Day 11 of ? – Sorry CBSA, but I *did* visit a farm on this trip

12 Mar

Following up on Saturday’s adventures, after we went to Newcastle Anna had to go check on her pony PJ who was slated to compete in a jumping and horse dancing race the following day. For those of you who are unfamiliar with all things German, it’s important to know that the German people love horses. And Anna, being from the north central southwest eastern part of Germany, is no different from her fellow countrymen and women. So when the opportunity presented itself she leased a horse from a horse leaser and now spends all her time and money caring for a beautiful and majestic sixteen year-old pony named PJ.

Here are some photos I took of PJ, the farm, and some other farm things. Oh, and Anna and PJ placed first in the jumping competition!

I’m paying $90 a year to be able to upload videos – so you guys have to click!

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This farm also had lots of bees

and two beautiful dogs! (Obi and Teddy)

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And on the way home we drove over the giant bridge.

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Day 10 of ? – Brother can you spare an off-road vehicle?

11 Mar

One of the things I’ve learned in my travels is that often times people have things to do. It’s important to recognize this because there will be times when you want to meet up with someone and they won’t be able to. Related to that, I’ve also learned that it’s sometimes possible to combine “meeting up” with “things to do”. It’s a little something I like to call “running out of ideas for my blog”.

Surprisingly, the main obstacle I encounter when I employ this practice in the real world is that your average person considers many of their activities or “chores” unsuitable (or uninteresting) for a visitor from halfway around the world.ย The conventional thinking is that no one is going want to do yard work or repair a broken septic system in some far-off country while on their holiday.

But these are exactly the sorts of things I like to do when I travel. There are several reasons why this is:

1. I enjoy doing things.* Doing things is good.

2. I enjoy doing things with people. I do a lot of my renovations solo and it can be lonely sometimes.**

3. Heavy hands make light work. If you have more hands you effectively combine them together to make super hands and the work goes a lot faster. This is similar to the first rule of intelligence: two heads are bigger than one.

4. At the end of the day the requirement is to hang out. It’s totally possible to do that while raking leaves or shoveling snow.

So with all that in mind on Saturday I met up with my friend Anna (who’s looking to buy a car) and we drove up to Newcastle (2.5 hours) so she could look at the most ridiculous non-military vehicle ever created. Anna is shopping around for a truck to bring to Africa with her when she moves there in August so she needs a solid vehicle that can survive the harsh African climate.

It took us about six and a half hours in total and it was a lot of fun.ย I could probably write a few hundred pages about this truck but it’s almost nap time so here’s a single paragraph and a bunch of pictures.

The truck has four batteries, two radios, three aerials, two stereos, a fridge / freezer, 42 litre water reservoir, hot water shower system, extra cooling fans, air con, raised suspension, crazy floodlights, roll bars, side roll bars, snorkel system, solar panels, and – honest to God I’m not making this up – fins to lower wind resistance.

*caveat: if the “thing” is new it must adhere to my strict, one-new-thing-per-week policy.

**Unlike Rory B Bellows, the incessant beep of the global positioning system is *not* all the companionship I need.

Day 8 of ? – This is Getting Even More Serious

8 Mar

I don’t know how to tell you guys this so I’m just going to have to say it blunt: this Australia to New Zealand passage has just gotten a whole lot more dangerous.

There was always the threat from the sharks, the weather, pirates, food poisoning, falling overboard, boat fire, sunstroke, motion sickness, under-ocean earthquakes, Pacific-Rim-style sea monsters, disgarded shipping containers, mutiny, reverse mutiny, war with North Korea, and (of course) Billy Zane.

But now there’s a new threat – one that could put the entire operation at even more risk.

I am of course referring to the lethally toxic and radioactive Chinese space station that is going to crash into the exact ocean at the exact time and in the exact path of our crossing to New Zealand. What are the chances? I finally get to come down to Australia to live my lifelong dream of the past few months just to have it ripped away from me.

Well, where some people see crisis, I see crisis-tunity. As One White Tree’s unofficial project manager and fifth in command (if anything happens to Ross and Diana their corpses still outrank me), I’m going to do everything in my power to ensure that we do the exact *opposite* of what the Chinese government is telling everyone to do.

They want people to stay away from their space station – we’re going to steal it.

It all makes perfect sense. They cooked up this “radiation” story to scare off scavenger hunters and foreign operatives to keep safe the one true prize: their valuable space seeds (grown from their space experiments to make powerful genetic modifications to the Chinese super plant Siraitia grosvenorii). They one hundred percent do *not* want this to fall out of Chinese hands.

High risk and low probability-of-success never stopped me before so why should it this time? I imagine that my crewmates will be reluctant to go on the mission, but when I tell them of the fortune and glory that awaits us at the end of the rainbow, they’ll be one hundred percent on board. (see what I did there?)

Fortune and glory.

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Image unrelated (I just like this photo – it contains many of my favourite things and I needed a picture for the post)

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Day 7 of ? – Land Travel Time

6 Mar

So I decided to take a quick trip (four hours south by train) down to the national capital to visit my friends Nick and Nicole. If you’ve ever been to Australia you probably didn’t even try visit Canberra (or as the locals affectionately call it: Canos). It’s a sleepy little bedroom town that for many years was the only place in the country where one could purchase fireworks, pornography, and / or the services of a politician (so I’m told).

