Jim has been asking me to add my paragraph to our blog but I don’t think I could sum it up in a little paragraph, so decided to do my own post. I’ve been behind the scenes with regards to the blog throughout our adventure as Jim seems to have taken a liking for writing, which has been great for me.
Things I have enjoyed this year:
It has been heavenly not working and not living to a schedule. I’ve not missed getting up before the sun rises to go to work and picking up Jacintha from after school care after the sun has set. I loved getting up with the sunrise, when my body was ready to wake up and sleeping when I wanted to. Our only schedule being when we needed to make a passage or whilst on watch on a long crossing.
Visiting so many different countries. I loved exploring different places, shopping in tiny little stores & markets, and wondering around the streets or exploring villages. Not to mention the wonderful sea life we’ve experienced, like swimming with the whale sharks in La Paz, the sea lions in Isla Perdita, the birds at Isla Isabella, the many dolphins who’ve jumped through our bow wave, the tired sea birds who’ve hitched a ride on our boat, swimming with the sting rays and sharks in the Rangiroa and Bora Bora, and the Humpback whales in Tonga. Each place that we’ve visited holds a special place in my heart for why it’s special, whether it was the crocodile in Marina Vallarta, the wonderful villagers of Nasea in Fiji, the amazing caves of Niue or the friendly hamburger stall worker in Rarotonga who gave me a ride to the laundromat and let her daughter play with Jacintha. Even boring Ixtapa marina wasn’t so bad as we watched the Seahawks win to qualify for a place in the Superbowl!
Spending time with Jim and Jacintha. There were times that were “challenging” between us and times that I’ve wanted to mutiny and jump ship, but overall I’m glad that I stuck it out and we got to do the things that we did. I’ve learnt a lot about Jim and about me and we’ve grown together as a couple. I’ve enjoyed watching Jacintha grow and blossom into a young lady. Apparently, we dragged her kicking and screaming across the Pacific, but when you see her paddling a kayak across the water with Ivan in Tonga, generously give away her art supplies and toys at the Tongan School and in Fiji before we left, screaming with excitement when swinging on the rigging with Ivan from Javalot when we had “circus time”, swinging on the rope with the other kids at Makogai Island or cuddling up with the baby pig at Nasea– I know she had a good time overall and will have many wonderful memories of our time away. She will be a better person for seeing how basic some of the villages are with no electricity, no running water, no toilets and no wifi, internet or computers.
I’ve loved the simplicity of life at sea. We took our home to many different places and brought all that we needed with us. Our typical day on the boat consisted of breakfast, lunch and dinner, what needed to get fixed on the boat, deciding whether we were staying put or are we moving on, and if we’re going, where to, how long and what provisions we needed. No distractions of bad news on TV, no traffic snarls and no commuting.
Meeting people. We have met a lot of fabulous people on other boats and also on the islands we visited. We have made some long-lasting friendships and hope that distance doesn’t weaken those bonds. Mabrouka now in Mexico, Pelagic in Ireland, Seahorse V in Panama, Maestro in Bora Bora, Daybreak on passage between Tonga and Australia, Korbut Rose in Tonga, Brahminy, Family Circus and Javalot in Fiji to name a few boats. We’ve enjoyed lunches and dinners with you, your company and your help at times.
The warm weather. I loved the tropical heat and the fresh rain. It reminded me of my childhood in Malaysia. The smells and the trees were similar to that of my youth.
The food in the markets and stores. The lunch stalls in Mexico, the food trucks in the Marquesas, the market in Papeete, the french baguattes in French Polynesia, the small restaurants in Tonga, and the marina restaurant in Fiji.
Now that we’re back in Seattle and starting to re-assimilate, here are some things that I missed whilst living on a boat.
