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Monday, June 26, 2017

Limbo-land

Portland Oregon railroad bridge, as seen from our temporary digs, at Wayne's folks, looking East.
What's it like when you're done cruising, if you go minimalist, like we did?  It's a little weird.

No home.

No car.

No storage unit.

No furniture.  No appliances.  No electronics (besides what phones, Kindles, iPads and laptops were still usable).
Columbian River canoeist, Portland Oregon, as seen from our temporary digs, at Wayne's folks, looking West.
"Wow!  I can't believe you pretty much got rid of everything.  So many of us have talked about doing it, but you did!" exclaimed a former HP colleague when I bumped into her in downtown Vancouver.

Indeed we did.

We sold our house at a break-even price in the real estate bust of 2007, renting until we left. 
Columbia River Gorge as seen from Crown Point; what drew me to the Portland Oregon area from the very beginning.
Once we left, we didn't know for sure how long we'd gone, and when we were done if "home" would be the US.  Thus, we didn't want a storage unit.

Before we left the US, Wayne's folks in Portland Oregon kindly stored our legal paperwork, some clothes, keepsakes, art and a tiny bit of camping gear.  Fortunately that camping gear included a queen-sized airbed, so we will have a bed temporary bed once we move into an apartment.
Our final box as it was received in Portland ~three months after we sent it from Australia.  Not everything survived shipment.
When we sold our boat in Australia, we mailed some tools and a few souvenirs.  We took a subset of our clothes, electronics with us for driving tour of Australia.  Nearly everything else either was left aboard our boat for the new owners, sold via Gumtree (Australia's Craigslist equivalent), given away or thrown away. 

When we flew back to the US from Australia, we pared down further still, including our remaining cookware and camping gear with the sale of our Landcruiser.

Since January when we readied our boat for sale -- for 6 months -- I have not had a space to call my own.  Life has been out of suitcases and boxes, often scattered hither and yon.  No dressers.  No cupboards.  A few inches of closet space.  Shoes hopefully out of sight under our borrowed bed.  Dirty clothes tucked away in the corner, until washed using someone else's machine.

We're lucky.   

One of many tents we see marking "home" for Portlanders, under bridges, overpasses, in traffic medians and elsewhere.
Whenever we go into town, we see the many Portlanders who've set up residence in tents, or lay sprawled, blanket-wrapped, across sidewalks and tucked into doorways, often in the shadow of condo high-rises, whose residents paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to tower above the have-nots for the convenience of a chi-chi natural grocery store and a movie theater a block away.

Our in-laws let us move temporarily into their guest bedroom -- their sewing room, really.  They let us invade their kitchen.  Take up residence in their favorite chairs.  Hog us their bathroom.  Ride the coat-tail of their internet.  Wash our dirty laundry.  Borrow their cars. 

When living in someone else's space our goal is to alternately add value and become invisible.  It's an odd state of being.  A somewhat impossible one whilst everyone tries to be considerate of sharing a space normally enjoyed by two, not invaded by two more who often have little idea of how things are normally done.  We've grossly violated our ideal visit time of three days.

This prosaic explanation of Portland art harkens to my puzzlement over our current state:

'My chosen form is an ordinary flower - some might even call a it weed. A universal childhood memory that becomes a metaphor for a child's lost innocence and joy.  To a child, it is a flower full of wishes. But, to an adult, it is a weed that must be eradicated.

I wanted to make the flowers invisibly large and powerful so that their emptiness gives attention to how they hold space.  They become templates of the possibility that wind and air filled them once and that they have left a mark in your life.

Lastly, this piece also represents Portlanders, who are continuously finding the beauty in what is often perceived as ugly.'

-Deb Hiller

Slowly, though, we're making progress.

Thanks to one of Wayne's former colleagues hand-delivering his resume to a former employer, he has a handshake offer to get his former Portland job (otherwise he'd still be waiting).  The required prerequisite criminal check may take as long as month, so no start date yet,  Now at least, one of us knows where they'll be working. 
We're not the only unofficial temporary dwellers in the marina.  Only a window separated us from this other interloper.
We're reluctant to go with any long-term lease until we know where I'll end up working, given how bad traffic can get for Portland metro commutes.  We don't want to repeat the mistake we made in Everett, where only one of us had a sane commute.  

