Thursday, October 6, 2011

Goodbye Kamaya

I stepped off my boat for the very last time
The home I had lived in for three years
A life where I had seen many things
That I might never see again

I watched dolphins leap from the bow
On nights when the moon disappeared
They left a trail of glittering light
Like a mirror of the stars

I swam beside a humpback whale
As she drifted through the ocean
She lifted her tail, curved her back
Plunged deep into the sea

I looked down a volcano’s mouth
At the deadly lava within
A piece of pumas spewed up high
Flying past my head

I turned and faced my sailboat
I thought of the places I’d been
Friends I'd made and islands I'd seen
Sad to watch it end

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Consumption

One of the benefits of living on a boat is that you can’t go crazy shopping. But now that I’m living on American soil in a house, I feel like all the stores and billboards are screaming at me to BUY BUY BUY. Bikes, computers, clothes, beds, cellphones … all these things that we didn’t need on a boat seem essential on land.

As I walk into a store, I want to lasso myself back. You don’t want more stuff! Remember the boxes you packed away for three years and didn’t miss? Remember Maria’s family in Vanuatu who lived in a 10x10 foot room and seemed so content with what little they owned.

How can I apply the lessons that I learned on a boat to living on land. How can I refrain from accumulating more stuff? How can I remember to conserve water, like we did instinctively on the boat? It’s so easy to let the faucet run, use the dishwasher and indulge in luxurious baths.

The other day, Maya and I were eating a burrito and drinking ice water at Taco del Mar in Hood River. We both didn’t finish the ice and when we got up to bus our table, Maya looked at me and said, “I don’t want to throw the ice away.” I couldn’t bare to either.

Now that we’re back on land and in a house with a refrigerator and an ice maker, we don’t have to treasure ice. Nor do we have to turn the water faucet off immediately, take two minute showers, switch the lights off, close doors, and refrain from buying heaps of stuff. All this isn’t as important as it is on a boat.

We’ve learned to live with less on a boat, and it sure is nice to live with more, but imagine how much energy and water we would save if we continued our practice of turning off lights, using minimal water, acquiring minimal things like we do on a boat? Imagine how much better our world would be if we all lived as if we were on a boat.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Reentry to land life

Reentry from living on the ocean to living on land where days include driving cars, talking and texting on the cell phone, unpacking boxes, mowing the lawn, going to school, making lunches, taking daily showers, seeing old friends, looking for a job, and listening to Congress bicker on NPR. Yes, I’m back in the USA. After slipping away for three years, reentry to terra firma is a huge adjustment; some say it may take us years to get used to normal American life.

To complicate our adjustment - Tim and Kai are still in the land of kangaroos and koalas, taking care of Kamaya who is for sale. Let us know if you or someone you know wants to follow the dream. Kamaya is a fantastic boat and sailing with the family is a remarkable experience.

After being together as a family pretty much 24/7, we’re now dissected. It feels like I’ve lost my left arm and leg and am hobbling, like a drunken sailor.

The beginning of our end to boat life began Sunday, August 20th, when Maya and I retraced our steps backwards. As they say, nothing goes to weather better than a Boeing 777. What took us three years to sail, took us about 22 hours on an airplane. Even better, because of the international dateline, we left on Sunday and arrived in San Francisco on Sunday. Australia is so far away that we even travelled from winter to summer.

Our route home started in Brisbane, Australia, where we left Tim, Kai, Kamaya and Evi, our sailing grandmother. Maya and I flew to Auckland, New Zealand then across the Pacific to Los Angeles before overnighting in San Francisco for Oma’s banana bread and good lovin. Monday afternoon, we boarded another airplane to Portland

We beelined it to the Gorge and stayed in the “pickers cabin” on Sue and Sam’s farm, with their pigs, horses, dogs, chickens and home grown tomatoes. Farm life feels like the exact opposite of boat life in the sense that there’s the connection to the land and the inability to haul up the anchor and move to a different neighborhood.

“Our life must feel boring to you after all the places you’ve been,” farmer Sam asked one morning as we sat in his patio looking at the fire on Mt. Hood.

“It’s not boring, I just feel like I’ve been in a time warp,” I told him. “Not much has changed, except all the kids have gotten much taller, much taller than me.” For those who don't know me - I'm 5 foot and a half (inch).

Saturday, we moved back into our Hood River home, which was rented while we were gone. Poppa Nate, Oma, Sue and Sam, and Bill, helped empty our storage unit filled with a table, dressers, old windsurfer, and more than 20 cardboard boxes. Did I miss any of it? Only three things: my road bike, dishwasher and bathtub. But all the other stuff, didn't really matter. How did we manage to accumulate all this stuff? How easy it was to live without it.

