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



Sunday, July 15, 2018

Nieu

July 15 - 18, 2018

Niue

On our way from Bora Bora to Tonga, we decided to stop in Niue, the smallest island nation in the world. It is a must stop if you are cruising in the area! The bay is untenable during certain conditions. Any wind or swell from the north or west. We were lucky to have light easterly winds allowing us to have a pleasant stay.

This is one of my favourite stops. It is a hidden gem. Niue is a small upraised coral atoll with stunning limestone cliffs, colorful sea snakes, and lovely snorkeling. The people are friendly, the scenery is incredible , and there is an amazing Indian restaurant (Gill's Indian Restaurant) within walking distance.

A new experience for us, was the lack of dinghy dock. In lieu of a dock, there is a crane. Each time we went to land, we would have to lift the dinghy out of the water, place it on a cart and wheel it into the dinghy parking lot.

Around the island there are several sea tracks, varying in length and difficulty. Here is a link to showcase some of them (https://www.niueisland.com/tracks-walks/). Each has something different to offer, from a walk down to the beach to swimming in a chasm. It is worth while to rent a vehicle, and drive the island to experience some of the sea tracks.

We ended up renting an 8 person van and were joined by Windancer IV for our adventures. As we were heading to our first sea track, we decided to stop and see if there was a restaurant that served coconut crab meals. The restaurant owner suggested that we come back after 10:00 pm as they are walking across the road and can be caught with ease. It was decided that the boys would hunt coconut crabs later that evening.

During our van time, were were able to explore 4 sea tracks and a sculpture park. The art is made at the sculpture park is made solely from rubbish. The last last sea track was a chasm. Most of us decided to swim through to the far side. I called it the gauntlet swim, it was dark, there were leaves in the water, and I didn't know what was below me. Needless to say, I doggie paddles the whole way trying to remain calm so I wouldn't freak out the kids. The pay off was a refreshing fresh water swim with lovely friends.

view from the boat to land
street art
Jordan and a new friend eating popsicles
the van
heading down the road to our first sea track
the girls can never resist swings
view from our walk



chicken and her chicks
our second sea track
heading down the track
inside the cave




view out to the ocean
beautiful clear pool of water during the incoming tide



a headstone on the side of the road
our third sea track



this was a shop that we saw on our way to the sculpture park

this part is where the public can add their piece to create a unique art piece



our last sea track was the chasm
several stairs down
after our swim down to the end



As we were heading back towards town, we happened upon a the Matavai Resort. It just so happened to be happy hour. We couldn't resist!

on our way back we happened upon a resort that was offering happy hour



views from the deck


Once we returned from our sea track adventures, we headed back to our respective boats. Manuel and Shaun started their planning for the coconut crab hunt. Close to 10:00 PM, when it was dark enough, they armed themselves with head lamps, fabric bags, and the will to hunt.

They ended up capturing two crabs. One was too small, and the other was questionable. They decided to release the small one but, bring the second back to Element. We had a video on board showing the correct size and how to prepare the crab. The boys stored the living crab in a bucket, covered with our shoe basket. Remember, coconut crabs can climb trees, and can crunch coconuts. How many of you  think that this particular crab stayed in the makeshift home? Read on to find out.

The morning after the coconut crab hunt, I went out into the cockpit to check on the crab. Low and behold a shoe bucket placed on top of a bucket could not contain a coconut crab. Yes, the crab had vanished, on Element. Shaun was certain that the poor thing fell overboard. Jordan and I, on the other hand, were skeptical. The day went on with our preparations for departure. We said our farewells to our friends, unhooked from the mooring ball and started our journey towards Tonga.

My first watch was from 1:00 am - 4:00 am. It was a clear, dry evening with plenty of stars. I was approximately 1 hour into my watch, sitting at the helm listening to an audio book, when all of a sudden I felt something on my foot. I happened to look down and see a dark creature, crawling across my foot. I'd like to tell you that I handled myself with dignity but in reality, I screamed, swore a couple of times, and scared the daylights out of Shaun (who was sleeping outside). The bloody crab had hidden itself during the day, and decided it was a perfect time to come out of hiding while I was on watch.

Shaun and I, armed with the boat pole, towel, and a bucket, tried very hard to recapture the poor creature. Sadly, it backed itself overboard and sunk. I was so upset with myself that I couldn't save it (land crabs cannot swim).

Luckily, the rest of the voyage to Tonga was quiet and uneventful.

