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Lord Howe Island… a dream re-entry to Australia!

In 1992, I met a girl at university from Lord Howe island – Monica’s stories and her then boyfriend’s stories of the island inspired me to make it a must visit spot. It took me 19 years to get to "THE ISLAND" as it’s affectionately called by the friendly locals. The island lived up to all of my expectations and some, it could not have been a more perfect stepping stone into Australia! – Great beaches, incredible scenery, fishing, diving, snorkeling, hiking, good food, a bowling club, friendly people and we even got a great surf in… it’s good to be home!

I would like to dedicate the Lord howe island edition to one of our most valued supporters, Andy’s grandmother. Lila, thank you for your support and kind words over the past year or so. I hope you enjoy this latest ‘journey’ from the comfort of your home in Qld. Don’t throw away your computer yet though, there may be one or two more blog editions to come.


First night at sea en route from New Caledonia.

It was weird looking at the chart plotter and seeing Squander pointing at the familiar shape of Australia

Heading south – the weather got colder with every mile sailed – are we sure we want to be leaving this life behind??  IMG_5697
Powering along… giving the wet weather gear and hoodies a workout!

By Day 4, Lord Howe island appeared on the horizon – the main peak is almost 1km high – we’re were still some 25 miles away


G’day mate!

Speaking of mates… the greeting committee numbered in the hundreds!


Follow us!


Happier in mid air then in the water!

Some of the most playful creatures in the sea – we never tire of seeing these guys! IMG_5710

the flying torpedoes!

Andy, the dolphin whistler!            IMG_5786

As Lord Howe continued to rise out of the sea in front of us. IMG_5789

Suddenly the fishing line went OFFFFFFF…. IMG_5795

It took a while to reel it in… the biggest Wahoo i have ever caught! IMG_5798

Andy had the awesome death grip around the throat as we wrestled with the unhappy camper…  IMG_5807

Finally under control… yeah baby!!  IMG_5813

1.5 metre Wahoo – yum!!


With the fish safely onboard it was time to contemplate the significance of what was happening….I was about to set foot on Aussie soil…. IMG_5820

Hello Australia!!  IMG_5841

A BIG thank you to Clive Wilson, the harbourmaster and voice of "lord how Maritime" on VHF 12, who expertly guided us in through the narrow and shallow north passage.

Squander safely attached to a mooring in 2.4m of water… IMG_5843

We had heard about the bowling club, and when I asked Clive over the VHF if it was far away, the standard Lord Howe answer followed "nothing is far here mate", but if you like I’ll meet you at the dock in an hour and give you a lift to the club…  we were sold!

I filleted and cleaned the Wahoo as quickly as I could, somewhat surprised by the 8+ foot "Galapagos whaler" sharks that soon started circling Squander… they were far from shy bumping the stern with their huge dorsal fins as they tried to get closer to the fish scraps… hmmm… snorkeling was going to be interesting!

We had a sensible 2-3 beers and a burger at the bowling club and retreated back to Squander for a good night’s rest.


The next day we hired bicycles and went about exploring the island…. most people get around on bikes, and the few cars that are around are limited to driving at 25km/h  IMG_5849

the local fuel station doesn’t get much use.


On a sunny day Lord Howe island is spectacular… rolling green hills, forests and  mountains surrounded by crystal clear blue water – there seems to be enough of everything for everyone –  small herds of cows graze happily, oversized vegetable patches growing enough produce to sustain the needs of a few locals,  a couple of fishing and diving boats sharing the expansive lagoon and only two cruising yachts attached to the moorings inside the reef.  IMG_5854

Getting some shade from the midday sun.
Plenty of grass to go around.

The island is roughly 10kms long and 2kms wide. We soon got our bearings and like kids who just got their first bikes for Christmas, we raced around the nooks and crannies of the island checking out the sights.


Jose and Andy tackling the steep hill!

One of many pristine, deserted beaches!  IMG_5881

Sofi enjoying the windy roads.

Lord Howe island has no mobile phone reception and only one place where you can get access to the internet – when it works… The internet access point is at the museum, and I’m not sure if it is some sort of in-joke, but the access speeds are definitely pre historic!

So whilst Jose and Andy caught up on their facebook and email messages, I decided to do something rare – I visited the museum… and loved it!

It is largely dedicated to the history of accessing the island – from the early days of sea planes from Rose bay in Sydney that used to take 4 hours, to the ships that were tragically wrecked on the island.


The Ansett airways sea plane ready for take off from Rose Bay in Sydney.

Qantas Empire airways

Qantas Empire airways


Little has changed in the legroom department, however it seems the early days of flying were a lot more social. (…and thanks to Matt C and his keen eye… how’s the guy holding onto his rifle!)


