Sunday, September 6, 2015


"Oh, ho!" you say, sipping your morning coffee. "Amy has finally written something new. That slacker. Took long enough."

And you're right. My record has been more than a little spotty this past year. And I owe you, my loyal readers, a short explanation.

Let's face it: this is, at heart, a family travel blog. And while the family part remains intact, the travel aspect has ground to a halt. Not forever, but for now.

The other issue I face is that we currently live in a teeny-tiny community. And while I could record many (many, many) funny stories about living here, I wouldn't feel very good about it. Family aside, I try to preserve the anonymity of the people in my anecdotes. That would be impossible here. If those people ever glanced at my blog, they would recognize themselves and each other all too quickly. It would be awfully arrogant and unkind of me to mine my friends and neighbours for blog material. So I won't do it.

That leaves me with precious little to write about in this space. I am still writing, but I am concentrating on other projects.

In short, dear reader, you will have to consider me to be in hibernation. I may post the odd picture or funny story when the opportunity arises, but, for the most part, I am going to let this ground lie fallow until we return to Papillon next March.

I hope to see you all when we finally - FINALLY - start sailing again.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Monday, August 3, 2015

Masks & Fire

Cruising has a lot of positives. You become more flexible. You learn to live simply. You slow down. But these mental shifts have their drawbacks. Primarily, you (read: I) lose all perspective about what "normal life" looks like. Cruisers live in a world where you wake up in the morning, discover the local conga festival is starting, and spend a happy day admiring costumes and eating meat-on-a-stick. There is no planning. There are no logistics. Wake, discover, enjoy. That's it.

The problem comes when you return to regular life with a regular schedule. Suddenly, your vacations have to be planned - ahead of time and everything. Book travel, book hotels, try not to cringe when you think of eating restaurant meals for a week. And not only do you have to plan, but your years on the boat have given you a warped notion of what a vacation should look like. There will be no beach holiday at an all-inclusive. There will be no Disneyland. No, what you are looking for is more along the lines of sitting in the grass under an umbrella and hanging out with the locals. Hopefully with a snappy dance number.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Moving the Boat, Part 3: Midnight Encounters

It has been said that women let the memory of childbirth fade very quickly; if they didn't they would never have another baby. So too with this passage. Although I know very well the whole thing was a pain in the neck, a short month later and the sharp edges are fading. I'm still not in a hurry to do another passage any time soon, but the months will go by and soon I will only remember the good parts. By then it will be time to hop aboard once more.

So let's review the highlights before they fade completely, shall we?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Fire Dance

I'm building quite a backlog, aren't I? Add the Mask Festival to the list of things I need to write about this month.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Banana Shopping

I told you all a giant fib. I won't be writing my next hotly-anticipated Moving the Boat segment this week. We're off to the PNG Mask Festival, so the thrilling tale of our wavy trip from Noumea to Brisbane will just have to wait a little bit longer.

In the meantime, I present the following educational piece:

How to Buy Bananas in the Tropics

Step 1: Look off the porch. Notice bananas growing behind your house are ripe.

Step 2: Grab a machete.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Notes From the Peanut Gallery

Dissatisfied Reader writes:

           How blase we have become. That title is not up to your usual high standards. If you do not
           want to call it Passage to Oz (parts I, II etc.) you can still do better than "Moving the Boat".
           You crossed the Coral Sea, [...] for the love of Pete.

I realize this was a friendly, joking note. I do. But I think this topic is worth explaining, so I am going to pretend this was a serious criticism. And it's nice to know that people aren't shy about expressing themselves around here. Don't let the quality slip, people! Keep me honest!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Moving the boat, part 2: First attempt

Ahh, peaceful Baie Maa. A lovely little bay just north of Noumea, and a perfect place to stop when everything is going to hell around you. Soak in this lovely photo of the girls, because it took some major excitement to get to that point.

It was a misty moisty morning when we pulled out of Port Moselle for the last time. As we filled the diesel tanks at the nearby fuel dock, the winds howled louder and the rain came harder. I shielded the diesel inlet while Erik filled, trying desperately to avoid taking on a tankful of water, and we exchanged a grim look. It was a rotten day to depart. But what could we do? Normally we would never go anywhere in weather like that, but we had already checked out of the country and Erik was due back at work. All of the typical excuses. You have heard me say for years that sailing to a schedule is both foolish and dangerous. And here we were, ignoring our own rules and sailing under time pressure. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Moving the boat, part 1: Noumea

It was tough to choose the first photo for this post. On the one hand, most of our time in Noumea looked like this:
Not a holiday.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Home Again

I don't know about you, but I'm exhausted. It has been a busy month of picnicking on the beach, troubleshooting leaks, painting antifouling and moving hither and yon. And I'll tell you all about it, I will. Just give me a day or two to recover.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Papillon Question

I spent the day confirming plane tickets and stuffing underwear into a bag. Why? Because it is time, people. Time to return to Papillon. Our good old Papioni-pepperoni.

