Thursday, December 22, 2011

Holiday time

Things I am doing today:
1.  Cleaning dust from the boat.  Again and again and again.
2.  Visiting with my in-laws.
3.  Making sure the girls don't a) overdose on chocolate, or b) fall off the boat as a result of their sugar-induced madness.
4.  Pretending the painters aren't still in the v-berth.

Things I am not doing today:
1.  Writing brilliant blog posts.

It's holiday time chez Papillon.  I don't think I'll have time for an update this week, so you'll just have to make one up for yourselves.  Let me get you started: think paint overspray and Erik wandering around with a razor blade, scraping paint off the teak and swearing in a constant stream.  Holiday hilarity!

Enjoy the season, everyone.  I'll be back in a week or so.

If I had a Santa hat this big, you can be sure Papillon would be wearing it.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Incredible Shrinking Boat

So.  When you got home from work today, had your spouse given away your bedroom to the painters two weeks ahead of schedule?

I have nowhere to sleep.
No?  Really?  Well, then your living room/kitchen/entire family area were dusty, buried and generally unusable, right?

Dust, dust everywhere.
When I picture lots of hot, sweaty men in my living room, it somehow looks different in my head.

I think my oven is under there somewhere.
At the very least, your spouse ripped out your fridge and started to build a new one, so you didn't have to endure the horror of cold butter or lunchmeats or anything.

Erik wearing a dust mask is always a good sign.
Guys, come on!  I'm getting a little self-conscious over here.  Tell me, please, that your outdoor spaces were jammed wall-to-wall with your indoor things.

Blueboard to starboard.

We had to put the cushions somewhere.
Hmm.  This might be getting a little crowded.
More crickets.  Okay, okay.  Well.  I know that definitely your loving spouse took over the last bit of open space you had to do fibreglass work.

Who doesn't love a little fibreglass?
Amy doesn't, that's who.
And after all that, where is left?  The girls' cabin.  And who doesn't like hanging out with two kids in six cubic feet of space on a hot day?


Well.  I just feel sorry for all of you.  Obviously my spouse loves me way more than yours loves you, you poor saps.  Enjoy your "clean homes" and "places to sleep", suckers.  Papillon Crew is subsisting on love alone these days, baby.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

So Much Fun, We Had To Do It Again!

Stylish’s Schedule:

Monday:  Jump over the boom and knock chin.  Visit local hospital and get four stitches.

Tuesday:  Run a high fever from the virus that is going around.  Show no signs of brain injury.  Nonetheless stress mom out.

Wednesday:  Fever gone.  Get head and neck checked by fellow cruiser expert in head injuries.  Adjust first cervical vertebra.  Continue to take antibiotics.

Thursday:  Go back for second neck check.  Antibiotics.

Friday:  Antibiotics.

Saturday:  Finish antibiotics.  Dad removes stitches at the end of the day.  Wound looks great.

Sunday:  Visit local friends.  Roughhouse with older girls.  Knock chin and start to bleed copiously under bandage.  Have Mom and Dad check.  Yes, the wound is fully reopened.  Return to local hospital for four more stitches.

Chin injury, mark II

Monday, December 12, 2011

Make Mine Morning

For many years, morning and I had only a nodding acquaintance.  We tolerated each other the way you put up with a good friend’s spouse who you really don’t like very much: by attempting to avoid that person, and griping about them quietly when you can’t stand it any longer

Like me, Stylish never had much to do with morning.  We would wake each day and follow a script much like this one:

“Mo-om,” she would call from her bed.
“Good morning, honey,” I would call back.
“Come here.”
“No, you come here.”
“No, you come here.”
“No, you come here.”

And on it would go until one of us cracked.  We would both snuggle into the winner’s bed and talk about what we were going to do when we finally got up.  It was all very civilized.

And then came Indy.

Indy has what I call, in honour of my mother's family, Disease J.  This happy troop pops up by 5am every day.  I use “pop” deliberately; there is no hesitation, no creaks and groans – just open eyes and a happy smile.  They are awake!  They are cheery!  They are ready to go!  Mind you, they are all useless by 7:30pm, but before the sun comes up?  Unstoppable.

Grasshopper and I are a little overwhelmed by the pro-morning camp.

