A year on…

Sitting out on the deck over the weekend, and looking across the bay at various watercraft, I asked Mike if he missed the boat. He said he didn’t as such, just certain aspects of life the boat gave us. My sentiments were similar. We then went on to discuss the fact that no matter where you are or how you live, you still have shit to deal with! Boat life means you have to deal with boat shit, land life means you have to deal with land shit. How you operate, what you’re into and your perspective at the time, means you might prefer one type of shit over another, but either way, life is still full of this stuff that takes our time and attention.

 

Now I’ve dropped the S bomb possibly more times than you care to read in a paragraph, I certainly don’t mean to offend anyone. It could also be argued that my choice of term, ie using the word shit to refer to a job list, conjures up a negative image of said things to do. Sometimes however, for the purposes of processing certain inevitabilities, in this case, the need to deal with whatever is thrown at you at the time, despite perhaps not wanting to, be it a broken engine, a leaking water hose, another case of worms, an ageing parent, where you are going to settle, are you going to settle, buying a car, putting the kids in school, deciding on a school… and the list goes on, giving it a blanket term helps to get your head around these tasks that just purely and simply have to be dealt with.

I should probably add, that it’s all ‘first world’ shit I’m referring to too!

There’s often immediacy on a boat that isn’t quite the same as on land. The decision to act is much easier, as said situation has to be dealt with then and there or the consequences could be dire! You don’t have the choices surrounding you that masquerade as our modern privilege, (but actually do little more than complicate your life) and you deal, methodically and with definite priority. In many ways, living on a boat, limits your choices and therefore facilitates and simplifies the decision making process. Somehow, despite and probably because of the limited choices (and the need to fulfill basic needs) the opportunities for growth on so many levels, are infinite!

Why the reflection right now? Well, it’s a year since we arrived into beautiful Opua and the Bay of Islands. The arrival of friends met almost two years ago in the Caribbean, who are still cruising and who plan to continue for at least another season, has afforded a chance to reminisce and reflect. We’ve been able to do all of this without the very real risk of boring other friends to tears. You know how it goes, “we’ve had this AMAZING experience, that we really want to share, but oh I can see people’s eyes glaze over if we talk about it for more than about 3 minutes and “Oh god, the photos are coming out!!!”

We’ve talked about the common time we shared- of which there wasn’t huge amounts, a birthday party, a cricket game in Antigua and the bus trip out and back, some glorious time on a beautiful beach together, other boat families we know, common places we experienced but at different times. Then of course there’s the present- “what’s it like being back on land? What’s it like still being on the boat? How’s homeschooling? How did the kids adapt to being back at school? The talking points are far from exhausted. Other boats are on their way, the process will continue.

I was curious to see how it would feel to meet up with people who are still doing it. Would I feel pangs of remorse, wishing we were still out there? Would I feel regret that we didn’t head out and do another season in Fiji or Vanuatu? Should I have tried harder? That one always crops up…

The simple answer, without any fluff is, no. Of course there are places I’d like to go back to, places I wish we’d gone to, and after another reunion with an arriving boat- hanging out with like-minded, people.

Do I however miss living on a boat- Ahhhh no actually, not right now! That’s not to say I’d never do it again. I know- I’ve said it out loud! I had to laugh talking to a friend, who’d just arrived and had an absolute hell passage the first two days out of Tonga. She described how she vowed never ever to do a passage again and yet on arrival into Opua she had a wonderful case of the ‘forgets’. She’d already thought ‘oh it really wasn’t that bad!’ Funny how that happens…

It’s fascinating to watch people go through what I call ‘Arrival High!” Initially there’s a degree of elation at reaching a milestone point, in this case New Zealand. Generally sleep deprived and possibly recovering from a ‘less than perferct’ passage, relief and gratitude at reaching land, wash over you like the hot shower you’re looking forward to once you’re all checked in! This lasts for a few days and then the realities of land life start to kick in. Previously, decisions have been based around what bay you will stay in, generally determined by the weather, what you’ll make for dinner with your dwindling provisions and other ‘basic’ requirements. All of a sudden, you’re trying to find where to buy a SIM, who you need to contact, the marina wanting to know how long you’ll stay, friends wanting to know your subsequent plans and you find yourself wanting to run back to your boat, batten down the hatches and wait for the storm to blow over!

A year has passed so unbelievable quickly. The kids are doing what kids should be doing, growing and learning and having new experiences. They probably miss boat life the most, but as I explained to them the other day- no one can ever take the experience we had, away from them, or from any of us, for that matter. They joined a gang of kids down at the marina a few weeks ago for a “Halloween dress up, trick or treating, run around like mad things” extravaganza. Lilly said she felt a little bit out of it for a moment as some of the teenagers got into a selfie-fest, but to the friends we met during our journey, we’ll always be “SOL” or “Slice of Life.” We’ll always be cruisers who have chosen to live on land for a while.

