December 15, 2010


By: Alex Perry

Hobbiton was beyond my wildest dreams. We started the day off by packing up at our little cottage and driving to the nearby small but busy town named Matamata. We found our ride on the Hobbiton bus to the movie set. The next movie, "The Hobbit" is beginning filming soon so we were ready for an updated version of what the usual tours would get since the set crew was working on returning the Shire to its original glory.

Our bus driver gave us some cool facts about the area and like all of New Zealand, the scenery was spectacular. There were rolling hills, trees and mountains in the background. The first thing we saw was the Green Dragon Pub and the bridge. For the next few moments we saw nothing and then the Shire opened up for us.

It was like your wildest dreams put into a valley. The spectacular little Hobbit holes were perfect. Our guide led us through the entire beginning of the movie. The detail Peter Jackson put into the movie was almost over kill. For example 250,000 leaves were glued onto an imported tree that hangs over Bag End because CGI didn't cut it. The little Hobbit holes were all different colors, shapes and sizes. These holes are the exact same as in the movie which we had watched the night before.

After our tour of Hobbiton we were led to a sheep shearing shed. There were a load of cute lambs outside that we got to pet. Inside a man sheared a sheep in less than thirty seconds and mom said that she has seen it done even faster before. Our shearing hero brought out bottles of milk for us to fee the lambs. After this we were on our way to Whangarei.

If you were wanting to come to Hobbiton soon I wouldn't suggest it. They are about to close the tours due to the filming; June would probably be a better time to come. Hobbiton has made it onto my top ten places we've been and I hope that you can enjoy it to.

(Unfortunately we had to sign a confidentiality agreement and we are not allowed to post any photos of our visit until the movies are released......sorry.....)

December 14, 2010

Perry Style with a dash of Uncle Rob

By: Amelia Perry

A day ago Uncle Rob and Brian arrived in New Zealand. We've been laughing and playing and having fun ever since; playing cards, sleeping, watching movies and eating.

The day after they arrived Mom had our day all planned out. We drove about two hours from where we were to go see the Information center in Rotorua. The object of the day was to go to the hot springs but believe me we had a few stops on the way. When we walked in we went right up to the counter and asked, "What free things can we do in this town?" Every single thing the woman said was not free so we started off with a walk around the park.

Once we were done our walk we drove the car over to Domino's for pizza but believe me the only reason we went there was because we had coupons. We got 2 eight piece pizzas and Uncle Rob got Alex and I each an expensive pop. This is what we call "Perry Style with a dash of Uncle Rob".

After lunch Uncle Rob announced he was treating us to a luge ride. Wahoo! We got to the start with huge smiles on our faces as we started going up the gondola. Once we were at the top we got ready for the luge down. We got our helmets on and got in our cart. We flew down the side of the mountain like no bodies business. YIKES!

Next on the list was the hot springs. We drove and drove for hours on end until we came across a hidden natural hot springs in the forest. We saw some cars parked on the side of the road and we stopped and walk in and there at the side of the road was the most amazing Hot Springs EVER; converging currents, current flows, and pure relaxation. It felt good! The only unnerving part was that if you put your head under water the sign said it was fatal.

Can you guess the best thing to do after a long day? How about do something illegal? When mom and dad were last here 20 years ago they went to a place called "Craters of the Moon" and they thought it was great, so they took us there. The only problem was it wasn't open, so dad said, "We're doing it Perry style". We broke in! We went about 20 minutes down this horse path where we got a bit of a view of the huge steaming bubbling mud crater. Before we knew it we heard sirens. We turned around and started running for the car. We never found out if they were coming after us. We drove away so fast. What a way to end the day!

December 13, 2010

Man vs Tractor

Imagine Alex, Amelia, Graham and I all crowded around the arrival gate at the Auckland airport with huge smiles on our faces. Each time the doors would slide open we would all wait in anticipation hoping it was Rob and Brian and then be let down. It seemed like the moments took forever, until finally as the doors slid apart we saw two huge smiling familiar faces looking back at us. Screaming and hugging ensued and of course a few tears. After more than 24 hours of travel time they were still able to crack a few jokes and make us all laugh.

