07/08/2011, Malolo, Fiji
Broken Compass headed out yesterday for Bali. They plan to head to South Africa by the end of the year and be back on the East Coast of the US sometime next year. It was sad to see our friends go knowing that we won't be running into them in another anchorage anytime soon and being that they are headed home and we are not who knows when (or if) we will see them again. The thought of having our friends leave got me to thinking about just how funny friendships are out here. I looked up the definition of a friend just for kicks and here is what I found:
friend - a person you know well and regard with affection and trust
At home it takes a long time to develop a friendship. Possibly because we are constantly surrounded by so many people and have our usual group that we hang-out with. It takes a while to make sure that a new person will fit in with the group. We are also so busy that we are careful not to expend energy on anyone or anything that we don't get an equal return from (although in a really well developed friendship I think this should and does go away with time).
Out here friendships are very different. First we do all have something in common, the pure fact that we are out here sailing. But that in and of itself isn't enough to truly develop a friendship it usually takes something more and the time to find that something. But friendships out here can come and go with the bat of an eye. Each anchorage comes with a new set of boats and if you are lucky you run into people you have met before. I think for Mark and I it can be particularly difficult sometimes because we are some of the younger people out here. Most sailors are retired, their families are grown, and are at least a few years older than us. Sometimes I wonder whether these sailors befriend us because they like us or because they feel the instinct to "parent" and take care of us, or maybe we just remind them of their kids back home. Mark and I are simply at a different stage in life to really have much in common. While Mark has done a lot career wise, I haven't and do hope to do something when we get home. We have to family to speak of but expect we will soon. And there is nothing we can do about the age gap. Would we be friends with them if we lived on land. I can honestly say that we probably wouldn't because we would have never had the opportunity to meet them. But that's probably the case with most people out here.
If you look back at the definition of a friend the real question is do we really have any friends out here. How well do we know people that we see here and there and spend a few days at a time with. Surprisingly I do feel that we have a few we can really call friends in spite of this. There are people that you do feel put up the effort to keep in touch with you and see what you are doing, those that read your blog so they can keep tabs on where you are, and many that will even sail a little out of the way to see you. But still these will never be like the friendships developed back home.
Probably one of the saddest/hardest things about being out is keeping up those friendships back home. I used to have an hour (+/-) commute everyday. In the morning I'd talk to my mom and on the way home I'd talk to whoever had given me a ring or I just hadn't talked to in awhile. I lived far from most of my good friends but was pretty good about talking to everyone every couple of months or less. I'm not so good out here. E-mail helps but it just isn't the same as a good old fashion phone call. When the internet is good I am happy to have skype! What a difference the internet makes. But I always liked talking on my way home because I felt I was wisely filling time that would otherwise be wasted. Now there are always other things I should be doing and while I know a phone call to a friend is never a waste it still can take up a chunk of the day that could be otherwise spent. My phone calls used to be at the end of the day they now have to be at odd hours because the time difference for many of my friends is pretty dramatic. I even have trouble remembering to call my mom early enough. And in some ways I do feel like the some friendships are now one way because I have to make the effort even though we do have a US phone number that rings through skype to our computers it seems most people just won't use it. One thing I do know for sure is that my true friends will be there whenever I call. I have friends I had for years and have had incredible gaps between conversations but those friendships still exist and I know they will be there whenever we return to land. But sometimes I can honestly say I'd love to just have a weekly night out with the girls and not be constantly trying to develop new friendships that may last a week, a month, or if we are lucky a whole sailing season.
At least I'm sailing with my favorite friend. On the high seas your spouse really does need to be your best friend. You spend all of your time together. Every activity, job, and meal are together. Every decision has to be thought through as a team. We have 53 feet of space to live in and sometimes can't get off the boat for days. It isn't always easy but no true friendship is (and even so a marriage).
In the end we have met some truly amazing people out here (Broken Compass included) and we do hope that these friendships, while they may be sporadic and fleeting in the developmental stages, do end up lasting a lifetime wherever we all end up in this world.
