December 15, 2010
December 14, 2010
December 13, 2010
December 03, 2010
November 25, 2010
Imagine rolling green hills that go on and on for as far as your eye can see. The hills are spattered with trees of varying sizes and colors and it seems as if an artists has mixed the color green in all different variations. The hills have speckles of lambs and dairy cows on them, placed perfectly. The grassy hill you are standing on has a couple of large round full trees on it with a perfectly drawn shadow beneath them, just begging you to spread out a blanket and have a picnic. As you stand and take it all in you hear your inner child yelling words like "run" and "roll". You turn to your friend next to you and you say, "This is amazing!!!!"
You might think it can't get much better but yesterday it did. I was at the grocery store and I had some beer and wine in my cart and when I tried to check out the cashier called the manager over and ......are you ready for this.....THEY ID'd me!!! Can you believe it?? I got out my Ontario drivers license and the manager said she couldn't accept an overseas license! She said she needed my passport. At this point I pulled off my sunglasses and leaned in close and said, "I am almost 40 years old, I have been married for 20 years and I have 2 kids!" The young teller says..."well you look young." People from the other tills were looking over to see this 40 year old woman who looked 17. LOL. Can any of you guess how many times I have retold this story? Graham says that he paid the store to do this each time I buy booze. He amuses himself. I think I might go back tomorrow :-).
Camping was so much fun. We went with our friends on Nikita. We have each bought a car and all the same camping gear so everything matched. We did everything you do when camping....fire, sharp sticks, marshmallows, banana boats, hiking, bacon, fried eggs and sharing sleeping bags. Best camping moment for me was an afternoon nap with Amelia and waking up to a nice cuddle as we listened to the sounds of the forest.
Graham is working on fixing the engine. He has most of the parts he needs to begin reassembling. He is just waiting for a couple of seals and then the heavy work will begin. For now he has totally cleaned out the engine room and painted all the wall. He has also painted the engine. Everything is looking fantastic. We even managed to pull him away this afternoon to take in the latest Harry Potter.
We are counting down the days until Uncle Rob and Brian arrive. Only 14 more days to go!! Oh and one more thing....Alex is totally hype'd up on Adsense. He heard that we can make money if we allow ads to be put on our blog, so I gave him permission and he hooked it all up and had me agree to give him the millions of dollars. LOL. Now he is constantly checking to see if he is making any money. Anywhoooo he is standing next to me beggin me to tell you all to click the ads! LOL...your call. Oh and I have nothing to do with which ads show up...I noticed today some pretty strange ones. Enjoy.
November 17, 2010
Graham found the issue and had a bunch of our friends come over and help him hoist it up and out. I came home to the engine sitting on the dock and Graham with beer in hand in the cockpit. We are now weighing our options....we ("we" being the infamous "we" meaning....Graham) could try and fix the problem by purchasing parts and re-installing....OR we could buy a new engine. Obviously it is a bit of a risk purchasing parts and spending the time installing etc and then if they don't work it is money and time down the drain BUT the cost savings would be HUGE if all it needs are a few new parts.....so for now Graham is still running tests on the engine and will make his final decision in a couple of days.
In the meantime I have been setting up our life here in Opua, New Zealand! We bought a car and a cell phone. We feel so official. Our car is a cute little '96 Nissan silver hatchback called a Pulsar. I have no problem driving on the left side of the road. It actually feels remarkably normal. The best part of "Normal" life is actual telephone calls with family. I have allocated an hour each for each family member and it is like savoring fine chocolate with each conversation. I still have my little brother and sister to schedule and I can't wait!
I have also been LOVING the hot showers. They cost $1 dollar for 4 minutes and let me tell you, it is the best 4 minutes of my day. My hair is free of the bandanna and I am loving it. It is so nice to feel like a girl again.
The other luxury is the amazing laundry room. Banks of washing machines and dryers. Pure wonderful!!! My clothes smell clean, my sheets smell clean and even my towels smell clean. Glorious!!!
It is so cool to be here in Opua. I keep telling everyone that it is like moving to a new town and all your neighbors have moved with you. All our friends (except Simpatica and Gromit....so sad) that we have made across the Pacific are here with us. This week is a week long rally party. Night after night of cruiser get togethers...free food and of course drink! Graham has turned into quite the social butterfly and is loving the get togethers. It is actually rather shocking how much he likes the parties.
and guess what??? The other night Stray Kitty had us out for dinner and they made us "THE BEST" dinner ever. Chris butterflied a leg of New Zealand lamb and cooked it on the barbecue and it was to die for. I confessed to Chris and Christine halfway through the meal and on my second helping of lamb that this was the first time I had ever tried lamb. They couldn't believe it....! Man I am a freak. Again I ask you all....how many other things am I missing out on in life??? totally crazy.
Yesterday we bought a tent and four sleeping bags. This weekend we are going to begin camping! We are all way to excited. I can picture Tricia calling us geeks.....so funny. We haven't camped in such a long time that I hope we haven't forgotten some integral piece of equipment. I did remember to buy marshmallows....so I think we are good.
New Zealand is the most beautiful country I have ever visited. Today as we were touring around I was thinking that it is like being inside a beautiful green rolling hill landscape painting. It just seems so perfect. A picture could not do it justice. The temperature is also perfect.....cool crisp mornings and hot afternoons. Really wonderful.
We are all x'ing off the days until Uncle Rob and Brian arrive. It would be great if our engine was back inside our boat when they get here but we will roll with it if it isn't.
Loving life in New Zealand....
ps...forgot to mention that the grocery stores are FANTASTIC!!! tortilla chips, licorice, grapes, strawberries, yum yum yum
November 11, 2010
(I thought it would be nice to rerun a blog I wrote in 2008 on our cross Canada Farewell tour, about a hero in our family that helped us remember.)
History Taken Down a Notch (July 23, 2008)
Ok, so I have learned about WW2 in school. I have heard about it on TV. I have read about it in books and magazines but the truth is and I hate to admit this, it kind of bored me. It just didn't touch me close enough to home. It was a time that I just couldn't comprehend.
Well things are very different now. We were all at the kitchen table in Candle Lake, Saskatchewan and the kids and I were doing a puzzle and Graham and his Grandpa Elwood were talking. The conversation came around to WW2 and the allied invasion of Europe in 1944 and Elwood began to recount for us the Canadian invasion of Juno Beach in France.
"We arrived at Juno beach in boats and we were all unloaded into the water. We were in our full gear and boots and heavy packs and guns. The water was up to our necks and for some of the men it was over their heads. Right away we started to struggle. Trying to make our way to shore with all the weight on us, was hard. Several men began to drown and we were trained to keep moving and we weren't allowed to stop and help. We made it to the beach facing a hail of bullets from the German positions: there was no time to stop and catch your breath or take a break. Gun fire was on us and we had to "clear" the German bunkers on the higher ground at the edge of the beach. We fought in lines. The first line would go forward and fight and then drop and then the second line would go forward and drop. It gave each team a few moments to reload, etc. As your friends would get hit and wounded around you, you had to just keep running. Months of training had been drilled into us that if you stop you would never get started again. We fought for a week solid with no rest. We had a bit of reprieve from the gun fire at the end of the week, enough so that we could get a bit of rest. We ate biscuits that swelled up in your stomach and made you think you were full. We drank any water we could find and put tablets in it to purify. "
As we sat and listened, it became so real. History wasn't something we couldn't see, it was one soldier, telling his story. It hit us all. The kids had stopped their puzzle at this point. I had moved closer. We were pouring over pictures and memorabilia. Everything seemed so clear now. The gratitude I felt was overwhelming.
Wouldn't we be lucky if all history lessons could be taught by someone making the history. Taken down to an intimate level that we can all comprehend. The kind of level that makes us ask all the questions that fill in the blanks because we are so drawn in.
