Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Thankyou to Everybody

I've had a couple of days of recovery now and am starting to feel like my old self. Finishing on Sunday felt like an out of body experience, I was there but I wasn't there! Fatigue definately had me by the short and curlies. Firstly I'd like to say a big thankyou to all the bloggers for following me as I circumnavigated Australia. Your comments along the way made the hard times a lot easier and I felt very humbled by them. Thankyou all. I'd also like to thank everyone that came down to see me in on Sunday at Rockingham and I'm sorry it was such short notice as I know there were others that would have come down but didn't know I was coming in. Thankyou to all the volunteers that have helped in making the voyage a possibility and believing in me enough to do it, also of course to the number of sponsors without whom I it would not have become a reality. And a final thankyou to all the people that supported me as I went around Australia and gave their valuable time to make sure that I felt welcomed and that the boat was well prepared and safe for me to continue on my way. You guys made the trip fun and I really enjoyed meeting new friends who were fantastic people - that was actually the highlight of the trip for me, besides coming home! The willingness of strangers to support what I was doing shows our Aussie spirit of mateship is still alive a well and made me proud of the country I live in. We are so much alike in the way we think from one end of the country to the other. The people I met really valued life and living it to the full, and want good futures for their children and children's children.

Something that has come to light over the last few days is the time it took me to get around the country and the distances covered. For your interest, we are still calculating the exact distance but the last leg from Darwin looks like it was around 2000 nautical miles, I may be just under that, may be just over it but whatever it is it will be a new world record for a quadriplegic sailing solo unassisted. The sailing time to do the circumnavigation taking the stops out of it was 57 days. The current record was set about a month ago by Ian Thompson from Airlie Beach at 42 days, before he broke that record it was 68 days! So, I am ecstatic that I've managed to knock 11 days off the old record that had stood for years. Damn you Ian!

This is possibly the last blog for this voyage. I'm still in shock that I have completed the trip and am still alive and in one piece! I'm sure I have a guardian angel that was looking after me, there were a number of extremely close calls. I keep looking at the tracker page with the red line circling around the whole of Australia and I just can't believe that Spirit and I made that track!

For those that are wondering about the plans for a world trip, well its back to the drawing board on that. It's not a goal that will disappear out of my life but it would not be a possibility in Spirit. There is too much to maintain and I have some major issues with the extreme cold and heat which were the two things that nearly took me out due to the thermoregulatory issues of being a quadriplegic. I have some very long term ideas to explore, I think it is possible but of course its a matter of finance and support. After this eight year project I know how long things can take and quite honestly it might be quicker to take over the world than try to sail around it!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Coming Home

Jamie is now making his way back to Rockingham and expects to arrive at the Val St. jetty around 2PM this Sunday 25th July. He has been making good progress over the day and is now not far north of Jurien Bay but a fair way off the coast. He's extremely fatigued after being at sea for so long, and has been unable to get much sleep the last couple of nights due to being bashed about by the southeasterlies that come in overnight.. He's also coping with pressure sores on top of being generally a bit battered and bruised, so its definately time to come home. He has however managed to sail non-stop from Darwin and by the time he reaches Rockingham that will be a distance of over 1900 nautical miles, breaking his own previous record of the longest distance sailed solo by a person with quadriplegia. Typical Jamie is, however, disappointed that he probably won't have cracked the 2000 nautical miles!

If anyone is interested in welcoming Jamie home to congratulate him on completing the circumnavigation please feel free to come down to the jetty by about 2PM on Sunday.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Probably passing Geraldton too

Well I'm not passing Geraldton just yet, but it won't be too far off. I've been making really good ground over the past few days, averaging 6 - 7 knots, and am thinking I don't have any great reason to stop before getting home now. Yes I'm tired, sore, uncomfortable and can't wait to get off the boat but I'm only a few days away from home now. I can almost smell it - well there's actually a lot more unpleasant things I'm smelling now but I have a good imagination! It's as if there's a magnet sucking me down southward, although it's probably just that I have been using the big jib instead of the storm jib and Spirit has taken off. That, and being in the Leeuwin current. There's been some very good sailing in the mix of some really tough times, particularly at night when the wind seems to pick up and it gets really rough. I have had quite a bashing. In fact my trusty little Spot (my tracker) cradle, finally blew a hinge after all this way and I just managed to save it from going for a dive overboard. The "McRaedle" as I call it, has a story attached. The Spot tracker was kindly donated by Richard Evans from Underwater Video Systems just before I left WA. On the trip to Albany I found it very difficult to attach to any good position in the cockpit and nearly lost it several times. In Albany I explained the difficulty to Mark McRae (from Southern Ocean Sailing, who has been a fantastic support to me all the way around the country), who went away and came back just 45 minutes later with what I call the "McRaedle". This has kept Spot in position attached to the tiller, always facing the sky - until now! Well Mark, it so very nearly made it all the way, I've managed to tie it up but it no longer swings with the movement of the boat.

