Tuesday, April 26, 2011


As we are in Mexico, we are going to take the opportunity to visit some friends who live here.  This means I may or may not post for a couple of weeks, and I'm going to guess 'not'.  Fear not; I will return with more tales anon.

In the meantime, I am gathering Questions.  What do you, dear reader, want to know about?  Curious about the inner workings of a water pump?  Stumped by how we manage to keep two active girls busy and happy all day?  Wondering how our marriage has survived us sharing all of 6.23 cubic feet of space for six months?  Leave your burning questions and idle ponderings either in the comments or send me an email.  I'll do my best to enlighten you in a future post.  Or, I'll get no questions at all, and, once I get over the rejection, I'll just keep subjecting you to what I want to write about.  That's fine, too.

I'll leave you with some adorability.  We'll be back soon.
Don't worry; we'll be just as cute when we get back.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Photo update

The backseat driver informs me that I've been lax on photo updates.  This is true.  Most of the time I'd have as much luck uploading photos as I would trying to post them to the internet by hand.  That is, none at all.

But the connectivity gods are smiling on Papillon at the moment, so I've added some new photos to our shutterfly site.  I'll do more later.  If I remember.  Really.

Look!  That carrier pigeon is delivering our photos to the blog!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

What Time Is It? or, The Curse of George Vernon Hudson

One of the joys of living on a boat is ignoring the time.  My watch sits on a shelf for days at a time, and were it not for Indy’s keenly-developed internal mealtime clock, I suspect we would rise, eat and sleep at some very odd hours.

Not that Erik and I had a very good track record even when we were among the Clocked and Scheduled.  Years ago, we spent one of the many long weekends afforded to the German salaryman on Spiekeroog, one of the East Frisian islands in northern Germany.  (You see?  I have many good things to say about Germany, and their holiday schedule is way up there on my list.)  It was a beautiful spring weekend, and we had a delightful time.  But we noticed, in that casual, on-holiday, not-thinking-about-it-very-hard-kind-of-way, that we never seemed to be on the same schedule as anyone else.  The inn was clearing breakfast by the time we descended.  Other diners left the restaurant long before we did.  Minor events, and we chalked it up to us being in vacation mode.

That is, until we had to board the ferry home.  As we approached the dock, we peered out at the water.  There was a small silence.
“That boat looks like it is going away from us, not approaching,” said Erik finally.
I agreed.  The ferry was definitely leaving.  I looked at my watch; we were right on time.  Were they on some sort of holiday schedule?  No one else seemed concerned; we were the only ones paying any attention to the departing ferry.  I turned my head, trying to figure it out, when I caught sight of the clock on the dockmaster’s office.  I looked at my watch.  I looked at the clock.
A lightbulb went on over my head.  “It was Daylight Savings Time this weekend.”
Luckily, there was one more ferry that day, or we would each have had to explain a missed day of work with a very lame excuse.

Time and the wisdom it brings hasn’t helped us; DST continues to catch us napping.  In Norfolk, Erik tried to make a quick trip to a nautical bookstore as it opened.  He stood there cursing as the minutes ticked by and no one unlocked the door until the girls and I came puffing up the street to enlighten him – daylight savings time had bitten us again, this time in Fall Back mode.  In Miami  a few weeks ago, we made plans for a Sunday visit with a family who lived in town.  We were happily lazing around the boat, waiting for our one o’clock meeting... when I realized it was now 12:06pm, not 11:06am as we thought.  Good morning, Spring Forward.

Safe for another six months from our DST curse, we left Key West for Mexico at the beginning of April.  Our winds weren’t very favourable on the three day sail to Isla Mujeres; when things finally picked up as we crossed the Yucatan Channel, Erik couldn’t resist letting the boat run.  His enthusiasm meant we arrived at our goal before dawn, and, as you can well imagine, entering an unknown harbour in the dark isn’t smart.  We hove too, waited, had a pot of tea, and waited some more.  By 7:30 or so on that Saturday morning, the sun was up, and we started to toodle in past the rocks and hail the marina.  Silence.  Well, that was nothing new.  Annoying, but not the end of the world.  We crept along, kept hailing, and still nothing.  We passed the marina a couple of times, and then finally decided to dock and deal with the fallout later.  If the marina wasn’t going to answer, they were just going to have to live with where we put ourselves.  Docked and settled, we started to chat with our sleepy-eyed neighbours, who were only now starting to emerge from their boats.  How relaxed and civilized! I thought.

Well, not exactly.  It was only 6am.

We had lost one hour to a time zone change, and another because Mexico hadn’t switched to DST.  Which meant we were the jerks trying to hail the marina at 5:30am, not 7:30 as we thought.  Nice work, Papillon.  We turned back our clocks, apologised to anyone we may have annoyed, and adjusted to our new time.

Until the next day.
When Daylight Savings Time kicked in again.