Washing machine and dryer. Coin operated laundromats were easy to find in Mexico and I had time to sit around and wait for the washing to be done. And if there wasn’t one, then paying to have your laundry done was cheap enough. Throughout French Polynesia, laundry prices were exorbitant. I hand-washed our laundry for those 2 months and it always seemed to rain after I hung it up to dry. I would have loved to have a wonder washer with me and envied Rachel on Javalot with her washing machine aboard her catamaran. At least laundry was cheaper to have done in Tonga and Fiji.
Indoor hot water showers. As much as the novelty of showering on deck via our solar showers was a heap of fun in Mexico, the crossing, and French Polynesia. It started to get too much when we headed south for Rarotonga, Nuie, and Tonga where it was colder, windier and cloudier. Plus, I developed a body rash which I’m sure was from the mold growing in the solar bags as it got colder and we weren’t using them as often. It was lovely going home to Sydney and having long, hot showers!!! Such luxury as a shower a day is something I love. And Jacintha was having 2 baths a day in Sydney so she could warm up!!
Flushing toilets. Potty maintenance is all part of traveling on a boat. When do you divert it to the holding tank, when do you empty the tank, etc. At anchorage sometimes you have to think, should I poop now or take the dinghy into shore and do it in the flushing shore toilet. Or are we going into town where it’ll mean I don’t have to have a holding tank with poop. Poor Jacintha was always asking if it was OK to poop or not!! Having a flushing toilet means she can flush it herself and Jim and I don’t find little presents of poop in our toilet that we have to pump out!!! It’s the little things that matter.
Things I’ve learnt along the way:
I can cook, if I have time! I can actually put ingredients together and make a meal. It’s still very mea- based with less veggies due to the limited selection we’ve had but it’s doable. Not my favorite thing to do but I can do it. I managed it with 2 pots, 2 skillets, 1 cooks knife, and 1 meat cleaver (and no electrical implements, except occasionally I used a hand blender). I kneaded dough by hand, made cookies and cakes without a mixer, and chopped up veggies by hand. I made yoghurt from scratch and tried making some Polynesian dishes. We’ve learnt to crack a coconut quickly for drinking and to eat the meat, although I haven’t gone as far as scraping the meat of the coconut to cook (I still prefer to buy it in a can!).
We don’t need much to survive. I used a handful of clothes over and over and over again. Flip flops were our choice of shoes and I didn’t need half of the clothes I had carted halfway around the world with me and brought back. I brought a lot of Jacintha’s clothes with us as my plan was to give them away as she outgrew them and it was nice to see the appreciation in the faces of the villagers. They were so happy to get anything at all and I’m sure they’ll be used a lot as these people are so poor yet so content with what they have. I am already planning to send a suitcase of clothes back with Jim to give to villagers he encounters when he goes back to sail Apropos home.
If I plan to give up my day job I think I’ll move to the South Pacific and take up another vocation. My skills in canvas repair were much appreciated by a few people so I’m thinking that I could use that skill. There is also much need for skilled medical people in these places. The remuneration wouldn’t be as good as in Seattle but the smiles would more than make up for it!
We’re now in Sydney, Australia visiting Karen’s family, relatives, and friends. After 10 days we’ll fly back to Seattle where Jacintha will start 3rd grade at Villa Academy, Karen will return to Children’s Hospital, and I will start looking for a job.
Here’s some thoughts from each of us on the overall trip:
I loved playing with my friends Amia and Alina from Family Circus, Mathias and Luke from Bob The Cat, Ivan from Javelot, and Collie. Collie was a dog, Steven was a duckling, and I met a piglet who loved to eat coconuts in Fiji. In Mexico there was a place called Paradise Village. It had two pools and three water slides. Then we did the crossing and went to French Polynesia. In Tonga we swam with whales. In Fiji we played with a nice swing. It was my best year!
