The New Year is a time to do some mental housekeeping, get your bearings, figure out where you are and where you want to go. In our case, I mean this literally. Many of our friends ask us; “So where are you now?” They tell me they are looking at the map I posted for our schedule and destination list, and they realize we are supposed to be in Thailand. Then, they get an uneasy feeling we aren’t in Thailand, though they can’t quite be sure.
We are not in Thailand.
And we skipped Australia completely.
That original map is completely wrong at this point.
As of the writing of this post, we are riding out a storm of strong north-westerly winds behind Palau Banta, Indonesia.
Without scale, though, it's hard to understand exactly where this is in relation to where we have sailed from. So, for a grander view, here are a few pictures that track our path.
This is the path we have sailed to get here:
If you break it down into smaller sections (so you can adequately zoom in and see the islands, these are the places we’ve visited:
Where is Sonrisa going next?
Sonrisa will stay in Lombok/Gilli Islands/Bali area for a few months, waiting for the Northwesterly winds to switch to a Southeasterly trade winds. After that, she will continue her trek North and westward to Kalamatan, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand by January 2019.
This probably begs the question: why are we so far off our original schedule?
The bottom line is, we were wrong from the start. Years before we left, as we were trying to understand the budget we would need, we sketched out our sailing plan on an excel spreadsheet. We used Jimmy Cornel’s well regarded passage making book World Cruising Routes to determine the mileage of our passages and the best time of year to undertake them. The passage making wasn’t a mystery, touring on land was. How long would we stay in each place?
We watched blogs and read books about people who cruised like we wanted to do. There was no consensus on timing. Some people circumnavigated the entire world in 72 days, sailing straight around with no stops. Some people spent ten years in Mexico alone. So, we looked at the list of places we would like to go, the cyclone season limitations and time lost to passage making. Then, we divided the remaining time amongst our destination list and this gave us two weeks in each place.
“Think about it!” I said to Andrew, “we only get two weeks vacation every year, this will be like a two week vacation in a new place every month! This will be great!”
Are you sitting at your desk nodding in agreement with me, right now?
We were wrong. The cruising schedule is nothing like a vacation schedule. Expecting to explore a whole island group in two weeks was extremely irrational given a handful of realities I didn’t know then, but we have since learned.
Everything Takes Far Longer Than You Expect. Please refer to my “boring” post about a six+ hour Labuan Bajo Tour to find one, common prescription medication.
Good Weather/Under the Weather Crew. Wise passage making requires two things: good weather and a well founded crew. If the weather isn't right or someone is sick, we must stay in port until these conditions resolve themselves.
Exploration Time is Interrupted By Normal Life Here. Getting your laundry done and grocery shopping rarely interrupts a regular vacation. You set aside these administrative tasks of life until you return home. In this life, they must be accounted for. For example: Quarantine, customs, immigration, port captain processes; managing internet based affairs: blog, professional licenses, insurances, etc.; laundry; grocery shopping, fuel, boat parts/boat maintenance.
Sailing from Island to Island takes days, not hours. When I calculated our passage making time, I focused on large passages only. I didn’t sketch out the time spent hopping around within one island group. Tahiti to Bora Bora takes five sailing days. You want to see Bora Bora, right?
All tolled, If you only have two weeks planned for all of the Society Islands, 5 days are taken up by sailing between islands, 2 days are taken up by customs/immigration tasks, and 3 days are taken up by groceries and a necessary boat project - this leaves only 6 days to explore and see anything.
My two week plan was a bust before we ever even started. Add to it this problem:
We keep finding nice places to explore we didn’t know existed; and
You never know when you will land on the “take ten steps back” square. We’ve met people who have lost their mast or had a boat repair create a six month delay. For us, not being able to get the sixty day visa on arrival in Tual, Indonesia was a game changer this year because it made it more difficult to see some of Indonesia on a short time schedule. When we decided not to skip Indonesia, it delayed us into the wrong six month season, forcing us to sail against the wind/waves/current for 3000 miles or slow down and enjoy until the winds switch in June.
Experienced sailors often say the most dangerous thing you can do is sail on a schedule; it causes you to go to sea when you should be staying in port. The reality is, though, the world is enormous and five years in the grand scheme isn’t very much time. If we are going to successfully circumnavigate in five years, we cannot entirely abandon a schedule. It leaves us with three choices:
- Cut out some proposed destinations;
- Extend the five years;
- Sail but not complete a circumnavigation in this five year block.
We’ll keep you posted on what we decide next. For now, we are targeting Thailand by January 2019 (again).