Thursday, July 28, 2005

Ellie's turned 8

On Tuesday the whole kid boat fleet set out for Tahaa Island to celebrate Ellie's birthday and make a little progress west. All the boats flew their sails, but it was really the engines that got us across the 20 miles. Everyone took pictures of each other under sail, and no one will ever know by the photos that the engines were purring away.

The only beaches here in Tahaa are on the motus (tiny islands) out on the reef. We're all anchored behind one in the lagoon, where it's quiet and pretty. This motu however has been turned into a park of sorts with picnic tables, volleyball and bathrooms. We were charged $6 per family for the afternoon. The birthday party succeeded wonderfully though, with 12 kids, 11 adults, bubbles, cakes, volleyball, tag and face painting. The only thing missing were the loved ones from home that I miss so much on special occasions. New friends make this lifestyle worth it, but there is no substitute for family and old friends.

We're very much enjoying not being on a time table now. We're in herd mentality, just following along with friends and taking it easy. This afternoon we'll move to the north end of the island where there is hopefully a free beach and groceries. Wyndeavor has headed off for Rarotonga today, so we're not sure when we'll see them again. We had thought to go there next, but have heard some things about the cost that has us second guessing our plan. There is no anchorage there, and they are charging $20 per night to tie at the wharf. There are plenty of free places to go, so we're looking over the chart books for inspiration.

I was thinking that I haven't written much about boat stuff like sailing, maintenance etc. Pete usually covers that, but lately the boat has been performing great and there hasn't been anything breaking. Our sailing days have been fewer and farther between, but in the next month we hope to cover the 1300 miles to Tonga, so I'm sure the sailing stories will pick up if that is the type of thing you live for. Personally I'm happier at anchor.


Sunday, July 24, 2005

Siki and blue eyed eels

Pete is enjoying making the acquaintance of a local Polynesian man, Siki, who is the caretaker for the property fronting the anchorage we are in. He speaks basic French and between the two of us we can converse and get simple points across. He's very kind and generous with the fruit that grows here on the property. Every day we come home with a new fruit with instructions on how to eat it. We have tried coconuts in many stages of ripeness, heart of palm, jack fruit, papaya, bananas in several varieties, star fruit, giant lemons, small lemons and something else as yet unidentified. He also grows vanilla and has given me 8 vanilla beans. I put them in a container of sugar and hope to experiment with desserts. Ellie and Carter both received shell carvings to make jewelry necklaces. Pete brought him out to the boat today to give him some music CD's as a thank you present.

My new thing this week is learning to drive the dinghy. We usually go everywhere together so Pete always drives. But occasionally it is nice to have the freedom to move about on my own. It's not hard, it's just so different from a car. I've had it as a goal for months to give it a try, but the last straw has been seeing all these boat kids driving their dinghies. Ten year olds zipping around in inflatables with 15 horse engines, put to shame.

Part of my frustration on the boat is that we are just a bit too crowded. Every locker, cupboard and drawer is crammed full. I've decided that 25% of our stuff needs to go. Each space has stuff in it that we just don't use. I took a big bin of books to the beach and instead of trading them, I just gave them away. Viola, now the CD cases have a good place on the shelf and the cameras aren't sitting on top of the fridge. I am doing the toys next. Don't tell the kids. Pete needs to tackle his workshop space. If you know Pete or have ever seen his garage, you will know the challenge that will be. I've also bought some nice local art and hung it on the wall to make it seem more homey. I wish I had had more time before we left to fine tune, but now is as good a time as any to make improvements.

We had a lovely walk today up to a look out and down the other side to another village. A fresh water stream runs through and is populated with blue eyed eels. They are 3-4 feet long and much thicker than a mans arm. People feed them regularly, so they come out of the shadows and beg. Their gaping white mouths come up out of the water waiting for a tasty fish morsel. It rained on and off all afternoon, but we just hid under trees and were a bit glad for the cooling off. We covered about 4 miles in all up and down a very steep hill, and all 12 kids ages 4-12 did great. All 13 adults did pretty well too, considering the lack of hiking we've done in the past 3 months. We all enjoyed doing something different than the beach playing.


