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New Sails!
07/18/2011, Port Denarau, Fiji

Our new sails arrived yesterday...FINALLY! As I mentioned before, we couldn't pick them up because a customs official has to actually see them loaded onto the boat so that we aren't charged import duty. When they got here the guy from the shipping company told us that we owed him for storage of the sails. Mark had a good response. He told him that he'd pay the storage fees when they paid for the marina charges we've racked up waiting for 3 weeks to have them delivered. Needless to say, after calling his boss, the guy didn't fight us for the money. Probably should have tried to get it before the sails were sitting on the dock at our boat.

We are pretty excited. We have all new sails (main, mizzen, genoa, and ballooner) except for the mizzen stay-sail which is still in great shape. No more baggy sails and hopefully no more sail repairs for awhile (I'm personally really happy about this since I've had to do repairs in many anchorages). We have put up the main three sails and so far so good. Everything seems to be fitting properly. Tomorrow we will take them out for a spin. It'll also give us the chance to get up our ballooner and make sure that it to is fitting correctly. We are pretty happy with Doyle Sails in Auckland. While we've had bad luck with most NZ boat services but these guys seem to have gotten it right. We didn't even have to send them measurements or anything. They made sure they got the right plans for our boat, got them made in good time (minus the shipping delays - but those weren't their fault), and did it for a lot less than some other sail lofts we got quotes from. Even I can't wait for a little sailing tomorrow!

International Mail and the Inevitable Waiting Game
07/15/2011, Port Denarau, Fiji

Today we waited and waited and waited for the customs officials to show up with out new sails from New Zealand but they never showed.

Having packages sent internationally is always an issue. They are never as fast as they are supposed too be. There is always a worry they will get broken or lost. They always get caught up in customs. This last one is usually our biggest problem. As a yacht in transit we don't usually have to pay any duty on stuff we ship in. This is a bonus because we save mucho dinero but it is usually the cause for delay. We are always required to show our official documents to get the package but are never notified that they have arrived. When we were in NZ I had to call the post and see where our package was. They said it had arrived but had no idea where it was. They said it was possibly in customs but that they are so busy I shouldn't call there and they wouldn't give me the number. After tracking down the number online I called and the man I spoke with was happy to check on the package and said to just come down and get it. But this was after two weeks of calling around.

We did get another package today that we have been waiting for. Mark ordered a new small computer "thing" (doesn't look like a computer to me - no screen?) Anyhow, it was shipped from the US without a tracking number and was supposed to be here over a week ago. I got lucky when I started calling yesterday. I first called the main post branch and they forwarded me to the branch at the airport in Nandi. They were actually able to find the package on there shelves. Success. They told me that we needed to be there today between 9-10 today. When we got there they said they couldn't release the package because it needed to be delivered directly to the boat (smart because they are sure that yacht stuff really is for a yacht but a real pain). I told them that I was told I could pick it up. They sent us over to the customs officials in the next building (boy was I glad they were at the airport too!) We got lucky. Because it was such a small package and we had all our papers. They gave us special permission to receive the package. The next hurdle was that it had a declared value on it of $20. Obviously a small computer is not $20 and the customs officials knew that. Luckily Mark had his computer (as he always does - I'm telling you this has saved us so many times.) He was able to pull up the receipt from the online purchase and show the actual cost. They wanted a print out but accepted the view on the screen and let us have our goods.

Now I promise you, you have never seen a man so happy to receive a little piece of electronics as my husband when he gets new toys. He couldn't even wait to get home to open it up and was plugging the wires into the damn thing right there in the cab. He couldn't do anything with it till we got home but he was sure happy just checking the thing out. I hope he's that happy when this baby arrives!

Surfs Up
07/12/2011, Cloudbreak, Fiji

Well apparently one of the big surf spots in the world is right around the corner from us and it is big and beautiful right now. We heard last week that it was supposed to come in perfect this week. Yesterday Mark and Chris (Mooneshine) went out to check it out. We weren't really sure I'd be able to handle the dinghy ride since it's a ways out and then we weren't sure what the conditions would be like sitting there so I stayed home. When they got back they thought it was cool enough that I should give it a shot. Mark said the dinghy ride wasn't that bad and sitting there wasn't an issue. So today Mark and I packed up the dinghy with snacks, drinks, and extra fuel and headed out. It was a bit of a ride to get out there and we did hit a rough patch that the boys didn't experience yesterday (we determined that there is more wind today) but overall it wasn't too bad. At first the surf wasn't as good as yesterday, according to Mark, but as we sat and watched some good waves started to come in. It was pretty cool to see these gigantic waves up close and people surfing them. It's amazing you can sit that close to a wave that is breaking and you don't have to worry about it hitting you. We got some good pictures but didn't stay out to long. Apparently there are some big names out there (Kelly Slater is the only one I've ever heard of but I have no idea what he looks like) so I'm sure my pictures are of some famous surfers but I don't know who they are.