I’ve had some time to adjust to land life and answer questions from friends and strangers who can't believe that we were gone for so long. We had a remarkable time living our dream and it’s sad to give up life on Kamaya, with the whales, wahoos and dolphins and the fantastic people we met along the way.

So why stop? Besides the fact that it’s time to get serious, get a job, go to school and embrace what land has to offer. When we left San Francisco, three years ago, Tim and I wanted our kids to become boat kids, independent, curious, strong, and self reliant. We accomplished our goal. We learned a ton about ourselves and each other and we sailed thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean.

“Maya, has such a keen sense of her place in the world,” Sam commented as he listened to Maya explain to her friend Alexa where we sailed. They were in the car together and she didn’t have a map, so she used her hand to show where we’ve been. New Zealand and Australia were near her left thumb and Mexico and California were on her pinkie. The Galapagos, French Polynesia, Tonga and Fiji were somewhere in the middle of her hand.

It’s been our parental policy to stop doing whatever we’re doing with the kids wanting more. We didn’t want to be like some of the cruising families we met whose kids, especially the teenagers, wanted to go back home. Maya, who has a tinge of a Kiwi/New Zealand accent, wants to fly back to Australia and be back on the boat. She thrived on the ocean and loved the sea life and the people we encountered along the way. We’re leaving with her wanting more. Kai, well – he’s still on the boat, so he hasn’t left yet.

It’s hard to explain to people who don’t know anything about sailing what we’ve been doing for the past three years. One mother at Maya’s school looked at me and said, “How leisurely!” I smiled back. Leisurely, I think not. It feels much more leisurely living here in Oregon where we drive to the grocery store, take long showers, and can buy or get whatever we need. We learned so much from the boat, but I’ll leave that for another post.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

In the land of Koalas and Kangaroos




We made it to the land of koalas and kangaroos. Though we didn't see these adorable creatures in the wild, I wanted to share some photos we took at our venture to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane.

Say hello to this mom and her joey who is gathered together with her mob. When the joey is born, he's tiny, pink and hairless and only about one inch long. Somehow the babies manage to crawl into their momma's pouch and stay there for as long as fourteen months.





Kangaroos and koalas are marsupials; they have pouches for their babies to hang in. The kangaroos is a macropod, and you can see why they're in the big feet family. We watched them run, by hopping on their hind legs and steering with their tails.



They look a little like a deer, but they're super sociable like dogs and like to be petted and fed.



Maya is petting one of the red kangaroos, the largest marsupial in the world.



We also saw the cute koalas, who sleep 75 percent of their day, just like sloths. The word "koala" is aboriginal for "no drink" and that's because they get their water from eucalyptus trees, which contain 50 percent water.



Koalas are endangered here in Australia and it's predicted that in the next 20 to 30 years, they may only survive in the protected parks. Sadly, about 4000 koalas are killed each year from cars, dogs and other predators.



A special treat was cuddling with the koala who seemed perfectly happy to wrap his arms around our neck.




Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Hot Oil Treatment

August 4th. We really should have been sailing to Australia, as we had a perfect weather window. But we wanted to spend some time exploring New Caledonia and I didn't want to be at sea on my birthday because I thought it was bad luck. The last time we were at sea on my birthday was in 1995 when Ruth and I sailed our old boat, Capella, to Cartagena, Columbia and our mast fell down due to rigging failure. We managed to limp into Cartagena without a mast. The boat was a mess, covered in hydraulic oil. Well, somehow fate had oil wrapped as a birthday present this year as well.


For my birthday we were in a small island, Ilot Maitre, just a few miles from Noumea, New Caledonia. The wind was strong ideal for a morning kiteboarding session. When I launched my kite at 8 in the morning, there were only two of us, by the afternoon more than 30 kiters cruised on the water. Well most of these French kiters weren't early risers. But they missed out, because I had the opportunity of kiting with a pair of dugongs. Dugongs are sea cows and look like a cross between ... a cow and a seal.




I tried to go slowly and quietly to get near them, but they were a bit shy and scared of my board. I kited near them for 5-10 minutes in shallow water...probably waist deep. They eventually swam off the edge of the reef into deeper water where I lost sight of them. Just before they dove into the deep the bigger one raised his head out of the water with his big long nose and gave me a long hard stare...was he curious, angry or did I interrupt a romantic moment? Maybe he was trying to warn me about the cruel fate in my near future.

The following day, we prepared to leave. We had just a few errands: buy French baguettes, cheese, TimTams (Kai's favorite cookies) and other groceries, check out of the country, and change the oil. Well as usual chores always take longer than you expect. By the time we arrived at the Capitaneria for check out it was 11:15am. The secretary said he was closed from 11am - 3pm for lunch (those French know how to live). But because we wanted to leave, she would do us a favor and see if the Port Captain would interrupt his lunch including his second bottle of wine and give us the formal stamp. The aged Captain shared a few sailing stories, gave us our clearance and returned to open his 3rd bottle.

