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.