Travelogue: Sydney to Melbourne, on the road less traveled

On my trip from Sydney to Melbourne, I took the road less traveled – I took a boat!

I signed up as the first (and only) mate of a 46 foot catamaran (dual-hulled ship), the Extreme Ways:
Road less traveled - Extreme Ways

This ship is captained by Captain Mick:
Road less traveled - Captain Mick

The Extreme Ways is a sailing ship, with a main sail, a front sail, and a spinnaker – an optional sail that looks like a giant bra and mounts on the front of the ship.  The ship also has two engines, for propelling the ship when there is no wind!
Road less traveled - spinnaker

Inside the cabin, there’s a small common area lounge, a small kitchen, a washroom, hot (!) showers, two queen sized beds, and additional storage areas.
Road less traveled - living room Road less traveled - kitchen

The trip:
For the first 24 hours or so, I was the most useless first mate ever – we ran into choppy and confused waves straight out of the harbor, and I spent my time alternating between throwing up / dry heaving, and curling up in the fetal position.  It was pretty bad.

These two buckets were my best friends:
Road less traveled - upchuck buckets

After a while, the waves calmed down a bit, and I was able to help out – keeping a watch during the night (we sailed constantly without stopping), raising the main sails, unfolding the front sail, putting up the spinnaker.  A modern day sailing ship uses a very cool system of pulleys and winches to put the sails up and down, so its not terribly hard.  Lots of ropes lying around everywhere though.  It also seems like ships are always in the process of self-destructing, so there are always repairs that need to be made.
Road less traveled - system of pulleys

We also saw dolphins!  On two different occasions, a school of dolphins joined our boat for a bit, swimming and jumping along our bow.
Road less traveled - sailing with dolphins

The captain also claimed to see seals and penguins during the trip, but I couldn’t make them out.

Oh, and the sparking florescent lights you can see in the ocean, from The Life of Pi, are real!  Late at night, sometimes you can see these sparkles in the water as a school of fish swim by – and you feel this amazing sense of wonder.

On a different note, the stars are absolutely magnificent at night – for the first time ever in my life, I have seen an ocean of stars, bands of glittering, an uncountable number of sparkles in the sky.  And it is absolutely, stunningly, and terrifyingly beautiful, to truly see the stars and the Milky Way.

I could not take pictures of the stars with my decidedly low-end camera, but the sunsets were also beautiful:
Road less traveled - sunset

Taking a watch over the ship at night (when you can see the stars) is a unique experience – you’re surrounded by pitch black darkness all around you, absolutely nothing around you is visible – you can’t even see where the sky ends and the water begins.  Sitting outside, alone in the darkness, with nothing but the crashing of waves and the dull hum of the motor to keep you company – its odd, but you don’t feel any loneliness. On the contrary, there is this profound sense of peace and tranquility.

It’s almost as if your entire world has shrunk down to less than a 10-meter circle surrounding the ship – any further than that, and there is absolutely nothing visible.  Fortunately, I have GPS to ascertain that I’m not about to crash into the rocks.

In an ocean so vast, you would think it would be rare to even see another ship, but we had two close encounters – two ships that might have collided with us during the night, if not for the night watch.  Impressive, given that we saw less than ten ships the entire trip!
Road less traveled - fishing boats

In total, over the course of five days, I traveled a total of 500 nautical miles during this trip on the road less traveled.
Road less traveled - portrait on boat

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *