Monday, October 31, 2011

Sailing into the Sunset

We're heading west again. While it's a little sooner than we had expected, we left Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu, at 3 p.m. today, after getting word that today was the day to go. We've hired a weather router to reinforce our own reading of the weather given that tomorrow, November 1, is the official start of cyclone season in the South Pacific. In addition, this last leg taking us to Australia can be the most challenging in terms of weather and sea conditions. And our weather router indicated last night that the sooner we leave this week (as in today), the better. If we don't leave today, we could be waiting another couple of weeks for the next weather window.

This has cut our time in Vanuatu short. We've barely become accustomed to this new fascinating country - perhaps the most foreign to us of any we've seen so far - and have only managed to see the island of Tanna and the city of Port Vila on Efate. There was so much more to see. Such is the life of the sailor - where weather controls your every move.

We were off the boat at 7:30 a.m. today clearing off garbage, getting our provisions for the next two weeks until we hit Australia, checking out of immigration and customs, filling our propane tank to ensure we can cook, and then finding out that the gas station ran out of fuel until 1:30 this afternoon. While waiting, we cooked up some chili for dinners along the way (I don't often feel like cooking on the first few days of a passage), and were hovering around the fuel dock for when it opened.

While our departure came on short notice, we're ready to get to where we're going. Setting off today sent bittersweet chills up my spine knowing that as we head further west, it's taking us closer to home.

-Barb, en route Port Vila, Efate, Vanuatu to Chesterfield Reef, New Caledonia, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean
17 degrees 52.930 minutes South
167 degrees 21.304 minutes East
At 10/31/2011 05:51 (utc) our position was 17°46.03'S 168°09.18'E

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Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Bird Recovery Center

In New Zealand, we visited the Bird Recovery Center in Whangarei, in the Bay of Islands about 2 hours north of Auckland.  It was meant to be a quick stop, but we loved it so stayed for about three hours. 

The center is a nonprofit organization that runs off the donations of visitors.  If someone sees an injured bird, they bring it to the Bird Recovery Center.  Most of the birds are let free once they’ve been nursed back to health, but the ones who are permanently hurt will IMG_0896stay.  Sometimes a bird will be let out and fly back and that one will be able to stay too.

The center had a white peacock, giant pigeons, violent hawks, talking tuis, and a one legged kiwi bird.

The tuis will literally have a conversation with you.  One would whistle and repeat what you said and I’m pretty sure that he was talking about the Rugby World Cup.  The old tui, who had recently died, named himself Woof Woof and was supposed to be shown in the IMG_0906opening of the Cup.  Woof Woof apparently was a very big talker and sounded just like Robert, the owner of the center.

To show us the hawks, Robert walked right into the cage, told the hawks that he was going to pick them up, slowly grabbed them by the legs, and picked them up.  He showed us that it wasIMG_1219 really only the legs you had to be scared of because, he said while putting his finger into their beaks, they can, but won’t, bite you.

IMG_0910Robert also has the only live kiwi bird that is open to the public to touch in all of New Zealand.  Named Sparky, the bird had lost her leg and therefore ended up at the Recovery Center.  The stub of the old leg had rotated back and now works as a counterbalance so that Sparky can hop without falling.  To eat, she taps the ground with her beak to wake up the worms, hears where the vibrations are coming from, and grabs the worm.  Also, kiwis are nocturnal, but Robert trained Sparky to sleep at night so that people could meet her during the day.  We also got to see a just-hatched baby kiwi born less than 24 hours before we got there.  They IMG_0899are actually quite big when they are born, but still fuzzy and cute!

We learned a lot from the Bird Recovery Center and are really glad we went there.  It made us appreciate birds and their lives a lot more and made us notice how amazing these creatures are.