 

Speaking of living on land, I seem to have gone from making myself busy, to actually being busy. I started working as a Teacher Aide at the kids school a month or so ago. It’s a Monday to Friday thing and while it’s not full time, it’s enough hours to shake things up a bit- organization wise I mean. The work isn’t hard in any way, yet it provides a challenge and is interesting- working with children aged 5-9. I hardly see my own two during the 4.5 hours I’m there and neither of them seem bothered by my presence- I’m not trying to teach them so it’s all good! After our homeschooling stint I already had a healthy respect for good teachers. That’s been blown out of the water, when I see what these incredibly dedicated individuals do on a daily basis. The diversity of abilities in one classroom is huge and there are several kids integrated into these classes with a variety of conditions, making learning for them and teaching for the teachers quite a challenge.

I’m also teaching two very different fitness classes at the local community hall, twice a week. A dance based class and a basic circuit style class. So Mum’s not quite so on tap as she’s been for the past many years and lets just say, it’s an adjustment for us all!

Mike has been contract sailing and enjoying it, (what’s not to enjoy I hear some of you ask!!!).  He managed to visit Prague a few months ago to see his Dad and sister before a European regatta and also caught up with special friends and family in the UK.  He’s decided to take on a half marathon, tomorrow in fact! He’s never done a race like this before and is negotiating with his inner competitiveness about what’s a realistic and acceptable finish time.

 

Both Lilly and Seb are doing drama at the local community hall, sailing on a Sunday and have just started Tae Kwon Do and really seem to enjoy it. We’ve spent the last few terms not giving them lots of activities but this term is ‘give it a go and see what you really like’ time. They’ve made some lovely friends at school and have had a few ‘firsts’ these past few months- first ever school photos, first ever school disco, (organized by Lilly’s class), and coming up in a week or so- first ever school camp. Lilly also won her class ‘speech’ competition, talking about life on a boat and how it’s changed her. The other day I laughed out loud when she commented on the toilet paper- “Mum, this toilet paper is really thick, it’s so nice!” Clearly we’ve all gotten used to the 2-ply, so much so that our 11 year old notices the difference!

 

Seb is great, playing the piano, reading like there’s no tomorrow and making us all laugh and pull our hair out on a regular basis. He’s decided that Unique is a good word to describe himself, something that encompasses a whole list of other adjectives!

There’s a lot more going on but that’s essentially where we are at right now. We’re heading back to Australia for Christmas and it’ll be the first time for Lilly and Seb in 4 years. There’s much excitement about catching up with old friends and family while we are there.

So for now, that wonderful to do list beckons and I best be off to deal with a few items on it! May your day be a great one, no matter what S@#T you have to deal with!

SOL…D!

It seems I left things hanging. Got caught up in the moment you might say and forgot to actually fill in the space I left people watching at the end of last post.

 

Done, dusted, hasta la vista!

We’ve added a D to the end of SOL and she’s already off on her next adventure to Australia- Mottl-less, Mauritzio-less and possibly with somewhat less mayhem.

As strange coincidence would have it, we actually watched her sail away from Opua and the marina one morning after school drop off. Our new Monday morning ritual includes a cheeky coffee at the marina café. As we sat down at the bar stools that overlook the boats, with another couple that seem to have a similar routine, a mast appeared and there she was- heading out of the marina and off into the Bay.

I wasn’t sad and I certainly felt no regret. I was happy in the knowledge that I wasn’t on board. If I vomited any time soon it would be because I’d eaten something bad or picked up a stomach bug. I felt strangely comforted by that! Still, I must admit it felt a bit weird to watch our large slice of life sailing off with someone else.

Mike was quiet for a moment- I get that. He put such a huge amount of time, energy, love and frustration into the last two years. It certainly felt symbolic in a way- a definite sense of closure. It was a good moment to share together.

So there you go- buy a boat, use the boat, sell the boat- tick!

My last post was titled, ‘When it all pays off’ and, I can honestly say, it all paid off!

The time and attention, the fastidiousness, the slightly OCD behaviour that was synonymous with life aboard SOL and ok, the love, (at least from one of us) she received, meant that it was less than two weeks from when she was first advertised to having a signed contract in hand. We got our asking price with the slightest attempt to bargain and all parties were happy with the deal that went down.

We’ve been living on land for 11 weeks now. The kids have adapted to school incredibly well. They absolutely love it.

They are discovering new interests, new perspectives, fun activities and new friends. Seb is teaching himself the piano and has taught himself to ride the unicycle. Lilly participated in a netball competition after never having played before and won the school wearable art award. Their teachers speak so highly of them both and I am so incredibly proud of the people they are becoming. Despite the worry, despite the angst, the hair-pulling out home-school moments and our teaching, their transition, so far has been better than we could have ever hoped for.

Life in some ways is more complicated but right now, at least from my perspective, it’s preferable.

Mike was talking to a cruising friend the other day and I heard him saying “well, it’s back to reality”. Our friends response was, “ No, there’s boat life and land life, they’re both reality when you are living them” and it’s so true.

We walk the kids to school every day, I’m not sure how long that will last as we are shortly due to find a more permanent base, but right now, I treasure each and every step we take together. Even when we’ve asked the kids if they’re totally ready and at the last second, something is remembered, or forgotten or overlooked, but there was time to draw or play the piano or throw paper planes around the living room, even then, walking together is a pleasure and somewhat sacred.

So many lessons have been learnt along this journey. I truly believe there will be a carry over effect for years to come IF we can remain mindful of the insights we’ve been so very privileged to experience. There’s lots to address, lots to sort out, what jobs we’ll do, where exactly we’ll live, where the kids will go to high school etc etc, but it’s reassuring when you set out to do something, maybe slightly off piste, and actually do it, despite resistance and reservation. Surely everything else is a walk in the park…

In the wonderful words of Forrest Gumps mother, “Life is like a box o chocolates, you never know what yo gonna get”

It’s two years to the day since we left Valencia and began this journey. It seemed incredibly appropriate that this should be the last post at least as far as Slice is concerned.

The next adventure is just beginning… I’m sure there is more to share.

When it all pays off…

No exotic locations, no warm water and not a hint of motion sickness for this post, the fun however, continues as we move onto the ‘selling’ phase of the journey. It should perhaps be more accurately labeled the ‘preparation for selling’ phase and works like a charm to rid you of any sentimental feelings towards said vessel. That crying business that I described last post as I walked away from SOL- gone, forgotten, no longer felt!

I wouldn’t dream of describing the entertainment we’ve had cleaning her up, however sometimes you just have to see the funny side of a situation-it’s either that, cry or throw a tantrum and make an idiot of yourself. I’ve done all three and have opted for humour this time.

I felt this one was worth sharing.

As previously mentioned we’ve been working on the boat for a few weeks now. She was in pretty good nick I have to say, but there are standards and there are standards. She’s now looking like we never set foot on her, let alone sailed half way around the world. She almost, but not quite, looks like nobody has ever set foot on her. She’s been scrubbed and wiped and washed and vacuumed and tickled until she sparkles and shines and looks pretty damn good if I do say so myself.

I accepted long ago that this phase was inevitable and part of the whole journey and whilst it’s been diverting…I’m glad she’s ready for someone else to step aboard and create adventures of their own.

Now anyone that knows Mike and I well, will know that we have a particularly banter-filled relationship. It tends to run thick when we’re in the company of others. I think it’s how we cope with each others ‘special’ personalities. It’s not meant to make anyone feel uncomfortable, it’s just what we do. When we’re alone, the banter continues but can seem one-sided, it’s all going on in our own heads, all from our own perspective. Anyone that knows us well, also knows we are perfectionists towards many aspects of our lives… not always a good thing but a definite feature of our ‘special’ selves.

Last week after a quick chamois of the boat- a task performed regularly to remove the dew and ever present rain, from the boat, we needed to go out and take some ‘action’ shots for the impending sales brochure. I jumped on the transom, (the back of the boat) with Mikes point and shoot camera that generally takes a pretty good snap of things. There was a reasonable current running, which can make maneuvering more of a challenge but I was expertly deposited onto one of the surrounding outer docks. I’ve only ever seen this dock covered with seagulls, terns and cormorants, however it was quite vacant on this particular morning. I jumped across to the wet dock in my flip-flops, very nearly performing a sliding limbo when my rubber-clad feet hit the surface. Wet with dew and slick with bird shit, I manage to keep my balance as my toes carved their own special path through the filth and the one-sided banter began- I won’t repeat what I muttered for fear of offending anyone, but I can say it wasn’t complimentary towards husband, boat or wildlife. Mike, meanwhile was driving back and forth, giving me instructions all the while on where and how to get a good shot, ducking down below to get out of the pictures as the boat drifted, seemingly driven by Mr Invisible, past me in the rapidly moving current.

For a few shots, he was actually scooching down in the wheel well, trying to keep all body parts out of sight as I snapped away.

Mike has this thing about how sound travels across the water so while he was on the boat and I on the dock, he would speak to me in a normal voice. The bow thruster whirring, the engine, chug chug chugging away, the birds on the nearby dock squawking! I couldn’t hear a word.