Route Planning

Planning destinations while cruising comes down to a matter of preference. City lovers can spend weeks on the quay in Papeete or a month in a marina in Puerta Vallarta. Those with a desire for privacy head for quiet coves off the beaten path and enjoy the peace. Kid boats pile up where there are lots of beaches and good swimming. Fancy restaurants are of little use for parents who have no available baby sitters, but for retired couples, it's a great opportunity to get out of the kitchen. One couples' paradise is another's bore. We have come into a pattern of several weeks per anchorage where a beach is close, kid boats abound and the temptation to spend money is safely back in the city.

However, sailing takes serious planning and can be directed by weather, politics or the need for provisions. Pete looks at weather files regularly as we start gearing up for the next leg. We postpone leaving if it's too light or too much wind. We giddy up if conditions are currently perfect with predictions for bad weather later on. Anchorages too can present troubles. Tangling up the anchor chain in coral and listening it grind away all night makes for a short stay. Another reason we move is to meet up with company. We have backtracked 3 times in our trip and each time has been to meet up with guests. Usually the drive is to go forward at our own pace. Then there are those pesky visas that expire and make us move on to the next country.

The big picture of sailing is governed by global weather patterns and seasons. Certain regions are unsafe for cruisers at certain times of the years. Books are published with routes and time tables all spelled out. We have software that predicts average wind speed, likelihood of a gale, wind direction and expected boat speed. The Pacific Northwest is only a good place to sail in the summer and spring. That limits the times that we could leave and the months that we can return home. Mexico is not safe below a certain latitude from June through October. The safe season in the South Pacific is from April until November. Boats either hunker down in one of a few "hurricane holes" during the southern summer or go to New Zealand, Australia or Hawaii.

As we prepare to leave French Polynesia, a huge decision faces us. Because we can only return to Washington in the spring or summer, we either sail north now, or wait another year. The farther west and south we go, the farther we have to get home again. The trip back from New Zealand is about 7,500 miles or 9 weeks of sailing, plus stops to rest. The trip from here is about 5,000 miles via Hawaii and could be done by September. Now that we are reaping the rewards of our efforts, it seems a shame to head home now. However, we are facing challenges as a family as we live this life. We have decided on a compromise and a "one island at a time" policy. We are going to spend the next 2 to 2 1/2 months sailing to and around Tonga. We will visit Rarotonga in the Cooks on the way. At that point, we can still reach Hawaii and winter the boat there. We have also considered the very costly option of having the boat shipped home on a freighter. New Zealand for the hurricane season is still an option, but we have agreed not to talk about that until Tonga, by which time I will have started the next school year (one of our biggest challenges). We're going to work on our difficulties this summer and see where it takes us.

That's our plan for now. We appreciate all the prayers, letters and help we have received from home.


Saturday, July 23, 2005

art on the beach

Wednesday was a quiet day with no real plans except to keep the kids entertained. Our kids invited the "Dolphin" kids over to swing off the spinnaker pole into the water. The splashing attracted kids from other boats and pretty soon a party materialized on our side deck. We had made plans to go to the hotel restaurant for an early pizza dinner. We got cleaned up and into shore around 5:15, only to find out that they only serve pizza at lunch and the restaurant doesn't open for dinner until 7. It's so disappointing to think I don't have to fix dinner and then have to. So in typical cruiser fashion, we organized an impromptu potluck and had a really nice dinner on 3T. 3T is a 60 foot ketch that was rumored to have belonged to Walter Kronkite once upon a time. It's very nice and roomy. They are a Norwegian family who bought the boat in America and set sail from the east coast. Their girls are 6 & 8, so Ellie is really enjoying them. Eva has a masters degree in fine arts and is sharing her talents with the kids. On Thursday morning she held an art class on the beach for all the kids. Eleven kids participated in a 2 hour session of learning and painting. She showed them some Monets and explained about color and brush strokes. The subject was a bouquet of the beautiful red hibiscus that grow everywhere here. Each kid was given black, white, blue, red and yellow paint to mix into whatever colors they want. She gave them all pointers and then critiqued each work in a very positive way. Imagine 11 kids under the age of 10 all quiet for over an hour. It was great, except for the chain sawing going on at a nearby house.