Elwood went back to Juno beach for the first time in 1995. He had a picture of it. It looked beautiful. He described how strange it felt to stand there. He also had a picture of the endless rows of graves of all of the Canadian soldiers. He said that this is when his emotions really rose to the surface, as he walked around and saw so many of his friend's names.
I can't thank Elwood enough for sharing his stories with us. It was a couple of hours that none of us will ever forget.
November 10, 2010
I had just given Graham a five hour sleep window and he was in the galley getting suited up to come up and trade off with me. Well just as he is about to climb the stairs the engine starts to make this strange rattling noise. In unison we both ask each other what we had done. Once we realized that neither of us had done anything, Graham quickly pulls off the stairs and flings open the engine room doors and sees that the engine is leaking oil so he quickly flicks the engine off switch. Dead quiet fills the air.
I knew better than to start yabbering at this point. He was in the zone and grabbed his tool bag and mirror and began rooting around for the problem. How many times have we been in this situation where something goes wrong and I think it is the end of the world and Graham quickly resolves it. I have actually come to believe he can spin miracles so I think at this point I was believing he was going to get it going again asap.
Unfortunately this wasn't the case this night. The problem was bigger than we could solve with the parts and pieces we had on board. The good news was that we weren't in any danger. We were basically just sitting in the dead calm and wondering how the heck we were going to make these next 45 miles into New Zealand without wind and no motor. We decided to do a shout out to any cruisers and see if anyone was in vhf range. Sure enough a cruiser on another boat (that shall remain nameless) came back and we let him now our issue. He said that not to worry he had checked the weather files and he was sure that soon enough perhaps within a day or two we would have enough wind to sail in! LOL.....I was thinking to myself....OMG I am not bobbing out here for another 2 days only to get wind at 25 knots coming at us on the nose to bring us in and without an engine! Regardless we thanked him for answering on the radio and his advice and we said we would check in on the radio in the morning.
We knew our friends on the boat Shannon (remember the boat Alex wrote about during the Lobster Hunt) were about 5 miles behind us but they weren't answering on the vhf. We decided to try them one more time and sure enough Alina replied. She asked what our options were and we told her they were to wait for wind or get a tow. Graham said that if they were able to tow us that would be great but that they had to feel comfortable with it and we totally understood if they weren't. We told her to go and discuss with her husband and two friends on board and let us know what they decided. At this point I didn't expect to hear back from them for awhile but within seconds the Captain on the boat a young guy named Kevin came back and said it was absolutely no problem for them to tow us and that he had done it before. He told us that he had a heavy 200 foot line and that he would make a bridle off the back of his boat with it and pass us the line to tie to the front of our boat. He said that since their running lights weren't working they would appear out of the darkness beside us in about 1/2 hour and pass us the line. I couldn't believe how awesomely generous and confident he was. He wasn't him'ing and ha'ing about anything. It was just no problem and he was on his way. I ask you.....How lucky are we???
So within the hour of discovering our problem Shannon appears out of the darkness just as they said they would. They turned on their deck lights and we could see the four young energetic crew members on deck. I wasn't sure how it would all play out because even though it was dead calm there was still the ocean swell. They came close enough for Brit to toss us the line. It was so strange to see this all as if they were on a stage with lights on them surrounded by darkness....The heaving of the line could of been taken straight from a scene in a movie. Graham caught the line and tied it to the front of the boat and then we all waited to see what would happen.
Sure enough the line went tight and we were off! We locked the wheel in the center and Shannon rev'd up the engine and we were making 4 knots which is unbelievably shocking given they only have a 40 hp engine. As the sun came up we began to get a little wind and Shannon put up their sails and our speed increased to just over 5 knots. At this point the dolphins arrived and the kids and I sat on the bow with our breakfast and watched the dolphins jump and Shannon sail and the rope pull us along! Way cool!
The wind continued and we decided to try putting up Artemo's sails while still tied together and see what happened. We started with the main and sure enough more speed.....so then we moved to the Genoa and before you know it here we are sailing at 7 knots tied to another boat!!!! Can you believe it???? Never in a million years would I have thought that this was how we would arrive in New Zealand.
As we began our final approach with only 5 miles to go we began to get a bit nervous that we weren't able to get ahold of someone from the marina to help us bring Artemo onto the Quarantine dock. Finally with less than a mile to go we get word that a fellow is on his way in his dinghy to help bring ARtemo onto the dock. We have absolutely NO idea how it is going to play out. I do know though that anytime we have docked it is always stressful and now we are going to try without an engine!
Within moments a high powered dinghy comes zooming out with a fellow named Pugsy in it and he is all business. No times for hello's we are in a ferry channel. He ties up to our starboard stern and tells Graham to untie from Shannon. It all happens so quick that Graham and I are like....."For real"???? We weren't sure how he was going to be able to control Artemo like this but he was so confident that we undid the lines and they proceeded ahead of us onto the long dock.
Pugsy then brought Artemo up and was asking Alex to let him know how many feet he was away from the dock and he managed to dock us beautifully with ZERO stress. Probably our best docking yet! LOL. Again I ask you....Can you believe it? How lucky are we???
We arrived at the dock at 2:30....we hardly missed a beat even without an engine. We feel very grateful and thankful to the crew of Shannon and the quiet confidence of Captain Kevin. We will never forget these four remarkable easy going folks. Thank you Kevin, Ken, Brit and Alina! You guys are THE BEST!
Once we were cleared with NZ customs (fyi....totally a breeze) Pugsy came back and tied back up and moved us to a dock in the marina. He was all smiles now and man what a great guy. The kids and I are going to come up with something nice to bring him.
Ok....so maybe not the way we envisioned arriving in NZ but hey we won't soon forget it. As Graham and I stood at the bow on those last few miles reflecting on these past few years we were filled with mixed emotions. This has been one hell of a ride. We do feel sad as you sometimes do when a chapter of your life begins to close but we are all excited about the next page and the page after that and so on. It feels right....we are on the right path....our goals and focus now are to explore New Zealand, enjoy time with family here, fix up Artemo for sale and then to come home and surround ourselves with family and friends!
ps....Today Graham began having a deeper assessment of the problem and is hot on the trail of resolving it. I have no doubt he will have a solution very soon and begin the implementation of his plan! On a side note New Zealand is even more beautiful than I remember. Rolling hills green grass beautiful bays and coves...stunning. I bought Graham a present today it is a Lord of the Rings location guide and once our boat issues are resolved we are going to begin planning our middle Earth tour! Very exciting.
November 08, 2010
The water was full of them and the sun was just rising, so each time they jumped or skimmed the surface the sunlight danced on their bodies. I raced to the bow and soaked it in. It was freezing cold but so worth it. I whistled to the dolphins to jump and each time as if on cue in a theme park they all would jump. It still isn't normal for me. Seeing dolphins is still magical and fills me with awe.
I realized I better wake up Alex and Amelia and give them the option of getting out of their warm berths and braving the cold to see what might be our last dolphins on this voyage. Alex was the first up and he soaked it all in within a few minutes and then hurried back to bed. Amelia was up next and her smiling face shone in the sunlight. It was nice to take it all in with her.
The dolphins have now moved off and I am back under the blanket in the cockpit. The water is so calm and the winds are just right. It is perfect. Great day for us to do some more cooking and begin organizing the boat for our NZ arrival!!!
Before the kids went back to bed they each asked the same question that is asked about 100 times a day..."How many more miles to go?". They were happy to hear that we have only 140 miles left which is the perfect amount for our afternoon arrival tomorrow.
November 07, 2010
The thing that makes it so hard in this kind of weather is the rain and the spray over the decks. Everything gets wet and it is so extremely cold now. At night the temperature must get down to single digits. Last night I could even see my breath. I had 7 layers on including 2 rain jackets. We only have a few pairs of socks on board and most of them are soaked now BUT this is all behind us now!
