BEWARE: Blue Bottles, Crocodiles and Babies Present

It has been eight months since our last blog post, which will leave this entry short of detail and broken into a three-part summary: Our thoughts of Sydney as a temporary home port, our impressions of cruising up the east coast of Australia, and of an unforeseen surprise that unfolded for us in Cairns.

P1240944I periodically traveled from Auckland to Sydney to source clients for my previous company and I knew from my first trip over that it had everything I loved in a city: Energy and variety wrapped up in a coastal metropolis with weather that suited my heat-craving constitution. I felt fortunate to get an opportunity to spend more time in Sydney, which was to be our base for the summer. We initially stayed with friends of John’s while we settled in and we soon found our home base at anchor in Manly, a small suburb on the northeastern coast from the city center.

I fell in love with everything about our temporary base. To me, it was a smaller version of San Diego, California – a city that has always ranked high on my list of favourites. There was a small collection of yachts claiming turf for the summer just as we had and it didn’t take long to establish a network of fellow yachties. On the weekends the little cove would turn from a haven for the two or three regular yachts into a swarm of boats clamoring for space. Life in Manly buzzed with activity on the weekends, and settled into a nice mellow routine for Braca and I during the week.

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The locals were open, friendly, and welcoming. It took no time to develop friendships and two in particular I owe my deepest thanks: Dani Maia and Lauri Male.
I had the joy of these two close female friendships while Braca quickly bonded with their boys. My love for Sydney is directly a due to their open arms and the deep connection I shared with them. They remind me that no matter where you travel – how spectacular the sights or how outrageous the adventure – it is always the people you meet along the way that make it what it is.

John had a very different impression of Sydney: Too congested, too expensive, and too hot. Whilst my summer was spent meeting friends in seaside Manly, John will remember the city for hours and hours spent sitting on public transport.  There were two opposing sentiments when it came time to leave. I would have been happy to stick our anchor in cement and establish Atea as a permanent fixture; John was keen to leave from the moment we arrived. Fortunate for one and unfortunate for the other, departure-day finally arrived on the 6th of May.

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After leaving Sydney we turned our ship northwards towards warmer tropical waters once more. It’s a long flog, a 1,000 mile reversal of the voyage we did in October, but by mid-May we had resumed our cruising life. As quickly as weather, distance, and sanity of the crew allowed, we passed the long coastline of New South Wales and Queensland for the aquatic delights of the Great Barrier Reef. Along the way we’d expected to fall back into our typical cruising routine of a daily swim, snorkel and paddle boarding session. We have been regularly reminded, however, that we were indeed in Australia – home to the deadliest animals on the planet. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn New South Whales the beaches posted signs stating “Warning: Sharks Sighted. Do Not Swim.”  These weren’t placid reef shark, either; these were Great White, Hammerhead, Bulls… some of the most aggressive in their species. Across Queensland the assailant was less renowned but no less lethal; signs read “Warning: Stingers Present. Do Not Swim.” We were starting to get the hint. We are now heading into northern territory and definitely in croc territory. Again, we are reminded of threat by the ever-present sign post, warning of Australia’s most famous predator: “Warning: Crocodiles Sighted. Do Not Swim.” A fear of mutilation leads us to heed these warning with due diligence. Particularly when the sign is a permanent fixture.

I often reflect on a comment made to us by a fellow sailor, a single-hander who has cruised up the east coast of Australia four consecutive seasons but has yet to leave Australian waters. “Other than culture, is it any different out there than what you get off the Australian coast?” he asked with a curious, innocent blink of the eye. I blinked back – astonished. For one – yes, the globe isn’t represented in the coastal waters of Aussieland. Second, in my opinion – isn’t culture why you head off to explore? I have thought of this comment on so many occasions as we have made our passage north from Sydney up the coast. The coastline is truly beautiful – in places quite rugged and barren, in others lush and tropical. The islands hold some fantastic reef life and the vistas along the way have been breathtaking. But to me it all seems so…. Vanilla. It has been said that many of the iconic cruising areas are ghosts of their former selves, once buzzing with activity they are now quiet oases. Tourism is definitely down and it is evident all the empty resorts and sleepy tourist towns. I crave the noise and friendly invasion offered in so many of the other countries we have traveled through. I miss the rapping on the hull and the odd eyeball peaking in the cabin window. I miss purchasing fresh fruit and veg from the local in the dugout canoe. I miss going ashore and hearing the screech of children and the idle chatter of the village elders. For me, cruising is all about culture – it is the driving force for these aquatic exploits. Again, I am reminded that no matter how beautiful a place is, it is all about the people you meet along the way that enrich the experience and offer the true reward for the efforts made to get there.

