Friday, December 27, 2013

Cookie Overload

I haven't eaten a healthy thing in four days now.  I am going to have to go on a vegetable IV drip if this keeps up.  Since Erik started on his Christmas Baking Frenzy, we have switched our four food groups to sugar, flour, butter and chocolate.  So much deadly deliciousness in such a small package.

It is hard to say how this came about.  Perhaps Erik was feeling lonely.  This has been our first Christmas without family since 2010, and only our second ever as a foursome.  Perhaps he just missed his mother's Christmas baking, which is understandable, as the woman is a champion.  But, whatever the reason, Erik got in a baking mood.

Just in case it has somehow escaped your attention, Erik only has two modes: full out, or full stop.*  And, like his mother, he mentally takes the number of people he is ostensibly cooking for and multiplies it by ten.

I found Erik at the computer, merrily typing away.
"I thought you were going to bake cookies," I said.
"I am."
I looked over his shoulder.  "That's Excel."
"Well, I have to make a shopping list, don't I?"
"One point two kilos of butter?  A kilo and a half of sugar?"  I shook my head.  "I have the basics here, you know.  Can't you just make some cookies from what we have?"
"You don't have everything I need," said Erik.  "Not the specialty ingredients.  This way we can plan to have these items in stock every December.  You know, if you'd just let me set up a Kanban system for you..."
But I had already fled to safety.  I know better than to stick around when the Kanban talk flares up.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Visiting the Toy Aisle - French Edition

Here we are, two days from Christmas.  Time to break out that wallet and go buy some cheap junk that your family neither wants nor needs!  And even if Christmas isn't your thing, there are all the sales to think about, right?  If you're going to buy things you don't need, you might as well get them at a reduced price.

But, oh, what's this?  Hmm.  Something is fishy here.  It looks like home.  Huge floorspace.  Big crowds.

Industrial-sized bottles of ketchup.

Aha!  There's a clue.

A forty-foot display of Champagne is always a good tip-off that you are in a French territory.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas Madness: Hunting Down Impossible Presents

It's that time of year again when even the most patient parents consider slipping out of the house and hiding under a tarp in the backyard until December 25th has come and gone.  And even though it is hot and humid here and about as un-Christmas-y as you can get, our family is gripped by Christmas fever.  My delightful children have been replaced by screaming hyperactive terrors belched forth straight from the Parental Punishment levels of Hell.  How my mother ever made it through those final days before Christmas with four kids whirling around her ankles is a mystery to me.  At least my dad could escape to the office when we were too much to take.

But, despite the fact that the girls are currently driving me crazy, I'd still like to get them something nice for Christmas.  As you can imagine, gift-giving on a boat takes some extra planning.  You can't exactly nip off the the store the night of the 23rd and expect to mop up your last-minute gifts.  For one thing, there usually is no store.  But, for once, we are somewhere completely first world in terms of available commercial goods.  Being a French territory, New Caledonia is well-served out of France.  But since I hadn't planned on being here and I wanted things like English-language books, I did the bulk of my shopping months ago.

The girls made their Christmas lists about six weeks ago.  As the ultra-prepared boat children they are, they wanted to give Santa and me time to get everything sorted out between us.  Stylish handed me her list; I cast a critical eye over her choices.  She won't get it all, but good ideas.  No surprises there.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Cruising Talk: A Translation Guide

What is this woman talking about?
I hope everyone has read Michael Robertson's The Complete Guide to Caring for a Cruiser in this month's Sail.  If not, go on; I'll wait.  Back?  Okay.  Michael's article is a timely reminder that cruisers are, to put it kindly, a little different.  But I feel compelled to add on to his fine work.  Communicating with cruisers can be a challenge, whether you are a friend, relative, cruising spouse or simply a normal person.  Below you will find some common points of misunderstanding.  I hope this translation guide helps you to talk to the cruisers in your life.

Cruiser:  "Could you help me out here, Mavis?"
Cruising Spouse:  "Sure thing, Pete."
What the Cruising Spouse hears:  Pete needs some minor assistance for a few minutes.
What the Cruiser hears:  "Pete, it would give me the utmost pleasure to be your assistant/slave for the next eight hours."
Lesson:  Before agreeing to help a cruiser, ask for clarification regarding time, difficulty and dirtiness level expected.  Then triple it.
Hold that flashlight steady for me, would you?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Cruiser's Difficult Relationship With Water

I think I smell bad.  After spending three hours in the park then hiking over the hills of Noumea in 30 C heat, how could I be anything but sweaty?  I lean away from the woman sitting beside me in French class, hoping that the cool air in our basement room will mitigate my stink before it reaches her. But I know the real answer to my problem: I need a shower.  Again.  The very thought fills me with despair.

