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



Saturday, July 21, 2018

Tonga

July 21 - 30, 2018

Element and her crew arrived into the Vava'u group of islands in Tonga, on July 21 after our stop in Niue. We were greeted by spouting humpback whales. We tied up to the fishing wharf with our quarantine flag up and waited for the appropriate officials to board Element. The only way the officials recognize new arrivals is with the raised quarantine flag. The officials will come to you, there is no need to go in search of them. 

The check-in process is a lengthy one, including a 12 page document. The officials were very friendly, and even drove us to the local bank to get the local currency for our fees. While we were waiting for one of the officials, we were able to walk over to the local craft market just down the way. The artisans craft many lovely whale bone creations. Each of us purchased many treasures during our visits. Shaun spoke to one of the fellows, and asked if he would be able to carve out of whale bone Element in pendant form. He successfully did so within a couple of days. The fruit and veggie market is very close to the craft market as well.

views as we arrived

We took advantage of the wharf tie-up to drop our laundry off at Bubbles, one of the laundromats in town. They charge 25 TOP approx $12.50 US per load (wash, dry, and fold). We were able to pick the laundry up the following day.

Once we had our laundry, we untied from the wharf and headed over to Port Morrel to anchor. Windancer IV was there to greet. They invited us over for a movie night to watch "This is 40". Super funny movie!

Port Morrel from the air
On the Sunday, Naddia, Manuel and I, along with John and Ziggy, headed out on a long dinghy ride to find Mariners cave, it is a cave with a 3 meter underwater entrance. It is well worth the uncomfortable feeling that I experienced. I felt triumphant, once I made it in and out. Along the way, we were able to see several lovely rock formations.

swimming through to the under water cave
one of many cave enterances

it looks like a face
On the way back to the boats, we had a small pod of dolphins swimming alongside us, and we saw some whale spouts. We tried to chase the whales down without success. It was entertaining trying to catch up with the whales.

Not far from the anchorage we happened upon a beautiful sandy outcrop. It was beckoning to us. We decided to listen, and make the detour to investigate. It had several blue starfish, and great beach-combing opportunities. Manuel was gracious enough to head back to Element to rouse the rest of the Element crew. He brought back Shaun and the girls, along with the drone, and a few beverages. 

drone shot of the sand beach
group shot with the drone
Ziggy took this photo from the water
the lovely starfish
That same evening we were invited to Windancer IV for dinner to help them empty out their freezer in anticipation of their trip to Canada in August. We never refuse a meal when it is offered up.

On July 23 we went swimming with the humpback whales. Humpback whales, and their young are usually in Tonga from July to October, providing people an opportunity to swim with them legally with a tour group. Tonga is the only place in the world where this is possible, "legally". It is expensive but, well worth the money!



Mom and baby

breaching





On July 25, we were fortunate to meet Fluenta, a Canadian family of 5 on the island of Vakaeitu. this same evening we organized a potluck dinner on Element, and the following day Paige learned about cross-stitching and found a like-minded individual in Victoria. The kids also were able to have a daytime bonfire with hotdogs and marshmallows. Albeit the meeting was brief, it was very lovely to meet them.

July 26, in the evening we sailed overnight to the Ha'apai group of islands. We anchored in front of Uoleva Island. Windancer IV had another movie night. This time it was "Fools Gold". The following evening we had sushi night on Element, followed by a bonfire at the beach with s/v Elvis Magic (an Irish family). Fun was had by all!

the Uoleva Island beach
near the beach bar
On July 30, we headed over to Pangai (small village, the administrative capital of Tonga) to check in and out. The village was quiet and small. There was not much in the way of provisions so, if you do visit make sure you have stocks aboard. 

On our way into town from the wharf, we encountered a large sow wandering freely, munching on the grass. We walked along the streets in search of the customs office. The customs office is a red and white building, one block up from the wharf and about a block past the visitor center. If you get to the police station, you have gone too far. On our way back, we all had lunch at a small cafe. We picked up our last Digicel TopUp and headed back to Element in preparation for our departure. At 4:00 pm Shaun and I went in to grab family sized pizzas for dinner (not recommended as they tasted like cardboard). We weighed anchor and started our passage toFiji. This was our last passage with Naddia and Manuel. They were flying out of Fiji, back to Germany to start new adventures on land.

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

Niue

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