Monday, August 13, 2018

Del Viento from Above
By Michael

The day before we sailed away from Fiji, we went for an afternoon sail with our friends Ranga, Aruna, Thanuja, Arindi, and Asel. It was overcast and very light air, kind of perfect for a group who'd never been sailing aboard a boat Del Viento's size. Nobody got sick or injured and it was a good time a couple miles off Lautoka. After dropping sail we enjoyed a characteristically fantastic meal prepared by Thanuja. We miss our friends but we look forward to seeing them one day in Sri Lanka, where they're from and headed.

During the sail, Ranga shot video with his Phantom 3 drone. It was pretty cool and the landing aboard and underway was tight, but successful---the drone lives to fly another day. Here is a compilation of what Ranga captured...

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Live from Vanuatu
By Michael

Windy today in overcast Port Vila, Vanuatu.
We’ve been busy and non-communicative.

To catch folks up:

I left Arizona for Fiji the beginning of June, alone. The plan (and all went according to plan) was for me to fly solo and move the boat to the yard in Vuda Point, have the old girl hauled, and do all the needed grunt work before Windy and the girls (having wrapped up Arizona life for the season and having visited old and new relatives in California) flew in 3 weeks later to board a boat that was more or less (less) ready to sail west.

Then we sailed west.

We just arrived in Vanuatu.

I’ll let the pictures tell the whole story.

Jumping back to last December, here are the girls in Musket Cove, Fiji,
getting a lesson from the local volunteer beekeeper.

Days later, via Fiji Airways, we were back in lovely Ajo, Arizona,
and reunited with our white truck.

We let the javalinas know we were back and that they needed to
find another place to hang.

Then we noticed they were tearing down the problem house two
doors down...

And that we had more to do on the white house we were camping in
than we thought.

And that the sweet little raspberry house between the white house and
the problem house was for sale and move-in ready, so we bought it.

So while Windy worked on the raspberry house...

And I dove deep on the white house...

And Eleanor completed middle school...

And Frances fostered dogs....

We enjoyed our lives in Ajo. Here we are one of our last nights before
returning to Fiji, watching Coco at the outdoor community pool.

Before I knew it, I was back in Fiji, working on Del Viento and
missing my family. That's when Lin Pardey stopped by
to lend a hand.
Then my jet-lagged ladies joined me in Fiji.

And helped me get the boat finished. Here Frances
is up the mast running the lazy jack lines through the
cheek blocks.

I should have written a whole post about this photo. This is Miriam from Enough
and Aimee and Phil from Terrapin, all dear cruising friends. Not pictured is Jeff
from Enough and all the crew aboard the other boats who made our last bit of time in
Fiji so memorable: Me Too (plastic-free Saweni Beach!), Cape D (Fatty Boom-Boom!), and
Bear (Frances is back in top form, thank you Mamma Bear). Just appreciate this
setting, with that evening sky, a view of our boats, a place to cook,
no clean up, and a bar at the ready. Many great evenings spent here over two
seasons with a gaggle of great kids and parents.

Last water top-off after checking out of Fiji.

And our last anchorage in Momi Bay, the morning we set out for Vanuatu.
Couldn't this be California?

Friday, March 9, 2018

It's (almost) Over Johnny
By Michael

Shortly after arriving back in Ajo from Fiji,
we took a quick trip down to Mexico (the
border is only 30 miles away). Sunsets like
this were our reward.
After seven years that stand as among the most enriching and illuminating of our lives, we’ve got an end game planned.

After we return to Del Viento in Fiji in early June, we’ll haul the old gal and paint the bottom and re-grease the MaxProp. Then we’ll check out of Fiji and head west for Vanuatu. Uncharacteristic of this crew, we won’t spend more than a few weeks there before setting sail for New Caledonia. Then, still on a delivery-like schedule, we’ll raise anchor soon after arriving and point our bow for Australia, likely making landfall in Brisbane. At this point, we’ll pack our things, clean Del Viento, put a For Sale sign on her, and fly back to the States to build a new life on land.

