Saturday, 12 December 2015

The Emotional Roller Coaster That Is Adjustment

Dave parked up with a cold one, relieved and happy our Ula is safely parked up
on the haul out trailer
Four months ago we stored our boat in a boat yard in the Caribbean, left the airport at 6am in a comfortably balmy 29 degrees celsius.  Two days later we arrived back in NZ at 6am also, into a bone chilling 6 degrees! 

Road trip home stop over in the gorge
 Having been born and raised in NZ, and only been away for a year, it’s funny we’d forgotten just how green the landscape is.  What a welcome reprieve after the desert-like conditions of the two islands we’d spent the last two months in.
Road trip home

Dave’s boss graciously accommodated for him.  Both Eli and Eden were eager for school life.

Edens' school doing their "Kapa Haka" performance at the Gisborne Maori Cultural Festival. 

Eli made this for Salem's birthday at woodwork

Salem still enjoys being home schooled, which is now shared between Mum and I, along with other home-school parents helping out sometimes.

Mind lab: stop motion movie creating

sewing leather chaps
I’ve managed to get some part-time work learning the art of a barista at a friends’ new coffee shop in the central city, which I’m loving. They make all their own salads, pastries, artisan bread, cakes, slices etc at their main bakery and bring it down for us to on-sell in the CBD.  It’s a fun place to hang out for work and I’m enjoying the social interaction, selling beautiful products, and learning new skills.

 Getting back home, the boys were ecstatic to be surrounded by familiarity.  It has been great catching up with friends and family, and in all honesty, living here is just so easy! We are a short 10-15 minute drive to numerous beaches/surf spots. 
no surf today

picnic dinner at beach
There is very little thought or concern for safety. A large variety of 
good quality, locally grown food is readily available and fairly affordable.  The boys are loving the free-range, home reared meat!! ( I must say I am immensely proud of their adaptability, over the past year, the majority of our dinners and even lunches were some form of “rice surprise!” Yes, sometimes there were complaints, but they handled it most of the time very well.) 
No customs/immigration issues, no language barriers.  Many good nights’ sleep as opposed to getting woken by waves slapping, wind howling, noisy party boats, anchor chain groaning, or some other concern for the boat or our safety!  I could go on but I suspect I’m preaching to the converted anyhow.

moored at Bonaire
Despite all this, I still find myself yearning for my life at sea, back with my beloved, yet rugged, purple pirate ship.

I must acknowledge the courage of my husband at this point, I am hugely proud and impressed with what he has achieved and overcome, in spite of his fears.  Anxiety issues in their various forms run deep through his family.

When we met, we were young and carefree, doing what we loved and were comfortable, so I was blissfully unaware.  Dave did try to warn me at the beginning of our engagement that all he does is eat, sleep and surf (he was working for himself as a contractor but clearly that wasn’t worth mentioning!)  I happily agreed ‘cos in the previous year I had already discovered about myself that too much time spent away from the coastline made me feel miserable and claustrophobic.  This led me to the conclusion that if I want to spend the rest of my life near the ocean, perhaps the safest bet for finding a life-time mate would be to only consider a surfer! (Hey, I was 18!!)

antique photo!
I digress.  Dave liked the idea of being anchored up near uncrowded surf spots and having an interesting project to tinker with.  The safety side -or should I say, keeping the kids safe - was the real issue that would sometimes make him feel quite ill.  In spite of this, he gave up the security of his own-built house, 5 minutes from the surf beaches he had grown up with. He left the security of a well-paid trade. 
As he likes to remind me, “only love would drive a man to take his family to live on a boat on the other side of the world to keep his wife happy!!”

Me at the helm after driving us for the first time up to a jetty and onto the haul
out trailer
Often while preparing the boat throughout our year long journey, the anxiety/stress "monster" would rear it’s ugly head.  Usually in the form of grumpiness, snapping remarks or conversely, shutting down to all around him.  Which then led to the rest of the family feeling either stressed, concerned or just down-right annoyed.
The timing of these “anxiety attacks,” I guess you could call them, sucked.  The worst being our 18th wedding anniversary and Mother’s day.  Thankfully, the boys made up for the latter.  So when my birthday was approaching, I gave him a few stern warnings that under no circumstances was he allowed to let the “monster” out on that day.  I’m happy to report, he kept up his end of the bargain nicely!
At different times when the “monster” was lurking in the shadows and he was wanting to sell up and go home, he would say, “I just want to go surfing and hunting, have good food and comfy living.”
So when we eventually arrived home, to all the creature comforts he raved and longed for, I expected my nice husband would have returned, leaving the “monster'” behind. 