“Walk down the dock and take it from that angle”, slip, slide, curse- the one-sided banter becoming increasingly abusive. To be fair, there may have been some banter coming from his side too but luckily I couldn’t hear it! The thing is, and at very great risk of sounding cynical, I was set up to fail. I just don’t look at boats in the same way as hubby does. “Give me something,” he was saying. What angle do you think I should go for? Should I turn slightly to port or starboard? What else do you think we need?” It’s sort of like taking a photo of an unpopular Aunt or someone you’re just not that into- “I don’t know how to make you look any better!”

I returned to the boat, grabbing hold of the ladder that, unbeknown to me, no longer had the bit of cord tying it to the back of the boat. I very nearly ended up in the water, which after all the rain we’d had was an intense shade of baby-poo brown. We decided to get some shots away from the masts of other boats and headed out towards the bay. All of a sudden I was being deposited onto the transom of a moored powerboat, and was horrified that I should be left on some random vessel, seemingly, but not certainly unoccupied, to take photos of our boat. After a few moments I got over myself and started getting into the whole thing, taking initiative and making suggestions on best angles etc. I also realised that this particular aspect was superior to the birdshit dock shots and happily snapped away. It was a spectacular day but I noticed the pictures seemed to have lost some clarity. After a quick check I realised the lens has condensed up and the last 50 pictures I’d taken were fuzzy. Bugger!

I got back on our boat and grabbed my camera, once again assuming my perch on the random moored boat and started shooting SOL as she ‘mysteriously’ motored past me sans driver!

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ghost driver!

The low battery signal started flashing on my camera at about the same time as I noticed I’d left my flip flops on the back of the boat to avoid getting bird droppings over the spotless decks- too bloody bad! The ghost driver had been wearing blue Haviannas!

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oh bugger the flip-flops

Anyone watching our antics would have been scratching their heads or wetting themselves laughing, however, the fact that Mike can maneuver a 50t yacht like it’s a toy, made me think, well it’s a bit like ‘having all the gear but no idea’ in reverse. We probably looked pretty silly, but we clearly knew what we were doing in the boat handling skills at least, (the Royal WE most definitely being adopted in this case).

As I started to wonder if anyone was going to come out and evict me off their boat, I did my best to get ‘the shot’ of the morning- later perusal of my efforts demonstrating that like most things to do with me and boats, I’ve got a lot to learn!

So it seemed we were done with the morning frivolities and I hopped back onto the mother ship, careful not to grab the ladder. I noticed a tinnie, (metal dinghy with engine on the back) coming in our direction. I thought for a moment it was the owner of the photo platform I’d been using but it turned out to be a friend who surveyed our handiwork and gave us the thumbs up! After he left, it was my turn to play ghost-driver as Mike took some pictures of the deck.

We headed back to the berth and docked her flawlessly which I chalk up as a small win, despite the time it’s taken me to feel comfortable with the process. I must admit, as I watched another boat come in a few weeks ago, give themselves a new pinstripe along the side of their hull, nearly take out the power pole and pin-ball off the surrounding pylons, I was somewhat quietly confident about our own docking process.

Now it looks like our efforts may have just paid off. I don’t want to count any chickens but Mike has just called to say that we have a signed agreement on the boat. Subject to this and subject to that but WATCH THIS SPACE.

It was only advertised for a week- must have been my photos!

I should just add that our neighbour in the marina, a lovely man named Morgan, took the amazing interior shots- show us your wide-angle lens!!!

Fingers and toes and everything crossed, this is Slice of Life standing by, soon to be owned by someone else!

and just like that life changes…

They say as you get older time speeds up. Apparently I must be nearly 100 because all of a sudden April’s nearly done and we’re moving rapidly into May!  They also say, time flies when you’re having fun and happily we’ve been living that cliché of late!

Change is afoot, much time has passed and there’s many a gap to be filled.

Spectacular weather, international visitors, new friends, a big birthday and circumstance, have seen us extend the boating chapter for as long as we could.

When I last wrote, we were still in Great Barrier and seriously fell in love with the place. There was talk of settling there for a while…

Since then we’ve spent more time out in the Bay, particularly Urapukapuka and Paradise Bay where the kids built natural forts and played endlessly with a wonderful family from Australia who we met in March. Joined at the hip or at least in the anchorage, we were lucky enough to spend Easter together in the Cavelli Islands and the Whangaroa Penisula. The kids devised an EPIC parents treasure hunt, involving all sorts of fantastic activities- the Dad’s coming out the winners but only after some underhand dealings!

Mike’s 50th was spent at Paradise Bay reading wonderful birthday messages from all over the world, (THANK YOU AGAIN EVERYONE), a paddle around the Bay, a run and an icecream at 10.00am, (as you do!) The weather was so perfect we stayed out there an extra night before heading back to the marina the following day.

We’ve entertained the idea of continuing for another season, heading to some of the island groups we missed- Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia. A campervan was looked at, to continue the circus on land and there have been many variations on a theme- live on boat here and kids attend school vs move off boat, continue to home school and travel on land when we want… However, all things considered, the chapter containing SOL and her being our main residence has finally come to an end.

Tonight is night six of sleeping in a large, extremely comfortable bed, where tandem rolling and blanket wrestling are no longer our main nocturnal activities. Yep, if one of us rolls over, the other is blissfully unaware…zzzzzzz.

Slice of Life is being stripped of her cruising glory and currently undergoing preparations for the acquisition of a new owner.

The Mottls have left the vessel.

The move is still fresh and I must confess to having been at very great risk of being committed to a padded cell the day we left. Yes, there were tears-mine and lots of them, after breakfast, all through lunch, various moments throughout the afternoon and the grand finale, most of that evening.

No one was more bewildered than myself. Actually that’s slightly incorrect, Mike might have been somewhat more baffled to be fair.

“What can we do to help you Kylie”

Sniff, sob, shudder, “nothing, I don’t know, sob, nothing” sniff, sob, head in hands.

Maaaaan, what a day! I still can’t fully explain it, although I have had several theories including but not limited to,

Hostage syndrome

Sudden onset of menopause

Good ol’ standard lunacy

Blinding fear of what comes next

My standard reaction to change… on steroids

Whatever it was, it was a 12-hour affliction and we seem to have moved through the eye of that particular storm with very little damage!

The last few months have been nothing short of incredible. My theory about moving, no matter where you go, new location or returning to roots, is that it takes about 2 years to settle in. It’s almost the end of April and whatdayaknow, we’re almost 2 years into living on the boat. Apparently, my initiation is at an end, I could claim to be one with boat life…

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Our happy place- Paradise Bay

Still based on a few theories I’ve spouted so far, I could also, be slightly kookoo!

What’s made it so incredible, at least for me, has been the ease of getting off…the boat that is. The ability to hike and walk, run (shuffle) and move under my own steam rather than incidentally and continuously through the action of buoyancy, wind and waves! Not exactly one with boat life, if getting off the boat is the highlight!

The kids returned to school today, as in the actual institution, after almost 2 years. Understandably there were some nerves, a tear hidden along a forearm, (not mine this time) and a shaky wave goodbye, (also not mine). Returning to school coincided with a haircut for Seb and this seemed to affect him a bit more than usual… There were however, big smiles at pick up and a brilliant account of their day at the dinner table. The school is walking distance from the house we’re renting and seems, by all accounts a lovely place.

So there you have it, a little slice of the last few months. Mike and I are both looking for new opportunities but the short-term focus is getting our Slice ready for sale…

In the meantime we’ve had a few ideas about what we’ll do next…

 

For now, this is Slice of Life, looking decidedly empty and standing by for all sorts of new adventures!

The journey continues…

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I’m beginning to realize that I may have given the impression that somehow we’d hung up our sea boots and were land -lubbers again. This, I can assure you is most definitely not the case. We are in fact anchored in the Tryphena Bay area on Great Barrier Island. The Land of the Long White Cloud is living up to its name although it could possibly be renamed The Land of the Constant Cloud at present. The wind and rain has been relentless for the past few days and doesn’t look like letting up for some time to come!

Still, we could be crossing the Atlantic- rewind to a little more than a year ago, where we’d not long arrived in Martinique and the Caribbean was largely uncharted territory. Ahhh, so much water under the keel since then…

When we first arrived into NZ we literally had no idea what was next. Whilst it would be fair to say this hasn’t really changed, we are making the most of what we currently have- a boat, summertime, (hmmm up for debate), spectacular natural surroundings and a host of incredibly generous friends.

It’s tricky to write about in many ways- there’s a familiarity about this place that’s akin to rediscovering a comfy t-shirt or a favourite pair of shoes-try them on after some time and they just seem to fit. We’re not really discovering a new culture, rather revisiting one we’re already familiar with. There are no language challenges, NO SEASICKNESS, no upcoming passages and no recently crossed oceans to moan about. The insights however, into how we want to live and what we’ve learnt from our travels are coming at us from every direction and with each and every interaction.

Decision time isn’t quite upon us but my goodness it’s moving steadily in our direction.

“OH FOR GOODNESS SAKE, JUST GET ON WITH IT AND JOIN THE REAL WORLD,” I hear some of you shout and you’d be justified in your outburst. Trust me when I say these thoughts are occupying far more than a little bit of Mike and my minds at present, however…

Everything has changed! At the risk of sounding like a convert, reformed smoker or survivor of a terminal disease, we are in the incredibly privileged position of having too much choice. It’s clean slate time- new place to live, new jobs, new school, new life, new everything. How do we continue to live in a way that maintains the old adage- Less is More. We’re looking for a life, or perhaps it’s better to say hoping to create a life, that minimizes the importance of material possessions and goes all out on experiences. A life that offers the kids something different than possible device addiction and cyber bullying yet still provides them with opportunities in today’s world? Alternative living one might call it- maybe. We just want the opportunity to live rather than to simply exist. I don’t even want to be tempted by the Jones’ and you can stick your treadmill some place else!