Speaking of people, we’ve recently discovered that yet another has tucked themselves onboard unbeknownst to the rest of the crew. Another little stowaway. While we had an inkling of the possibility, John and I received confirmation that I was pregnant again on our arrival in Cairns. The news came as a shock to us, but equally a very welcome surprise. We took bets on gender and expected due date. 18 weeks pregnantWe celebrated and toasted our fortune and checked in with a doctor the following day to get a referral for an ultrasound. Being a Friday, we scheduled a scan for the following week and had the weekend to firm up our bets. John put his stakes on a boy, based on its no-fuss entrance, quietly making himself at home. Having no witty postulation, I took the opposite position. In regard to due date, our best guess was that we conceived prior to my holiday in New Zealand. During that trip I was a total exhausted mess, a similar morning-sickness symptom that I’d experienced with Braca. I calculated a Scorpio with an early December delivery. John claimed a November baby, due on the 20th.  If this were true, we would have cleared through my first trimester totally unaware. As it turns out John was bang on for a date, but 100% out on gender.  She was going to be far from simple, and soon showed that she had her own plans for our future.

What we didn’t question was the health of the child. While I am aware of the complications that can happen to a fetus, I never dreamed that we would be on the receiving end of bad news. We went to the ultrasound with thoughts focused on birth date and gender. After what seemed a successful ultrasound, we were called back into the room to speak with a doctor who told us that abnormalities had been found in my umbilical chord and the child’s right arm. We would need to seek out a specialist. Our world was immediately turned upside down.

We went directly from that appointment to the general practitioner who recommended a specialist for us to consult. We were able to get an appointment with him later in the week, which lead to another ultrasound and an amniocentesis the following week. The end result of the consultations and tests was that our daughter has a malformed right lower arm and hand, most likely due to a blood clot that developed at the critical stage of limb development. I was told that the compromised umbilical chord poses no threat to either the child or myself.

This information would be upsetting for any parent to receive. All parents want the best for their children, and to know that our little girl will be starting life out with a handicap is very distressing. We have gone through a few weeks of heavy tears, uncertainty and confusion as to the best course for us to take with this news. Our plan was to head up the coast of Australia and across the northern territories to arrive in Darwin mid-July. From there we would join a rally heading through Indonesia and end the year in Singapore with the hopes of attaining work for a year. Given a pregnancy with complications, we had to rethink our plan and decide what was in the best interests of our daughter, who might require specialist care after delivery.

From a healthcare perspective, the simplest option would be to have the birth and post natal care in New Zealand where we have health coverage. However, this introduces other complications. How would we get there? It’s a hard windward passage by sea, but if going by plane then would I have to fly back in October, leaving John, Atea, and perhaps Braca in Singapore until they were able to lay-up the boat and join me. Where would we live?  The house in NZ is rented out and Atea is my home now.

The other option is that we end the rally in Indonesia mid-October and sail hard for Malaysia. The medical care there is deemed to be affordable and is highly regarded. I have engaged a doctor in Penang who shares my birth methodology and he has agreed to work with us.  The disadvantages of this might be getting a birth certificate and passport for the baby, paying for all our medical costs and being away from the ‘safe option’ in New Zealand. But at least we would all be together.

After weighing up our options we have decided to sail north to Darwin and Indonesia as per our original plan. We will investigate the Malaysia situation in more detail as we go, and we keep the option of a New Zealand birth open. This seems to be the best of both worlds – safe for the baby, allows us to still get some good cruising in this season, and keeps us all together for the challenges that lie ahead.

