Well received all of your incredible newsy emails. Thank you ever so much. I haven’t written you many emails of late. I’m in the midst of posting some of the blog entries that I’ve been collecting and writing at night. It’s a long process.
We’ve had the most incredible experiences here in Vanuatu. Exploding volcano, Rom dancing, hiking into remote African like villages, Land Diving, eating local yams and local mackerel – what adventure!
Tonight we’re anchored outside The Beachfront Resort (friendly and helpful to cruisers) on the island Espiritu Santo in Luganville and are planning to have dinner at the resort in order to benefit from their great Wi-fi X 4 people/devices. We’re hoping the wind dies down a little so our dinghy ride back in the dark to Kandu is not bumpy and wet as we’ll be transporting computers.
Eric got the engine figured out, which had been causing him angst since yesterday. Happily, the problem was apparent and the solution was simple; he had changed the oil and filters but didn’t stock up the new filters with oil, so the engine was sucking air. When we get our retrofitted pactor modem in Australia, we’ll actually be able to send emails in route over the ocean along with low-resolution photos. It will be great to have that working again along with our wind sensor.
I’ve got to send a message to Teaching Textbooks (Bryce and Trent’s math programs) regarding the discs we’re having problems with probably due to being in a salty environment since early 2015. They said they would send us replacements. We need them badly now that the boys are boat schooling full time. I must find the list of bad CD’s that we painstakingly drew-up! Where could that be? Sigh.
This week, we plan to go on a scuba dive of the USS President Coolidge 600 foot troop carrier wreck that sank in 1942 during WWII.
It is located in relatively shallow water so it will not be a problem for the boys to dive it considering their low degree of experience and skill. We also plan to take an afternoon island tour of the WWII leftovers: Million Dollar Point where the Americans dumped massive amounts of war vehicles and equipment deep into the water after the war, hospital sites, quonset barracks and shelters still in use, an old prison cell built to detain Japanese POWs, etc,
It should be a great education adding to the boys’ understanding of World War II and how it affected even the most remote peoples of the world.
Also, I think we might rent a car to tour the northern part of the island up to Port Olry, fitting in a swim in one of the celebrated Blue Hols along the coastline and a visit to Champagne Beach where the sand is beautifully fine. Friday – we’ll stock up and check out of immigration. Saturday we’ll be leaving.
Gotta go – dinner is ready. I love you, and dittoing your memorable salutation, send you back clouds of love love love, Leslie.
I have enjoyed keeping in touch with you through our Delorme texting. It’s a perfect way since connecting to Wi-Fi is so limited.
I came down with a little cold – so have been careful to eat well, drink lots of water with lemon, and get plenty of rest to recover as quickly as possible. We are presently hanging out in Musket Cove, Fiji in the Mamanuca Islands.
It’s an idyllic spot – the very first Fijian resort – but we’re here specifically for the surf. A couple internationally famous surf spots drew us to this area (Cloudbreak and Restaurants) and by accident we happened on the annual international Fijian surf competition presently being held at Cloudbreak. Bryce and Trent got to surf the famous Cloudbreak today with some star surfers…Bryce paddled over to one he recognized and shook his hand.
It’s a very pretty, clean, and high class resort here at Musket Cove. I was able to wash our laundry in a real laundromat. It seems that two loads (darks and lights) wash and dry is a universal US$20. Plus, at the resort we benefit from hot showers! It’s been quite awhile since we’ve enjoyed hot showers.
Yesterday we met a Danish family with two teenagers similar ages to BnT who are traveling Fiji on a sailboat. We played a GREAT 2-hours of beach volleyball and then all went over for happy hour beers at the outdoor spot Dick’s while the boys swam in the adjacent pool. They returned to their boat and we, ours. The boys decided to make: dinner by themselves: gnocchi pesto and tomato-cucumber salad. I loved it! Today, I rewarded them on their return from surfing (they left at 5:30 am) with a fresh-baked chocolate cake. Tonight we intend to BBQ over at the resort, New Zealand lamb chops and lamb sausages. We bring our own food and the resort provides plates and the use of a grill for US$2.00. We’re excited.
It’s much cooler here in Fiji…well it is considered winter, but here in the dry Mamanuca Islands of Western Fiji, there is little rain, so we have the hatches and port lights wide open (hardly any mosquitos). The guys get so chilled at night in the front & middle section of the boat, that they crawl into their sheets and use blankets to keep warm. It’s a welcome change from Polynesia. In the aft cabin where I’m sleeping, I too use a blanket and am even wearing my longer pajamas considering I’m always the hottest these days! It’s delightful not to be constantly sweating and dripping.
Tomorrow we will start taking the antibiotic Doxycycline that will protect us against malaria. There are several choices, but we chose this particular antibiotic because it helps with acne. I’m hoping it will help clear up our skin. We will have to take the antibiotic for about 9 months from Vanuatu until we sail away from Sri-Lanka. There is one drawback. We will have to be extra careful to protect our skin against the sun as it makes skin more sensitive to sun damage.
We have been ever frustrated by our Internet connection in Samoa’s Capital, Apia, on the island of Upolu. Finally after a week, Eric has figured out the best method and now we have specifically purchased data sims to install into our phones in order to create hotspots to link our computers. I imagine this is going to be an ongoing struggle in each country we visit.
