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Duty Free
07/25/2011, Port Denarau, Fiji

I always wondered what the big deal was with Duty Free. Every time I was in an airport with a duty free shop I'd check it out. Supposed to be a great deal right? But I never could see that. The prices always seemed higher than I could get the stuff at home. Now that I've been traveling a while and "lived" in different places I realize that duty free isn't for Americans. Our prices at home are less than most duty free shops and definitely less than most other places in the world. The prices (with crazy amount of taxes) for stuff in other parts of the world are so high it makes Nordstrom look like Walgreens in comparison. Think of the alcohol you can get at Costco. A handle of Jack is what $30-40US. Here in Fiji a bottle half that size is at least double if not triple. A case of Fiji Bitter (probably a Budweiser equivalent) is about $40US. It's totally crazy. Mark and I went into the Duty Free here the other day to check out the electronics. The cameras were all at least $500-600US. I just looked up the equivalents on Best Buy and none of the cameras were more than $150, they were more like $120. I just can't believe that the rest of the world puts up with this. It's just another reason I'm so proud to be an American and why we always max out our baggage limits when we leave the states to return to the boat. I now also understand why people actually take shopping vacations to the US.

It's official...
07/24/2011, Port Denarau, Fiji

...the baby belly is officially big enough that people feel comfortable asking when I'm due. I'm glad. I hated that feeling that people were looking at me wondering if I'd just been packing on a few pounds. Especially because I've been walking around without out my shorts buttoned for weeks and covering it with my tank top. I have officially switched to only wearing my cotton shorts with elastic bands in them. Luckily I have a number of them since they are what I do crossings in. They should get me through at least the next few weeks. I haven't found any maternity stores in Fiji. The tourist shops have a number of dresses that I could wear but I flat-out hate wearing dresses and the idea of heaving my growing belly wearing a dress in-and-out of the dinghy just isn't appealing at all. I'm sure I'd end up giving the whole anchorage a show. So for now I plan to stick with the cotton shorts and stretch this batch of Old Navy tank tops to the limit.

Mark and I have started to organize the stuff we plan to take home with us this round and I'm hoping it's going too be a lot so we can make some room for the baby. The good news is I won't be taking any clothes. Nothing will fit by the time I leave and most likely nothing will fit for a few months (or more) after the baby is born so no point in dragging it half-way around the world. I'll have lots of room in my luggage.

Last year we scanned all the manuals on the boat. It was a huge undertaking of 6 or 7 binders. It freed up a lot of space in the nav station area but we weren't ready to take them off the boat when we went home last August. We were worried we could have missed something but Mark hasn't needed to reference the binders at all. The digital copies have been great and this means that all the binders are going home with us this time and I will have the entire compartment under my bed free for whatever I choose. I probably will go through our clothes again. If I haven't worn it since we've been on the boat I'm probably not going to. And most likely by the time we move off the boat I won't want to wear it so I'll probably just give the stuff away. The big project for me is to decide what craft supplies are going to stay. Truth is I haven't used most of them. It's not that convenient since I have to pull everything out and put everything away and can't really leave projects sitting around to work on. So I haven't done much. But the idea of not having my stuff makes me sad. Plus with the baby coming I have a feeling I may just want to get crafty about some things. So I'll be going through what is currently 4 duffle bags of craft supplies to figure out what stays and what goes.

On the flip side I also have to figure out what will be coming back to the boat with us. I can tell you they'll be a lot of baby stuff I'm sure. I've been trying to research what babies need and what is nice to have and I'll tell you it isn't easy - Especially trying to keep the boat in mind. I know we'll need some type of stroller and it's all nice that there are websites that have reviews but none of them take into account living on a boat. No one says "oh this one would be easy to get in and out of a dinghy by yourself with a baby in your arms while the thing is bouncing around and moving away from the dock." So I think light and simple but that won't work on a lot of the gravel/dirt roads that many of these islands have. Granted we plan to be in Australia for the first year baby's life but we will probably be walking almost everywhere so it can't be flimsy. Then there is all the toys and educational stuff. Just because we have a limited amount of space doesn't mean I want baby to be deprived (okay maybe deprived isn't the right word I mean we will make sure the baby has everything it needs). It's all great that Mark and I can go digital with our books and entertainment. But we just can't do that with a child. They need to be touching and grabbing and exploring. We have the unique opportunity that both of us get to be with the child 24/7 and we need to be using that time to its fullest extent. So what are the best baby learning toys and games? Hell if I know. There are so many on the market I sure as heck can't bring them all back with me and buying a lot in Australia would be nuts since I know it's going to be much more expensive than buying stuff in the states. I do want to have a good range of stuff for the baby as it grows because once we leave Australia it could be a while again before we are in a place with stores that we can run and get something we are missing or would like to have. I also have a lot of stuff from when I was a kid - mostly books I'd like to have on the boat but I have a feeling they will be coming out of my storage unit and into grandma's house since there are definitely too many to bring to the boat. If you have kids and have any recommendations I'll take em.

07/25/2011 | John Jones
One blog I follow includes little Isobel. I have no children, but if I did, I'd seriously consider raising them on a sailboat. This little child is I'm sure more well rounded than most (and probably smarter).
Must have sailing books for cruisers
07/19/2011, Port Denarau, Fiji

A friend of mine from college is thinking about heading out to sea. They are slowly making the plans to get sailing as soon as they can figure out some of the details. I offered up a list of good books to have on board to her and then thought "hey maybe I should post these on the blog too." So here are some books I think every cruiser and many coastal sailors should have on board - and yes this is only a small sample of the ridiculous number of books we have on board.

Anything by Nigel Calder - He is the boat god. We have most if not all of his books. If we have a maintenance issue we've learned to check Calder first. The four I know for sure we have on board are:
Boatowner's Mechanical and Electrical Manual - Mark LOVES this book
Marine Diesel Engines
Cruising Handbook
How to Read a Nautical Chart

World Cruising Routes by Jimmy Cornell - basically tells you where you can go and when.

The Voyager's Handbook by Beth Leonard - Good all around book about everything cruising.

So these are the books I told her to start with. If anyone is interested I'd be happy to look through our books and see what other good recommendations I can come up with.

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.


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