-Danielle while in Fiji (now in Vanuatu)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Rugby, Rugby, Rugby and of Course More Rugby

As you probably already know we were in New Zealand this month and toured around the North Island. We were in New Zealand while the RWC (Rugby World Cup) wIMG_0956as going on. It all started in the airport. They redid part of the carpet to make it look like a rugby field and the bleachers were painted on the walls. The good old RWC logo was in the corner of the painted bleachers. It has lines that form the shape of a rugby ball (almost the same as a football) with “iRB” (international Rugby Board (I’m not exactly sure on the last word)) written on it. Then it also says “RWC”.

IMG_0703It further advances. Signs everywhere say “RWC” and “The world’s here to play”. Three different kinds of balls are for sale at almost every store. I bought a Super Midi that is a relatively small ball. You go on tours and everything relates to rugby. Go All Blacks. All Blacks is the New Zealand team.

IMG_0957I like rugby because it uses almost every muscle in the human body, the game is not long, it’s fun and sometimes even funny. Only 80 minutes. It is a little violent because of the tackling fights. Touch rugby is where instead of tackling you touch the other person and you get the ball but it’s more for kids and not as exciting.



Then we come back to Fiji and rugby was on: All Blacks vs. Australia fighting to get into the finals. At the beginning of every game that New Zealand plays, they do the ‘Haka’, a famous Maori War dance(see right). My dad and I went to see the game on television at a restaurant with a lot of other people watching with us.  It was noisy! New Zealand won with 20-6. Now the next game is for the final Cup: New Zealand vs. France. I can’t wait until the final game and for four years when the next RWC game is on.

-Harrison in Fiji

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Breath of Passagemaking

So many sailors cringe at the thought of overnight passages. Anxiety takes over them days before in anticipation of boredom, monotony, loss of freedom, imprisonment. Not me. I look forward to passages - and the longer the better. Sure, lack of sleep (we take turns being on watch 24/7) is a form of torture, but after a few days, one gets used to the routine.

And it's the routine that I embrace. Call me crazy. Back on land, living the 'normal' life, I would often plan for stepping out of routine, knowing that without the effort I'll be way too complacent in my life. Cruising on a boat, however, has me living out of my comfort zone, on the edge, so much so that it overshadows any routine we create. In fact, cruising feels much more like a life of constant challenge than I ever imagined.

Several years ago, I completed an exercise listing my top 'values' (states of being that I must have in my life in order to feel at the top of my game, fulfilled, living my best self) and one of those was "Order/routine with spurts of adventure and newness". Hmmmm. Without the passages, my life looks a lot more like "adventure and newness with spurts of order/routine". With a full house (or shall I say boat), I have little time while cruising to sit back and just breathe. Breathing is necessary to regroup, take stock, recharge. Without it, I'm just plain hyperventilating.

I often liken passagemaking to being stuck at home during a snow storm. It places your life on pause. All appointments are canceled. You eat what you've got in the house. You hang out with your family. You can clean out your closet. You can nap during the day. The whole world slows down. It's peaceful. It gives you time to think. What's next? What's been working and what hasn't?

Plus passagemaking allows me to do what I do well: organize. Sounds rather order-like, no? Are you getting it? (or as our friends Krister and Amanda say: Are you smelling what I'm stepping in?) You see, there's a lot out here that I don't do well: sailing still hasn't become second nature to me (although I'm getting better!), homeschooling is less than stellar (we have only a couple more months to go!), housekeeping is, well, a chore, and I don't have my work that I love and that keeps me fulfilled. But passages, if they are to go smoothly, require lists. And lists I'm good at. I create lists of watch schedules, lists of what the kids need to accomplish in homeschooling before we make the next landfall, and lists of what food we need to get rid of before quarantine at the next country takes it all away. And my meal plans are so beautiful - meaning we eat well and we eat healthy - and I spend a lot of my time checking produce to avoid spoilage, pulling out food that requires prep for the following day's meals, or baking bread to greet the kids when they awaken. Who knew that this would be what keeps me grounded while living on a boat? On land, the monotony of it would make me cringe.

And then I step outside at 2 a.m. on my watch to check that all is running smoothly, and right in front of me as the wind hits my face and I smell the sea air, I see a sliver of an orange moon rising into a clear starry-filled night. And I take a deep recharging peaceful breath.