You may have noticed that cruisers are somewhat preoccupied with resource consumption.  Obsessed is a better word.  But when you carry around all of life's necessities in what amounts to an oversized backpack, you want to be sure you have absolutely everything you need.  Especially water.  If you run out of your favorite saltines out on the blue, you'll live.  If you don't have drinking water, it's an emergency.

So cruisers learn to conserve.  I mean, really conserve.  We are a stingy bunch when it comes to H2O.  Every guest who comes aboard gets the same lecture.  And they all nod and agree and are eager to cooperate - absolutely, we'll be careful with the water.  Be sparing, got it.  And then we hear the water pump run, and run, and run, until Erik and I bury our faces in pillows so no one hears us sobbing.  Because "being sparing" means something very different to a land-dweller than it does to a cruiser.  To them it means: try not to use more than you need.  To us it means: use the absolute bare minimum.  Land-dweller: don't forget to turn off the tap when you're done brushing your teeth.  Cruiser: you get two tablespoons of water for brushing your teeth and not a drop more.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Joys of a Rainy Recess

Stylish was hard at work on her math when the light mist turned into a pelting rainstorm.  She dropped her pencil and looked out of the cockpit.  "Mom, it's raining.  Can I go outside and have recess?"
"Sure.  Put on a bathing suit first."
It is a pleasure to say those words again.  The bathing suit part, of course.  I've never been a don't-get-wet kind of person.  But, for so long, going out in the rain meant a pile of gear, drippy wool socks, and demands for hot chocolate at the end of it.  Sending the kids out to play in the rain is much more fun when they don't come back hypothermic.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Losing the Language Wars to a Five-Year-Old

“So, what did you do at school today?”
I know better than to ask this question.  There isn’t a child alive who has ever replied with actual facts when their mother asks about school.  But it was Indy’s first day at her new école in Noumea, and I was hoping that she would throw me a crumb.  After all, she is a boat kid; she might not realize that it is her duty as a child is to withhold school-related news at all costs.
“Nothing,” she said.
Darn.  Someone must have tipped her off.
“Le poisson, le poisson, le poisson,” sang Indy as she skipped along the path.
I raised my eyebrows.  She picked up a word already!  We had been a little concerned that Indy would find the first few weeks of school difficult, being an anglophone in a francophone world, but she emerged from class unfazed by any communication difficulties she might have encountered.
“Le poisson,” I repeated.  “Fish.  That’s a good word.”
She stopped skipping.  “No, Mom.  Not like that.  You draw it out.  Le poiiiisssssson.”  She slowly drew her hands apart.
“Le poiiiisssson,”
"Listen: poisson."
"Le poisson," I said again.
She shook her head and resumed skipping.  Six hours of school, and Indy's French was already better than mine. Whose idea was it to send this kid to school, anyway?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Cyclone Choices: Making the Decision

Over the past few months, I have sent a lot of emails with a line that looked like this: “Our current and almost definite plan is to head to Tasmania for cyclone season.  We’ll check in at Newcastle or Sydney, and wait for the weather to be right early in January to make the last hop to Hobart.”

Now, because you have been paying attention, you know that cruisers are totally unreliable when it comes to reporting their own plans.  And so it was with us.  Erik and I were 98% sure we were going to Tas.  We were keen on Tas. We had heard nothing but great things about the place: not many boats make the trip down, the cruising is spectacular, the people are great.  They understand cruisers there, which has not always been our experience in Australia.  In short, it sounded perfect.

But we’re not in Tasmania.  We’re not even in Australia.  We are still in Noumea, with a cyclone-secure berth waiting at the marina and the kids enrolled in school.  What happened?  In a phrase, the cruising life happened.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Picnics With Europeans: French vs Swiss-German (with Bonus American After-Party)

Ring, ring.
"Hello.  This is Boat French.  Would you like to go with us to Le parc provincial de la Rivière Bleue for a picnic on Sunday?
"Bon.  See you at 0900 on Sunday."
Ring, ring.
"Hello.  This is Boat Swiss-German.  Would you like to go with us to Le parc provincial de la Rivière Bleue for a picnic on Sunday?
"We'd love to, but Boat French just asked us.  How about Tuesday?"
"Toll.  See you at 0900 on Tuesday."

