian cuisines all make up regular parts of our weekly menu at home! Accessibility to fresh herbs has been almost nonexistent – except for parsley the crappiest of all herbs, and even trying to source different types of rice has become a challenge – risotto, jasmine, basmati are all absent from the countries we have visited in the last 6 months. Now that we are in a primarily Muslim country, pork and pork products – ham, bacon, salami etc are beyond rare *although I did manage to buy some bacon from a small resort a few weeks ago (3kg for $90 AUD) which was very expensive but so worth it. I divided them up into 350g packets and froze them. Such a premium item is a great bartering tool with other yachties and I have exchanged 1 bag for a jar of Vegemite (we were out and close to mutiny) and 1 bag for a few loads of washing (we don’t have a washing machine on board). Other items such as all dairy products have been equally rare and very limiting from a menu planning perspective. As much as I like Indonesia food, I can only eat so many Nasi Goreng and Mee Gorengs until I JUST WANT ANYTHING ELSE!!
Living on a boat means I am able to regularly do many of my favourite activities. Swimming, snorkelling and diving. I adore the interactions that we have with aquatic life and the days I don’t get to snorkel or dive are not my favourites. Unfortunately for me, there are a LOT of days where none of these activities are possible. Passages of course, anchorages near towns or cities are generally in very poor-quality water filled with plastic rubbish, and then of course poor or rough weather. However, these are really the only activities that are available, there is really no way I could go for a run (horribly hot and no footpaths at all), walks are hard to come by, other than a short stroll on a beach and these are usually limited by blistering heat or nowhere to go. When we are in town we get a lot of exercise lugging food and fuel around, but not really the long walks we are used to.
Obviously, TV is not an option as we have no antennae and are rarely in range. We do download as often as we can books, you tube videos, audible books etc, and we have taken our whole DVD collection with us (saved onto hard drives) but of course anything downloadable is limited to us being in range, and the crappy download speed. Going to the movies, seeing a comedy show or a play, going out for dinner/lunch/a drink are all impossible.
We are always truthful about our experiences, and primarily our you tube videos show the better part of cruising as we film mostly when we are happy and having fun. I don’t mean to complain, the highs of this life are amazing, and yes, the vast majority of the items I have listed are a small price to pay for swimming with whale sharks, amazing remote diving and water clarity.
Now that we are entering the dry season in Indonesia we are seeing slightly cooler night temperatures, and much less humidity – which is great. Also, we ae currently anchored in Labuan Bajo (the gateway to The Komodo Islands National Park) and due to the high levels of tourism here we have for the first time been able to purchase lamb, ham, yoghurt, cheese and some herbs. As we continue to head west into more and more populated and touristy destinations this will no doubt continue – the price we pay for this is more tourists around, dirtier water and worse diving.
July and August will see a lot of boats coming to Indonesia from Australia and it will be nice to be able to meet and hang out with more cruisers.
So, this 6-month review will see us heading home to Australia for a chilly winter and we will return and start to make our way to Malaysia. What will happen after Malaysia? Neither of us know, other than Thailand, the cruising grounds become more difficult, continuing west (to Europe) means you either need to go past all the pirate countries (definitely not happening) or going down around the bottom of Africa (also not happening). Other cruisers sell their boats in Malaysia and then purchase a new boat in the Mediterranean (shh don’t tell Lookie) or put their boat on a ship and ship it past pirate ally (as we have been calling it) and getting back on in Turkey or Greece. Option #3 is VERY VERY expensive. Or, maybe we continue to travel but choose a land-based form of transport……. who knows (we certainly don’t)??