We decided to start their trip off "Perry style" and we took them out to our car and pulled the picnic lunch from the trunk and sat down in the grass next to the parking lot and enjoyed. Rob is use to life on the cheap with us but BThack is a bit new to it and he said it was refreshing and he was up for whatever we had planned. Gotta love that attitude.

Next we got in the car and headed out for a farm cottage I had rented near "Hobbiton". I thought this would be a great surprise for both of them and a nice place to decompress after their long trip. I was a bit concerned about the place since I managed to widdle the owners down to $100 a night for the 6 of us and they agreed but said they weren't able to send photos....

The farm was about 2 hours away and my gut hurt from laughing so much by the time we arrived. It was so funny because we took a wrong turn and drove down this long laneway to this unkept house with toys, garbage and lawn furniture strewn about.....I was so scared that this was the place but luckily we realized our mistake and turned around.

When we finally found our house we were so happy. From the outside it didn't look like much but it was on the most amazing piece of land, overlooking a beautiful waterfall. The house was also surrounded by dairy cows....pretty cool. Once we went inside we were thrilled. The house was the perfect farm house. It had 3 rooms with just the right amount of beds and was set up so nicely. We weren't there more than 30 minutes and we were off on a walk....absolutely stunning landscape.

We have missed Rob so much and his zany sense of humor. On the walk a huge tractor was coming down the road at us and he wasn't moving over to let us continue walking on the pavement. We were all forced to move off and into the ditch. Rob was mad and was saying what a jerk this guy was. Well on the way back from our walk the guy is making his way back on the road and I know this is going to turn into one of those Rob moments. The guy proceeds towards us, again not moving over and forcing us to head for the ditch. Rob says that he isn't budging and he continues to walk on the road and the tractor isn't moving. I couldn't believe we were watching a real life version of against tractor....The guy is waving in the window for Rob to get in the ditch and there is no way Rob is going to do this. Brian was walking behind Rob and at this point jumps in the ditch with us. Rob continues and thank goodness at the final moment the Kiwi moves over and avoids hitting Rob! You can all imagine how pleased Rob was.

Man I have missed him. I am so over the top happy to have him here for the next few weeks. I can't wait for more crazy Rob moments.

Brian has been fitting in like family. We are wishing he could of brought Mama Thackoorie along with him but he has promised to make us all dinner one night and he even has a name for it..."Mack Thackoorie"......I will let you know how that goes!

Loving life in NZ


December 03, 2010

Our Island

Our cement island is slowly being covered with all of our belongings. We are the neighbors no one wants to have. Our engine sits beside our boat, along with a whole lot of other crap. We have our friends over and they bring their camping chairs and their coolers of beer and we have a grand time on the island! We feel very redneck.

Today Chris from Stray Kitty and Dave from Nikita came over and helped Graham and Alex hoist up the newly repaired engine off the dock and into Artemo. Of course the day was interlaced with many other happenings. Dave had the kids take his dinghy over to the shore and clean the bottom. Thank goodness our kids knew better than to say no! They both love Dave and would even clean his bottom :-). Stray Kitty got in on the fun and took their dinghy over for a good cleaning to.

The guys changed the oil in all the outboards, here on our lovely island and then touched up the outboard engines with Dave's spray paint. All of these activities are much more fun when chocolate gooey's are involved, so I made sure to deliver.

Finally the main attraction was set to begin and the 4 guys got to work. I took the job of camera woman. I was so happy they didn't need me for any heavy lifting. It was so much fun to watch them all work together. Each of their personalities compliments the others. In a situation like this it could of been stressful but we had all the right people and it actually look like fun......I am sure if they read this they will say otherwise though :-).

