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.






Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Marquesas

April 5 - April 28, 2018

Hiva Oa - April 5 - April 6
After almost 21 days at sea, we finally arrived into the Marquesas. Our first stop being Hiva Oa. Once we dropped s/v Vata off in the outside anchorage, we too dropped the hook. As soon as possible we dropped the dinghy and headed for land because, we had to check in and, most importantly, stretch our legs! For those that have never visited Hiva Oa, it is quite the walk into Atuona (one of the main towns on Hiva Oa) but, can be shortened by hitch hiking. It proves more difficult to do this with six people.

After what seemed like forever, we finally made it into town, and found the Gendarmerie. This was the most laid back and fun check-in process we have encountered thus far. The fellow was so relieved that we had used an agent, and that we spoke French. While Shaun was filling out the paperwork the agent was asking questions. For instance here is a conversation between him and Paige:
The agent to Paige: “Are you from Canada?
Paige: “Yes”
Agent: “Are you a terrorist?”
Paige: “No”
Shaun piping in: “Yes, a terrorist."

This was followed up with a bunch of laughter. He was funny, polite and genuinely nice to work with. Once we were finished with checking in, we decided to make the trek back to Element.

The following morning, we walked back into Atuona. On this trip, we were lucky because a vehicle stopped and offered all six of us a ride. The lady introduced herself as Tanya, she runs a local hotel near the anchorage, and always stops for people. After being dropped at the post office we went to the tattoo parlor to meet the artist and check out some of the Marquesas symbols. Kaha, has done some fantastic work. While at the parlor we all fell in love with the Polynesian Tattoo symbol book. We spent a lot of time looking at the designs and in the end I asked if he (Kaha) could design a tattoo for me. I gave him ideas of what I wanted and, left him to it. I would return after our trip to Fatu Hiva.

We then went in search of a functioning ATM, which happened to be across the street from a fantastic temple. On our way back we checked out the local shops before grabbing our provisions and lunch. We ended up eating at Make Make, a great local restaurant serving up burgers, poisson cruz (a traditional fish dish) or chow mein. The portions are great and the prices reasonable. We ran into Tim and Karen from Vata, the sailboat we towed, so we joined their table. They bought our lunch and later in the day brought over 80 liters of diesel as a token of their appreciation. During lunch, we ran into Tanya again and she happened to mention that there was a wedding across the street. After we had finished lunch, we all headed over to watch and listen. Shaun, even had a short traditional dance lesson while the locals drummed out a beat. During all of this, we also met a local puppy who followed us all the way back to the anchorage. Such a cutie.

We are taking advantage of a calm patch to head to Fatu Hiva (the bay of Virgins). We are looking forward to relaxing and possibly getting some schooling done. The boys have decided to fish all night and try to catch another Wahoo while us girls sleep.


red hibiscus
Element at anchor










the wedding party
Fatu Hiva - April 7 - April 13

We left Hiva Oa to head south to the Bay of Virgins, Fatu Hiva (originally called Bay of Verge or Bay of Phalli meaning penis Bay because of the shape of the rocks). The missionaries didn't approve of the name and added an I to make it Bay des Vierges (Bay if Virgins).

We arrived into the bay at 3:00 am so, didn't quite see the view until the sun rose later. Shaun manoevered in the dark, and we were able to anchor safely near the village of Hanavave. Once we woke up, my first impressions were of raw beauty...... I was awe struck. Some of the rock formations seem to have faces within them. One we see, has the light face of a woman with green hair made of vegetation. The striking contrast of dark volcanic rock against the lush vegetation is stunning.

the woman in the rocks
view of the valley

I see a face, do you?
rock formations - this is where the name Phallis Bay came from)
view from Element of the rock formations
During a walk around, we were introduced to a local family, Reva and Poie (they have 2 children 9 and 1). They offered us some pamplemousse (giant grapefruits, the best that I have ever tasted). Poie and Reva would become a big part of our visit in Fatu Hiva.

We continued our walk through the village and along the river. The houses are simple, with many fruit trees and stunning views. We found the soccer pitch, where Jordan would practice soccer drills periodically.

this is the tiki that guards the small harbour
a beautiful hibiscus
a local pig (a future dinner)
making copra - the drying of coconut kernels in order to obtain coconut oil
my favoutire fruit of French Polynesia, the pamplemousse (giant grapefruits)
the main road in town
one of the simple homes
this road leads to the waterfall hike
the river that runs through town, it also has large eels that swim in it
another home
On the morning of April 8 (Sunday), we were woken up because, we were dragging. Our starboard engine was still not functioning so we only had the port engine to work with in a windy situation and a tight anchorage. It was "interesting", to say the least.

The sea bottom in the anchorage is, horrible. There are only a few spots that have a sandy bottom and we were lucky enough to grab one as our second spot. Once the anchor was set, Shaun and Manuel worked on the starboard engine to get it functional so that we would not have to worry about it again. Later in the afternoon, we headed over to kick the soccer ball around. I also popped by to drop off a thank you gift (nail polish) to Reva and then Poie gave us a 15 pound bunch of bananas along with pamplemousse, tiny bananas, and papaya. Such a generous family!

the soccer pitch
just a "few" bananas 
On Monday, we headed into the village to mail our immigration papers at the post office and to hike to the waterfall. The post office has very limited hours so when they are open, it is important to arrive early as there is usually a line.

