Saturday, 22 March 2014

same song, different verse

Early days on Nyon
I’m an adventurer, but I do love cozying up in a blanket with a good book. I’m a nature lover, yet I relish immersing myself in a large city’s energy, the galleries, cafes, the gritty neighbourhoods, the whole-in-the wall shops… I can be the life of the party or a wallflower, it depends on my mood. Of course, I can talk your ear off but I’m just as happy spending a day by myself with my music and a sketchbook. And I’m a voyager yes, but the homebody in me is never far off.

One of our biggest projects
I started writing this blog as a way to explain to our loved ones the crazy adventure Rick and I had just begun. We had bought an old wooden sailboat and had started refitting it. All the while, we were rambling about going offshore with it. We were going to sail off into the sunset, that’s what we told anyone who would listen. I sometimes wonder whether people believed us. But I kept writing, and we kept dreaming while spending hours, weeks, months, fixing our old boat. That was 7 years ago.

Last glimpse as we
left Canada
If you are reading this, you know that we did leave. We embraced our inner adventurers. Call it what you will, we saw ourselves as footloose and fancy-free. The blog became a log of our discoveries, both geographical and cultural. I also began to write about my inner journey. I included some of the challenges we faced, like the time our mast broke. I also sometimes touched on the loneliness that crept up on us at times. As we travelled south, our readership expanded. People we met along the way began to read our stories. And then strangers did too. Anonymous readers wrote us asking questions or sending encouragement. I was no longer simply writing. At some point, this blog morphed into an exchange of ideas, experiences and philosophies.

Soaking in the city vibe
Lately, I’ve been wondering, what will I write about now? People expect adventures, anecdotes… How do I share my sense of wonder at the daily observations that come from staying put in one location? I won’t be travelling thousands of miles this coming year. What I’ll be doing, is journeying deeper into one country that is foreign to me. This is an opportunity. And I want to write about that while also taking the time to reflect on the lessons we’ve learned on the way here. 

Fiji and the Western South Pacific await, but this time when the grand exodus begins in April, we will be among those waving goodbye to the yachts sailing over the horizon. Soon after, we'll dig out our woolies and brace ourselves for our first winter in 3 years. And maybe, just maybe, I will have a story or two to tell.

Exploring the vicinity with friends we met thousands of
nautical miles away (with Barbera from SV Landfall)

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

paying attention

I look; morning to night I am never done with looking.
Looking I mean not just standing around,
but standing around as though with your arms open.
(Mary Oliver)

Rowing to shore for an early morning walk
(Photo courtesy of Fran Kelly)

Misty goodness

As the fog lifts: colour
The light at the end of the tunnel

The end

Sunday, 16 March 2014

an unwelcome visitor

Just a little bit windy for now
Lusi is coming to town this weekend, but we don’t want her to.

Friday 1100: The energy is charged around Opua this morning. We’re waiting for Lusi to make landfall on the northern tip of New Zealand. Boats have crammed themselves into the marina and then there are those of us tied to moorings with multiple lines and plenty of chafe guard. Our decks are cleared. Everything is tied down. And we have chocolate. We are ready. We’ve been through our share of storms, but never a cyclone or hurricane. We do expect Cyclone Lusi to shrink down to a storm before she graces us with her presence. We just wish she weren't coming at all.

Vanuatu has suffered because of Lusi. She has sadly been the cause of 3 confirmed deaths and a number of people have disappeared (likely due to mudslides) The damage a tropical cyclone can leave in its wake can be extensive. The recent Cyclone Ian is an example of the desolation that can be left behind. 

Friday 1400: The skies are overcast. Big thick clouds have been gathering since last night. The wind has begun to rise. But so far we’re in the 20 knot range with gusts only slightly higher. That’s just run of the mill winds. Rick is still at work. And I’m monitoring weather forecasts and working on some computer projects.

Live action while we still had Internet, can you see NZ?
(Click to enlarge)
Friday 2300: The wind has become very gusty, still only in the 30 knot range, but we don’t expect it to worsen for a few hours. After dawdling for a while, we go to bed.

Saturday 0200: Actually, to be exact, it was 0150. All of a sudden the wind was very loud. And we were both startled awake. We had already decided to get up every 2 hours to check our lines, and it was nearly Rick’s turn to go out in the storm. The boat was straining on the lines, but everything was fine. We’ve experienced 40+ knot winds before. The worst part is the noise, and the potential of lines chafing through. But we know to keep a close eye on that. There can be a lot of friction on the lines that hold a boat to a mooring (a yacht’s anchor rode or dock lines can have the same issues). If there is enough wind, the resulting motion and friction can slice clear through thick lines. Have I mentioned chafe guard?