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

Follow us on Instagram: Element Instagram photos

Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Society Islands, French Polynesia

May 31 - June 8

Papeete

We arrived in to the bustling city of Papeete. We decided to stay at the Papeete Marina in the heart of the city (http://marinadepapeete.com). The price was comparable to the other marina outside of the city. It is called Marina Taina. 


We enjoyed Papeete. It was strange though, everything shut down early. The bustling city would become a ghost town by night.


We did enjoy the ability to shop, shop, shop. I was able to get some retail therapy in, which was nice. There are lovely fabric stores, everything shops and a fruit, veggie, and souvenir market. It is a nice market but, is one of the more expensive markets that we have come across in our travels.



June 8 - June 12

Mo'orea

Hands down, Mo'orea is my favourite island that we visited. We anchored in Opunohu Bay. It is a lovely narrow, straight, 3 km long bay with stunning  views. 


stunning view



Not far away in Cook's Bay, there is a juice factory that offers a free, self directed tour, including a juice tasting and alcohol tasting (for those that would like to partake). The name of the factory is Mantea Tahiti - Rotui Juice Factory and Distillery (their Facebook page is linked here - https://www.facebook.com/Manutea-Tahiti-Jus-de-Fruits-de-Moorea-480927718627544/).

Our good friends on s/v Westie, Jason, April and Aksel joined us on the trip over to the juice factory. It was informative and delicious. Well worth a visit.

the dinghy ride over
a tiki out front

Several months earlier I had promised to take the girls horse back riding. We ended going with Opunohu Ranch on a 2 hour ride, each of us got our own horse. The ranch also picked us up on the side of the road to give us a lift back to the ranch. At the end they brought us back to the same place so we could be picked up by the dinghy.

Upon arrival, we were asked to grab helmets, and then we were introduced to our horses. The ride took us up into the valley through the pineapple plantation (used in the juice factory), past the outdoor fitness areas, to see wonderful views. It was a beautiful day with my lovely daughters.

in the truck on the way to the ranch
waiting for the horses
all saddled up and ready to go
the views along the way

Shaun and I had celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary in April. We were in the Marquesas islands at that time, and hadn't found anything that we really had wanted to do together. While we were in Mo'orea, we found a golf course, the Mo'orea Green  Pearl (http://greenpearl.golf/en/). We were so excited! We hadn't been golfing in a very long time. Before we started sailing, golfing was one of our favourite pastimes. Manuel and Naddia offered to take care of the girls while we went and had a great day. The golfing was fun but, the views were amazing!

Shaun teeing off
the fairway
Shaun's happy place
another fairway


at the end of one of the fairways
if you miss the green, this is where the ball will end up

me teeing off
a view looking down from one of the higher tee boxes

While we were in Mo'orea, Shaun decided to take the plunge, and get a tattoo. He had been thinking about it for a long time, and designing one himself. He showed it to James the artist, and James then designed his own rendition which, turned out amazing! It took approximately 5 hours with breaks in between. It is not for the faint hearted, that's for sure.

the beginning hand drawn outline

during the process
the finished product on one side
the finished product on the other side
On a separate occasion Manuel took Jordan over to the sting ray feeding area before all of the tourists arrived. Jordan became nervous when a ray decided to touch her so, she ended up sitting in the dinghy and observing from there while the others were snorkeling.

a ray and a black tip in behind


There are numerous hikes in the area, one of which can be accessed by dinghy. We rounded up several cruisers, and headed over to the Magic Mountain trail. It is a short 30-45 minute moderate/hard uphill hike. There is a small fee (200 french francs/person), that is paid to a lady because the entrance is on her property. There are two routes, a shorter steeper one, and a longer less steep one. The effort is worth it, as you are rewarded with breathtaking views at the top.




June 13 - 16

Huahine

Much to my sadness, we left Morrea and made the 80 mile, bumpy, overnight passage to Huahine. Our sailing friend on Westie and Ripple also made the passage.

Upon our arrival we grabbed the last mooring of 7 mooring balls near town. The town is small but, has a grocery store on the main street. 

On June 15, we decided to rent scooters and tour the island. This was THE best decision ever! So much fun. We were able to see some awesome sights, including the famous, sacred river eels. We even go to paint a portion of a pareo. On our way back to return the scooters, we came across a vanilla plantation, and decided to stop for a quick tour. I understand now, why vanilla is so expensive worldwide. Instead of leaving the pollination to the bees, a worker pollinates each flower in order to maximize the amount of vanilla produced.



river eels












look at that water








young vanilla pods
45 year old vanilla vines
Element on the mooring ball

June 16

Raitea and Tahaa


It was time to leave Huahine and make the short 21 mile hop over to Raiatea and Tahaa. These two islands are located in the same coral lagoon. We grabbed a mooring ball outside the marina so we were close to land. 

