Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Whale Watching in Baie du Prony

"You want to go whale watching?" I asked.  "On someone else's boat?"
"Heck, yes!" said Erik, rubbing his hands together.  "The season has started; there should be humpbacks in Prony by now.  Come on, it'll be fun."
Fun Daddy was back in town.  We only see Erik for a few days every month, and he is always keen to make the most of his time with us.
I looked over the brochure. With Papillon due to get hauled out and checked over in a couple of weeks, we weren't going to make it down there under our own steam.  It would be kind of fun to be purely a passenger for once.  And, let's face it, I'm a sucker for marine mammals.

The day was clear but cold.  By six a.m. we had boarded the catamaran, because early is how these New Caledonians roll.  The dozen of us scrunched around the table as the captain began his departure talk.

I leaned over to Erik.  "My money is on this being 50% about not breaking the toilet."

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Tackling Leaks and Selling the Dream

Amy: Girls, they are going to be here in half an hour.  I need you to tidy up the cockpit.
Indy: Who?
Amy: Those people... Dave's friends. Like we talked about at breakfast? It doesn't matter. Just tidy up.
Indy & Stylish: Okay, Mom.
Papillon: Hee hee hee.
Amy: Why are you laughing?  Let's see, I need to cut up some baguette--
Papillon: I have a surprise for you.
Amy: What? No. No surprises. I have an unknown quantity of Kiwis arriving in thirty minutes.  I have to finish getting ready.
[pause]
Amy: What is that dripping noise?
Papillon: Chortle!
Amy: Girls! I need to take the companionway stairs off.  Don't come down this... girls?
[Looks outside. The girls are playing with friends on the dock.]
Amy: Stylish and Indy! Get this cockpit tidied!  And don't come down the... never mind.
[Puts in boards to avoid a fall. Removes stairs. Removes floorboard. Locates drip with a flashlight.]
Amy: Why is it dripping there? The water isn't running.  The sump pump is off.  Everything is off.
[Removes two more floorboards. Sticks head into bilge.]
Amy: Okay, it is coming from somewhere forward on the port side. Hmm. I did laundry earlier; maybe the hose leaked.
[Checks laundry locker. Dry as a bone.]
Amy: Let's try the galley.
[Removes galley floorboard. A small river is running aft.]
Amy. Aha.  By which I mean, unprintable.
[Looks at the salon.  Removing the port side floorboard necessitates removing two other floorboards first and judicious use of a shim.]
-creeeaaaak-
Amy: [balancing the six-foot board]  There we go.  And let's see what we UNPRINTABLE!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Dealing With Bureaucracy, French-Style

It is a strange truth that, the longer you stay in a country, the more irritating their bureaucracy becomes. Maybe the French are just tired of me and want to speed me on my way.  Maybe I'm just burnt out on doing taxes and taking ever-more-hideous passport photos for visa applications.  Or maybe I just don't see eye to eye with these upholders of the Napoleonic Code.

A few weeks ago, I found a notice in my mailbox that a registered letter was waiting for me at the post office. I was bound to need some iron-clad identification, so I scooped up my passport and carte de sejour, waited for the designated pick-up time, and wandered over.

I eventually found my way to special guichet 15, where, as all the world knows, registered letters reside.  I handed over my notice and my ID, and waited to be sent home.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Evils of Cockpit Flooring

There are many things I love about my boat.  It is a comfortable home. It sails beautifully in heavy weather. It is very pretty.  But even Papillon has its flaws.

The girls and I were playing a game in the cockpit. Stylish rolled, and the die skittered off the table. All of us shrieked and grabbed for it, but it was too late. It fell through the cockpit floor.

What, you might wonder, is the big deal? Our floor is painted aluminum with a teak grid overlay. It is a good concept: when water gets into the cockpit, it falls through the grate and disappears down the drains in the corners. Meanwhile, you have something non-slippery to stand on. Simple and practical - two of my favourite things.

But let's think this through a little. More than water can fall through those holes. Noodles, Lego people, beads, coins, shells - down it goes. Now add some dust and hair, and you've got a thick mat of yuckiness coating the floor.

