Thursday, December 25, 2014

On Ice

We're out reconnecting with our Canadian roots. Merry Christmas, everyone! See you in the new year.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Game Called on Account of Snow

Can't talk - too busy watching kids make snowballs.

Meanwhile, back in PNG, Erik has admitted to eating an entire box of chocolates meant for me. I no longer feel bad about eating all of my Grandmother's shortbread cookies without him.

Enjoy your week, everyone. I will post again when I'm not hiding under a fur hat or fighting food battles against my nearest and dearest.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Working Through the Time Zones

It is six in the morning, and I am writing this post. That isn't so unusual - I normally get up at four-fifteen these days. But I am nine time zones away from my usual morning coffee on the couch with Erik, and my body hasn't caught up yet.

The girls and I arrived home after three days of travel. All in all it was pretty painless; the kids are so big now that they only need me around to navigate them through Customs and Immigration and pay for the odd sandwich. One flight after another we ate, we watched movies, we squirmed in our seats, we dozed, and we inched ever closer to home.

Our rule, learned from hard experience, is you have to forget your old time zone. (Flying from Toronto to Europe is the worst, because the flight is only eight hours and you land at about seven in the morning, meaning you have to force yourself to stay up for another twelve hours.) Naps are a trap best avoided unless you like waking up for the day at 2am.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Weekend Water Fun

You would think that moving off the boat would mean less time spent in the water. That hasn´t been the case. Our lives still revolve around beaches, snorkelling, cyclones and storms; our focus is just a little different. Instead of wondering: "Do we need to reef the main before that squall hits?" now we ask: "Do the girls need to take an umbrella to school today?"

Saturday dawned on our second swim meet of this term. The girls do Swim Squad every Tuesday after school. They were good swimmers before, but now that they are mastering the actual strokes, they are amazing. It is a strict-but-fair program run on the official Australian rules for the sport, and the girls are eating it with a spoon.

The swim meets of my youth were a sad affair in comparison. No humid indoor rec centre, no chlorine stench, no grey walls and the echos of overeager parents. Instead, we have a lovely 25 m outdoor pool with the tropical breezes blowing and a view of the neighbouring islands. (Someday my girls are going to give me grief about their upbringing, because we have clearly spoiled them rotten.)

Monday, November 24, 2014

At the Fishing Competition

When I was eleven years old, a friend invited me up to her cottage one summer weekend. We had a great time - swimming in the lake, riding around in her dad´s motorboat, running around in the sunshine. And fishing. I´d never been fishing before, but I understood the basics: add worm to hook, drop in water, wait for bite then reel in. Pretty easy.

So my friend and I took our bait and our rods and plonked ourselves down at the end of the dock. The wooden boards were pleasantly warm beneath us. We dangled our feet over the edge, wormed up and threw in our lines.

It didn´t take long to get a nibble. Proud of my great accomplishment, I reeled in my line. There was a sunfish on the end of my hook. I grabbed the fishing glove - a studded green plastic thing that let me hold the fish without getting sliced on its spines. Out came the hook, and I threw my sunfish back in the water.

My friend and I kept fishing. She caught one, and back it went. I got another nibble. I reeled in another sunfish. I peered at it closely.
"I think this is the same fish," I said. "Yes, look, you can see where the hook went through last time." I threw my fish back in. Stupid fish. You would think getting a hook through the face twice in a row would take some of the fun away from eating a delicious worm.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Curse of the Dried Beans

I'm a fan of tinned beans. If I had to guess, I'd say I've mentioned tinned beans on this blog more than any other food. Mostly because dried beans hate me. That's life. But I have a two-part problem: a) they don't sell tinned beans here, and b) I like to cook with beans. This leaves me with the dried bean option.

I like hummus, and they don't sell that here, either. So I broke down and bought a bag of chickpeas. Every few days I would think about making hummus. I'd look at the chickpeas in their plastic package, and recall they had to be soaked overnight. "Oh, well, it is only one o'clock; I'll do that later." And then forget.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Costumes, Hats and Other Odd Traditions

Let's start today with a quiz. Complete the following sentence: Tuesday was ________.