-Barb, en route Tanna Island to Port Vila, Vanuatu
At 12/30/1899 00:00 (utc) our position was ??°??.??'N ???°??.??'E

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Anchored in Port Resolution

We just completed the approximately 500 mile passage from Fiji to Vanuatu. We had an awesome sail, averaging over 200 miles per day -- our fastest consistent speeds yet -- and as a result, made it to Vanuatu in 2.5 days. Because of that however, we arrived after dark into an unfamiliar anchorage. We were about to enter the anchorage in a very dark night with the way points we were given in a cruising guide we had, as well as using radar -- but the actual charts for this area are often off by 0.5 miles so they can't be relied on.

As we were on final approach to the anchorage, 0.5 miles out, we got an alarm on our navigation system which said "GPS Jump" which basically means the system had a problem with the satellite information it received. Not a good time for bad GPS information!!! Basically, it causes us to wonder if we are really where we think we are on our chart plotter -- or, are we in a different place, say just 0.25 mile off? Since the opening, with reefs on either side (what else is new?), is only about 0.5 mile wide, that's a big error! So, at the last minute, we bailed, and heaved to offshore waiting for daylight to make the entry.

Now, safely anchored we plan to head to shore, check out the village and later this afternoon visit an active volcano. Should be amazing. We saw it glowing hot read when we were offshore last night. There is even steam coming out of the water at shore and in the nearby hills.

All for now,

Port Resolution, Vanuatu
At 10/24/2011 22:35 (utc) our position was 19°31.56'S 169°29.76'E

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Friday, October 21, 2011

So long Fiji. Enroute to Vanuatu

Well, we just left Fiji this morning and are now making our way to Tanna Island in Vanuatu. Its a roughly 475 mile trip and so we hope to be there sometime (on our) Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning. Tanna is home to Mt Yasur, an active volcano, the crater of which is accessible by 4WD vehicles. From other cruisers who have been to the crater, they say it is amazing. We are looking forward to that outing. After spending a couple of days on Tanna we will head up to Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu where we will spend a few days before making our final passage to Australia!

We had an awesome time in Fiji. Barb's mom and step-dad joined us for a week where we toured by land and sea the northern Fijian island of Vanua Levu and where we were invited to the home of an Indian family for a traditional dinner (including Kava drinking), we flew to New Zealand for two weeks (I know that is not Fiji, but is was while our boat was in Fiji) where we toured the north Island and had a great time in the Yasawas with our friends on Imagine. Our time in the Yasawas was a last minute change of plans, because, while we wanted to get going to Vanuatu, we also wanted to spend a few more days with Imagine. We had also heard such amazing things about the Yasawa group of islands. and we were not disappointed! The coral reef there was amazing -- on par with any we have seen in the Tuamotus.

In the Yasawas Barb and I even managed to spend an afternoon kayaking around one of the islands. That was an adventure in itself because the leak that we thought had been repaired on the kayak did not hold. While we were two thirds around the island (and fortunately close to shore) we toppled out due to all the water that had gotten into the hull. We swam the kayak to shore, drained all the water and continued on. It made for an exciting and memorable trip! Now, I just have to try to repair the hole one more time!

Fiji was definitely an island group that has risen to one of the top our our list of favorite places. Now, 25 knots of wind coming from aft of our beam, we are cruising along at roughly 9 knots. Though a little too rolly, its some awesome sailing.

