Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Goodnight, Sweetheart, Well, It's Time To Go

Christmas is over. It's a new year. And I am sitting at a desk in front of a shiny new desktop computer. There's a dishwasher in the kitchen and a washing machine in the back room. I sleep in a bed with covers. And, unlike in years past, this isn't a temporary situation.

We have moved home.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

You Never Know What Will Be Difficult

Friends, I'm irked. This post is the cumulative result of six weeks of steady annoyance. So if you are looking for positivity today, I must sadly suggest you look elsewhere. I am going to be cross and crotchety, and I won't have a good word to say about anyone or anything. Okay? Okay. Let's get started.

Every country has its quirks. As a traveller, most of those quirks fall in the "good" column - different food, pace of life, community rhythms. But some quirks are simply irritating. Remember the mysterious liquor sale laws of New Caledonia?
And somehow, I still always tried to buy cider on a Wednesday afternoon.
In Germany, we had to return our milk bottles to a separate facility than all of our other glass bottles. I couldn't make collect calls from New Zealand. And so the list goes. You never know what a place will do differently than everyone else on the planet.

But I admit, I never expected to find that one can't ship personal goods from Malaysia to Canada.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A Tortoise Crosses The Freeway

The worst thing that can happen to a boat isn't bad weather; it's other boats. Specifically, big boats. Big, gigantic, monstrous cargo ships. I get the shivers just thinking about them. So you can imagine my trepidation as we prepared to sail through the Strait of Malacca on our way to the yard in Malaysia.

We have a fancy system aboard called an AIS (Automatic Identification System). The AIS transmits our vessel information (size, speed, heading and so on), and receives similar information from other vessels in the area. All commercial ships have AIS (although I can tell you from experience they don't always turn the system on), which is handy when you're trying to determine whether someone is going to run over you in the night.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

It's All in the Details

Yesterday, Erik and I spent the day together in the cockpit. The seas were calm, the sky was postcard-blue with little fluffy clouds, and we were glad. My seasickness behind me, we even shared a beer as the sun dipped below the horizon.

Pretty idyllic, right? Well. Let's add in some details.

Yesterday, Day 8 of our slowest passage in six years of sailing, Erik and I spent the day together in the cockpit cleaning a bad load of fuel. Finally the seas were calm, and the 40+ knot squalls that had plagued us for a week had given way to a sky of postcard-blue with little fluffy clouds. We were glad the cargo ships all around seemed to notice us, and no one had tried to run us down for at least 12 hours. Eight hours of diesel work shook my optimism that my seasickness was behind me. But, by the time we finished, nothing could stop us from sharing a beer as the sun dipped below the horizon.

"So, Amy," I hear you ask, gently skirting past my allusions to pathetic 50 NM days and knock-down winds, "how does one clean bad diesel? And how did that happen in the first place?" (Erik just asked me if I mentioned The Engine Impeller That Shredded Itself And Everything Overheated And We Lost 18 Hours, but I think I'm asking enough of you already.)

Friday, November 25, 2016

Falling Apart

I can tell the end of our trip is nigh. Not because Stylish is now almost as tall as I am. Not because our visa is about to expire. But because my beloved wetsuit is finally giving up the ghost.

I bought this two-piece wonder back in 1996 - as it happens, for a trip to Indonesia. And, as the years went by, I've dusted it off from time to time for the odd vacation. But the wetsuit really came into its own when we moved aboard Papillon. As the more perceptive among you will have deduced from my subtle clues, we spend a lot of time in the water. We'll jump into any body of water that is clean enough and crocodile-free.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Trying Not To Get Eaten By Komodo Dragons

My mom is in town, and we're trying to show her a good time. And what better way to entertain a guest than put her in harm's way?

Being in the Komodo islands, it would be silly not to try to see the Komodo dragons. And if you are going to bother travelling to see the dragons, you might as well go in the early morning when they are feeling frisky.

We anchored off Rinca, and headed off bright and early to the ranger's station to pay and collect a guide. The guides are there not only as experts, but for protection. Not only are the dragons huge, their saliva carries all sorts of horrible bacteria and they have venom glands under their teeth to inhibit coagulation. They bite their prey (deer, buffalo - little things like that), hang around for a couple of weeks waiting for it to die a horrible death, then they eat it it. Charming. So I was expecting our walk would be rather like it is on a Kruger National Park walk: a couple of rangers with big guns in front and running sweep, and tourists in the middle.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Reefs and Mantas aka Komodo is a Dream

Yes, we went back for more, and it was even more amazing than the first time. I am becoming concerned that the girls have a completely skewed view of how life should unfold. On second thought, maybe not.

(Actually stories coming. For now, enjoy the photos.)

Saturday, October 29, 2016

My Yesterday Was Better Than Your Yesterday

Komodo is the stuff, people. I can't believe you're missing this. Book your ticket right now and get over here.

Here is a selection of  photos I took over a three hour period. A selection. Three hours. Neither the entire day nor all I saw.

I mean, look at this:

It's going to be hard to leave when the time comes, and that's a fact. Take it from this satisfied customer:

Sunday, October 23, 2016


Here we sit in lovely Gili Bodo, the prettiest part of Flores we've found so far. In the distance, thunder rumbles over the mountains of the mainland. The monkeys on the island are making the most of low tide to wander over the dried reef to collect their lunch. The girls have rowed off to shore and have set up camp on the beach. Erik and I had a lovely snorkel earlier; he has moved on to dabbing epoxy on Indy's broken sunglasses. And as I sit here, drying off in the sunshine, am I planning a walk through the hills for the afternoon? Am I pulling out the reef guides to identify the fish I saw this morning? Am I using the binoculars to watch a Phinisi boat sail by?


