Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Adversity brings strength

June 5 - August 13, 2019

Many of you who are following our journey, see all the wonderful adventures that we are experiencing.

What we don't often post, are the adversities that we face while traveling abroad away from family and friends.

These range from small things, lack of power for devices, water production, laundry, etc.... to the harder ones, fewer children to socialize with, saying farewell..... to the hardest of all, family illness or deaths, relying on family to take care of aging/sickly parents. There is a lot of guilt that goes along with deciding to travel abroad for an undetermined amount of time.

Recently, I received devastating news about my Mom's health. I was fortunate enough to be in a place  where I could jump on a flight back to Canada, to spend time with her.

Before departing, Shaun and I had to decide who would travel back, and who would stay with Element. She was scheduled to make the jump to Indonesia with a rally in July, and we needed to move or be "stuck" in Australia for another year, due to weather patterns. We gave Paige the choice on where she wanted to be (Paige made the hard decision to stay with Element and make the jump to Indonesia). Jordan, being younger did not have the same choice, she traveled back to Canada with me.

Jordan and I made it back in time to see my Mom but, four days after we arrived she suddenly passed away. It was so shocking to have lost her. Paige and Shaun, who had planned on making the long journey home, once Element was safely tucked away up the coast of Australia, didn't have the chance to say goodbye. It broke my heart to call them on June 9, and tell them both that "my Mom died today". I was fortunate enough to have had the chance to say goodbye and have some semblance of closure.

My brother and his wife were exceptional during the whole process. They had been the backbone for the past 4 years, while my family travelled abroad. Without them, my Mom would have been even  more lonely.

Next came the handling of my Mom's affairs, and trying to keep a 9 year old from being bored silly. Have ever heard the phrase, "it takes a village"? I am so grateful for my village that helped me through. They didn't hesitate to take Jordan or, help in any way necessary. I love them all and am so fortunate to have them in my life.

Between my brother and his wife, we worked through everything quite successfully, knowing that I had a definite timeline. Jordan and I would be departing Canada August 13, to make the trek back to Element and the rest of our family.

It has been a crazy couple of months, and I am excited to say that everything was completed. We made wonderful new friends, reconnected with old friends, drove a lot of kilometers, had teeth extracted, built character, survived as a single/married parent, dug deep for strength, and found that through tragedy brings love and support.

I think of my Mom daily, forgetting sometimes that she is gone. Wanting so many times to call and tell her some exciting news.

The adversities that have crossed my path over the past 4 years have made me a stronger more resilient person.

Follow our video adventures on our YouTube channel: Video adventures of s/v Element

Follow us on Instagram: Element Instagram photos

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Transition from land life to boat life.....

In a response to the Facebook group Kids4Sail and CruisingMomBlog.com, here is our transition experience from land life to boat life.

We are a family of 4 from Canada that made the "jump" into cruising life back in January of 2015. Our boat is called Element. We haven't looked back since.

We were the typical family, living in the suburbs with two careers, two kids, two dogs, and saving up for our next vacation. With both of us working it was always a juggling act, trying to get through life. I remember always juggling, with work, kids, daycare, meals, household duties....... ok, you get the picture. Of course I was unable to juggle them all perfectly and, sometimes a ball or six would fall. I would think to myself, "How important was that one that just fell?" It felt like a never ending cycle. One year when we were looking into a vacation spot, Shaun was pricing out an all inclusive Mexico vacation. They wanted to charge us full price for our 4 year old, so he started looking into a sailboat charter in the BVI's. It ended up being our first charter and where we would seriously consider changing our lives. Before we had even considered buying a boat, our family had been members of a local cruising club in White Rock, BC. We were taught from scratch how to sail safely in the bay, and in the Gulf and San Juan Islands. We would progressively take longer trips and when we had kids would strap them into car seats to sail across to the islands. In fact, I was so pregnant one trip that I couldn't even close up my foul weather gear.

