Friday, 17 February 2017

Where Returning to Our Boat Meets Formidable Woes

Bit of a testing and tumultuous way to begin our return journey to the Caribbean, having become landlubbers back in NZ for a year and a half in an effort to raise funds for the next leg.
I had quietly congratulated myself that I had the forethought to phone our small local airport five days in advance to let them know of our flight arrangements and the fact that we would be bringing our surfboard bag.  So if space was an issue we could put it on an earlier flight.  To which they replied, "no, no, that should be fine, that way we can check your bags through to Houston."  We had been telling the boys how relaxing it will be not having to do the 6 hour drive to Auckland, no racing through airport terminals with our bags, trying to get to our next flight in wrong we were!
Our local airport attendant flat out refused to check us in because we didn't have a return ticket or an onward ticket from the U.S.  We did in fact have an ongoing ticket to Bonaire but apparently, the Caribbean doesn't count.  We showed them our boat ownership and registration papers, the letter from the boatyard owner stating our boat was in his yard, even receipts of us paying him for storage. She wouldn't even check our bags for the domestic flight, but said she would make some calls.  
We waited anxiously. Eventually, a long agonising hour later, they reluctantly allowed us to fly to Auckland, against their recommendations.
View of Young Nicks Head, Gisborne

Countryside Gisborne
We had some reprieve with the awesome scenic 1 hour flight.  Then, the race was on, the five of us with our 3 trolleys laden down with 9 bags weighing over 100kg and a surfboard bag hurtling through crowds from the domestic terminal down to the International airport, mentally preparing our speech for how we would convince the officials to let us fly.
Out of breath, Dave confided our situation to the first check-in lady we could find, "we have a flight to catch but Gisborne said there was an issue with our tickets."  The lovely lady casually led us to the automated passport kiosk for check-in... no red flags, we then tagged our bags and put them on the conveyor belt..we were going to Houston after all!  "No problem then", she says!
What the heck Gisborne?!
14 hours or so later, aching from up-right attempts at sleep, we waded our luggage along a queue for an hour to reach U.S. customs. The nerves were unnecessary as they happily accepted our mention of being in transit to Bonaire where we were to join our boat - no proof of papers necessary!
There was no sign of our pick up (having pre-arranged it months in advance, and reminding them only days ago).  We eventually managed to phone the hotel who said there was no sign of our booking. (Crap! Superbowl was on and it was difficult to get anything at such late notice, especially on our cheap budget!)  They offered to come pick us up anyway and we could sort out the problem once there. 
Turns out, there was a miscommunication between management and the worker, our booking was found - phew!
A sleepless night in Houston - our bodies were out of whack, or maybe from the big American takeaways we'd had for dinner!
Some more airport time and then we were onto our final, 3rd flight.
A 4-hour plane ride later and we walked out onto the tarmac of Bonaire's Flamingo Airport.  The wonderfully warm evening breeze welcoming us like a familiar old friend.  Ahhh... I think we all breathed a sigh of relief.  After so many dramas, we had made it.  
Now, I wonder where our pick-up could be??
An hour or so later, we took up the offer of a taxi guy to use his phone and track down Lelle - the boatyard owner who had said would personally come get us.  There was a bit of a chuckle on the other end of the phone when he replied in his thick Sweedish accent, "Yah, Im coming!"
Eli was stoked to be able to sit on the back of the ute (illegal in NZ) with our bags and his mate Luka, Lelle's son as we drove across island. We drove through the centre of town, the streets humming with people and music, where a festa was taking place, and then out to the boatyard.
Once offloaded, it was well after 10pm, sitting in the dark with some light of the street lights on our very dirty boat, the overwhelming reality of what lay ahead was daunting, hitting us like a tonne of bricks.  Lack of sleep and very little food that day didn't help, as we unexcitedly forced down our very average, dry, ham salad sandwiches for dinner.
Lelle had at least remembered to open up the ports and hatches earlier in the day to air it out but it was still rather manky.  Not to mention the beetle bugs that covered most shelves and cupboards and had eaten into our containers of rice, flour, even into the popcorn kernels.
We put clean sheets on our beds that we'd brought with us, lined ports and hatches with mosquito nets, sent the boys to bed and Dave began clearing the thick layer of desserty dust from the cockpit - the main entrance to downstairs.  
My stomach was in knots as I tried to brave it with comforting words and hugs for the kids.  Salem fell asleep in no time but Eli and Eden were upset with the prospects of the big sail that loomed ahead.  I tried to explain that we are all tired, the big picture is too overwhelming right now and we just have to concentrate on one day at a eating an elephant, one bite at a time.
Returning to Dave, he said to me, "why are we spending all this money for this amount of stress, when we could be paying to stay in a nice resort?" AAAGH! So didn't need to hear that right now!  
Iguana captivation begins