My job hunt continues, a bit more challenging given my 12-year hiatus from the kind of job I currently seek.

In a few days, we'll rent an apartment and pay the financial penalty of month-to-month rent over a more favorably priced lease that might lock us into someplace I don't want to commute from.  We were shocked that today a two-bedroom apartment in a bad neighborhood is over $1500/month; twice what we paid in Everett 5 years ago in a much better neighborhood (Everett prices were comparable to Portland's). In October, rent controls begin, and with it the expectation that rents will escalate in open, uncommitted apartments.

However, if there's one thing cruising taught us more than anything, we'll figure out a solution, due to our resourcefulness and flexibility.

While we may be done cruising for a while, everyday life continues to provide an adventure -- just of a different kind.

Portland Ports, as seen at sunset from our temporary spot on the Columbia River.
While looking forward to our own place, we will certainly miss these views!
Location Location
We'll be looking for a place to call home in Portland Oregon metro area, though at the moment I am visiting my Mom and Dad in Florida, as it's been 2 1/2 years since I last saw them.  

Up Next
While "Galley Wench" is done cruising for a while, there are still plenty of untold tales yet to tell, with videos and photos.  And for those wondering about what happens when one returns, homeless and unemployed from cruising halfway around the world, the occasional post like this one, will give you a sense for what it's like.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

TONGA: Magical Island of Kelefesia

Kelefesia's long tongue of a beach, viewed from the bluff.  Kelefesia is part of Tonga's magnificent Ha'apai island group.
One of the most awesome aspects of cruising is the cruiser community.  Friendships are quickly formed, information is readily shared.  Even though we're often drawn to cruising by the desire to get away from it all, like the early pioneers, we know we're in this together. 
Steve and Patty, our friends from s/v Armagh, from Kelefesia's bluff -the site of that fabulous view in the first image.
Sometimes, our connectedness saves lives. Other times, it makes the crucial the difference between the mundane and the magical.  This post is a big, belated thank you to our friends Patty and Steve of Armagh; we cruised together from the Galapagos until New Zealand, reconnecting again in Fiji and New Caledonia.  Many of our best cruising memories are times spent with our friends from the good ship Armagh.
Tonga's Ha'apai islands.  Kelefesia -- too small to list -- is part of the Ha'apia island group.
When Wayne was antsy to leave Tonga for New Zealand, Patty convinced us we'd be making a big mistake if we bypassed Tonga's Ha'apai islands.  Thanks a variety of weather challenges, we weren't that wowed with Tonga at that point.  Patty prevailed, pointing us to a post on Ha'apai's crown jewel, Kelefesia,  the southern most island in the Ha'apai group, and only 35 miles north of Nuku'alofa, where we would check out of Tonga before heading to New Zealand.

We agreed to join Armagh, crossing our fingers the weather was sufficiently settled, especially for Kelefesia, which is neigh impossible to visit otherwise.

Luck was on our side!
Driftwood on the beach at Kelefesia, Tonga, a Ha'apai group island.
While Ha'apai's Uoleva was cruiser party central, a place of splendid sunsets and good company, and Ha'afeva was a great place to snorkel a shipwreck and clean a hull, Kelefesia was pure magic.

We should've realized that something amazing was in store for us when we caught a fish (an embarrassingly rare event for us) and flew past Armagh, another rarity.  We found out later our speed advantage was due to Steve's forgetting to pop up the wheels of his dinghy, dragging it reduced their normal boat speed to a crawl.
Where we anchored in Kelefesia.  Ariel image pilfered from Islands for Sale.
In any case, all we arrived at Kelefesia in good light and in calm conditions, a pre-requisite for visiting this reef-strewn spot of  paradise.

Thus, it seems fitting that my first-ever video is on Kelefesia - click here to watch it on Vimeo.

Fabulous coral gardens await those who visit Kelefesia.  Tonga's Ha'apai island group.
Location Location
This 5-minute video was inspired by Tonga Ha'apai's Kelefesia island, which in researching for this video I discovered is for sale! We anchored at S20.30.132 W174.44.429 October 27-28, 2016.  Kelefesia wins the honor as one of my top 10 South Pacific cruising picks, no mean feat given we sailed over 18,000 miles.  We've since sold our sailboat in Australia.  We're currently in Portland, OR, USA looking for work.  Someday we hope to return to cruising, and to see our friends Steve and Patty of Armagh again.
s/v Journey and s/v Armagh at anchor of the small island of Kelefesia, Tonga.


