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