First surf back in Gisborne
But to the family’s bitter disappointment, that “monster” had stowed itself away in the deep recesses of my husband’s already busy head.
I guess the adjustment back to work/land lubber life was harder than expected.  With the boys so happy to be back in NZ on terra firma, there is the added stress of whether we should work toward “the dream,” or give it up and focus on making a life the boys seem to want.
Also, because we are essentially only sleeping in our cabin and using my very accommodating parents’ kitchen, living, bathroom, can at times add to the tension.  My Dad is up often at 3am heading off to drive a logging truck, he is at retirement age, so naturally when he gets home, he looks forward to arriving home to his peaceful abode in the country.  While we all generally get on well and enjoy each others’ company, unfortunately, kids being kids, they can often be loud, and argumentative etc which in turn leads to more tension, trying to keep the peace.

Our wee trailer-able cabin

My family reluctantly gave in to this “amazing life we could have” and left all they love behind, sacrificing all, fears and concerns in tact, trusting me.

Eden while sailing

We invested so much time and money and never got to really reap or enjoy (apart from one week) one of the main reasons for taking on this project: to anchor up somewhere tropical and be able to paddle over to primo surf.  To me, it seems a shame to give up after all the hard yards we’ve put in.  We are closer to our (my?) dream than ever. 
Well, aside from the massive crossing that lies ahead, getting into the Pacific.
So, what is it that I love about sailing?

Eli and Salem motoring up coast of Bonaire to haul out
I love the idea of sailing.  Of my family seeing/exploring new places, meeting cool people, being amidst nature, more self-reliant. 

making friends at boat yard
 I love the physical nature that the lifestyle demands, being in tune with weather and tides, learning about the way the boat works and can better operate, even if I don’t always fully understand it.

I love that my kids are experiencing a different way to do life. That we could travel, but have our home with us also.

pancakes for breakfast
But then, sometimes I would find myself getting impatient with the slowness of sailing from one place to another and when it got really gnarly, I wasn’t as brave as I’d hoped I would be.  Well, actually, I was at the time.  Both Dave and I were calm and focused, and did what needed to be done: keeping the kids and boat safe and avoiding any collision as we sailed between the islands.  It was just later when we were safe that I no longer felt brave to take it on again.
Concern for the kids is what made me apprehensive.  The kids not being fully comfortable and getting bored because they felt too nautious to do anything.  That is what I took on as pressure and then felt impatient to get to our next destination, so they would be happy again.

A very rare moment: eating out!
During these times of impatience and concern for the unhappiness of my children on passage, I found something in the recesses of my mind that helped me keep it together: I would think about being home, on land, and all the fun things we could do as a family just travelling around NZ by car, a wonderful land-lubber life!

Now that we are back on land and some time has passed, I find I still have no desire for a house and my heart is longing for my former salty life and my lovely boat.
Aagh, the agony and absurdity of it all!  (drama queen moment) Seeing my kids so happy on land I feel deeply torn.  Whenever the stress of our living situation or the “monster” lurks or Eli’s teenage hormones come lurching out of the looney bin and I start resigning to the idea that maybe we should sell our boat, my automatic, sub-concious routine seems to be that I get short, (in temperament - I’m vertically challenged enough already!) and snappy.  That then morphs into a simmering anger like hot mud at the geo-thermal parks, bubbling just below the surface.  The last phase is despair.  The mud bubbles have dropped down into the depths and the steam is condensing in my eyes, cascading down my face in hot, silent tears.

I can’t stand the thought of selling, in spite of the obstacles that surround us.  But at the same time, my family has sacrificed a lot for me, should I now be the one to do the sacrificing?   Drop the “dream” for a while and pick up another boat later when the kids have grown up and left home? 
Dave is at least more settled and less grumpy now, by the way, -thank goodness!
These are my concerns:
1) Kids can say one thing and do a complete turn about another day (actually, I would have to include Dave in this also!).
2)There’s so much potential in our boat for various opportunities, it ticked a lot of boxes in our ultimate boat checklist and we’d be hard pushed to get another boat like it for the price we did.
3) And definitely not least of all, the boat, the lifestyle, makes me feel so alive, like this is what I was made for.

Herein lies our dilemma, our emotional roller coaster.  I guess in time, things will work out and make more sense so long as we don't make any rash decisions. 

Nectarine and peach picking
And in the mean time, we will just enjoy all the good things we have available.  We have a lot to be thankful for that we live in such a great, easy place and have options available, considering the amount of craziness going on in the world right now.

Eden picking nectarines from a nearby

So thank you for kindly enduring my rant and may you all have a wonderful Christmas.