We’ll be back in time for Eleanor to start high school—she’s 14 for goodness sake, she’ll be 15 this fall. Frances is 12. My kids have spent the bulk of their lives so far as sailing vagabonds.

In fact, this has been such a unique and vibrant and recent chapter in my life that it feels like the bulk of my life. Seven years on a tiny private island with my family. The beauty and magic of that, especially in retrospect, is something I’ll always be grateful for.

My friend Wendy Mitman Clarke once wrote that she doesn’t like the term cruising lifestyle, she wrote that it feels smarmy, perhaps illicit. I see her point, but it leaves me with a loss of words when trying to describe the way we’ve lived as cruisers. Because it is a lifestyle, and one so removed from what is common, from how I grew up, for example, that living the cruising lifestyle imparted an identity. To most family and friends and acquaintances, we’re the only ones they know living like we do. For a decade, it’s been who we are, first as the family with the crazy plans and then as the family enjoying the cruising lifestyle.

The cruising lifestyle has suited us. It’s made us happy and rich, though not financially, but in many of the ways in life that matter. As the end draws near, we don’t have a smidgen of regret for deciding to cast off as we did. For that I’m grateful. In fact, I remind myself that most families don’t even get the short sailing adventure we still have ahead of us.

Of course, things could be different, right now regret could be the primary feeling about our cruising lives. On more than one occasion, only blind luck saved us from a very different reality. But that’s the case no matter the path we choose in life. No question I’d rather be on a path that challenges and provokes than one that pacifies. The cruising lifestyle taught me the meaning and value of the idea that life is short.

Which begs the question: why stop?

I think the reasons are different for each of us.

I feel like I have no choice but to stop, regrettably. For the past year, my gig as Good Old Boat editor has been more than a full-time job, and one that requires regular Internet connectivity. Both those demands are at odds with the family cruising lifestyle. Upon accepting this role (the previous role as managing editor was half-time and not such a conflict) we cancelled plans we’d had to head north for Japan, something that was upsetting to all of us. (Even getting to Australia this year will be a challenge, in terms of juggling work.) But, I need an income and at least this career provides an enormous amount of flexibility and mental stimulation and genuine interest. I’m fortunate that have successfully navigated a mid-life career change, and to have put it off long enough to have the time on the water we did.

Windy wasn’t ready to stop, but realized we must. And now, having gotten her head around the idea, she’s among the most enthusiastic stoppers of us all. No regrets, we’ve had a good run, time to move on. Let’s plant a garden!

Eleanor would have gladly retired from the vagabond sailing life a year ago. She wants permanence. She wants to be in a setting where she sees more people her age and sees them regularly. She wants to find her tribe. I don’t understand this. I’ve told her how miserable I found high school, but she’s got a mind of her own and that we can’t ignore.

Frances is content to keep cruising, just as we have, indefinitely. I guess she and I are of like mind that way, but I’m part of the reason we’re stopping, and she is not. I feel badly for this, but I reason that she’s the kind of kid who will be happy anyplace and she’s extraordinarily lucky to have had the time she’s had. I also feel that part of her reticence to leave the cruising life behind is tied to the fact that it’s really all she knows. Frances remembers very little of the house in Washington, D.C., the house she was born in and that we left seven years ago. She’ll be fine, but she’s not ready to leave the party.

So we’re almost done.

Going back to the identity thing, there is a nagging feeling that when we leave Australia, I’ll be leaving part of who I am behind. We’ve become those people who live on a boat and travel. I think the molting that’s coming will be good. “I live on a boat and travel,” was too easy. It begged questions for which I had pat answers guaranteed to impress. I rarely had to explain or define myself further. It was my skin and it was comfortable. Our cruising lifestyle was the why of everything. When it’s over, I'll be just another guy who lives in a house. I won’t fall back on “I used to live on a boat and travel.” Perhaps that’s the new journey ahead, a challenge to find the life ashore that provokes.