Later in the afternoon, we returned to the village about 8 miles north and finished up some banking and errands. Then we moved back to the middle anchorage on Friday to finish seeing some sights that we missed the first time. Jorja, an Australian kid boat is here and Dolphins and Ocean Breezes will join us today. The beach is terrific. It's the sight of a hotel that was wiped out in a cyclone in the late 90's. Only the pool and a shell of the restaurant are left. A caretaker protects the land and is very kind to cruisers. The land is planted with bananas, papaya, star fruit, oranges and beautiful flowers. He offered us as much as we wanted and gave us a tour up to a lookout. The arrangement of bird of paradise flowers I picked is spectacular. I haven't had fresh flowers the whole trip. His grandfather used to own all the land in the valley, but some was sold off to the hotel. Now he and his cousin own about half of the area.

We plan to finish up our sight seeing here today and sail with Dolphins and Ocean Breezes to the next island soon.


Wednesday, July 20, 2005

rain in paradise

Sunday afternoon, as we're all enjoying a lounge on the sand, the clouds rolled in and started to sprinkle. We ignored it, as true Western Washingtonians do. We did a bit of exploring in the dinghies with 2 other families and then decided to head back for cover as the sky got darker and darker. Monday morning dawned dark and dismal. We had quite a bit of rain, which Pete caught for laundry and we tried to keep two active children busy indoors. Finally in mid afternoon a break came and we all piled on Wyndeavor for a bit of rope swinging and hot tea. Guess you can figure out who sat and drank tea and who launched off a halyard into the water. Playmobile toys were also a hit when the rain came back. We counted up 12 kids and 10 adults in the anchorage and invited ourselves all over to the biggest catamaran. Potlucks are one of our favorite cruising activities. Cook up one dish, eat tons and visit all evening. "Dolphins" has 2 DVD watching set ups, so Tarzan and Brother Bear were playing and 12 kids were so quiet for 90 minutes we forgot they were there.

Today, the sun did it's magic thing again, brightening our day and our spirits. After a quiet morning reading, doing art projects and playing Spider Solitaire, we had a bacon and egg lunch and headed for the beach. "Now a Days" has left, but 3T has come, so now we have 13 kids and 10 adults. Peter, Chris (Ocean Breezes), Mike (Wyndeavor), Rob & Helen (Dolphins) and Eva (3T) went for a drift snorkel and Lisa, Kelly and I did kid duty at the beach. The only thing we had to do was hand out granola bars, water and Cheetos occasionally and the kids were perfectly entertained with hermit crabs, rocks, sand and sticks. The snorkeling site had a strong current going out a shallow pass from the lagoon and breaking waves on either side. Pete decided that he and Chris should try out the boogie boards on the waves. The comments when they got back made me question my usually sensible husband's judgment. "I just tried to stay alive," from Chris. "I felt like I got washed inside out," said Pete. Rob and Mike verified that it was good that Lisa and I weren't there to worry. As they watched Chris get sucked farther and farther out, the sane guys in the dinghy were making a rescue plan that sounded hairier than the boogie boarding.

Tonight we had the last of our wonderful tortillas that Carrie brought from home. There's not a lot of Mexican food in French Polynesia. Most boat kids get put to bed between 7:30 and 8 and us boat parents usually follow soon after. Tonight though, Rob, Mike and Pete are going to have a laptop session of "sharing resources". I guess that's a few hours of alone time for me. Not a bad day all in all.


