Location: Brisbane, Australia
We’re back in “Brissy” for a fortnight to work on some fussy logistics that will be involved in selling the boat, moving continents twice in three weeks, and changing lifestyle from a tropical ocean drifter to a euro-alpine professional. Whiplash. When we fly back to the Great Lakes and summer is in full swing, we’ll have no motivation to do much aside from spend time with our long lost friends and family. Many little things in life get neglected when there are bilge pumps to fix, and it’s a welcome change to be in one spot to address them. Miranda and I rented a flat in downtown Brisbane within walking distance of the great parks, museums, and restaurants. The city is bustling. It’s a great vibe to be a part of and having our own little place for a couple weeks make us feel like we’re really living the hip lifestyle.
Living in a little apartment in the city is good for us. It’s helping to break us of the doomsday-stockpile mentality we’re now prone to as sailors when we find ourselves in a well-stocked grocery store. We remind ourselves that they’re not going to run out of lettuce in Brisbane, we don’t need to buy six pounds of butter all at once, and that there are several other stores within spitting distance, all which will reliably be open during “trading hours.” Paradoxically, it’s nice to have a huge refrigerator to fill up. Well… huge to us.
We do make it south to Coomera to see Tayrona here and there. She is in the show area of The Boat Works, standing proud in a line with her other gussied-up friends, smiling like they’re taking backyard pictures before prom in their suits and dresses. It’s nice to have her close for a while as we adjust to life ashore.
Miranda and I have been wanting to get swallow tattoos in commemoration of this adventure. Swallows tattoos are a tradition among sailors; one is generally worn for every five thousand miles sailed. We should be getting three, but we’ll show some humility and stick with only one lest our parents think we’ve gone off the deep end. (How could we go further off the deep end than quitting our jobs and sailing around the world?) The migratory birds come back to their same nesting grounds every year and so represent, among other things, the promise of homecoming to mariners the world around. We liked that idea, and have been looking into it since Fiji.
For me, the swallow represents freedom, agility, and fearlessness. Far out to sea we often found these little guys zipping about happily on their own, days and days from land, undaunted by their remote and hostile environment. The swallows’ slight silhouettes dancing over the unending ocean solidified their image in my mind as an icon of bravery, determination, and pluck. To emblazon one on my skin is to forever be reminded of the strength and growth that this adventure kindled within. Plus, I’ve always wanted a tattoo but never really felt like I did anything noteworthy enough to endorse such a irreversible act and my mom’s incurred wrath. So, in the spirit of zeal and courage I braved something that chills my spine more than thousands of miles of open ocean: needles. Ugh. Friggin’ hate needles. As always, Miranda is less squeamish than I am about that sort of thing. Tough lass.
There’s an amazing artist in Brisbane named Mat Fink, who came highly recommended. After studying Mat’s portfolio and tracking down his shop, we had to wait a whole week just for an appointment to discuss our ideas with the sought after artist. We met him and described our sailing adventure with no mention of the tattoos we wanted. Without pause he replied, “So you’ve earned yourselves some swallows, eh?” Mat’s a big, soft-spoken guy, with thoughtful eyes, and roiling artwork all over his body. He earned some swallows of this own in his ten years at sea with the Australian navy and has been all over the world working as a tattoo artist. Seems like our man. We showed Mat some examples of the style we were looking for, and a few days later he had his own designs for us drawn up for us.
As you’d imagine, Mat has a quirky sense of humor and a gift with his medium. We got on fabulously. He blocked off the whole day just for the two of us. Just to be safe, I sent Miranda in first to make sure everything was kosher before I jumped in the hot seat.
Miranda, as is well documented, is impervious to pain like a Toydarian is to Jedi mind tricks. I’d like to say that I did fairly well for my first inking and the whole thing looked like this…
…but in reality it was probably more like this instead.
But now it’s a done deal! Unblemished skin? That’s for the birds! And now when Miranda or I are asked if the trip has changed us, we can unequivocally say, “Yes!”
Mat worked late to get our ink done and it was dark when we left the shop. He recommended several ways to care for a new tattoo, one of which involved cold beer immediately upon leaving the shop. Miranda and I were famished after several hours of ab-clenching apiece so that worked for us. We stumbled upon an authentic Asian place with people waiting in a line out the door for their Vietnamese soup. We took the big pho que as a good sign, and jumped in to celebrate our new tattoos!