After all that, we were right back to the time we had been at all winter long.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Problem With Puns

Boat people are a jolly folk.  Maybe it comes of the internal resilience needed to cope with each new day and the things that will surely break, but cruisers as a whole have a ready smile, a ready hand, and are never in a hurry.  They like to joke and have a chat.  Sadly, this admirable attitude turns dark and malevolent when it comes to cruisers naming their boats.  I refer, of course, to the despicable art of punning.

I’ll be frank.  I hate puns.  Every pun I see is a small stab in my eye, a written assault.  I resent it.  And nowhere is punny humour more prevalent than in the nautical world.  So many boat names, so many puns.  So many eye-stabbing attempts at hilarity.

We started collecting boat puns sometime in the Chesapeake.  Solely to vent my frustration, I present you with a short list of boats we’ve seen.

The Seas
Seas The Moment – I’m going to seize you by the ear and make you change your boat name.
Sea Senor – a Spanish/English joke!  Brilliant!
Sea-D – hmmm, ambiguous.  Were they going for CD, or seedy?  Or both; a down-and-out former rocker, perhaps?
Sea Vous Play – Ahhh!  My head just exploded!  A ménage a trois of please, the sea and playtime.  The french language police are coming for you, my friend, and, I assure you, they do not joke around.
Sea Me – hear me: The Who are coming for you, and those guys are even scarier than the French.

Nautical knots
Nauti Time – and its close cousin...
Knotty Time – “naughty” puns are almost as popular as “sea”s.  At least these boats didn’t add an illustration.  Shudder.
Nauti Girl – my notes indicate we saw this on two boats, and perhaps a third.  That hurts – a bad pun that isn’t even original.
Why Knot! – I could tell you why not.

Gone Fishin’
Rebait$ - isn’t it nice to know it’s all about the money?
Reel Deal – I somehow doubt the veracity of this claim.
Reel Lies – some refreshing honesty.  Prepare to doubt this man’s tales of fish size, or even the fact he went fishing at all.
Fin and Tonic – At least this one I can relate to.
Chasing Tail – ewww.  Run, ladies, run.
Reel Lucky – and you’re really lucky I can’t reach you to give you a smack.  Punning and an adjective/adverb error?  Not cool.

Visual Aids
Reel Jule; picture of a diamond – Julia/Jules/Julio/whoever you are, you didn’t need the jewel.  We got it.  Really.
Litigator; picture of an alligator holding a briefcase – Oh.  Ohhhh!  You’re not just a lawyer!  You’re in Florida, so you’re an alligator, too!  LitiGATOR, alliGATOR!  I get it!  Aha ha!
Time Flys; picture of a fishing lure – not Flies.  Not even Time to Fly, which I would have accepted.  This is just a mess.

Workin’ overtime
No Patients – as with our alligator litigator, someone who just can’t leave his job behind.
Ads Up – I’m going to be generous and call this someone in advertising.  Or maybe he just couldn’t be bothered to pay for that second “d”.
Chute Me II – this one was on a parasailing boat.  What hurts me the most is that they found the name funny enough to name a second boat “Chute Me”.

Spelling Fail
My Bouys – oh, help.  I envision a doting mother bestowing this boat on her boys.  Too bad the word is actually spelled “buoy” (boo-ee).  Oh, mom!  You were so close to a perfect pun!

General Suck
Sol Mates – boy, we’ve got the language pun wired on this list!
Aquadesiac – you know, I was embarrassed just to read this one.

“Purr”fect Too – quotes included.  Thanks for the help, guys; we never would have figured it out without them.  And what is with the "too"?  If you are also perfect, then what else are you referring to?  And if you meant "two", then you have just landed on my list of people to smack.
(My apologies – I should have written down more cat puns in Maryland, where they were prevalent.  Suffice it to say, it seems to be a rule that Catamarans, if they are to pun, must use a feline-related pun, preferably with paw prints added.)

Do you feel better?  I feel better.  Now that we are in Mexico, we aren’t seeing as many punned boats.  Maybe they have to stay in the US and Bahamas by law.  I can’t decipher all of the Spanish names, but they mostly seem to be called “Albatros” anyway.  My lack of language skills has a silver lining - if I can’t read it, it can’t destroy my brain, right?  .

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Customs of Customs

Little strikes fear into the desiccated husk that is my heart like the prospect of dealing with Customs and Immigration. This is odd for a Canadian. In my youth, we would make the odd foray over the border, usually to eat at the Clarkson House in Lewiston, NY. Every border transaction followed a set script: “Citizenship?” “Canadian.” “Buy any alcohol or tobacco?” “No.” “Okay,” accompanied by a waving hand. Easy. And visiting Europe as a young adult was a revelation: no border stops at all! Just a little sign welcoming you wherever. How civilized.

But of course, children, we all have to keep in mind that visiting a country is by no means equivalent to trying to stay there. Because... Then Came Germany.

