Friday, 18 August 2017

Our blog has moved!

We've moved to a swanky new address; a better post code and a bit more des-res.  Come on over and have a look around, see what you think of the new place.

It's over here:

It's a work in progress and we'd love your feedback.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

We ain't going anywhere!

We're staying another month.  We talked about it last night and the outstanding repairs can't really be done at anchor.  It's not like they're optional works either; the boat needs to get this stuff done to be safe to sail, so we don't really have a choice.

We spoke to the marina and our berth was booked out to someone else from Tuesday, eek! plus the marina is super-full at the moment, with Airlie Race Week on now and Hamilton Island Race Week next week, and this beautiful winter weather ... anyway, the wonderful Amy kindly rejigged things and we can stay in our current berth until the middle of September.  We were feeling a bit gloomy about it; it is the most awesome sailing weather at the moment and just want to GET GOING.

But needs must.  We are telling ourselves that we are so fabulously lucky to be spending a month in the Whitsundays! On holiday, not working, and we get to go kayaking and exploring in the tender and we can walk into town.  The lagoon will reopen soon and there are lots of opportunities for family fun.

We're thinking about getting another kayak as this one is brilliant and the kids have taken to it like ... well, the proverbial ducks.  I personally love it for mental health opportunities, it's so easy to pull it into the water, put on some quick-dry shorts and paddle around the marina.  It's very peaceful and you get to have a proper sticky beak and everything going on in the 'hood!

We've also been using the tender to go for a family joy rides.  The kids love it (well, we all do, it's exhilarating when we get Wee Willy up on the plane!).  They  make me think of dogs hanging out of car windows.

Sasha has been getting very tired of the morning struggles with hairbrushing, and declared yesterday that she wanted it all cut off.  Not wanting to miss the moment, we took her along to the hairdresser and she now has a gorgeous bob.  Very fetching.

When we were at the hairdressers, we met the coolest family - who had their pet bird with them! Tilly of course was intrigued.

We were also lucky enough to spend some time with another kidboat over the last few days (you can find their blog here).  The kids have loved building cubbies and playing lego, and the grownups have loved adult conversation and swapping boat ideas and life stories.  I've found that other people doing this liveaboard life often have really similar attitudes and values, and it's easy to find common ground.  I love it.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Living aboard: Week One

We've been living aboard for a week now.  It's mostly great but there are still plenty of challenges.  We still have piles of crap everywhere, are struggling to stow everything, walk for miles to get to the car, lug shopping around in the boiling sun and have a thousand other minor inconveniences.  I'm struggling not to loathe the tiny top-loading fridge.  I seem to spend the majority of my day preparing, serving, clearing up and washing up meals.  The galley (kitchen) is tiny and the sink takes ages to drain.   We can't find paperwork, because it doesn't yet have "a place".  The heads (loo) can be a bit smelly and we have to put our weed-on toilet paper in the bin and empty it regularly.  There is lego EVERYWHERE.

The past couple of weeks altogether have been frustrating, inconvenient, dirty and sometimes uncomfortable.  And my over-riding feeling about the whole endeavour?  I love it.  I wouldn't change it for the world and I wish, WISH we'd started living on a board years ago.

It's magical starting the morning with a coffee in the cockpit, watching the water turn from an oily black to gold as the sky brightens.  I love watching the runners and dog walkers pause to chat on Shingley beach, and the kayakers slip their boats into the water and paddle away noiselessly.

I love watching the girls find their own rhythms, interests and friends.  We were befriended a lovely family who are sailing the Whitsundays for a month, and the kids bonded instantly and solidly.  Sasha and their youngest played endless, complicated games with ponies or barbies on whichever boat or bit of pontoon was nearest when they met.

Tilly and the older boy spent hours building dams, bridges, and other civil engineering creations on Shingley beach, coming back as the sun set; tired, filthy and content.  All four of them would roam the pontoons as darkness fell and the adults chatted and cooked supper on the barbie, trying to catch the huge, complacent mullet that swim so tantalisingly close to the surface in the marina.  And once, to the delight of all the kids, they caught a squid in their shrimping net - yells from parents of "don't take it on the boat, it'll ink! NO! Not down below, find a bucket!" - and who was examined in captivity and released to propel himself indignantly away.