Ok, so perhaps that’s all a bit deep and better kept to ourselves. Right now however, that’s what’s going on for this little family, (the big people at least). Seeking out, dare I say it, a balance, between the ideal, necessity and reality!

In conjunction with these thoughts and often simultaneously, we are trying to make the most of our current situation. We had a beautiful Christmas with our dear friends The Greens, and spent a month in Gulf Harbour Marina, catching up with friends, old and new, all over Auckland. Mike had a very quick trip back to Australia to celebrate our friend Johns 70th and we’ve been hiking to our hearts content on islands in the Hauraki Gulf. On Kawau we were reunited with dear friends, The Bilgers. Both kids tried wakeboarding for the first time, Lilly popping up and whizzing around the bay much to her and our great excitement, (Seb was a little less excited- competitive much!) Great Barrier, where we are currently exploring, is spectacular beyond belief. The hiking trails are beautifully maintained for the most part and easily accessed from all of the bays we’ve dropped anchor. I’m really impressed with both kids, (ha ha ha, as if they had a choice) who’ve managed all the hikes we’ve done, most exceeding 10 km by quite a bit! I won’t say it’s been without a whine, but they’ve been troopers.

Time out hiking and this rainy weather gives us a chance to chat as a family…

Seb tends to come out with some clangers and there’s been no shortage from our little man most recently. He was frustrated with his ipod the other day. It’s a 4th hand shuffle that’s been brilliant to date. My Mum gave it to me in 2012 as she didn’t use it. It has a little screen, so it’s easy to navigate and was later used for audiobooks on car trips. We were having a look at it together and he said in a very matter of fact way, “yes well I’m not really surprised it’s stopped working” to which Mike, (who was on his computer) and I looked at him somewhat inquiringly. “Oh yes Buddy, why is that,” I asked.

“Well, I dropped it in the toilet,” to which we looked at him with fairly high eyebrows and wide eyes.

“Yes” he responded, “twice”

There’s not much you can say to that really.

I had to pop off the boat the other day to pick up a parcel that had been sent to a nearby lodge and to pick up Mike from his trip to Auckland. When I left the boat, Lilly was in her room reading and Seb was finishing up the last of his schoolwork. When I returned 20 minutes later, Lilly’s door was closed and locked and Seb was looking like the cat that ate the canary. I said nothing but he must have felt like sharing again, either that or confessing before his big sister had a chance to give her side of the story!

“Mum, Mum, I finished all my schoolwork, but then I was a bit lost for what to do so I had to go into Lilly’s cabin and annoy her”

Wide eyes and high eyebrows yet again from me.

“Yeah” he said with a resigned shrug, “it seems to be on the increase.”

You don’t say!!!!

As tends to be the trend, it’s quite late and time to head to bed. I have noticed a pattern to my writing. It’s quiet and everyone else is asleep. There are no questions, no one requires feeding and my goodness the wind and rain seem to have stopped! I would like to mention one last thing that I know a few people have expressed concern about and that is the topic of schooling. I have to say I’m more aware than anyone that it’s time for our children to go back to school. They’ve both said they’d like to have more schoolmates than just each other and ‘no offense Mum, but…” The urgency I felt at getting them enrolled and taught by more qualified and patient beings hasn’t gone away, (trust me, it really hasn’t gone away) but we’ve missed the start of the school year, (in both hemispheres) and ce la vie. For a few more months, while we try and figure out where we’d like to live, boat school and the school of life will have to suffice.

On that note, this is Slice of Life smelling slightly like a wet dog, Standing by!

New Zealand- Sweet As!

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Ahhh Aotearoa, The Land of the Long White Cloud, where men are men and short shorts and gumboots, (that’s Wellies , Galoshes or botas de aqua for some) aren’t restricted to Glanstonbury attendees! Yis, New Zelund, more specifically Northland and The Bay of Islands, are some of the most spectacular cruising grounds we’ve seen so far. Visually, I’m not sure I could want for more, (well the odd snow capped mountain wouldn’t be bad…). There’s rolling green hills complete with a smattering of sheep, lush, cool dark green bush full of Panga’s, (tree ferns) Flax and Cabbage Trees and the odd Eucalyptus grove to make me feel at home.

I like trees, I always have and the Pohutukawa, also known as the New Zealand Christmas Tree, has become my new favourite. When we first arrived these beauties were on the verge of flowering and over the past month the coastlines have been covered in an explosion of brilliant red. The trees themselves can be huge, with low-lying branches that spread in all directions making them a tree climber’s paradise, (I may know 2 small people that have been monopolizing on tree climbing opportunities!).