View from a road in Fiji.

Eleanor aboard Del Viento opening the package of nori
in preparation for assembling her sushi. We had dinner
together as a family (at a table) nearly every night of our cruising
lives. It's something that we take for granted and a practice
we'll maintain in our land lives.

Here we are at the Nadi airport. Windy's face says it all, it was grueling
to get to this point. We brought a lot of stuff back with us this time--one
more load like this from Australia this fall, and everything else goes with
the boat.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Stuffed and Ready
By Michael

"What’s this?"

Windy and I borrowed bikes one
morning and toured part of the small

"Stuffing? What’s that?"

I heard this back-and-forth about 5 times beside the long table where all of us had lined up our Thanksgiving dishes for what turned out to be a surprisingly grand potluck at Musket Cove’s outdoor Island Bar. All the kid boats are gone, Terrapin and So What off exploring, the rest on their way to New Zealand. (We’re missing all of them.) So the potluckers were a mix of ex-pats living on-island and several cruising couples, still here or planning to stay through the cyclone season. We and the American couples who spearheaded the potluck are the only folks here from the States. There was at least one Canadian couple, but all the rest were Kiwis and Aussies.

Apparently stuffing isn’t widely consumed in New Zealand and Australia.

When not eating, we’re in the throes of again readying Del Viento for her months alone in the Tropics. It's turned into perhaps our biggest spring cleaning of the past several years (and before you object, spring is exactly the season we're in now, here in the southern hemisphere). We're emptying lockers and realizing how much has accumulated that we no longer need, how much the girls have grown up and out of not just clothes, but stuff. All the books that have been read. We're literally up 1/2 inch on our waterline.

This time we’ve got Don helping us while we’re gone. He’ll be moored next to us and will open her up and run the pumps regularly. He’ll check the batteries and start the motor on occasion. If a cyclone looms, he’ll take Del Viento deep into the mangroves near Denarau.

Not the Marquesas, the high point on this island
(separated by an isthmus from the larger part) is
only about 100 feet.

Doing something without the kids!

Del Viento is among the boats moored in the upper right.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Fast Lane to Nadi Town
By Michael

Loading the dinghy on the dock in Denarau
for the trip home.
We've been pretty stationary in one of Fiji's main cruising boat hubs: Musket Cove. It's not a remote remote Fijian village, it's not the bustling and interesting Suva, it's just a tourist resort that opens its doors to cruising sailors. No apologies, it's a lovely setting, we'll protected, and we've had the pleasure of  hanging with one of the best cohorts of cruising families we've seen in a while.

But for all it offers, Malololailai Island is not a good place to provision. The veggies here aren't bad, but we left our last good place to provision with too few staples aboard, and knowing that we're leaving Fiji at the end of this month, we've been careful not to over-buy. The result is we've needed to get back to Nadi Town (via Denarau) a few times to get what we need. Fortunately, Windy found a mode of transport much cheaper and more appealing than the only (high-priced) ferry that brings the tourists and their luggage back and forth.

About a month ago, Windy went exploring by dinghy with Susan of Wiz. They found a couple of villages on the island and met Sia. At some point, the cruising women learned that Sia's husband makes the trip to Denarau every Saturday (market day in Fiji and much of the world), for a shopping run. His panga makes what would be a 3-hour trip in Del Viento into a 30-minute E-ticket ride (does anyone even use that expression any more?).

So a few times now, Windy's made the passage. The panga arrives at 7:00am, they're in Denarau by 7:30, the village usually has a driver waiting at the dock to take shoppers into Nadi Town. In town, Windy fills her cart and then lets the cashier know she's with Sia, her stuff gets boxed and put aside, and she's free to go to another store. When shopping day is done, a driver collects all the people and provisions, takes everything back to the panga, everyone loads up, and makes the passage home.


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