Most of you will have finished that off with phrases like "rainy" or "a pretty good day". But if you are Australian, you definitely said: Tuesday was Melbourne Cup. Still lost? It's a horse race. More accurately, it is the horse race that brings the nation to a standstill.

For a race that lasts less than 200 seconds, that is a pretty impressive feat. Not only is it a public holiday in Melbourne, but the rest of the country shuts down (officially or not) from about noon onwards in order to drink champagne, watch pop stars perform, and wear funny hats.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Preparing for Tropical Hallowe'en

Sorry, no time to talk. It's Hallowe'en, and I am trying to get ready. I have a very busy schedule of ordering/receiving proper treats from North America (check), making decorations (check), and explaining what Hallowe'en is to people who run the gamut from "oh, yeah, that's an American thing," to "never heard of it and why are you torturing that watermelon?" (ongoing).

Like all immigrants, I am appalled that my deeply cherished traditions are not immediately understood and embraced by my new land. It rocks me to my core that there are people out there who don't understand Hallowe'en, best of all the holidays, night of imagination and unlimited chocolate. I would have thought that Hallowe'en was about as high-concept as a holiday could be: children become actual monsters to rule the night. Where is the confusion? Plus, Hallowe'en boasts more apostrophes than any other holiday, and that is just plain fun.

I have put my shock and dismay behind me and have moved on to Phase II of the Immigrant Holiday Experience: how do I adapt the crucial parts of my traditions to suit this new place? For example, what to do about a jack o' lantern? (See, another apostrophe.) Pumpkins aren't exactly thick on the ground, here.

As a public service, I hereby present this handy primer on celebrating Hallowe'en in the tropics:

Monday, October 27, 2014

Sickness and Children Running Free

There is something particularly galling about suffering a head cold in the tropics. All this warm weather is supposed to keep the germs away - isn't that what I told myself every miserable February as the kids stumbled home in -20 C weather, shooting phlegm out of every orifice? I was certain all this would be solved by a week in the sun.

Well, guess what. No. This head cold has swept through town like a hurricane, and now it is my turn to run through tissues and fight to keep the virus out of my lungs by sheer force of will.

All of which makes me cranky. And what is the lady about town to do with her crankiness when she wants to air it out? Why, lay it at the feet of her children, naturally! So let's see how I've done.

Monday, October 20, 2014

When I Wake Up

At 6:15 on Saturday morning, I found myself losing at Monopoly to Indy. This is noteworthy not because I was getting trounced by a six-year-old, but rather because I was up, dressed, fed and already losing a board game at quarter past six.

Truth is, I had been up for two hours already.

I have never been a morning person. I leave Disease J to those better suited to it. Still, if you do a thing long enough, you get used to it. Between Indy, sailing, and living in the tropics, I have learned to scroll back my wake-up time. But I really thought that waking at 5:45am every morning - as required to get the kids to school on time in New Caledonia - was my low-water mark. I should have known I could count on my dear husband, The Envelope Pusher, to take a job that required him at work at by sunrise.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Anything to Fix Today?

Last Christmas, Indy wanted two things: a disco ball, and a tool kit. (She also wanted a dragon, but I'm afraid that was never in the cards.) Indy got her disco ball. And she got her tool kit. And, boy, was she excited.

Ever since, Indy has been looking for projects. Her current career goal is to become a mechanical engineer, so the kid needs some practice. Admittedly, non-emergency repairs were thin on the ground while I was in charge of the boat. But she pulled out the ratchet set whenever she could, just to make sure the pieces were still in order.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Follow Me, SAILfeed Readers

As you know, the fine crew of Papillon is currently living ashore. Yes, we're still firmly tropical on a tiny island in Papua New Guinea, but still. We are temporarily parted from our beloved yawl - and this on our fourth anniversary aboard. Sniffles all around.

For the duration of our sabbatical-from-our-sabbatical, the blog will not be syndicated on SAILfeed. This makes sense, because we are not sailing. So, dear SAILfeed readers, you will have to bookmark the original Sailing Papillon if you would like to keep up with our adventures. Otherwise, I'll be back on SAILfeed circa April with cruising stories galore. (But, really, you don't want to wait that long for me to come back. Better just to keep reading. Off you go, now.)