I have so many great memories of our trip down the west coast of the US, up the Sea of Cortez and down the west coast of Mexico, and across the South Pacific. Each area was a new experience with different cultures, languages, food, and scenery. It’s hard to pick a favorite place, but I could think of a favorite thing about each place: sailing under the Golden Gate bridge, cruising the California coast with my dad, swimming with whale sharks near La Paz, eating at the street loncherias in Mazatlan, hanging out with friends in Zihuatanejo, the music scene in La Cruz, the 23-day crossing and making landfall in the Marquesas, scuba diving in Rangiroa, the markets in Papeete, playing ukulele in Huahini, seeing the heiva festival in Bora Bora, buying a Tahitian uke in Rarotonga, standing on Beveridge Reef, exploring the caves and chasms of Niue, swimming with humpback whales in Tonga, and spending time in small villages in Fiji. The beaches and natural beauty, the friendships we made with other cruisers along the way, and the friendliness and generosity of natives will be remembered long after our trip. I’m thankful that Apropos protected us during the 10,000 miles of ocean sailing with only minor breakages. Seeing Jacintha grow and learn on our floating home for a year, even during some difficult passages, was truly amazing. I’m grateful we got to do this at this stage of our lives and hope to do it again sometime in the future!
Taken at Beveridge Reef
Karen: (see next blog post)
Distance Traveled: 9,925 nautical miles
Length of Trip: 13 months
Countries Visited: 6 (Mexico, French Polynesia, Cook Islands, Niue, Tonga, Fiji)
Islands Visited: 32
Diesel Fuel Consumed: 612 gallons
Engine Hours: 766 (0.8 GPH)
Longest Passage: 2280 nautical miles in 23 days (Puerto Vallarta, MX to Fatu Hiva, Marquesas)
Quantity of Water Desalinated: 1,958 gallons
Fish Caught: about 12
Groundings: 1 (sand bottom near La Paz, Mexico)
Equipment Failures: Garmin chartplotter (died), wind vane control lines (chafe), dinghy oar (smashed while docked), Racor diesel filter bowl (cracked), VHF cockpit mic (corrosion), Galley stove ignitor (failed),BBQ grill gas regulator (failed), Diesel tank fill hoses (had to replace in San Francisco), wind vane wheel drum locking mechanism (broken weld), wind van control line blocks (broken weld)
What We Missed:
Some Favorite Foods–Sushi, dumplings, salmon
Good coffee–I drank mostly instant coffee on the boat.
Hot showers–The solar shower bags worked ok but sometimes weren’t warm enough and hard to use on a rolling boat, most marina showers were cold and dirty.
Pack less clothing–There were large zip-locked bags of clothing that never even got opened.
Wind Generator–Our 500W of solar power wasn’t enough to keep our batteries happy. A wind generator would have made a great complement to solar since many of our anchorages in the south pacific were breezy.
What Worked Well:
Fleming Self-Steering Wind Vane–Aside from a few minor issues, our wind vane (Ian) was worth his weight in gold!
Spectra Water Maker–Made the trip much more comfortable by not having to lug water in jerry jugs. It just worked with no problems!
Dickinson Galley Stove & Oven–Used daily for boiling water for coffee & tea, made many pizzas, crepes, stews, noodles, etc. The electronic ignitor failed, but a lighter worked well.
Forespar Whisker Pole–An addition we made in San Diego, the whisker pole was invaluable for downwind sailing. A little bit difficult to set up and take down (takes 2 people), once up it allowed us to sail wing on wing with either the main or mizzen.
Lock-N-Lock Containers–Great for organizing food in the refrigerator, dry food storage, small electronics, etc.
Glacier Bay Refrigeration–I was worried about the 10-year old compressor failing, but it survived. Even though it was our biggest power draw, it kept our food and beer cold.
What Didn’t Work Well:
Freezer–The boat freezer cycled way too much and drew too much power from the batteries. We ended up shutting it down in Mexico and replaced it with a portable Dometic freezer.
