Monday, April 25, 2011

Crew's Top Moments

Every crew member who was a part of the EYE of the World adventure contributed to this final post. We all took a look back on our time on the WTP, and wrote a little bit about our most memorable experiences.

One of my favorite parts of my journey aboard the WTP was the smell towards the end of a long crossing. No, not the smell of the boat per se, but rather the smell of land. After a week or more away from shore, you become accustomed to the smell of the ocean. The fresh, salty, humid air becomes commonplace. The view of the seemingly vast and endless ocean becomes in itself, endless. As the days on a crossing progress, the fresh foods disappear, the onions and potatoes begin to sprout, and the quality of reading material declines precipitously. You begin to think about the next destination - what you'll do the first day (e.g. check in, find ice cream, and find a shower).

About three days (~300 nautical miles) from landfall, something changes. You can't see land, but depending on the wind direction, you begin to smell it. We noticed this dramatically while inbound to Sri Lanka. It was a similar smell that hit us when we rounded Fatu Hiva in the Marquesas. It smells like rich potting soil. It represents a new land, culture, and food. Soon your nose adjusts and you don't notice it anymore, however I still remember each time it hit me.

One aspect of life aboard the WTP that captivated me was ocean fishing. Something about plucking dinner straight out of the blue while on a passage and throwing back the leftovers makes you feel like a real part of the food chain. We had some memorable catches including a 7-foot sailfish on the way to the Galapagos. Will and I had a great time spear-fishing in the Pacific for parrotfish. Mmm I can still taste it.

To me, the best part of living on a boat was the freedom; the amazing feeling of having a different view out of our front door almost every day. As the scenery changed from the cold, grey, and familiar winter in the US, to the sunny tropics, the one constant was the good old WTP. We trusted the boat with our lives, and lovingly maintained and upgraded her throughout the trip. We sailed to pristine places far from roads or airports that would have been impossible to see with modern transportation. With a strong breeze on the beam and direct sunshine, the WTP slid through the waves making 7 knots, burning no fuel, and recharging the battery bank through the wind generator and solar panels. Our home: a self-sufficient ocean crossing cruiser.

There were two separate instances (once during the day, and once at night) that we were joined by pods of dolphins. They surrounded the bow of the boat, swam alongside us, and entertained us for about an hour each visit. They were so close to us at times that we could hear them breathing and speaking to each other. The dolphins were fascinating to watch, and we were mesmerized during their visits. The days the dolphins sailed with us were some of my favorites.

Miami, Florida - Nassau, Bahamas; Panama Canal Transit
How to pick? Just being in the Panama Canal to transit. Chasing stray dogs away in the Bahamas. Celebrating Christmas on the boat, and seeing Santa descend from the hatch (since we didn't have a chimney of course). Our Polish Christmas dinner. Having coffee delivered to me by a 70-something year old trying to catch us in his row boat. Hiking on deserted islands and getting lost, after nearly crashing the sailing dinghy into rocks.

Probably the most important part was meeting and traveling with such determined, talented, creative, and wonderful folks. My wish would be that everyone on this trip can appreciate the gifts that this trip has given you, and if you can ever give those gifts to others, that you do everything you can to share. Thanks for opening your hearts and hatch to me. :)

Panama Canal Transit
The ride through the canal was very cool. I loved sleeping on the deck under the stars with the boat gently rocking me to sleep. Being in the country that my Dad used to go to all the time while he was in the military when I was a little girl made me feel close to him. :) I wish I had been on the boat for some sailing!

The ability of life to survive in the middle of the world's largest ocean surprised me. I had always heard that the deep ocean was the equivalent of a desert for aquatic life. Small fish needed shelter. Big fish needed to eat small fish. Birds needed land to lay eggs. Plants needed light that reached the bottom. The middle of the ocean had none of these things and therefore no life could exist for any period of time. This explanation sounded pretty logical and reasonable to me.

Imagine my surprise when we sailed 1,500 miles from the nearest piece of land, only to see birds smaller than your fist chasing each other from wave crest to wave crest. Sometimes at daybreak packs of 30 dolphins would join us from over the horizon to keep us company for a while. When the sun set we would be able to see little phosphorescent plankton everywhere. By the time we reached the Marquesas we had cultivated a pretty good ecosystem of plants and barnacles on the underside of our boat.

The amount of life that thrives in the middle of nowhere is more than I could have ever possibly imagined. All in all the world is a pretty amazing place.