Saturday, July 16, 2005

Found Nemo

We've finally made the trip to Huahine. We drug our feet for days and days, waiting for weather and enjoying the great company at Moorea. A large group of kid boats had come through the Panama Canal this year and we're having so much fun getting to know them. After the kid shortage in Mexico, this new group is really making our trip more fun. Over the weekend Kelly (Wyndeavor) met a family on the beach with two young boys. The were speaking English so a conversation started and a friendship as well. They have lived on Moorea for the last two years. The dad manages the Sheraton and Angela home-schools her two sons. She was so excited to meet English speaking kids that she offered to trade her washing machine and internet for our kids. Now Kelly and I figure we by far got the better end of that deal! We dinghied to the beach near her house and spent the whole day doing laundry, sending e-mail and playing. I haven't been in a house since November! The kids had a lot of fun on the trampoline and in the toy room. It was such a treat. Angela and the boys came to the beach each afternoon thereafter and played and met some of the other cruising families. Everyday we would say that we'd probably leave that night, and the next day we'd still be there.

Finally four boats made the plan to leave on Wednesday evening. Huahine is 85 miles away, so to do a 15 hour trip in the daylight is impossible. Everyone leaves just before dusk and arrives in the morning. As the afternoon progressed, the weather got worse. A huge monster of a squall materialized in our path and the weather forecast was for 20+ knots dead astern. Wyndeavor and Wetnose left first and when they cleared the pass and entered the open sea, their masts swung back and forth like metronomes. Pete hates sailing dead downwind in swell. So Ocean Breezes and Imagine opted out of the trip at the very last minute. Every day for 3 days, I had packed up everything and prepared to leave. This time we had even put both dinghies and outboards away, stowed all gear and gave the kids seasick medicine. I had to bite my tongue and trust Pete's judgment to stay another day. Angela was quite surprised to see us at the beach the next day. Chris from Ocean Breezes and I joked about when we were leaving. "I left last weekend. How about you?" "We left last night, this is just my holographic Moorea self," said Chris. I think it would great to have two cruising selves so you can sight see while supervising the kids on the beach. Wyndeavor did have an uncomfortable and rough night. They got up to 30 knots from behind and large seas from the beam. That amounts to a boat rolling from side to side all night and some very upset tummies.

We enjoyed a nice birthday party on the beach Thursday afternoon for Lara on Mahi Mahi. She turned 12 and the international crowd at her party sang her Happy Birthday in..........

*****We interrupt this e-mail to watch a pod of 6 pairs of mother/baby spinner dolphins jumping off our bow. We're just motoring across the Huahine lagoon on our way to a better anchorage. Pete jumped in and watched them underwater. The mothers can do 360's in the air, the babies are trying but they do more of a belly flop. Too cute.***** now back to our regularly scheduled posting...

.....English, Norwegian, Gaelic, Dutch and German. The French tourists on the beach looked at us like we were crazy. We are, that's the fun of it.

Our trip to Huahine was boisterous, but not as bad as the night before. We had no wind for the first 5 hours and then 18-20 on the starboard quarter. Not quite a dead downwind run, but close. We did roll back and forth, which made sleeping hard and made Pete rather queasy. The small village here has groceries, internet and souvenirs if you are willing to pay the prices. On Friday, we bought a minimum of fresh produce, ate burgers, which were actually reasonable and moved the boat to what we hoped would be better holding across the channel. The wind was really howling and the current was strong, so we spent a fairly restless night listening to the anchor chain grinding away on coral as we got pushed and blown in slow circles. After sailing all night Thursday, we could have used a bit more sleep. The good thing there were the clown fish, though. The kids yelled, "Mom, I found Nemo," over and over again.

Now, it's Saturday morning and we're moving again to the next bay in hopes of better holding and a trip to a botanical garden. Most importantly, there is a beach and several kid boats, so we go where the fun is.