The sky is blue with a few puffy white clouds and the sea isn't so bad and we are ripping through the water at about 6.5 knots. We are able to sail our rum line which is on a close hauled point of sail. Our missen is working beautifully to help point us up. All is good in the hood. We have about 230 miles to go and if we average at least 5 knots which equates to 120 miles a day, then we will be in on November 9th (...your Nov 8th) at around 4pm. Yippeee. We are all watching the miles tick down.
We have been watching 24 on this voyage. We trade off on our partners but two of us go below and watch an episode and then the other two. We are on season 5 and it is VERY addicting. Gotta love Jack.
We are trying to eat all our meat, cheese and fruit/veg before we arrive in New Zealand since they take it all away. We should be arriving a few pounds heavier. I bought a stalk of green bananas when we left and they are all ripe now and we are all so sick of bananas that there they sit. We are even sick of banana bread....so sad.
The weather files are predicting the same weather we have now for the next couple of days (knock on some more wood for us). They say the wind should even subside, so we may have to fire up the iron ginny....we will see.
We are talking and thinking about you all and the word "excited" is used probably 100 times a day.
Dreaming of New Zealand.
November 05, 2010
Tuesday, October 26th
-Arrival in Nukulofa at 4pm
-Blender drinks and "we did it" party on board Stray Kitty
Wednesday, October 27th
-Got rid of our garbage, handed in our propane tanks for filling, and our laundry
-Checked in and out of Tonga with customs and immigration
-Rode over to the fuel docks on board Stray Kitty with our empty diesel cans for fill
-Birthday party for Jake (Cruising friend) at the local cruiser hang out "Big Mama's
-Turned into dinner, darts and conversation
Thursday, October 28th
-Rode over to the fuel docks on board Nikita on our final run to fill our empty diesel cans
-Took Amelia into town on our birthday shopping extravaganza
-Changed the oil
-Maintained the engine
-Took the kids to sports day on the beach
-Happy hour on board Artemo with Mojo celebrating Ondean's bday
Friday, October 29th
-Moved Artemo to town anchorage and made 4 runs back and forth with our dinghy and water jugs to fill the tanks
-Finished our passage grocery shop including stops at the fruit/veg market, bakery and various grocery stores
-Stored away all the food and washed the fruit/veg
-Put away the piles of clean laundry and made all the beds up with clean sheets
-Re anchored Artemo back in the cruiser anchorage
-Attended Big Mama's goodbye extravaganza party! (side note...during our shopping trip the day before in town when we were waiting for the ferry Amelia says..."Mom I think this sack under my bench is full of live baby pigs"......sure enough we see the bag moving and a hole in the bag and there is a bit of the pigs snout. The sacks then came with us on the ferry to Big Mama's and then at the party we saw them roasting on sticks over the pit. I am not a vegetarian but I just couldn't eat them.)
Saturday, October 30th
-Cleaned and scrubbed every surface inside of the boat
-Prepared for Amelia's Birthday Tea Party in the afternoon (set the table all fancy, made up treat bags, made pink icing cinnamon buns for a cake and pizza dough, straightened Amelia's hair)
-Left Amelia and her 5 friends to their party on board and headed to shore to spend 2 hours scrapping the green hair from the bottom of the dinghy
-Picked up the girls and attended the Big Mama's information session on arrival procedures in New Zealand
-Brought Amelia and the 2 Mojo girls back to the boat for pizza and a sleepover
Sunday, October 31st
-Kids were up early getting dressed for morning trick or treating. (Many cruisers were leaving for NZ in the afternoon so we needed to do it early)
-Watched as the kids zoomed off all dressed up and trick or treated boat to boat in the anchorage...way cool
-Cooked, cooked and cooked for passage...made lasagna, shepherds pie, rice, pasta, and cookie dough
-Deflated the dinghy, tied up the motor, strapped everything to the decks, put up the splash guards and readied all the lines
-Made ourselves sick on Halloween candy :-)
Monday, November 1st
-Departed Nukulofa at 6:30am enroute for New Zealand
-YIPPEEE......time to rest.
Crazy busy fun filled week but I am so glad to finally be underway. There is so much hooplah about this passage to New Zealand. It is notorious for bad weather conditions, so everyone spends their time talking about the weather and the route. My anxiety level was at an all time high. We are paying for the help of a well known New Zealand weather router named Bob McDavitt. He let us know the best time to go and the route to take and we are in contact with him as we make way. We are currently trying to out run a bit of weather that will be moving across North of 30 on November 6th. We never seem to win these races though so we are preparing for some higher winds.
We are all in good spirits and we have even folded Alex into the night time watch routine, so our sleep rotation has improved. I feel ready for whatever this passage has in store but for now we are enjoying a calm sea and blue sky and dreaming of wonderful glorious New Zealand.....visits from family, hair cuts, showers, clean grocery stores, movie theaters, shopping malls, shoes without holes in them, socks, and the list and discussions go on and on.....
November 04, 2010
Once I convinced him he jumped out of bed and got to work making a loaf of bread. Yup! Can you believe it? He then lit all the candles in the apartment and put on my favorite music and added my favorite scents to heated water. He ran me a warm bath and for the next few hours in beautiful peaceful calm I prepared for the arrival of our new baby.
As the time drew closer we called our midwives, woke my mom, and called our family to let them know. Everything was so quiet and warm and of course the whole place was smelling like yummy fresh bread. Moments before Amelia's arrival Alex came out of our bedroom. I remember both the French doors to the room pushing open and his beautiful big smile. I told him the baby was coming. He was excited but he was more excited about the huge pool in the middle of the living room! Unfortunately for me I had found the water to warm to birth in but fortunately for Alex his night just got better....new baby and a swim!
There I was welcoming my new baby into the world surrounded by my family. My brother Jason had arrived in time from Calgary and was sitting on the stairs that led down to our apartment, out of sight but still very close. He said it was so strange to hear these guttural moaning noises and then when they would subside to hear me say to Alex in my loving mothering voice..."it's ok honey. The baby is coming. These are the noises mommy makes when the baby comes." He said it was like I was possessed. lol
I remember once I had birthed Amelia pulling her up to my chest and thinking how perfect she was. I already knew she was a girl. Not because of an ultrasound, I just knew. I looked in her eyes and I said, "Hello Amelia Mae Perry". We hadn't even decided on a name yet...it was just one of those moments. It WAS Amelia. My whole world turned pink. She was so soft and delicate. Beautifully perfect. It was like the color pink was screaming for her.
Graham pulled Alex up to get a good look at his new sister. He was all smiles. Once his introduction was over he was in the pool! Graham then cleaned and bundled up Amelia for the rest of the family to hug and hold.
We all climbed back into our huge bed together and enjoyed a fresh piece of bread and honey and then drifted off to sleep as a new and improved family of four.
Amelia is exactly what this Perry family needed. I am so extremely proud of who she is and who she is becoming. I feel so lucky and grateful to have her for a daughter.
Happy Birthday Amelia. November 4th is a day I will NEVER forget.
I love you
October 31, 2010
Today was the day I went Spinnaker flying. I was on the beautiful blue hulled boat named Mojo. My friends Mia and Enya and I came into the white cockpit and their parents Undean and Sven said, "We are going spinnaker flying". After the whoops and hurray's we ran downstairs to put our bathing suits on (or as they call them our costumes). Before we knew it the spinnaker was out of the bag and was hanging in a sock from the top of the mast to the bottom. A sock basically looks like a body bag that's white and can fit a whole sail comfortably.
Mia was the first to go. Mia jumped into the water and waited til Sven pulled up on the sock and let the spinnaker roam free. It was huge and beautiful, purple, blue and white. Wow! Mia grabbed hold of the ropes attached to it and planted her bum on the loop made out of rope and off she went, higher and higher and higher. She went up, up and away.
