Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year!

Giant sand dunes at 90-mile beach
As we sit here near Russell, confined to the boat by driving rains, the kids are tired and a bit cranky.  We finally caved to their pleadings of being allowed to stay up until midnight to celebrate the New Year. Even though Matt and I could barely stay awake once we passed 10:30, we ultimately had a great view of neighboring Paihia's fireworks display. There wasn't any imbibing, since the weather was delivering 35-40 knot gusts that had us concerned about dragging and/or fending off other dragging boats. We ended up being fine, but there was a bit of drama in the next bay over when the winds knocked a 60-foot boat off its anchor and set it adrift without anyone on board.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

En Zed (NZ)

Hundertwasser toilets in Kawakawa

They say 'zed' here in New Zealand rather than 'z'. They also don't measure distances in blocks (think meters) or have brussel sprouts. Other than little things like that, and if you disregard the obvious  British influences (accents, driving on the left side), being in New Zealand is a lot like being back in the U.S. Among other things, this means a cornucopia of foodstuffs.  Even small convenience stores carry much more than most of the 'big' stores we have visited over the last few years.  The kids were literally running around the supermarket yelling, 'Look! They have shrimp!  Look! They have broccoli!'

Thursday, November 26, 2015

I don't taste like bacon, therefore I am

Sunset from our anchorage in Opua
It's Day 3 of our passage from Fiji to New Zealand and we have run out of the quiche we made before we left. We eye each other hungrily. Matt says, "Don't worry, if you tasted like bacon and cheese, I'd have eaten you a long time ago." Comforting.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Hoarding is good!

Conrad the fish at 'Grand Canyon' in Namena.
It goes down a long way (further than we could see).
Matt would like me to write about how we now have proof that his pack-rat tendencies are a good thing. I am not convinced, but will dutifully pass this public service announcement on to you.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Local knowledge

When you visit a place like Fiji, where people are so friendly and open, one of the benefits is that you learn things that aren't in the guidebooks. For example, we learned that the Indians (from India) that live here usually burn their dead and let the remaining bones wash into the ocean.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Life's short and Fiji is great

The beach at Wailagilala Island.
We're a month or so away from leaving for New Zealand. Our friend Owen swears that Amelie IV and we will singlehandedly boost the GDP of New Zealand when we arrive and start buying boat parts and supplies. We have a long to do list that keeps getting longer, which has set off my usual hand-wringing about spending so much money when we're not making much.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Let them eat (dry) cake

Sand spit in Tonga (only at low tide). The kids played
'Marco Polo' on land.
As we celebrated Matt's birthday last week, he got a little older and I was reminded that I am not getting any smarter. I made a cake from a mix--the kind that literally has four ingredients (cake mix, eggs, oil, and water)--and managed to forget one of the ingredients. To file away in your collection of nearly-useless information: if you're going to forget an ingredient in prepackaged cake mix, water is the only one you can get away with. I wouldn't recommend it unless you like really dry cake, though. Fortunately homemade chocolate frosting covers a lot of sins, if a bit lumpily.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Would have, could have, should have

We attended a Tongan feast with several friends. We
almost missed it because we crossed the international date line

Matt noticed the other day that our old house resold for almost $150,000 more than we sold it for three and a half years ago. The couple that bought it from us made almost no changes, down to the placement of almost all the furniture and artwork they purchased from us. It was eerie to see the place almost the same as we had left it.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Niue: It's not the size that matters...

One of the amazing shots taken
by Marie-Claude Osterrath of Amelie IV
Niue is a tiny country that I had never heard of until we reached the Pacific. In fact, they claim it's the smallest sovereign nation in the world.  The week we spent there was one we'll never forget. The area is a breeding and migration area for humpback whales and we saw more whales than we have ever seen before and will probably see again. They would swim through the anchorage daily and at night we heard their songs through the hulls of the boat.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Palmerston Atoll (Cook Islands)

Mark and Conrad with "Bacon". There are no dogs on Palmerston
but Bacon is the next best things. He loves being petted.

Coming into an unfamiliar anchorage at night is one of the top three "don'ts" if you like keeping your boat in one piece (not certain what the other two are, but probably something like "don't sail into a hurricane while repairing leaking propane lines using a match as a light source" or something similar). So as we approached Palmerston at 11:30 p.m. we considered drifting in the lee of the island until daylight. After talking to our friends on Seabbatical, who had arrived several hours earlier, we decided to try anchoring, especially since the moon was scheduled to be up as we arrived. After five days at sea, a relatively good night's rest was too tempting.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


These manta rays in Bora Bora were about 14' from wingtip
to wingtip.
One evening at dinner, we were discussing the relative poverty levels of much of the world compared to the U.S. and other first-world countries. This, of course, was a rarity since most dinnertime topics seem to be either the boys discussing "strategy" about how to kill zombies in their one iPad game or us trying to explain why putting a piece of food the size of a baseball onto your fork is not considered to be good manners.  But I digress...back to world poverty. Mark chimed in with, "Well, we're poor, because we don't have a lot."