I love the easy camaraderie of boat life; I love the easy friendships that are struck up, the advice and help always offered, the things lent and returned, the slow pace of having time to stand on the dock and chat and compare notes.  We know some awesome local people and have met lovely new people who are visiting - some of them come to stay for MONTHS, lucky things - and everyone has been so helpful.  Our lovely (land) neighbours (who also run an amazing sailing adventure company) came to visit and bought champagne, admired Iron Will and said all the right things about our new work-in-progress fledgling home. They advised on a couple of simple fixes that mean we'll sort our halyards and also now have an operational mizzen boom cover - a BIG thank you to the fabulous Airlie Sails.  Our marina next-pen-neighbours offered advice and unguents to remove the varnish from our laminex coachroof, and took our girls fish-feeding with dinner scraps.  A friend of Matts from work has given up hours and hours of his own time to help us remove the stays and install the replacements.

So yes, it's been hard, this first week/weeks of getting settled, but it's also been rewarding.  Wise friends who've done similar things advise that it takes a month or two or even three to get into the new rhythms of living away from the conveniences and space of a house.

We have a couple more weeks to go in our marina berth - we booked for three months, and that comes to an end mid-August.  We're hoping to be slipped around then, although the boatyard at Airlie Beach is still super-busy due to the effects of Cyclone Debbie, and now people trying to prepare for Race Week.  Fingers crossed we get this spot, and get our haul-out! And even then, when we've cleaned her bottom and anti-fouled and returned to the water, we'll probably be here a little longer (at anchor) to finish the rigging to make sure she's in top condition safety wise.  We're all about safety here on Iron Will, the cosmetics will have to wait a little longer!

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Finally - boatdwellers

We're officially liveaboards! Last night was our second one on board as residents  The boat still looks like we've been burgled, but the house is now empty and pristine and ready for some new occupiers - we just need the real estate to rustle some up for us.

The last week or two have astonished us with their unpleasantness.  As Matt remarked, if we had known how hard it was going to be, there's no way we would have embarked on it.  To be fair, it's only been a couple of weeks of horribleness, exacerbated by the fact that Matt was still working full time.  Now we're on board and the packing up/dump-runs/cleaning etc are behind us, we both have a spring in our step again.  Coffee on deck is a fabulous way to watch the world wake up.  I absolutely love it.

My view this morning ... not too shabby

We had a whopper of a garage sale last weekend, about which I was unaccountably anxious.  We got up ridiculously early and were glad we did, as the first punters arrived when it was still dark.  Matt & I had decided on a "get rid of it at any price" approach, and we had a lot of good stuff.  As a result, people were unable to carry all the stuff they wanted to buy and would create their own personal mountains, before tallying up, handing over the cash and backing up their cars to load it all in.  It was surprisingly fun, finding new homes for things, especially when you could see people were really happy with their finds.  Tilly and Sasha has tables of stuff they sold too, and made about $40 each.  Tilly has added hers to the money she's been given by Nana and is saving up for an iPad.  She's at the $100 mark already, little ripper!

The girls and their friends got busy with the contents of the dress-ups box

We also had friends and neighbours come to add their support, and bring coffee and muffins, which was very much appreciated and made the whole thing much more enjoyable (we had no kitchen or fridge for a couple of days at the end, so sustenance was pretty haphazard).

We made a good amount from the garage sale - enough, possibly, to live on for a month, if we're frugal.  We packed up the remainder of stuff and shipped it all off to the charity shop, then set to cleaning up the house.  It feels so good to have all that in the rear-view mirror.

Our first night on board was a little disorganised.  We've moved SO much stuff onto the boat but haven't yet had a chance to stow it all.  We're not actually sure we will be able to stow it all - maybe we need a mini boat garage sale?!  We have crates and crates all over the aft deck, and the cockpit is claustrophobically packed with more crates and bags and stuff that can't sit out in the dew.  It's not very nice.  But we had to just make space in the cabins so we had somewhere to sleep for the last couple of nights, whilst we cleaned the house up.  At one point we even had our old double mattress (which we've replaced now we've enlarged the aft bunk) out on deck.  We have definitely been lowering the tone of the marina.