We plan to leave for Fiji tomorrow morning. Before we throw-off the lines, I’ll head over to the outdoor market to get some fresh fruit. I did find some tomatoes and apples this morning at a stiffer than usual price (everything here is discounted 60% for us with our great strong dollar exchange rate) than the local fruits, but still not expensive. For example, we can go to a decent restaurant (albeit not the most high end) and instead of paying US$70, we pay at the most US$35 for the four of us, and that includes drinks. We are charged about US$6.00 for an ATM fee. I find that fee a bit stiff actually…and then we have our own 1% bank fees at First Entertainment Credit Union. We stopped using our BofA account to withdraw cash because they charge 3%. I try to figure all those fees in when calculating our personal exchange rate.
Eric has been getting the run-around with immigration. One person says one thing and another says something else. We had wanted to go to the neighboring Samoa island Savai’i, but customs is requiring that we return and clear immigration from Apia, Upolu. I was actually told that when we first arrived, but Eric had spoken to someone else that said the contrary and didn’t believe me. So instead of departing tonight, we will be departing for Fiji tomorrow early morning, which, in fact, is really, really good. It makes all of us happy to have a sound night’s sleep as night watches are not our favorite, plus the constant movement and noises make for light sleeping. It will be a five-day sail to Fiji.
Sounds like you had a lovely and relaxing time in La Quinta getting to visit with Kay and Don and engaging in a lot of reading. Trent has gotten involved in a new series of 11 books: “The Ranger’s Apprentice” by John Flanagan, given to us by our La Cruz Mexico friends in pdf form. We loaded the entire series on his Kindle. He’s having a blast reading to his heart’s content. We got the new replacement Kindle from Michele and Ron, but now cannot find Trent’s – so back to two. We must find that Kindle! In Fiji, I guess we’ll unload the boys’ water toys from their ‘forecastle’ room and seriously dig around in the forward sail bins. We think it fell down into one of the bins when their bed boards were lifted up to store away the sails. Sigh.
Here in Suva, we were very fortunate to hook-up with a wonderful woman, Tasa, the first Samoan female passenger air pilot. She is on break from flying to take care of her aging parents, meanwhile making a living as a tour guide and masseuse extraordinaire. She popped over the first evening with the most remarkably delicious ice-cold beers in hand – the Samoan ‘Taula’ with no added preservatives (we never drank another brand while in Samoa as it was soooo tasty). Tasa is beautiful, amazingly friendly, intelligent, upbeat and enormously helpful. I think I found in her another friend for life. We spent a full Saturday afternoon with her touring the complete island and swimming the beautiful ‘To Sua Ocean Trench’ freshwater cave pool in the rain where the boys jumped 35-45 feet into the deep pool. Plus she directed us how to find the somewhat hidden Salani Surf Resort in the dark. Upon arrival at the resort, we made reservations for the following Monday morning (no surfing on Sundays due to church dictates) to surf at the renowned Samoan surf-site two days later. On top of all that, she insisted on doing our laundry, nor did I want to miss out on one of her massages performed in her spectacular semi-outdoor forest setting home. She made sure that we had papayas, lemons, and lemongrass a-plenty from her garden. Such generosity.
On a side note – the Salani Surf Resort ended up a bust. We had specifically rented a car for the occasion and left Kandu at 4:30 in the morning to drive to the other side of the island and arrive in time for the first boat out at 6:10 am. When we arrived there with the boys ramped up excited to go, the surf authority dude (a little Napoleon type) approached me and aggressively, in my face, spouted: “There is no way I am taking these boys out to surf the wave. The ‘reservation’ you made was not legitimate, and since you aren’t staying at the resort, there is nothing I can or will do to accommodate you.” Considerably affronted, we reloaded the boards back into our rental van and drove off to find surf at any of the other known surf sites in the area. Unfortunately, there were no waves to surf at the other southern sites: Boulders, Siumu nor Coconuts, so we drove back to Salani, the only site with some waves due to the strong southeast swell. Since we had heard you could paddle out to the reef break, we looked for the beachfront entrance accessed through a local village. A helpful woman on the road pointed us in the right direction, and we pulled into the village area surrounded by homes and a small local store adjacent to the surf-site. The boys were so excited that they took off like banshees for the water, surf shirts, sunblock zinc paste, and surfboards in hand. Eric approached the nearest local women to ask permission for the boys to surf, explaining that we had tried to surf through the Salani Surf Resort, but had been turned away even though we were willing to pay their expensive fees. With sympathy towards ‘boys’ and since she owned the beachfront, for a small fee, she generously allowed Bryce and Trent to disembark from her land to surf, even though she and the village had exclusively leased out the rights to surf the ‘Salani wave’ to The Salani Surf Resort. Three hours later when the boys returned happy and well exercised, they reported that Mr. Napoleon-surf-dude was not happy to see them, but he didn’t utter a word edgewise. Turns out that Bryce and Trent were as skilled as or better than most of the resort surfers that day!