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Oz: Our Biggest Indulgence

Yes, this is the Australian Outback pub where Crocodile Dundee was filmed.  Northern Territory, Australia.  Worth a stay?  Read on....
"Wow!  Five years?!?  You sailed for five years!  I could never do that!"

By far, this is the most common reaction we get when we tell folks why we haven't been around for the last five years.

While we are exceptionally fortunate, for us, great adventures were a conscious choice.  We consciously chose to sacrifice many "normal" pleasures in exchange to see the world.  We could've traveled with far greater comfort, faster, longer and partaken in far more adventurous tours.  
Never Never Tours truck looking far seedier than its famed 1986 film days.  Northern Territory, Australia.
Our budget, however, was a mere $1500/month USD for everything -- food, boat work, fuel, entertainment, customs and check-in..... 

We didn't always hit it -- certainly not with our major repair work in New Zealand, nor when we completed our circumnavigation of Australia by Land Cruiser.  When the fuel costs up to $5.00 USD/gallon, and we drove over 10,000 miles, we knew we wouldn't be able to keep our spending as low as usual, not to mention all the other expenses.  We free-camped a lot (Camps 8 and wikicamps were indispensable aids for finding free places, though most were primitive and "out there" or rest stops just off the highway).  

This comical Dundee Draught sign ticked our funny bone, but not our wallet.  Northern Territory, Australia.
We did stay at paid campsites when we arrived late or just really wanted a flush toilet and shower or it was the only choice to stay in an awesomely cool park (like in El Questro); that generally ran us ~$25 AUD (~$18 USD).  When we felt "really indulgent," we'd spring for a backpacker lodge private room with a communal kitchen and bathrooms; that tended to run us ~$70 AUD (~$50 USD).

How much would you be willing to pay to stay in lovely rooms like these?  Walkabout Creek Australia.
As we neared the end of our travels, given all the bypassed "special days" (birthdays, anniversaries) traditionally BC (before cruising) celebrated with an overnight staycation, we found ourselves really itching for a bed, despite our typically tight budget.  

Ok, there was access to this kitchen included at the Walkabout Creek Hotel.  We kept driving.
We were ready for a big splurge.

We passed up the infamous Crocodile Dundee Walkabout Creek motel as we edged our way out of Australia's desolate and dusty Northern Territory.  We briefly considered staying, but were put off by the "We don't normally rent to people" comment from the proprietor, who meant they generally rented to "tradees" (blue collar workers).  We weren't too sure what made tradees subhuman.   Maybe it was their willingness to rent in such a dilapidated place?  We just weren't up for popping $110 for such a depressing-looking spot, famous or not (though Wayne said the bar was cool).  Instead, we free-camped further down the road that night.

The timing was right for stopping here, at the Blue Heeler Road House, Queensland Australia.  The options were few and far between.
Two nights later, in Kynuna, Queensland, we reluctantly sprang $120 AUD (~$85) for a very rustic room at the Blue Heeler road house.  While the staff was friendly, and I got the eve meal special, a tasty roast beef sandwich for a song, the rooms won the prize for the worst room we've ever had, anywhere - and we've stayed in some real dumps - for half the price.  The walls were corrugated metal.  The floor was soft from rot.  The toilet reeked from sulfur water.  Even if the bed had been clean, the florescent light above the bed attracted huge hordes of kamikaze insects who easily entered the room through the massive gap under the door.  Their death throes ended on the bed.

Our bed, doubling as our couch, Blue Heeler Road House, Queensland Australia's outback.
"I'm guessing that didn't count as one of those luxurious birthday-anniversary hotel rooms I've promised you for the last several years," Wayne sighed, as we checked out of the Blue Heeler.  I concurred, even though it's the most we've paid for a room other than the shockingly expensive (but nice) Great Ocean Road hostel room.  Perhaps the Blue Heeler did inspire Banjo Patterson's unofficial national anthem "Waltzing Maltida," but for $120/night it was still a dump.  And we got lucky - the beer garden outside our door was not in operation that night.