Once we arrived at the beginning of the hike, we ran into another boat and a local teacher Pierre Henry from France. Pierre was gracious enough to lead us to the falls. The hike took us 30 minutes through beautiful lush vegetation. Along the way were stacked rocks (inuk shuk) and, beautiful flowers that had fallen to the ground (a type of Hibiscus). If I hadn't known we were in French Polynesia, I could have sworn we were on the West Coast of BC. Boulders covered in moss, trees, narrow trails. Sometimes the path was hard to see as the ground was covered with vegetation. At one point, we had to duck under a boulder and, around the following bend the waterfall appeared. There wasn't much water flowing as it was the dry season but, the pool underneath had enough water to swim. There are prawns, crayfish and eels in the swimming hole. The water is brisk but, a welcome relief.

along the hike, people have stacked rocks
just around the bend is the waterfall
the waterfall, or what's left of it durning the dry season
a welcome dip
I was nervous of other animals in the water so, I kept my feet at the top the whole time
the trail
The following day we met Poie for the drive over to Omoa. The other way to get to Oma is to hire one of the locals to take you by boat. There is only one road between Hanavave and Oma, part of it is concrete but the rest is dirt. Apparently, the government ran out of money and not far outside the villages the road turns to dirt and potholes. Nadia and Manuel, hopped into the back, while us 4 hopped into the cab. The road is steep, curvy and when the cement road ends extremely bumpy at the highest point. The dirt road levels out after about 10 minutes of off road conditions. The views were spectacular along the way.

Poie stopped at many spots for photos, and at the halfway point stopped and picked us some red guavas (wonderful little fruits). Once we arrived into Omoa, we decided to check out the supermarket to see what goodies were available. We were pleasantly surprised to find uncooled cheese, crackers and chocolate bars. We grabbed our bounty and headed down the street for a small picnic at the beach. Poie spoke to a friend who sold pearls and Tapas (paper produced from local trees adorned with art). She picked us up in her truck (which had another passenger that crawled up my leg, a giant cockroach eeeew). We arrived to her home, and were treated to some wonderful tapas and beautiful pearls. We purchased some tapas and a beautiful pearl necklace, and the girls were given some lovely pearls. Our next stop was to see some vanilla plants and, petroglyphs (images inscribed onto rocks) before driving back to town.

paved portion of the road
views form higher up


view of Element
everyone loves machinery
the mid way point between Hanavave and Ouia
red guava
view down to Ouia
pearls used to make jewelry, these were from the Tuamotus (they trade fruit for pearls)
vanilla plants
petroglyph of a person
petroglyph of a whale
another petroglyph
On one of our last evenings, we paid Poie and Reva to prepare a traditional Marquesas meal for us and several other boat friends including, Windancer IV, and  Anima. Reva out did herself, we were served local fruits, poison cruz, pork sausages, chicken, bread fruit, crab salad, rice, and bread. For dessert we were served a lovely banana/guava pudding. It did not look appealing but, WOW was it tasty.


Tahuata - April 13 - 16

On April 13, we left Fatu Hiva (the small anchorage was getting overly busy with 13-14 boats). We decided to head over to Tahuata, along with our good friends Ziggy and John on s/v Windancer IV. The fishing gods were shining down on them as they caught 2 blue fin tunas. Luckily, they invited us over for a sushi dinner, which was great. We didn't have such luck on the fishing front and were grateful for the fish.

In the morning we headed over to the village (this village happened to be where Poie was from) and saw some lovely sculptures and carvings. The scenery was beautiful, very rustic with an old style stone church. It reminded me of the pillars of the earth era. The stone walls are beautiful and the trees are old and big.


the trees are huge here
the cemetery
the street
the stone church

the tidal pools
beautiful rock walls
It was time to pull the hook and head to the next bay over called Hanamoenoa. Not even 5 minutes after we lifted the anchor our fishing lines were in the water. Paige happened to mentioned, "our lure is too close" and bang, we caught a 12 kilo yellow fin tuna. We reciprocated dinner and invited s/v Windancer IV over to enjoy the tuna.

In Hanamoenoa Bay the beach has white sand with palm trees. The beach has quite the surge and is fairly steep, making it difficult to land the dinghy. It is best to anchor the dinghy out and swim/walk to the beach. The anchorage is good sand and, the water is nice and clear. As Manuel jumped into the water he noticed a 2 meter black tip reef shark. There were also several Manta Rays at the entrance to the bay feeding on plankton. Jordan, Nadia & Manuel went and swam with them. I got the chance to swim with one the following day.

the lovely beach
We left early on April 16 to head back to Hiva Oa to pick up our much needed water maker parts and to haul out to change our starboard sail drive seal that was leaking.

Hiva Oa - the second visit - April 16 - April 21

After we were settled, we headed back into town. On the way, Shaun and I decided to rent a car for 3 days to make life a little bit easier. This allowed us to see more of the island.

