the best camera

16 05 2013

There’s a saying in photography that, ” … the best camera is the one that’s with you.”

Meaning, there’s no point having a Canon 7D if you’re always leaving it at home because it’s too big to carry about.

iPhones have only proven this point further. Often I can’t even be bothered slipping my compact S100 in my pocket, but most times, my phone is about.

With this in mind I shot this latest European trip on my iPhone only — a quick blast to beautiful Mallorca for an amazing wedding, plus a few days either side in London.

Any post-processing was done on the phone itself, using Snapseed. Maybe not the best shots, but they’re the shots I took with the camera I had.

Let’s get into it:

SHOREDITCH. I don't know what's going on here. I like that it's some sort of meta-thing about the subject of the lost poster becoming lost.

I don’t know what’s going on here. I like that it’s some sort of meta-thing about the subject of the lost poster becoming lost.

SHOREDITCH, nr BRICK LANE. Nice street art round this way.

SHOREDITCH, nr BRICK LANE. Nice street art round this way.

BATTERSEA. Cool to see some old signage and typography remaining here n there.

Cool to see some old signage and typography remaining here n there.

SHOREDITCH. Street art by Roa.

Street art by Roa.

PALMA. The catedral is impressive from any angle. Damn it's big. Take that, Moors.

The catedral is impressive from any angle. Damn it’s big. Take that, Moors.

BUNYOLA. View of our mad villa from the train.

View of our mad villa from the train.

BUNYOLA. Looking across to Villa Francisca from Villa Barcelona with the Serra de Tramuntana beyond

Looking across to Villa Francisca from Villa Barcelona with the Serra de Tramuntana beyond

WEDDING GAMES. 'Battleshots' which we created as a wedding present.

‘Battleshots’ which we created as a wedding present.

HONOR VELL. Wedding venue under the hills

Wedding venue under the hills

HONOR VELL. This guy cooked enough paella for EVERYONE.

This guy cooked enough paella for EVERYONE.

BUNYOLA Kimbo and FuzzPeach enjoying themselves.

Kimbo and FuzzPeach enjoying themselves.

BUNYOLA Entry courtyard for Villa Barcelona (stables too, I guess).

Entry courtyard for Villa Barcelona (stables too, I guess).

PALMA Downtown delicatessen, Mallorcquian style.

Downtown delicatessen, Mallorcquian style.

PALMA Catedral again.

Catedral again.

AIRBOURNE The sheer horror, excess and waste, that is an Air Brunei meal.

The sheer horror, excess and waste, that is an Air Brunei meal.

LONDON. Stoked to see the RouteMaster buses still in action. I heard they were extinct.

Stoked to see the RouteMaster buses still in action. I heard they were extinct.

KENGSINGTON. Pretty church at dusk

Pretty church at dusk

KENSINGTON. Posh, bland houses and stupid cars. Ahh, rich people...

Posh, bland houses and stupid cars. Ahh, rich people…




Thailand to Indo by yacht.

1 04 2012

The alarm blasts me from sleep. Again.

Snooze? Better not, could be trouble.

Stumble to the bathroom, splash some cold water on my face in an attempt to come round. The water is warm, so now I am damp but still half-asleep.

Brush teeth? Screw it. Coffee? Better save it. Lifejacket? Sigh.

Grope for the doorway to face a star-filled tropical night.

Welcome to another sailing delivery…

Sails out. Let's roll.

I’ve written about deliveries before – horrendous puke-filled storm runs down the west coast of Europe and joyous reunions with old pals and old yachts on the Atlantic.

This one was a little different: a week sailing through some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes in burning equatorial heat, from Phuket to Bali with a bunch of people I barely knew.

And I figured the daily details of a big boat delivery might be kind of interesting. God knows, I’ve got time to write. And that’s probably what sets delivery trips apart from our regular life afloat: you may have a schedule to keep, but out on the ocean, there’s time aplenty.

Which way is Bali anyhow?

A rolling roster of watchkeepers ensure we don’t crash into nearby boats or pointy bits of rock, but when you’re not on watch, the time is yours.

Unless the generator shits the bed, or the watermaker filters need changing, or the main engine starts spraying a fine mist of diesel over everything; then, you gotta sort it out. But when the old girl is behaving, things are pretty chilled.

All our ropes are the same colour to make things more interesting for the crew.

This trip was scheduled during holidays for our regular captain and the chef, so we hired an elite team of sailor-types from around the world.  It was quite an eclectic collection of crew.

Dan: Kiwi – Delivery Captain and boss guy. Hunter, fisher, seasoned sailor, enthusiastic delegator of chores. Enforcer of fines.

Mark: English/ Phuket resident – local Yachtmaster examiner who had done this trip several times. The man to quiz with your tricky sailing questions. Loves bacon sandwiches at sunrise.