House Batteries–Our 660AHr AGM house batteries were already 6 years old when we left on the trip. During long distance cruising, the high energy demands from refrigeration, laptops, and navigation electronics are hard on batteries. Apropos is a 120V boat, so the last time we plugged into shore power was in Mexico since the South Pacific uses 240V. Also marina docks are few and far between in the South Pacific. For 6 months we relied on solar panels, the engine alternator, and the Honda generator to charge the batteries, so they never got fully charged. Batteries go through 3 phases of charge–bulk, accept, float. The bulk and accept stages get the batteries to 80% charge, then the float stage takes many hours for the batteries to reach 100%. Therefore, it’s not economical to run the engine or generator for so many hours to get the batteries back up to 100%. When the boat was in the pit at Vuda Marina in Fiji, I borrowed a 240V to 120V transformer and charged the batteries overnight to 100%. I can’t say for sure whether the batteries are the problem or if it’s the way they were used and charged.
Sailing from Seattle to Australia in one year is a lot of sailing! We’re nearing the 10,000 mile mark and still have almost 3,000 miles to go to reach Sydney. Since arriving in the Marquesas with the Pacific Puddle Jump fleet in April, we have sailed ahead west on a faster pace than most boats, our timeline dictated by Karen’s leave of absence from work expiring at the end of September. Not wanting to rush through Tonga and Fiji, which are some of the best cruising grounds in the South Pacific, we decided to change the “plan”.
The new plan is to keep Apropos in Fiji during the cyclone season (November through April) and fly back to Seattle in mid-September. Fiji is at 17 deg 40 min latitude south, and 177 deg 20 min longitude east, right in the middle of the cyclone belt. But Vuda Point marina, on the SW side of Viti Levu island in Fiji, has cyclone pits—long trenches that are dug in the ground for lowering the keel into with tires stacked up along the sides to keep the boat upright. We researched it and contacted friends from Seattle who kept their boat there, and it sounds like a good option. They have strict rules about removing things from the deck (canvas, sails, solar panels—basically anything that can blow away) so that if a cyclone does pass by, flying projectiles will be kept to a minimum. Having the boat out of the water has its pluses and minuses, but as far as surviving a storm, its the best option. Of course, all bets are off if hit directly by a category 5 cyclone.
Although there is some risk in doing this, we believe it’s the best option and will allow us to spend a few more weeks in Tonga and a whole month cruising in Fiji. Our boat insurance company has also approved the new plan, which has me returning to Fiji in April and sailing the boat back to Seattle via Hawaii. I’ll have 2 crew positions open if anyone is interested (more on that later)!
Time–a few hours short of 23 days
Distance traveled–2887 nm
Highest wind–35 kts
Average wind speed–15 kts (est)
Most miles in a day–160 nm
Least miles in a day–95 nm
Average miles per day–126 nm
Worst equipment failure–chartplotter
Lost overboard–our plastic owl that was on the mizzen mast
Worst injury–a small cut on Nick’s finger (required a band-aid!)
Best helmsman–Ian (self steering windvane who did 90% of the steering)
Will try to make more frequent updates to this blog!
We haven’t done much sailing since October, but did take Apropos out for the Argosy Christmas Ship Parade. I bought 5 strands of programmable LED lights and modified them so I could control them with a PSoC chip (the thing I’ve spent the past 13 years working on at Cypress Semiconductor). I ran 2 strands from bow to stern along the port and starboard lifelines, and 2 strands from the mast-top–1 fore and 1 aft. I also had normal white LED strands on the mizzen mast, booms, bowsprit, and a star at the end of the bowsprit. The Argosy Parade was a huge success–not too cold, good friends (18 aboard), plenty of food & drinks, and no rain! A video of the lighting display put to music and a short ‘technical’ slide show is here:
The Seattle Boat Show opens up tomorrow! Top on our list is to buy a good offshore Liferaft probably from Winslow. Next on the list is an AIS transceiver, followed by an EPIRB, then the usual cleaning supplies and gadgets.