Once in town, we stopped in to check out the tattoo design that Kaha had made for me. I fell in love with the design and made the appointment for Wednesday at 2:00 pm. This was the day Naddia and Manuel took the truck for their own island tour.

the original design
during the process
the outline
partially finished
the finished product
We were hauled out for a half day in order to quickly change the sail drive seal and then precariously put back into the water. This was quite the tight area to haul out but, the yard owner Jason, certainly knew what he was doing and his staff were extremely helpful and friendly.

On Thursday our family drove the island. We made it to Me'ae Iipona, where there were some awesome tikis. This is one of the Marquesan sacred sites, arranged for ceremonies and gatherings, many of which required a sacrifice (human or pig).

It was a long drive through beautiful and ever changing landscapes. There was a section of road that was all pine trees. We were shocked to see them and had to stop to take pictures, during which we thought to ourselves, "We could be in Canada". At one point, we startled a poor chicken that ended up flying across the road and into a gully. It was quite funny to watch. Along the way we encountered horses, cows, goats, a rabbit, a rodent and many birds. On the island, there are plenty of fruit trees including star fruit, banana, bread fruit, mango, papaya, red guava, pineapple and pandanus fruit (fruit that grows in a tall tree that looks a lot like a yucca and the fruit resembles a pineapple).

lovely views
pine trees, just like the west coast of BC
it looks like a pyramid


a beach in one of the smaller villages



one of the tikis 





it looks as though the goat will fall over the cliff
Tahuata - the second visit - April 21 - April 23
We heard that Counting Stars was in the lovely bay on Tahuata so, we headed over to let the kids play and to visit with the adults. It turned out that Blue Zulu, Anilla with 1 other kid boat were there. (A total of 10 kids altogether including ours).

While Shaun and Manuel were reattaching the starboard propellor correctly (when we were hauled out, the blades were attached in the wrong order), I headed to the beach and anchored the dinghy out. Anna and Kendall swam out to hang with me because I couldn't swim due to my tattoo. In the end there were 4 dinghies rafted while the kids all played. There were at least 10 kids at the beach, it was fabulous!

The following day was an impromptu birthday party for Marin who turned 11. It was fun had by all with cake, brownies, popcorn, presents and of course singing.

Paige was super happy to have older kids to hang with. In fact we had a gaggle (9 in total) over to Element. (I have never seen Nadia and Manuel leave so quickly). 5 played Settlers of Catan, 1 read and the other 3 played other games.

Ua Pou - April 23 - 24
The following morning we got up at 5:00 am and were underway by 6:15 am. As we were going through a channel between 2 islands, Shaun's rod had a hit. It was a big one. It took all his line (approximately 200 meters) and was into the backing before it shook the lure. Then, later in the day Shaun had a HUGE Marlin on the line. He watched it dance on the water trying to throw the lure. In the end the line broke and the fish now has a lovely piercing.

The first anchorage's not a great choice so we followed Windancer IV to another one. As we were heading to the second anchorage we caught a large tuna. The below picture shows how much meat we were able to get.

We didn't get ashore on Ua You as the anchorage was super rolly and the holding sucked. We decided that we would leave and make our way to Nuku Hiva, our final stop in the Marquesas.

the large tuna
sushi!!!!!
Nuku Hiva - April 24 - April 28
We left Ua Pou early and, had a great 25 mile close haul sail down to Nuku Hiva.

Upon arriving we were happy to see Blue Zulu, Counting Stars, Panacea, Panache, Windancer IV and several other familiar boats.

One evening, I had the great pleasure of trying Tahitian dancing. Anna (Blue Zulu) and Kendall (Counting Stars) were also there. This, is on top of my list of best experiences, during this adventure. I really wish I had longer to immerse myself in the culture.

On Tuesday and Thursday afternoon Jordan, Isla (Counting Stars), Kertu and Martha (Panaccea), and Stella (Blue Zulu) joined in the kids Tahitian dancing. They all LOVED it!



Tuesday evening Panache invited several boats over for a farewell party because, several of us won't see one another again. It was a lovely get together/farewell with our fellow cruisers.

Somehow, it came up in conversation with John (Windancer IV) about Cesar's (the drink). They had one last bottle of Clamato juice left and I was invited over the following day to partake in one. It was exquisite! Cesars are one of my favourite drinks.

Wednesday, three kid boats decided to take a walk along the waterfront to explore the area. We checked out the church and the tiki park. Along the way we came across horses and puppies. Later that evening, several us went in search of the cinema hosting the film festival. We walked forever before we found it. The film was a documentary on how Hawaiian inmates reintegrate into society after being in prison. Not the most kid friendly but oh well, all part of the adventure. The theater was great, it sat 70 people and the seats were super comfortable. The rows sat 6 across making the theater quite narrow and giving it a slight tunnel feeling.








boat kids




along the way we stopped for slushies and found puppies

Sadly, our time in the Marquesas was drawing to a close. We enjoyed our time in the Marquesas. The vibrant islands, colorful people and wonderful dancing will have a place in my heart forever.

Our next stop....... the Tuamotus.

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

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