Goodbye Estrellita

RV CLIPTAKE in Ten Sleep, Wyoming

A summit in Smith Rock, Oregon
I am in a car (a car!), towing a small fiberglass trailer (a trailer?), in the open prairies of Saskatchewan (what?!), and I'm sobbing.

They say that the two happiest days in a boat owners life are when you buy your boat and when you sell it. Six months ago I left Estrellita 5.10b floating at the broker's in Australia and I knew I was saying goodbye. It was a sad moment, that I marked carefully in my mind, as I motored away from her at sunrise across a glassy calm bay in our dinghy loaded with luggage filled with all of the bits and pieces that were our possessions. Carol was already back in Canada working and I had finished my pre-sale prep and Estrellita was a gleaming beauty. I said goodbye, shed a few tears, and boarded my shuttle.

Now that the boat was selling (while we were on a climbing road trip of course), I expected to feel relief and I did. While the boat was still for sale I didn't feel like I could truly close the chapter. I had a million things I wanted to write about but felt like opening a conversation would be too painful while she was still for sale. She sold, and I felt relief that I could move on.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
I didn't expect to feel such tremendous sadness. I thought I had said goodbye when I left Australia. Yet when she was actually selling I felt deep loss, a physical wrenching in my chest. I had a very real relationship with this inanimate object and that relationship was ending - we were breaking up and it tore at me even though I knew it was the right thing to do.

I also didn't expect the lightness and sudden freedom I felt. I recently read a blog post in which the author spoke about how the commitment of cruising closes off other options. This resonated deeply with me because as Carol and I discuss our long term future plans, when I think of cruising again, at the same time that I reimagine the delights I experienced on the water and in the islands, I fear losing the mountains again. Right now, even though we are in the prairies we are taking regular road trips in our wee trailer (RV CLIPTAKE) and my life has been full of peaks, of forests, of rock to climb. For all of the joys she gave us, boat ownership is a tremendous responsibility, and by choosing cruising we said no to many other ways of vagabonding and of living.

Carol (front - left) & Livia (back - right) summiting a Flatiron in Colorado
I have more odds and ends to say about finishing our cruise. I'm also going to be converting the sailing blog back into travelogue format. I'll be posting much less regularly, but our Giddyup Plan doesn't end with SV Estrellita 5.10b.

Video: A Taste of New Caledonia

It's up! Here is the 7th video in our “A Taste of…” cruising video series. A taste of the places that we’ve explored.

First, we posted tidbits from our time in the Marquesas, then the Societies, then traveling backward in time to British Columbia, then Tonga, the Gambiers Islands, the Tuamotus, and now, A Taste of New Caledonia.

One of our favorite places.*sigh*

SV Estrellita 5.10b is SOLD

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wauquiez_ad (2)((UPDATE: Estrellita has been sold.))

The one, the only, SV Estrellita 5.10b is for sale. Details and contact information can be found here at DBY Yachts.

This is a happy time and a sad time at the same time. We are excited about our plans and the successful completion of our cruise and we are very sad to say so long to our beautiful girl.

The true hero of our voyage has always been and will always be Estrellita.

I will write more eventually about our reasons for completing our voyage, but the short version is that all is well, that we will be returning to Canada and to work, that this blog will over time reconfigure back to its namesake (The Giddyup Plan) and that our vagabonding days are on pause, not over.


Most passages are short, but most passage nights are spent on long passages

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In the last 5.5 years we have sailed from Victoria, up to the Haida Gwaii and then down to Mexico and over to Australia. What are our passage NUMBERS?

GOPR3942 (Copy)In those 5.5 years, we have spent 136 nights at sea over 45 passages. 

Data by passage: Of the 45 passages, 22 (49%) of those passages were single overnighters between anchorages and 9 (20%) were two nights. We made 7 (16%) passages between three and five nights and 4 (9%) passages between six and nine nights. Only two passages were 10 nights long and 1 passage – Mexico to Marquesas obviously – was 26 nights.

The data show that most of our passages were short one to two night hops and only 15% were passages of six or more nights. But this is a bit misleading when you want to know what the average night at sea might feel like. What was the most common

IMG_5881 (Copy)Data by night: Of the 136 nights at sea, 34% of nights were spent on passages of 10 days or longer and 18% of the nights were on passages between 6 and 9 days. This means that more than half of the nights we spent at sea were part of “longer” passages of 6 or more nights. 23% of nights were part of 3 to 5 day passages, 16% of nights were on single overnighters and 7% of nights were on two night passages.

If I want to know what most passages were like, I can easily say “short”. But when I think back at my nights at sea, so many of my memories are from our long passages, where the night watch had become part of my daily rhythm and I was starting to enjoy that time.
As an aside, twice we left on a Friday and we were *gasp* perfectly fine. We actually tried to leave on a Friday the 13th but the weather never cooperated.