We have a stowaway...
07/11/2011, Malolo, Fiji

Well I suppose the time has come to let you all in on a little secret Mark and I have been carrying since we got to Fiji.... I have been harboring a stowaway. I'm almost 14 weeks pregnant. As you know our passage from NZ to Fiji was a hard one. But even so I usually start to feel better at some point. I never got over the seasickness, was strangely hungry (I woke up one night and made Mark make me one of our emergency dehydrated meals), and I could smell everything on the boat. Something just gave me the feeling so I took a pregnancy test when we got in (yes, I always keep a box on the boat because I feel this is to important to be in a place and not be able to find out). Sure enough it came back positive and so did the second one. My sister of course asked me why I took two? Her comment was "if that line turns blue you're pregnant." I took two because I was not going to some crazy Fiji doctor without being sure. I was going to wait till the following Monday to go to the doctor but if you remember my eye was all irritated from the passage again so I ended up in the emergency over the weekend. I told them my suspicions and they did the blood test for confirmation. Later in the week we saw the OB, had the rest the the blood tests, and and ultrasound done. Everything looked good. They gave me a due date of January 23rd. It was actually a really nice clinic with really good doctors.

It was now clear that Mark and I had to reassess our plans for the year. We were planning to sail down and around South Africa and back up into the Med. We started tossing around all the options. I definitely couldn't do the Indian Ocean. 1. It's far too many long passages and 2. way too late in the year. We looked into shipping the boat into the Med but the cost of doing so just seems like a silly waste. Initially we decided that Mark would get crew and go without me. I would leave him in Bali. The plan has changed once again and is now pretty solid. We are obviously still in Fiji. We will leave for New Caledonia as soon as we have our new set of sails. It's about a 5-6 day passage (possibly less - hopefully less!). We will spend a few weeks there and then head over to Australia (7 day passage). Depending on when we get there I will help Mark close up the boat or I will go straight home. My goal is to be on a plane October 1st and home for my third trimester. Mark will probably stay behind for a month and get some projects done and officially close up the boat. Our goal is to have him home in time for the holidays. This is the plan for today anyhow. We of course change it daily at least a little.

I'm sure everyone's big question is "Are we still going to sail." And the answer is yes. But we will be slowing down a bit. We plan to stay at home for about 3 months after the baby is born (more if there is any reason to - the baby is obviously #1 priority). We will then return to the boat in Australia. Under normal circumstances we would then sail off but we are now planning to stay in Australia for the cruising season and an additional cyclone season. We want to be in a place that is close to doctors and supplies. We will be there until after the babies 1st birthday. After which we will decide what to do.

Next you're probably saying "you can't have a baby on a boat." Well I've been lucky enough to be surrounded by a ton of boats with kids lately; some that have lived on their boat since birth. When people find out we are expecting they are happy to give me their two-cents and I am happy to take it. It may not work out for us but we won't know until we give it a try.

For those of you who are worried about me out here in the great blue sea I will tell you that I have been taking my vitamins, getting as many fresh fruits/veggies as possible, and resting a lot (hence the lack of activity on the blog lately). I had another check-up last week. This doctor wasn't as good as the first but we got another ultrasound and could see the baby jumping around. They changed my due date to Jan 11th because they said that 10 week babies don't jump and this baby was moving so I had to be at least 12 weeks. Everything is looking good and the doctor gave me the okay to do the New Caledonia passage.

Now that the news is out I'm sure I'll have much more to write about. It's been hard the last month or so because a lot of what we have or haven't done has revolved around my belly and I couldn't really say anything.

If anyone out there has any questions, comments, suggestions, or advice I'd love to hear them (well maybe not some of them). This is going to be a whole new adventure for Mark and I but I think it's gonna be a fun one!

We have made an attempt to let our friends and family know before posting on here but we are sure we have missed at least a few so my heartfelt apologies if you are finding out this way and should have received a personal phone call or e-mail from one of us.

07/12/2011 | John Jones
I have been following your blog since just before your voyage across the Pacific. A heartfelt congratulations to both of you.
07/15/2011 | Mark & Dana
Thanks John. It's always nice to hear from our readers. Please let us know if you have any questions about our trip.
07/22/2011 | jessica
wow, I just read this. Congrats!
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.

The 4th of July
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!


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Mark & Dana
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