After so many years of reading about other sailors and sailing families adventures, I so want to be one of them, to explore, travel and experience life together out in nature as a family.  But with the huge amount of tasks that lay ahead, the unknown of what would still work, would we have enough money, and whether we could actually handle weeks at sea was vastly overwhelming.
My mind was fretting, my stomach churning with the odd wave of nautiousness and my heart was screaming in unison: what the hell are you thinking??!!
We were up every 15 minutes or so, killing mozzies, blocking possible holes (the background thoughts of preventing possible dengue fever or Chikungunya), then, just when we were starting to fall into sleep, the neighbourhood dogs started howling in unison!
It seemed like only a short time later, on the first sight of dawn, that the parrots and Oreoles started up a raucous noise in the trees that touch the back of our boat...right by our bed.  It was almost like they were squaking in protest that we had returned!

Salem diving off the jetty 

The nerves settled a bit more the next day after a mid-morning family swim at the jetty, a 200m or so stroll from the boat.  The turquoise clear, warm water washing away the angst.
The wind has been strong, it howls from a way off, warning of it's arrival, then whistles through the masts and rigging and makes the boat shudder on it's toothpick-like legs that hold it up.  This is most noticeable at night, while trying to re-adjust the body to sleep at this time and fighting the fear demons that try to permeate my mind.

Over the next few days, Dave mostly spent alot of time cleaning up.  We slowly packed things away and got re-acquainted with what was left on board. Dave has managed to run a power cable to the boat so we can use a light, charge phones, plug in our chilly-bin fridge and run the vacuum until we get the batteries sorted.

Iguana coffee anyone?!

In the boatyard, there is an outside sink, fridge and high maintenance washing machine, toilet and shower, all fairly "primitive" (as Lelle put it).

The shower: no drainage, an open window-lucky I'm short-and cold water.
Very refreshing at night when the workers have gone home, with
no light and a decent breeze blowing through the open cavity of a window!

Lelle has also offered the use of his bench saw, tools etc and there is wifi available for us to use as well. 
Yay for technology: using photos from two years ago to remind us how to rewire the large
lego shaped batteries!

Dave has since figured out how to re-wire the batteries so the solar panels can charge them, re-install our other larger solar panel, get the gas oven working.
The temperature  here is generally 29-30 degrees C, 26-28 overnight.  Because of the strong, albeit warm wind, the heat is alot more bearable, even pleasant, compared to our time in Trinidad almost 3 years ago when our journey began. The huge factor also being easy access to clean water that we can swim in.
All these little things have helped us to relax.
Eli doing his online work with his yard mate
Mr Smooch(not his real name!)

I have been organising the boy's school work and spending way too much time trying to figure out how to download, retrieve, upload and send to the Te Kura correspondence school. In fact we are yet to resolve the issues with back and forth emails through the different timezones!

Salem's little project, not with Te Kura

I'm also trying to keep on top of washing, dishes, meal planning and preparing, regular walks to the mini-mart for groceries, find storage space for our stuff and help Dave with his jobs whenever possible.

Day 4,  our 20th wedding anniversary!

Our Coromandel barefooted beach wedding

It is with much relief I can report, we are much more chilled and happy with life, the nerves have dissipated, we're working through our projects and our bodies might have re-adjusted having all had a good solid nights' sleep last night, yay!  
We had a cruisy day, Dave tinkering while I caught up on some writing-teacher's only day;)

We all walked some 500m down the road and enjoyed snorkelling at a different dive spot, then the boys discovered a cliff for diving a bit further down again. 