The sea planes used to draw 1.5 metres which meant they had to plan to land and take off within 1 hour of high tide, causing flights to often take off from Sydney in the middle of the night to ensure a safe arrival at high tide.


The big, heavy planes would then be attached to a mooring overnight in  much the same way that yachts are attached nowadays.  IMG_5889

On a number of occasions strong winds caused the moorings to break and planes to end up on the beach. IMG_5890

With locals chipping in to dig the planes out,  only one plane was lost due to too much damage.   IMG_5894

Some ships weren’t so lucky, if memory serves me right this was an American Tuna vessel wrecked in the 60’s – its remains are a popular snorkeling spot.


Squander is moored next to another yacht in almost exactly the same spot as the wrecked ship in the picture above.  IMG_5897

With the wind swinging offshore , the snorkeling conditions could not have been better – crystal clear water, although slightly cooler then what we were used to, provided a perfect opportunity for some more underwater photos.    IMG_5937

the cooler water seems to allow a lot more green plants to flourish underwater.


Andy spotted this Butterfly Cod and called me over. ---

he was interestingly stubborn and would not move even if i shoved the camera in his face – he would simply flare out all his defenses in a bid to threaten me out of sight!  IMG_5956


Snorkeling the Tuna Boat ship wreck IMG_5976
the Pacific Rock cod.
The elusive Doubleheader
IMG_5987  IMG_6000
A school of locals – the lord Howe Butterfly fish

Sofi and the yellow Green Wrasse.   IMG_6011

The supply ship was in – it sails from Port Macquarie every couple of weeks bringing anything from barrels of fuel to run the power station to fresh fruit and veg .


One of the many highlights of Lord Howe is hiking – we chickened out of the 8 hour power hike to the highest peak, instead tackling a ‘strenuous enough’ 2 hr stroll.
Eight and a half minutes into it, having a much deserved break!

That’s where we came from – looking north!


I wish we had had more time to dive some of these outer islets.


This seems like such a distant memory after 1 month in Sydney….


Looking South.


Surf’s up on the outer reefs…


testing out the Macro function on my camera


Looking towards New Zealand!


The modern way to arrive – a small Qantas plane approaches the runway.


Almost at our destination… swim time!    IMG_6117

And a quick snorkel before lunch! IMG_6119  IMG_6122  IMG_6124   IMG_6134

With fresh Wahoo in the fridge, we came up with an idea to get up at 6:00 am and make fresh sushi before setting off on our hike… and so we did!  IMG_6136

Devouring the fruits of our early morning labour!


Being the only current crew member from the northern Hemisphere, Josie occasionally feels upside down!IMG_6149

we enjoyed the beaches… IMG_6151

the slow pace


and the pristine waters….but our minds were elsewhere, or at least mine and Andy’s were… we were ready to head home! I would have dearly loved to stay longer in Lord Howe, but the weather gods yet again played their cards and it looked like now or in 10 days time… we had only been here for 4 days, but we heard our calling and decided to set sail… We knew we were going to get a fast and bumpy start with some decent Nor Easters forecast, and according to the bureau of Meteorology it was going to be a slow finish with light southerlies…. hahahah… since when do you get "light" southerly changes offshore from Sydney… but I was willing to take the risk… worst came to worse we would head for Newcastle or even further north.


And so we took off from Lord Howe in 20 knots, which built to 25-30 fairly fast and with our trusty second reef in the main and not much stay sail, we got into the counter current and screamed along at 9 knots towards Sydney!


After 36 hours of high fives and close to record breaking speeds the wind went north then west the died then kicked in from the South West and gave us a last kick in the pants….! With confused seas and a  short and sharp swell, poor Squander was falling off waves and doing it tough….    IMG_6181

Andy trying to wash up as we beat upwind into the southerly…   IMG_6189

I spent a solid stint on the wheel in the rain trying to massage Squander through the peaks and troughs, taking my mind off things by recollecting the months and months of amazing adventures that were drawing to a close! IMG_6194

And by early morning on the 17th of November 2011, Sydney heads were only 5 miles ahead (according to the charts) – I struggled to see the coastline through the fog, mist and rain!  IMG_6199

North head… it was emotional seeing that familiar headland that I had sailed past on so many occasions on various boats…  IMG_6200

The crowds stayed in bed, but my mum, Dad and my old mate Foz braved the elements and welcomed us with great fanfare! We could hear fog horns coming down from above and as we looked up…. IMG_6204

we spotted the sign…. Welcome Squander… ahh it felt good to be home!!!  IMG_6221

hey girls….. wake up, check out the Sydney skyline!! hahaha


Are you kidding, we left Fiji for this??! IMG_6216

Stoked….! IMG_6219

… and proud!!