07/04/2011, Port Denarau, Fiji
The 4th of July is my favorite holiday (I just love it!) and if you are a regular reader you know that I don't like holidays to go by uncelebrated. I think in some ways it's even more important to celebrate them on a boat and make a big deal out of them because you aren't surrounded by friends and family.
I love the 4th. For me it's a no stress holiday with something amazing to be celebrate. You can do what you want, where you want, and with who you want. Don't get me wrong I am not saying I don't love spending holidays with my fam but it's nice that you don't have to worry about big travel and the cost of airfare, you don't have to go crazy trying to find the perfect gift (although in my family a lot of the time we go shopping together pick something out and hand it to the other to buy and then wrap it up for under the tree - trust me this works great), you don't have to worry someone might get you a gift and you didn't get one for them. Plus a lot of people blow a lot of money they don't have at Christmas on things people don't need or want.
So that being said. I love the reduced stress of the 4th, the good (and much easier prepared) bbq fixings, and of course a great fireworks show. I also love what we are celebrating (and everyone who lives in the US should be!) Just because Mark and I don't live in the US full-time does not mean we don't love it (we fly a huge American flag off the back of this boat). In fact the more I travel the more I appreciate all the opportunity and freedoms we have in the US as well as all the material things that we have available to us. Even though I know somethings are rough at home right now I have also seen that in comparison to many places in the world we really don't have it that bad and it could be far worse...
...and so I always have a burning desire to celebrate the amazing country that I am so fortunate to call my own. There aren't a lot of American's in Port Denarau right now (a few more over in Musket Cove but we couldn't get over there in time) so we invited our American friends from Caledonia and Broken Compass over for a BBQ celebration. Mark and I (mostly I) made up burgers, chips-and-dip, baked beans, salad, watermelon, and an apple pie to top it off (I made up some ice-cream too but it didn't freeze in time). Caledonia brought over another salad and fresh-squeezed lemonade and Broken Compass brought some Kentucky State (a mixed drink in a can that the isn't really from Kentucky but we pretended it was). So together we put together a real American meal. It was great to celebrate with some other American's who too are proud of where they come from and much of the evenings conversations included talk of home. After our apple pie desert we had our very own Fireworks show! Earlier in the day Mark and I had to go into town and at the supermarket I found a little surprise for the day. Initially I was going to get the little party poppers (you know the one's you use for New Year's) but half the bag was already popped so after a little debate I went for the big guns. I wasn't really sure how well they would work or how much stuff would actually come out of them (after all they were in a grocery in Fiji) but they ended up being a big success (and a big mess - so worth it). We intended for them be done overboard but it was more fun in the cockpit and I think Clara (a little girl on Caledonia really enjoyed the show). We had a great celebration here and I hope all the celebrations back home are just as amazingly fun!
07/04/2011, Port Denarau, Fiji
I know, I know it's been far to long since my last blog post but we've been busy and the internet in the outer islands wasn't great. Mark may be willing to sit and wait while stuff takes an hour to load but I am not!
To give you an little update Eli left a few days ago. We spent the month with him out in the Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands. I was a bit disappointed with the islands but we did find a few good places. The problem here is that no ones charts are correct so you have to constantly be on the lookout for reefs which can be a little nerve wrecking. We know of at least five or six boats that have hit reefs this season and at least two that are totaled. It's always scary to anchor because you are always close to a reef. There isn't much to do on most of these islands so it's been really disappointing that the snorkeling hasn't really been any good. The visibility has been poor and in many places there just haven't been any fish. We tried to see the Man-a-ray but they apparently have disappeared for a few weeks (probably because a shark took a bite out of one a couple weeks ago). But the reef did provide for one of the better snorkeling places we have found. We also visited a neat cave that the boys swam into an inner cave. I wasn't to happy when we got there because we were told it was $2-5 dollars to get in and then they charged us $10 each. A little much for 15 minutes of swimming but it was a cool experience, especially for Eli who had never been in a cave like that. We've also found that the resorts aren't as welcoming of cruisers as we were led to believe. We went into one anchorage that had signs to keep of the beach. One of the resorts wouldn't take a dinner reservation unless it was made early in the day (they said they only feed there guests and people who make early reservations), they wouldn't even add us to a friends existing reservation. We talked to a couple other people who were told to move their boat and then got chased down by the owner telling them to move it again. So it's no wonder that you will find a good many cruisers hanging out a Musket Cove on Malolo Island. They are so cruiser friendly. We can use all the facilities including the pool. There is a golf course and a couple of restaurants. They have a separate bar and they light the fire-pit grills every night so you can bring your own food and cook it up and eat with friends. It really is a great place and where most everyone has been hanging out. It was also the one place the boys were really successful spear-fishing which meant they were off the boat a lot and I got some quilting done (I even finished the front of one!) We are back in Port Denarau now. We had to drop off Eli last week and get a few parts taken care of. We are waiting on our new sails and a package from the states (one that I am starting to debate will even arrive). We may head back out to Malolo for a bit and return when the stuff gets here but it has been nice being a short walk from a handful of good restaurants, a proper market, and some shops.
