Saturday, August 30, 2014

Not All Ovens Are Created Equal

It's that magical time of year again when birthday madness reigns supreme in our household. Indy, Erik, and Stylish all have their birthdays within a three week period, and so when the end of August rolls around, I feel like I do nothing but wrap presents and bake cakes.

I took care of the present-acquisition in Canada back in May, and dutifully toted my partially-depackaged goods (the kids haven't seen a board game arrive in its box since 2010) from Toronto through Vancouver, Seattle, Auckland, Noumea, and now Brisbane. Step one: complete.

But baked goods are more of a just-in-time sort of product. So what to do about a cake? A year ago, I heroically baked a birthday cake for Indy en route to New Caledonia, while Papillon was heeled over 20 degrees. Sounds dramatic, I know, but I was in my own home with all of my ingredients and tools at the ready. Practically perfect conditions in the cruising game.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A New Adventure

There comes a time in every person's life when she must ask herself, "do I want to move to Papua New Guinea?"

It isn't always "Papua New Guinea." Sometimes it is "a new town." Or "take a different job." Or "go back to school." It just happens to be Papua New Guinea in my case, because that is the way my life seems to work. Like Belle, I want adventure in the great wide somewhere. I'll just never be the one with the big house, the minivan, the soy latte and the lululemons. I'd rather learn Tok Pisin.

Moving aboard was a big DIWTMTPNG moment for me. I had no sailing experience. I had a comfortable life. I had friends and family nearby. Why give all that up? To have an adventure with my husband and kids. To do something new. To experience a different slice of life and travel the world. And when I viewed it in those terms, going cruising changed from being an idea to an opportunity. So, of course, I said yes.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hauling Out

No one likes hauling out. Mostly because it means you are not sailing, and that is a terrible fate when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing.  Hauling out means fixing things, buying replacement parts, discovering nasty surprises, and living in a boat yard. None of those are my favorites.  But what needs to be done needs to be done, and Papillon definitely needs a propeller shaft rejig and some centerboard work.

We got out of the marina on Monday morning, and made the short trip across the bay to the yard. As Erik heroically defied our massive prop-walk and started backing us into the slip, one of the guys from the yard ran over and started waving his arms. I pointed at us and the slip. More emphatic negative arm waving.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

When the Army Runs a Carnival

One of the first rules of cruising is: accept every invitation. (This is also one of the first rules of life, especially for an introvert like me.) So, when a friend invited us to the local military open house, I said yes.
"It's lots of fun," said Camille. "They have lots of activities for the kids."
I nodded, and wondered what that meant. I was a little surprised that Camille, of all people, was suggesting this outing.  This is a woman who steadfastly refuses to let her kids watch violence on television, play mock-battles, or otherwise engage in any aggressive activity.
"If Camille thinks this is a wholesome family activity," I thought, "then it must be okay."
So, on a cloudy Sunday morning, we headed out to Camp Broche, more properly known as Régiment d'Infanterie de Marine du Pacifique Nouvelle-Calédonie.

We have seen a lot of signs of the military over our four years on the water.  As we travelled down the East coast of the USA and through the Caribbean, we saw Coast Guard ships, aircraft carriers and submarines. We heard notices on VHF 16 warning us away from certain zones while exercises were being performed. As we sailed down the ICW toward Norfolk, Virginia, a very polite young man on the enormous warship behind us asked if they might sidle past. 
Ma'am, would you mind if we passed you?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Whale Watching in Baie du Prony

"You want to go whale watching?" I asked.  "On someone else's boat?"
"Heck, yes!" said Erik, rubbing his hands together.  "The season has started; there should be humpbacks in Prony by now.  Come on, it'll be fun."
Fun Daddy was back in town.  We only see Erik for a few days every month, and he is always keen to make the most of his time with us.
I looked over the brochure. With Papillon due to get hauled out and checked over in a couple of weeks, we weren't going to make it down there under our own steam.  It would be kind of fun to be purely a passenger for once.  And, let's face it, I'm a sucker for marine mammals.