Alex was such a big help to. I was surprised when they gave him the job of hoisting the engine. I have to confess I was a bit stressed as I watched him winch and watch as Artemo leaned over. Luckily it was all over before I knew it and Graham was handing out beer.

In the mist of it all a huge gaggle of cruiser kids had assembled like a snowball that kept growing. They were all having races up and down our island. Right now they are over at shore racing around in these trollies they have to bring groceries to your boat. I hope no one realizes they are my children!

Tonight we off yet again to Stray Kitty for another party. They have the biggest boat so they get to host the most parties. We are bbque'ing up a huge wack of meat we bought in town the other day and we have all cooked other yummy dishes to go along. I love nights on Stray Kitty.

Graham is just at the shower and once he is back we will be off. Pretty great day here in New Zealand. I feel so lucky to have so many fantastic friends. I am going to tell them just that tonight!!
ps....Guess what surprise news I received yesterday????......MY MOM IS COMING FOR CHRISTMAS! I am so happy. I am so grateful. I am so excited!!!! Life is pretty good.

November 25, 2010

Redefining Amazing

New Zealand is.....and this is where I have to stop because I have overused the word amazing and the exclamation mark. They no longer have the oommphh that I am looking for, so let me try and redefine amazing for you.

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, 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


Well our engine sits beside us on the dock. heard me.....It is like having one of your major organs sitting outside your body.

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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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

Remembrance Day

(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

This is a Doozy

Are you guys ready for a story....???? Cause this is a doozy! Ok, so it is 1:00am in the morning and we are about 45 miles from New Zealand and I am just finishing my watch. It is a beautiful starry night with zero wind. The water is like glass. In fact it is so glassy the stars are actually reflecting on the water like I have never seen before. Absolutely gorgeous night, aside from the fact that we had the roar of the engine running for the past 20 hours.

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 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. 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

New Zealand Welcoming Committee

The New Zealand Welcoming Committee arrived this morning at 6am. I was sitting in the cockpit organizing our photos and wondering if we would ever see dolphins again on this journey. I got up to scan the horizon for vessels and I thought I saw a fin cut through the water. I jumped up on deck and surveyed the waters around Artemo and waited a few moments and then.....we were surrounded by dolphins.

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

Lost that race

Well we lost the race with the weather. We pretty much knew it was inevitable. It was so strange to have two days of beautiful blue sky and calm sea and know that soon enough it was all going to turn to yuck....and it did! Luckily we have had ALOT of bad weather sailing experience so 25 to 30 knots on the nose in bumpy confused seas for 24 hours was just a walk in the park for us...LOL....ok someone knock on wood for me...I am not tempting fate.

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 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

Passage Making

I thought I would give you a flavor of what the week before a big passage looks like. All the cruisers have usually converged in the same area so in amongst all the chores are numerous parties. By the time you are ready to go you are exhausted and ready for some down time or should I say "detox time". :-)

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

The day my world turned PINK

Flashback 12 years ago to our basement apartment in my mothers home in Lacombe. Graham and I were talking softly in bed as Alex fell asleep between us. Once he was fast asleep I looked at Graham and told him this would be the last night it was just the three of us.....I told him tonight we were going to have a baby.

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 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 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

Up Up and Away

By: Amelia Perry

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.

No Lobster

By: Alex

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!

My Own Little Bubble

By: Alex

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.

Great Mango Harvest

By: Alex Perry

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

Sleeping Whales

We have been having our share of fun and adventures in Tonga. The other night Graham and I woke up at about 3 am and we could hear the dinghy knocking against the boat since the winds were so light we were just bobbing about. Once we were up on deck and I was tying a fender down for the dinghy to bump up against I heard this fog horn like noise. I actually thought that Graham had ......farted. He denied it and said he heard it to. We stood still and listened and sure enough every few minutes we would hear it again and then we heard the sound of the whales blow hole. OMG....we realized the whales were sleeping beside our boat. We were in shock. It was pitch black and we strained and strained to see them. The sounds were so clear we knew they were close. It was so remarkable we knew we had to wake the kids. They both appeared all groggy on deck and wondering what the heck we wanted. We told them to be quiet and moments later they were fully awake and equally in shock. We all sat together quietly and listened. Amelia moved her pillow and blanket up on deck and hoped that once the sun came up she would be able to see them. I sat in the cockpit and waited and waited. Unfortunately not long before the first light the sounds stopped and then once I could see.......there were no whales.