06/07/2011, Plantation Island, Fiji
Eli, Mark's nephew, arrived two days ago and has been a huge help around the boat. Him and Mark have been working on various projects but so that we can get out to some of the outer islands but yesterday we took the day off of projects for some fun. Our friends Bret and Chad from Broken Compass came over and I (with some help from Mark) made pancakes and bacon for breakfast. Then the four of us headed out to Plantation Island. Mark had asked some local fishermen where to go spearfishing and this was were they suggested. There was only about 1.5k of wind so we motored over. It took about an hour and a half to get there but it was a nice place when we arrived. The four boys piled into the dinghy and headed toward the reef while I sat on the boat did a little lunch prep (which ended up being dinner) and relaxed. Unfortunately the wind switched directions and picked up which made what looked like a nice calm area to anchor a little uncomfortable so I mostly laid down and watched a movie instead of quilting like I had planned on. The boys were gone for about an hour and a half and came back with three fish. Bret had gotten a good sized one and Chad and Mark each got a smaller colorful fish. Bret and Chad were rather impressed that Mark had gotten one on his first time out they couldn't remember anyone else they had taught to spearfish that had done that. Now Mark wants to get a spear gun so him and Eli can do some more over the next few weeks that Eli is here. I wasn't so happy about the anchorage getting rolly but it did mean that we were able to sail all the way back. When we got in Chad and Bret took the fish back to their boat and cleaned them up (I don't do seafood so they were helping me out by keeping the guts off our boat). I cooked up the Chicken stir-fry that I had prepped for lunch but decided that we would just eat it for dinner. The boys enjoyed their fish and now I'm worried Mark may want to do fish on our boat more often (yuck!).
05/31/2011, Nadi, Fiji
Most countries have annoying customs procedures but Fiji is definitely at the top of the list. Basically every time we move the boat we have to check-out and check-in and it always takes at least a couple of hours if not the entire day to do so. As you can imagine this gets really old really fast. We checked out of Suva which took over 2 hours to do because they kept sending us back in forth between offices (it's funny how it is never anyones job to do this stuff). And for the second time we discovered that the customs guy at check-in hadn't given us all the paperwork we needed. Luckily he found it in his stacks-and-stacks-and-stacks of papers on his desk and hopefully we now have everything. We set sail on Sat night to do an overnight and came into Nadi on Sunday morning with a plan to check-in on Monday. We knew we needed to check-in to Lautoka but the customs guy in Suva told us we could just take a taxi from Nadi. Well that ended up being a royal pain. The taxi driver wanted to charge us on the meter from the Port into Nadi and then charge us $40 from Nadi to Lautoka. So it was going to cost us $80-100FJ to do the trip. So we got out of the cab and decided we would sail the boat the 12 miles up the coast to the customs. When we got there yesterday of course there were 4 guys just sitting around but none of them could help us we had to wait for the one guy who was helping another sailor check-in. We finally got the paperwork filled out and then they asked for our cruising permit for the outer islands. We were planning to go do that after checking-in but since we were also checking-out we apparently needed to magically have gotten the permit somewhere in the middle. So at 2:45 we set out to get the permit which made us really nervous because customs closes at 4 and we could tell this guy was not going to wait around for us to get back. We took a taxi to save time and of course he dropped us off at the wrong location. Mark and I divided to see if we could find anyone who knew where we needed to go. Someone told Mark to check the offices upstairs in the building and the woman I talked to told us to go down three buildings either option didn't seem great as they would take time to do but the woman I talked to seemed confident that was where we needed to go so we set out. The building did not look like it was going to be the place it was