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12 thoughts on “BEWARE: Blue Bottles, Crocodiles and Babies Present”

  1. Congratulations. It does not seem that there are any easy solutions to this one. I have a friend from Singapore who went to Malaysia for an risky in utero surgery, so have heard good things about the medical care there. Please take care of yourself and the baby. Lot’s of love and prayers coming your way (and a big hug).
    XOKerry

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    1. Kerry. It is wonderful to hear from you. I think of you often and wish we were close enough to sit down for a catch up and hear how the relocation back to the States has been for you and the kids. I imagine, knowing your strength and vitality, extremely well. I have heard the same about the medical care in Malaysia, and I trust the competence of the doctor I am engaged with. My 20 week scan may provide some more detail in regard to the extent of damage to her arm and I may have a better idea of what postnatal care she will need. Decisions can be as we get more facts. Thank you so much for touching base – wonderful to hear from you. Hug received, and a warm one right back. Miss you good friend! I will keep you posted. xxx

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  2. Xxxxxooooo love to all 4 of you. What a beautiful entry written here. Malaysia sounds like it will be a great alternative for birthing your baby girl. Congratulations guys. I still can’t believe she was hiding there all along!!
    Jem still calls for Braca when he sees a tender pulled up on shore. “Lyly! Lyly!”… This happens most days… “LYYYYYLYYYYYYYY!!!”
    We miss you.
    Travel safe and take care of eachother! Xxxxoooo

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  3. Ps. I will personally cement that anchor into Sydney shores if Atea ever sails back into town. 😉 just warn John.
    I love that pic of us three. Wonderful times and said so well. That summer would never of been so awesome without you all.
    You look so well with your gorgeous bump-Your second greatest adventure. She is going to be an amazing girl.
    I love seeing all the pics. Love love love xxx

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    1. I’ll by the cement, Lauri!!!!

      Jem – bless him. His “Lyly” nickname for Braca is so precious to me – I love that he thinks of B every time he sees a tender. Incredible how observant they are as well as how good their memory is. I hope it isn’t too long before we can get Jem and Jude out on deck, joined by J?; and tell Tom the next holiday you are taking is onboard Atea!!

      Want details on your baby bump by the way – will switch to a message via sailmail so I can get all the details. I’ll be hounding you shortly for the gossip. Adore you! Miss you! And Thank You for being such a wonderful friend. xxx

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  4. Hi Kia & family,

    Good to hear from you.

    So sorry to hear the sad news about your little girl.

    Wish you had stopped in to visit me on way up the NSW East Coast as you missed me on way down to Sydney…gutted!

    Oh well one day maybe…

    Happy travels x

    Kind regards,
    Fiona Garrett

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  5. Hey!

    well the adventures just don’t stop do they! am very excited to meet the new addition, hopefully this summer? or before then if you decide to return to these shores for her birth.

    i am sure everything will be fine for all of you, i am pretty sure there are some very accomplished left handed sailors out there! and I know of at least one pirate who managed to have a lot of fun with one hand stronger than the other. she’s in great company!

    love to you all, and safe travels

    xox

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  6. Cathy,

    I love your positive note and agree – she will have many role-models to look up to and as they say, strength comes from adversity. She will have ample opportunity to make her own statement in this world. I do confess it has been difficult information to process as there are so many unknowns attached but we are equally thrilled that she has decided to join us – an much in the style that her brother did – to no credit of parental planning. But Braca has brought us more joy, light, and laughter than we could have ever imagined and we have no doubt her company will only double that joy. NZ was last on the cards but now our most likely option. Not sure if it will be for the birth (possibly Malaysia) or in Auckland, but given she may need specialist care homebound will be our most likely destination at some stage – either birth or shortly thereafter. But who knows – our plans turn like the tide – we will remain flexible to make the best plan when all the cards are laid. Was such a treat to see you last and I smile when I think of Olivia’s spontaneous and contagious grin – she is a beauty! A definite plus will be spending more time with the two of you should NZ be our base for 2014.

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  7. Dearest Kia, John and Braca….GUP/UP here and very impressed with your news and how you write so elegantly about it. Have been in regular contact (and visited) with BC and they have taken the news well. She will have everything she could wish for in her parents and elder brother. And, two loving sets of family across two oceans. All will be well and after all you can steer a boat through life with one hand on the tiller. Some lovely pictures…you take photos as well as you write and so good to see Braca growing by the day. He looks so cool….a bit like his Dad. Well OK then perhaps…..

    Much love to you all — UP xxxx

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