The bays and beaches are spacious yet intimate and largely empty- apparently that’s about to change, but for the most part they’ve been pretty ‘light-on’ people wise. Then, there’s the walks- I really could go on and on about the walks but perhaps I should let some pictures do the talking for me. Let me just say, vast, views and variety! Along with the natural beauty of the place, people have been wonderfully friendly, the supermarkets an absolute joy to wander around, (they have a basket of fresh fruit available at the entrance for children to munch on whilst you shop) and for two dollars, (at the marina) you can have a 5 minute shower with continuous hot water, (it’s the little things but my goodness what a luxury that has become). There is a catch, it’s VERY green around here for a reason and the water is somewhat cooler than we’ve become accustomed. Luckily, we aren’t made of sugar and we all have a wetsuit!

The last month or so has flown by and in true Mottl form we’ve been quite busy. Seb and I celebrated our birthdays, we’ve reconnected with dear friends, undertaken boat maintenance involving hauling out and antifouling the hull, had two sets of guests on board, I’ve had a 10 day trip to Melbourne to see my family and to top it all off an ambulance ride to the local hospital with Seb for a suspected concussion! Yep, never a dull moment you could say.

Being up on the hardstand was something new I have to say. We stayed on board whilst doing the work, using a big long ladder to get us from the boat to the ground. It’s certainly a bit unnerving looking down and seeing stones and ground beneath you instead of water- ‘be careful what you wish for’ crossed my mind more than once for those few days. Being in the yard itself wasn’t too bad. I was regularly amused by the passing traffic, (other people in the yard doing the same thing) wanting to see what propeller we had or commenting on our ‘bottom’ and how clean she was when she came in. There was a steady stream of questions and banter that made the cleaning and sanding, then the rolling of paint onto the bottom of a boat whilst standing on the ground somewhat more compelling…

We had a fantastic introduction to Kiwi culture early on, (apart from the visions of men in gumboots!) which we shared with The Mighty Sapphire crew. Their plans changed, (a common occurrence for anyone with a boat) and they came to stay for 4 days. We toured the Waitangi Treaty Grounds learning a lot more about the history of the country than previously known. We wandered around “Romantic Russell,” once known as the Hell Hole of the Pacific, hiked some islands and watched a film called The Hunt for the Wilder People- well worth a watch if you like something a bit quirky, (you will find it hard not to quote choice lines from it at appropriate moments).

So what comes next for SOL and her crew? Well, it’s a legitimate question and one that’s occupying quite a bit of brainspace. We’re currently on our way down the coast for Christmas with some very special friends just outside of Auckland. We’re still meeting fantastic people along the way and hoping to catch up with more friends over the summer. Just a few nights ago we were in the middle of what one might call an in-depth discussion about the next step- I’m sure my husband has another name for it, but lets just call it that. There wasn’t much progress being made and I was getting, dare I say it… EMOTIONAL. We were interrupted by a very strange sound, almost like someone unloading something beside us. We crept up on deck to find that the unloading sound was the exhaling of a pod of very large dolphins rounding up their dinner. There was complete darkness and once our eyes adjusted you could see them in the phosphorescence. I caught a glimpse of a fin as one swam across the moonbeam but other than that there was just a lot of blowing and slapping and flashes of light. Mike had woken Lilly and we sat up on deck snuggled in our sleeping bags to marvel at this natural spectacle. Discussions were postponed for a more civilized hour and a more rational time of the month…

Watch this space.

It’s almost time for cookies, carrots and milk and we can hardly believe that a year ago we were in Las Palmas not having crossed the Atlantic, not having crossed much in actual fact. What an incredible amount can be done in a single year! We’d like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a happy healthy and safe New Year.

For now this is Slice of Life ignoring ‘what comes next!’

Tonga, tomatoes and Tigers!

 

Put your hand up if you’ve ever been to Minerva Reef…

Put your hand up if you know where Minerva Reef is…

I know there will be some hands up in the air, but possibly not many. That’s where I’m writing this from- literally an almost perfectly circular reef approximately 400 NM from Vavau’ and 800NM from New Zealand. If, by some chance you’re tracking us and you’ve noticed we’re in the middle of the Pacific and haven’t moved for a few days- that’s why!

There isn’t any land here as such, just the circular reef that appears and disappears with the ebb and flow of the tides.

We’re not alone as you might suspect. We counted 20 boats as we came through the pass, making us the 21st. There was some unsavory weather in the forecast and we either had to slow right down to avoid arriving in NZ just as it was hitting the top of the North Island, or head in here- we took the later option. I’m realizing we only arrived yesterday morning but it already feels like days and days have passed. Two boats we’ve been trying to catch up with, or at least meet up with, were both here, which was a wonderful bonus. They’re leaving tomorrow but we’re planning on going the day after, so we may all just arrive in NZ at the same time.