I made a face at the die nestled in one of the squares. The squares are too small to allow you to extract anything from the top. Instead, I had to put a finger in each of the adjacent squares and nudge the die up from underneath.

"Catch it!" I cried as it toppled out of my fingers and fell into another hole.

I washed the dust off my fingers and the die. "That's it," I said. "Time to clean the floor."

Which is no big deal... as long as you have a few hours to kill.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Do You Want To Build A Snowman?

My girls love the movie Frozen. They sing the catchy songs. They play dress up. They act out their own fanfic. But, when they play, are they Elsa and Anna? They are not. They are Elsa and Olaf. Because Indy has become obsessed with snow.

The last time Indy experienced a real winter, she was a year and a half old.  Stylish remembers building snow forts and sledding, but Indy was too little that year to do much more than get toted around in a fluffy pink snowsuit.  And she resents it.

"Mom, the next time we visit Canada, can we see snow?" Indy posed the question over breakfast.
I swallowed a bite of toast to stall.  "We can try," I said.  "We'll definitely be home for winter sometime. Just probably not this year."
"Because there was no snow when we went there last time," she said accusingly. "It was hot."
"It was June," I said for what felt like the thousandth time.  "That's summertime in Canada.  I told you before we went there wouldn't be snow - you just didn't want to believe me."
"I wanted snow," she grumbled into her cornflakes.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Living With Less

Travel is an exercise in discovering many other wonderful ways of life.  Everywhere we have been, we have found something that we loved.  It is tempting to grab our favorite ideas from these various places and weld them into a sort of Frankenlife.  Cruising only exacerbates the issue, because cruisers definitely do things their own way.  And that's all well and good - I'm comfortable with my TV-less, underscheduled, more-spontaneous life.  It's only when you go home that you really get the reality check of How Weird Have We Become?

While I was home, I spent a day helping a friend sort through her clothes in preparation for moving house. I used to do the same thing every time I moved: cull the clothes you will never wear again, and pack them up to be donated. Everybody wins.

But as we got started, and kept going, and kept going, and... kept going, I started to get chest pains.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Boatsitting

After sitting in an airplane for twenty-seven hours with two increasingly rangy kids, there was only one thing I wanted when I got back to Noumea.  It wasn't a hot shower (although I needed it.)  It wasn't a good night's sleep on a horizontal surface (although I needed that even more.)  All I wanted as we pulled up to the marina was to see Papillon afloat.  Steal my luggage and cancel my credit cards, but please don't let my boat be resting in the mud.

Not that I left my home unattended: I asked a friend to keep an eye on Papillon.  But the problem with asking other cruisers to watch your boat is that, well, they're cruisers.  They cruise.  And so, a week into my vacation, I got an email that looked something like this:

Monday, June 23, 2014

Beautiful Places: Camping in the Tuamotus

Part of the fun of setting up this series of "remember when" posts has been reviewing our trip for myself. As I skimmed through French Polynesia, I was shocked to discover that I haven't posted any photos of the Tuamotus - one of the most beautiful places we have visited.  And so, for my last holiday post, I will remedy the oversight.  I'll be back to regular posts later in the week.

Originally posted as Sleeping in the Great Outdoors, September 4, 2012
My family did a lot of camping when I was young. Every summer we hitched our pop-up trailer to the big red van, and toodled around the great campgrounds of Southern Ontario. When I was a little older, I was introduced to the joys of a damp sleeping bag when I was sent to a summer camp in Algonquin Park. This was a canoe trip kind of camp, and we girls were sent out for a few days at a time to paddle the lakes as the blackflies buzzed and the mosquitoes whined. After a long day of paddling a canoe and acquiring a mild sunburn, occasionally punctuated by a tiring portage, our counsellors would guide us to a campsite. As the sun went down, we would coax the wet sticks we found into a fire and try to cook something before falling dead into our drippy canvas tents. (Note to the interested: Kraft pizza mix is a superior camping meal. Wrap the dough around a stick, cook it in the fire, then dip the dough stick into the tomato sauce and sprinkle with cheese. C├ęst magnifique. I only had this once during my camping career, and still remember it clearly almost thirty years later.) As a parent, I see how wise it was to tire out a quartet of nine-year-old girls in this way. Although I didn´t care for camp as a whole (too much rigidly-scheduled cheerfulness), I have fond memories of gliding across still lakes, listening to the birds overhead, and eating charred, sticky marshmallows at the end of the day.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Through the Panama Canal

I'm not going to lie to you: crossing the Panama Canal is exciting.  Massive cargo ships, other sailboats, the prospect of getting dashed against the walls and sinking in the lock - the Canal has it all.  Lucky for me, my computer-savvy family was able to capture part of the journey via the webcams set up at each lock - be sure to watch the flipbook at the end of the post!