The day was clear but cold.  By six a.m. we had boarded the catamaran, because early is how these New Caledonians roll.  The dozen of us scrunched around the table as the captain began his departure talk.

I leaned over to Erik.  "My money is on this being 50% about not breaking the toilet."

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Tackling Leaks and Selling the Dream

Amy: Girls, they are going to be here in half an hour.  I need you to tidy up the cockpit.
Indy: Who?
Amy: Those people... Dave's friends. Like we talked about at breakfast? It doesn't matter. Just tidy up.
Indy & Stylish: Okay, Mom.
Papillon: Hee hee hee.
Amy: Why are you laughing?  Let's see, I need to cut up some baguette--
Papillon: I have a surprise for you.
Amy: What? No. No surprises. I have an unknown quantity of Kiwis arriving in thirty minutes.  I have to finish getting ready.
[pause]
Amy: What is that dripping noise?
Papillon: Chortle!
Amy: Girls! I need to take the companionway stairs off.  Don't come down this... girls?
[Looks outside. The girls are playing with friends on the dock.]
Amy: Stylish and Indy! Get this cockpit tidied!  And don't come down the... never mind.
[Puts in boards to avoid a fall. Removes stairs. Removes floorboard. Locates drip with a flashlight.]
Amy: Why is it dripping there? The water isn't running.  The sump pump is off.  Everything is off.
[Removes two more floorboards. Sticks head into bilge.]
Amy: Okay, it is coming from somewhere forward on the port side. Hmm. I did laundry earlier; maybe the hose leaked.
[Checks laundry locker. Dry as a bone.]
Amy: Let's try the galley.
[Removes galley floorboard. A small river is running aft.]
Amy. Aha.  By which I mean, unprintable.
[Looks at the salon.  Removing the port side floorboard necessitates removing two other floorboards first and judicious use of a shim.]
-creeeaaaak-
Amy: [balancing the six-foot board]  There we go.  And let's see what we UNPRINTABLE!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Dealing With Bureaucracy, French-Style

It is a strange truth that, the longer you stay in a country, the more irritating their bureaucracy becomes. Maybe the French are just tired of me and want to speed me on my way.  Maybe I'm just burnt out on doing taxes and taking ever-more-hideous passport photos for visa applications.  Or maybe I just don't see eye to eye with these upholders of the Napoleonic Code.

A few weeks ago, I found a notice in my mailbox that a registered letter was waiting for me at the post office. I was bound to need some iron-clad identification, so I scooped up my passport and carte de sejour, waited for the designated pick-up time, and wandered over.

I eventually found my way to special guichet 15, where, as all the world knows, registered letters reside.  I handed over my notice and my ID, and waited to be sent home.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Evils of Cockpit Flooring

There are many things I love about my boat.  It is a comfortable home. It sails beautifully in heavy weather. It is very pretty.  But even Papillon has its flaws.

The girls and I were playing a game in the cockpit. Stylish rolled, and the die skittered off the table. All of us shrieked and grabbed for it, but it was too late. It fell through the cockpit floor.

What, you might wonder, is the big deal? Our floor is painted aluminum with a teak grid overlay. It is a good concept: when water gets into the cockpit, it falls through the grate and disappears down the drains in the corners. Meanwhile, you have something non-slippery to stand on. Simple and practical - two of my favourite things.

But let's think this through a little. More than water can fall through those holes. Noodles, Lego people, beads, coins, shells - down it goes. Now add some dust and hair, and you've got a thick mat of yuckiness coating the floor.

I made a face at the die nestled in one of the squares. The squares are too small to allow you to extract anything from the top. Instead, I had to put a finger in each of the adjacent squares and nudge the die up from underneath.

"Catch it!" I cried as it toppled out of my fingers and fell into another hole.

I washed the dust off my fingers and the die. "That's it," I said. "Time to clean the floor."

Which is no big deal... as long as you have a few hours to kill.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Do You Want To Build A Snowman?