“Mom.  Mom.  Mom.”  Someone is patting my face in the dark.  “Mom, I want some juice.  Mom, get up.”
“Indy, go to sleep.”  I shuffle over and give her part of my pillow.  “It’s dark.  The sky has to be blue before we get up.”
A big sigh.  “Oooo-kaaaay.”  I fall asleep again.
Face-patting resumes.  “Stop that.”
“Mom, the sky is blue.  Get up, Mom.  I want juice.  The sky is blue.”  I crack an eye open.  Perhaps three photons glide across the sky, drinking coffee and yawning. 
“For the love of god,” Erik mutters into his pillow.
I roll into a sitting position and remind myself that this is our deal.  Erik gets up in the middle of the night with boat disasters; I get up with early risers.  Some days it feels like a better deal than others

Indy manages another six hundred requests for juice as we shuffle up to the cockpit.  The fridge is still an open pit, so warm juice it is.  Indy doesn’t mind.  As she downs glass #1, I am now permitted to visit the facilities.  Even more importantly, I can now brew tea.  My precious Darjeeling, slowly elevating me to a human-like state.

We move on to puzzles on deck.  After a couple of rounds of Under The Sea, we try the Rainforest puzzle.  I am on cup #2 now, and the sky is fully light.  It is quarter to eight, and I hear Erik and Martha stirring below.  The lucky crumbs.

Someday, Indy will be old enough to get up on her own.  She can putter happily through the first hours of the day before anyone else emerges.  I’ll always be glad we had those quiet hours together when she was young... but I’m looking forward to sleeping in past 6am just a little bit, too.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

State of the Children

When I was young, I was Wonder Woman.  I don’t mean, “I liked Wonder Woman,” or “I often pretended I was Wonder Woman.”  I mean I was, every minute of every day, Amazon princess and warrior Wonder Woman.  I would only respond to the name Diana Prince (which drove my sister wild).  I wore my costume year-round, contributing, I’m told, to a severe case of laryngitis one cold January. ( I suspect no one really minded.)  And while I don't often have a reason to don my golden bracelets of power these days, Wonder Woman I remain.

The resemblance is uncanny.
My progeny have inherited my superheroism.  Indy is a souped-up version of Lightning McQueen, a flying racecar ready to beat the pudding out of any bad guys that cross her path.  That is, of course, when she isn’t being a  bad guy herself.  Indy often chooses the role of The Bad Witch or similar, and is content to terrorize whatever playfellows she has at the time.  (I approve; villains are often the more interesting characters.  I had far greater sympathy for Darth Vader than Luke Skywalker, and it was many a long year before I could watch Return of the Jedi without crying when Vader became one with the force.)

But imagine my pride when, as I was sitting on the foredeck two days ago, I saw Stylish take a flying leap to dive over the boom to escape her sister.  It was a Wonder Woman move if ever I saw one.

Don't be distracted by my excellent art - it was really quite a dramatic leap.
My pride turned to concern when Stylish started rolling around on deck, gasping out tears and bleeding copiously.

Landing is less fun than flying.
Young Stylish had a gaping wound in her chin.  Erik bundled her off to the hospital and, four stitches, a misaligned first cervical vertebra and a prescription for antibiotics later, she was back.  Somewhat chastened, certainly willing to vow never to leap over the boom again.  Some superhero antics are better left untried.

Tired and injured, but still smiling.
But aside from grave injury, what else has been going on in the World of Children aboard Papillon?

Last week, we took the kids to see Happy Feet 2 in 3-D.  For those of you not familiar with the franchise, animated penguins dance... and that's about it.  So although #2 was en Español, we decided we’d be able to follow along.  Indeed, I can summarize the movie this way:

“We’re stuck in a hole!”
“We’ll get you out of the hole!”
“We’re still stuck in a hole!”
“Still working on it!”

A genius script, as you can see.

When we’re not visiting hospitals and movie theatres, we work on school.  Things are running very smoothly there, and I was delighted to find this week that we have stayed parallel to Stylish’s class back home.  Hooray for keeping on track!  Occasionally we need to block out distractions, but who doesn’t?

Mom's homemade blinders; patent pending.
There is also lots of time for dress-up, making forts and general tomfoolery (see: diving over the boom).  Were Cartagena harbour swimmable we would be in the water, but alas.  And of course, right now the girls and I are battling the forces of dust, paint and epoxy fumes.