While the wind filled her sail Undean from the cockpit adjusted it with ropes. Next it was my turn. It was glorious, glorious, amazing, superb and great. The wind whistled through my hair beautifully but soon enough Sven said, "Jump" and I had to barrel down into the deep blue sea.
Yesterday my Dad and I set out to go Lobster hunting at night. The moon was almost at its fullest and there were no clouds in the sky.
We went to go pick up the crew from the sailing vessel Shannon. Shannon is a boat made in Taiwan which produces some of the best cruising boats in the world. She is a slightly green and blonde boat. We were invited aboard and we said, "yes". It was a little small for all of us in the cockpit. Jackster on an Amel boat contacted us on the radio. They said our guide didn't show up so we decided to go on our own anyway.
On our was to find lobster we stopped at Jackster. They were a very nice couple on an amazing boat. Jackie lent me her powerful underwater torch. We said our thanks and headed off to the unknown.
On our way to the final destination we went over some shallow bits and some waves until finally we reached a spot that looked good. I hurried to set up the fortress anchor. At one point I lost a piece and the color drained from my face. Luckily we found it. With the anchor together we were ready to go! A shot of fear and adrenaline went through my body. A lot of "What if's" went through my head and then I just JUMPED IN!
The water temperature was almost as warm as bath water. The visibility wasn't good, with lots of seaweed. We went over some breaking waves than into a beautiful coral garden but no lobster.
As we were swimming along in that murky water we came across a plastic dinghy, just sitting anchored out there. Nobody was in the dinghy. An unsolved mystery in the middle of Tonga.
Dad and I swam against a heavy current to get back to our crappy inflatable dinghy. We saw a large porcupine fish on the way back but unfortunately NO LOBSTER!
About a week ago we snorkeled a sunken Korean fishing vessel. Although it didn't look like much the swim through's were perfect for beginners and advanced divers.
The vessel was about 40 feet long and was very old and rusted. There were three square hatches in the boat that were lined with vibrant plate coral. These square holes were perfect swim through's.
Although the swim through's were frowned upon by my parents, for those few seconds in the hull of the boat the whole world disappeared.
In that moment I was in my own little bubble. The gloom of the boat and the beautiful coral made me realize it doesn't get much better than this.
Today was the great mango harvest. My Dad and I went to go check out the mango tree's, with their long skinny green leaves. We noticed that our giant boat hook would work best to get the mangoes out of their natural habitat and onto our boat. We left back to our boat to grab the necessary tools and to get ready for lunch with a family we had met on the island. The family owns the best store on this 1km square island.
We arrived at the slowly decaying concrete wharf at precisely 2 pm. The feast the family had prepared was amazing. The chicken we had tasted like chicken wings from home and the bright ruby red lobster with moms delicious garlic butter sauce was absolutely delicious.
After the feasting was done I took the more than enthusiastic local kids for a high speed dinghy ride. In return they were to help me climb the great mango tree.
When we reached the tree the first attempt at getting mangoes was a success. We flung sticks at the hanging mangoes. The mangoes started falling like rain. Then when the mangoes were out of sight we started to climb.
Surprisingly this was the moment mom chose to appear. This moment is also when one of the boys was at the most precarious spot. As the mangoes fell some of the girls who were putting them in our giant black basin were so close to being hit it wasn't funny.
By the end of the harvest the giant basin was full and we will be eating mangoes forever or until the New Zealand coast guard takes them.
October 25, 2010
Alex finally had his birthday dive. He went out with a small dive shop here and with Graham. The dive master had a fantastic video camera and gave us a really cool video of Alex diving. The dive was a cavern dive and Alex said it was really great. I was a bit shocked to see the small spaces they dove through. Made me worry a bit. I asked Alex if it worried him that he wasn't able to go up if he got in trouble, that he would first have to travel forward out of the caves. He said, "no there wasn't anything to worry about." He is most definitely growing up. Graham said that Alex was a confident and safe diver and didn't seem stress down under. He didn't use alot of air either so I guess those are all good things.
Our friends on Simpatica headed off in the opposite direction to Fiji the other day. We had a beautiful good bye dinner with them and a couple more days of fun in the sun. We ended our time together on the perfect note. Louis finally speared himself a grouper. In various anchorages from Bora Bora onward, Louis would speak of how much he would like to spear a grouper. He tried in Suwarrow and in Rose island but with no luck. The other day while Graham and Alex were out snorkeling they came across a bunch and they quickly hopped in the dinghy to go get Captain Louis. Didn't take Louis more than a few moments to grab his spear and jump in with the boys. They raced back across to the spot and before long Louis finally speared the grouper he had talked about for so long. It was definitely a fitting ending to our time together. We are going to miss Louis and Jules a bunch and look forward to meeting up again.
We are currently anchored in front of a tiny island named Ha'afeva with a small village on the other side of it. We made the 20 minute walk into town today and walked up to a tiny store. It was basically a shed with a small window that you look through and point at what you would like. The choices of items were basically.....corn beef and staples. The shop owner Calib was such a nice fellow. Graham and him got to talking. His wife Afu and baby were sitting on the porch and I sat down and chatted with her. Before long we were surrounded by children. I played the game were I try to remember each of their names and say them back. They all got a kick out of me....giggling away. Amelia let me know she had some cards in her purse. This was perfect timing because I could hardly pronounce many of the kids Tongan names .....no way I could remember them. I took the deck and began laying them all face down in the dirt. Many of the kids faces filled with recognition of the game and they began saying the Tongan word for the memory card game. They were all excited. I was shocked at how good the kids were at the game. Even with so many kids around and so much going on they could remember each and every card. They would all try and help Amelia, Alex and I on our turns. It was so nice to have fun together and not to have to worry about the language barrier. Finally after many games I let the winner have the deck of cards. He was a really young boy and he was so happy to have the cards. Felt really good.
The kids took us to see their school. The lawn was beautiful green grass, so strange to see mowed grass. The school building was nice looking to. Unfortunately when they opened their classroom door I was shocked. The desks were knocked over and their books were all over the floor. It looked like the room had been trashed. The kids all poured into the classroom and climbed over the desks to the back of the room where I was looking through some of their work. They all began digging for their own books to show me. I quickly returned the book to the shelf to avoid another mess in the already messy classroom.
Once we were back at the store Calib (the store owner) let us know that it is the end of their school year, so things are not as well organized as they are at the beginning. Calib and his wife Afu have invited us for lunch tomorrow. We are all looking forward to it.
Tonight we had a cruiser pot luck on the cement wharf at the waters edge. There are only 4 boats here and they are all friends of ours so it was really perfect. The food was amazing and we all had such a good time. The kids were happy to have some unsupervised time together. As the parents all sat and visited the kids made a fire and burnt the garbage. We could see them running back and forth to the beach to collect more wood to keep it going once the garbage was gone. At one point I wandered over to the fire and I found Alex and another boy lighting the ends of a dry palm frawn on fire and moving it about. I realized it was probably best if I just stayed away :-).
On a side note for those who have been asking, our plans are to get to the final Tonga island of Nuku'alofa before the 28th. Once we are there we will ready Artemo for our final sail to New Zealand. We will wait for a good weather window and then make the hop. It should be around a 12 day sail.
October 17, 2010
*Alex spearing his first fish and telling me, "check went the checklist in my head"......
*Amelia and I paddling around a huge amazingly beautiful cave and singing "Doe a deer......"
*Watching as Alex and Graham dove down in front of a rock wall and then swam for 20 feet under water to enter an under water cave......YIKES.....bit nerve wracking waiting for them to resurface
*Watching Amelia being lifted into the air by the spinnaker (a huge kite sail) on our friends boat Mojo and seeing her fly...so cool
*Alex and I going off alone to troll for fish and then finding a beautiful snorkel spot and the two of us pulling the dinghy along behind us as we snorkeled
*All of us enjoying meals and happy hours with all of the amazing people we have met on this journey
Our welcome to the Tongan Ha'apai group of island was also very memorable. Last night after we got our anchor down and were just sitting down to dinner a group of about 4 whales passed directly behind our boat. The all blew water from their spouts and it was better than the other times we have seen them because the ocean was flat calm. It was totally amazing.