See you there.

Monday, October 6, 2014

I'm Tired of Finding Plastic on the Beach

Imagine a desert island. Ocean breezes blowing, palm trees swaying, perhaps some decorative coconuts strewn about the place. Just you, your beach chair, the waves lapping your toes, and the gentle clink of plastic bottles washing up on shore.

Not quite what you pictured? After four years aboard, I am sorry to say that this is reality. Every windward beach has plastic. Unless someone works every day to clean it, flip flops and plastic bottles are the order of the day. Everywhere. And I am sick of it.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

At Home in Papua New Guinea

I´ve unpacked the bags and stowed the suitcases. No more waiting around for visas, no more airplane rides - we´re home now, and I plan to be sessile for the foreseeable future. The island is beautiful, our neighbours are friendly, and I have no reason to move off my porch.

Except, a troop of kids are marching up my driveway. And we´ve been invited to the pool. And a barbecue. Disco in the park. Movies, neighborhood-wide hide-and-seek... complete fun overload. I think I need another cup of tea.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Get Packed and Get Going

I am the proud possessor of a big yellow sticker in my passport that declares I am allowed to live in Papua New Guinea. Our flights are booked. Tomorrow is Moving Day. So why am I writing instead of prepping? Because, dear reader, I am avoiding packing. I know, I know - it should be an easy process. There are no choices to be made; if it is in this apartment and belongs to us, I have to pack it. And we only have four bags, after all. No, I mainly don't want to pack because a) it means a morning of rejigging heavy bags such that all of them kiss but do not exceed the airline's weight limit, and b) I have to do it on my own. Because, once again, Erik has performed his famous I-Suddenly-Need-To-Take-A-Different-Flight-Than-You-Guys-Sorry-Byeee magic trick.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Up And Down Mountains Named "Beer"

I huffed and puffed my way up the trail. I had forgotten how little I like walking uphill. I assume this is some sort of self-preservation mechanism, because I get marched up mountains with depressing regularity. Erik and I, sadly, are walking-incompatible. I can walk forever on flat or gently rolling terrain. And I enjoy it. But when things get steep, the fun factor drops dramatically. Erik, on the other hand, hates walking on flat land.  This is because he is secretly a mountain goat. The steeper the grade, the happier he is, and he will gladly spend a day (or weekend, or month) skipping from crag to crag, pausing only to land in the odd cow pat.

We were exploring the Glass House mountains north of Brisbane. The mountains are old lava plugs, exposed when the softer sandstone around them eroded away. Which is cool - who wouldn't like to hike on a hunk of frozen mantle? We tried to get the girls excited about going to the mountains, but whether they were jaded from years of visiting impressive landscapes or just tired after yet another weekend of birthday fun, they played it cool.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Accounting For My Time While Waiting For A Visa

Waiting for our visas to Papua New Guinea is taking forever.  So, what have we been doing in the meantime?

1. Swimming.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Not All Ovens Are Created Equal

It's that magical time of year again when birthday madness reigns supreme in our household. Indy, Erik, and Stylish all have their birthdays within a three week period, and so when the end of August rolls around, I feel like I do nothing but wrap presents and bake cakes.

I took care of the present-acquisition in Canada back in May, and dutifully toted my partially-depackaged goods (the kids haven't seen a board game arrive in its box since 2010) from Toronto through Vancouver, Seattle, Auckland, Noumea, and now Brisbane. Step one: complete.

But baked goods are more of a just-in-time sort of product. So what to do about a cake? A year ago, I heroically baked a birthday cake for Indy en route to New Caledonia, while Papillon was heeled over 20 degrees. Sounds dramatic, I know, but I was in my own home with all of my ingredients and tools at the ready. Practically perfect conditions in the cruising game.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A New Adventure

There comes a time in every person's life when she must ask herself, "do I want to move to Papua New Guinea?"