With Virtuo Michael braving the elements, we got a phone call from the Real Michael who had brought the whole clan down for a look… We diverted course to Rose bay and dropped by the wharf to say G’day!


Ava, Che , Michael and Rebecca… so great to see you guys!!  IMG_6241

before long the fog started lifting and incredibly within 1.5 hours of arriving we had cleared customs, Quarantine and wee free to enjoy the rest of the day…


Yeahooooouw!! IMG_6245

Jose putting on a brave face!    IMG_6254

we sneaked into the RANSA dock at Rushcutters bay and managed to get a great shower before leaving Squander and heading next door for lunch at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia – the institution that i sailed out of for so many years.

With our welcome home party scheduled for a 5:30 kick off we all decided to get an after lunch siesta, before sailing to Manly for the party.  IMG_6263

By 5:30 we were anchored off Manly Wharf and getting stuck into the first of a number of rums… Thank you to Fil Tejszerski for the the next series of Photos!


getting ready to head ashore! CIMG7092

Mum (centre) and friends Dorota (left) and Ania (Right)   CIMG7096

here we come Sydney!!

Woah… so many familiar faces in one place!! CIMG7109

G’day Dad…. a feeling of relief to be home safe and sound!


yep, I think Mum was happy to see me!  CIMG7115

But even happier to meet Andy!!    CIMG7130

Original Squanderers Nath (Strike!) and Simon (Action!) were there to welcome us home!       CIMG7142
and after 10+ drinks a speech was made… for those of you who didn’t understand my slurry words, here’s what i really tried to say!

"when you’re old and frail, you’re far more likely to regret those things that you didn’t do, then those that you did"

For many years, I used to walk into my office and read that quote by Mark twain.
It gave me the courage and inspiration to attempt to try and fulfill my dreams and to do it without being slowed up by the fear of possible failure.

Three years ago almost to the day, I finished work and set my mind on exploring the world.  2 months four wheel driving around parts of Australia that I had never been to, surfing in Indonesia, 2 months sailing in the south pacific between Australia and Vanuatu, 2 months road tripping through the middle east and north Africa, 1 month of visiting all my family in Europe, and 2 months hitchhiking by sea on various yachts. Sailing from Europe to West Africa and eventually completing my first of three Atlantic crossings…. And that was all before I bought Squander! I feel like the luckiest person alive.


When contemplating these good fortunes, the thing that kept on reoccurring to me is how lucky I have been to be supported by so many good friends and family.


Most individual pursuits could not have been achieved if it weren’t for the support of others, and the voyage of Squander is no different….

Thank you ALL – your support has made this trip so much more rewarding, meaningful and it’s been awesome to share it with you.


And if the people involved from afar have been the supporters, then it stands that the Squanderers, the 25 or so individuals that have sailed on Squander, have been the amazing team, the players that I will forever be grateful to.

Amanda, Simon, Dimitri, Nathan, Todd,  Luis, my sister Agatha, the duchies Kiki & Allard, Jenny, JB, Aaron, my mum n dad Matthew and Elizabeth, my cousin Stefi, Stefis friend, Michelle,  Andy, AJ, Caitlin, Mojgan, Scotty, Elyse,  Brento, Sofi and Jose


At various stages of the past 20 months, we chose to share a living space equivalent to half a small studio apartment between as many as 6 of us at a time. Our home was often rolling and rocking, sometimes tipped to one side, sometimes wet, sometimes stifling hot, but rarely unhappy!

We gave up our personal space, forgetting our day to day needs and focusing on enjoying the journey, helping each other, giving each other space when needed, but mostly sharing the good times!

Everyone contributed to the journey in their own way and I wouldn’t change anything about it.

There are however two legendary guys that do standout as having been instrumental to the overall success of the journey. They both know Squander as well, if not better then I do, they committed countless hours to night and day watches, making critical decisions that ensured our safety and comfort whilst at sea,  ticking off the ever present TO DO and maintenance lists, coming up with creative solutions to problems when needed and probably the most impressive of all achievements – putting up with me for so long!!


Simon Fraumeni, with whom I first discussed this trip some 14 years ago, came onboard for 6-8 weeks in April 2010…. He stayed a year and 2 months!   in Tahiti, he jumped onto our ‘sister’ ship MAD and continued sailing as far as Fiji. He crossed the Atlantic Twice on Squander and sailed almost 5000 Nautical Miles of the Pacific with us. Punching out a joke a minute when in form, Simon kept the mood on Squander a solid 11 out of 10 at all times, never taking anything too seriously, and finding THE BEST in all things that came across his path.