Schooling has begun for Amelia aboard Artemo and I guess since it has been a slow start this year the first few days have been ......challenging. Alex is still awaiting his books so he knows he will be working extra hard once they arrive. Amelia and I are both so similar....head strong and stubborn that sometimes the sparks fly. It still shocks me how much emotion she can evoke in me. I actually have to remind myself that I am the adult. Thank goodness though that we finally hit our groove the other day.
Yesterday on our way here Amelia informed me that I love Alex more. A long conversation followed where I explained to her that it wasn't possible for me to love one of them more than the other. I told her how I love them differently but no more or no less. I told her that I wouldn't change a thing about her. I told her that I love that she is passionate, head strong, opinionated, inquisitive, wild, artistic, raw, big emotions, colorful, strong, carefully fearless, cuddly, loving and all mine. None of this seemed to convince her though. I let her know that it is in Alex's personality to avoid conflict, gage someone else's feelings and diffuse situations and to throw in humor where necessary. I let her know that all of these traits make it so there are a few less waves with him but they do not make me love him more. She still was not convinced. At this point I said, "Take Nanny Donna (my mom) for example.....she has 5 kids who are all completely different and you can see that she loves us all equally." At this point in unison Amelia and Alex say...."No way, she loves Aunty Ann-Marie the most." LOL......so now at the end of a conversation where I was hoping to make Amelia feel better I am left wondering....."Mom, Who do you love more?"
October 12, 2010
Thanksgiving day started off like any other cruising Thanksgiving in the beautiful shelter of a Tongan anchorage. We had made plans that we would have dinner on the beach with everyone in the anchorage since one boat could not hold 40 people. The kids all went to the beach and we played for a while.
At the beach we started to get bitten. The mosquitos here have Dengue Fever, so there is a chance of disease. We were marooned on the island with two kayaks since the dinghy had been taken back by the adults on Tyee. They had brought the kayaks there and left on the dinghy. They told us if we hollered loud enough they would come and get us. At this point we were getting frantic about the mosquitos, so I jumped in the kayak to go and grab a dinghy to collect everyone. Jake a 7 year old from Nikita jumped on the back. Just as we pushed off the kids on the beach got a hold of my mom (Julie) and she came to the beach to carry everyone back to their boats.
The idea of having dinner on the beach was crossed off. Simpatica had just came back from the main town and anchored and they dropped their dinghy in the water and came over to Artemo. They had heard that the beach had mosquitos and Captain Louis was looking for a new plan. He had heard that our friends on another kid boat called Stray Kitty were coming in so as quick as a flash Louis was downstairs on Artemo radioing Stray Kitty to tell them that they were rafting up to Simpatica and Artemo would raft up to them. Captain Chris on Stray Kitty thought this was a fine plan. We aren't sure he realized though at this point that he was agreeing to hosting the party!
Artemo and Simpatica had both their anchors out to relatively the same distance so they were parallel to each other. The theory was that Stray Kitty would tie up to Simpatica and then two powerful dinghy's would push Artemo up to Stray Kitty to tie on. After all was said and done it turned out pretty well. The end result was two multi-hull boats tied up to Artemo a mono hull.
As the night progressed Artemo presented itself as the boy boat because we had the Wii. Simpatica the other outside boat was the girls boat and the middle boat Stray Kitty was the party boat. Lucie on Tyee had cooked a delicious turkey and Christine on Stray Kitty had made pumpkin pie. Everything you would expect at a Thanksgiving dinner was on the table which in this lifestyle is surprising since comfort food from home is hard to find. During the nights conversations you could hear, "...that was my last jar of something or other".
As the night went on the girls made a show which included a number of Taylor Swift songs and a song Amelia made up awhile ago. Simi on Tyee even got up and sang "Skater Boy", much to Captain Louis's chagrin because he said he would get up and dance if Simi sang. The next song he got up and danced with Kerry who is around 6 and it was hilarious.
As the night went on more beers were downed and the party started getting pretty funny. Later that night I learned how single malt whiskey is made and what chasers are and how to serve beer, which by the way is drinking the first couple sips! (thanks for the lesson Captain Dave)
Everyone started to leave before the rain started and when it started to rain it filled the dinghy's to the brim which is a lot of water. The morning after Captain Louis organized a boat cleaning party and we scrubbed Stray Kitty till it was spick and span and generally wasted a ton of water.
We disbanded from our rafted up formation and later that day I thought to myself that this Thanksgiving might just tie with my Auntie Theresa's Thanksgiving.
BY:(well i hoped you guessed it) Alex Perry
October 08, 2010
Tonga is absolutely stunning to approach. Many islands in various sizes. The smaller islands have rock bases and look like they just rose from the sea. The larger islands are irregular shaped and very lush. The water seems to be deep right up to the edge of each island. Once you enter the main pass you are in this spectacular cruising grounds, where the water is flat calm and the anchorages and are small little hops within sight of the next one. All of the anchorages are numbered and all of the cruisers are sharing their favorite numbers with each other. The other amazing thing is that in this flat calm water there are MANY whales. We have yet to see any but everyday another cruiser conveys a whale story to us.
It is so nice to have finally caught up with the rest of the fleet. It has been non stop party since we have arrived. Friends that we have made all the way from the Caribbean across the Pacific are here now. One of the most exciting moments was finally meeting back up with our friends from Ottawa on the boat "Stray Kitty". We had originally met them in St. Lucia when we were heading back to Antigua to sell Artemo and then they met us again at the Pitons once we had changed our minds and were heading back towards the Pacific! They shared in our excitement then and we became fast friends. The funny thing was that it was as if we had just seen them yesterday. We picked up right where we left off and had a fantastic day of beaching, eating and drinking! We even got a ride on Stray Kitty.
Yesterday Graham and Alex went diving with some new friends. They have all the dive gear and tanks on board for both kids and adults. They said they had a blast. Today we are going over to some really cool caves to snorkel. One of the caves you can swim or dinghy right into. The other cave you need to dive under the water and swim for 15 feet and then come up in the cave. YIKES! I unfortunately won't be able to do this one but the kids and Graham will......should be exciting. We are then going to pull up anchor and head to number 16. Everyone has told us that there is great snorkeling there.
Our plans are to head to the Southern Tongan Island group around mid month and then push off for New Zealand nearing the end of the month. The New Zealand passage is suppose to be one of the worst passages yet. There is a lot of talk and hype about it. It has always been the one passage that has weighed heavy on my mind. It isn't that long.....only about 12 days but it is known to be rough. Many of the wives on the other boats are flying to NZ and their hubby's are bringing crew in to sail down with them. I am trying to push any worry out of my head though and we have been in contact with a renowned New Zealand weather router to give us some great (paid for) weather advice and routing. The other thing is that we are pretty use to heavy weather sailing......30 knots is now "normal" for us and 45 is just another squall. HA.
Once we get to New Zealand we want to do some "on land" adventures. Graham and I backpacked around the two islands in '94 and we can't wait to do the same with the kids. As far as our plans past New Zealand they are still formulating and of course ever changing but we are considering putting Artemo up for sale and heading home for next summer. We are all thinking that this would be a good time to go back to Canada and get settled again in Toronto and then start planning for our next adventure once the kids are off to University. Everyone on board here is excited about the plan and we will keep you posted as it evolves. For now we are squeezing the juice out of every day.
Miss you all
September 30, 2010
All of us are happy. Life is normal on board. Amelia is making bracelets. Jules from Simpatica taught her how to make lanyard pulls (similar to mac-ro-may) and she took this skill and converted it into very cool and trendy bracelets! I am the proud recipient of the first one. Alex has been busying himself with making lures, changing out lines, making daisy chains (double hooks), pondering different types of bait and dreaming of fish.