My girls love the movie Frozen. They sing the catchy songs. They play dress up. They act out their own fanfic. But, when they play, are they Elsa and Anna? They are not. They are Elsa and Olaf. Because Indy has become obsessed with snow.

The last time Indy experienced a real winter, she was a year and a half old.  Stylish remembers building snow forts and sledding, but Indy was too little that year to do much more than get toted around in a fluffy pink snowsuit.  And she resents it.

"Mom, the next time we visit Canada, can we see snow?" Indy posed the question over breakfast.
I swallowed a bite of toast to stall.  "We can try," I said.  "We'll definitely be home for winter sometime. Just probably not this year."
"Because there was no snow when we went there last time," she said accusingly. "It was hot."
"It was June," I said for what felt like the thousandth time.  "That's summertime in Canada.  I told you before we went there wouldn't be snow - you just didn't want to believe me."
"I wanted snow," she grumbled into her cornflakes.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Living With Less

Travel is an exercise in discovering many other wonderful ways of life.  Everywhere we have been, we have found something that we loved.  It is tempting to grab our favorite ideas from these various places and weld them into a sort of Frankenlife.  Cruising only exacerbates the issue, because cruisers definitely do things their own way.  And that's all well and good - I'm comfortable with my TV-less, underscheduled, more-spontaneous life.  It's only when you go home that you really get the reality check of How Weird Have We Become?

While I was home, I spent a day helping a friend sort through her clothes in preparation for moving house. I used to do the same thing every time I moved: cull the clothes you will never wear again, and pack them up to be donated. Everybody wins.

But as we got started, and kept going, and kept going, and... kept going, I started to get chest pains.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Boatsitting

After sitting in an airplane for twenty-seven hours with two increasingly rangy kids, there was only one thing I wanted when I got back to Noumea.  It wasn't a hot shower (although I needed it.)  It wasn't a good night's sleep on a horizontal surface (although I needed that even more.)  All I wanted as we pulled up to the marina was to see Papillon afloat.  Steal my luggage and cancel my credit cards, but please don't let my boat be resting in the mud.

Not that I left my home unattended: I asked a friend to keep an eye on Papillon.  But the problem with asking other cruisers to watch your boat is that, well, they're cruisers.  They cruise.  And so, a week into my vacation, I got an email that looked something like this:

Monday, June 23, 2014

Beautiful Places: Camping in the Tuamotus

Part of the fun of setting up this series of "remember when" posts has been reviewing our trip for myself. As I skimmed through French Polynesia, I was shocked to discover that I haven't posted any photos of the Tuamotus - one of the most beautiful places we have visited.  And so, for my last holiday post, I will remedy the oversight.  I'll be back to regular posts later in the week.

Originally posted as Sleeping in the Great Outdoors, September 4, 2012
My family did a lot of camping when I was young. Every summer we hitched our pop-up trailer to the big red van, and toodled around the great campgrounds of Southern Ontario. When I was a little older, I was introduced to the joys of a damp sleeping bag when I was sent to a summer camp in Algonquin Park. This was a canoe trip kind of camp, and we girls were sent out for a few days at a time to paddle the lakes as the blackflies buzzed and the mosquitoes whined. After a long day of paddling a canoe and acquiring a mild sunburn, occasionally punctuated by a tiring portage, our counsellors would guide us to a campsite. As the sun went down, we would coax the wet sticks we found into a fire and try to cook something before falling dead into our drippy canvas tents. (Note to the interested: Kraft pizza mix is a superior camping meal. Wrap the dough around a stick, cook it in the fire, then dip the dough stick into the tomato sauce and sprinkle with cheese. Cést magnifique. I only had this once during my camping career, and still remember it clearly almost thirty years later.) As a parent, I see how wise it was to tire out a quartet of nine-year-old girls in this way. Although I didn´t care for camp as a whole (too much rigidly-scheduled cheerfulness), I have fond memories of gliding across still lakes, listening to the birds overhead, and eating charred, sticky marshmallows at the end of the day.

 
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