Whenever Eric checks into a country he is full of smiles, and with upbeat energy he asks where to find the best local places to eat. Suggested by staff members of the cruising permit office for a ‘local experience’ was The Sunrise Café where Eric and Bryce both ordered a plate of fried chicken, taro and banana. It was simply that – the taro and banana were boiled and served w/o sauce. We didn’t return. Upon the advice of Curtis, Eric hunted down the little known local delicacy ‘Pangi Popo’ (sweet buns in fresh coconut cream custard) only available in two bakery’s: Mari’s on the beach front or at Myna’s, a rather isolated grocery store. They were finger dripping good. We also ate a delicious meal at Giordano’s Wood Fire Pizza Garden Restaurant. However, The Seafood Gourmet, across from the marina, became our hangout for inexpensive healthy options and ice cream. Unabashedly, we did go to McDonald’s once or twice for a taste of home. And aside from the ‘Pangi Popo,’ the other pastries available were also quite delicious. There are buns and doughnuts filled with cream and ever-so-soft-n-tasty cinnamon buns, plus an interesting hard cookie biscuit made with pig lard and sugar. It’s salty yet sweet: a rather pretty’n tasty substitute for breakfast toast.We enjoyed our movie fix in the evenings seeing four American movies in a lovely modern cinema theater. We felt spoiled because it was soooo cheap for the four of us: US$4.00 per ticket. We were thrilled to attend a fabulous and free four-hour presentation at the Tourism Cultural Center including real traditional tattooing, cloth painting, carving, tapa cloth tapping and scraping, dancing and singing, palm frond weaving of headbands, and a taste of their ceremonial drink, Kava. In fact, Eric and I hunted for Kava everywhere in the open market, super markets, Chinese stores, and finally found it in small 4-ounce quantities for US$6/bag at the flea market. Whew! We were told that we needed it to present to chiefs in Vanuatu when arriving in their villages. While at the flea market around 4:00pm when the kids are returning home from school, we saw the most incredible parade of brightly decorated buses loading up to travel to the far sides of the island. Each truck-bus was sponsored by a local restaurant or organization as advertisement! Fun!On our own time with the rental car, we extensively explored the island getting to swim with the fish in the iridescent aqua freshwater Piula Cave Pool. It was an extraordinarily refreshing experience during that hot and humid day. On another day, we had more energizing fun at the Papase’ea Sliding Rocks close to the University of the Pacific in Apia. Being in Apia on a Sunday, Eric and I got up early to attend a church service at the extraordinary Immaculate Conception of Mary Cathedral located on the main Beachfront Blvd. Already at 7:00 am, we were late getting there only hearing the tail end of the service, yet what we heard were the most incredible mix of native sounding Catholic liturgical hymns. They were uplifting and deeply emotionally stirring when surrounded by an exceptionally beautiful and grandiose interior.We’re all in decent spirits – not excited for 5 days at sea, but ready to leave Samoa. It has been a fabulously profound time here with such delightful people and arresting beauty. We never seem to have quite enough time to discover everything. Sadly, we missed visiting the two Samoan museums in town. But, the boys got to surf the famous Salani reef – which is the most important thing in their book, and therefore in ours! It’s been a spectacular visit.
Oh – one of the reasons we wanted to come to Samao for was to meet up with Eric’s Samoan family through his Uncle Dan. Auntie Lori is from Upolu and her grandparents are still alive. We got a chance to see them at their Bartlay store – Amazing!
Had better sign off. I’m glad you well received the cards – I penned those poems. A little corny – but straight from the heart! Hey – there is a fantastic cribbage app that you can add to your phone. It teaches you how to make the best moves and which cards are the most appropriate to discard from your hand. Trent, Bryce and I all played it so much during our night watches that we’re already rather bored by the game. I’m trying to get them to play a threesome. Probably will succeed during this next five-day passage.
Sending you virtual saltwater and salty hugs – Leslie
Mom and Dad –
Happy 78th Birthday this Friday Dad! Happy Mother’s Day on the 14th Mom!
We are always thinking of you!
Such a lovely photo of the two of you at the San Xavier Mission in Tucson. I also am astonished to see photos of you riding on donkeys. Wow, full of surprises you are. That’s great! So glad you’re out doing it: traveling and living life to the fullest. Whoohooo!
Ron and Michele left yesterday for Bora Bora by plane. We were sad and frustrated to see them go as we had planned to sail with them to Bora and then to Maupiti.
We have been slowed down due to two things: Eric was troubled by a kidney stone and we had a radio problem that we thought was going to be fixed by some parts brought in by another friend, but after three days of messing with it, the pactor modem seems to be broken, unfixable here.
Eric’s kidney stone started giving him trouble on Friday morning when we were leaving the Miri Miri surf site after spending 2 days sailing around Taha’a. He took 800 mgs of Ibuprofen around 9:00 am to reduce swelling and just after he took another 800 mgs of ibuprofen around noon, it seems he felt the most amount of pain, and must have passed it. We staged and enjoyed a lovely happy hour on the dock that night with our friends in Marina d’Uturoa hoping to leave on Sunday. It was a lovely farewell gathering. But based on the recommendation and help of two doctors who also live on their boat, Eric walked over to the emergency on Saturday morning to have an X-ray performed. Eric’s kidney stones are always oxalate, so you can see them on an x-ray if he has one. In fact, they could not see a single one, so either some stones exist but are so small they will pass, or he doesn’t have any more for the time being. This one was his 10th! Since it has passed, we can depart into the big blue without worrying that he will be troubled by the pain of passing kidney stones – at least for now! He is under doctor’s orders to drink twice as much water as before, preferably with lemon!