We have been checking in on the SSB every 6 hours and chatting with Simpatica and Scotch Bonet. Yesterday we were all remarking how nice it was to have such a light breeze and how it was the perfect weather for an ocean swim. Artemo sails well in the light winds and given this we were making miles on Simpatica. Louis suggested that once we caught up we should have an ocean swim party! You can just imagine how excited the kids were. All day we plotted our course to make an intercept with them. Pretty cool that we were able to find them. Once they were in eye sight it seemed to take forever to get up to them. The whole time I am wondering what the heck is going to happen once we get there. Once we are close we see Louis jump in the water with his trade mark Texan thong! As we pull up closer Louis holds up a rope and tells Graham just to grab it and tie up and we will just drift along with Simpatica.
Louis makes it all seem so easy. If it wasn't for him I am 100% sure there would of been no open ocean swimming! The swell was pushing us up on Simpatica and I had to put her hard in reverse. We did managed to tie up and it was so weird to be attached to another boat in the middle of the ocean. I knew what was coming next....the kids wanted in the water. We untied the ladder and they all got in. I stayed in the boat and made sure we had no collisions. Graham was a bit nervous. He said he knew the chances of something getting you out here were very slim but it still was a bit unsettling. I watched as the three of them and Louis hung onto the rope in 15000 feet of water. YIKES.
Once they were all safely back on board I knew I couldn't let the moment pass and not have a dip. I climbed down the ladder by myself and submerged myself. YAHOO! I screamed out in joy......if mom could see me now!
We are about 3 miles behind Simpatica now. We are so hoping we can catch up to them and PASS EM! We want to give them the Perry moon show! Fingers crossed for us.
September 28, 2010
We have all been enjoying our stay in Rose Island and so far the American Coast Guard has not shown up to kick us out. We are so happy we were able to stop here as the weather finally looks favorable to continue. At the beginning of this season we were in an El Nino and now we have a strong La Nina in the Pacific. We are waiting to find out how this will effect us and our journey to New Zealand.
Today we had the best day ever. The few boats that are here organized snorkel and island adventures and we were off all morning. Sure this is the worlds smallest atoll, but that is where the word "small" stops. Alex and I were snorkeling in 4 feet of water when a five and a half foot Giant Trevally swims by. Alex tells me from his fish book that this is as big as they get. Needless to say he was just in for a look at the newcomers and was not in the least worried about us. Yesterday snorkeling near the pass there was a six plus foot grouper there and man was he a big fish and he would have weighed in at several hundred pounds.
After a lunch break on the boat, it was time for the boys to come out and play all by ourselves. We started to circle the inside of the lagoon and stop at these giant pinnacles that come up from the bottom of around 60 feet right to the surface and look like giant mushrooms from below. One after another we would stop at, drop anchor on the top and snorkel. Each one was unique but there were always sharks around us, massive schools of fish and brilliant coral. We came across giant turtles and on the last pinnacle, we found the remains of a humpback whale on the bottom.
From the pinnacle we went right out onto the outer reef where the water was flowing over like a mountain stream. You had to step up to get on it, and the constant water had eroded the coral to a smooth surface. The sharks in this lagoon have no fear of humans like in other places and are very aggressive. You really get the feeling they are just waiting for an opportunity:)
Now for the finale of the day, we went to check out the pass where we brought Artemo into the lagoon. The wind and waves had subsided considerably now and the pass looked reasonably safe. We decided we wanted to snorkel the pass and lined ourselves up and jumped in. We put out lines from the dingy to hang on to and began at the entrance of the inside. Soon we were flying through the pass with massive schools of fish, sharks and at least a dozen turtles. What a rush this was as Alex proclaimed it as his best day ever! It was not long and we were in 200 feet of water in the open ocean in near perfect visibility. What a rush! We are just now coming into our element where activities like this seem like a reasonable risk. A couple of months ago, I would never have done this unless with a organized tour.
We finished the night off with a pot-luck dinner on our new friends boat, Rolando and Sarah from Lebanon. These guys love their fish and would rather eat the head and roe than the other bits we eat. We feasted on a large jack head. We would have had the entire body of the fish to eat if the sharks had not gotten to it before he could land it in the boat! A true story that ended with Alex and Rolando eating the best part of the fish... the eyes! Yes sir, Alex was in their and said it tasted awesome. (Alex also wanted to add that he ate its tongue and its very small brain to!)
Such a treat to have been able to visit the thousands of birds on the small island. At the end of the day, I would never recommend going into that pass unless in very calm conditions and high tide. We left the lagoon in these conditions and it was a much easier exit than it was on the way in.
We will post pics when we get internet. We are now enroute to Tonga and hope to arrive in a couple of days.
ps.....moments ago Alex made himself a homemade lure by using Amelia's pink craft feathers, her glitter, shiny string and other bits...he then put it out and not 2 minutes after it is in the water he gets a Mahi! He reeled it up to the back of the boat and we all admired it within arms reach. He then asked Graham to take the line while he gaffed it and then just as he misses the gills on the first go we watch as it wriggles free of the hook and swims to freedom. Needless to say that homemade lure production is in full swing on board Artemo!!!
September 25, 2010
Our sail here still wasn't that picture perfect sailing that we always imagined across the South Pacific....."The Milk Run" we heard it referred to......NOT. Still we should be grateful it was better than our last sail. The wind was behind us and blowing at about 25 knots with gusts and squalls pushing past 35 knots at times. Yucky but now strangely enough tolerable for the Perry clan. We averaged between 6.5 and 7 knots the whole way and we were severely reefed down....so nice to be able to see the miles tick down quickly.
The pass into this atoll is INSANE!!! I guess since no one is suppose to stop here the charts are way OFF. Luckily we already had a few friends who had made it inside and they gave us a series of waypoints. Alex was begging us to let him fish through the pass since this is where the fish love to hang out. I am not sure why but we reluctantly agreed. He decided to shorten his line right up and try his cedar plug lure (Alex says...thank you High Five for the advice on the plug). Not moments after he gets it out and he is holding the line in his hand he feels the line cut at his skin. He quickly grabs the hand reel and yells at Graham. I slow the boat right down since we are almost on top of the first waypoint. They pull the fish in so quickly and Amelia passed Graham the rum in a flash. The beautiful yellow fin tuna laid beside me as I continue on into our trickiest pass yet.
Louis on Simpatica and Rolando on another boat came out to the pass in their dinghy to guide us in. When Artemo hit the first of the ebbing currents our bow began erratically moving from side to side. Louis was on the radio to get her under control and stay as close to the sharp jagged reef on my port side as I could since I would be pushed away from it. The pass was really narrow and in a zig zag. The current against us was about 6 knots. It was difficult to keep Artemo under control and still moving forward. I was in my "Power Zone" and even yelled out loud to Artemo, "Come on now! This is your f#$^&* time."
Alex was watching on our port side, Graham on our starboard and Amelia was reading out our speed and depth every few seconds. The reef was so close to our port side you could of touched it with a stick. Nearing the end the current was to much and our speed was dropping. Graham let out the head sail and .....whoosh....we had enough power to make it through. A huge sense of relief washed over me as we made the final turn and were in the safety of the open lagoon. As I reflect now on our pass I wish we could of video taped the four of us working so seamlessly together. We were a fine tuned machine working as a team. This moment was actually a culmination of these pass few months on board and all of us knowing our role and our value. Very cool.
Once we were safe and sound at anchor Alex went to work on the tuna. Once he was finished he took the carcass and attached a rope to the tail and hung it just above the water. There are a ton of very large black tip reef sharks here and we watched as they jumped out of the water and took chunks from the remains of this fish. It was actually quite frightening how easily they could snap through it.