Friday, 14 August 2015

3am Attempted Theft, 8x2 and Flyspray

boys and boat 2

Into our second month, in Curacao, Dutch Caribbean, one of the safer places to sit during the hurricane season.  Awaiting the NZ winter to pass, we will store our boat on the hard, and fly home 25th August to make some more money…


Dave and I suddenly awoke from our deep sleep to an odd sound, like rope grinding outside our port.  Dave stood on the seat in our cabin, in his boxers, poking out of the hatch in the direction of our dinghy, which he couldn’t see, (normally bobbing in the water).  Jumping up on deck to get a better look I heard him suddenly yell, “hey, what’re ya doing?”, to which a man in the water yelled, “I shoot you!”

Not knowing how many men were out there, fear and anger suddenly welled up and over took me and I yelled back at the voice outside my port “there are children on board!” Worried that the kids would’ve woken to the alarm in my voice, I raced out to the saloon, hearing the man still threatening to shoot.  Thankfully only Salem had woken, the most chilled of the three, lying there, eyes open, he asked very casually if the man had a gun. I sat with Salem praying aloud.

I heard Dave’s strained yell, in reply to the shooting threats, “we’ve got a family on board, man!” (this still makes me chuckle, you can take the ‘coastie’ from the east cape of NZ, but you can’t take the ‘coastie’ out of him! -Not that I would want to).

Half a minute later, Dave comes in through the back hatch looking bewildered.  I’m not sure whether there is someone following him or if he is going to grab any of the little valuables we have to give to them.  A quick hug, I ask where are they, he says they have gone, he watched the man swim back.

Surprised at the outcome, I ask what happened… the man was holding something up out of the water, he was in between the dinghy and the boat.  It was too dark to see him or the object he was holding, when he threatened to shoot. Dave looked around to see what he could use to fend him off and there was the plank of 8x2 wood the kids had been using for a diving board.  He picked it up and said to the guy, “I’ll throw this plank of wood on your head!” To that the guy swam off, yelling ashore to someone, “shoot em, shoot em”.  Thankfully, no shots were fired.

We tried to vhf the police and coast guard but nobody answered.  Suffice to say, we didn’t get much sleep after that.  Got me thinking about various conversations/arguments that often arise amongst cruisers about whether to carry a gun, or not, on a boat.  I was reminded of one such German cruiser we had spent some time with in Trinidad, that had had such a colourful past, I wished I’d written notes about his life!  His advice was, if you have a gun, you have to be prepared to use it…without hesitation. ‘Cos if they have one and see you with a gun, they will not hesitate to use theirs first.  Or, they may get if off you, either way, you’re stuffed, and they probably walk off with a better weapon than what they set out with. So I started thinking, what is something I wouldn’t hesitate to use?  It didn’t take long to find my answer…flyspray!!  The stuff we bought in Trinidad is almost lethal, a spray of that near the face and they would be gone-burgers!

Talking to friends anchored near us later the next day, she has worked for an Aussie government aid agency in many of the Pacific Islands, and said, if the man had had a gun, he would’ve shot, he wouldn’t have been talking about it. That made sense.  Talking to others later, all said, they’re after the outboard, after some quick $$. 

We realise that tying up closer to shore than others is a risk, but we are now raising the dinghy onto the deck, and storing the engine on board in the evenings.  We keep the vhf on channel 74 with our friends anchored nearby to alert/help each other.  Also, lifting the boarding ladder, it would be very difficult to get aboard, even using the stern lines.  I have found a fog horn, which sits next to our aft hatch along with my trusty can of flyspray, so be warned, don’t mess with the Mama and her flyspray!


Salem recounted the events that morning to his brothers in such a chilled out tone, it took hours for the news to sink in.  Eli tried to get a bit more concerned about it, but we reassured him of the safety measures we would make and thankfully, it passed, like some dumb movie we had just watched.  It took the best part of a week for Dave and I not to wake to every sound, and living on a boat, rocking around, with waves lapping against both shore lines and the boat, meant we were waking a lot! 

We could go out into the other anchorages with more boats, but they too have also had an attempted robbing just a week before.  It’s also much more sheltered here, we’re not dragging, mostly very still, close to other nice beaches, and can swim off the boat, which is not so easy or safe out there.  So we’ll take our precautionary measures, stay here and keep praying. (N.B. three weeks have passed since writing and we had a very peaceful, non-eventful time).


Where were these guys when I needed them?!

On a lighter note, Eli’s birthday managed to coincide with some immigration issues we were having.  Due to his sudden great desire not to sail anywhere, anymore, we were faced with two options: pay $2400 for the application of an extension, or fly to Bonaire and stay in a hotel for a bit of birthday luxury for less than half the extension brainer really..


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The Caribbean love their “roly poly’s”…. cactus fence surrounds the accommodation.