On the other subject of the pactor modem, unfortunately it appears that the modem is faulty and needs to be repaired in the states. The system is so antiquated, there are only a few people who know how to repair it, and one of them lives in San Francisco. It looks we’re going to send it home with Ron and Michele to be repaired. We’ll have to sail without it for a while.
In the meantime, Eric set Bryce to read a manual on obtaining weather faxes straight from the radio through some special software that we already have…perhaps he’s going to become our weatherman specialist. And if we’re so fortunate, that’s all we’ll need to download weather grib files. We’ll see. To buy a new pactor modem we think would be about $1,500 and we just don’t want to spend that kind of money on electronics right now if we can avoid it.
We are pulling out of the marina tomorrow morning – finishing up last minute details today. I may pop into the market one more time for more oatmeal…as we pretty much used up all I had on stock. We plan to catch-up with Ron and Michele in Bora. If we leave tomorrow morning, Wednesday, we’ll arrive there by the evening and we could meet them for dinner and perhaps spend Thursday with them depending on their schedule. We want to get a bit more instruction on the new game they taught us: Cribbage. They leave on Friday for Huahine. We’ll pull-up anchor also on Friday for Maupiti.
Our plan is to visit Maupiti island for a day, then head north to Mopelia – a very small atoll to deliver mail and enjoy some lobster, which they have a plethora. Then we’ll head on towards Samoa, Fiji, Vanuatu and make Darwin by mid-July. Lots to see, lots of surf, lots of sailing. Our ocean passages will be about 10 days each, god willing. We simply don’t have time to stop in the Cook Islands or the Solomon Islands because we plan to join the Indonesia Rally which leaves Darwin July 28th. We did some research and found out that Papua New Guinea has a big theft problem. So we decided not to stop there.
It was lovely having Ron and Michele aboard. They were incredibly helpful – Ron worked a lot with Eric and was able to engage in some handyman issues that needed addressing, plus he washed dishes!!! Michele shopped food inventory with me, cleaned, vacuumed, helped with dinner, even planned and made dinner one night, and cleaned things all on her own volition (what a concept!)…generally reducing my work and stress. Amazing. I had a wife for a week!!
I only wish we had been able to sail with the two of them as planned to Bora Bora and then Maupiti. It’s frustrating. However, we did sail around the island of Taha’a together and got to enjoy the corral gardens there on the west side of the island near the Pearl Lodge Hotel. Also on Taha’a across from the corral gardens, we enjoyed an educational tour of a combined rum manufacturing plant, coconut oil, Temanu oil and vanilla bean provider. I had been buying the coconut oil from that very business, Pari Pari, since we arrived here in Raiatea. It’s the only local company around pressing virgin and edible coconut oil. I mentioned to the owner farmer giving us the tour, that I bought out all his bottles of coconut oil from the store that retails it in Raiatea. He was tickled to hear that.
The four of us are excited to head out. With the last minute details worked out: laundry, cleaning up ropes and installing the wind vane, we feel ready in mind and boat. Aside from the radio problem which previously allowed us to send emails at sea, and most importantly enabled us to download weather grib files, everything else is working great. We’ll get by with our delorme texting device and I can’t say I ever communicated by sailmail anyway. I send this email to you with big hugs, thoughts and well wishes for you r special days this Month of May. Please take very good care of yourselves. Did I mention to you that Curtis and Joel will be coming to see us in Darwin in July? Sending you virtual hugs and kisses
Today, Wednesday – we have been making great progress on getting the boat loaded, newly rigged, tuned up and ready to go. All of our stored stuff has been pulled out of our friend Sylvana’s house, and is either sitting on top of the boat to be tucked away, to clean, or to get rid of. We have now sold all of our posted items except for Bryce’s surfboard which we’ll try to sell along the way.I have been shopping for lots and lots of food supplies, knowing that our next big food shopping won’t be until Fiji.
The boys have been working so hard for us now that they’re out of school. For Easter, Eric went out and bought some chocolates and hid them in the boat for a mini egg hunt. They loved it. He’s so thoughtful. I didn’t think to do that myself…wasn’t in the mood as Trent had been nastily sassing me the night before. Sigh.
Not much news since our phone call – just working on boat stuff. Eric has discovered some problems with our electronic instruments, specifically our pactor modem. It turns our radio into wifi for email and weather reports. We got a name for an electrician here and hope that he can fix it for us.
Annie requested that we send back Bill’s Snuggie that he left. We’ve been enjoying it since the Galapagos – all of us finding it quite useful, so I decided to make ourselves one out of a blanket that I had bought to use as filling for the Kandu totes. Since I’m not going to be able to get making those right away and I have plenty of felt from you, I figured it would be the perfect use for the huge blanket. Also – made some nice covers for our cockpit pillows out of the green sunbrella material that I had left over. They look so much better now. I still plan to make some covers for our interior settee seats. Looks like I may have time, as things are coming together well. I went out and bought a little more fabric to match the fabric you brought. The banquet seats are quite long. I will end up using all that material plus the new.
Our car starter is performing worse and worse. The poor girl who bought the car knows all about it, but says it’s okay because her father is a mechanic. We turn the car over to her on April 24th. That will be a sad day…no more easy wheeling!