To add to the challenges of moving on board, Matt has been repairing the galley sink, which leaked.  He got part one of the process done a few weeks ago, but hadn't had a chance to get to part two.  So anything needing water - washing-up, cleaning - meant schlepping up and down the companionway with buckets to the pontoon.  There was also no door to the heads, as that had been removed for repairs (the louvres had originally been installed so anyone passing had a perfect view down the slats at the user of the toilet/shower!).

This could have made life quite tricky.  However, the marina had fortuitously just opened a new floating amenities block on our main pontoon arm.  It's very ritzy and includes a sundeck with a barbie and coffee machine and a dozen very luxurious ensuite bathrooms.  It is going to be extra for marina patrons to join this special club, but for the first week, it's FREE! So for the last couple of nights we have been making full use of the barbie and outdoor kitchen for dinner, and using the lovely bathrooms too.  

The gorgeous new sundeck at Abel Point Marina
Let's just say we're very very grateful for this fabulous new facility! It's been a lifesaver.  

Matt got stuck into the sink when he finished everything else last night, and we now have an operational galley! Woohoo!  The man deserves an award.  He got up in the dark again this morning to put on his uniform and head off to work - for three more days.  Then he too will be free and our year-long holiday can begin.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Becoming Liveaboards: The Final Countdown

We’re moving aboard in 3 days.  The house is becoming emptier and more spacious and echoey, while the boat is bursting at the seams.  There are crates of stuff piled in every cabin as there hasn’t been time to stow our belongings, and you have to climb over things to move around. 

The Garage Sale Pile

This week has been dreary, just flat out busy packing boxes and lugging them to a) the shed to store, b) the carport for the garage sale on Sunday, or c) the car to transfer to the boat.  I hadn’t realized how draining it is, making decisions all day about what to do with bits of your life.  And even harder when doing the kids toys and clothes, and helping them decide.  The girls have two canvas shopping bags each and a small A4-sized crate for all the belonging (bar clothes and books) that they want to bring on board. 

Tilly was easy, didn’t want much, happy to put lots in the “pass it on with love” pile, and a few things in the tea-chest marked “STORAGE”.  Her “TAKE ABOARD” bags were half full. Sasha, on the other hand, was wild-eyed through the whole process.  Her “STORAGE” tea-chest was brimming with goodies and her “TAKE ABOARD” bags were bulging at the seams, with a pile growing alongside.  “But Mummy, I love them ALL” she said tearfully, when asked to choose what to let go, and I my heart broke for her, even as I wrestled with frustration. Hashtag thedichotomyofparenting.

The STORAGE piles

And sorting stuff with kids takes the longest time, as they’re constantly distracted.  Leave one to help the other, and when you come back to the first, they’ll be immersed in a complicated game with latest small plastic figures to be unearthed, eyes at floor level and doing the voices.  Which is so cute and you can’t help but admire the huge power of those imaginations, even as you weep internally at the mountains still to be scaled.

Come the evenings, I’m an emotionally wrung-out dishrag.  Matt comes home from work, having left thirteen hours previously, and starts packing.  So I can’t really sit on the sofa and veg out (or weep, rocking, in a corner) but pitch in.  For solidarity’s sake.

The end is in sight.  The light is definitely there, at the end of the tunnel, beckoning to us.  As Matt puts it, this is the storm before the calm. There will be pristine anchorages.  There will be kayak-paddling.  There will be the showing of kids how to use a halyard as a swing.  There will be sundowners.  There will be starlit family cuddles on the aft deck, watching for the space station.

Just a few more days, a few more boxes, one garage sale, a few Vinnies runs,  and we’ll be living on board.  That’s when it’ll feel like our adventure has really begun.  And we can’t wait. 

Passing the time ....

...while mum packs ...

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Whitsunday Times article

Lovely write up in the Whitsunday Times today 😀 (Tilly was sad she's not in the pics cos she was away that day)

Now we just need to actually get on board and GO somewhere!