I've possibly now passed my previous sailing distance record which was from Albany to Hobart, if not I would be close to doing so. In the next day I will also pass my own record of sailing time spent on Spirit, beating the 15 day trip to Hobart. Unfortunately I seem to now be getting more south easterly than easterly in the wind, so think I'm in for a bit of a slog to get back. But not too far now thank goodness.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Passing Exmouth

Today was Decision Day in terms of continuing on down the coast or pulling in at Exmouth and having a rest. The next possibility for me in terms of stopping is not until Geraldton, several days sail away. The west coast is nothing like the east coast, in that marina's are few and far between - actually none between Darwin and Exmouth - and I can't anchor or attach to a mooring due to the whole disability thing. Based on the forecast weather, which is in a favourable pattern to get me down the coast, I've decided to go for it. If I pulled in at Exmouth I may miss this weather window and I don't know when it would come through with these easterlies again. I don't want to have to be bashing into southerlies or southwesterlies all the way down the coast, it would do me in. Apart from nursing a very sore backside from dragging it around, I'm not in bad shape and neither is Spirit. I'm still having issues with the batteries holding charge so am having to run the genset a lot more than I would like. She is also still taking water in through a fitting in the stern, and the bilge pump is playing up. Today I had to pull the floor boards up to get to it which took me forever, but was achievable. Have had some good sailing and made some good distance over the past day or two. Have passed a couple of oil rigs - massive structures - one of them was sitting in over 3000 metres of depth, which means that's how far down it was drilling, the mind boggles at the engineering involved.

I currently feel like I'm in a sailing garbage truck. Spirit stinks. Of course I don't throw anything overboard, and my stored rubbish and food scraps really went on the nose going through the heat. She's going to need a good airing by the time I get back! I imagine I probably smell similar by now. Good thing I'm on my own.

Just like to make mention of Josh Bell who owns the fibreglass repair business Greg's Marine outside of Fremantle. Josh first learnt to sail when he was crewing for me in races, on my Adams 10 "Caramia", several years ago. He had a baptism of fire on his very first time out when I managed to lay the boat on its side, mast in the water, in the course of the race. Out of 8 crew, only 3 were still on board when the boat righted itself - and one of them was Josh! He returned for more after that, and I knew he was a sailor at heart. Anyway, Josh managed to find time out of a very busy work schedule to send a couple of his staff down to do some urgent repairs to Spirit to enable me to get away on this trip back in March, for which I am very grateful. He's a great bloke who runs a good business and I wouldn't hesitate recommending him to anyone needing some fibreglass repairs done.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Attack of the Flying Fish

Most Australians know how big the trucks on the road get in the north of the country -you know those massive road trains that are up here? Well I've seen the equivalent in ships! There seems to be a bit of traffic going in one direction, I'm assuming its Port Hedland, nowhere near me thankfully. Yesterday I saw the biggest ships imaginable - even from 8 nautical miles away, I could still see the bridge on them. Saw one and was astounded at the size, then another came on the radar and I swear it was a third bigger again! I'm assuming these are giant iron ore carriers probably heading for China. Wouldn't want to be in that shipping lane...

Nothing much else to report, other than a thwack on the side of the head by a rogue flying fish. They usually only jump about two feet off the water, so this one must have been on fish steroids because it hit halfway up the back stay before bouncing into my head and flipping back into the ocean. All in the space of a split second, leaving me slightly stunned and having a "what the?" moment. Other than that, winds have been light so I have had to work hard to keep the boat moving and its also still really hot.

As I draw closer to home I am thinking of the many people who volunteered their time to make this journey a reality for me, and just how grateful I am for their efforts. At this point I'd particularly like to thank Tim Dallas from South of Perth Yacht Club who put together and ran my tracker page, as well as maintaining the website. He's just returning home from hospital after serious illness, and even from hospital was still working on it! Thankyou Tim, that tracker page has been focal point of the website and crucial to people following, its just been fantastic.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Stars in My Eyes

Since my last post, the wind has picked up and become more consistent again, ranging between 10 - 20 knots, coming mostly from the south east. I did change course slightly and moved further west away from the coast, to try to stay in better breeze and perhaps that move has paid off. The sea state is a bit lumpy and I'm having to adjust to it hitting me side on, I'm finding it pretty uncomfortable. Fortunately the edge has been take off the heat by the wind, so I'm no longer feeling like I'm being baked in a slow oven. I have Geoff Smith at Airlie to thank for installing the 12 volt fan in the cabin for me back there, in anticipation of warmer climes. Without that fan I don't think I could have carried on, it probably made the difference in me being able to complete this trip - well keep going anyway, I guess I've still gotten a way to go!

So, what's been happening over the past few days? A couple of things to report - when I was becalmed a couple of nights ago and sleeping out in the cockpit, I experienced a total glass out of the ocean. Not a breath of wind, the ocean had not a ripple on it, there was no moon and a clear sky so all the stars were reflecting off the ocean. One of the most beautiful things I've ever seen, like drifting in a sea of stars. Shame I was on my own, it was very romantic. Then the next night I came across a couple of boats fishing (I think) but with no nav lights on and not responding to my radio calls. I kept my distance and kept an eye on them on the radar.