So finally we returned to Kamaya for the last chore of changing the oil. I've always struggled at changing the oil without making a mess. The problem on a boat is, unlike a car, you can't just open the plug at the bottom and let it drain, because it will all end up in the bilge. So you pump it out the dipstick. I'm usually able to do this without too much mess, but then the oil filter always seems to drip a bit before I get it off. I've experimented with several variations and I thought I'd found the best one. This one involved a little help from Ruthy, which was the fatal flaw. She hadn't given me a birthday present yet and perhaps her mind was thinking about hot oil treatments and massages. Anyway, while I'm leaning into the engine compartment holding the oil pan and guiding the pump hose, she's carefully pumping the oil into a nearly full gallon container. Somewhow, well she's not really sure what happened, but suddenly the container leaped out and hot oil flew right onto my head. My screams of terror awoke the kids who snapped a few photos, but I don't think they really show my big mess and horror. As Maya said, "This might be grounds for divorce."




Well, it's probably very good for my dry skin, but I definitely won't be doing this again in a hurry. Maybe next year I'll get a massage treatment to go along with the hot oil for my birthday. Ruth promised to stay away from the engine, and now with a little distance, we can all laugh at my birthday present. So glad it wasn't as bad as my birthday in 1995 when we lost the mast. Cheers, Tim, the Tin Man with an oil overdose.




Sunday, July 31, 2011

Swimming with Whales



“Look, a whale!” my mother said.

I rushed to the cockpit and looked to where she had pointed. We were under sail going into a bay in Lifou, New Caledonia. Sure enough, there was a whale relaxing not far from us. She was floating on her belly, with her small dorsal fin poking out of the water.

Tim suggested jumping in the water with her, so a few minutes later he and I had our wetsuits on, masks on face and fins on feet. I jumped into the water and my dad followed. We let go of the ladder and swam towards the giant mammal.

I had seen whales before, but never gotten very close. I had only been in the water with one once. That was in Panama, and by the time we got in the male humpback had dove under the dinghy and I only saw his flipper and tail, the rest blended in. Other than that, I had only seen whales from the surface. From that point of view you can almost never see the whole body. Now, as we neared this animal, I could begin to make the shape out.

My first impression was that she was small. I suppose 25 – 30 feet isn’t little, but she was chubby too. I concluded she must be pregnant. Her stomach was bulging and there was no other explanation.

I suppose I’m painting an ugly picture, but the fact is she looked totally natural. She was an exotic animal, calm and elegant. She swam slowly towards the bottom of the sea. She then leveled out and glided horizontally through the water. We may have scared her slightly, because she swam away from us. But slowly, as though we weren’t a threat. It seemed to me that the whale merely wanted a little privacy, and that was why she left.

Whales are fantastic creatures and Tim and I were very lucky to have seen one so close.

By Maya

Don’t be afraid to comment!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Reflections

Monday, July 26.

The novelty of the baguettes, brie and fine French wine is wearing off quickly. Although we’ve been in Lifou for less than 48 hours, I’m in culture shock. Life here is dramatically different from what we saw in Tanna, Vanuatu.

On our walk today into the village called “We”, we were approached by a group of local drunk men with bottles of beer in hand, cigarettes in their mouths. “How do you like our island?” one drunk man asks Kai, who doesn’t really know how to respond. Though harmless, I think that drinking Kava, like the men do in Vanuatu would be better. At least there wouldn’t be the empty bottles and cans that are negligently left on the street.

I remember laughing with Tim, when in Vanuatu, one man passed us on the beach walking barefoot and said proudly, “I’m walking to the village to drink some Kava.” It sounded so innocent and intimate, like he was a 10 year old announcing that he was going to go play with his friends. Kava might numb his body, but alcohol somehow seems worse. My critical Western eye and UC Berkeley liberal education is seething forth. I’m not trying to be Alexis de Tocqueville, but just wanted to share some impressions and I admit we only saw one small area in Vanuatu and we’ve only been in one small area in New Caledonia.

Talking about garbage – here, there seems to be a lack of pride of place that we saw in Vanuatu. There’s garbage and plastic all over the place, even sharp broken glass bottles at the exquisite white sand beach shown below.



On our walk, we passed five gendarmes – that’s French for police – and their white skin contrasted with the local islanders of Melanesian descent. I wonder about the affects of being a French colony. Does it make you a dependent child, unable to dress yourself and prepare your own meals? Does it take away your power and turn you into a spoiled brat?

Laurens, a French teacher living here, told us that most of the locals don’t work as there’s no work for them and they get money from their relatives as well as the French government. In contrast, in Vanuatu, it seemed like most of the Ni-Vans (that’s what they call themselves) were busy working in their fields, harvesting cassava, bananas and taro.