Sailing family 'going where the wind will take' them

Matt, Annabell and Sasha Stewart prepare to set sail on the 50ft ketch Iron Will.
Matt, Annabell and Sasha Stewart prepare to set sail on the 50ft ketch Iron Will.
Peter Carruthers
THEY have quit their jobs, sold their possessions, pulled the kids out of school and are planning to set sail.
Annabel, Matt, Tilly and Sasha Stewart are making final preparations to their 50 foot Alan Pape-designed steel ketch called Iron Will.
They plan to weigh anchor from Airlie Beach in August and take 12 months to explore the Queensland coast, as far as Lizard Island.
"I don't know if we will get that far but we don't want to have any schedule...and want to do things according to the weather," Annabel said.
Iron Will currently berthed at the Abell Point Marina in the Whitsundays.
Iron Will currently berthed at the Abell Point Marina in the Whitsundays.
Peter Carruthers
"We will go where the wind blows and see if we like it."
Matt compared the impending adventure to a land based 4WD expedition and said their outlay on the boat was similar to the expenditure needed to travel around Australia by road.
Matt is a certified sea captain and has spent his life working in the marine industry.
Annabel has worked in a library and at a local school.
Annabell, Sasha and Matt Stewart on board the 50ft ketch Iron Will.
Annabell, Sasha and Matt Stewart on board the 50ft ketch Iron Will.
Peter Carruthers
After many years of talking about sailing away but finding reasons not the take the plunge, Annabel said this year a line in the sand was drawn and their dream was finally coming true.
"We kept saying 'we need a bigger budget and a bigger boat' but in the end we said 'we will go cheap and go now'," she said.
Matt said he had never heard of the Youtube yachting sensations SV Delos and La Vagabonde whose crews have both racked up millions of views on their respective social network channels.
SET SAIL: Matt, daughter Sasha and Annabel on board Iron Will.
SET SAIL: Matt, daughter Sasha and Annabel on board Iron Will.
Peter Carruthers
But Annabel said she was now aware she had already started a blog in which the family will document their travels.
"The Facebook page has really taken off and suddenly we are reaching 1500 people with some of our posts," she said.
"I know that when we were looking into doing this I loved reading stories about people that just decided to do it and did it. Ordinary families that just decided to give it a go.
"We are hoping that this will appeal to that market as well. To people who are thinking 'it's just too hard' and 'we need to be really rich' but you don't, you just need to be able to do it and set your mind to it."
In response to the big question: what do you do for money after you quit your job and set sail?
Matt Stewart's father Paul aboard Iron Will making repairs.
Matt Stewart's father Paul aboard Iron Will making repairs.
Peter Carruthers
"You just have to be very careful with your money and we have raised enough to live for a year by selling our stuff," Annabel said.
"If you over think it you will never do it. You need to set yourself a goal and go when you have got a certain amount."
The Iron Will is a steel boat built for Antarctic exploration and has a three-cabin configuration with a forward and aft berth, centre saloon and centre cockpit.
Annabel Stewart aboard Iron Will at the Abell Point Marina.
Annabel Stewart aboard Iron Will at the Abell Point Marina.
Peter Carruthers
"She is a very old fashioned boat and we love that. She is not a flimsy production coastal cruiser. She is a well solid sea-going boat," Annabel said.
Upon saying bon voyage to the Whitsundays the crew will head north for the Shag Islet Cruising Yacht Club Rendezvous at Cape Gloucester in late August and end up south in Harvey Bay for Christmas.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

ABC Tropical North on Facebook

We were featured on ABC Tropical North's Facebook page.

We love all the encouraging comments, thanks guys!

Link HERE.

Whitsundays parents Annabel and Matthew Stewart have quit their jobs and will rent out their home to set sail with their family along the east coast of Australia.
They have always loved sailing and for years have wanted to live on a boat with their family.
This year they decided it was time, after struggling to take school holidays off together to spend time with their two daughters Tilly and Sasha.
Mrs Stewart says they both loved their jobs, but they had to take the plunge and will set sail in mid-August.
"I didn't want to go, but then we both talked about it and realised it was too good a chance to miss," she said.
Seven-year-old Sasha says she's looking forward to sea life.
"Just being free and building cubbies and reading some books," she said.
Do you ever have dreams of setting sail into the sunset with your family?