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 time..how 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 time..like 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 on..no
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.