Once we had cleaned ourselves and Artemo up from passage Graham announced on the vhf that it was time for a sushi party on Artemo and everyone was welcome. We had so much fun. Our new friend Ureko gave us a few new techniques for making the rolls. I was shocked as we all downed plate after plate of rolls and sashimi. The entire tuna is gone.
We plan on staying here until the winds die down. I am done with high wind sailing. I am staying until I see 15 knots!!! Mark my words :-). We will respect the fact that this is a wildlife sanctuary and we will try not to even leave any footprints of our stay here.
September 21, 2010
We started trawling with two big offshore fishing lines on the sides of the boat and one hand line off the middle. Almost immediately Appi who was holding the handline caught a fish. His expression showed that it was a small fish but then as it was close to the boat; as quick as a flash a shark bit onto the lure!
Now Appi was really holding on. He got the shark close to the boat and we saw the fin. It was a gray reef shark, the most vicious out of the three types of reef sharks. When it was close to the boat we scooped it into a net. The hook then fell out of the sharks mouth and we started fishing again.
The pass we were fishing through is very wide and in parts is very rough. The sun was just a golden shimmer on the horizon. A very amazing sunrise. Rolando caught the first fish. He reeled it in while Appi caught one too. Rolando then lifted the fish into the boat. It was a barracuda and later I found it in our fish book and it was called a Bigeye Barracuda. They are a long and skinny fish, very ugly with razor blade teeth.
Apii then pulled up yet another barracuda. We trawled a while longer and Appi and Rolando both caught another barracuda. Now it was my turn to catch a fish. The fish struck the rod and pulled me forward. Appi said, "pull the rod back". This set the hook in its mouth. I slowly reeled it in and it turned out to be.....you guessed it a Barracuda. We trolled for a while longer but we never caught anything else. I had a great time and I would definitely do it again.
Tonight we will share our catch with everyone at a big pot luck on shore. I am looking forward to it.
September 19, 2010
James wears his hair up in a bun on top of his head and has a full long beard. He has a huge belly with an enormous tattoo covering it. He is one of these people whose eyes are so happy that you know right away you are going to like him. He has a big laugh and is missing a few teeth. You feel an instant respect for him and for me anyway I wanted him to like me. His body is covered with tattoos. He told me later that when he was 14 his 12 year old brother tattoo'd him with little markings all over his body and once he was old enough he had nicer tattoo's put on to cover up his brother's handy work.
James described how we would travel by boat to one of the other motu's and then hike across the island and through the shallows to the coconut crab hunting area. He demonstrated on Alex how we would rip the crabs backs off to kill them. Since there were about 30 of us he said we needed to catch about 15 for a pot luck dinner.
Next James assistant Appi blessed the day. As many of you know I am not religious but I have to tell you I love the warmth of a group of people with heads bowed all thinking together about positive thoughts for the day. Absolutely beautiful on the beach of Suwarrow. Appi said the blessing in his native language and it was mesmerizing. Appi also exudes a warmth but his warmth comes from his smile rather than his eyes. He is so willing to share his knowledge and he also loves to laugh. It seems that these two men are fast friends with everyone. We feel very lucky to have met them.
Away we all went in 3 different boats. The hike was long and so HOT. We have had so many rain days that now that the sun has finally come out it is really hot and humid. When we finally reached the crab hunting area I was in for a big surprise. I had just assumed that we would be grabbing them along the reef. I guess I should have realized that "Coconut" crab means that they eat coconuts but I never clued in. Appi took us all into the deep brush of the island. The palms scratched our legs and we crawled over the trees and brush. It felt like a safari. He led us to the bottom of a tree that has the roots exposed like a teepee above the ground. In this mini prison he pointed out our first Coconut Crab.
Next he demonstrated how we would grab the massive crab out of his dark hiding place (without having the pincher's take a finger off) and then rip its back off and kill it. I forgot to mention that prior to this he had split us into teams of 4 people each and each team had to catch 3 5lb crabs. He put the Perry 4 together. Given this as Appi is wrestling the crab out and then killing it, I am thinking....."oh shit...we have to do this!" Luckily Alex was thinking, "Cool, we get to do this!"
Once the demonstration was over we were on our own. Graham describes the way Alex approached the hunt "like a hound dog". He was climbing over stuff, crawling on the ground, reaching in holes, poking his stick around....he was on a mission. Finally he spotted our first one and with no fear he poked and prodded and got the crab out. He then didn't even hesitate and ripped the back off! Alex the King of the Crab Hunt. We were all so thrilled. We were thinking, "Wow, our first crab within 5 minutes! This wasn't that hard."
We couldn't of been more wrong. We kept finding crabs but Appi had instructed us only to capture the big ones. Finally we spotted another big enough to catch. This time was Graham's turn....our fearless Captain and it turns out that our fearless Captain is afraid of Coconut Crabs! lol. He finally says, "Ok, Alex get in there". We managed to find 3 more after that!
The day was a success and we left with our 15 crabs. For me the best part of the day was eating them. Appi roasted them (shell on) on an open fire and we all made up pot luck dishes to accompany. James stood and cracked open all the crabs with ease for us as we dished up our plates. I have never seen it look so easy. He waited til everyone was well fed before he dished in.
It is hard to believe that we are at the end of our provisions and still eating like kings. We ate and ate and ate and of course we drank. A really great party. A highlight for me was when one of the French cruisers broke into a French song from my childhood called, "Aloe'etta". Everyone joined in and belted it out and it was such a hoot. We are having such a good time here that we don't even want to think about leaving just yet.
September 18, 2010
Suwarrow is a really cool deserted island with a neat history. A man named Tom Neale came to live alone on this island in the 50's, 60's and 70's. He ended up writing a book about the adventures he had setting up his life here. It is titled "An island onto oneself". It is definitely worth a read. I love imagining him here and being able to put real images to each moment as he has described it in his book.
There are now 2 park rangers who stay on the island for the cruising season and there is a club house and cook shack where everyone hangs out. The rangers are from Rarotonga and are unbelievably nice and organize outings and pot lucks. When we checked in they said we were free to use the showers on the islands so given the fact that bathing with the sharks wasn't appealing this is what we set out to do!
The shower is at the back of the club house and has no light and is quite dark. I had Graham connect the wires for the pump and away I went. I forgot to bring my regular glasses, so I had on my prescription sunglasses. I basically showered in the darkness. It was still wonderful. Once I had finished Amelia had her shower. After about 10 minutes I found her and her pile of stuff outside of the shower room doing the "weebie geebie" dance. She said there was a HUGE spider in the bathroom. The biggest spider she had ever seen and she kept repeating, "It was furry, furry!" She was FREAKING out. Graham went in the room and managed to get the spider out and I watched as it scurried up the wall. It was huge and yes it was furry. Totally terrifying. I realized that I must of showered with it to!
Once Amelia had calmed down I asked her to describe what had happened. She said that she finished her shower and her clothes were hanging on the back of the door. She went to reach for them and she spotted the huge spider in the shadows on the wall. The problem was that she was naked. Outside the shower room all the cruisers were gathering for the potluck. Her options were....stay with scary spider and dress OR run out naked in front of cruisers. She opted for taking her chances with the spider. She said she kept her eyes on the spider and carefully put on her clothes. She then grabbed everything up in a frenzy, exited the room and proceeded to have her break down!
So now each day we are faced with the question as bath time comes round......"Spiders or Sharks?"
September 17, 2010
We spent a few hours organizing the chaos on board, sleeping and checking in. At about 4pm Louis picked us all up. I am sure it must of been quite the sight to see all four of us on his back steps all lathered up and oohing and aahing. Louis even gave us the hot water hose. Can you believe it???? Glorious, glorious hot water. OMG it felt so good. Graham said it felt like he was washing away 3 days of stress.
Once we were all clean, fresh and dry Louis slid open the patio doors and welcomed us in to the air conditioned salon. It felt like we were entering another world full of all those creature comforts we were all craving. We all stretched out on the cozy couch, poured the wine and toasted our safe arrival.