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

It just goes to show, you can always find something to complain about

Snorkeling in Bora Bora.
One of our guidebooks quips that the best kept secret about French Polynesia is the lousy weather. We tend to agree with that (although everything is relative--we're not talking snow and freezing temperatures). Even when it's not raining, we have had to run our generator more than we have anywhere else during our two and a half years of cruising because of the cloudiness. We actually had to use jackets during a couple of passages for the first time since the Bahamas and sheets while sleeping. And yes, I am well aware that we are now complete babies when it comes to weather (what? it's not sunny and 80 F every day?!).  Luckily we have had plenty of postcard perfect days along the way too, but we did feel bad for the guests of a buddy boat of ours who unfortunately hit a really ugly streak of rainy weather during their 2 weeks here.  They still had a great time, as have we, since the beauty of the islands and the friendliness of the people transcends whatever the weather is serving up.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Amazing experiences, all the time--um, no

'To our tormentors'
Conrad and Mark wrote the note above during the recent several-hour passage from Huahine to Raiatea. Inside, the note reads, 'Subject: Don't be lame and torture us.' The body reads, 'I will not be able to live without touching Mark for the rest of the passage.' There are very detailed pictures of how we are torturing them.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Hanging out in Tahiti

We have a ton of great shots of Mark being mauled by the very tame stingrays in Moorea. He was remarkably unphased by having stingrays all over him (there's a great shot of one on his face on our Facebook page). Conrad, on the other hand, was having none of it.

Sunday, June 21, 2015


Perry with our Dreamsicle-colored spinnaker.
Photo courtesy of Marie-Claude Osterrath.
The other day, one of the 'kid' boats that we hang around with celebrated their son's birthday on the wrong day (they thought Saturday was Sunday) . Although that's an extreme example, we are often forgetting the day of the week. It's one of the things about cruising that makes it seem like we mostly sit around drinking cocktails in exotic locations, watching the sunset. We do a lot of that, along with diving/snorkeling with hundreds of sharks, having beach bonfires, and exploring remote islands.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Incidental costs

Beach barbecue with Steven on (Tahuata)

I could use the lack of internet as an excuse for not updating the blog but the truth is that there is internet for a fee in many places. In the two and a half weeks since our Pacific crossing, I have felt very unmotivated to post anything. We have been spending our days enjoying the towering volcanic spires, struggling with French, and savoring the flavorful fruit that bursts from every other tree. We also met some new kid boats (Miss Behaving and Seabbatical, who hung out with Amelie in the Galapagos) that Mark and Conrad (and we) have enjoyed hanging with.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Crossing the Pacific--We'll Take Boring

This excerpt from Conrad's schoolwork sums up our trip pretty well:
Write three sentences about what you did last weekend. Then underline all the past-tense verbs.
We sailed and sailed some more. We got really bored. We kept sailing.
Look around the room. Write three sentences about everything that's happening now. Underline all the present-tense verbs.
We are sailing. We are bored. We are doing school.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Final scenes from The Galapagos

Fool's gold in Cueva Sucre, a lava tunnel.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Bella Isabela (The Galapagos, Part 2)

Holy penguins Batman!
Conrad and Mark met some new boat friends in Santa Cruz (Matias and Lucas from Bob the Cat). They had great fun playing in the big waves at Tortuga beach in Santa Cruz and dodging the baby blacktip sharks getting washed onto shore. They were sad to leave but excited to see their friends from Mandala, Amelie IV, Kazaio, and Zorba on Isabela.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Isla San Cristobol and Isla Santa Cruz (Galapagos, Ecuador)

San Cristobol is home to a huge colony of sea lions.
We paid a lot of money to come to the Galapagos. When you consider that many of the islands in the Caribbean were completely free to cruise or at the most under $100 US, the $1600 we paid for our autografo (a permit that allows us to cruise to three islands; 1-island permits are cheaper) is expensive. Granted, it's cheaper than the $4000 or so that it costs to fly from Chicago but is still pretty rich for our blood.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Panama to Galapagos

We beached our boat at Isla Espiritu Santo in Las Perlas. The tides are so big that you can drive your boat onto one of several flat sand beaches at low tide, do your out-of-water tasks, and then wait for the tide to come back up.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Now we wait...