Matt: Cornish – First mate with a penchant for tattoos, surfing and country music. The only person I know who suits up for night watch in a dress shirt. Likes his shorts extra small.

Thomas: German/Australian/Phuket resident  – Matt’s surfing buddy and experienced local sailor. Hates vegetables and ‘alternative’ food. Enjoys meat with maple syrup.

Nicky: As above, Tom’s sister – Crew chef who speaks Norwegian, Thai, German and more. Likes to upset Tom by cooking healthy food. Good at backflips, too. The queen of clean.

Myself: Australian – Delivery crew. Amateur gadabout, sometime cook, talented avoider-of-work. Enjoys stirring up Matt and cooking vego food for carnivores.

Pretty expensive fishing boat.

After a few days of dodging giant ships between Thailand and Singapore we cleared out into the Big Blue proper – tiny Malaysian fishing villages, isolated reefs and crazy currents as we headed south of Kaliamantan.

Dan obliged his crew with a few stops for deep water swim sessions and as it was the first time crossing the equator for 4 of the crew, even King Neptune made an appearance.

Gettin' personal with the game reel

Sailors are a bloody superstitious bunch. I don’t know a single captain anywhere who will depart port on a Friday. No one could tell you why, but it’s just not done. I was once banned from whistling onboard. And so it goes with the Rites of Neptune.

I forget the reasons why, but anyone crossing the equator by boat for the first time is submitted to some serious abuse by those who have gone before. Expect rotten food, seawater, pain and probably fish guts. How this initiates you is unimportant, it just does.

Sail repairs en route with Smithy.

So we threw some food about, we caught some fish, we fixed a bunch of stuff, read books, enjoyed films, ate because we were bored, got deep and meaningful during late night watches and even did some sailing. Who would’ve thought?

Our route took us south from Thailand down the Malacca Straits, underneath Singapore and Kaliamantan then south-east through a handful of remote islands belonging to Malaysia.

Curious kids as we crossed into Indo

We popped out above Bali and witnessed a heart-stopping sunrise as dawn broke over Lombok before taking in Bali’s pretty east coast with the volcano beyond.

And then we were there. Job done.

Market near Ubud, Bali

The Mae Hong Son Loop. Part 1.

7 11 2011

Once again I had found myself in Chiang Mai, this time waiting around for a yacht to arrive in Singapore.

Interestingly, half of Thailand had also fled north, told to leave Bangkok as floodwaters continued to rise. So low-season in the walled northern city was pretty damn busy.

“To the hills,” we cried.  To the north and west of Chiang Mai, mountain ranges hold Myanmar at bay. They looked like a giant amusement park to us part-time bikers.

Thailand’s refreshing tourism policy of look-after-your-damn-selves meant no one even questioned our ability or qualifications as we picked out powerful motorcycles. OK, maybe a 250cc Kawasaki isn’t termed powerful, but it was certainly dangerous enough.

This was no groundbreaking plan, mind. The Mae Hong Son loop is an established touring route through the north, renowned for its 1864 curves in just the first half of the trip. It sounded challenging bloody great.

As luck would have it, our timing for this venture could not have been better. A record wet season had left the entire country bursting with colour and life. But we never got rained on once.

cute little passenger

Rice shined greeny-gold as it ripened in mountain paddies. Jungle-covered limestone karsts loomed large over winding roads. Sprawling fields of Mexican sunflowers nodded their little yellow heads. Orchids lined every tree. Outrageous.

And the roads. The freakin’ roads.

Hairpin turns, long smooth straights, gently winding curves rising higher and higher into the mists.

I’m no biker, but this must be one of the world’s great rides. Every day it was “Whoa, that was a great road.”

When we met fellow riders at the frequent viewpoints, we would give a knowing nod and watch grown men on big bikes giggle like schoolgirls.

Over seven days we knocked out 820km, through Pai, Mae Hong Son, Mae Chem, Chom Thong and back to Chiang Mai.

And that feeling of seeing the open road ahead, winding up the throttle and leaning into it with the wind roaring in your ears still hasn’t left me.

I might be hooked.

plotting our route thru the hills.


sunflower hill


the inevitable bikshop visit. Out of there in 5 mins and no charge.

Important to have the right shoes for motorbiking. Not these then.


Atlantic crossing by the numbers

23 02 2011

Last year, I crossed the Atlantic Ocean three times, most recently delivering an 18-year-old superyacht to Nelson’s Dockyard, Antigua in time for the owner’s Christmas vacation.

Here are some stats from that trip:

(One nautical mile = 1.85 kilometres = 1.15 miles.)

Note: this article also appeared recently on Matador Travel. Thanks to David Miller for his help.

