As the coronavirus continues to change and reshape the world as we know it, Cruising World is reaching out to contributors, our partners in the marine industry, and other sailors to get their take on where they are and how they’re doing. We’re asking five questions to each of them, and in this installment, we’re checking in on prolific author and two-time circumnavigator Lin Pardey, currently sailing off the coast of Australia:
1. Where are you and what are you doing?
I am on board the 40-foot cutter Sahula with my friend David Haigh, anchored in an amazingly beautiful spot in Australia’s Royal National Park, just half hour from downtown Sydney. It is hard to believe Australia’s largest city is so close. Normally there would be the constant sound of jets taking off from the airport which is about 12 miles north of us. But so far today I have only heard one plane take off. There is no one else here but us, surrounded by trees and birds. We have just spent the past three weeks working our way east and north about 550 miles from Geelong. The Wooden Boat Festival put on by the whole city of Geelong is very special. Sailing from there, not so special, as weather systems rush through the Bass Strait and strong headwinds every two or three days meant timing mattered. No day hopping along this coast, as there are only a few potential anchorages that offer shelter from northerlies. But we did have a fine few days in the Gippsland Lakes to break up the journey. Hard to believe things have changed so much in such a short time.
2. What is the situation there?
Australia’s Prime Minister decided to take things seriously a few days ago, though not as seriously as New Zealand. Yes, there have been toilet paper shortages the past two weeks, but today the number of people who can congregate outside their own homes has dropped from 10 to two. Schools are still open but many parents have still decided to keep their children home. As for those who are on boats, fuel docks and groceries stores remain open. Marinas are available for liveaboards. Isolation is suggested, but not demanded. But, states are closing their borders and so far no one has made it clear if overseas yachts can move between New South Wales and Queensland. We are fortunate in that Sahula’s home port is Townsville, Queensland, so we can sail there if we wish.
3. Any recommendations — books, movies, projects — in these strange times when we’ve all learned the meaning of “social distancing?”
I am just settling in to these new conditions, which if you consider what cruising has always been to me, are only a little bit different than normal. I have always enjoyed having time to write, re-write, edit. I currently have three articles pushing to get out of my head and onto paper. But today I felt like a mad galley clean up and cook-a-thon. (Ask me about my pumpkin soup supreme with coconut cream finishing touches some time.) David has his art supplies out but got hooked into a really interesting history book but so far I haven’t seen any drawing. But I know it will happen and be fun to watch. As for recommended books, The Voyage by Phillip Caputo is still one of my favorites of the past few years. Extremely accurate seamanship plus some of the best descriptions of sailing in a storm I have ever read. For anyone who has been to Tasmania, in fact for anyone who has visited Australia, a fun read is Bruny by Heather Rose. It looks at the question of Chinese investment in small countries. Then I found a Ken Follett book I had never before read, A Place Called Freedom. Wish he’d write another book like Eye of the Needle, or Pillars of the Earth, two of my long term favorites.
4. Anything you’re missing — or enjoying — right now?
Yes, we are missing two things very much. We have been planning to get to Sydney for several months to spend time with David’s daughter and her partner, take them out for a sail, catch up with some of the many friends David made while he lived here, go out racing on 18-foot skiffs with old friends of mine. But now we, and most of our friends, feel we should wait and see how things pan out before getting together.
Second thing: I have been flying over to New Zealand every few months to ensure Larry is getting the best possible care. Now I can no longer do that as no visitors are allowed at his care facilities and I could not enter the country without going into quarantine in a government designated hotel room for what would end up being a full two weeks. Then when I returned to Australia I would again have to go into two-week quarantine, I would not be allowed to get back on board until after the quarantine ended.
What am I enjoying? Being still for a few weeks! Our past year has been extremely full, with sailing, traveling to two weddings, plus four boat shows and introducing the fully revised 3rd edition of Self Sufficient Sailor. Now is the time to truly catch up with myself and some of the boat maintenance too.
5. Has this experience changed you in any way, or given you an opportunity to make future plans, and if so, what are they?
I don’t think I truly have my head around this whole thing, especially as I am caught between three countries and their different ways of handling the situation, USA with denial and anger, New Zealand with almost unanimous community and government buy in, Australia somewhere in the middle. It is too early to have any idea of how my life, my attitudes will be changed by this; I know they will be. We are taking each day, one at a time!
Like many, our future plans are a bit up in the air as we want to sail back to New Zealand to enjoy being home for a year or two and hopefully to enjoy the interesting fleet of boats that was planning to arrive for the America’s Cup, which we assume will happen, even if it is postponed a bit. We were thinking of heading that way in May, via New Caledonia. Problem is, New Caledonia is closed to visitors right now. So, question is, should we meander through winter within the Great Barrier Reef area, then take a straight shot to NZ in September? Should we head straight to NZ in May from Brisbane? Time will tell…