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 .....no way I could remember them. I took the deck and began laying them all face down in the dirt. Many of the kids faces filled with recognition of the game and they began saying the Tongan word for the memory card game. They were all excited. I was shocked at how good the kids were at the game. Even with so many kids around and so much going on they could remember each and every card. They would all try and help Amelia, Alex and I on our turns. It was so nice to have fun together and not to have to worry about the language barrier. Finally after many games I let the winner have the deck of cards. He was a really young boy and he was so happy to have the cards. Felt really good.

The kids took us to see their school. The lawn was beautiful green grass, so strange to see mowed grass. The school building was nice looking to. Unfortunately when they opened their classroom door I was shocked. The desks were knocked over and their books were all over the floor. It looked like the room had been trashed. The kids all poured into the classroom and climbed over the desks to the back of the room where I was looking through some of their work. They all began digging for their own books to show me. I quickly returned the book to the shelf to avoid another mess in the already messy classroom.

Once we were back at the store Calib (the store owner) let us know that it is the end of their school year, so things are not as well organized as they are at the beginning. Calib and his wife Afu have invited us for lunch tomorrow. We are all looking forward to it.

Tonight we had a cruiser pot luck on the cement wharf at the waters edge. There are only 4 boats here and they are all friends of ours so it was really perfect. The food was amazing and we all had such a good time. The kids were happy to have some unsupervised time together. As the parents all sat and visited the kids made a fire and burnt the garbage. We could see them running back and forth to the beach to collect more wood to keep it going once the garbage was gone. At one point I wandered over to the fire and I found Alex and another boy lighting the ends of a dry palm frawn on fire and moving it about. I realized it was probably best if I just stayed away :-).

On a side note for those who have been asking, our plans are to get to the final Tonga island of Nuku'alofa before the 28th. Once we are there we will ready Artemo for our final sail to New Zealand. We will wait for a good weather window and then make the hop. It should be around a 12 day sail.

October 17, 2010

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 fly...so cool
*Alex and I going off alone to troll for fish and then finding a beautiful snorkel spot and the two of us pulling the dinghy along behind us as we snorkeled
*All of us enjoying meals and happy hours with all of the amazing people we have met on this journey

Our welcome to the Tongan Ha'apai group of island was also very memorable. Last night after we got our anchor down and were just sitting down to dinner a group of about 4 whales passed directly behind our boat. The all blew water from their spouts and it was better than the other times we have seen them because the ocean was flat calm. It was totally amazing.

Schooling has begun for Amelia aboard Artemo and I guess since it has been a slow start this year the first few days have been ......challenging. Alex is still awaiting his books so he knows he will be working extra hard once they arrive. Amelia and I are both so similar....head strong and stubborn that sometimes the sparks fly. It still shocks me how much emotion she can evoke in me. I actually have to remind myself that I am the adult. Thank goodness though that we finally hit our groove the other day.

Yesterday on our way here Amelia informed me that I love Alex more. A long conversation followed where I explained to her that it wasn't possible for me to love one of them more than the other. I told her how I love them differently but no more or no less. I told her that I wouldn't change a thing about her. I told her that I love that she is passionate, head strong, opinionated, inquisitive, wild, artistic, raw, big emotions, colorful, strong, carefully fearless, cuddly, loving and all mine. None of this seemed to convince her though. I let her know that it is in Alex's personality to avoid conflict, gage someone else's feelings and diffuse situations and to throw in humor where necessary. I let her know that all of these traits make it so there are a few less waves with him but they do not make me love him more. She still was not convinced. At this point I said, "Take Nanny Donna (my mom) for example.....she has 5 kids who are all completely different and you can see that she loves us all equally." At this point in unison Amelia and Alex say...."No way, she loves Aunty Ann-Marie the most." LOL......so now at the end of a conversation where I was hoping to make Amelia feel better I am left wondering....."Mom, Who do you love more?"

October 12, 2010

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