This whole area past the Kimberley coast is just teeming with wildlife, so encouraging to see it. All kinds of fish, both flying and swimming, pods of dolphins everywhere, and plenty of birdlife too. I've seen a whale, not sure what kind but it had a dolphin type look to it. Today I've been sailing through weed of some kind, its gotten quite thick in some parts. Its a golden colour and I don't know where it comes from.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Baked, Boiled and Fried

Drifting in a south westerly direction, with a few deviations backwards or sideways, is about all I managed today. Sailing is becoming a bit of a distant memory, as I had my first "glass out" of the trip up here for hours today. No clouds, no swell, and nothing on the horizon. No wind either. Bit disconcerting, certainly makes you feel a bit insignificant and alone on the wide blue ocean. Fortunately I have another lot talking books to keep my mind from wandering too much. Did see some wildlife to distract me though. A pod of dolphins swam by, including one that somehow managed to stick himself out of the water down to his fins - head up at a bit of an angle - and then propel himself along looking around as he went. Quite intrigued as to how he managed it. Was also followed by a shark and a few fish. Tried to lure him to the surface for a better look with some of my packaged food, but I should have realised that wouldn't be very tempting. At another stage the boat sailed, I mean drifted, through some kind of fish ball. The water was literally boiling around the boat with fish, never seen anything like it. They were all moving so fast I couldn't get a good look at any, so don't know what they were.

The heat is really starting to make life very difficult for me as I battle to keep cool. Today was stifling - 42 degrees in the cabin, and not enough shade in the cockpit. Fortunately a slight westerly breeze sprang up at around 2 this afternoon, which just took the edge off the heat and meant I did in fact start sailing again for a while until it dropped out again this evening. It is such a relief when the sun goes down. I am going to try to sleep in the cockpit tonight to stay out of the heat in the cabin. Despite doing everything I can to keep cool, I am finding it exhausting and am only hoping some decent wind comes in soon to push me along a bit and give me some relief.

Friday, July 9, 2010


It's been a fairly uneventful and pleasant sail across the Bonaparte Gulf to the Kimberley Coast since leaving Darwin on Wednesday. Winds were light at first but settled into a steady 15 knot southeaster all day today, with not a lot of swell to contend with either. All in all it has made for great sailing - except for the heat! There is just no escaping it out here, due to the direction I'm sailing and the angle of the sun I'm not getting much shade in the cockpit and inside the cabin is stifling. Once again the difficulty my body has in regulating body temperature is causing me a few problems. Basically my body no longer has a functioning "thermostat", so my body temperature doesn't regulate itself as it should and instead takes on the temperature of the air around it. This gave me great difficulty dealing with the cold in the Southern Ocean, in trying not to get hyperthermia and now in the north I have to work to cool down so I don't overheat. My technique of buckets of cold seawater tipped over the head helps. It's lovely to come outside during the night and enjoy the cooler night air. I've seen the most amazing night skies of the trip up here - lovely clear skies full of stars. I've also seen the phosphorescence on the water that other sailors have told me about, which is a treat. Like little patches of LED lights sparkling under the surface of the water.

Nothing has come up on the radar out here, no other boats at all - just another couple of customs planes buzzing me but I'm getting used to that. I did see three sea snakes slithering past yesterday, I'm not too comfortable with that as I do worry about them landing onboard in a wave. Otherwise lots of flying fish, and a large submerged metal object covered in barnicles that floated by. I only knew it was there because a bird was standing on it, which was lucky because if I'd have banged into it there would have been some damage done.

Thankyou to my daughter Bella who is now back in Perth after following me from Port to Port and giving me lots of support on the way around. Couldn't have done it without you Bella, and thanks for your lovely message on the blog. Look forward to seeing you again in a couple of weeks!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

On the Road Again

By about 2PM today I should be heading out of Darwin harbour. I've been doing quite a bit of homework for this leg as to what to expect, basically I think the rest of the trip has prepared me for this final leg. Albany to Hobart prepared me for the long distance hauls, Hobart to Sydney prepared me for dodging ships, Sydney to Airlie taught me a lot about the little squalls that come through and the kind of wind that goes with them and basically from Airlie to Darwin all about current against wind and navigating through reef. This next leg will have a bit of everything, but I intend to stay outside all the reef.

I need to do some big thankyous to some individuals, starting with Tony and Jan Somerville for their fantastic support while in Darwin. I couldn't have gotten the boat ready without Tony. To Bailey's fuels for the fuel-up while I'm here, thanks Glen, WA. Manager, and Josh who runs Darwin. Darwin Sailing Club for their hospitality - David Omnes and all the flag officers there. To Kevin, Neil, the two Tracey's and the rest of the team from the TCYC (local Rockingham Yacht Club) who are up here with the kids competing in the Minnows Nationals. It was great to see some friendly faces and thanks for the moral support, look forward to catching up when I get home. Make sure you keep those Ouzo's cold for me Kevin! And finally Beau and his family - Beau has trained with me on the Sonar's at Royal Perth and we bumped into him yesterday. I really appreciate your support, a big thankyou to you and your family.

Complacency has definitely not set in with me, I know that anything can happen on this leg particularly with the length of time that I will be out on the water, but its now time to finish the circumnavigation and I am looking forward to getting Spirit of Rockingham and myself home.