Once we finally decided that the cruising lifestyle was going to be our goal, we created an "exit strategy". This strategy would become the new way of life, until we could achieve our goal. Sometimes it was easy, and other times it was more challenging. It was a love/hate relationship.

Our strategy consisted of many parts, including selling our home and all of it's "stuff", exiting from a family business (mine), my husband leaving a company that he had been with for 19 years, flying overseas to find the perfect boat for us as we wanted to start in the Mediterranean, renting a small temporary apartment and, finally moving onto the boat. It would take us three years to achieve our goal with ups, downs and some sacrifices. Our daughters would learn how to let go of personal belongings, the freedom to have a pet, sharing a room, and the "normal" school environment. They would also face their first of many farewells from friends and a life that was convenient and considered normal.

We wanted to prepare ourselves properly for living in a smaller space. We achieved this by downsizing from a larger house, to an apartment and, finally onto the boat. Doing it this way allowed us to purge in stages. The bulk was purged once we sold the house, and then the rest once we moved out of the apartment. We ended up flying with 13 bags in total. These were the "things" that we considered necessary for our new adventure.

The downsizing process was tough, and emotional at first but, turned into a very freeing process. We realized that the majority of our belongings were just things that could be replaced in the future. We were able to sell or give away the majority of our things, keeping the items that we felt couldn't be replaced and, We were able to store these belongings in a rubbermaid bin in a family members attic.

Shaun, had always wanted to sail, and possibly live aboard a sailboat. For close to 10 years, he had been researching different sailboats. The boat selection was narrowed a little once we decided that we wanted a catamaran. By we, I mean me. He then focused on the specific brand that he preferred. That was a Catana. He had already been a member on the owners group, and knew what to look for and, what to avoid. In December 2014 our family headed to Europe to visit several used Catanas, and to choose the one that would fit our needs. Our new to us home ended up being in Mamaris, Turkey so, that was where our adventures began.

There were several other contributing factors that drove us to make a change in our lives. My Mom and Dad had retired and were doing the "snow bird thing", living part-time in Arizona and part-time on the West Coast of Canada. Shaun and I had visited them during this phase of their lives, and felt like we wanted something different. We also made the hard choice to continue with our plans even though my Dad got sick. This actually played a big role in our decision because, we knew that we weren't guaranteed to be healthy at retirement age. Lastly, we wanted to do this while we were young enough to be able to handle the physical requirements of a sailboat. We worried of course about the kids but, figured that they are resilient and will become better human beings.

That is how we transitioned into boat life. It is a wonderful life. It can be loney at times but, also very fulfilling. It has taught us to seize every opportunity because, we don't know if it will present itself again.

Follow our video adventures on our YouTube channel: Video adventures of s/v Element

Follow us on Instagram: Element Instagram photos

Wednesday, August 1, 2018


August 1 - September 2, 2018

Dr. No & Blue (Woutur helped us in)

August 3
We arrived into Denarau, Fiji in the wee hours of the morning and dropped the hook to await space at the quarantine dock. Once there was room we were able to tie up and wait for customs, bio security and immigration. Everyone was very friendly. Little did we know that this was our first experience with some of the friendliest people that we have come across since Turkey.

August 4 
The following morning we left for Musket Cove to meet up with Windancer IV. We wanted Naddia and Manuel to be able to say farewell to John and Ziggy before they headed back to Germany to start their new adventures. Musket Cove is a lovely spot and well worth the effort. It has a tricky entrance that is best attempted when the weather is calm. 

We arrived when there was quite a swell and the wind was quite high. Not the best weather to be coming into the tight entrance. We managed to navigate through the reef and made it to the anchorage. This is a fairly tight anchorage with loads of boats, that needs to be navigated through in order to make it to the dock. We managed to make it safely through the maze of boats and markers where John and Ziggy were waiting to help us tie up. It took a couple of attempts but, we tied up safely. As soon as possible we headed over to the pool for drinks. 