Sunday: French picnic

Thursday, November 14, 2013

When Are You Coming Home? Lies Cruisers Tell

Q: Do you have a planned end to your cruise? When you get to a particular place? After a set number of years?  When you (or the girls) get to be a particular age?

A:  It is barely mid-November, and already I am getting reports from home about snow.  I sit in the cockpit reading my email, and when a chill wind blows and the temperature plummets to 24 C, I put on a fleece.  I can't even handle the suggestion of snow anymore, much less the reality.  Perhaps these notes are my family's passive-aggressive way of keeping us out at sea.  So if you ask me today when I'm going home, I'll shout out, "Never!  Not in a million years!"

Which is a lie.  Of course we're going home again.  But the problem with asking about The End is simple.  It is the absolute, number one, gold medal, top-ranked worst question to ask a cruiser because the answer you get will be worthless.  Because nobody really knows.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Meet Our Neighbours on the Reef

There are days I think that we moved onto Papillon not to sail the seven seas, not to give Erik endless tinkering projects, not to spend family time - but to visit every coral reef on Earth.  We are reef peekers.  I feel no shame in that.

Erik and I used to do a lot of diving back in the day, but now we are snorkelers because it lets the kids get involved, and there is so much to see in those first twenty feet, anyway.  Now that Indy has joined the ranks of strong swimmers, it is all the easier.  Not that I didn't enjoy towing her along by her lifejacket strap or carrying her on my back.  But sometime over the past few months she made the switch from child to fish, just as Stylish did when we were starting out.  And now we are a well-oiled snorkeling machine.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Sinking Just a Little Bit

We woke up on Monday to discover the boat was sinking.  On my way to the bathroom, I heard an unwelcome drip drip sound coming from beneath the companionway.  We pulled up the floorboards, and, sure enough, the centerboard trunk was leaking.  The bilge was full.  We were going down.

"Ugh," I said, slapping the bilge pump switch.  "Does it have to be now?  I haven't even made tea yet."
Erik stared at the spitting centerboard and sighed.  "Well.  Let's get 'er fixed."

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Trick-or-Treating on the High Seas

I'll admit it - I'm a sucker for Hallowe’en.  Oh, Christmas has its charms – lots of family, lots of presents.  Easter is a chocolate-lover’s dream.  But nothing celebrates a combination of excess and rule-breaking like the 31st of October.  “Wear whatever you want!”  “Sure, you can go for a walk in the dark and take candy from strangers!”  “Imagination is a good thing!  Believe in ghosts and fairies all you like!”  Hallowe’en is ironically, for all of its scary trappings, a day when members of the community agree to trust each other and take a one-day break from fear.

I am fully aware that I fly the Hallowe’en flag alone on this boat.  Indy and Stylish like it, of course, but since our Hallowe’en activities change from year to year, they haven’t built up a sense of tradition-through-repetition the way I did.  Erik finds the entire urban trick-or-treating formula mystifying.  As best I can tell, he travelled back to the rural 1880s for his Hallowe’ens.  On Hallowe’en night, he and a friend rode on horseback between a handful of farms.  They clopped down lanes lit with candled sheep skulls, and were invited into dim kitchens to sip hot cider and eat home-made treats while gammers and gaffers told them terrifying stories of local murders and haunted inns.  What a show-off.  I’m sure I had just as much fun strolling from house to house dressed as a punk rocker and collecting tiny Mars bars in a pillowcase.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Welcoming Visitors Aboard

October was Visitor Month aboard the good ship Papillon.  And it was really fun.  But I am really tired.  Having friends and family around is always a treat, but it also carries a responsibility.  Not only are we trying to entertain the people we care about in our piece of floating aluminum, we are also trying to reassure them that a) we aren't crazy for living on a boat, and b) see point a.  This isn't inherently difficult - anyone willing to visit us has either already wrapped their head around the peculiarities of onboard life, or they like us (read: the kids) enough to overlook the less comfortable bits. But still - we make the effort.