Andy Patrick joined us in Morocco over a year ago, and at only 25 years of age he was instantly the most experienced sailor. His enthusiasm for anything to do with wind, water and waves made an instant impact- with Squander’s toy repertoire swelling almost overnight.

Andy lead the charge and inspiration to Dive, Surf, kiteboard, spearfish, skurf, freedive and keep us moving fast! Aside from being a gun sailor, he’s a pretty damn good sparky, pours a mean rum and has become the best cook onboard!


To both of you guys a MASSIVE thank you – I owe the success of this trip to you both and absolutely could not have done it in such style and comfort without you!


And last but not least – there are two people to whom I owe the biggest of thank you’s – MUM N DAD!! they introduced me to the spirit of travel and adventure at a very young age, gave me the most incredible of childhoods and forever changed my life when Dad hand built me my first sailboat when I was 8 years old.


They have supported and even encouraged my crazy antics ever since!

The party wound up at a reasonable hour and we somehow made it back to Squander for a nightcap!     CIMG7172

La Boheme anchored next to Squander.

the following day the Sun came out and we moved Squander to her new home at Middle Harbour Yacht Club


The days started rolling as we washed, scrubbed and cleaned Squander… a huge thank you to Andy, Sofi and Jose for helping out! IMG_6269

A short week after arriving in Sydney, it was time to say farewell to Andy… we miss ya mate and look forward to hearing more updates on what’s happening in QLD!  IMG_6308

Andy heads home…!

This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. Carol & Paul Cook

    Another wonderful blog! I am putting in my reservation for an autographed book which you must write. PLEASE. We are in Coconut Grove (Miami), FL. Back to the Keys and Bahamas one more time. Carol & Paul

  2. Caffiero family

    Gawelku kochany,
    What a journey!!! You have followed your dream and allowed us to join you in that dream by your creatively written blogs and wonderful photos .
    We are soooo proud of you!
    And if you are still short of adventures remember that “Squander” knows the route back to Europe.
    We miss you.
    LOL C Mon. xxx

  3. Ross and Rhyll Patrick

    We have thoroughly enjoyed being part of your journey since Morocco, We feel as if we know all the crew even though we have never met. The blogs have been truely awesome, and we have always looked forward to receiving them. Just love the underwater photos!
    Happy adventures and safe travels,
    Andy’s parents, Ross and Rhyll

  4. Lila Perkins

    Gavin, thankyou for the wonderful blog. Superb as uaual. What a fantastic experience it has been for you, and able to share with so many people.I have enjoyed the voyage,learnt so much, marvelled at nature, and not been seasick. Best wishes for a very merry christmas and a healthy and happy new year.

  5. simon fraumeni

    Hey Gavino. Should we go grab Andy and get going again?

  6. Maroun

    To Gav and all the Squanderers, I wish I could have been at the welcoming party ……… an awesome adventure! I enjoyed all the emotions which you captured so well in every blog throughout the trip. Good on you for living the dream and sharing it so openly with so many friends and family.

  7. Andy

    I can make myself available…

  8. Shirlee from Solstice

    Congratulations and welcome home! I’m going to miss your blog. Well done!

  9. Jan & Adrian

    Hi Mate.
    A huge congratulations,it’s been great reading your blogs,Squander looks fantastic after all those miles.
    Wishing you all the best for the future.
    Merry Christmas and a Wonderful New Year.
    Best Wishes
    Jan & Aid

  10. Ewa Nordblom

    Czesc Gawel we ar all in Sweden very proud of you and your experience. Our best regard from your family in Sweden. We ar now in Gothenburg at Agnieszkas home and celebrate Christmas Eve with Mikael, Agnieszka,Julia,Daniel and Tom.
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to You and Agata,Elzbieta and Maciej and everybody you ar with.

  11. Martin

    Welcome back Gav. What a great time, well spent. Happy festive season and all the best for the New Year. I have enjoyed your blogs and shared your experiences vacariously. Good one!!

  12. Jan & Adrian

    Congratulations Mate,going to miss the blog.
    Squander looks like new even after all those miles.
    Best Wishes
    Jan & Adrian
    SY The other Squander !!!

  13. Sofi Vissani

    I miss the boat, the people, the places, everything! Amazing experience!. Thanks for letting me be part of it!

  14. Julian

    Hey Mate,
    It is a great blog. some fantastic photos. Full of inspiration and great ideas. I’m off the Boat Legend II that you were moored next too in the north passage of Lord Howe Island.


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