Hope everyone is having a good summer, keep writing, we'll check e-mail somewhere down the line. Kellie

Friday, July 15, 2005

geography lesson

If you listen very long to a group of cruisers, you will quickly see if your geography is up to snuff. Cruisers name drop like members of the united nations. I've heard teenagers on the ham radio talking about the friends they met in Panama. I've participated in conversations where the Galapagos, the Marquesas, Bonaire, and the Tuamotus are referred to as casually as most Americans say they went to the mall. "Did you go around the horn or through the Med?" Did you go to Fatu Hiva or Ua Pu? "We liked PV, how did it compare to Zihuat?" We drop names to each other and forget that just a year or two ago we didn't know where Papeete was, let alone that it's pronounced "pa pay e tay."

There are many island nations between Central America and Australia. Mainly, cruisers go from North or Central America to the Marquesas. It's a 3,000 mile trip usually with no stops. If you look on a world map, they may not even show up. The next two island groups west, as well as two more to the south are all part of French Polynesia. The Marquesas, the Tuamotus, the Societies, the Gambiers and the Australs are all Polynesian nations that are governed by France. With the exception of the Societies, most tourists do not visit these islands because facilities are limited. You won't find many hotels, banks, restaurants or public transportation. Cruisers love the unspoiled beauty and the remoteness. The Societies are where we are now. Most people have heard of Tahiti and Bora Bora. Four other islands make up the chain, Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea, and Tahaa. We're working our way through them slowly but surely. Look at a world map and draw a line straight west from the top of Chile and straight south from Hawaii and you will have roughly our location.

That's where we are. Hope that answers all the questions that have come in on the e-mail recently. Come and visit us, we'd love to show you someplace that your friends have never heard of. Then you too can name drop like a cruiser.


"Tourists know where they are going. Travelers know where they have been." Unknown

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

island time

"Island time" refers to the slow paced flexible lifestyle of tropical peoples. Americans are obsessed with time. We are diligent about being on time, planning leisure time, and scheduling work time. We wear watches, carry PDA's, set reminders in Outlook. Islanders say they will meet you "in the morning," and they literally mean sometime in the future. Mexicans say "manana," which means sometime in the future, maybe tomorrow, maybe not. They are surprised when we press them for an exact time, or even an exact day to expect our order or pick up our mail. Cruisers have to learn about "island time." In the last year I have learned to live without a watch, without a calendar and without the expectation to accomplish more than one thing per day. Island time can be very liberating, it can also be very frustrating.

We had planned, with a number of other boats, to leave Moorea and head for Huahine last weekend. Has the weekend already come and gone? We're still here and so are they. There are kids to play with, fish to see, beaches to lie on and no wind. Why should we move? Living in a vehicle offers certain advantages. If you like the view out your window, if you like your neighbors, if the activities are superb, you stay. If the social scene is flat, bothersome noise comes from shore, the beach isn't pristine, you move on. You can't do that at home. You make reservations, you request time off, you go rain or shine on your vacation. You don't stay home an extra day because the neighbors invite you for dinner. You don't leave a day early because it's windy. No, you schedule, you plan, you follow through.

It takes months to learn this new outlook on time. I obsessed about our plans in the beginning. It drove me mad that there were no real guidelines, no efficiency. Pete loves it, he's never been a slave to time, so he fits in great. I wonder how we will ever go back to work, back to a scheduled life. Do we really have to be places at a certain time? Do we really have to know what day it is? I suppose we'll remember how, but maybe it will take just as long to readjust. I guess I'll have to buy new batteries for my watch.

So, we are still anchored off of Moorea. It's fabulous. Everyday we have a new adventure in the most beautiful place we've ever been. We'll leave when it gets windy, or when we get bored, or when our friends leave too. Huahine is the next island about 80 miles away. I'm sure we'll have fun there too and look forward to it, manana.


