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Other people’s cloud

bsky (640x399)

Today in the garden, I was enjoying the cloud cover. It was such a nice relief from the stinging mid morning sun. It occurred to me that it wasn’t cloud cover at all; it was smoke from the devastating bush fires in Tasmania. It’s not so nice enjoying the shade of a passing cloud when you know that it’s really from other people’s ashes.

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Fires are consuming parts of Tasmania after our hottest day on record (41.8 Deg) or (107.24 F). From where I sit surrounded by dry woodlands I realize that anyone could be next.

Some houses razed others left unscathed. Forty percent of some towns gone.

Some people might see patterns in nature’s decisions about who will burn and who won’t, but for the life of me, I can’t see any. The statements you often here like ‘It was meant to be’, ‘Everything happens for a reason’, or even ‘You get back what you put out’ just don’t make sense. Surely this fire isn’t retribution on people for past decisions.

No one deserves to be caught in a fire.

Like a storm or a tsunami or any other natural event, like a fire , if you are unfortunate enough to get in the way it is not ‘karma’ or ‘fate’, my guess is that it’s just another one of life’s random events.

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Off the grid

Franklin (640x336)

Solar powered house handmade from straw, wood and tin.

After five years, this full-time husband, father, chef and owner builder just completed his plan, well done.

He put the advice from his father to good use,

‘Just do a bit everyday and eventually you will finish anything you start.’

I appreciate his tenacity and style but most of all I appreciate that he’s my brother.

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Snakes ahead

There are three types of snakes in Tasmania, Lowland Copperhead, White Lipped and Tiger (Pictured). All three are poisonous.

Now that it is finally warm down here, they are starting to move around. I guessed this one was over a meter long. I think the snake signs are scarier than the snakes.


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Unexpected Emotions

Sunset Coronation Beach (640x422)Sitting on deck, with my back to the mast I looked at the horizon. Becalmed and searching for any ripples in the water to betray the winds arrival, I waited. Suddenly hundreds of dolphins rushed past agitated as if the water was boiling. I grabbed the mast for support, fearing falling in. I swear the air pressure changed. Adrenalin mixed with uneasiness shot through my veins.

A few weeks later anchored off a small island in the Pacific Ocean, I finished my morning swim. With half my body in the water hanging from the rope ladder, I paused and looked down. Squadrons of sharks passed directly underneath in the shallow clear water. A wave of calmness overcame me until all of them had passed, only then did I realize I was still in the water.

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Central Australia

Caravan  (412x640)
After falling asleep at a free roadside camp site  I was woken around midnight to the sound of slamming car doors. In the cars headlights I could see about six indigenous people, drunk and screaming in a foreign language, they began to argue and fight.
I watched them through my caravan window. Three other campers in the camp site put their lights on, which I didn’t do. One of the drunken women started chanting in broken English,
“Go back to sleep tourist”
Others joined in the chant,
“Go back to sleep tourist, go back to sleep”.
It was a chilling sound in the desert at that time of night.

One of them got back into the car and started to drive in circles spinning their wheels. The red dust engulfed the camp site.

The chanting got louder. Realizing that the situation was escalating, I decided to make a tactical retreat. Under the cover of darkness, dust and noise I went outside to raise the legs of the caravan. With a mob of drunk and violent people less than thirty meters away, I stealthily packed the caravan for the road.
I crept around to the driver’s side door being careful not to be seen by the crowd. I pressed the central locking button on the key. The cars blinkers and all the caravan lights flashed twice.
“Where you going tourist?” a female screamed.

This isn’t a movie so the engine started. I got to the highway in a straight line through the desert scrub. I heard screaming as I passed them by. I watched in my mirrors to see if they would follow. I didn’t have a plan for a road chase towing a caravan. No one followed. I drove to the next camp site.

I was initially angry by the threat and inconvenience of having to move, but as I drove and chilled out a bit, it occurred to me that moving to another camp site and loosing some sleep is a pathetic reason to be angry. Being invaded by another country and pushed to the margins of society is a good reason to be angry. Labelled as flora and hunted almost to extinction is a good reason to be angry. In addition, over two hundred years of bulling, abuse and racism is very good reason to be angry.

I also realised that the indigenous people do not speak a foreign language, I do. This is not my camp site, it is their land.
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We are all in the same boat.

Kareelah Sunset (489x800)

My boat ‘Kareelah’ was built thirty years earlier and my sailing experience was about a week old.

Preparation for my first voyage was based mostly on superstition, like not departing port on a Friday and keeping no bananas on-board  you know all the important stuff. My ignorance of the ocean was astounding.

After days of easy sailing my good fortune was about to change. The wind and waves were now pushing against me, by sunset the wind was screaming through the steel cables holding up the mast. ‘Kareelah’ was pointing away from the coast and crashing into ever-increasing three-metre seas. Waves were washing over the deck and soaking me with tonnes of water. ‘Kareelah’s’ mood was changing from a polite and peaceful friend into an angry unknown stranger. Little did I know that the ocean and I were about to do battle and I would learn a life lesson.

Around midnight, the seas were about five meters tall and relentlessly smashing me. The ocean around me was in a crazy and confused state, comparable only to being inside a large washing machine. Any distances gained in the troughs of the waves were lost with the collisions of the peaks. I wondered how long ‘Kareelah’ and me could withstand this beating.

According to my GPS, I had made no progress since the weather changed. I attempted to start the engine to increase my propulsion forward but nothing happened. Although I wore a harness, I now had to lash myself to the helm with rope to stop from being washed away and possibly, overboard, being dragged along to my death was not the way I wanted to go.

The ocean was so violent that I couldn’t access food or fresh water from the galley. Seasickness was fierce, like ten hangovers in one, my stomach contents temporarily sloshing around in the cockpit before being flushed out by another dousing from the ocean.

Just before sunrise and with no change in the sea state I began to hallucinate and was greeted by a smiling sailboarder only to have him vanish seconds later. My energy level was bordering on zero and hypothermia was now chasing me down with the unyielding drenching by the smashing waves.

However, things were about to get worse.

By first light, I noticed an increasing amount of sand mixed in with the waves pouring over me. There wasn’t much water left under ‘Kareelah’. I looked towards Australia and realised with absolute horror that I was sailing sideways towards the shore. Eventually ‘Kareelah’ would fall off a wave and have her back broken on the shallow sandy bottom.

Seventeen hours since the battle started the weather relaxed its grip as fast as it had taken hold. The waves flattened out and the wind reduced and shifted in my favour. The washing machine had changed cycles.

I steered ‘Kareelah’ slowly and steadily out to sea away from the shore. As soon as I had sailed a few miles I released my sodden body from the harness and found some fresh water and food. I headed towards a safe anchorage, dropped anchor, found a dry spot among the chaos in my cabin, and slept. This battle was over.

I stayed anchored for five days. Two of the days were for cleaning, maintenance, sleeping and eating. Three were for trying to get the courage to set sail again.

The difference between the reality and the fantasy of sailing the ocean revealed its ugly face to me in one extended night. I realised that for me sailing isn’t about superstition, myths or magic. Like life, it’s about surviving the best I know how.

The earth and the ocean just do what they do regardless of the people on top. Helping each other to survive life’s voyage benefits everyone.

We are all in the same boat.