Stylish: Young Lady of Mystery

Indy: Young Lady of Mayhem

And, in a nutshell, that is where things stand for the young superheroes of Papillon.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Upsell

Friends.  Dear friends.  You remember my ceaseless complaining about the painters?  About the deck job that wouldn’t end?  About my troglodytic existence last month?  Well, I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’ve become a victim of the upsell.

You know the upsell: would you like to supersize that for 29 cents extra?  Buy an extra book and get free shipping.  Like that.  In my case, the upsell took me from painting the (hideous) heads to painting the.  Entire.  Interior.

I hear you gasping.  Amy, you were talking such a good game.  How did this happen?  I identify two culprits: 1. Erik, and 2. Planning.  First, Erik and the painters secretly decided to pull down the hideous, stained bumpy vinyl wallpaper headliner in the navigation area.  Honestly, it looks like it was made of old bus seats liberally sprinkled with mildew and rust, and applied by someone in hurry working in the dark.  I hate it.  Which Erik knows.  So, once it was down, we had to do that area, too.

Everyone is joining in the fun!
Cleverly, Erik gave me a day to adjust to this new state of affairs before broaching the question of the rest of our living space.  I gave him a glare that should have melted his face off.  Erik did some Erik-style fancy talking.  He painted a vision of the hated headliner disappearing from the whole boat.  Of how awful the old parts would look beside the freshly painted areas.  I glared some more.  And then, I dug my own grave: I suggested we map it out the job, piece by piece, to see if it would be feasible.  I can’t stand speculation; I am a sucker for cold, hard fact.  Papillon is a vessel dedicated to the Testable Hypothesis.  We have guests coming for Christmas and in the new year; if we could work around those dates and still get the job done, then fine.  Let’s paint it.

And, curses, it worked.  With even an extra week of fat before our January visitors.

So here I am.  The salon, front head, navigation area and galley are now out of bounds (because Erik is ripping out the fridge during all of this, naturally). 

And just for a little extra fun...
I have to say, though, being stuck on deck is far superior to being stuck below.  The fresh air, and all.  And why do I need fresh air?  Because the adhesive for the accursed headliner only comes off with GASOLINE.  Scraping didn’t work.  A host of other solvents didn’t work.  So here we are, trying to do math on the foredeck while the workmen wipe gasoline all over the ceiling down below.  Sigh.

Your correspondent is filled with regret.

Too late.
But the really, really truly best part?  In January, when we do the aft cabin and the v-berth simultaneously?  All four of us are going to have to bunk down in the salon together.  For about ten days.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Visit to Cottage Country, or, The Curse of the Deadly Water Hyacinth

At some point during our endless painting adventure, I extracted a promise from Erik that we would take a break before moving on to the next project.  (This is one of my jobs in our relationship: applying the brakes to Mr Endless Improvements.)  And so, when the last bit of plastic was bundled up and taken off the boat, we got ready to go to Chalon, a little community about a four hours sail south of Cartagena.  Our purpose: to swim.  And swim, and swim and swim.  As we were preparing to go, I discovered with shock that we had left Providencia almost two months previous.  Two months without swimming?  No wonder the entire Papillon crew is turning winter-white once more.

Since Chalon wasn’t far, we decided to get up at our regular time, eat a good breakfast and get going.  This is our normal routine; although many cruisers favour the 4 am start, somehow it doesn’t work for us.  But by the time we were up and the kids were up, and we’d taken the awning down, time was marching on.  Okay, sailors: breakfast can wait.  I brought up the very muddy anchor chain, spraying it all the while with the salt water hose, and we were off.  A quick deck-rinse and line-clearing later, it was time for breakfast!  I filled the kettle and opened the cupboard to look for tea.

Whoop!  Whoop!  Whoop!  Whoop!

I closed the cupboard and Erik and I looked at each other.  This was a new alarm.  That is disturbing, since I’d thought we’d made it through every alarm Papillon has to offer.  Not so.  We localized the sound to behind the engine panel, and Erik realized it was the engine over-temperature alarm.

By this time, we were fifteen minutes from the anchorage.  And where were we?  Right in the middle of the shipping channel, of course!  And Cartagena is a very busy container port.  Perfect.