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 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

Who do you love more

Yesterday we left the Northern Vava'u Tongan Island group. We really enjoyed our time there and some of the memorable moments were....

*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 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." 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

40 People 3 Boats

By: Alex

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

Squeezing the Juice

We have arrived safe and sound in Tonga! It was just like Christmas morning as we rounded the Tongan Island group and began heading in to our anchorage. All of us were so excited. It just seems like another milestone. The plan has always been to cross the South Pacific to Tonga and then head South to New Zealand for hurricane season. As the end came into sight, Alex let out a spontaneous holler, "We did it!" I was still a bit groggy from the sailing and I looked at him and said, "What did we do?" He proudly exclaimed, "We crossed the South Pacific!"

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

Texan Thong

The sky is baby blue with a few puffy white clouds on the horizon. The ocean is a deep dark blue with ripples on top and gentle small rolling slopes which is creating a beautiful contrast to the sky. The wind is just like a warm summer breeze coming across the beam of our boat and keeping me at a perfect temperature. All of our sails are out and getting enough breeze to keep them full and not flogging. Artemo is gently leaning to one side and cutting through the water at a very comfortable pace. I was starting to wonder if I had been lying way back when I said that I liked sailing. Now I remember finally what I liked about it! It is so nice to be sailing and not to be scared and looking for the next squall. Graham and I have been able to sleep in the cockpit for the past few nights and the star filled sky has been breathtaking.

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

Big Things Come In Little Packages

by: Graham (Can you believe it???)

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

Free with a fill

Here we are at the world's smallest atoll, out in the middle of the ocean. We aren't suppose to be here. It is a deserted isle and a protected National Biological Reserve.....closed to the public but not to us. It is part of America Samoa so technically we are on American waters. I won't mention the name just in case they are searching the net to find any trespassers but I will say...the name is the name of a flower that people give as a sign of has thorns on it and the last time I got one from Graham it was free with a fill. LOL....seriously though.

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 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

Gone Fishing

Today at 6:30 am I left to go fishing. The night before Appi the park ranger had told me that he might go fishing the next day and that I could come. Of course I said, "yes!", so away we left to go fishing. Another man named Rolando came with us to.

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 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

King of the Crab Hunt

James and Appi (the two park rangers) arranged for us all to go crab hunting the other day. We all met on the beach at about 10 am and James let us know how the day would play out including the park guidelines etc.

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

Spiders or Sharks

Artemo is surrounded by sharks. At any given time there are 4 to 6 black tip reef sharks circling our boat. This poses a bit of a problem since our method of getting clean is sea baths. Alex thinks it is pretty cool and as I did laundry on the back deck the other day he swam around the boat. It was strange to keep looking up to make sure he was safe and see Alex and then see the sharks. I told him to speak to me every minute or so, so that I didn't freak out. Later in the day I asked him to spot for me (basically wear his snorkel mask and watch for sharks) while I took a bath. Unfortunately on this occasion one of the black tips decided it would be fun to play a game of chicken with Alex and made a b-line right for him. He jumped up in the dinghy faster than I had ever seen him move. Regardless bath time was OVER.

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

I do not like green eggs and ham

The morning we arrived in Suwarrow Simpatica called over and offered us fresh water showers on their deck. This was like offering us a trip to Disneyland. Graham didn't even hesitate with his quick, "YES" reply!

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 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 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!

Do not trust the weather files

We knew that the sail to Suwarrow would be challenging but we had no idea HOW challenging. This was the first time we headed out in such high winds and overcast conditions but the weather files we had received promised that lighter winds were on the way.

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!