Questions From Lewiston Middle School

[The first time I tried to post this, WordPress managed to lose the entire text. Hoping for better luck this time…]

I received a long list of questions from the students at Lewiston Middle School. More than I can handle all at once. Here are answers to many of them.

What do you like to do when you’re bored on the boat?
I rarely get bored. Tim listens to audiobooks. Jesse reads or works on writing poetry/music. Sometimes I read, and occasionally I like to solve Sudoku puzzles. But there are always tasks to be done to maintain the boat, plus investigating our next port and how to get there.

How long do you stay on the island you go to?
Some of my Blue Planet Odyssey comrades have called our travels through Indonesia a “forced march,” meaning that we are constantly on the move with no time to “hang out” for a while. Most places we go we are there for about three days only. One reason for this is that the BPO is covering a lot of ground in a relatively short time. (A friend who has been sailing the world for years asked how long the BPO was, and I said about two and a half years. She said, “Can’t you make it five?” Most cruisers would go much more slowly and spend a month in places they like. Or maybe a year.) a second reason we are moving fast now is that it is late in the season. The wind will be turning against us any day now. We are hoping to complete our next passage — about 450 miles to a harbor near Singapore — before that happens. Of course we can sail against the wind, but it can be very unpleasant if the waves begin to build.

Did you or others ever fall off your boat?
No. We are extremely careful about this. Especially at night, when there is usually only one person awake. The boat is normally on “autopilot,” so it will keep right on sailing if the person on watch goes overboard, and likely no one would notice until the next person comes on watch, up to four hours later. So if you go overboard you’d be in a heap of trouble. We have harnesses that we sometimes wear, which can clip into “jack lines” that run the length of the boat. So you can clip in if you need to do something outside the safety of the cockpit.

Were the German sailboat and the people on the boat saved?
Apparently the report of a pirate attack was wrong. It was posted on a widely read web site for cruising sailors, but we don’t know who posted it or why they had such poor information. Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet! But the attack that Luc witnessed in the Philippines was real, and as far as I know it remains unresolved. It isn’t possible to know exactly what has been done or what is in the works to help the people, since communications with the kidnappers are most likely done in secret.

How often do you fish?
Usually we troll a lure when we are at sea, and we catch a fish every few days. Recently we stopped, because we are eating so much fish ashore — we don’t really want to have more fish on board. Fish and rice are the main foods here, even though there is also a variety of other things.

Have you liked being on a boat for so long?
Yes, but I’m sure looking forward to coming home in two weeks. I know when I get cold in Maine’s winter I will have thoughts about how nice it would be to be on the boat again. But I still want to see family and friends, and eat all my favorite foods, and watch a Patriots football game, and take a hot shower whenever I want… I will be home for almost three months, after which I think I’ll be happy to get back aboard for the remaining year of the voyage.

Have you ever gotten homesick?
Occasionally. But then I remind myself that I am doing what I’ve dreamt of doing, and I won’t be doing it forever, so I better appreciate being where I am even while I’m missing home.

Did anything ever jump into the boat?
Sometimes at sea we find flying fish on the deck in the morning. And a few times we found tiny squids, which I still don’t fully understand. If you remember my posts from the Galápagos Islands, we had sea lions climbing aboard, which was quite a shock the first time. We had to block off the steps up the back of the boat to try to keep them off, since they would shed and poop on the deck.

What sorts of things did you see on the pink beach? Why is it called a pink beach?
Pink Beach has a slight pink color from bits of coral in it. We could swim right from the beach to spectacular snorkeling — clear shallow water, and a seemingly endless variety of coral shapes and colors, and fish shapes and colors. Did you see the animated movie Finding Nemo, with the crazy-looking fish? I think we saw those fish and others.

What are some other places you’ll be traveling to?
Soon we will complete our time in Indonesia, and go to Malaysia. I will come home, but return to the boat in Malaysia in three months. Then Thailand, Sri Lanka, and some islands in the Indian Ocean on our way to South Africa.

How do you get internet?
Different ways at different times. Sometimes we only get it ashore, often at a restaurant. Here restaurants usually do not offer Internet, but they have very good cell phone service. (Everyone here seems to have a cell phone.) So I have purchased a data plan using the cell system. When we are really lucky there is wifi close enough on shore that we can connect directly from the boat. Almost every place we’ve visited has Internet, one way or another, though it is usually much slower than what we get at home, and in some places it is restricted so that you cannot access some sites.