But an overheating engine waits for no man.  Off went the boat.  Down went the anchor.  Erik grabbed a mask and snorkel and jumped in the water.  He rooted around in the murk under the boat.  And what was the culprit?  A water hyacinth got sucked into the raw water intake that serves to cool the engine.  If we hadn’t had the alarm, that tiny bit of plant material would have destroyed our engine.  Those are the dangers of cruising, my friend.  Forget pirates and dinghy motor thieves.  Worry about things that break your boat.

Scourge of the seven seas.
While Erik was under the boat using a flat screwdriver to pry roots out of the through-hull, we inevitably had company.  Acquaintances in a catamaran passed by and checked we were all right.  Less friendly was the tallship Gloria which passed maybe 20 feet off our starboard side.  What appeared to be the entire crew stood on deck staring at us as a senior officer gave me heck in no uncertain terms.  I called back that the engine was dead and we were leaving very, very soon.  That apparently was okay, and they yelling stopped.  Ah, cross-cultural communication.  Who needs to learn Spanish when you can just making slashing motions across your neck and bellow about el motor?

The police arrived just as we were bringing up the anchor – again.  And I was washing off the mud – again.  It was clear we were leaving, so they let us go.  A mere fifteen minutes after the alarm sounded, we were on our way.  Again.  And now, finally, it was time for breakfast.

We had to zip quickly through the channel out to sea, as a massive car carrier and a freighter were just picking up their pilots and preparing to come in.  The car carrier, curiously, was named Canadian Highway.

Really, really, really big.
And finally, finally, on to Chalon.

I hadn’t realized it ahead of time, but Chalon is cottage country.  Think Muskoka with salt water and less crowding.

And what does cottage country mean?  Jet skis!  Music!  PAR-TAY!  For example, on Saturday night there were five boats rafted together a couple hundred feet from us, and they had the music going all night long.  Ahh, nothing like a peaceful trip to nature.

But what was more surprising about Chalon was the canoes with Things For Sale.  Now, this concept was not new to us.  In Guatamala, the ladies would paddle by in their cayucas, selling coco-buns, bananas, pineapple... that sort of thing.  So we knew what this was all about.

The moment we dropped anchor here, the first canoe arrived.  Two young men wanted to sell us a prepared lobster meal with salad and coconut rice.  No, thanks.  The moment they left, a kayak pulled up.  These guys had live seafood, which was more up our alley.  Erik negotiated for two lobsters and a huge crab for a combination of pesos and beer.

So very delicious.
Next up was oyster man on a surfboard.  Well, you can’t say no to a dozen oysters, now can you?  I know I can’t.

Slimy grey deliciousness.
The necklace guys were canoes no. 4 and 5.  We had less trouble saying no to these guys, as the last thing we need on board is more stuff.  (Christmas tip: Papillon gladly accepts gifts that go away again, such as chocolates and craft supplies.  Books are the sole exception to this rule.)

And then came the coconut candy man.  There was no way on Earth Erik was going to turn down little balls made of a coconut-honey paste.

It is possible we bought four pots of these during our visit to Chalon.

At this point, I called time.  That was it.  We already had two lobsters, a crab, twelve oysters and a pot of coconut balls, and we’d been in Chalon thirty minutes.  Enough already.  At least until tomorrow.

Erik shared with the rest of us.  Really.

In the meantime, the girls have been total water babies.  We inherited a small blow-up raft from another boat and pulled out the Airhead tube we rescued in Bay Biscayne last year.  A few friends from another boat came by, and voila.  Happy kids.

Underwater expert.
Drifting along.
Hanging on the anchor chain.

Tubing with Dad.
Making a leaf face on deck.

Erik, meanwhile, still lives in project mode, going so far as to sew by headlamp when the sun goes down.

Completely mental.
As much as we would have loved to stay in Chalon and let the girls keep swimming, this morning it was time to head north again before we all turned into lobsters due to over-consumption.  And, of course, on Tuesday the painters arrive to take over the bathrooms!  Oh, happy day!  Out at anchor with two occupied heads!  But having to turf a hairy man out of the toilet every time the kids need to pee is a small price to pay for having a bathroom that doesn’t look like it was transplanted from a derelict bus station.  This is my glamourous life, people.  Simultaneously, Erik will start either the fridge project or the tool rack, so December is full of Christmas fun for the Papillon Crew.  Expect pictures of destruction to follow.