And while the Internet has decimated the city’s once-thriving porno industry, there is still lots to do and see. The main reason I’m here is so I can hang out and play with Gizmo and Smudge (N&N’s doggos). You see my stepdogs are over three thousand kilometres away back in some other boring capital city and I NEED MY FIX of dogs. I haven’t seen G&S since they were puppies and I’m super excited to see how big they’ve grown. I’m basically going to hang out with them for as long as I can before I have to get back to the boat.

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Day 6 of ? – A Day of Firsts

5 Mar

Today marks a bunch of firsts for me for this trip:

first time I’ve been off the boat since I arrived (you landies are a real strange bunch)
first proper shower I’ve taken since I left home (I coulda stayed in there for hours) and
first non-homecooked and non-vegetarian meal eaten since I got on the boat

I want to take some time to discuss this last one.

Diana (Happy Birthday!) has been making the most amazing meals. She recently turned to the light side and became vegetarian, but that’s not stopping her. No-siri-bob. So for the past five days I’ve been eating delicious, high-quality, healthful, professionally-prepared meals three times a day. I can’t remember the last time I’ve gone more than one day (let alone five) with a traditional three squares. I feel good.

But even more interesting is that there are no sugared drinks on board. I’ve been drinking only water for five days straight. I can’t remember the last time something like this happened. Oh, wait. I yes can. It’s NEVER!

I wish I could say that you don’t need fancy drinks with flavour to enjoy life but I just had a beer with my meal at this restaurant and I was all like “Fill it up again! Fill it up again! Once it hits your lips, it’s so good!”

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It really is.

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Day 5 of ? – What the Hell am I Doing Here?

3 Mar

So what exactly am I doing on this trip? The answer might surprise you.

Here’s the deal: My aunt Diana and uncle Ross have a fortyish foot (twelve metre) catamaran that is currently parked in a boating lot in a place called Burraneer Bay (just at the bottom edge of Sydney Australia). Here’s the view from the back of the boat at sunrise.

sunrise

No filter

Their ship is called One White Tree and it’s awesome. It’s a catamaran which means it has two huge pontoons on either side and between them there’s an indoor part (kitchen, dining room) and an outdoor space (patio table / driver’s seat at the back and viewing platform at the front). The sail pole is in the middle and there’s a tiny raft that hangs of the back (like the shuttle craft on the Star Trek Enterprise).

As for what I’ll be doing, I’m told the work will involve a lot of “heavy lifting”. See, I’m more of a carrier than a lifter so when I found out I’d be carrying *and* lifting I got quite upset.

My first task was to clean the barnacles off the bottom of the ship. With an ice scraper. I got the right pontoon and Ross took the left one. After three days of scraping I’m mostly done my side. There’s this one part (the bottom) that you can’t reach from the surface so you have to dive UNDER the boat and then scrape for a few minutes then come up for air. It’s really dangerous work and there isn’t even any hazard pay.

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My other main responsibility is I’m the ship’s project manager (self-appointed). We’re going to be driving it over to New Zealand and there’s a shitload of work we need to get done on her before we leave.

1. Remove the barnacles
2. Get the freezer fixed
3. Replace the batteries in the E-Purb
4. Prepare a tonne of food
5. Purchase supplies (food, diesel)
6. Test the ship’s batteries and (depending on the results, have some replaced)
7. Check the sacrificial anodes
8. Go for test sail
9. Measure the tension on the rigging
10. Test the single sideband radio, set up the digital comms system
11. Repair zipper for the sail pack

I’m looking forward to striking things off the list!

[Note I purposefully tried not to use any proper boating terms in this post – mostly to to try and get some hate clicks from real boat people who actually know what they’re talking about. It was just this one time, Rick. From now on I’m going to try and use the right starboard words.]

Day 4 of ? – This Country

2 Mar

So for those of you who haven’t figured it out yet, my butt is parked firmly on the Island of Australia. Sydney, New South Wales to be precise. (Klaus, Mark – you guys win the beer – but you have to split it – I’m on a budget!) I’ve been here a few times already and that’s a good thing because it allows me to relax and take it all in without having to run around to see the botanical gardens.

Stupid birds.

If you’ve never been here nor spoken to an Australian, I should mention that they’re an unusual bunch. There’s this one interaction I’ve had on several occasions and it perplexes me every time. It usually goes something like this:

Me [Canadian]: I’m from Canada, mate!
Australian [Australian]: Oy! Kraykie! I reckon your country has heaps of beers! I’d neeva go. I’d be too sceer’d to come a gutser with one!
M: Can you say that again please in a way I can understand?
A: ๐Ÿ˜ฎ!๐Ÿ˜ฑ.ย ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿป๐Ÿป๐Ÿป๐Ÿป๐Ÿป๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ.ย ๐Ÿ›ซ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‘Ž๐Ÿผ.ย ๐Ÿค ๐Ÿ™€๐Ÿป๐Ÿฝ.