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3.5 Anchorages in Sydney Harbour

sydney athol bay

P1070657 (Copy)Our first anchorage and one of our favorite was Athol Bay near Taronga Zoo. It was packed, and full of party boats on Saturday night, and had the normal amount of Sydney daytime bumpy wash, but it was beautiful and full of the sounds of zoo animals at night and in the morning. On one side of the boat I had the jungle and on the other side a postcard perfect view of Sydney Bridge and the Opera House.

We anchored out at first but there was such terrible anchoring techniques in display, with people putting out 1.5:1 scope and backing up at 4 knots, that we thought we had a serious risk of having our anchor pulled up by another boater. So, the day we were planning to leave the boat all day we moved to an available mooring after breakfast. Thanks for the beers Kate!

sydney blackwattle bay

P1070662 (Copy)We spent our longest stretch at Blackwattle Bay, right in the heart of downtown, near the Sydney Fish Market (but not too near if you know what I mean). It was excellent. The anchorage was busy but with everyone cooperating worked out well. One local boat of dubious character drifted away in the middle of the night in a bit of stronger wind without its owner aboard and was impounded.

P1070680 (Copy)The Fish Market no longer has a dinghy landing as the piers have been condemned and so we used the Rowing Club and several other public jetties conveniently located on park land bordering the anchorage. A great place for a run and we took full advantage, as did a huge number of runners and dog walkers. It was easy to walk to downtown, or to take all kinds of public transit to wherever you wanted to go from there. We spent days just wandering about downtown, letting ourselves get a little lost and accidentally find new neighborhoods which is how we accidentally went to the Lord Nelson Brewery. While we were in Blackwattle we had a great seafood Christmas lunch/dinner (more on that later) and took a trip up into the Blue Mountains (more on that later).

sydney farm cove

Farm Cove is where we spent our amazing NYE. Dinghy access to shore is normally easy with a jetty near the Opera House. This is closed on NYE so do your booze run the day before if necessary! We heard that you can get big fines for taking a dinghy up to the wall and climbing over it. So if you do that, maybe don’t admit it.

sydney spring cove

Our last anchorage (it counts as half because we were hardly there) was an Spring/Manly/Little Manly Cove and we arrived, went into town for ice cream, and enjoyed the view from the cockpit but didn’t do much else here as we were bound the next morning up to the Pittwater area.

In sum, we could have easily spent another month in Sydney, enjoying the city. We probably would have alternated between the harbour anchorages which are lumpy all day as a wash builds up from the gazillion boats but fades at night, and then moved to Blackwattle/Rozelle when we wanted some flat non lumpy time. It’s a great town for boaters.

A Pacific Ocean’s Worth of Fees


How much did our Pacific crossing cost us in fees for entering and exiting countries? Time for a NUMBERS post!

estrellitaImportant background: We are 35’ with two people aboard and no pets. We spent four seasons in the South Pacific between 2012 and 2015.  I am counting the cost of all required things for entrance and exit, even if the money doesn’t go to the goverment because I’m counting how much it cost us. We made some choices that other people don’t have to make. We didn’t visit all countries. Fees have changed over the years (particularly in the Cooks) so YMMV.

In sum: If you aren’t interested in the nitty gritty, the most we’ve paid in fees for clearances was for Australia, with Mexico coming in a close second.  The least we paid in fees was for New Caledonia where we paid nothing. Most other countries were in the approximately $200 range.

Country break down: All of the below are listed in the approximate USD cost.

IMG_0270Mexico: $400 USD buys a lot of cheap tacos! At the time of clearance in 2012 we had to pay a little over $110 for our TIP, $40 twice for fishing licences, and $210 for Mexican liability insurance (required by the govt, paid to a private party, despite our having other insurance). This would have allowed us to stay for quite a while (I forget how long) but we left after 6 months.

French Polynesia: We paid about $200 for an agent so we could avoid the bond. If we had been willing to risk the ups and downs of the currency markets and also getting our bond back in CFP at the end of our stay, this amount could have been zero, but I think our choice was fairly representative. If you count our return to Canada for our long stay visa, P1050239this would, of course, be the most expensive country on the list, particularly if we included airline tickets in our estimate of the “cost” so I’m just considering our first run through the country which was more normal.

Cooks: We paid a total of about $300 - $50 to clear in Suwarrow and then about $250 in various fees to exit.

Niue: It is a little difficult to decide how to categorize Niue. We only spent $54 in fees but you essentially must take a mooring which adds another $10 per day. Depending on how long you want to stay (and are able to with the exposed anchorage), this could become costly.

Tonga: We spent $183 in Tonga for three month stay. The clerance was inexpensive but after one month the visa ran about $30pp/per month.

Fiji: We paid $180 for all of the standard fees including visa extensions for our more than 4 month stay.

New Caledonia: No fee! No bond! No exit fee! …but you only get 3 months as a N American.

Australia: We paid $450 for two visas and the quarantee fee. Granted, they give you a year but holy crap!

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