You never know how things are going to play out.  Sometimes you get lucky.  My parents visited us in the San Blas islands in Panama, and enjoyed two weeks of blue skies, warm days, and easy sailing from island to island.  Sometimes your luck runs out.  Erik's parents spent last Christmas with us in New Zealand, and we had a gale for five solid days.  We rolled in the fetch, drinking tea and wishing we could escape to shore.  Soon the dodger saturated, so it was full-on raining in the cockpit.  There we were, huddled belowdecks beside the diesel heater, with two wild-eyed kids high on pre-Christmas-excitement and gummy bears.  Unsurprisingly, this year my in-laws have elected to give us a miss and visit Mexico instead.  Lesson: don't invite people to stay aboard anywhere with a good chance of bad weather.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Special Delivery

Back in the day, I used to order the odd thing online.  I would come home after a hard day of doing whatever it is I used to do, only to find a small white notice from Canada Post flapping on the doorknob.  I would heave a dramatic sigh, walk 500 yards to the post office, wait in line for 39 seconds, retrieve my stuff, and leave, shaking my head at what a martyr I was for picking up my own post.

Not really.  Getting a package is fun, and it was rare I was so busy as to mind the "hassle".  But once we arrived on Papillon and sailed out of US waters, I learned what a mystery the postal system can be.  Retrieving lost toilets in Panama, for example.  We've dealt with secondary shippers and carriers who don't understand that "Yacht in Transit" means "no customs fees".  Some places are easy, some not so much, but every country we visit is a little bit different.

But, let's face it: no one does "the plans have all been changed now" like the French.  We have gotten three packages from overseas since we arrived in Noumea, and they all followed a different path.  Let's review.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

How Wild Is Your Wildlife? Part II: A Campsite Full of Snakes

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I travelled to Indonesia to do some research for my undergraduate thesis.  I was working with a prof who did coral research, which meant our group spent all day every day on the reef.  It was a sweet gig.  Our fearless leader, Dr R, was unflappable.  He had a thousand stories of things that had gone wrong here and there in his travels, but, since nothing really fazed him, somehow those stories never came across as scary.  So when he told me in all seriousness that I should be afraid of sea snakes, I was afraid of sea snakes.  Investigating the matter supported that point of view.  The very pretty sea krait (genus Laticauda), or tricot rayé as it is called in New Caledonia, is more poisonous than a cobra.  Oh, and did I mention there is no antivenin?  Right.  Not good.

So let's get down to business on sea snakes.  Here I am, all blasé about sharks, but I'm afraid of a wiggler hardly the length of my arm?  In a word: yes.  Not terrified, not panicky - I just intend to give sea snakes a very wide berth.  Luckily, the tricot rayé is with me on that.  They live in the rocks ashore, hunt in the reefs, and don't want anything to do with you.  Once again, our "don't be an idiot" advice applies.  Don't bug the snakes, and they won't bug you.

This is sometimes easier said than done.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

How Wild Is Your Wildlife? Part I: Fins in the Water

Q:  I'd like to go cruising, but I'm not so keen on sharks.  Do you see many?  Are they a problem?

A:  Ah, sharks.  On my list of Things People Worry About On Our Behalf, they sit second only to pirates.  And I understand that.  They are strong, fast, and have those excellent triangular teeth that just scream out "higher predator!"  The media doesn't help this image.  If you go watching shows with names like Ten Deadliest Sharks, then you are feeding your fears.  As my mother would say, don't put beans up your nose.

Short answer: you do not need to curtail your cruising plans because of sharks.  We have two issues to deal with here: what am I looking at? and how do I behave?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Tuesday Turtle Break

We have visitors aboard, and boy, have they gotten a look at the sweet side of cruising life.  Perfect weather, good winds, reefs, fish, sharks, sea snakes... the good ship Papillon has been a walking advertisement for chucking it all and setting out to sea.

And what happened five minutes ago?  Two huge turtles swam by.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Beer Tomorrow, Beer Yesterday, But Never Beer Today

We've got company coming - it's time to buy some food.  (Didn't we just go grocery shopping a month ago?  My goodness, these chores are relentless.)  Off to the store!

We trundled the cart up and down the aisle, restocking cookies and corn, pasta and peppers, while the girls tested how far they could slide on the tile floors without hitting anybody.