Distance travelled from Palma de Mallorca – Gibraltar – Gran Canaria – Cape Verdes -Antigua: 4266 nautical miles.

 Time taken: 20 days sailing plus 5 days of stopovers for fuel and provisions.

Cups of tea consumed: 200-250 cups.

Total days ‘proper’ sailing with engine off: 9.

Fuel consumed: 6500L of diesel. Fuel saved per hour when engine is off: 23L.

Fuel consumed per hour by a motor yacht of same size averaging 10 knots: 300-400L.

Fastest speed attained under sail in our 97 ton yacht: 14.2 knots (26kph).

Mainsail volume: 225 square metres.

Strongest wind gust: 42 knots.

Electrical fires on board: 2.

Crew response time to fires: Very, very fast. And improving.

Fish hooked: 14.

Fish kept: 4 (Viewing The End of the Line has led to new, extreme criteria for ‘keepers’.)

Meals from a good size mahi mahi: 4 meals for 7 people plus various raw appetisers.

Lures lost to unseen monsters: 4.

Best meal: Char-grilled mahi mahi with gremolata, chilli-infused poisson cru, and coleslaw with fresh-baked beer bread.

Most popular snack: The chef’s secret custom-trail mix and/or Mie Goreng noodles.

Number of times leaky deck hatches poured water down upon me: 3.

Total different sleeping locations to avoid leaky hatches: 4.

Number of flying fish which flew in through open hatches: 3.

Number of flying fish which landed in bed beside me: 1.

Proportion of books and magazines making up my luggage: Approximately 60%.

Titles read by me en route: 5 (Lush Life by Richard Price, South by Ernest Shackleton, Genghis Khan: Lords of the Bow and Bones of the Hills by Conn Iggulden and Underworld of the East by James Lee).

Books I read on the same yacht three years ago which are still on board: More than 15.

Watch system: 3 hours on and 6 hours off, in teams of 2.

Major world problems theoretically solved by crew during late-night watch: 3-4 nightly.

Major world problems actually solved by crew during late-night watch: Less than zero.

Most popular late-night musical choices: Into The Wild soundtrack – Eddie Vedder, Blue Sky Mining – Midnight Oil, Rated R – QOTSA, Music Monks – Seeed, Home – Spearhead and American IV: The Man Comes Around – Johnny Cash.

 Vagabond sailing yachts involved in near-misses due to their refusal to display lights at night: 2

Approximate depth at the location we took a swim: 4900 metres.

Speed at which it was possible to keep pace with the yacht while swimming: 1 knot or less.

Crew who thought it might be fun to jump from the first spreader up the mast: 1.

Positions/nationalities of crew: Captain (South African), Chef (British), Mate (Irish), Engineer (New Zealander), Stewardess (New Zealander), Delivery-monkey/consultant (Australian – me) and Captain’s mother/baker-extraordinaire (South African)

Total Atlantic crossings between all crew: 26.

Languages spoken between crew: 5 (English, Afrikaans, Spanish, Gaelic and Kiwi)

Personal Atlantic crossings this year: 3.

Miles sailed this year across giant oceans: 11,500nm.

Adios España: High and Lows. Part 2.

14 01 2011

(…a continuation of the things I enjoy about Spain, and those I didn’t enjoy so much)

The Bad.

This is a regular-size Belgian girl.

  • Low doorways.

It seems to me that a large part of Mallorca was designed to accommodate some ancient race of midgets..

How else to explain doorways [inside and out] that barely reach five feet?

We once resorted to taping pool noodles to our bedroom doorways in order to prevent regular serious head injuries. Annoying.

  • Noise.

Spanish people have a certain lust for life. They also love staying up late.

And chatting. On the street. In front of my house.

This would be fine if so many bedrooms did not have absolute street frontage.

Combine this with the fact that at any given time, at least half of any Spanish city is under construction, and you’ve got a big problem.

Falling asleep and/or sleeping in, is only possible in Spain with the assistance of quality earplugs.

Goddamn you noisy Spanish.

  • Bicycle theft

In four years I have had three bikes in Palma.

These were never stolen but I am firmly in the minority.

Bike theft is rampant in Palma and no cycle is safe from the brazen gangs of professional Pikey thieves. Gypsies!

  • Dog shit

I can’t stand little dogs.

Spanish people, however, seem to adore them.

They’re also fond of letting their little rats foul the pavement every four metres.

This makes me hate Spanish dog owners as well as their ridiculous pets. Gross.

  • Stink

I get it – Mallorca is an old city. Years of filth lie beneath its worn cobbles.

But why, why, why, is it acceptable for sewage to bubble up from the manhole covers every time it rains for more than an hour. Disgusting.