Saturday 0300: We no longer have an Internet connection. Luckily our cell phone has a mini data plan that allows us to keep checking weather reports. Oh, and our anamometer stopped working. Our transmitter needs fresh batteries, while they still charge on sunny days, a cloudy day means they don't last through the night. [We found out later that the winds went up to 58 knots in the middle of the night. This explains why the wind sounded so ominous, luckily, our location was well protected unlike some parts of the Bay of Island.]

Saturday 0800: The winds are back in the mid 40’s (our anamoter is working again). Rick is sleeping after we've both spent most of the night awake. I'm keeping watch and working on the computer. I'm incredibly productive. Maybe it's because there is no Internet to distract me.

Rick and Ernesto Trying to save
what's left of that sailin 40 knot winds
Saturday 0900: A nearby (unattended) yacht’s foresail unfurled in the wind and we watch helpless as it slowly starts to shred. We pass on the message through friends, but we only have a rowing dinghy, there is no way we could go over there to minimize the damage. Our neighbour Ernesto on Libertee calls on the VHF and asks Rick to come help him furl it back up, Libertee has a dinghy with an outboard. So the two set off against wind and rain. I watch from Nyon as they put a stop to the already extensive damage on the sail. 

Saturday 1900: We barely notice the gusts in the mid 20’s tonight. We filled our bellies with a delicious chicken and kumara curry and we'll likely fall asleep early. We're tired. 

Sunday 1000: Light breezes and sunshine greet us. 

Check out  this footage, you'll see what it looked like in Northland during the storm. 

If you are a sailor (or not) and you want to know how to prepare for a storm or what it's like in an actual hurricane, this is a great article written by someone who weathered  Hurricane Marty in the Sea of Cortez. There is a lot of great information, and our hurricane list is an adaptation of theirs.

Monday, 10 March 2014

pulling over to the side of the ocean

Late afternoon view from our mooring ball in Opua
That’s what I read. Switching gears from-full time cruising to settling in a community for an extended period of time can be difficult. “Not me, I’m going to love it”, I thought, “I can use a break, recharge my batteries, find steadiness in a more stable community.”  Well.

Yes, we are still sailing!
We haven’t returned to our home country, we are still living on our boat after 7 years, and we plan to continue exploring this big, wide world. Yet we feel like a chapter has ended. We cruised full time for 2 ½ years and we have sailed the largest body of water on the planet. Now, we are here. New Zealand is a lot like Canada, but it is also very different.  We’re used to different:  we like variety, we love discovering the quirks of other cultures, and we like pushing the boundaries of our comfort zones, but this stop is... more involved. We are now officially expats. We are still on the fringes of our new community but we have work visas! We have IRD tax numbers! Rick already has a job in the marine industry. I’m working on projects and looking for work. Most days, all this newness is exciting, other days, it’s overwhelming. Sometimes, I just feel a little bit lost. My purpose was clearly defined as a voyager. Keep the boat afloat, plan journeys, and discover foreign lands. I’m busy shifting those gears to a more constant environment and different types of responsibilities. The strangest part is that sailing is something I once again do on weekends. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word transition as a: “passage from one state, subject, or place to another.” It also defines it as “a musical passage leading from one section of a piece to another.” The latter speaks more to my state of mind. I’m still figuring out the notes, but I can hear a new melody.

A sleepy Opua (to the left is Ashby's Boatyard)
Melody aside, if I am to be perfectly honest I’m still finding my footing. Why should a more stable environment cause me so much unrest? I feel like my compass is spinning. This morning, while drinking my coffee, I paused mid-sip. I realized how much I have learned about myself since I left Canadian shores in 2011. I realized that loneliness won’t kill me. I worked through my fears of storms or hitting containers out on the big blue. I climbed mountains I thought my body couldn’t climb because of my Ankylosing Spondylitis. I befriended people I may never have crossed paths with in my past life. I am a little less afraid of sharks and I feel a strong affinity with the rhythms of the ocean, the moon, and the sun. I now recognize my strength and resourcefulness. I also truly understand what it means to say “this too shall pass”. 

Rejoicing in our new backyard:
The beautiful Urupukapuka
in the Bay of Islands
The uneasiness I’m feeling right now is obviously part of being in transition. When we were sailing through one of the worst storms we’d faced offshore and I cried in frustration and fatigue, I hit a low. But after weathering the storm, and dropping the hook in turquoise waters, the exhilaration I felt erased the anxiety. It comes down to this, whatever is happening, it’s only happening now. It will pass. Something else will take its place. A wonderful anchorage can become a dangerous lee shore. A stormy night can see the sun rise with a light breeze. Slowing down after sailing 15000 nautical miles can give us a well earned rest. Nothing is static. Nothing is permanent. The sooner I accept that, the easier it is to open myself up to what I am experiencing right now, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I know that eventually, I will feel part of this community. I will enjoy the stability, at least for a while. And I will feel more grounded. For now, I shall sit with my spinning compass, breathe deep, and peruse the classifieds.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...