Erik stopped short and started cursing.
"What's wrong?"
He looked at his watch and swore again.  "It's after twelve o'clock.  And today is Wednesday."
I swore, too.  Because everyone knows you can't buy alcohol after noon on a Wednesday in New Caledonia.  Or after noon on Friday, Saturday or public holidays.  Or the day before or after public holidays.  But, good news!  Monday, Tuesday and Thursday?  No problem.  Get your drink on.  And as for Sunday?  Well, my friend.  You aren't just out of luck for alcohol on Sunday.  You're out of luck on everything.  The whole city is closed.

Monday, September 30, 2013

No More Pencils, No More Books

"Time to start school."
"I don´t wanna do school, today."
"You have to do school - it´s important."
"Come on, it won´t take long."
"Alright, alright! Fine! I´ll do school." I turn away from Erik and lean out of the cockpit. "Kids! Time for school!"

Teaching is my primary job aboard Papillon. It took me a while to figure it out - don´t ever think that elementary school teachers are just breezing through life - but now the kids and I have a system that works well for us. Most days I look forward to our school time, and all three of us have fun. But there are days when I open my eyes in the morning and the weather is cold and rainy, or we´re in a particularly interesting place, or I don´t feel so great, or I´m just plain lazy. On those days I want to call in sick and skip the whole thing. I´m having one of those times. And this is not helped by the fact that the girls are having one of those times, too.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Engine Woes and Sailing Anyway

I can always tell that we have been in port too long when Erik and I start to bicker. As soon as we start breaking out the why-don`t-you-get-it-yourselfs and the can`t-you-show-a-little-enthusiam-heres, it means we are cranky and bored. Time to move on.

Not that I have anything against Noumea. The people are extremely friendly and helpful, and a baguette costs 80 cents. You can`t beat that. But we have been up to our eyeballs in stress about what is wrong with our engine-propeller run. The short answer is, we can jolly things along for now, but we need to plan on a major repair during cyclone season. The propeller shaft coupling that self-destructed was only a symptom of a larger problem: the whole assembly was badly designed, and needs to be pulled. That means a haul-out, an expert, and all sorts of other time-taking, money-costing nonsense that makes me want to hide under the table and eat Cheetos. Alas, Cheetos don`t provide the answer to all of life`s problems. But sometimes sailing does.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Naming Names: What Should I Call My Boat?

I'm still collecting questions for my Q&A, so don't feel like you're too late.  Leave a comment on the original post, or drop me a line.  No query too small to be considered!

Q:  What should I name my boat?
A:  I'm glad you asked.  Choosing a boat name is a bigger deal than you think, especially if you are cruising.  Why?  Because, dear reader, when you move aboard, you lose your own name, and become your boat name. Before you name your boat, you need to ask yourself two questions: 1. Is it easy to read and understand? 2. Do I like it enough that I can live with being called this every day?

Let's knock through this with imaginary cruising couple, John and Betsy.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Question Department is Open

In a few short weeks, we will reach our third anniversary aboard Papillon.  Not bad for a trip that was only supposed to be two years long.  And although I've baked enough cakes lately to last me until the end of time, I come from a birthday/anniversary/Groundhog Day-celebrating tribe.  What to do to mark the occasion?

Monday, September 16, 2013

All the Colors of the Rainbow

There is not much I resent more than a sunburn.  It is a self-inflicted injury of the stupidest sort.  We all had a decent tan going for our first two years aboard, but, when we sailed to New Zealand, our skin returned to its regular pasty hue.  So we had to start all over again when we came north again. 

Which was fine, but a couple of days ago, as we were finishing breakfast, our neighbors came by and invited us for a morning coffee.  We all hopped in the dinghy and went.  But it meant we didn't finish our morning routine, ie. applying sunscreen.  And I ended up stuck in the sun in their cockpit for three hours.  And I burnt.

So when we went to the beach on Ilot Canard yesterday, I was rocking a stylish combination of a bikini plus a t-shirt wound around my neck from my collarbone to my chin.  (Thankfully, the girls are still young enough not to care that their mother looks ridiculous.  Or maybe they are just so used to that they don't bother to fight the battle.)  If I can just keep this burn covered for a couple more days, it will fade enough for safety.  If not, it will worsen catastrophically and I'll look like someone attacked me with red lipstick.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Sending Missives From the Front

As a kid, I was a mail hound.  I loved getting letters.  I had pen pals all over the place, and a good chunk of my allowance went into buying fancy paper so I could write them back and get more mail in return.  I still think getting mail is fun.  And now that we are in a warm place again, Mom has been on a Postcard Mission.