Adios España: High and Lows. Part 1.

14 01 2011

Heading back to Australia this weekend to give the motherland another shot.

During four years of working on boats, the majority of my time ashore has been spent in Spain, specifically Palma de Mallorca.

The place feels like home now.

My buddies are there; yacht work is there; the sun often shines – that’s home enough for me.

But it has been something of a love-hate relationship with ol’ Palma.

There are so many things I’ll miss, but so many others I hope never to experience again.

Here’s a quick rundown:

The Good.

  • Fresh bread.

Sounds simple enough. Easy to find, right?

Nope. I mean so fresh it’s hot.

Only in Europe can you hit the corner store at 7pm after work and expect to find warm, crusty baguettes, straight from the oven. Awesome.

  • The city as skate park

Downtown Palma is pretty flat. Cobbles are few. Bike paths lead you every which way around the city.

So it’s perfect for skateboarding and the cops could not care less.

Longboard sales are clearly booming in Mallorca, probably led by yacht crew but the locals are catching on fast. The buggers are everywhere.

And don’t even get me started on Barcelona.

Surely the only European capital to have been designed by skateboarders.

This can be the only explanation for urban architecture that attracts ‘skate-tourism’ from as far away as Australia. Freakin’ incredible.

under the bridge

  • La siesta.

Start work around 10am.

Take a long lunch at 1pm, chill for a few hours, then head back to work until 8 or 9pm.

When you contrast this with the Aussie/UK work system, ours seems like some sort of Orwellian nightmare.

Please introduce the siesta worldwide. Please?


  • 500 Euro notes

Nothing screams ‘high roller’ quite like being in possession of 500 Euro beans on a Friday afternoon.

You can buy a house with one in Australia.

But that feeling is quickly swallowed up by the realisation that no one will cash it for you.

At least not until the banks open on Monday. Sucker.

  • Eating late.

I don’t always want to finish dinner by 9pm.

Sometimes I want to drink beer all evening then stumble into a rustic hole-in-the-wall for a much-delayed boozy feast.

And that is why I love eating out in Spain.

A 12.30am dinner is never frowned upon, in fact, it’s the norm. Handy.

  • Lazy cops.

Skating the wrong way down a one-way street last week.

Car swings round the corner, I leap from the board and end up pretty much on the dude’s bonnet.

Behind me, a Spanish bicycle cop appears. Uh oh.

Surely a stern talking to is on the cards.

Nuthin’. The cop doesn’t even stop, just offers a mumbled “Cuidado,” over her shoulder. Gotta love that.

*Cuidado  = Caution.

Seas. Ick.

3 01 2011

Something occurred to me this week, as I was whiling away the hours at Miami Airport during another forced US stopover.

Americans are quite odd? No, it was more than that.

What if there are a whole bunch of people who never go sailing because they fear seasickness?

Now bear with me here…..I love sailing. I’ve also been seasick and it’s truly horrible.

But I have a theory – seasickness can be both avoided and ultimately overcome.

However, I bet there are people who think they’re gonna feel ill every time and thus, avoid the ocean.

So, following more than a decade of salt-flecked, vomit-dodging research, allow me to present these findings to get you back on the water.


  1. If you think there’s even a chance of becoming seasick, make a pre-emptive strike. Knock back at least one tablet an hour before you leave. My preferred brand is BioDramamina with caffeine. That’s right – it contains caffeine. There’s no excuse for modern seasickness remedies to leave you feeling drowsy.
  2. Fresh air is your friend. Stay on deck. Even the saltiest seadogs feel ill if they go below decks. The air is stale, you can’t see the horizon, it probably smells of diesel. Don’t do it. Even if it means being wet and cold, that’s still better than being covered in your own warm vomit
  3. Don’t go sailing with a hangover. Simple. But I can personally attest to this.
  4. Stay busy. Chat to the crew. Ask to take the wheel. Take your focus off feeling ill.

Calm. For now.

Dealing with it

  1. Bad luck. You feel like death and there’s no land in sight. Time to cope. Take the maximum dose of regular seasickness tabs [no caffeine], curl up somewhere and go to sleep. You’ll feel better as soon as you close your eyes.
  2. When you wake up, take two more pills and head outside again. Getting rid of the nausea is tougher than preventing it in the first place.
  3. Drink water and repeat as necessary.

Seasickness medications work.

Don’t try to be a tough guy and brave it out. You can’t.

Use the damn drugs and get back on deck in the fresh sea air.

You will feel better.

Drink lots of fluids and try to eat something bland.

Ginger tea is also awesome, but I can’t speak for those stick on holistic pads.

I’d be interested to hear what people think about all this.

Been sick? Never? Think they’re a bunch of whiny babies?

Do tell….