It isn't always "Papua New Guinea." Sometimes it is "a new town." Or "take a different job." Or "go back to school." It just happens to be Papua New Guinea in my case, because that is the way my life seems to work. Like Belle, I want adventure in the great wide somewhere. I'll just never be the one with the big house, the minivan, the soy latte and the lululemons. I'd rather learn Tok Pisin.

Moving aboard was a big DIWTMTPNG moment for me. I had no sailing experience. I had a comfortable life. I had friends and family nearby. Why give all that up? To have an adventure with my husband and kids. To do something new. To experience a different slice of life and travel the world. And when I viewed it in those terms, going cruising changed from being an idea to an opportunity. So, of course, I said yes.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hauling Out

No one likes hauling out. Mostly because it means you are not sailing, and that is a terrible fate when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing.  Hauling out means fixing things, buying replacement parts, discovering nasty surprises, and living in a boat yard. None of those are my favorites.  But what needs to be done needs to be done, and Papillon definitely needs a propeller shaft rejig and some centerboard work.

We got out of the marina on Monday morning, and made the short trip across the bay to the yard. As Erik heroically defied our massive prop-walk and started backing us into the slip, one of the guys from the yard ran over and started waving his arms. I pointed at us and the slip. More emphatic negative arm waving.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

When the Army Runs a Carnival

One of the first rules of cruising is: accept every invitation. (This is also one of the first rules of life, especially for an introvert like me.) So, when a friend invited us to the local military open house, I said yes.
"It's lots of fun," said Camille. "They have lots of activities for the kids."
I nodded, and wondered what that meant. I was a little surprised that Camille, of all people, was suggesting this outing.  This is a woman who steadfastly refuses to let her kids watch violence on television, play mock-battles, or otherwise engage in any aggressive activity.
"If Camille thinks this is a wholesome family activity," I thought, "then it must be okay."
So, on a cloudy Sunday morning, we headed out to Camp Broche, more properly known as Régiment d'Infanterie de Marine du Pacifique Nouvelle-Calédonie.

We have seen a lot of signs of the military over our four years on the water.  As we travelled down the East coast of the USA and through the Caribbean, we saw Coast Guard ships, aircraft carriers and submarines. We heard notices on VHF 16 warning us away from certain zones while exercises were being performed. As we sailed down the ICW toward Norfolk, Virginia, a very polite young man on the enormous warship behind us asked if they might sidle past. 
Ma'am, would you mind if we passed you?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Whale Watching in Baie du Prony

"You want to go whale watching?" I asked.  "On someone else's boat?"
"Heck, yes!" said Erik, rubbing his hands together.  "The season has started; there should be humpbacks in Prony by now.  Come on, it'll be fun."
Fun Daddy was back in town.  We only see Erik for a few days every month, and he is always keen to make the most of his time with us.
I looked over the brochure. With Papillon due to get hauled out and checked over in a couple of weeks, we weren't going to make it down there under our own steam.  It would be kind of fun to be purely a passenger for once.  And, let's face it, I'm a sucker for marine mammals.

The day was clear but cold.  By six a.m. we had boarded the catamaran, because early is how these New Caledonians roll.  The dozen of us scrunched around the table as the captain began his departure talk.

I leaned over to Erik.  "My money is on this being 50% about not breaking the toilet."

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Tackling Leaks and Selling the Dream