Given the semi-outdoor portion of Blue Heeler's bar was right outside our door, we were grateful that portion wasn't open the night we stayed.
Two for two, famous Australian Outback road houses.... Cool pubs.  Major dumps.  Far too much moola for a couple looking for an affordable, clean bed as a decent respite from camping.  

Banjo "Waltzing Matilda" Patterson Memorial in Winton, Queensland, Australia.
Yet, one half day after leaving Blue Heeler -- Shangri La! Or at least what constituted it for us in Australia's outback.  Arriving in in the small Queensland outback town of Winton around noon, instead of logging another full-day's drive, we stopped, cursing ourselves for not continuing our previous night's drive to end here, at Winston's North Gregory Hotel.  We stopped at the Blue Heeler because we were road-weary and also because nocturnal wandering kangaroos make it risky to safely drive at night in Australia.

North Gregory Hotel's art deco interior, a beacon of cleanliness compared to our usual fare.  Winton, Australia.
After splurging $120 AUD just the night before for lackluster Blue Heeler, it made no sense to even remotely consider another expensive motel the next day -- especially so early in the day.  And yet....

The North Gregory Hotel called to us.  Stylishly art deco.  Clean.  Spacious.

"How much?" I asked.  "$110."  I explained that we really blew it, blowing our budget by staying at the dumpy Blue Heeler for $120 the night before.  I asked if they'd consider a military discount, but that we would stay, regardless.  They knocked $10 off the price for a military discount, especially appropriate given the next day was Anzac Day.

 small portion of quirky Arno's Wall, with everything including the kitchen sink, behind Winton's North Gregory Hotel.
Savoring the overall quaintness of this tidy little historical town, we checked out the town's fun and funky little music fence and   Our only disappointments (other than spending a night and $120 for the Blue Heeler motel prior) were we were too early in the season to check out the Waltzing Matilda Centre, not there the one night of the week the Winton Royal Open Air Theatre showed movies, and one week before the premiere of chicken racing, which might be even more funny than the crab races we saw back in the Caribbean.

Winton's Musical Fence, a fun place to play. Designed by percussionist and composer Graeme Leak.
Given Winston was one of the last places we'd stop before leaving Australia, I wandered the town to pick up a few keepsakes. 

Wayne luxuriated the rest of the afternoon in our sumptuous room, a double bed with an awesome mattress and sweet little fridge pre-loaded milk to go along with the complementary cookies. The room opened out to a long balcony, with Adirondack chairs. As dusk approached, settled into the deck chairs to enjoy a perfect temperatures and nearly bug-free sunset.  

Arno's Wall, right behind North Gregory Hotel. is a fantastical sculptural wall that even includes the kitchen sink.
This is only a small portion of Arno's Wall.  Winton, Australia.
The next morning, we watched the whole town turn out for the Anzac Day parade from the balcony of The North Gregory.  To Australians and Kiwis, their participation in World War I defined their importance as nations in the world.   Just as last year's Anzac dawn ceremony in Whangarei New Zealand emotionally connected me to the essence of Kiwi patriotism,
we'd be hard pressed for a better good-bye for Australia's Great Outback than a bird's eye view of a humble yet earnest small town homage to its bygone heroes.

Anzac Parade, April 25, 2017, Winton Australia, viewed from North Gregory Hotel's balcony.
"Did this one count?" implored Wayne, hopefully.  I knew he meant.  Did he finally get credit for at least one belated / missed birthday-anniversary treat?  Definitely, I assured him.  Most definitely indeed.

This time, there was no regrets for our last big indulgence.  
North Gregory Hotel, Winton, Queensland Territory, Australia.  Image pilfered from http://www.northgregoryhotel.com.
Location Location
This post fondly recalls the brief time we spent in Winton, Queensland, Australia, April 25-26, 2017.  Meanwhile, we're still in the throes of "re-entry" in the USA, not yet quite sure where we'll call home.  Currently we are job-hunting for living-wage work that allows us to lead a simple, debt-free life and still save for the future.  At the moment, Wayne's gracious father and his wife are providing a roof over our head in Portland, Oregon, for which we are profoundly grateful.

Would've been a hoot to see these fellas racing in Winton, Australia.  Image pilfered from Ben's Chicken Stampede video.
Up Next
More catch-up blog posts, blog clean-up and video shorts.