More later,

Michael, enroute to Vanuatu
At 10/22/2011 00:36 (utc) our position was 18°00.52'S 176°48.61'E

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Black Water Rafting

  During our trip to New Zealand for the high holidays, we traveled around the north island.  One of our stops was at Waitomo, where we went black water rafting.  Most people expect black water rafting to be like white water rafting but underground (hence the black water), but really, you just float through the water on an inner tube though the caves of Waitomo. DSCF7418

Some companies do repelling, rock climbing, zip lining, and caving, (all inside the caves) but the one that we did was just the tubing, along with a waterfall jump and built in waterslide.   We all got into wetsuits and went into the cave.  As we floated down the river in our tubes, we saw the sparkling cave top above us.  Covered in glowworms, it looked like the starriest sky that you’d ever seen.  In the distance we could hear the rush of a waterfall, the water falling over it colder than ice. DSCF7414

We went right to the source of the sound and got to jump over the fall.  It wasn’t high- only six feet- but the water below was only about two or three feet deep, so we fell backwards while sitting in our tubes and no one hit the bottom. 

We continued on our way and saw more glowworms.  To all stay together so that our guide could easily direct us as one, each person had to hold the feet of the person behind them. Then we were pulled in the right direction.  It felt like you were one piece of a caterpillar because you’d be pushed and condensed and then pulled and lengthened.

DSCF7432 The next waterfall was a twenty foot drop and again shallow at the bottom, so this one couldn’t be jumped.  The company actually built a waterslide and used the water from the fall to make you slide.  It was really steep and fast so you did lightly hit the bottom, but you barely felt it. 

Apparently there was also a waterfall climb that you could do at the beginning, but there wasn’t enough time.

It was a really awesome experience.  You can only see glowworms in Australia and New Zealand, but New Zealand has the bigger population of the insect.

-Danielle, back in Fiji

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

In the Rain: Kiwis, kiwi-fruits and kiwi-birds



It’s cold and raining in New Zealand.  We were in the Bay of Plenty, supposedly an area that receives the most sunlight of anywhere in the country.  If it’s any sign, we wonder if the sun ever shines anywhere.

Nonetheless, we haven’t let the weather stop us.  We visited an aviation  museum (indoors) and managed a short hike between IMG_0798torrential downpours.  We tried visiting a kiwifruit farm to learn about the famous fruit but all tours were cancelled due to being flooded out.  We visited a honey farm, where the famous New Zealand manuka honey is made but were only able to visit the indoor showroom due, of course, to the IMG_0828rain.  In Rotorua , we witnessed sheep shearing (indoors, where Harrison got to feed a baby lamb) and the kids snuck in a gondola and luge ride when the rain had died to a drizzle at one point.  We toured Te Puia, a Maori village and geothermal park where we stood waiting for the geyser to spout, you guessed it, in the rain. We visited a kiwi bird house, and were thrilled that it was indoors, but alas, kiwi birds are nocturnal and stayed burrowed in a very dark makeshift habitat, so we never saw any.  Is this all a scam?

IMG_0890Now we are in the Bay of Islands, and it’s still raining. We spent a day yesterday on a bus tour to 90-mile Beach, which is officially a New Zealand highway but drivable only at low tide.  And drive we did - at 100 kph – but still in the rain.  We couldn’t see out the windows due to the IMG_0882inside fogging up and the sand sticking to the wet windows outside, plus the fog made for even worse visibility.  Still, it was a fabulous day.  We sandboarded down massive sand dunes – in the rain – and walked out to the Cape Reinga lighthouse at the tip of NZ that IMG_0866will be greeting all our boating friends who will be heading here this month – where the wind was so strong that we were literally blown over several times, and the rain so strong that it felt painful as it pelted our faces.  



The only touring days so far that haven’t seen rain were a driving day north (the scenery definitely did look beautiful in the sunshine) and when we went underground for black water rafting in the gloworm-filled Waitomo Caves (Danielle’s blog post to follow).

Still, NZ has been a wonderful change from cruising, and it is no doubt a beautiful country (we couldn’t help but feel at times that we were in our own backyard of northern California) with incredible people (with a bit of a Canadian vibe). The kiwis (not to be confused with kiwifruit and kiwi birds) are a happy friendly proud people.  Life here is impressively and simply very civilized. Even in the rain. 