Originally appeared in Canal Win! on May 5, 2012
Waiting for your canal date is a lot like waiting for Christmas when you are six years old.  Time moves unendurably slowly, and at some point you are convinced the big day is never going to arrive.  And then it does.  And then you are so excited and jumpy and full of sugar that you can hardly focus long enough to enjoy the experience.  But, since I'm a grown-up and all mature and stuff, I was able to calmly record my observations.  When I wasn't busy being excited and jumpy and full of sugar.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Onboard Haircuts: A Necessary Evil

Although I can't claim we spend our days in yachting whites, we aboard Papillon do make an effort to meet a minimum standard of grooming.  This isn't always easy when your choice is between sufficient drinking water and a nice shower, but we do our best. One of our persistent problems has to do with hair. Let's face it: we're a hairy boat.  So how do we manage those strands of waste protein that just won't stop growing?

Originally appeared as Long, Beautiful Hair on November 12, 2012
When I was little, Saturday morning was not complete without cartoons on channel 29 out of Buffalo. One of the staple commercials breaking up He-Man and Scooby Doo was The Hair Club For Men. Happy clients shook their newly-thickened locks as they cavorted in hot tubs with young models in blue eyeshadow and grinned knowingly at us, the viewers, around their Burt Reynolds mustaches. I never understood why men would want those elaborate, shiny perms, and I put it down to Strange Things Grown-Ups Do.

Maybe the problem was that I didn´t identify with the untamed styles of the late 70s. In my family, hair was neatly cut, no matter whether you tended to the thinner end of the hair continuum, or you fell on the hairy end of the curve. When my brothers were about seven and ten, a movie was filmed at their summer camp. My brothers were instantly cast to wrestle in the background of a certain shot. Why? Because the movie was set in the 50s, and their crewcuts were perfect.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Communication Breakdown: Helping Family Let Go

Around about now, I expect I am somewhere on the East coast, dining out with friends.  Worried about exactly where I am? I'm used to that. Back in the day, some well-meaning family members got a little nervous about our whereabouts, too.

Originally posted as Calling All Worrywarts, or, Next Stop, 1996! on December 15, 2010
As this little blog has grown, I have gotten the odd bit of mail from you, my dear readers.  Most of it is kind.  Some of it is mystifying.  But much of it comes from landlubberly types.  With that in mind, it is time for the educational (or, as Stylish, age 3, would have put it, edumacational) portion of our blog.  This will take the form of a Q&A with concerned readers Heckle and Jeckle.  Today's topic is:

When do we call the Coast Guard?
"I'm concerned about this sailing business, old bean!"

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Stitches, Burns and Breaks: The Injury Hall of Fame

Here I am again, that old good-for-nothing bird, runaway Mayzie - still on vacation and still just as lazy.* Today, let's review some of the better injuries we've had aboard. I have even included a bonus, hitherto-unreported injury for those of you willing to make it to the end. (But be warned: this post contains mildly yucky photos, so if you don't like blood, you'd best skip along.)

Injury 1: Amy's broken finger.  Originally appeared in Question and Answer Time, November 15, 2010.
Q:  What is worse than having to do the dishes by hand three times a day?
A.  Having to do the dishes by hand three times a day with a finger you can't get wet.

It was a sunny morning.  We'd gotten the anchor up with minimal annoyance (read: mud), and I was clearing up the deck and feeling rather good about life in general and this trip in particular.  I opened the port deck box to put away a hose.

Wham!

The spring holding the lid buckled.  Down came the lid onto my right index finger.  It hurt so much I didn't make a sound; I just crumpled onto the deck.  And just how bad did it look?  Well, let me show you.
 
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