Thursday, July 07, 2005


Just thought I'd comment on shell collecting. Shell collecting is not an obsession, contrary to some husbands' notion. It is a hobby and all cruising women need a hobby. It's free, it's quiet and they make good gifts, so it should be encouraged. In the Tuamotus I kept telling myself that I didn't need any more cowries. But on the white coral sand, they look just like Easter eggs and it's impossible to pass them up. I have fine tuned my collecting though, as the water line of "Imagine" sinks lower and lower. Now I save old plastic tubs and jars and fill them up with sorted shells. When the jar is full, I don't need anymore of that type. I filled a glass bottle with all the tiny clam shells that the beach was covered with, and it decorates the bathroom counter next to the 10" spider conch and the two 6" helmets. A pottery bowl that I bought in Mexico is the perfect size to hold the coral piece that Peter found on a mooring ball washed up on the beach. Of course it all has to be put away when we sail, but I'm enjoying the decorations while we are in one place.

Ellie spotted two cantaloupe sized snail shells in about 10 feet of water near the boat. Pete dove for them and luckily they were empty of snails. However, one was the home of an octopus, so we had to dump him out and relocate him to the reef. Ellie has been scrubbing away to make them shiny. We're not sure what they are because they are not in our shell books. I haven't found a place to store them yet either.

I figure that small collections will make good stocking stuffers for the kids in the family and I hope to donate collections to the kids' schools. In the meantime, the "treasure boxes" are getting full and we enjoy the family activity of walking along the beach ooing and ahing over God's creation.



"That was the best day of my life," said Ellie on Wednesday morning. We all had to agree that our last morning on Moorea, truly stands out as one of the best of the trip. Moorea is surrounded by reef and the lagoon on the inside is the color of a swimming pool. The snorkeling out shined anything we have yet seen. The coral is getting more colorful and the fish entertain us for hours. Everyday we see a new one to look up in the fish book and add to the collection of underwater photos. The island is mountainous and green, offering terrific views no matter which way you look. There aren't many beaches, but the two we visited were a hit with the kids.

I think most people have been kissed by a black lab, but how many have been slurped by a black ray? On Wednesday we took the dinghy to the northwest corner of the island to check out the wildlife. We were not disappointed. On the way across the bay, a pod of dolphins put on a show. One jumped straight out of the water, did a 360 and splashed back down. Pete and Carter grabbed snorkel gear and tried to swim with them, but weren't able to get very close. On the west side of the bay, we went zipping along beside the reef to find the reportedly tame sting rays. On our way, Pete spotted 2 sea turtles taking a nap on the bottom. They didn't stick around long, but everyone got a good look. Farther along in the channel, our guest Carrie spotted "some big fish". Five foot black tip reef sharks were patrolling the channel about 15 feet down. What a spectacular morning and we haven't even gotten out of the dinghy. In the shallows near the sharks, we found the rays. Black sting rays about 3 feet across with tails another three feet long glide gracefully back and forth over the sand. They are flat diamond shaped animals with eyes on top of their heads and mouths underneath. Divers have tamed them with offerings of fish in the area off a luxury hotel. They swim right up the front of you, poking their noses out of the water brushing against your stomach, looking for handouts. We petted them and fended them off as we had no fish. Carter stayed in the dinghy because the water was too deep for him to stand, but the rest of us stood in waist deep water laughing as they bumped into us. Pete got some great pics with the new underwater camera setup. As the morning wore on, more and more boats showed up and the amount of food being offered increased. The sharks then got a bit more curious and approached in the shallows looking for a snack. They only came about 15 feet from the people and didn't appear aggressive so Carrie and Pete got some more photo opps with them. We were thrilled to have such a day when we had a guest on board.

The day before, we made a dinghy trip to Cook's Bay, about a mile away. There we visited the Moorea Juice Factory. Local farmers were unloading pineapples from their trucks all morning. The juice is out of this world. The factory was closed to the public for renovations, but the store had terrific samples and souvenirs. We all bought our budget worth of goodies.

Carrie wished she had more than a week to stay, as we still had things to do. But life goes on at home, and she needed to be back at the airport Wednesday night. We sailed back to Tahiti in the afternoon and just dropped the anchor as the sun disappeared. Today we're catching up on laundry, water, grocery shopping and rest. Having fun is so tiring. Tomorrow we head back to Moorea for a day or two and then Huahine on the weekend.