Not permanently. No, that would be too much to ask. Erik is still firmly in the grip of his work addiction, so we'll have to ride out the land life for a few months longer. However, the good people of Nouvelle-Calédonie are ready to be rid of our fine vessel, so it is time to jump aboard and sail the boat to Brisbane.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Peanut, Peanut Butter

This morning I fulfilled the usual family breakfast orders. A bowl of Sultana Bran for Indy (Raisin Bran to those of you ten time zones away), cheesy scrambled eggs for Stylish, and a slice of peanut butter toast for me. I noticed the peanut butter was getting pretty low, so I looked in the pantry for another jar. No peanut butter. I started to hyperventilate, then I had a heart attack and died.

Not really. But I could have. This is a disaster; I was sure I had one more jar. In fact, I'm going to go check again right now.

I'm back. No peanut butter. "Amy," I hear you saying, "stop being so dramatic. Get off your keister and go buy some more." Well, smarty pants, I can't. Because there isn't any. There is no more peanut butter on this island. And who knows when more will arrive?

Monday, April 20, 2015

When Everyone Else Is Nicer Than You

I have a problem. My neighbours are too nice. Specifically, they are too nice to my girls. Why is that an issue? They are making me look bad, that's why. I have enough trouble meeting minimum congeniality standards without having to fend off heavy competition from next door.

Our neighbours have been travelling lately. And when they come home, they bring things for the kids. They bring things for me, for crying out loud. When Erik travels, what does he bring home? Nuffink. If I were to travel on my own (dream the dream)? Double nuffink. We love our ladies dearly, but buying presents just because Daddy has a few days of meetings somewhere else? Dream on. When Erik comes home, any extra carry-on room is reserved for new flip flops and packets of EasiYo. Practical things. Impossible-to-get-here things. Not fun things.

And then Mr and Mrs Santa Claus - who do not share our Scrooge-y philosophy - come home, and look at the result. Look at those faces.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Things I've Learned This Week

1. Nothing makes a child happier than a new tool kit...

...especially when she gets to decorate it herself.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Get Crackin'

I've never been a huge fan of eggs. I don't have a "bad egg" story from my youth; they were just never my favourite thing. My siblings ate scrambled eggs, but I stuck to peanut butter toast, thank you very much. And I still do.

But I make an exception for Easter. (No, not an egg-ception - you will have to indulge in your ovo-related punnery elsewhere.) My family's Easter egg traditions were strictly of the chocolate variety, but Erik and his parents make fancy hard boiled eggs each year. Cut in half, pop out the yolk, add balsamic vinegar, a little olive oil, mustard and pepper, and eat with the aforementioned yolk. I'm sure it took no end of coaxing to persuade me to try this the first time, but I agree these eggs are delicious.

Once Erik and I had kids, we started dyeing our Easter eggs, too. This was clever thinking on Erik's part; eggs aren't always at the top of my mental grocery list unless I am baking something. Turning eggs into a craft not only ensured they would be in the house for Easter, but also that there would be a lot of them.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Ants Go Marching

Boats are rarely pest-free zones. There and just too many places to hide. And even if you do get rid of an infestation, you can count on a new crop of eggs sneaking aboard behind the labels on your tins, or in the bananas, or on cardboard anything. We do our best to keep Papillon neat, tidy and bug-free, but it is a case of constant vigilance.

You would think it would be easier on land. Everything is open and accessible in a house - there is nowhere to hide a nest that won't be easily discovered. And, sure enough, when we moved into our place last September we found it pretty bug-free. Our major concern was the malaria-carrying mosquitoes in the area, but the air conditioning keeps them outside where they belong. So while I still tried to keep the house crumb-free and an untempting target, it didn't seem as mission-critical as once it did.

And then we went away for six weeks at Christmas. When we got back, I discovered an army had invaded our territory.

The ants had arrived.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Teeny Tiny Sailing

Hello, everyone! Sorry for the prolonged absence. My lungs and I had a serious disagreement. They decided they would be happier outside my body, and attempted to cough their way to freedom. I was of the firm opinion that we would both be better off if they stayed inside my chest. That is just the kind of hard-line organ traditionalist that I am. Eventually they saw things my way, but it took three weeks and a lot of coaxing.