The girls and I sat down and made a list.  Some friends, some family, some school - anyone we thought might smile to get a colourful picture in their mailbox some misty, moisty morning a few weeks from now.  Then off to the Tabac.

The shopkeeper stared at our stack of cards.  "Vingt-cinq?  You want twenty-five cards?"
"Yes.  No.  Stylish, I forgot someone - go grab another card.  Vingt-six, s'il vous plait."

Friday, September 6, 2013

When Two Become Five

Since we arrived at anchor, the girls have lived outside.  They have swung from the halyards and splashed noisily in the water.  They eat on deck, read on deck, and generally spent every moment they can in the open air.

Why?  Not because we are finally somewhere warm(ish).  Not to escape Dad pulling up the floorboards (which only happened twice.)  No.  Their loud, obvious presence was a beacon, a signal fire: We're Here.  Come Play With Us.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Back Home Again In A New Place

I knew I liked New Caledonia as soon as we entered the pass.  Erik and the girls were at the bow while I was checking the chart when I heard cries of: “Dolphin!  Dolphin!”  And sure enough, we had a cetacean visitor guiding us in to Noumea.  Very civilized.  Or rather, wild, which is the way we like it
Job number one when we get to port is to let the girls run.  Ten days is a long time to be cooped up in a small space, and even swinging on the handholds (our own personal monkey bars) can only do so much.  So while Erik and I got water and worked on the boat, they practiced kung fu by day and danced outside to the live band playing in the cafe every evening.  In short, they shook their sillies out.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Day 8, Passage to Noumea: The Challenges of Uphill Birthdays

I set my feet on the steep hill and try to hold on to six things at once. This is all a matter of timing. In goes the butter the sugar the chocolate four eggs mind the shells grab the post and keep the bowl from sliding away. Pause and rock. The salt the vanilla the flour stop the bowl from sliding the other way heaven help me when I need to open the oven.

When last I left you, we were becalmed in the middle of nowhere. After a day or so of bobbing around, the winds came back. And increased. And increased. The day it was blowing 16 knots was great – no seas, Papillon zipping along at 7-8 knots. Then the winds increased some more, and we spent more than 24 hours with sustained winds in the mid-to-high-twenties. All of which would have been fine, except for two things. One: it was all upwind. Two: it was Indy's birthday.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Day 5, Passage to Noumea: Slow Boat to Nowhere

 August 23, 2013 01:00 UTC
Somewhere along the way

Erik read my last post and made a face. "Why did you say where we are?"
I looked up from my book. "Why?"
"Because we are making lousy time."
Erik gave me his patented incredulous, isn't-it-obvious look. I returned fire with my what-are-you-talking-about-you-crazy-person stare. (I won, because I have better eyebrows. Never underestimate the power of a shaggy brow in an adversarial situation.)

But I knew out what he was talking about. We are becalmed. And there is nothing worse for troop morale.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Day 2, Passage to Noumea: Meet the Nail Fairy

August 20, 2013 00:00
30 50.11 S, 173 28.07 E

Greetings from the open ocean! Papillon is two days and about 275 NM out of Opua, so this post is coming to you via the old-school magic of single sideband radio. Your correspondent gave into curiosity a few weeks ago and checked out marine satellite internet systems. After I picked myself up of the floor, my brain aching at the cost, I gave my trusty Pactor modem a friendly pat, and decided such luxuries as posting photos and checking failblog will have to wait until we return to port. As is often the case, low tech is happy tech on a boat.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Superfluous Adults

I spent a lot of my childhood with my siblings down the ravine behind our house.  In summer, we found salamanders under rocks and built dams across the foot-deep stream.  In the winter, we slogged our way down the snowy slope to crack through the ice and always came home with wet snowpants.  And while my mom knew where we were, she was hardly lurking behind every tree.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Testing the Rig and the Bonds of Family

Look at that.  We have been re-yawled!  If I hadn't checked my bank account this morning, I'd never know the mizzen had been missing.  Now that the riggers have moved on to greener pastures (or more needy mains), we are ready to go.  The weather, however, has other plans; New Zealand is keeping us clasped tightly to her bosom via a never-ending series of lows passing over the north island.