We're considering how much longer we're going to be out sailing and considering buying a travel sized washing machine. Several boats have them and it would save a fair amount of skin on our hands not to hand wring all the clothes. Our "one island at a time" plan is working well, so who knows what the future holds for us.

The clouds have come in today and I figure it'll rain now that all the clean laundry is hanging out. The sun always returns though and the clothes always dry, so I'm planning a quiet afternoon reading and maybe making some cookies. We'll have a potluck dinner with Wyndeavor tonight and enjoy another day in paradise.


Monday, July 04, 2005

Thumbs up for Moorea!

Moorea lies about 12 miles north of Tahiti and seems a world apart. No large towns sprawl along her waterfront and the beaches and lagoons look like the postcard photos. On Saturday we spent the morning lounging on the beach and snorkeling. The coral grows right near the beach, so you can swim and sun bathe alternately all day. The fish are a lot more tame than anywhere else we have been. Instead of hiding in the coral, they are swimming freely among the swimmers. Pete is enjoying the underwater housing for the camera and taking tons of photos. The kids have fun finding the different species in the fish book in the evenings. They are quite proficient in pointing out all sorts of varieties now. The butterfly fish are lunch plate sized and the anemones house small black and neon blue fish. If fish aren't your thing, you can gaze at the topless French tourists.

Unfortunately the wind piped up and blew 15+ through the anchorage all day, making dinghy trips wet and bouncy. Some breeze is welcome though to cool off. We're on the south side of the island and the wind seems to funnel through between Tahiti and here. We've also had some rain at night, although luckily not much during the day. Today is overcast, so we might use the time to sail around to the north side of the island. We know 2 kid boats up there and our kids are asking to go join them.

Last night we enjoyed a Polynesian buffet and dance performance at the 4 star hotel nearby. There you can have dinner for $60, a beach front bungalow for $250 per night or an over water bungalow for $550. The dinner included a whole roasted pig, a whole grilled fish, breadfruit, raosted plantains, chicken skewers, goat steaks, local fruit and numerous unidentified dishes along with a sushi bar. The dessert bar filled with tortes, mousse, fruit and ice cream was worth it for me. The kids just wanted fruit and ice cream, and they were gracious enough not to charge us the $30 children's price. We had great seats to the show and got our pictures taken with the dancers afterwards. I still can't figure out how they shake it like that. Ellie was really impressed and has requested a coconut shell top to go with her grass skirt.

Going to dinner from a cruising boat has it's difficulties. I am used to it now and don't think twice, but having a guest on board reminds me of how crazy this can be. With the wind ripping through, we decided to wear shorts and change into nice clothes at the hotel. It also didn't start til 7 p.m., so we had to negotiate the 1/4 mile trip though the coral heads in the dark. We laughed a lot as the spray hit us and we peered into the night for the markers. Pete did a great job of navigating and we arrived just fine if not a bit damp. We anchored the dinghy right off the beach at the hotel and blended in with the hotel guests just like we belonged there. We're experienced now, so we don't forget things like turning on boat lights so we can find it again. That was a tough lesson to learn early on on moonless nights.

Carrie is having fun and beginning to wonder why she didn't book for two weeks. I think she'll be glad she's leaving when we sail overnight to Huahine next week. Her tummy wasn't holding up too well to the waves.


Saturday, July 02, 2005

third time is a charm

How many times does it take to attempt a trip to the museum before you actually make it there? Well in this case, the first try was on a Sunday and the buses don't run there. After walking for 20 minutes in the heat, we gave up and turned around. The second try we waited at the bus stop for 20 minutes, baking in the 90 degree heat, being passed by buses that didn't stop. I had been battling sinus headaches all week and couldn't sit there breathing exhaust anymore. So finally on the third try we made it to the museum. Was it worth it? Moderately. It was nice to read a bit more about the islands that we have been seeing and we enjoyed the gardens outside. The kids got more enjoyment out of the Sprite and ice cream afterwards. I think they were impressed though by seeing things in a museum that they had first hand experience of. The shell collection was the favorite, and it was not near as big as ours.