By Sunday, I was well enough for an outing. Erik saw his chance. He has been determined to try out the sailing dinghies we found, and mounted a campaign of persuasion. Over the past few weeks, his conversation was peppered with statements like:
"I'd like to check whether that epoxy set properly in the dinghy."
"A couple of those dinghy sails are still in decent condition."
"I'd love to test out the rig we found, and see if anything else need to be replaced."
And, when the Well of Subtlety had run dry:
"We should try out the sailing dinghy this weekend."

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

We Dig Dig Dig Dig Dig Dig In Our Mine The Whole Day Through

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves isn't one of my favorite Disney movies. I am going to generously describe the heroine as "insipid" and leave it at that. But the film does have a few snappy tunes, among them the first half of Heigh Ho. Oh, you didn't know the beginning was a completely different (and superior) song? Before all of that boring whistling, the dwarves sing about working in their mine. To wit:

We dig dig dig dig dig dig dig
In our mine the whole day through
To dig dig dig dig dig dig dig
Is what we like to do

It ain't no trick to get rich quick
If you dig dig dig with a shovel or a pick
In a mine! In a mine! In a mine! In a mine!
Where a million diamonds shine!

We dig dig dig dig dig dig dig
From early morn till night
We dig dig dig dig dig dig dig up
Everything in sight

We dig up diamonds by the score
A thousand rubies, sometimes more
But we don't know what we dig them for
We dig dig dig a-dig dig.

Back in the day, preschool-Stylish immediately took to this song, and we both learned the words. Don't ask me why, but we used to sing it in the car as we drove around on errands. This was long before Erik got into mining, so I am going to claim that we were prescient. Perhaps this was the clairvoyant version of, "if you can't beat'em, join 'em."

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Treasures at the Beach

There was a time in my life when a visit to the beach was as rare and exciting as Christmas. Once in a blue moon my parents would hook the pop-up trailer to the back of the Big Red Van, and we would trundle off to Southampton. It didn't matter if the water was cold, we didn't care if the sky was grey. We were at the beach! Seashells! Sand castles! Bathing suits 24/7, baby! Peeling shoulders, new friends from exotic locales such as Sarnia and Guelph, and hair full of sand. It was about as good as life gets.

For my kids, excitement is seeing a squirrel in Grannie and Poppa's backyard. "Oh! Oh! Mom! Did you see that? Quick, look - it's a squirrel! Oh my gosh, can I go outside and see it? I hope it doesn't run away!" There's no doubt they love the beach, but there is no mystery there. Try to entice them with a stretch of sand and the promise of some fish in the water, and all you'll get is a look that says, "Okay, okay, don't hurt yourself. It's just the beach."

Monday, January 26, 2015

Finding and Fixing Dinghies

"Do you feel like checking out some sailing dinghies this weekend?" asked Erik.
"Sure," I said. "Sounds fun."
"Great. They're in an old container down at the dock; someone abandoned them years ago."
I looked up. "Abandoned" is usually a deadly adjective for a boat.
"It's all supposed to be in pretty bad shape." he continued. "The sails are probably going to be full of rat poop, and who knows if anything will still float."
"Boy, Erik, why didn't you lead with that? You know I can't resist a rusty old container full of broken boat parts."
"And rat poop," he added.
"Yes, don't forget the rat poop."

So off we went on Sunday morning. The container was better than I expected. Yes, the promised rat droppings were everywhere, but a neighbour has been storing his kayaks in there, too, so the place wasn't as sad and forsaken as previously advertised.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Walking On Thin Ice

It is -25 C with the wind chill today. I am sitting at my desk with an extra scarf over my sweater, and wishing I had gloves suitable for typing in. More hot tea is on the way. And yet, I can't adequately explain to my kids why they aren't allowed outside in just their socks.

Every time we leave the house, I have to remind the girls to wear hats and mitts. Not just carry them along, but actually use them. And it isn't like they are immune to the cold. I see them hunker into their jackets as the wind blows them sideways on departing the supermarket. Me, I don't set foot out of the house without my fur hat planted on my head. I suppose the kids just have a tropical mindset. Sunscreen and sunglasses they understand. Warm jackets, not so much.

Last week was my birthday, and, as everyone knows, you get to be The Boss of the Universe on your birthday. After a week (or three) of Christmas/New Year's/No-Excuse-Provided eating, I wanted to go for a walk. That may sound odd after I've just spent two paragraphs complaining about the cold, but it was a balmy -3 C that day, and I'm a walker. So Erik and I rounded up the girls and we headed off to the woods.