Finally got a good video of the little Tupa crabs that run around here digging holes. I’ll share it on Facebook. It had been raining really hard, and his hole must have gotten filled with water. Dusk – I came out of the laundry room and frightened him on the sidewalk. Poor little crab had his claws up in the air and being trapped really couldn’t run away. Eric fortunately showed up with his camera – so we got some good photos and video of him. Most of the time the little crabs are hard to photograph as they scurry away so quickly.
We were invited over to Hauari’i’s grandparents home for a lovely Sunday afternoon Mexican extravaganza (remember that Hauari’i’s granddadis Mexican married to a Polynesian. Hauari’i is Trent’s friend from school). Jose taught us how to make tortillas and the kids had a blast playing ping-pong around the world and then they went swimming, kayaking, outrigging, and scurfing in the lagoon out in back of their home! Neat!
The boys did have a great Va’a pirogue competition this past Monday. And the Saturday before they ran all the way around the island in relay with the same group of runners that placed well during the LaCrosse season that you witnessed.The previous weekend we got together with Sylvana who led us on a very nice hike up to a local private waterfall. We were glad to enjoy a few more local activities before leaving this lovely Polynesian Island of Raiatea. Loving you, Leslie.
Hello Mom and Dad – I know you had some busy days getting packed up for your time in LQ and travels to Tucson.
Just wanted to say hello and let you know Ron and Michele arrived yesterday safe and sound carting along a HUGE duffel bag full of our boat parts, amazon orders, and Spicy Hot Cheetos X 6 big bags for the boys! It was a bit like Christmas sorting through the various orders. Wonderful fun. Michele was sweet to also bring some fun new spices that will liven my cooking. I have been feeling a bit bored with my general menu fare – so that will brighten things up a bit for sure.
Feeling a bit tired today as yesterday we did a lot of cleaning in prep for our guests’ arrival. Ron and Michele went for a hike up Tapioi while crew Kandu worked on various chores to get ready to depart. Ron and Michele are sweet, sweet, sweet yet I imagine their minds are a little boggled having to deal with the smallness of space, and not being able to get everything one might want at a moment’s notice. Fortunately the stores stock oatmeal and okay wine which was on their list. Organic foods and non-gluten are available, but very expensive. In general food is expensive except for white rice, white flour, boxed milk, white sugar, canned butter and baguettes, which are considered “daily needs” and are subsidized. I don’t buy the expensive organic or fancy items; note-to-self, organic or raw peanut butter is nonexistent. Skippy it is and Nutella, of course! Buying raw nuts here is impossible. Fortunately I have a good supply that I hoard in the freezer for banana bread. Being away from the US commercial haven of the world for the last 2.5 years, I no longer think about the things that we can’t get, just the things that we can.
Sending you hugs and love. Gotta get lunch on. Maybe Sashimi today. Mmmm good.
We are getting excited for your visit too. We do have many stories to recount. I wish I had time and energy to write them all down. Alas, what are we doing here in paradise, if we’re always on the computer recording?
Certainly we’re not the best sailors in the world, but we at least have some experience now. We’re especially getting good at reading the weather! It is very uncomfortable to travel in bad weather!
Yes – the end of April and your arrival coinciding with our departure is looming. We are working furiously to get boat repairs and projects accomplished…then we’ll need to reload the boat – Ugh! Not my favorite thing to do as Eric always thinks it’s only going to take a day or two and forgets every time how long it takes to fit everything back into/onto the boat, tie it down, etc.
Anyway – regarding your thoughts about our needs – There will definitely be some boat parts. Eric will either be ordering them and having them shipped to you or Uncle Bill will organize them when he returns and ship them to you. Eric may have you pick some things up at the local West Marine Chandlery. Which one is the most convenient for you? Can you send me their phone number and address…email and contact person?
We will be ordering some things from Amazon prime and shipping them directly to you. You won’t need to really buy much for us. However, the boys absolutely love the hottest, spiciest Cheetos that you can find – those cannot be found here. Mexican tortillas, corn chips, salsa and the like can actually be purchased here in Raiatea along with all the candies a person can imagine – so no need to cart those – we’ll have other things for you to bring for sure.
Regarding your own personal items and clothes. It’s very sunny, hot and muggy here. You’ll want to purchase or bring along a long-sleeved button down Columbia sunblock shirt along with a pair of similar fabric pants: light, stretchy and beige colored – to keep the mosquitos off at night if we happen to be walking around in town. No jeans or heavy cotton fabrics. Colorful T-shirts, a couple bathing suits and stretchy light fabric shorts. You should bring a pair of Teva or Keen closed toed sandals to hike with and wear around town, also a pair of flip flops (they’re expensive here) and maybe a nicer pair of sandals to go out with. Sundress or light sleeveless dress could be good too. I normally wear shorts during the day and tank tops – with a long sleeve shirt nearby in case I spend anytime outside. You’ll also want a good floppy hat – Columbia is the best anti-sun. You’ll want to bring mosquito spray and zinc sunscreen. You can buy or borrow a pareo here – no need to bring. We have all and every medicine you can imagine. Don’t bring shampoo or towels, or bed sheets or pillows – we have all that.
Okay – now for business: health insurance. Eric and I discussed the options regarding the renewal of our International World Health Coverage Plan. We are going to go with Ron’s suggestion to up the deductible and add a sports rider on the boys. We would like to pay for that soon.