The following evening we went to dinner at Dick's for a farewell dinner, followed by night caps on WD40. 

During our stay, Jordan and Paige met some lovely New Zealand friends. Shaun and I got on with their parents (Chris & Janine, Paul & Del). We have kept in touch with these guys since we were there.

On August 6 we headed back to Denarau, so that Naddia & Manuel could prepare themselves for their departure on August 9. Packing, weighing bags, repacking, and making tough decisions about what to bring and what to leave behind. It is an emotional process.

While we were back in Denarau we discovered a great way to travel, by bus. The buses cost a fraction of a taxi or the hop on hop off tourist buses. The buses do not take cash but, use a credit card type system. These e-transport cards can be purchased at many shops with varying amounts of money loaded on them. The buses in Denarau come every 20-30 minutes and head directly into Nadi town. There are other buses that can be caught in town to take you to other suburbs. 

Once we were on the bus, it took 20 minutes to reach the town of Nadi. There are many bus stops along the way so, patience is key. Once in town we split up. Our family decided to find the artisan shops that we had heard about. I would say that there are approximately 30-40 stalls with local crafts, carvings, and jewelry. Look carefully as there are hidden gems amongst mediocre work. Just a warning, Nadi town shops shut by 5:00 pm so, it is recommended to visit before then. 

While we were looking at the crafts, Naddia & Manuel found the fruit and veggie market. It is awesome! Reminiscent of our days in Turkey, the first in a long time. This is a great place to purchase the Kava root or powder. Kava is a very important tradition in the Fijian culture. From what we had read, the root is to be purchased and wrapped in a fairly current newspaper. When visiting any village, it is expected that a Kava root be presented to the chief. This is called a sevusevu (presentation offering).  Here is a link that explains this a little better: https://fijihighcom.com/education-and-culture.

On August 9, after 9 months of living together, with plenty of memories, we unloaded all of Manuel and Naddia's belongings and walked them up to where they would grab a taxi that would take them to the airport. Farewells have not gotten easier, especially with people that have become like family.

When we had arrived in Fiji, Shaun had posted a note on Facebook. He quickly received a note from a former work colleague in Canada expressing urgency to get in touch with another of his colleagues. Sure enough, Shanil and his family were in town visiting his childhood home in Ba. We were able to connect with them, and were welcomed into their home as if we were family. We were treated to wonderful traditional Fijian fish soup and Indo Fijian cuisine. 

artisan shops
Indian Miner bird
saying farewell
on our way to Shanil's childhood home
traditional Into Fijian meal with Shanil's family

Paige holding a future meal

the dinghy ride to Element to reciprocate their hospitality
sitting with our new family
dinner on land
fire dancing

On August 13 we departed Denarau for the northern Lau islands. On August 14, we arrived at Nairai island after an attempt at anchoring at the island of Gau. We rested here overnight and on August 15 we sailed overnight to Vanabalavu.

On August 16 - 20 we arrived at Vanabalavu and headed through the pass. (white land leading marks are slightly off as well as the line in navionics). We made our way along the island to the entrance of the Bay of Islands. A beautiful, tranquil place with the sounds of owls hooting. The mushroom islets and coral heads are interspersed amongst the small islands. We met another Catana owner sv Blue. As we were exploring close to their boat we found a colony of what we soon foundd out to be, Pacific flying foxes. There were hundreds of them. Squeaking and squawking similar to a pig or mouse. Their wingspan was impressive. Each evening at around 6:00 pm, they flew overhead. We went back twice to watch them. We felt like National Geographic researchers.
During our stay, Jordan and I pumped up the Manado kayak that had been gifted to us, and took a spin throughout the close mushroom islets. We saw 2 turtles and enjoyed the tranquility. 

On August 20 we departed the Bay of Islands and sailed all day and night, and arrived on August 21 
in Fulaga (Vulaga). We were treated to the beautiful sights of clear water and white sandy beaches. As we were arriving, Shaun radioed another boat to glean information about hazards and where we needed to present our sevusevu.