Wind, rain, and more wind
Now, nothing says optimism like inviting guests who were sick all night the last time they came to stay. Who better to help test the new rig during a gale?  Aside from the fact that we always have a good time together, the added benefit of asking my cousin to sail with us is that, should anything go wrong, I would never, never, ever hear the end of it from my family.  The Papillon crew is keen on high beta manoeuvres.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Dropping the Stick - Mizzen!

Friends, I'm not going to lie to you.  I have a headache that feels like the devil himself is crouched inside my skull and is trying to force my eyeballs out to make room.  (And I didn't even do anything stupid to deserve this headache, which I particularly resent.)  The point, at least as far as you are concerned, is that this post is going to be photo-heavy and text-light.  Unless I suddenly become hilarious in the next five minutes, in which case I will delete this paragraph and you will be none the wiser.  Ha ha!  I am a wizard of editing tricks.  (Man, that headache isn't doing my writing any favours.  Sorry, guys.)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Where I've Been Lately

Friends, I've been withholding from you.  I have kept silent about the gorgeous, romantic and interesting places I've visited lately.  And I feel terrible about that.  So let me share with you.

Yesterday, Erik put a loving arm around me, put his lips to my ear and whispered, "it's time."  A thrill went up my spine.  Finally, we were ready to bed the backing plate for the new chainplate for the inner forestay.  Erik stomped off to the foredeck in the driving rain; I grabbed my 11/16th wrench and climbed into the anchor locker.  It was everything I dreamed.  Aluminum filings rained down on me.  Erik broke a drill bit.  I smeared 4200 sealant on my favourite fleece with the skill of an infant eating chocolate pudding.  I climbed ever deeper into the locker, trying to get some purchase on the [unrepeatable] locknuts.  And throughout, Erik and I yelled sweet nothings at each other via the hawsepipe.

"Do you have it yet?"
"For crying out loud.  What the hell are you doing down there?"
""I'm trying to get a nut onto a bolt that some idiot drilled too close to the bulkhead!  So give me a minute!"

Monday, July 29, 2013

Reaching Racing Saturation

I'm wearing my headlamp - that means I'm actually working, not taking a break.
Everyone needs a way to unwind.  Absolutely, they do.  Reading.  Running.  Ping pong.  Sailing, for example. But here we sit, still fixing our rig, and ways to relax are thin on the ground.  We've read all our books.  We've walked all of the scenic walks.  We can't swim here.  There is no wind, so we can't break out the sailing dinghy.  And so we fall back on that old standby, the internet.

Sometime during the Gangnam Style era, the girls introduced their father to YouTube.  Erik has never been a computer person; until that point, I'm pretty sure he thought computers were strictly for Excel, Power point, and Halo.  But now he has discovered that he can find sailing blogs.  And sailing photos.  And sailing videos.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Scavenger Cruiser

Last October, we were sitting in a cafe in Neiafu enjoying that great rarity: food and drink we didn't make ourselves.  As I took a sip of my coffee, Erik suddenly bent down and plucked something off the gravel floor.

"Look," he said, holding up his prize, "a zipper car!  And just the size I need!"  He put the precious car in his pocket and patted it happily, grinning from ear to ear.  I smiled and kept on drinking my coffee, because what just happened was such a completely normal thing.  Even if anyone else in the cruiser-filled cafe had seen it, they wouldn't have raised an eyebrow.  Because cruisers are scavengers.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Which Passage Were You On?

It is a banner day here on Papillon - we have completed our first passage since last January when the forestay parted and we made an unscheduled six-month stop in Whangarei.  This was only an overnight hop, but we were out at sea! and we got from there to here with barely a hiccup.

It has been a long time since I have been able to write to you, dear readers, about actual sailing stuff.  You have kindly put up with my posts about fixing the rigging, and living in the yard, and all of the cruising-related activities that have nothing to do with boat-on-water + wind = fun.  So now that we are back in motion, the natural thing would be for me to write about our passage.