One of my favorite parts of living on the WTP were the night watches. I say that and can clearly picture the other crews' puzzled expressions, because it was tough dragging yourself up out of a comfortable, much-needed sleep night after night. But, once up on deck at the wheel, it was worth it. Being alone on deck in the middle of the dark, endless ocean makes you feel very small, but also very aware, and alive.

On the best nights, it was quiet, peaceful, and pleasantly cooler than the hot daytime watches. I had good music to listen to. The sky was filled with the brightest stars I've ever seen. The silence was complete except for the soothing sounds of the wind, waves, and the boat's well-known creaks. Occasionally dolphins came to visit at night and those minutes they swam with me always felt like a secret just between us. Some nights the bioluminescence was active, and it was incredible to watch the wake of the boat glowing long after our passage. One night there were bigger flashes of light under the surface that were bioluminescent squid. They lit up our wake even more brilliantly than the tiny bioluminescent creatures could. It was absolutely mesmerizing, and that glowing, blueish wake the WTP left behind in the vast, silent ocean is one of my most amazing memories.

Alan W
There are so many great experiences on board the WTP, it is hard to pick one particular event or time that rises above the rest. Since returning home I have been asked many times to talk about my travels with family and friends, and the one story that comes up more often than any other is our first stop in Indonesia. After leaving the Westernized world of Australia and crossing the Timor Sea, the first stop was a small island called Kisar. Even on the way in we were given a treat with spotting whales right off the coast. After anchoring in what at the time seemed like a good anchorage, I remember sitting on the boat debating about going to shore. Were the people going to be friendly? How would we be received? We had no Indonesian currency, but were we going to need some? All these questions went through my head.

I remember the fisherman coming out on canoes and looking at us, still not sure whether they were friendly or not. After Adam and Amanda went to shore, we soon realized that the locals were more than friendly and very hospitable. Halley and I rowed to shore and were quickly called over by one family to join them for lunch. This experience in itself was a wonderful surprise. The whole family watched us eat and took pictures. Because of the language barrier we did not even know what they were feeding us at first. After lunch, the walk into town was wonderful and we met more people along the way. We were even able to climb to the top of a hill avoiding gigantic spiders to get a great view of the boat and surrounding reefs. Upon trying to leave we quickly realized our anchor chain had been wrapped around a coral head. An army of local boys with superhuman breath-holding abilities helped us out of our rut though, and away we went. Although I will probably never have a chance to see any of them again, the kindness and generosity of the people of Kisar will be in my memory forever.

As I write now from my comfy couch back in Los Angeles, my travels on the WTP seem almost like a dream, part of another life. Picking a favorite moment during my time with EYEotW is difficult! Must I pick from so many countries, people, experiences, and days? How does one decide whether their favorite moment was staring into the eyes of a wild orangutan lying next to them on the dirt, or whether it was careening through the air at the whim of the wind while spinnaker flying in a beautiful island bay?

I suppose though, to sum up my delight in the adventures I shared with the crew, my mind returns to the crossing to Bali. The previous night we'd tried to make the crossing, but we were driven back by the current in the Lombok Strait, the channel between the island of Bali and the island of Lombok. The next morning, we were somewhat discouraged but we were also desperate to make it to land in time to take our first showers in more than three weeks, so we tried again.

The waves beat against the side, throwing spray across the deck and into all of our faces as the boat plunged and dove into the rolling sea. Bali sparkled tantalizingly in front of us while we battled our way to it against the powerful wind and current. It was incredible. In that moment, I could feel the power of the world around us, and our own strong wills, pitting our tiny boat against these massive forces. I ran up to the bow where the bucking was the most dramatic so I could enjoy the ride. When I returned to the cockpit, drenched in salt water and grinning madly, I expect the rest of the crew thought I was a little crazy, but it was so beautiful. The world is incredible, and that makes everything worth it.

One of my favorite times during the trip was when Alan, Halley, and I took a weekend trip to Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. What started out as an unplanned excursion on a whim turned into an unforgettable adventure, complete with: a scenic bus ride into the highest mountains of Malaysia; a wild Land Rover ride up a muddy road that only a Land Rover could go; trekking through the jungle and finding the world's largest 'flower;' learning how to hunt with a blow dart gun; touring a picturesque tea plantation and literally rolling around on top of tea plants; hiking through the cool and enchanting Mossy Forest; climbing an observation tower only to see the stunning view of the inside of a cloud; enjoying an incredible hot pot dinner and relaxing by a campfire with good friends; and strolling through a beautiful town with strawberry fields and parks.