New passports picked up. Check!
Boat's waterline lowered from 132 eggs, tons of produce, full diesel tanks, full gas tanks, and full water tanks. Check!

Last ice-cream cones eaten in civilization for awhile. Check!
Wind to get us to the Galapagos. [Sound of sad clown horn].

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

If I only had a brain...

So Ecuador is out. We noticed that a couple of our passports expire in a year. Since most places require that you have a passport that will be valid for at least 6 months from your arrival and there are not a lot of U.S. Embassies in the South Pacific, we decided to have ours renewed in Panama City. When we broke the news to Conrad and Mark that we had changed our mind yet again (we had also recently changed plans about Peru), Conrad happily drew this parallel: "It's like we're the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz--it's like we don't have a brain!" From the mouths of babes...

These hamburger seed pods are much coveted in the Caribbean.
They have greatly challenged my minimalist aspirations.
I couldn't stop picking them up...
The passport application process in Panama City was very straightforward and our passport was actually ready in six days. We left the anchorage in La Playita and headed to Las Perlas to wait for our new passports. La Playita is very roll-y and crowded. When we returned to the boat the day before we left, a friend informed us that a boat had dragged anchor into us. Later that evening, the same boat (which was very close) bumped into us as the wind died and the anchored boats pointed every which way. Conveniently, he does gel coat repairs and promised that he would fix the dings. Still, we enjoyed the change of scenery for awhile.

More hoarding...

Perlas has amazing beaches, though they're a lot smaller at high tide.

Black sand had the consistency of flour. Yup, that's all they're wearing.

We got to join up with some kid boat friends again. Yay!
Conrad and Mark are glad to be back to beaches and spend their time digging the Biggest Holes Ever and playing in the surf. We have spent what seems like an inordinate amount of time scraping the bottom in preparation for The Galapagos, where they are reportedly very strict about bringing in any extraneous critters. I experienced 2 tiny crabs in my ear canal, one of which was in there for several hours before I realized it might not be residual water (it saw the literal light at the end of the tunnel and jumped out when Matt shone a flashlight into my ear). We have seen fishing bats, giant grasshoppers, and a tiny octopus that attached to Matt's wetsuit after cleaning the boat.

Fish eating bats.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Panama City, Panama (not Florida)

Whenever we do a Google search on 'Panama City', it brings up pages relating to the town in Florida. It must be our use of English rather than Spanish.
A new watch battery for $3. The eye-piece is mounted in a plastic
soda bottle cap. Gotta love the ingenuity.
We met one local who said that Panama City is like Miami. It does have a similar tropical setting, with tall white buildings and urban hustle and bustle. Unlike it's grittier sister city, Colon, most areas seem completely safe at any time of the day or night. And its Old Town adds a charming European flavor to the mix. Generally, the people are friendly and helpful, unlike a lot of other big cities.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Going to the flipside


We made it across the Panama Canal with no damage to the boat or crew. In some ways, it is a relatively straightforward process, but things do occasionally go wrong so it's a relief to be finished. We are very glad that we had experienced sailors as line handlers. Originally, we were planning to have as line handlers a non-sailing Brazilian family (a father, mother, and their 19-year old daughter), but they backed out. Instead we had our friend Mark from Amelie V, along with Huzar and Patricia from Indra, a boat we met while anchored in The Flats. Having sailors was invaluable because there was enough going on without having to explain how cleats work or how lines should be led, much less worrying about someone who isn't used to walking around on a boat.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Preparing to cross the Panama Canal

Anchored in the Rio Chagres
After leaving Portobelo, we headed to Colon to prepare for our Panama Canal transit. When we used to go through the locks that separated Lake Michigan from the Chicago River, we just pretty much just went through when they opened up. There's quite a bit more involved with the Panama Canal.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Isla Linton and Portobelo

After the San Blas, we had a very unpleasant sail over to Isla Linton. The winds were still high and the seas were filled with 10-foot swells. We caught a mahi but Matt got seasick (for the first time on this boat) when he tried to fillet it on the side deck because the seas were too big to have him on the transom. Apparently the combination of the leftover head cold and having his head sideways was too much.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Getting out of Dodge

Boogie boarding boat buddies
Being in the San Blas and seeing all the boats up on reefs reminds me of a story told to me by a friend about her friend ("Suzy"). Suzy had failed the road test to get her driver's license four times. But she had figured out her problem: "I just don't know whether to err to the left or to the right!" My friend's response was, "Oh, Suzy. You don't err..."