Amy: Girls, they are going to be here in half an hour.  I need you to tidy up the cockpit.
Indy: Who?
Amy: Those people... Dave's friends. Like we talked about at breakfast? It doesn't matter. Just tidy up.
Indy & Stylish: Okay, Mom.
Papillon: Hee hee hee.
Amy: Why are you laughing?  Let's see, I need to cut up some baguette--
Papillon: I have a surprise for you.
Amy: What? No. No surprises. I have an unknown quantity of Kiwis arriving in thirty minutes.  I have to finish getting ready.
Amy: What is that dripping noise?
Papillon: Chortle!
Amy: Girls! I need to take the companionway stairs off.  Don't come down this... girls?
[Looks outside. The girls are playing with friends on the dock.]
Amy: Stylish and Indy! Get this cockpit tidied!  And don't come down the... never mind.
[Puts in boards to avoid a fall. Removes stairs. Removes floorboard. Locates drip with a flashlight.]
Amy: Why is it dripping there? The water isn't running.  The sump pump is off.  Everything is off.
[Removes two more floorboards. Sticks head into bilge.]
Amy: Okay, it is coming from somewhere forward on the port side. Hmm. I did laundry earlier; maybe the hose leaked.
[Checks laundry locker. Dry as a bone.]
Amy: Let's try the galley.
[Removes galley floorboard. A small river is running aft.]
Amy. Aha.  By which I mean, unprintable.
[Looks at the salon.  Removing the port side floorboard necessitates removing two other floorboards first and judicious use of a shim.]
Amy: [balancing the six-foot board]  There we go.  And let's see what we UNPRINTABLE!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Dealing With Bureaucracy, French-Style

It is a strange truth that, the longer you stay in a country, the more irritating their bureaucracy becomes. Maybe the French are just tired of me and want to speed me on my way.  Maybe I'm just burnt out on doing taxes and taking ever-more-hideous passport photos for visa applications.  Or maybe I just don't see eye to eye with these upholders of the Napoleonic Code.

A few weeks ago, I found a notice in my mailbox that a registered letter was waiting for me at the post office. I was bound to need some iron-clad identification, so I scooped up my passport and carte de sejour, waited for the designated pick-up time, and wandered over.

I eventually found my way to special guichet 15, where, as all the world knows, registered letters reside.  I handed over my notice and my ID, and waited to be sent home.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Evils of Cockpit Flooring

There are many things I love about my boat.  It is a comfortable home. It sails beautifully in heavy weather. It is very pretty.  But even Papillon has its flaws.

The girls and I were playing a game in the cockpit. Stylish rolled, and the die skittered off the table. All of us shrieked and grabbed for it, but it was too late. It fell through the cockpit floor.

What, you might wonder, is the big deal? Our floor is painted aluminum with a teak grid overlay. It is a good concept: when water gets into the cockpit, it falls through the grate and disappears down the drains in the corners. Meanwhile, you have something non-slippery to stand on. Simple and practical - two of my favourite things.

But let's think this through a little. More than water can fall through those holes. Noodles, Lego people, beads, coins, shells - down it goes. Now add some dust and hair, and you've got a thick mat of yuckiness coating the floor.

I made a face at the die nestled in one of the squares. The squares are too small to allow you to extract anything from the top. Instead, I had to put a finger in each of the adjacent squares and nudge the die up from underneath.

"Catch it!" I cried as it toppled out of my fingers and fell into another hole.

I washed the dust off my fingers and the die. "That's it," I said. "Time to clean the floor."

Which is no big deal... as long as you have a few hours to kill.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Do You Want To Build A Snowman?

My girls love the movie Frozen. They sing the catchy songs. They play dress up. They act out their own fanfic. But, when they play, are they Elsa and Anna? They are not. They are Elsa and Olaf. Because Indy has become obsessed with snow.

The last time Indy experienced a real winter, she was a year and a half old.  Stylish remembers building snow forts and sledding, but Indy was too little that year to do much more than get toted around in a fluffy pink snowsuit.  And she resents it.

"Mom, the next time we visit Canada, can we see snow?" Indy posed the question over breakfast.
I swallowed a bite of toast to stall.  "We can try," I said.  "We'll definitely be home for winter sometime. Just probably not this year."
"Because there was no snow when we went there last time," she said accusingly. "It was hot."
"It was June," I said for what felt like the thousandth time.  "That's summertime in Canada.  I told you before we went there wouldn't be snow - you just didn't want to believe me."
"I wanted snow," she grumbled into her cornflakes.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Living With Less

Travel is an exercise in discovering many other wonderful ways of life.  Everywhere we have been, we have found something that we loved.  It is tempting to grab our favorite ideas from these various places and weld them into a sort of Frankenlife.  Cruising only exacerbates the issue, because cruisers definitely do things their own way.  And that's all well and good - I'm comfortable with my TV-less, underscheduled, more-spontaneous life.  It's only when you go home that you really get the reality check of How Weird Have We Become?