Each member of the EYE of the World crew had a part in completing the journey around the world. Here's a look at our final, completed route!
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Monday, March 28, 2011

Austria Top Ten!

Austria is EYE of the World's last country. However, it could not have been a more wonderful final stop. We met up with friends living in Austria that we met while sailing. The city was easy to get around, especially after we rented Citybikes. The zoo was the best one yet, and our trip there was made more special by the fact that we visited it with our friends. The weather was beautiful - clear and sunny, perfect for wandering around. And we finally got to visit the Manner Schnitten store, where the delicious Manner Wafers that Martin (on Anima III) introduced to us. Here are our top ten!

10) City Layout: It was easy to take a tram to the heart of Vienna, and go from there. We spent our days wandering among beautiful buildings, soaking in the sun in big green parks, and discovering many cobblestone squares.

9) The Weather: We spent much of our time in Vienna outside, whether it was walking around the Schönbrunn Palace gardens, the Schönbrunn Tiergarten, riding bikes around the city, or just enjoying watching dogs play on the grass in one of the many parks. It was warm and sunny pretty much the whole time, and perfect for spending time outdoors!

8) Vienna Opera: Our last night in Vienna, we got 3 Euro standing tickets to see the opera 'Aida.' The building was incredible, inside and out, and it was very cool to watch the orchestra and opera singers perform in each act!

7) Citybikes: This service was really handy! We rented bikes at one kiosk, rode them around to see the city for an hour (the first hour is free!) on the well-maintained bike lanes, and returned them to another kiosk near our destination.

6) Stephansdom: Situated in the center of Stephansplatz, this huge cathedral is impressive in size and detail. The inside is cavernous, yet majestic, and the cathedral's tiled roof is one of its notable features.

5) Manner Schnitten: The Manner shop is located in Stephansplatz, on a corner right next to Stephansdom. After hearing Martin rave about these hazelnut creme wafers (and tasting them ourselves) we bought a few of this Austrian specialty to bring home with us!

4) Schönbrunn Palace: Now a museum, we took a tour of this palace and learned all about its history, and the most famous and beloved occupant - Empress Elisabeth, called Sisi.

3) Kahlenberg Hill: This hill is located to the north of Vienna's downtown area. To get to it, you must drive though a large park, with rolling green hills and deep forests. Once at the top, visitors are rewarded with an incredible view of Vienna and the surrounding land! (The view from the top is the picture heading this post!)

2) Schönbrunn Tiergarten: This is the oldest zoo in the world, and we voted it our favorite overall zoo! The enclosures were amazing - there was plenty of room for the animals and things for them to do. We saw pandas, tigers, seals, bats, penguins, flamingos, giraffes, and a couple more familiar creatures- cassowaries and orangutans!

1) Friends! One of the best things about traveling is meeting new friends, and Vienna is home to some friends we met on our journey! It was great to see them again, get inside recommendations about what to see in their hometown, and we even got to meet more members of their families!
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Sunday, March 27, 2011

5, 4, 3, 2, 1... Austria!

FIVE new things we've learned:

- Austria's public transportation is one of the easiest to use! One pass covers the bus, metro, and tram lines for a set amount of time, making getting around Vienna super easy.

- Citybike is another form of transportation around the city, and a really great idea! We used these bikes to make a lap around the ring that circles the city center, and saw many great sights along the way.

- The Gloriette, a structure on the grounds of Schönbrunn Palace, was built using the stone remains of a Viennese castle, the Castle Neugebäude, at the decree of Maria Theresa, Archduchess of Austria, in 1775.

- A Polish church, St. Josefskirche, stands on the top of Kahlenberg Hill. It was refurbished by Polish monks in 1906 to commemorate Jan Sobieski's role in the Battle of Kahlenberg. Pope John Paul II visited it in 1983.

- Schönbrunn Tiergarten is the oldest zoo in the world - it was founded in 1792!

FOUR new dishes:

- Schnitzel: This deep-fried Austrian specialty can be made with a variety of ingredients, including pork, veal, beef, or chicken. The schnitzel we ate was made of chicken, and breaded in something untraditional: corn flakes!

- Bread with cheese or honey: Perhaps not too different from what we would eat at home, this simple dish was nevertheless enjoyed as our breakfast many times. The Austrian bread was really dense and dark brown; the cheese tangy and sharp; the honey sweet but not too sweet.