Apparently Australians have this strange fear of bears. I say it’s strange because their country is packed with thousands of animals that are way deadlier than any creature in Canada. One of my Aussie mates was helping me build a deck back home and when I reached my gloveless hand under to secure a joist he informed me that one would never do that back home because there could be a deadly spider in there and then you’re dead.

But it’s not just the number and variety of venomous animals in Australia compared to back home, it’s the crazy idea that one has to worry about being eaten by a wild bear, well, anywhere. You guys are aware that they’re huge, right – like really, really big. You can see them coming. And other people can see them too and then warn you there’s a bear.

Conversely, I’ve never heard of any Canadians traveling in Australia who are afraid of being eaten by a crocodile or their other deadly large animal – the shark! Those guys all over the place. And if the sharks don’t get you, the jellyfish will. And if not them, then the dingos. Oh, and stay far away from the kangaroos. Those guys are really dangerous.

The point is it’s perfectly safe to travel to Canada and you totally should. The only thing you have to worry about is the crazy country to our south. And these days, you can do that from anywhere.

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A.U.S? Eh – OK!

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Day 3 of ? – Where am I?

2 Mar

Many of you have been asking what country I’m in right now and I purposefully haven’t revealed which one because I want to build tension and heighten the blog-reading experience. I also left some clues peppered throughout the four previous posts so my readers who enjoy puzzles can have something to do in their spare time when they’re not doing puzzles.

Clue Number One – Fifteen hours flight.

Not many flights take that long. In fact fifteen hours is longer than any flight you can take in the americas. So it’s not Peru.

Clue Number Two – I was on a transoceanic flight.

This means I flew over (and not under) an ocean.

Clue Number Three – The water here is not frozen.

If you look closely in this photo you can see the water around the boat is in liquid form.

Clue Number Four – The boating thing I’m going to be doing will take place on the Pacific Ocean.

It’s where the adventure is going to take place.

So there you have it. Everything you need to figure out where I am is right there in front of you. Some of you and I even talked about it already on Facebook and IRL so it’s like, even more obvious.

I look forward to reading your guesses!

Love, Jason

Bonus Clue: the part of the world I’m in right now is experiencing a full moon.

Car

A local car

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Day 2 of ? – Flagrant False Advertising

1 Mar

Earlier this year when I was hired to work on this boat I was under the impression that my job would be to write about or “chronicle” a brutal twelve-day open water voyage across the Pacific Ocean. But like many of the financial opportunities that I’ve found online, this one is very much different from what was initially presented.*

Was it wrong of me to expect to be paid? Money? In dollars? Well it turns out that my “compensation” is taking the form of a “coupon” for five weeks’ free use of a giant outdoor public tanning salon and a non-refundable marine transport fuel tax credit.

But this is not just about money or the tax credits. As a career-obsessed workaholic, I thought I’d be able to effortlessly work my way up through the ranks of the organization. I figured it’d be pretty straightforward to get promoted to (at a minimum) Rear Admiral by the end of the trip. Was I being unrealistic? Well as it turns out the whole outfit is rife with nepotism and there’s very little room for advancement. It seems like everyone is someone’s wife or someone’s husband or sleeping with the Captain.

And as for the work I’m going to be doing, well let me tell you. Scraping barnacles of the bottom of a forty-foot catamaran while sharks and octopuses circle the boat waiting for the perfect time to pounce is *not* my idea of a collaborative work environment.

Some of you are rolling your eyes right now and I can hear your complaints already:

“You have a free place to stay.”
“It’s not winter where you are. ”
“Sharks don’t pounce, stupid.” and,
“Shut up, Jason.”

Whatever I don’t care. The point is I shouldn’t be operating an ice scraper in the middle of summer in any capacity. No one should. It’s just plain wrong.

And if it ever happens to you, you’ll understand.

Scraper

My barnacle remover.

*I recently discovered my Nigerian Prince is not a prince. Hell he’s not even from Nigeria.

Day 1 of ? – First Time I’ve Ever Been Early for Work

28 Feb

So I started my new job today. As you probably guessed from the thumbnail photo that’s accompanying this post, I’m going to be working on a boat. Right now my official title is Seaman Third Class. This morning when I started my shift I was First Class but I’ve already been demoted twice.

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The sea can be a cruel mistress.

When my manager (or Captain as he likes to be called) hired me over the phone he was pretty vague about the details of the job. I was expecting life on the boat to be fast and furious like that movie Face/Off. Instead it’s been more hot and confusing like that movie Fast and Furious.

The boat itself is like a floating house but everything has different names. The front yard is called the bow. The backyard is the stern. The toilet is the head. The bathroom is also the head. I could go on but the main thing is I have to learn a whole bunch of new words for things we already have perfectly good names for. I need to get studying.

Today was mostly orientation, safety briefing, and unpacking while tomorrow is the first day of proper work. What I’ll be doing will depend on two things: the weather and what time I wake up. Considering that I’ve only gotten about four hours of low-quality airplane sleep in the past two days I should be able to sleep through the night. And as for the weather, the forecast calls for twenty-three degrees and sun with a zero precent chance of freezing rain.

Till then, I remain, yours,

Jason