While I was home, I spent a day helping a friend sort through her clothes in preparation for moving house. I used to do the same thing every time I moved: cull the clothes you will never wear again, and pack them up to be donated. Everybody wins.

But as we got started, and kept going, and kept going, and... kept going, I started to get chest pains.

Friday, June 27, 2014


After sitting in an airplane for twenty-seven hours with two increasingly rangy kids, there was only one thing I wanted when I got back to Noumea.  It wasn't a hot shower (although I needed it.)  It wasn't a good night's sleep on a horizontal surface (although I needed that even more.)  All I wanted as we pulled up to the marina was to see Papillon afloat.  Steal my luggage and cancel my credit cards, but please don't let my boat be resting in the mud.

Not that I left my home unattended: I asked a friend to keep an eye on Papillon.  But the problem with asking other cruisers to watch your boat is that, well, they're cruisers.  They cruise.  And so, a week into my vacation, I got an email that looked something like this:

Monday, June 23, 2014

Beautiful Places: Camping in the Tuamotus

Part of the fun of setting up this series of "remember when" posts has been reviewing our trip for myself. As I skimmed through French Polynesia, I was shocked to discover that I haven't posted any photos of the Tuamotus - one of the most beautiful places we have visited.  And so, for my last holiday post, I will remedy the oversight.  I'll be back to regular posts later in the week.

Originally posted as Sleeping in the Great Outdoors, September 4, 2012
My family did a lot of camping when I was young. Every summer we hitched our pop-up trailer to the big red van, and toodled around the great campgrounds of Southern Ontario. When I was a little older, I was introduced to the joys of a damp sleeping bag when I was sent to a summer camp in Algonquin Park. This was a canoe trip kind of camp, and we girls were sent out for a few days at a time to paddle the lakes as the blackflies buzzed and the mosquitoes whined. After a long day of paddling a canoe and acquiring a mild sunburn, occasionally punctuated by a tiring portage, our counsellors would guide us to a campsite. As the sun went down, we would coax the wet sticks we found into a fire and try to cook something before falling dead into our drippy canvas tents. (Note to the interested: Kraft pizza mix is a superior camping meal. Wrap the dough around a stick, cook it in the fire, then dip the dough stick into the tomato sauce and sprinkle with cheese. Cést magnifique. I only had this once during my camping career, and still remember it clearly almost thirty years later.) As a parent, I see how wise it was to tire out a quartet of nine-year-old girls in this way. Although I didn´t care for camp as a whole (too much rigidly-scheduled cheerfulness), I have fond memories of gliding across still lakes, listening to the birds overhead, and eating charred, sticky marshmallows at the end of the day.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Through the Panama Canal

I'm not going to lie to you: crossing the Panama Canal is exciting.  Massive cargo ships, other sailboats, the prospect of getting dashed against the walls and sinking in the lock - the Canal has it all.  Lucky for me, my computer-savvy family was able to capture part of the journey via the webcams set up at each lock - be sure to watch the flipbook at the end of the post!

Originally appeared in Canal Win! on May 5, 2012
Waiting for your canal date is a lot like waiting for Christmas when you are six years old.  Time moves unendurably slowly, and at some point you are convinced the big day is never going to arrive.  And then it does.  And then you are so excited and jumpy and full of sugar that you can hardly focus long enough to enjoy the experience.  But, since I'm a grown-up and all mature and stuff, I was able to calmly record my observations.  When I wasn't busy being excited and jumpy and full of sugar.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Onboard Haircuts: A Necessary Evil

Although I can't claim we spend our days in yachting whites, we aboard Papillon do make an effort to meet a minimum standard of grooming.  This isn't always easy when your choice is between sufficient drinking water and a nice shower, but we do our best. One of our persistent problems has to do with hair. Let's face it: we're a hairy boat.  So how do we manage those strands of waste protein that just won't stop growing?