Alex brought over our massive Mahi Mahi to get filleting lessons from Louis. They cleared off the counter and got out the filleting knife. Louis is great with the kids. He would first show Alex how and then let him go at it. He was so encouraging that Alex wanted to do well. Each time he needed some course correction Louis would do it in a way that didn't cripple his pride. I watched and learned not only how to fillet a Mahi but how to "teach" my kids.
Once the Mahi was all filleted Jules informed us that we were staying for dinner. Yippee the day was just getting better and better. They had caught a HUGE 60lb tuna on the way and had a beautiful cut of tuna to share for dinner. Jules got to work bustling all over the kitchen and all the while involving Amelia and getting her to help out. Between the two of them the first thing they laid out beautifully presented was fresh slices of tuna, pickled ginger, soya sauce and washbi. It looked like what you would get at a gourmet restaurant. All the while as they are preparing it I am thinking to myself...."YUCK"! Once it was all laid out Louis was in shock to learn that Amelia and I had never ate raw fish. All of sudden out of nowhere Amelia says, "That's it, I am trying it!" I was abandoned. She took a big piece and she loved it.
Well there I was on my own little island. I knew I couldn't stay there. All eyes were on me. I had to jump out of my comfort zone and try the dreaded "Raw Fish". I was thinking in my head....."I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them Sam I am."
With my chopsticks in hand I took a piece of fish with a piece of pickled ginger and dipped it in the soya/washbi and now the moment was here. I put the whole thing in my mouth preparing to be disgusted and then to my shock the most amazing beautiful delicious taste filled my mouth. I DO, I DO LIKE GREEN EGGS AND HAM.....screamed through my head. I couldn't get enough of it. We all devoured the plate. What else have I been missing? I ask you....hmmmm
All the while Jules and Amelia were making sushi as we drank and ate. They made beautiful rolls and for the first time EVER I ate sushi rolls that weren't california rolls and they were so good. You might think at this point that we would be all stuffed but the eating continued. Earlier Jules had taken Alex's Mahi and chopped some up and made Ceviche and had this chilling in the fridge. Ceviche is basically raw Mahi, lime juice, onions, and a Louisiana spice. Again in my head I was thinking I had overcome enough today...no need to push my luck. Jules wasn't having any of it and prepared the cracker for me. My love for it wasn't as instant as the Sashimi but soon enough you could see me preparing cracker after cracker. YUM YUM YUM.
Still the feast wasn't over. Next Louis took the Mahi fillets and fried them up with the Louisiana spice. I don't know how anyone had room to get this down. The fillets were accompanied by a yummy fresh tomato concoction that we hadn't even realized was simmering on the stove since we had arrived.
As we all sat around the table totally satisfied and stuffed...Louis says, "Who is up for chocolate milk shakes for desert?"!!!!! We really shouldn't have but WE DID. We completed the evening with chocolate gooey's accompanied by chocolate milk shakes! Are we in heaven or what?
I am not sure how we are going to top this evening on Artemo but we are sure going to try. The people out here make this journey so much more fun. I find that we are so much more open to including people in our lives out here.....as extended family. I am not sure if this can be replicated when we get back home but I am sure going to try because the friendships are SO WORTH IT!
Thank you Louis and Jules for a night we won't soon forget!
We raised our small storm sail, a spiff of main sail and a spiff of the missen. It had been a long time since we had sailed with both the wind and waves at our side. It felt strange and foreign and I won't lie to you I was a bit scared. We kept telling ourselves that this was the worst of it and soon light winds would be with us. The wind was consistently over 25 knots and as each squall would pass through it would blast substantially higher. The worst part was that we were only doing about 3 knots. The waves were so high and forward of the beam that they slowed us right down. We tried raising more sail but given the huge wind Artemo would heal so far over that the port deck was under water. We had never seen so much water running over the decks. I could just reach out of the cockpit and be touching the ocean.
The sounds down below were unsettling. I am sure they are normal but we hadn't heard them in so long. The bashing of waves against the hull at the front. It sounded like we had collided with something. We would all brace ourselves and look to Graham for a "it's ok" nod. For the first time ever we took a huge wave down below. We had the door in the companionway but we didn't have the sliding lid shut. A rogue wave hit us and water was everywhere. Alex was in the cockpit tethered in and took the worst of it. I was in shock and it was a lesson learned. We took many more waves into the cockpit on the trip. Water was everywhere. The tiniest drip down below would overtime cause "wet bed".
Since we hadn't felt this motion in so long we were all sea sick, even Graham. Alex and I were the only ones to woof our cookies. We would both try and make it to the cockpit in time.....sometimes we weren't quick enough. The boys took to peeing in a bucket since it was so much effort to travel from the cockpit to the bathroom and then to go. We all wore the same clothes for the 3 days. On the first day we had some pre-cooked chicken that Graham managed to throw in the oven to heat up. I passed us each out a piece in bowl for dinner. None of us could really eat but Alex was starving. He dug in immediately and after about 5 bites he says...."mom can you take a look at this". It was dark down below but I had a head lamp on. I shone the light on the meat and could see blood. I freaked out and felt even more sick. A fight between Graham and I ensued as I begged Alex to make himself throw up and Graham told me not to be so crazy. (fyi...Alex was fine and didn't throw up)
During all of this Alex continued to fish. We had no idea what we would do if he caught one. There was no way the boys could of gone on deck to reel it in and clean it. On day two Graham heard the dreaded words...."I caught a fish Dad!" Graham was laying down below and told Alex that we would just have to drag it for a while til it was dead. Alex and I watched up on deck as it fought and jumped from the water. It was huge. Graham could hear us oouing and ahhing on deck and he said after that he was so hoping the fish would win the fight and he wouldn't have to bring it on board and clean it. Luckily he got his wish and Alex watched as the line went from tight to loose. He was so sad. He brought in the lure and the fish had ate half of it and taken one of the hooks. He had double hooked the line, so there was still half a lure and a hook on it. He spit on the lure and back out it went.
On day three he landed the biggest fish yet on that half eaten lure....a five foot Mahi Mahi. Luckily he landed it during the calmest part of the voyage. Winds were still 25 knots but the sky was blue. The boys cut off the head and tail and quickly gutted it. The threw it in two huge long bread bags and put it in the fridge to deal with once we were safely at anchor.
On the morning of our arrival we were hit with the worst squall yet. Normally Artemo could manage each squall without us having to reduce sail since we were already reefed in but this squall hit with such a force that we were battered down towards the sea. We yelled at the kids down below to get on their life jackets and we secured the hatches. We knew we had to go forward and bring down the storm sail but conditions were just so crazy that the thought of one of us going forward was way to scary. We were using our windvane to steer us because our auto pilot had given out due to the high winds 2 nights before. We decided to turn off the windvane, hand steer and run with the squall. The strange part was that we were in sight of the island but this brought us no feeling of peace since the squall was pushing us towards the reef. Once we had Artemo turn away from the wind I tried to hold her on course. I was shocked how hard this was in the high high winds. Graham went forward and lowered the sail. We rode out the worst of the squall and were so happy to finally see it pass.
We finally made our way to the pass for the island and it was much easier to get in then we anticipated. We made it to the anchorage and just as we laid the anchor down the wind blasted to 50 knots. Can you believe it? Luckily Artemo was well set and now here we sit safe and sound and reflecting on our journey. Trying to think...."Cup half full" and all I can come up with is that the universe felt we needed the sailing experience. If things are always good then how do you learn....right? and I guess challenges do seem to also bring us all even closer. Oh and they also make the good times even sweeter.
We called over to Simpatica once we arrived. They had arrived a full day before us. We all love to hear Louis's take on things. Again in his fabulous Texan accent he says, "It like we were shot at and missed, and shit at and hit.".....Yup, this pretty much sums it up!
ps....don't trust the weather files!