-Barb in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand

Monday, October 10, 2011


IMG_0763As we drove into the blokart distributer in New Zealand near Mount Maunganui, I was thinking, “This is going to be awesome.” We went inside and met a worker named Ash. He rented us a blokart. A blokart is a three wheeled go-kart that is wind powered so it has a sail in the front. Basically you turn a bar and the blokart turns. You pull in the rope and the blokart goes faster. Driving one is really quite simple.


It was my turn first. I hopped in, Ash gave me push and I was off.The world next to me was in a blur and the wind blew my hair back.IMG_0762 I felt like I was flying. As I bolted around the cones in a figure eight, I was excited to go around again.  I whizzed past Ash, my mom, dad and sister. After about five times going back and forth, I came over to where every one was standing and released the rope to stop myself. I stepped out.

IMG_0780It was my sister’s turn. Then my mom’s and finally my dad’s. Each time they got off they said it was totally awesome. After I had my second turn that was even cooler than the first, it was time to go. We said good-bye to Ash and left with wide smiles on our faces.


    - Harrison in New Zealand

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Rugby Fever


It was hard not to get caught up in the Rugby Fever hitting New Zealand, which is hosting the World Cup this month. This past Sunday, Canada was playing New Zealand and we just had to participate with our host Canadian family, Nick, Michelle, Maia and Jonah.  I don’t even know how the game is played, and certainly had no clue that Canada even had a rugby team (made up of men with day jobs).  Nonetheless, we donned as much red as we could find and headed into downtown Auckland.

IMG_0706Auckland’s downtown has been set up for the crowds of people that don’t pay the hundreds of dollars it costs to see a World Cup game live.  Like us, these people descend upon the waterfront to watch the games on several strategically located giant screens.  The ‘Cloud’ was designed for indoor viewing, necessary given this cold and rainy and stormy weather we’ve been experiencing. 





Canada took the lead early in the game and maintained it for all of 5 minutes.  We lost by far too much to even record here (although if you looked it up you’d find the final score at 79-15).  But it was well worth the outlay of spirit and support.

-Barb in New Zealand


Shofar blowing at the game?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Sweet Start


For months we’ve planned to spend the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and Yom Kippur in Suva, the capital of Fiji, where, according to our Jewish Travel Book, the Israeli consulate organizes community events around the holidays. For months we’ve been emailing to get more info, and finally, once in Fiji, we’ve been trying to call the phone numbers provided.  As the time got closer, we were having little luck until we got through to the Israeli embassy in Canberra, Australia.  The bad news was that the Fijian consulate was recently closed.  The good news was that the embassy had a contact in Suva who headed the Jewish Association.

We promptly called and emailed.  The good news was that we got a reply to both.  The bad news was that our contact was in Australia, not to return until Erev Rosh Hashanah (the eve of the holiday).  And more bad news:  there was nothing planned for the High Holidays.  More than any other Jewish holiday, these are synagogue-centric; we spend the two days of Rosh Hashanah and the one eve and full day of Yom Kippur in synagogue with prayer, discussions, learning, contemplation and yes, socializing.  Over the last two years of our trip, we’ve been home for the holidays, and with our Fijian plans thwarted, I was feeling a bit melancholy.  Perhaps more than any other year with our re-entry into life on land looming on the horizon, I was most in need of some guided contemplation.

IMG_0642Quick decisions and some long-distance internet help from my stepdad (we were on a passage and could not do flight searches) lead us to Auckland once we knew we could leave the boat in Fiji with confidence.  My sister’s close friend Michelle and her family had just moved here last year and they generously and lovingly opened their home to us.  Their friends welcomed us to their tables.  Their community warmly opened its doors to us for its services.  How lucky we are to be the recipients of the famous Kiwi hospitality, although our luck is also a testament to who Michelle and Nick are (they’ve loaned us a car, their friend loaned us a cell phone, and another friend loaned us an apartment along our travel route).  I also marvel at the fact that wherever in the world find a Jewish community, we are welcomed and fit right in.


Perhaps it’s the sweet New Zealand apples or the magical Manuka honey, but so far it’s been a super start to 5772.

More to come on the trip itself.

-Barb in New Zealand