I am psyching myself up to do battle with the oven.

Once upon a time, back in a land of household appliances and other unicorns, I used to love taking clothes out of the dryer. For a few brief minutes my hands would be warm as I folded pants and towels. In the deepest winter, when our furnace couldn't overcome the lack of insulation in our 90-year-old house, I would press my frozen nose into a gently-steaming shirt and dream of summer days.

But not these summer days. This heat is less: "floaty dresses and open-toed shoes" and more: "if I could unzip my flesh and just sit around in my bones, I would." I should have a care label that instructs: "At high temperatures, store in a strong solution of gin and tonic. Replenish ice as necessary." These are the days that suggest the apocalypse is nigh. And what does nobody want to do while the Four Horsemen thunder across the sky? Stand in front of a hot stove stirring the chili, that's what.

Not that there isn't a bright side to life in the kitchen. I mean, really. It's already 40 C outside, so I'm going to be dripping with sweat anyway. Why not partner that with prepping a nice, hot curry? And since the breeze inevitably dies while I'm down there, my clothes and hair get saturated with the scent of whatever it is I'm making so I always smell delicious. As a bonus, the punishing heat means we won't suffer any inconvenience if our oven ever breaks down. I'll just wrap some chicken in foil, tuck a drumstick into each armpit and voila. Dinner in no time.

Even when Erik cooks things get grim. The waves of heat slowly roll from the galley, up the companionway and into the cockpit, where it takes a seat and refuses to leave.

At least we're all fans of raw vegetables around here. And we would never pass up the opportunity to devour a mango or seven. But my carnivores like their meat both frequently and in volume, and I'm pretty sure offering them an uncooked slab of beef isn't going to fly. I've tried to steer our diet towards colder foods, like pasta salad, but my creativity in that department is starting to ebb.

Soon we'll move on to Labuan Bajo, and while I'll miss the monkeys and the quiet, private reef, anchoring near a town will have one big advantage.

Cities have restaurants.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Boatful of Water Babies

We came to Indonesia to snorkel and dive. Full stop. Because, as we all know, Winter Is Coming. Our time on Papillon is drawing to a close, and we need an overabundance of tropical reef memories to get us through the dark, icy, snowy blowy Canadian winter days that loom in the not-quite-distant-enough future. Call me an uncultured cretin, but the traditional village and temple trips can wait for another day. Put me in the aquarium.

Our lives aboard revolve around the water. Yes, yes, sailing, obviously that, but I mean physically being in the water, complete with fins and mask. From the outset, our sailing plan has revolved around: where are the good reefs? From Belize on south, we've been searching for more fish, more coral, more sealife, more, more, more more more more more. Poor visibility? Next anchorage. Unacceptably dangerous sea creatures? Not interested. But give us a clear reef on a sunny day, and you'll be hard pressed to pry us loose. That shines through when people ask us about our favourite experiences. Swimming side-by-side with marine iguanas and giant sea turtles in the Galapagos. Watching thick carpets of fish, stretching kilometers-long, through the passes of the Tuamotus. Snorkelling with a passel of boat kids past black-tipped reef sharks in Tonga. Even splashing in the iron-rich freshwater pools in Baie Prony. Our best memories come with a bathing suit as standard equipment.

Banda marked a turning point in our water life. Erik has been on his own as a diver for years now; I used to love it, but my Eustachian tubes are against me now, so I'm not much good as a dive buddy any longer. But Stylish has been angling to learn for ages now. When we found a good dive outfit in Banda (Bluemotion - highly recommended), and, even better, a teacher we really liked, we signed Stylish up for lessons. I won't say it didn't give me a pang of nerves; I remember when she hardly could bring herself to jump into the deep end of the pool. But that was before she grew a mermaid's tail. And let's face it: she's 12. She doesn't need me to act as a parental leg iron.

Inevitably, Stylish was a natural diver. She also turned out to be an incredibly lucky one. She climbed on the boat after her third dive - her third dive, mind you, in her entire life - and shouted: "Mom! I saw a hammerhead. It swam right at me! It was only 3m away!!"
And I was a good Mom. I didn't die of a heart attack as I imagined my child being rushed by a pelagic shark. Instead I gave her a double thumbs-up and said: "That's awesome!"

(Of course, weeks of diving excellent walls in an idyllic location (complete with volcano and nutmeg plantations) may have raised her expectations to unreasonable levels. I have a feeling Stylish is going to be chasing that Banda high for years; she has already insisted we return there on a future vacation.)

Stylish isn't the only one who has grown a tail. When we started aboard, I'd snorkel and tow 2-year-old Indy along in her big floaty life jacket while she chatted to me about shapes in the clouds. She was such a kicky, flailing noisemaker that I'm amazed I ever saw a fish. This morning, as the two of us did a drift snorkel along the drop-off, she floated effortlessly beside me. She pointed out a spotted eagle ray I would have missed, and hovered quietly over lionfish and sea snakes. Moreover, she acted as the trip's photographer. When I uploaded the photos later, I wasn't surprised to see that several shots were better than anything I've produced. Sometimes, to my delight, she forgot to be so grown-up and would snuggle under my arm for a hug. Then she'd swim on her own again, experiencing the underwater world in her own way.

Last night, while we ate lobster and brownies to celebrate passing the six year mark on our family adventure, we talked about the next marine park we'll hit, and what we might hope to see there. Right now, the girls are playing on their ratty boogie boards off the side of the boat. And I'm wondering if we can fit in just one more quick snorkel today.

Our underwater life continues.

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Monday, October 3, 2016

Diving Banda

Hello, all. I'd write, but we're too busy spending all of our time in the water. Banda is gorgeous. Stylish is now a certified Open Water Diver. Other than that, I'll let the photos tell the tale.