As you know, we have been having some great times traveling at large away from Kandu by airplane. You probably know that over the Christmas holiday we visited the north island of New Zealand and spent two weeks with Eric’s brother Curtis in Sydney, Australia. Such great times and then we enjoyed more good times at the end of Jan-early Feb, when we spent two weeks on Easter Island. It had been on my bucket list for years to visit that remote mysterious island. Since we decided not to sail there in 2015, adding 2 months of open water sailing to our itinerary between the Galapagos and the Marquesas, we took a plane instead (only US$450 per plane ticket from Papeete) and stayed in a home run bed and breakfast. The entire experience between studying about and visiting the archeological moai sites all around the island, traveling with dear Marquesan friends Sebastien & Raymonde Falchetto-Ly, and Linda & Chuck Hoolihan from s/v Jacaranda, plus witnessing the Tapati cultural festival events, was extraordinary. I’m not sure if the boys really understand what they’ve witnessed, but someday they will. We splurged spending one morning playing dress-up Rapa Nui style. We hired a woman and her daughter to paint us, dress us, and then photograph us in front of an impressive moai site near the city. We had such a great time posing and mugging for the camera nearly naked, onlookers be darned! On top of all the site-seeing, the boys got to surf almost everyday. For all four of us, it was a top-notch experience.I’m trying to take advantage of our easy and fast internet while staying during this month of February at the Sunset Beach Motel near the boat yard where Kandu is hauled. She is getting a new anti-fouling paint job and we are accomplishing various boat chores that are easier to perform on land. Our boat is terribly torn up inside with all the work being done. It’s impossible to live on right now. So staying in our little bungalow situated right on the lagoon is a real treat. Plus it’s great having Uncle Bill with us helping out. The pressure to get things accomplished is halved with his help.
We left New Zealand January 2nd, and due to the international date line’s location, arrived five and half hours later in Tahiti on January 1st, allowing us a chance to celebrate New Year’s Day a second time.
Returning to Tahiti was bittersweet after all that travel away from the boat. Tahiti is such a beautiful place, how could we possibly be upset? Plus we had 10 more days of fun before heading back to Raiatea! We were generously hosted at Corinne Mc Kittrick and Michel Bonnard’s home in Puunauia up on the hill in the Lotus district. Spoiled rotten with their incredible view of Moorea, we shared several meals with them discussing Tahiti’s past, present, and future.
Corinne Mc Kittrick, the best tour guide on Tahiti island, gave us and friends Chuck and Linda from s/v Jacaranda an incredible tour around the island. One of my favorite stops was at the Botanical Spring Garden: Jardins d’eau of Vaipahi. The five of us were awed by the tropical beauty of the indigenous and imported flora that exhibited boundless colors and designs. We also enjoyed touring Marae Arahurahu. Having been there once before, Eric and I wanted to get up close and personal to the famous Austral Island duplicate male and female tiki statues. The originals, still housed in the now closed Gauguin Museum, have a mysterious curse such that anyone who attempts to move them, shortly thereafter dies tragically. The Austral Islands would like to have them back, but no one deign touch them, let alone, transport them! That same night, Corinne returned home, but Linda, Chuck, Eric and I headed out for a grand sunset and starlit dinner up the local mountain to O-Belvedere restaurant. The ambiance was beautiful offering great views of Papeete below and Moorea across the ocean. We ordered cheese fondue all around – très Français!
During our 10 Tahiti days, the boys had a fabulous time surfing with good friend Daniel Teipoarii – surf maniac, and we all got the chance to spend several occasions hanging out with his wife Laure and two sons of the same age.
Eric and I completed a bit of shopping for boat essentials and impossible to find groceries, before teaming up again with Linda Edeiken (a cultural connoisseur) to visit the Norman Hall Museum, the author of Mutiny on the Bounty. From within his former home, converted into a museum and maintained by his family, we learned a lot about his remarkable life and WWII heroism.
On our return to Raiatea, we had one more adventure. Instead of flying, we boarded the Hawaiki Nui cargo ship for an overnight ride. It was a good thing we had arranged to travel by boat since we brought home an enormous amount of baggage: new surfboard for Bryce plus Trent’s, a new used kite and kite board, a boogie board, a new room fan for Kandu, large tub of laundry detergent, a heavy box of groceries purchased in Papeete of items unavailable in Raiatea, and of course, our 5 weeks worth of baggage and touristic souvenirs. We lucked out installing ourselves in a comfortable spot on top of the ship under an awning.
With excellent warm breezy weather and a gentle swell, we made our way comfortably back home to Kandu…which incidentally stunk and required 10 loads of laundry to get rid of the mildew odor …ugh, vacation over!
And only ten days later, we flew back to Tahiti to start our two-week Easter Island adventure . . . more to come.
January 1st, 2017 letter con’t: We found Sydney as equally modern and beautiful as Auckland. There didn’t seem to be grime anywhere. The underground mass-transit trains appeared new. The roads were perfectly paved. Much pride of ownership was displayed in well-maintained homes and buildings. The public parks were very organized with clean toilets!! Eric’s brother, Curtis and his partner, Joel were the most incredible hosts, taking their work vacation days to spend 2 weeks with hanging out with us. We couldn’t have experienced a more incredible time with them and their personal backyard aviary.
Passing quality time with Curtis and Joel was a priority while we worked in some of the iconic must-visit sites during our two weeks in New South Wales like touring Macquairie University to see where Curtis has been teaching Chiropractics all these years.
