Friday, February 28, 2014

Surviving a Cyclone in the Marina

March is almost upon us, and with it comes New Caledonia's big cyclone month.  We have been very, very lucky up until now; only Cyclones June and Ian have come anywhere near us.  But the weather has gotten rainier and rainier, and I'm reminded that the country was rocked by Cyclone Erica in March a decade ago.  As Mad Eye Moody would say: constant vigilance!

The old wisdom tells us that, in a storm, a boat is safer at sea than in a harbor.  And I can see the point: there is less to hit out there.  But, as the sad story of the Bounty shows, being out at sea isn't always the greatest strategy.  Even if it were, I'm not about to sail Papillon out of the lagoon or into the mangroves every time the weather looks dicey.  So how are we going to get by in the marina without coming out the other end looking like a crumpled bit of aluminum foil?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Troubleshooting the Generator, Lady Style

When Erik went back to work, Papillon became My Boat.  By which I mean, Papillon became My Problem.  With my resident handyman thousands of miles away, anything that broke was going to be my responsibility.  And it was just a matter of time before something bad happened.  This is a boat, after all.  So when the generator died this week, I wasn't surprised.

I've made no secret of the fact that I'm not very handy.  As Erik kindly puts it, I'm not a natural tool user.  No arguments here.  But, being the big boss that I am now, I thought I could show some maturity and give this a whirl.  I've watched Erik fix the genset before, usually in my role as Tool Monkey.  I may not be able to do it as quickly as he could, but surely I could start the troubleshooting process.  At worst, I would be setting a good example for my girls.

How to begin?  First, I fell back on my scientific training: I gathered data.  What did I know?  When I tried the system a second time, it died after five minutes, just like the first go-around.  No sputtering, just sudden death.  So probably not lack of fuel.  I checked the temperature.  Aha.  Too high.  Probably a cooling system issue, then.

But it was barely seven o'clock: time to get the kids off to school.  I met our carpool moms in the parking lot, and mentioned my issue.  Immediately, they both offered up their husbands to help me.
"Oh no," I said, "I'm okay for now, but I'll let you know if I need some help."  What a nice gesture, I thought.  People are so kind.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Shoe Destruction

On Sunday evening, Indy buried her head in my leg and cried, "I don't want to go back to school!"
I patted her head.  I was surprised, I had to admit it.  Indy was always keen on school; she had been so pleased that the new school year would begin the next day.
But before I could say anything comforting, she went on: "I can't stand wearing shoes all day!  My feet get so hot!"
"But your new shoes are so comfy," I said, certain I was the only parent in Noumea trying to reassure her child that her feet wouldn't catch fire from wearing shoes all day.  "And I'm sure they will breathe well.  You can take them off the moment you get home."
"How about the moment school is over?"
"Nope.  At home."
"Fine.  I'm going into the hammock."

We have a troubled relationship with shoes on this vessel.  Most of the time, we go barefoot.  It is comfortable, it is breezy, and everyone likes it.  But that isn't possible on shore.  Aside from the issues of broken glass and ubiquitous dog poo, one is expected, as a civilized person, to hide one's ugly hobbit feet in a more pleasing wrapper when gadding about town.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Get Off My Lawn: Learning to Share Space

When my parents decided to visit, I was happy for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the prospect of exploring New Caledonia from the land side.  All too often as we sail around the planet, we stick to strictly water-related activities.  Sailing.  Snorkelling.  Swimming.  The three "S"s.  So this was a chance to try something new.

And over the past couple of weeks, we have been out almost every day.  We explored the reef off Ile aux Canards.  Toured the aquarium.  Hit the beach.

Hmm.  Okay, I guess we haven't completely broken free from our water-based activity schedule.  Even our trip into the mountains to visit Sarramea centered around - you guessed it - swimming in the trou feuillet.

Another family left just as we arrived.  Hot dog!  We had the place to ourselves.  The girls wasted no time in getting into the water.  And after enduring the same safety lecture from me and both of their grandparents about not getting washed down into the next pool, we all had some fun.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Super Bowling in New Caledonia

The girl at the tourist information center blinked at me uncertainly. “Pardon?” she asked.
“The Super Bowl,” I said again. “It’s a big sports event. American football?”
“You mean rugby?” she asked hopefully as she twisted her hands together. I felt sorry for her 21 year-old self - they clearly had not covered this eventuality in training.
“Not quite.” I looked over my shoulder at my father. He smiled at me hopefully. I hated to burst his bubble, but even if I spoke French like the President of l’Académie Française, there was no way I was going to find him the Super Bowl on TV in Noumea.

A good host should be prepared for all eventualities, but, I have to admit, this request caught me by surprise.  I've always been of the opinion that sports, like most things in life, are better played than watched, so these major viewing events aren't really on my radar.  Before my parents arrived in Noumea, I did what I thought was sensible: I prepped the dinghy for water excursions, saved the car rental number in my phone for land trips, and had a list of ideas at the ready. But after a couple of lazy days of reading, adjusting to the time change and having the girls crawl all over them, my dad decided it was time to take care of priority items, and in the number one spot was: where was he going to watch the Super Bowl?