- Sachertorte is chocolate cake with dark chocolate icing, with apricot jam filling. We saw this at many restaurants and cafés - even at the zoo!

- Manner Schnitten! This wasn't technically a 'new' dish to us, as we had sampled some of this delicious Austrian delicacy on Martin's boat, but as it's made in Vienna we're including it! These thin wafers are layered with hazelnut creme, and are very tasty. One member of the crew (..Amanda) brought home quite a few Manner Schnitten!

THREE interesting people:

- MARTIN! Ok, so we didn't actually meet him IN Vienna, but he's FROM Vienna! We first saw Martin on Vanuatu, and crossed paths many times after that. He remains one of the crew's most favorite new friends, and we follow his progress on Anima III avidly!

- Fini! We met Fini through Martin, and just had to see her when we visited her hometown. Fini doesn't speak English and we don't speak German, but the language barrier didn't interfere with us having a good time! She took us on an excellent trip to the Schönbrunn Tiergarten, where we saw a baby giant panda, a baby elephant, orangutans, and seals!

- Fellow opera-goers. On our last day in Vienna, we attended the opera to see 'Aida.' Standing tickets can be bought for only 3 Euros! Although we were at the very top row, we still enjoyed listening and watching the opera. We spied one little old lady who had her routine in the standing section down pat: after the lights dimmed and the attendant left, she pulled a cushion out from her purse and promptly sat down on the stairs!

TWO things older than America:

- Stephansdom, or St. Stephen's Cathedral, immediately captures the eye as you enter Stephansplatz, the square in which it stands in Vienna. The cathedral was likely built on the ruins of previous churches, and was dedicated to St. Stephen in 1147. Much construction and expansion took place during the following centuries, making Stephansdom the grand, iconic cathedral it is today.

- Schönbrunn Palace was originally a mansion, called Katterburg, built in 1548. In 1686 Emperor Leopold I gained possession of it, and decided to build an elaborate estate for his son. An array of royal families have lived in, expanded, and renovated the Schönbrunn Palace since then. It is now a museum, and many visitors come to tour the halls and grounds each year.

ONE wonderful country - Austria!
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Vienna Snowglobe

Vienna Snowglobes was founded in 1900 by Erwin Perzy I. He was working as a mechanic making surgical instruments. One of his experiments involved magnifying light, and he was testing a glass globe filled with water. He tried adding flakes of different reflective things, and one of these additions was ground rice. However, when the rice became saturated with water it sank to the bottom. Perzy shook the glass globe to animate the rice, and was reminded of snowfall. He added a small replica of the Basilica of Maria Zell, and the first 'snowglobe' was born.

Vienna Snowglobes is still in business today, and they still make all of their snowglobes by hand. The factory has its own museum attached, and it was the museum that we visited to learn all about snowglobes.

There were tables and walls full of the tools used to create snowglobes, along with pictures of Vienna Snowglobes' creator, people who have worked here in the past, and some especially memorable globes. The glass globes themselves range in size from 25mm (tiny!) to 120mm.

For the 'snow,' the most common material is white plastic bits. However, dyed plastic bits are sometimes used to create certain effects, like water (blue), or falling leaves (green, red, yellow).

The figures inside the snowglobes are hand-painted, and come in a wide array of shapes. Some popular figures include Santa, snowmen, evergreen trees, ballerinas, and penguins. There were also pigs, cats, unicorns, sailboats, lions, horses, and whales!

Vienna Snowglobe is occasionally asked to create unique pieces for companies or individuals. On one table was a snowglobe designed by Sasha, President Obama's youngest daughter. It features a cake, on top of which sits a horse and rider, a tiny gold ferris wheel, and a tiny gold church. At the base of the cake, there are five tiny figures: a man and woman dancing, two small girls holding hands, and a black dog. It was our guess that this is the Obama family, including their dog Bo!

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Basket of Goods: Austria

One of our first stops in Vienna was a McDonald's, because it has long proven to be the most reliable place for wifi. It was big, with lots of comfortable-looking couches and even some mood lighting - not really what you'd expect from a fast-food restaurant! Many places in Europe are extremely dog-friendly, and this McDonald's was no exception; we saw a big golden retriever placidly watching people walk in and out! It was fairly easy to fill our basket, and here are our prices!

Big Mac: 2.85 Euros

Coke: 1.50 Euros

Haircut: 10.00 Euros

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