We did finish school this week. I wouldn't say we finished on a very positive note, but we've put it behind us and are looking forward to enjoying the next few months of "vacation." Ellie is reading chapter books now on her own, so I think she will continue to read all summer. Carter is still enjoying the occasional reading and writing lesson and I encourage him at his own pace.

This last week was a milestone week for us. We celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary, our 1 year anniversary of living on the boat and our 10 month anniversary of leaving Bellingham. That's a lot to celebrate. Over the last year on the boat we have learned so much and the hard times are getting easier while the fun is getting more fun. We've had some very serious talks about our cruising future and we've come up with the "one island at a time" philosophy. We know that at any time we could head north to Hawaii or keep going to New Zealand. We have a couple more months of flexibility and then will have to make a firm decision. Every month gets easier for the kids and I, but it's still hard. We're learning to be proactive in seeking out "the fun" and seizing the moment when opportunities arise. I've learned to grocery shop for months at a time so we are not restricted by the need for stores. Pete has fixed just about everything that needs tinkering and the boat is in fine shape. That leaves more time for R & R, which is why we did this in the first place. Our determination to see the museum is just an example of the frustration of traveling and the rewards of making things happen.

Sometimes flexibility and determination are critical to accomplishing errands with no car in a strange place. In the midst of trying to see museums and sights, we also had some chores to get done in the city. Propane, fuel and groceries topped the list. Our first attempt to get propane failed miserably. We attempted a combination propane & grocery trip on Monday. We hauled all our empty bags and the empty propane bottle several blocks to the gas station. I was to take Ellie and shop while the guys dropped off the bottle to be filled. The grocery store was just closing for a 2 hour lunch. So, I went to find Pete and he was being told in French that it was too late for propane today, come back Wednesday and it would be ready by Friday. Foiled again. So Pete took the propane bottle back to the boat and I walked the 1/4 mile the other way to the other grocery store. You have to put coins in the shopping carts there like at the airport, and of course I didn't have the right coin. So I lurked around until I found an abandoned cart and started in. You should see the cheese aisle in the french grocery store!! Pete finally caught up with me after landing the dinghy virtually in the parking lot of the store in between the shanties that line the beach. The family living there let him walk through their yard so we didn't have to haul a month worth of groceries back the 1/4 mile to the dock where we usually left the dinghy. Check groceries off the list, we're provisioned up for a month again. Pete went back to the gas station on Wednesday only to be told by a different clerk that it was a holiday and no trucks were coming, so please come back Friday and it will be ready by Monday. Strike two on the propane. So finally a group of guys went together and bought bottles full of butane and drained it into our tanks. They then returned the empty tanks and got their deposit back. Another errand is done. We'd now been in Tahiti for a week and had only managed to check in with customs, have a brief look around the waterfront, get groceries, propane, internet and do the laundry. We were a bit frustrated.

My good friend from high school arrived early Thursday morning. We wanted to be all done with errands by the time she arrived. We generally try to be realistic about what we can accomplish in a day. But on Thursday we went crazy and did four things. We finally made it to the museum in the morning, had a snorkel in the afternoon, finished washing all the towels and then went into Papeete to watch a local dance school put on an outdoor performance. Poor Carrie had been up most of the night but she trooped along and even helped wring out the towels. The dancing was great, the girls were smiley and elegant. The young boys came out afterwards and stole the show with some break dancing and acrobatics. Carter is referring to it as "the actions." All in all a great day and it redeemed our Tahiti experience.

Today, Friday, we motored over to Moorea where we will spend the next few days. It's quite beautiful and much quieter here. There is a long public beach just half a mile from the anchorage and the snorkeling right off the boat is terrific. We'll try to see several bays on the island in the next few days and then take Carrie back to catch her plane next Wednesday night. We're looking forward to a nice relaxing time.

Thanks to all of you who e-mailed us in the last couple of months. We finally were able to check it in Papeete and will try to get back to you all in person soon. Love to you all, Kellie