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Good food and luxury = a very happy Eli, no wonder he’s over the boat!  Must confess, I did not make the cake, we only took carry on luggage and I didn’t want to risk it getting confiscated at the airport, so shock horror, we bought one (was rather tasty though). 

I had my birthday too, the week before..


Woke up to a delicious breakfast and cup of tea in bed and great cards from my lovely boys.  Not to mention the wine and chocolate, what better way to spend a birthday than on a boat somewhere tropical instead of the usual freezing cold temperatures I would normally have back home?:)


Look what we discovered on our walk..

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shells growing inside trees… a coastie wondering why he is so far from the surf…a tree appears to be sprouting cactis.


And then, there was cake, made by Eli, so good you would never have known it was made in a pressure cooker.  Carrot cake with cream cheese icing, hmm, hmmm, sorry you missed it!  Our neighbours also took the boys for a few hours, we joined them later for snacks and drinks.



Spot Eden inside the R.

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A lot of beautiful/interesting artwork by local artists on various walls..



Lunch, yum.


Dushi apparently means something along the lines of sweet, anything good.

Back home..

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Boom time for Salem (mum, is a photo really necessary?!)… Salem and Eden are “sailing”, catching the gusts of wind, they go floating down, then pull themselves back on the stern line!

IMG_20150713_173407 While Dave and I sat under the dried grass umbrella at the beach enjoying our ice cold beers purchased from the bar nearby, these boys set to work looking for treasure at the volleyball and soccer sandpit/courts.  Whenever they found something, they would race over with big grins, when it was a coin they would say, “is this enough to pay for your beers?!” They did find enough to pay for almost two rounds of beers - $11 ( NZ$8.80).  Child labour never looked so sweet..course we didn’t actually spend their hard earned pennies.








My apologies, in the previous post, I claimed the structure in the background was an oil rig.  It is in fact a cable layer, that moves across the ocean, but currently moored.








Turns out the snorkelling here is just as good as Bonaire, you see bright fish as soon as you put your head in at waist deep water.  It’s very clear and there are loads of fish.


The dive site here is called the red tug.  Salem and Eli took off together, Eden went for his longest snorkel ever, swimming the whole way with Dave by his side in water up to 5 metres in depth.  Dave said he kept squealing, not in terror, but sheer delight as he kept seeing all the fish and chasing after them!  They headed round past the end of the rocks in the picture to find Eli and Salem standing up shoulders out of the water and waving, they had found and were standing on the top of the sunken tug.  Dave and I went out together later, it was amazing to see so much coral growing on the tug and loads of fish in through the windows.


Boys were very pleased with themselves that they managed to climb to the top and jump off this.  Even more so when they saw a “muscly guy” wasn’t able to get up!


Just so you know what Eden snorkelled around!


Curacao’s National bird: the Oriole.  Chortles quite loudly.

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Went on an island tour with our friends/neighbours of the anchorage, finishing up with pizza.


The joys of bottom scrubbing (the boat, that is): little creepy crawlies that love to stick to every imaginable surface of your skin and then give a little bite.  Hence the lycra jellyfish suit Dave is wearing to prevent them from getting too far.

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Dave helped friends on their 65ft yacht to sort out a few jobs up their very high mast..

(thanks for the photos Sue)


Almost at the top!  Roofing experience coming in handy.

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Campfire cooking on the beach: Salem was amping and he made several rounds of baked potatoes with butter and garlic.  One night he did it for a party of 12 of us!


Speaking of culinary adventures, visited a friend’s boat who showed us these “super food” dried bugs he had bought.  He offered the boys a smoothie he had made, but mentioned there were some crickets in there.  I decided to try the mango, banana, orange,lime and cricket concoction and it was tasty.  At one stage I did feel there was something in my mouth that needed to come out, picturing cricket legs, I was relieved to find it was only some mango fibres!

Eli confided later that he was trying not to hurl or pass out while I consumed the smoothie!

I can tick that off as the strangest thing I have eaten while away (actually, ever!).




Came to the conclusion we needed to head back to Bonaire to haul out and store our boat for some fairly considerable savings.  Ended up motor sailing 12 hours into the wind and current.  Was pretty sweet conditions considering.  Unfortunately the boys were spewing honey puffs all over the deck all day but we were extremely glad to arrive.


Checked out the boat yard, pretty basic but has to be one of the few boat yards you get to walk to the pristine water’s edge for a swim.  (A water desalination plant is next door.) 


Well, that’s all from us for now, for those in NZ, boys are on serious countdown, two weeks and we’re home!


To those that are praying for us, thanks a heap, we really appreciate it, and don’t stop!