the commission of something building and had agriculture offices so we weren't optimistic. I reminded Mark that we both had our VHF radios so we could separate if needed. We entered an office that did not look promising (I can't remember what it was called but it wasn't something I'd think would be for us). Anyhow, somehow we were in the right place. Okay, now for me to quickly fill out the papers and get on our way...or not. This is the one and only office that takes all your information (passports, entry papers...) and enters the info into the computer. That's right we had to sit while this woman typed in all the info in agonizingly slow fashion. And when she was done she had to run off to make copies of everything (probably 20-30 pages). Oh lord how long was that going to take. Somehow we managed to make it back to customs in time and get everything done but we have definitely been in situations where we didn't make it so we were really happy especially because the anchorage we were in sucked and we wanted to move the boat somewhere better for the night.
We picked a nice anchorage just a little south of Lautoka and put ourselves right in the center of the bay positioned between the two reefs. We relax, cook dinner, lock-up the boat and settle in for a movie when we hear someone yelling outside. So we hurry up top as fast as we can unlocking the boat. A guy from the boat anchored behind us is in his dinghy. He has just seen the lights on our boat and is convinced we are on top of the reef. Of course we are freaked out and checking every GPS we have to make sure they all say the same thing. And they do we are right in the middle. We sure as heck weren't going to move the boat based on this guy who didn't even see our boat in daylight and thinks we might be on a reef but it is still unsettling and of course we make sure all our anchor alarms are set and that we watch our position closely until we go to sleep. Now that it is daylight we have checked and are positioned perfectly. Thank you crazy dude for freaking us out for no reason last night. Today we will hopefully head out to one of the outer islands
05/30/2011, Nadi, Fiji
So sorry for the delay and thanks for the concern for us. We have indeed made it to Fiji it was a long and difficult passage. It took 10 days and the weather was totally against us but we fought through and arrived in Suva, Fiji last week. Unfortunately Cye missed his flights and had to reschedule them and didn't have a chance to see Fiji. I'm not sure we turned Cye into a sailor but he did survive the crossing. We spent last week in Suva. For some reason whenever we do a really long passage my eye seems to get really irritated and so we stayed in Suva this week so that I could see the Dr. and let it get back to normal again. I've completely stopped wearing contacts on passages so we aren't really sure what is causing the irritation. We thought it was just to many hours with my lens in but apparently not. Anyhow, I'm all healed again and ready to see some of Fiji. At least Suva had a nice private hospital with good Drs. Much better than I expected. The town was nice but definitely not the tropical paradise that most people dream of. On Saturday we headed out for an overnight around to the west coast of the island to Nadi. We were supposed to pick up Mark's nephew Eli but when we got in we got an e-mail that he is having a bit of a passport issue so hopefully that will be all settled this week and he will join us next week. We are really looking forward to him getting here. In the meantime, Mark and I pulled into Port near Nadi. We were pleasantly surprised when we took the dinghy in and found a really nice restaurant and shopping area. A perfect place to celebrate our 1st anniversary. Yep we were married Memorial Day Weekend last year. I was craving some good italian food and low-and-behold when we walked into the restaurant we ran into two of our favorite sailors Dave and Mary Margaret from LeuCat. It also happened to be Dave's birthday so we got to celebrate our anniversary and Dave's birthday over a nice italian dinner and tonight we stopped by their boat for some birthday cake.
Basically that's the update. Hopefully we will have lots to write about in the coming weeks and I will try to be on top of it now that we are back to land and done with that crappy passage. Please no more long hard sails like that!