But we didn't just have one passage, did we?  We had four.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Sailing Small

People often assume that we are fantastic sailors.  After all, we have made it from the Chesapeake to New Zealand - we must be awesome, right?  Well, I won't claim that we haven't picked up a skill or two along the way.  But cruising is a different kind of sailing.  In some ways, your boat turns into your car: a vehicle you use to eat up the miles in order to to reach faraway places.  You can slip into the habit of being destination-focused.  And that is a shame, because if sailing is good for anything, it is good for showing you the world very, very slowly.  If you don't enjoy the process of getting from here to there, then, brother, you are using the wrong mode of transportation.

Being in New Zealand has been a fun for a few reasons, not the least of which has been getting to day sail.  Imagine, going out in your boat just to toodle around for a few hours, then come back to the same place again!  No watches, no overnights, no cooking ahead for four days at a time - just relaxing with your guests and mucking around with the sails.  You can even see land!  This might be old hat to those of you reading this post, but to me, it has been a revelation.  Sailing... without getting anywhere?  Just for enjoyment?  Crazy talk.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Feed me, Seymour! A Basic Guide to Provisioning.

There is nothing that says "I'm ready to blow this popsicle stand!" like buying a hundred tins of veggies.  What's that?  You don't spend two thousand dollars at the grocery store before you go on vacation?  Well.  It is clear to me that you don't have to shop for six months at a stretch.  Let me guide you through it.

First, make your list.  Mine is three printed pages in an Excel spreadsheet.  I add in my notes on consumption from the last Big Shopping, make new estimates for what we need, and off I go.  Always keep in mind that fresh stuff usually gets confiscated when you enter a new country, so only buy as much meat and veg as you can eat between now and then.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Three Weddings on a Distant Shore

When I was six years old, I slept over at a friend’s house to watch The Royal Wedding.  I refer, of course, to Prince Charles and Lady Diana.  I remember it being A Big Deal in that distant, background way that kids treat all events not directly related to themselves.  Meaning, it was something adults wouldn’t stop talking about.  The closest I came to being interested in the proceedings was that I had a pretty picture of Lady Diana cut out from the Globe and Mail, which I liked because my mother had the same hairstyle.

The big day came, and my friend’s mother dragged us out of bed at some ungodly hour to sit in front of the television.  And the wedding went on and on.  I am blessed with minimal patience, and I remember wondering when they were going to just get on with it.  I guess the church was neat, and Lady-now-Princess Diana wore a fancy dress, and I suppose there must have been singing.  But my friend and I squirmed and sighed and wriggled on the carpet until we couldn’t stand it any longer, and we ran out to play in the backyard.  And that was my first electronic wedding.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Running from the Fashion Police

Yesterday was laundry day.  The dryers here are a little slow, so I spent the entire day wandering around the boatyard in my laundry day clothes: a red long-sleeved t-shirt, a green fleece, a pink fleece, a black fleece (it was cold, I'm telling you), and a pair of black long-winter-underwear pants.  And my formerly-white flip-flops.  I admit, it was a grim picture.  I must have talked to a dozen people over the course of the day.  But did I get a single funny look?  A raised eyebrow?  A muffled snicker?  I did not.  Because this is how cruisers look.

I always get a kick out of ads for "cruising wear".  We limp into port after ten days at sea, smelly and tired and on a three-t-shirt rotation, and the welcome wagon appears with a guide to the area.  The first thing I see is a full page glossy of two Barbie-like models, airbrushed to within an inch of their lives, wearing whites so bright I think I might have to put my sunglasses back on.  But I can turn the page with a clear conscience - this advertisement was not meant for me.  This ad was printed for people with a) taste, b) money, and c) regular access to washing facilities.  In a phrase: charter boaters.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

How Many Dinghies Do We Need?

Yesterday, Indy was on a math-related treasure hunt.  She had to look around the boat and the yard, and find something we only had one of, two of, and on up to ten.  One: she chose herself.  One Indy.  Two boogie boards.  Three dinghies.

You might have noticed I'm not keen on having stuff.  It was a happy day in my world when we were able to go from owning two cars to just one. So how the Sam Hill did we end up with 1-2-3 dinghies?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Guest Post: Stylish Recounts an Adventure and Gets in a Fight

Adventure: Mangroves to Tall Grass
by Stylish

"Indy, come on!"
"I don't want to go into the tall grass."
"Fine.  I'll go by myself," I said.  The tall grass was really sharp.  Then I noticed a small grass tunnel. "Indy," I said, "come over here."