Originally appeared as Long, Beautiful Hair on November 12, 2012
When I was little, Saturday morning was not complete without cartoons on channel 29 out of Buffalo. One of the staple commercials breaking up He-Man and Scooby Doo was The Hair Club For Men. Happy clients shook their newly-thickened locks as they cavorted in hot tubs with young models in blue eyeshadow and grinned knowingly at us, the viewers, around their Burt Reynolds mustaches. I never understood why men would want those elaborate, shiny perms, and I put it down to Strange Things Grown-Ups Do.

Maybe the problem was that I didn´t identify with the untamed styles of the late 70s. In my family, hair was neatly cut, no matter whether you tended to the thinner end of the hair continuum, or you fell on the hairy end of the curve. When my brothers were about seven and ten, a movie was filmed at their summer camp. My brothers were instantly cast to wrestle in the background of a certain shot. Why? Because the movie was set in the 50s, and their crewcuts were perfect.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Communication Breakdown: Helping Family Let Go

Around about now, I expect I am somewhere on the East coast, dining out with friends.  Worried about exactly where I am? I'm used to that. Back in the day, some well-meaning family members got a little nervous about our whereabouts, too.

Originally posted as Calling All Worrywarts, or, Next Stop, 1996! on December 15, 2010
As this little blog has grown, I have gotten the odd bit of mail from you, my dear readers.  Most of it is kind.  Some of it is mystifying.  But much of it comes from landlubberly types.  With that in mind, it is time for the educational (or, as Stylish, age 3, would have put it, edumacational) portion of our blog.  This will take the form of a Q&A with concerned readers Heckle and Jeckle.  Today's topic is:

When do we call the Coast Guard?
"I'm concerned about this sailing business, old bean!"

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Stitches, Burns and Breaks: The Injury Hall of Fame

Here I am again, that old good-for-nothing bird, runaway Mayzie - still on vacation and still just as lazy.* Today, let's review some of the better injuries we've had aboard. I have even included a bonus, hitherto-unreported injury for those of you willing to make it to the end. (But be warned: this post contains mildly yucky photos, so if you don't like blood, you'd best skip along.)

Injury 1: Amy's broken finger.  Originally appeared in Question and Answer Time, November 15, 2010.
Q:  What is worse than having to do the dishes by hand three times a day?
A.  Having to do the dishes by hand three times a day with a finger you can't get wet.

It was a sunny morning.  We'd gotten the anchor up with minimal annoyance (read: mud), and I was clearing up the deck and feeling rather good about life in general and this trip in particular.  I opened the port deck box to put away a hose.


The spring holding the lid buckled.  Down came the lid onto my right index finger.  It hurt so much I didn't make a sound; I just crumpled onto the deck.  And just how bad did it look?  Well, let me show you.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Battle of the Pests

Friends, I am doing something very exciting: for the first time in four years, I am going on vacation. "Amy," you say, "you live on vacation."  Well, yes.  But even when I am supposed to be lolling about on a beach somewhere, I am thinking of you, dear reader, and the stories I want to tell you.

But right now, I'm heading home to see my family.  And to mark this momentous occasion, I am going to leave my blog behind for a little while.  Now, don't start weeping into your hankies just yet.  I've dusted off some golden oldies for you to enjoy while I'm gone.  As a bonus, I've added an update to the bottom of each.  So while I am busy spoiling my nieces and nephew, you can hear about some of the fun we had during the early years on Papillon, and how things have changed since then.  Feel free to comment as usual, and I'll see you in a few weeks.

Originally posted as: Rodent vs Insect, July 20, 2011.  Rio Dulce, Guatemala
In my youth, I wasn’t very fond of spiders.  Alright, I was kind of scared of them.  This wasn’t helped by the fact that our house backed onto a ravine, and every once in a while a spider the size of the Loch Ness monster would scuttle across my bedroom floor.  In general, I could manage if they were a) outside the house, and b) couldn’t contact me in any way, but if they violated either of those terms, their creepy little lives were forfeit. 