There are 86 dive sites to check out in this National Park, and over 350 different fish species.  
On the flight down, the quiet American we were sitting next to said he'd been visiting the Caribbean for diving for the past 25 years.  Once he visited Bonaire 10 years ago, he hasn't bothered going anywhere else since.  "You can visit the same spot 4 times and see something different everytime!"
The day ended on a pleasant note with a cold beer in the shade and a few mini-mart treats!
Lelle fixed up a bike for us to use.  Having talked with another boatyard couple and their local expertise, I decided for our budget's sake, I needed to do the 40 minute bike ride across island to the bigger supermarkets.  The roads are pot-holed and uneven, it's hot and windy, but flat terrain at least.  I managed the return trip happily knowing I had just saved us alot and overcome the main challenge of remembering to stay on the correct, RIGHT side of the road, even going through roundabouts-yay!!  The yard couple also gave me a ride with them on their supermarket run so I was able to get some bulkier, heavier items.  It also proved invaluable as she could point out the local produce, recommend the brands to stay away from, and translate the Dutch labels! 
Dave has been researching materials and costs for standing rigging - the wires that hold the masts in place.  
Balancing on the spreaders while lifting up the second ladder, then trying to tie it
harness, very windy.. OSH NZ would have a field-day writing up tickets!!
He has also been getting an overloaded adrenaline boost, fixing two ladders to the mast to enable him to re-rig all the running rigging. 

it's a bit trippy looking up the masts with clouds moving, because the masts look like they are moving!

He had cleverly rigged some apparently sturdy lines before we left the boat last time, that would have made the climbing unnecessary to re-rig, but they all perished! 
It will have been a week at the time of this writing since our arrival and there has been a noticeable shift.  Dave mentioned he really does like our boat, which I have to agree (especially now that our storage areas are becoming cleaner and more user friendly).  We are really enjoying boat life again, the constant warm wind is not so scary as we keep a constant eye on the weather systems online, to understand what's happening.  As we prepare and look forward to getting onto the next stage.

The boys are having a great time with Luka, making fire, pulling trolleys about, exploring, swimming, trolley rides down the boat ramp and into the water!
Our next big task is pulling down the standing rigging one wire at a time for inspection to see what may need to be replaced, which will need to be ordered from the States.  I am going to make the most of this weekend getting things packed away.  I am finding that during the week, school work is taking a large chunk out of my day... But, I think I will be able to concentrate much better after a swim. 😊
#  Fear is only a problem when you focus on what you don't like, instead of what needs to be done..
When you focus on what needs to be done, your mind has no time for fear - the art of distraction.
The beautiful, alarm clock sounding Oreole.

Ayo, and thanks for reading.  

Saturday, 17 September 2016

How to convince your parents your dream is worth their hassle!

We have just passed the one year mark having returned from our boating lifestyle in the Caribbean to a land lubber life back in New Zealand.
Local arboretum. 
As I have mentioned in previous posts, it has been an emotional roller coaster, weighing up lifestyles, good use of money, constant sacrifices in order to save and settling/ being content with what we've got right now: a very simple and generally easy lifestyle.
Salem getting some surf tips from Dave. 
While going through all this, my parents have very patiently put up with us taking over and messing up their house, property and lives!
Eden the punk!
With their financial backing in materials, Dave built an extra room so our living arrangements can now be separate from their one bedroom cottage  ( we still invade their bathroom).
Our living space with kitchen bench and one burner cooker.
Room with a view.
When the craziness was at its worst, our family's next step for purpose and direction was up for grabs, like a cork tossed by the waves.  I found myself praying for one main thing: if we are to go back to our boat, let there be peace.
Sunrise Wainui beach, Gisborne.
Our car had died.  We were spending all spare time trawling the net for a vehicle suitable for a family of five, reliable, cheap running costs and wasn't going to drain our savings.  A surprisingly difficult task and not nearly as much fun as trawling for boats (or fish for that matter!)
It had been a good couple of weeks relying again on parents and others for transporting kids to and from school, work, groceries etc. Unfortunately what little public transport we do have, doesn't operate 7 minutes into the countryside.
Salem enjoying friend's horses. 
I  was feeling desperate, late one night we considered flying to Auckland and somehow trapsing around to view various possibilities.  No flights available.  That was when I caught a glimpse of airfares to the U.S.A $300 less than normal!  My heart kicked into nitro as I excitedly raced through possible dates, availabilities, terms and conditions.  Dave was not impressed with my major tangent and trudged off to bed.  I managed to reserve the tickets and necessary accommodation between flights (yay, no sleeping on airport floors like last time! ).
I woke with some apprehension the next day as to what would unfold.  This was essentially the go, or not to go mother of all decisions.
Dave enjoying some bigger swell days.
To my surprise and relief, Dave was very chilled about the whole thing, so long as I could organize all the details of the one way trip.
The next challenge was for Eli, whether he wanted to return with us or stay back in N.Z.  We hoped he would choose to come, because it's not every day you get the chance to aim for the Panama Canal. The decision not to come with us may be regretted later in life.
Motoring into boatyard jetty and ramp, tractor and trailer waiting for us.
We knew he felt anxious about certain aspects of sailing, also, the lack of comfort on our project boat, as opposed to the other more glitzy, costly and comfortable boats we had experienced visiting. However,  we didn't want to add any further pressure, the decision was his to make.  To our delight (perhaps in a moment of weakness), he agreed to come!  Yay, so pleased and proud of him.
Crystal clear water at boatyard jetty. 