What caused the eruption of the volcano? I don’t really understand why they erupt, what are other reasons volcanos erupt?
I think you should look this up online yourselves, as I don’t know that much about it.

What’s the best place you’ve visited and why?
Hard to choose, but I’ll go with the Marquesa Islands. Beautiful, rugged, remote, good snorkeling, manta rays, good fruit, and of course friendly people.

Could you touch the Komodo Dragon?
Absolutely not! They are dangerous; sort of like a crocodile on land. And their bite gets very infected. They kill large prey by biting them, and then following them while the infection weakens/kills them.

What’s the most interesting kind of wildlife you’ve ever seen?
Each is different and interesting in its own way. The sea lions for their acrobatics. The crocodiles for their primordial scariness. Whales for their magnificence. The Komodo Dragon for its strangeness. The orangutans for their personalities. If I had to choose, I would go with the orangutan, though that might just be because we saw them so recently.

Is it expensive to sail around the world?
Yes, at least the way we are doing it. Boats cost a lot to buy and maintain. Food and fuel costs add up. Some countries charge a pretty penny to visit. We are paying for all of this from our lifetime savings. But some people manage to do it for far, far less. They start with a smaller boat. They do more of the maintenance themselves. And they have some skill/trade that allows them to earn money along the way. They may stop somewhere for months when they find a job, and earn enough money to keep them going to the next opportunity.

Was your boat damaged during the volcanic eruption?
No. We just collected the ash on everything. Our mainsail still looks like it was smeared with dirt.

Where was the prettiest sunset you’ve seen so far?
Hmm, I can’t say that I remember one in particular. There were some very nice ones when we were at sea, crossing the Pacific.

How often do you eat the food that the people on the island usually eat? What do you eat on the boat?
Great question. When we are in port we frequently eat ashore, especially here in Indonesia where food costs very little. Often what we eat is the same as what the locals eat. Lots of fish and rice, plus fruit and eggs. When we eat on the boat we have more meat, and canned goods when we run out of fresh.

How often do people give you gifts? What’s the best one you’ve received?
Generally the only gifts we receive are people’s smiles and welcoming attitudes. In Indonesia they are trying to promote tourism, and we have been given T-shirts and sarongs by the Tourist Board, plus they have provided guides/translators and welcome/farewell dinners and dance performances. At the Pacific Islands we were sometimes given fruit and coconuts, and once fish. When we went to ceremonies we would be given flowers. Receiving fresh fruit, right from the trees, was my favorite.

How many volcanoes have you seen? Does it ever scare you?
We have seen many, many islands that were formed by volcanoes. But most have been inactive for centuries or more. Only the one on Lombok erupted, and that eruption was not life threatening to anyone, as far as I know. So only Lombok was a little scary; mostly it was just a nuisance.

You said you felt violated when ash covered your boat. What do you mean by that in more depth?
The boat is my only “personal space” (and even this I have to share with two others). I like to be able to retreat to the boat to relax, and maybe to be alone in my cabin. But ash was everywhere — in my personal space. I felt like my privacy was intruded upon, and there was nowhere I could go to fully relax.

While you were on this wild adventure, On a scale from 1-10 how fun/exciting was it?
I tried to answer this in an earlier comment. It seems to me that you only get a few wild adventures in a lifetime, and they are all special. On an extended adventure like this, the fun/excitement ebbs and flows. You can’t be excited all the time!

Have you ever gotten a disease?
Not on this trip. Nor has anyone else on our boat. But some boats have dropped out of the BPO due to health problems.

Have monkeys ever chucked poop at you before?
No. But Jesse got peed on by an orangutan high overhead. Our guide said that will bring him good luck!

Do you have a YouTube channel?

2 thoughts on “Questions From Lewiston Middle School”

    1. If I had unlimited funds, both for purchase and ongoing maintenance, I would probably sail a somewhat larger catamaran — maybe a 48-50 footer, rather than 42. This would have more living and stowage space, be more comfortable in moderate sailing conditions, and be faster. But given that we don’t have unlimited funds, I think our 42 foot catamaran serves the purpose very well.


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