Hiking the Sydney Bridge to see a 360 degree view of the entire Sydney Harbor was a definite highlight of our Australian experience.
We took the rapid transit train from Epping several time with Curtis and Joel to travel into the marina district of Sydney called the Circular Quay and The Rocks. Incidentally, Sydney harbor is the most beautiful city harbor I’ve ever seen. All of us ferried over to Manly Beach, a fabulous surfer town not unlike Hermosa Beach. Later with Julie Keizer and Blake, Kandu crew caught another ferry to Watson’s Bay where we gorged on fish’n chips. Both of these were charming Sydney Harbor suburbs.
The day after Christmas we caught a performance of “A 1903 Circus Extravaganza” in the iconic Sydney Opera House Concert Hall, we then strolled around the incredible sail-like structure to take in the views and nearby botanical gardens. Click on the Video:Sydney-Operahouse We spent a memorable day with Curtis and Joel hiking and riding up, down, all around as part of the “Scenic World Discovery Tour” in high-flying gondolas, and in an impressive steep grade mining railway – to see the three sister pillars and witness the blue haze caused by the offing of eucalyptus oil in the air.
Wanting to see up close and personal the live endemic animals of Australia, Curtis suggested we spend a morning at a local New South Wales animal shelter called the Koala Park Sanctuary. There we got a chance to pet and feed koalas eucalyptus leaves, and pet and feed wallabies and kangaroos to our hearts content. Click on the Video:KoalaPetting
Keeping active, the boys enjoyed fun times and surf at some of the famous New South Wales surf spots: Mona Vale, Bonzi beach, Bombo Beach and Terrigal of the Central Coast which was introduced to us by dear friends, Julie Keizer and Blake.
Hurray – the waters were a warm welcome compared to those of New Zealand, even enticing me to join in the wave action, boogie boarding. Unlike surfing in the Society Islands where spiky coral reefs hide just under the waves, surfing in NZ and Australia had the benefit of being sand breaks. The boys relished in the freedom of not having to worry about getting caught on coral.
We spent a beautiful day together as a family cooking, eating and drinking on Christmas Eve. Not having spent Christmas together last year (Remember when Kandu and crew whisked off to save a friend’s fishingboat?), it was important for the holiday season to feel like Christmas, sharing the traditions of: a Christmas tree and stockings, giving and receiving gifts, preparing and sharing traditional holiday food, and most importantly taking note of our Blessings.
On New Year’s Eve, Curtis, Joel, Joel’s sister, the boys, Eric and I all rode the rapid transit train into Sydney to catch the Sydney Bridge light show and fireworks. It was an incredible testament to an enormous peaceful gathering of all races and traditions using mass transportation. Thousands of people descended on the area to delight in the extraordinary spectacle packing food and drinks. The boys brought along the card game Uno. We started playing and a friendly Pakistani onlooker asked if he could play along – International friendship at its best!
Happily, we had the chance to meet up twice with our Ozzie friends from s/v ‘Blue Heeler,’ an eclectic couple with 2 boys of similar age to Bryce and Trent who are similarly avid surfers and skateboarders. We had met them sailing in Moorea and Papeete, Tahiti, and really wanted to catch-up with them in Australia.
We also chanced to be in Sydney at the same time as Ventura buddy Charlie Richards with his family. At the Circular Quay train station, we said our farewells, till the next time.
The Kandu crew is doing well. All of us are healthy. The boys are growing like weeds and eating up a storm. We have been traveling down under these last 4.5 weeks beginning in New Zealand for 2 weeks followed by 2 weeks in Australia to visit Eric’s brother Curtis who lives in New South Wales just north of Sydney. We are presently relaxing on the plane heading to Auckland and then tomorrow directly back to Tahiti for a week before returning to Raiatea. These last 4 weeks have been an incredible journey of discovery. Our visit to Australia was long overdue considering Eric’s 3rd brother has lived in Sydney for over 13.5 years. Last year, before leaving the Marquesas, we decided we wouldn’t be sailing Kandu to either New Zealand or Southern Australia due to a variety of reasons, so we planned instead to fly over, leaving Kandu safely moored in Marina d’Uturoa, Raiatea.
Not knowing much about New Zealand before planning our visit, we have now learned that the two beautiful islands of New Zealand are sparsely populated with just over 4 million inhabitants most of which live in the cities: Auckland and Wellington in the north, Christchurch, Dunedin and Queenstown in the south. We found Auckland to be thoroughly cosmopolitan with a modernized downtown, rapid transit trains and substantial racial diversity including recent immigrants from India, the Arab world, and China. I was astonished to see and hear so many first generation immigrants. We spent our 2 weeks in New Zealand strictly traveling the North Island, renting a large diesel-powered SUV to explore the island carrying our 5 weeks worth of luggage, 2 surfboards, electronics, and freezer bags to cart perishable groceries.
Upon arrival in Auckland, we were hosted by friends Odile and Gareth the first two days. Not having been in a commercial mecca for quite awhile, it was great fun to walk through one of their fancy shopping malls, just to buy shoes and groceries – and the food choices were a noteworthy change: lamb instead of fish, L&P soda instead of Coke, kiwis and apples instead of papaya and mangos, pavlova instead of apple pie, plus lots and lots of snack food. MMMmmm good! “State-of-the-art” life for us in Auckland included catching a ride on their local rapid transit train to the downtown area where we visited the Maritime Museum exhibiting wonderful old Maori rigs in the “Landfalls” exhibit, modern 12-meter sailing boats and a “New Beginnings” exhibition where you meet NZ’s early European settlers hands-on. Plus we hiked up to catch a view of the SkyTower from one of the many local crater cones.