Once I had Stylish, I tried very hard to get over my spider issues.  When we encountered bugs and spiders, I would take a steadying breath, then we would examine them and talk about how interesting they were.  Eventually, my feigned non-revulsion became real.  And once we moved aboard, I was quite happy for any spiders I saw, because I knew they were keeping the bug population down.  As for the bugs themselves, pfft.  Bugs.  Big deal.

And then, it happened.

A giant cockroach.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Sailing Acrobats

Both Stylish and Indy consider the lines aboard their own.  Yes, fine, we might need them for actual sailing now and again, but, as far as they are concerned, the lines are mainly for climbing.  We have had to set strict rules about the whens and hows of such activities.  Early in our voyage, Erik looked up from the deck to find Stylish most of the way to the spreaders.  Not wanting to scare her, he calmly asked her to come down, and we had a little talk about potential energy and how perhaps she didn't want to earn herself a wheelchair at age six.

At anchor, we often fix the spinnaker pole over the water, attach a line, and let the girls swing off the deck into the water.  Before long, they gave up on the ladder altogether, and were climbing back up the line again, monkey-style.
...and up again.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Being On Time: A Cultural Mystery

As close as we get to hurrying around here.
Many years ago, I stood waiting for a train in Switzerland.  Shortly before my train was due, a very apologetic-sounding announcement came over the loudspeaker.  By the third repetition, I had the Swiss-German mostly deciphered: our train would be two minutes late, and the management was deeply sorry for the inconvenience.  A collective sigh went up along the platform.  The elderly ladies waiting beside me were particularly put out, and continued to grumble until the train arrived - precisely two minutes late.

As a Canadian, I can't say I would have noticed a two-minutes-late train.  That falls within the standard error of "on time" as far as I am concerned.  A five to ten minute grace period doesn't seem unreasonable.  In Germany, they want to run their trains like the Swiss but in fact run them like the Canadians, so, again, waiting an extra few minutes from time to time isn't much of a surprise.

But the French, as has been widely noted through history, are different.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Keep It Accessible

What is wrong with this picture? Take a good look. We see a hose run above, a seacock below... wait a minute. What about that hose in the middle?  The part someone built into a wall and then painted over? Gee, I hope that never fails, because someone is going to have a hard time getting at it.


That hose did fail,and that person is me.  And if there is one thing I resent, it is making an easy job hard.  I have enough to do without battling this sort of nonsense.  So today, dear readers, we are going to take a refresher course on Things I Promise Never To Do On My Own Boat Or Amy Will Track Me Down And Beat Me Senseless With My Vicegrips And I'll Deserve It, Too.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Working the Priority List

Every sailor knows the true story behind the Odyssey.  It didn't take Odysseus ten years to get home after the Trojan War because the gods were annoyed with him and he got blown off-course: he was late because his boat kept breaking and he had to fix it.  Heck, if I had ten years of repair delays to explain, I'd tell my spouse the same thing.  "Sorry, honey, I was fighting a cyclops."  It sounds so much cooler than, "Sorry, honey, that hole in the bilge just kept opening up."

There is no such thing as a boat in perfect condition.  There is always work to be done.  Always.  The goal is to make it just a little further down the priority list.  Our holy grail, like that of many sailors, is to redo the teak.  When we have fixed and maintained the boat to the point that teak makes it to the top of the list,I'll know that our boat is pretty mint.  (Either that, or we'll be trying to sell it.)

I've been doing my best to keep Papillon in good repair while the captain is away.  I run the engine, watch the battery bank like a hawk, and generally try to keep us above water while still making sure the young ladies are educated, fed, clothed and otherwise presentable.

Some weeks it is easier than others.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

As Everyone Else Heads Out to Sea

Cyclone season is officially over in the South Pacific.  The weather has shifted from "unbearably hot" to"uncomfortably hot". I am no longer glued to my gribs. We made it through cyclone season in one piece.

Time to sit back and relax a little. But, a couple of days ago, something strange started happening. People started leaving. I knew that some of my neighbours were only in the marina for cyclone season, but I didn't realize just how many were going to be booted out come May 1st. Here we are, on the Fête du Travail, and the boats are leaving in a steady stream.
Empty docks, waiting for new arrivals.