We have booked our return for the 3rd February 2017.  Everyone is much more at peace about the decision (with the odd sprinkling of a few nerves once in a while).  The younger two especially are getting increasingly more excited the closer we get, often exclaiming they "can't wait till we get back to the boat!" Lots of reminiscing various aspects going on, mainly of the warmth, swimming and snorkeling every day.  We are trying to prepare them as best we can with YouTube clips of sailing and every day conversations.

Partial view: 2 of the 5 batteries.
The current, loose plan is to get the boat operational and floating. We are praying our 5 massive, super expensive, deep cycle gel 8d batteries have not died on us.  We have standing rigging, sails and safety and many other technical issues to deal with, but I won't bore you with the details.  Where we go from there, apart from localized sailing, largely depends on what's left of the budget - a decent chunk of this disappears just through currency conversion.
Lots of planning, preparation and research going on. 
Ideally, we'd love to do the Panama Canal and from there, we'd love to get to the Pacific Islands  (via the dreaded 38+ days of non-stop ocean).
Plans will have to be under constant review, money dependant.  In the meantime, research overload continues.
So, what is the magic ingredient in convincing your parents/in-laws to have rowdy boarders invade their once peaceful lives, in order for you to save money and realize your dreams, you may be wondering?  Perhaps delusional denial that it can't be all that bad, or be that long helps!
Yay for pumping surf days!
In all honesty, sorry to disappoint, but there is no magic solution. They just happen to be exceptionally encouraging, accepting, hospitable, generous, and tolerant people who I feel very humble and proud to call them my parents.
Mum and Dad's latest backyard project.
Thanks Mum and Dad, we couldn't have done this without you.  Xx

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Of decisions, destinations, fun times and feijoas!

A number of friends voiced some concern from my last post, so thought I better reassure readers that we are A.O.K!!

dress up party: Spanish pirate and Shogun from the 
NZ movie "Boy"
We quite often get comments about “how lucky” we are, so I wanted to show that things aren’t always palm tree lined beaches, sunbathing and sun-downers (drinks on sun-down).

As in every lifestyle, there are always hurdles and challenges to overcome.  One of the great things Dave and I noticed about our year on the boat is how well (generally speaking), we do work together, we make a pretty good team.
Christmas day: family surf

It’s been 7 months since we returned to NZ and through much discussion, deliberation and time passing on land, we feel more resolved and determined to continue on with our boat plan/lifestyle. 

The apprehension is still there but we will continue on anyway, God willing, with the aim of returning to the boat in February 2017.  

There we will be making the necessary preparations for the big sail: from the Netherland Antilles, up, over the Colombia head, down to Panama (10-12 days sail approx.). Waiting to cross the Panama Canal can take a week or two, but the crossing is only a couple of days.  The Galapagos islands, about 5-6 days out from Panama is not affordable for us to stop so, from Panama, the Pacific crossing to the Marquesas, will be for us approximately 30+ days.

(click on the red balloons for a bit more info or zoom in to find the actual islands!).

In the meantime, saving continues and so does life.  Here's a few snapshots of what we've been up to:

Visiting the home I grew up in, Coromandel Peninsula...
View from my old house

Whitianga estuary

Salem and Eli in the water digging for pipis
Pipi hunters return with a hefty load each
Hot Water Beach: trying to find the sweet, hot spot

Hot water beach, ocean side

family reunion at cousin's farm by the river, homemade bbq consisting of cow's feeding trough and river stones
 Tologa Bay, NZ's longest wharf of 600m

Surf search up the coast: Tologa Bay or Uawa

Our place: Gisborne

Gisborne harbour and city

Pohutukawa tree in blossum: NZ's Christmas tree.  Young Nick's head in background, Gisborne

Eden gets third in two day go kart club champs!

Eden catching waves by himself!

Great shot of Eli surfing, thanks to Derek

And when there's no surf, "tarp surfing" it is!

This next picture is especially for our non-New Zealand readers: the fruit we missed the most last autumn...

the glorious tangy, sweet "feijoa". You can eat the skin and flesh. If you're going to visit NZ, I highly recommend our autumn- April/May.

Until next time, may you enjoy the ride that is life.