After Auckland, we drove up into the Northland Peninsula, visiting my longstanding Belgian friend, Muriel and her Kiwi husband, daughters, and family in Whangarei. We took a walk along the city’s newly renovated harbor promenade, played in the park, and then together hiked down to the lovely Whangarei Falls.
The next day, traveling as far north as the Bay of Islands, we toured the idyllic waterfront town of Russell, which boasts the oldest church in NZ called Christ Church. It was such a beautiful resort spot to hang out for the day and night. In order to get to the town, we took a 12-minute, $12NZD car ferry over the bay from Paihia. We had reserved tickets for a boat tour and chance to swim with the local wild bottle-nosed dolphins. We lucked out, getting that chance. The water temperature was frigid, taking my breath away, yet the four of us braved the chop and paddled close to three males of huge girth. One actually leapt out of the water right in front of us. Darnit – didn’t get a picture of that.
The nearby Waitangi Treaty Grounds and Museum were beautifully renovated and groomed with a lovely interior museum, 120 man wooden canoe, and a live historic reenactment of a Maori preamble ceremony along with traditional song and dance, the most noteworthy being the Haka war dance where they stick out their tongues and flash their eyes ferociously wide open . . . phenomenal!!!
Click on the VIDEO: Maori-hakaDue to the boys’ avid interest in surfing, we ventured off the beaten tourist tract to discover gorgeous and incredibly scenic surf sites like Piha (which according to Maori customs is a sacred beach and therefore ‘forbidden’ and dangerous.)
Braving the cold water temperatures much like Southern California, Bryce and Trent also got a chance to surf at Raglan (the most famous NZ surf site) also on the West Coast. Unfortunately, every time they surfed the weather and swells just weren’t quite right so the boys didn’t experience the legendary waves of which the regulars boast.
Driving south toward the middle of the North Island, we toured Rangiroa where we visited the steaming sulfur Maori Whakarewarewa thermal grounds (free facials for all!) and village. The local Moaris put on another fabulous show.
A little southeast of Hamilton, the four of us braved freezing cold spring water, inner tube rafting in the renowned Waitomo Glow-worm Caves (a highlight of our trip) to see the spectacular sparkling walls and where incidentally we were required to leap backwards three separate times dropping down the 5 foot falls to land with big splashes into the dark pools below.With Eric in the movie business and our family being avid Tolkien fans, we couldn’t miss tours to Hobbiton near the town of Matamata and the Weta Movie Studio “Caves” in Wellington! Peter Jackson’s amazing eye for detail was special to witness up close in person! Click the VIDEO: HobbitonTo Eric, Wellington felt a lot like San Francisco. The hillsides were packed with houses surrounding a large meandering bay that supports a strong maritime industry. Having found excellent private home lodging through AirBnB, we ducked in and out visiting the fabulous Te Papa Museum that houses the incredible “Gallipoli: The scale of our war” exhibit and a natural history section that highlighted the odd animals of NZ, extinct and thriving. We even saw a skeleton of the Moa, a large land bird that was killed off after the arrival of men as early as 1400 CE. We also loved visiting the Wellington Zoo where we went especially to see kiwis.
Cool VIDEO of a live Kiwi:KiwicallsSince w’ere avid Sci-fi moviegoers, we couldn’t pass up the chance to see the recently released film Star Wars: Rogue One showing at the fabulous renovated Embassy Theater where Wellington holds its red carpet world premieres.We enjoyed very much learning about the early years of the Maori Polynesians and how the English’s imminent arrival obviously changed their way of life as the two cultures negotiated and worked to co-habitat the land. Due to living among the French Polynesians for the last year and 1/2, we’ve gained a deeper level of understanding about Polynesian beginnings and present day culture such that learning in-depth about the Maori culture and their present life was enriching.
We were also quite fortunate to enjoy visiting or staying with dear Kiwi friends residing in different areas of the northern island: Rachel & Brent of Omokoroa near Tauranga and Eric’s long standing sailing buddy Tova and her family residing in Palmerston. Each of the four lovely families allowed us a small glimpse into their lives: the special Kiwi foods they enjoy (BBQ’d lamb, vegemite/potato chip sandwiches, L&P soda, great Kiwi wine, pavlova dessert, tea & crumpets), the styles of homes (mostly brick, US mid-western looking), and typical modern clothing (California casual). Throughout the country, there were generally two-lane highways and few freeways around the cities. The countryside was green everywhere you looked (regular rain) with the greater part cleared of forest, allowing for sheep and cattle to graze. Food, clothing, restaurants, products and services all seemed expensive even with our 30% exchange “discount”…fortunately for us the dollar was strong! However, tax and tips are included in marked prices, so perhaps the prices were actually equal. It’s been almost 2 years since we’ve been home; it’s possible that prices in the US have increased. And now that we’re feeding two hungry, growing teenage boys, we can no longer get away with two and 1/2 meals…kids meals are behind us…except for me sometimes . . . LOL.