It was Saturday evening, and we had read in the compendium that there was traditional dancing somewhere near the town dock. Our friends on Ripple and Bravo were thinking of looking as well so, off we went. We stopped at the supermarket to grab an alcoholic beverage, before continuing on to try and locate the dancing. We were told that there was dancing going on near the marina. It turned out to be a local concert not traditional dancing. We had already paid the money, before we realized that it wasn't what we were looking for. Note to self...... ask better questions before paying. We made the best of the situation, even dancing a little bit before we decided to leave.

We weren't impressed with the area we were in, in Raiatea, there was a lot of smelly areas as we walked.... We decided that it would be best if we headed over to Tahaa.


local rock concert


Jordan dancing up a storm
Jordan and I dancing

The next day we all agreed to head to Tahaa. It took us an hour to make our way to the sand bar near the cruise ship motu (Motu Mahaea). The water is stunning, just like gin and tonic. We anchored in 2 meters of clear water.

a birds eye view of Element
the pass that we snorkeled
Yesterday, Manuel, Jordan and I went to Toahotu pass and did a small drift snorkel. These are some of the best corals we have seen since the south pass in Fakarava. On our second pass Jordan found us some clown fish (nemos). Super exciting! Later in the day Manuel took Paige to see them as this was on her bucket list.

Paige free diving to see the clown fish
We moved Element around the corner to the sandbank in front of the Le Taha’a Resort in 2 meters of gin and tonic water. We were just south of the coral gardens.


Bora Bora

Our last stop in the Society Islands was the famous Bora Bora. It is a beautiful place, but my heart is definitely in Mo'orea. The views are stunning!

Our first stop was at Maikai Marina Yacht club. They have mooring balls and allow people using the mooring balls to access the pool. F
airly close to the yacht club there are food trucks that we frequented. Good food, large portions, and reasonable.

The kids were fortunate enough to be able to spend time with some other kid boats while we were in Bora Bora. 


Element on a mooring ball at Maikai Marina Yacht Club
kids in the pool with Element in the distance


Again we decided to rent scooters to tour the islands. Well worth it! It gave us a chance to see some lovely spots. We found the famous Blood Mary's, took a small hike to see some of the WWII bunkers and cannons. We also happened upon a great shop where we were able to make our own pareo's for 15.00 Polynesian Francs each. This was a huge highlight and recommend it to anyone visiting Bora Bora. 





some of the over water bungalows









a cute puppy
Jordan having a little help with the dye
finished product
the rubber templates that are used to lay on top of the drying pareo


several pareos drying int he sun



our newly tied pareos

We decided to leave the anchor ball and head over to an anchoring spot not far away where several of our new friends were anchored. We even partook in a floaty party, hosted by sv Bravo. It was a huge success. S/V Sedna, Westie, Tioga, Bravo and Element were there. Fun times!





We decided to head around the island to the "resort" area, to anchor for a few days. Across the way from our spot, is a manta ray cleaning spot. It is well marked, with buoys to tie the dinghy up. We decided to snorkel and, were able to see several manta rays. While swimming along, if the conditions are good, there are stones placed in a manta ray design along the bottom. It is neat to see.

During our time on this side of the island, Manuel proposed to Naddia. Of course, the answer was a HUGE yes!

A quick side note, although the beaches are stunning, be aware, the resorts do not want cruisers coming to land. 

for thousands of dollars a night you could stay in these bungalows

We decided to move back around to the yacht club in preparation for our attendance for the opening ceremony of the 2018 Heiva Celebration. It was well worth seeing. Polynesian songs, stories and of course, the dancing.  If you are able to time your trip to coincide with this celebration, it is very entertaining.

2018 Heiva opening ceremony


On July 1, we Canadians (and token Canadians our crew) got together to celebrate Canada Day on Windancer IV. We were joined by our friends from Tioga (from Vancouver). Such a great group of people celebrate with.


Before our departure from Bora Bora, we had to visit Bloody Mary's for dinner. They do in fact make the BEST bloody Mary drink I have tasted. Not long after this dinner we said farewell to Bora Bora and headed towards Tonga but, found a hidden gem along the way.......

Bloody Mary dinner



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




Follow us on Instagram: Element Instagram photos