Germany is a delightful country with excellent culture, people, meats, and the meanest bureaucrats I’ve yet had the misfortune to encounter. Erik and I moved there for work a decade ago. The messy details aside, it wasn’t easy. Not even for Erik with his EU-appropriate passport. My dear counterpart, when attempting to register in town, was actually chastised for having a wholly inadequate birth certificate. When Erik suggested that the information on his birth certificate was perhaps the responsibility of the Government of Canada and somewhat outside his control, he was huffily told that it would be allowed this time, but he shouldn’t expect to be allowed to be married, die, or perform any other paperwork-intensive task while on German soil, because his documentation simply would not do.

I should have known moving to Germany would be difficult. When we were contemplating the move, I called the German Consulate in Toronto to find out what I needed to prepare in order to move there. “No,” was the answer. “What do you mean?” I asked. “No, you can’t move there.” No explanation of my skills or situation would suffice. You can’t move to Germany – period. As a confident young person with advanced degrees in the sciences, I was mystified. Someone didn’t want me? Me? Impossible.

But they didn’t want me, and how! So vexed was the German System that I’d somehow made it over the border that they began a six-month-long saga attempting to a) keep me from staying, and b) failing that, keep me from useful work. (How dare I want to find employment and pay an outrageous percentage of tax on my income! Even now, I wonder how I had the gall.) This escapade featured highlights such as You’re Married According to the Fourth Floor of City Hall, but Not the First Floor; and Translate This!,wherein one pays through the nose to have a professional translate basic forms, eg. English word “Name” to German word... Name. My favourite was, of course, being made to sign a piece of paper that made me Erik’s property, and gave the government the right to boot me out of the country the moment we no longer cohabited. Charming.

Not to make a long digression longer, but suffice it to say that wending my way through the Kafka-esque world of German government made me, shall we say, gun-shy. I learned the hard way that trying to enter another country depends as much on the humour of the person on the other side of the desk as it does on The Law.

When we arrived in Mexico, Erik and I did the usual form-filling and fancy-stamping via the marina, as is typical. Then Erik casually informed me that, since he would be away this week, I would have to go to Puerto Juarez to complete the Boat Importation. The catch was, since Erik is the captain (sorry, The Captain) of Papillon, by rights he had to be the one to import the boat.

Wham! I was immediately back in the mildew-scented hallway outside the Bad Homburg Foreigners’ Office, waiting in that windowless, chairless place with thirty other lost souls for someone, anyone to please let us in, or at the very least remind us why we wanted to be here because the memory was growing pretty dim.

There was absolutely no way this was going to work.

Nonetheless, I would try. I dutifully completed the reams of badly-photocopied and useless paperwork (Do you have a hand dryer on board?). Clutching these and a letter from Erik explaining why he couldn’t come in person, I squared my shoulders, packed up the girls, and took the world’s noisiest ferry to Cancun. (And don’t get me started on the thirty minutes of Mexican television we had to endure, 28 minutes of which was “Celebrity Nip-Slips”. I kid you not.) Dusty, hot and newly enlightened about the wardrobe malfunctions of Pamela Anderson and co., we walked the short way to the CID.

Bad news already. The CID was empty. Crumbs. My chances were falling by the second.  Experience told me that bored officials are much worse than busy officials. When one has nothing to do, a civilian walking through the door is a gift from heaven. Making any transaction long and slow is key to breaking up the boredom. Prolongation could mean 7.3 minutes fewer of staring at Manuela across the way, who still hates you for eating the last cruller a week ago. And how to we prolong? We obstruct. This gives the triple joy of a) annoying and confusing the applicant, b) ensuring said applicant will have to return, thus killing another 13 minutes of future time, and c) running out the aforementioned present-time clock.  Perfect.

Imagine a white, circular room of perhaps fifty feet in diameter. Around the perimeter stood eight white desks. Behind the desks sat eight people who have had nothing to do since last Thursday.  Spines straightened and all eyes were on me. I turned to Adriana at the Banjercito; the other seven hopefuls slumped back into their chairs. I smiled my most non-threatening and compliant smile, explained why I was there, and handed her my paperwork.

Then something odd happened. Adriana processed my boat importation.

To be sure, there was waiting to be done and more forms to be filled out (Mexicans apparently really do take those pernicious hand dryers awfully seriously). But in the end, she gave me a pleasant smile and handed me a fancy blue certificate to post on the boat. It... worked. I did it. Even though Erik was supposed to. And I didn’t have to return, or get supporting documents, or my third-grade report card or a note from my mom or anything.

I’m still puzzled.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Disaster strikes

Hello, all and sundry.  This is just an administrative post.  My computer, my sad and long-suffering Vaio has decided it has had enough.  It has given up completely; it will no longer even boot.  Erik is kindly sharing his workhorse of a Lenovo for the time being.

What it means for you, dear friend, is not only that I have lost several fascinating half-completed posts, but also that my address book is trapped deep in the bowels of my dead computer.  My email access, spotty at best, is now further limited.

And so, anyone who needs to reach us on Papillon, please use only the email associated with this blog.  No attachments, please.  And wish me luck with the chkdsk and system repair fairies.