As we pulled close to them to say hello and find a place to anchor, Klaus shouted out- “Now you just need to be careful of the Tiger Sharks”! Hmmm, Tiger Sharks, excellent- more on that in a bit.

Tonga was great, although we really only got to see a very small part of it due to some very unfriendly cruising weather. As mentioned in our previous post, we bumped into ‘Bear’ and enjoyed a wonderful excursion together to a botanical garden. Meeting the owner Haniteli was somewhat reminiscent of reading The 100 Year Old Man who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, except that Haniteli is only 71, doesn’t have any windows and as far as I know, doesn’t blow things up! He was fascinating to listen to and very good at telling his story. His knowledge of all things botanical and the history of his garden was educational and entertaining. He’d met Castro, which he casually mentioned, (while cutting open some coconuts at his bar), when someone asked him about a Cuban wood carving on display. There were pictures of him with the Pope- I think he’d met him 3 or 4 times and named one of his sons after. He was highly educated, the first in his family to attend University, his 3 older children all obtaining Masters or PhD level education. The trip concluded with an absolutely delicious fish and chip lunch, which included Papaya chutney, Taro chips and salad!

We left the ‘big smoke’ of Neiafu to explore the surrounding islands. Our fridge and hanging storage was once again full of fruit and veggies, – life is always better when there’s green food and tomatoes onboard. We have all been forever spoilt living in Spain and having the tomato experience we had there. The variety, quality and most importantly the taste leave the watery, unripe, slightly crystallized version we’ve found since leaving the Canaries, (if we’ve even been able to find them), somewhat underwhelming. Well hello Tonga and the Utukalongalu Market. Tomatoes everywhere and they were pretty good. Fresh Cilantro, (Coriander) and some Red Onion had our taste buds doing a Happy Haka each mealtime!

During our stay in a beautiful anchorage we met Tim and Marina. A fabulous Aussie couple who were chartering a yacht for a week or so. We ended up spending quite a lot of time with them, sharing meals and exploring a few different anchorages together. They made the kids Xmas come early when they brought the end of their supplies over one evening and included with the carrots, rice and pasta was a bag of Starburst soft lollies, (that’s candy or sweets for some). This just happened to coincide with Halloween and me being me hadn’t filled the boat with lollies, in fact there were none despite the talk of Halloween for a few weeks. Lilly really orchestrated the event helping Seb dress up as a Stop Sign and she was a Crazy Fortune Teller. We had a lot of fun with these guys, again highlighting just how important the people we’ve met along the way have become to us.

 

Tonga is definitely an understated place to cruise. We’d have loved to stay longer but the pull to get to NZ had started to get quite strong. That and the weather, as it so often does in this life, dictated that is was time to move on. We did have a hilarious moment listening to the morning ‘Cruisers net’ when it was announced that Tonga had cancelled Daylight savings and that it was still only 7.30am! We did some fabulous snorkeling, explored deserted beaches, collected beautiful shells, watched Tonga smash Samoa in the Rugby league, encountered the three little pigs and their 400 brothers and sisters and ate a pizza or 3!

I feel like I’ve skimmed over Tonga but I’m slightly distracted. We’re on Minerva Reef and the storm we’re in has us dancing around our anchor chain like a 44 year old let loose to ‘Classic Hits of the 80’s”. By now the chain has probably wrapped itself around the numerous coral heads in the anchorage and it’s 3.30am. Mike has been up for 2 hours already. I got up with him but then attempted to go back to sleep…unsuccessfully. The boats’ pirouetting was making me dizzy. I figured catching up on the blog might be more productive.

Mike popped on his wet weather gear and slept in the saloon and I crawled back up into the bucking bronco ride, (our cabin) where sleep did eventually come. Not before we had the discussion detailing the procedure we’d take if we needed to move quickly, ie stop us crashing onto the reef. It was sobering but necessary. The main thing was to be methodical and remain calm- no problem. 30+ knots of wind, anchored near a reef, in the middle of the ocean where 4+metre Tiger Sharks reside!!! Methodical and Calm- I’m all over it!

We never actually saw a shark in real life but we did see our friend’s GoPro footage taken only a few days before in the pass where they seem to like to hang out. Seb was quite sad we missed them and would go up on deck just to see if any were going past.

We left Minerva Reef on Sunday the 12th at 12midday and arrived Thursday 16th at 10pm. Lilly spotted land at 4.10pm- “Land, I see land, I promise I’m not joking” and I felt myself relax a little. “Wow, we’re almost there” might have crossed my mind once or twice…

Arriving deserves it’s own focus, so I’ll leave it there for now. Thank you for reading our journey thus far and sticking with us all the way.

For now this is Slice of Life, still, level and loving The Land of the Long White Cloud!