We dropped the main before entering the tight pass, in order to have more control of the boat. We were extremely happy that the conditions were calm because, the pass is narrow, with stunning clear water that rivals the Tuamotus. As we passed through, we waved at the people snorkeling in the pass. 

As we headed left towards the anchorage we could see the small mushroom islets poking out of the turquoise water. We startled a ray as well as a small reef shark as we motored by.

Once we were settled, we dressed accordingly, and headed over to the village to present our very first sevusevu. This is an offering of kava root (we also were asked to pay 50 Fijian) to the village chief. The village chief then offers a prayer, and accepts visitors into their village, allowing us to walk freely on their lands, and in their village. Some ceremonies offer the kava drinking to their visitors. 

After we were accepted into the village, we were taken on a tour around the village, and introduced to our "host" family. Our hosts names were, Sokey and Ba. We were offered tea and sticky buns while we visited. We found out that Sokey is the elected head man. He is responsible for discussing issues with governments and other tribes.

During our visit, we started to hear laughter. We discovered, that the ladies "fashion" show/fund raiser had commenced. They were fundraising for glue for the year one classroom. We made our way over to watch as names were called and ladies danced/sashayed/sidled/wiggled up amongst laughter and clapping to donate their contributions. The men are seated separately at one end and the ladies at the other end. 

The kava was flowing, and Shaun and I broke our kava virginity by knocking back a small amount of it. The brown "grog" is not super appealing to look at, and with a small call out to "Murphy" asking that we stay healthy after this experience, we downed the brown liquid. The taste is foreign and bitter. Our tongues and gums felt a tiny bit numb and that's about it.

Just as we were about to leave, and make the walk back to Element, Sokey presented us with a palm frond woven basket full of squash and sweet potatoes.

On the island, there are three villages, Manaceke (meaning edge top), Manara (meaning edge bottom), Koroloma (meaning middle). We visited the the middle village.

Sokey and Ba have, 11 piglets. They grow cassava, sweet potatoes, squash, cabbage, and papaya int their garden. Each family has a garden area. They are interspersed on the outside of the homes.

We decided to invite our host family over to Element for a meal. Shaun really wanted to share with them a meal that they had never tried. We agreed upon tacos followed by, banana bread. It was a hit. Ba requested the recipe for the banana bread. Shaun flew the drone, and we showed them the Bonaire mermaids video.

On the Sunday, we went back to the village to attend church, and to share in a lunch. The singing during the church sermon was lovely. The meal was a small feast. Lobster, crab, clams, fish, curried squash, roti and sweet potato. We left very full, and laden with left overs.

Shaun dressed in the traditional Fijian sulu
the feast
Paige drawing henna designs on a local girl in the village

On August 29 we arrived in to Suva, in the dark. Luckily, s/v Dr. No was there to help us navigate through the mine field of sunken vessels. Wouter was kind enough to dinghy over and direct us to a safe place. We repaid his kindness the following day, with a bottle of Rum.

While in Suva, we had eye exams (Jordan needed glasses), and we had our medical exam for our Australian year long visa.

During our time in Suva, Shaun decided that I would fly back to Canada for 10 days to bring back some much needed boat parts before we arrived into Australia. Australia charges duty and taxes on any purchases over $900.00 AUD. The boat parts that we needed were well above this number, so the tickets were booked.

Once we were finished in Suva, we made our way back to Denarau to get me to my flight. I headed back to Canada, spent some time with my Mom, picked up the much needed items, and flew back to Fiji. No duties and taxes were charged. I even arrived on Jordan's birthday, September 17. I was only allowed to rest for a day or two before we departed and made our way to Vanuatu.

Follow our video adventures on our YouTube channel: Video adventures of s/v Element

Follow us on Instagram: Element Instagram photos