Stopping to savor sweet coconut.



And back at home, weaving mats and baskets.



Or shooting bow and arrows.



Another huge contrast is that everyone walks in Tanna or paddles his outrigger canoe.



We only saw three cars when we were there; here in Lifou, most people drive their Isuzu Troupers and Range Rovers back and forth from the grocery store, filled with expensive imported food. The roads are paved and there are fancy sidewalks compared to the bumpy dirt roads in Tanna. There are even street lights equipped to dim and brighten depending on when a car passes.

“When France has taken all the nickel it needs, then they will leave,” predicts Michel, our French neighbor in the marina. Mind you, this marina is the cleanest we’ve ever been in. It’s so clean that we ran our watermaker here. Can you see the clear water here in the photo? There's a school of Sergeant Majors nibbling under Kamaya and supposedly one of the guards roams the docks busting any boats for flushing their heads (that's what we call toilets).



Michelle warns us against going to the island of Ouvea where in 1988 there was a massacre between the local Kanak islanders and the French police. “They’re very rascist there.” Michelle surmises that if the people get independence, then they would have their big cars and no money to pay for fuel.

Maybe he is right. Indeed the relationship between France and New Caledonia is complicated. Vanuatu (you might know it as New Hebrides) achieved independence from both France and Britain in 1980 – both countries governed at the same time. Though considerably poorer, the Ni-Vans seem so much more content than the people we met today on our walk. In fact, in 2006, the Ni-Vans were voted the happiest people on earth. I wonder, whether it has anything to do with their independence and simpler lives, one without the material desires of cars, delicious cheese and fresh baguettes.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

There She Blows



Our magna carta for our adventure to Mt. Yasur, known as the world’s most accessible active volcano: 1. Never turn your back on the volcano; 2. Don’t go too close to the edge; 3. If the flying neon orange lava looks like it’s coming our way – RUN.

We left Port Resolution around four o’clock with a truck load of five Kiwis (not the birds but the people), and an Englishman also eager to see the volcano. There were twelve of us total, including the driver and his friend, who I think was supposed to be our guide, but didn’t say much.

We packed into the 4- wheel drive Toyota pick-up. Maya, Kai, Tim and I sat in the back of the truck, holding on at every bump in the road and ducking to escape various thick branches. We passed huge Banyon trees and a number of villages, with their homes made mostly from bamboo, woven palm fronds and other organic material.



Every once in a while we stopped to let a cow pass or another rare car and we slowed down and honked at the little piglets squealing as their short legs ambled the dirt road. I could only imagine how tough the route would be during the torrential rainy season.

After about 45 minutes, we reached the park entrance.




Admission wasn’t cheap, about $100 US dollars or $10,500 vats (Vanuatu’s currency) for four of us to experience the furious volcano. Apparently, the park fees go to the local village that has to relocate every year when Mt. Yasur’s eruptions destroy their home.

From the entrance, we continued for about 15 minutes up the steep volcano, so steep in parts that I feared we’d topple over. We could hear the loud roar of the volcano shaking the ground and the air thickened. We parked in the black dirt on the edge of the volcano and walked the last bit up to the crater.

“Stay to the right,” advised our local guide, Jimmy. There were people already on the edge watching Mother Nature hoot and holler.

We turned our backs just for a photo op.




Of course, there’s no fence to keep spectators from falling into the crater. “Not too close,” I yell to Maya, who in her tween stage rolls her eyes at me. “Oh come on Mom, it’ll be ok.”



It wasn’t ok for two tourists and their guide who, according to the Moon Guide, were fatally struck by a projectile that hurled them 20 feet into the air. “Just keep your eye on the lava and don’t turn your back to the volcano,” I warned.

When the sun set, and the sky became dark black, the show was even more spectacular. We marveled at how high the lava pitched into the air. One part of the crater billowed forth thick ash clouds into the air and moments later the other side would throw glowing red and orange rocks hundreds of feet into the air. Fortunately, the wind was blowing from the southeast, away from where we were standing. Wow! Look at that explosion!!



The boisterous sound of the eruptions made me shutter, often grabbing Maya or Kai just to make sure the earth didn’t split open and gobble us up. Apparently, activity is a positive sign and when the volcano is silent, the neighbors are concerned that the volcano is bottling up its fury and will explode dramatically. Tonight, was deemed a Level Two, moderate to high activity, but not too dangerous. It was a fantastic show, one which made me more appreciative of cold solid ground.




A few days later, the wind direction changed and we weren’t so fortunate. On Thursday night, the wind blew from the west and in our anchorage in Port Resolution, thick black ash rained all over our boat. The west wind was predicted to continue for a few more days, so we had a choice of enduring the black ash or sailing upwind to New Caledonia. We decided to raise our anchor and sail away from the magical island of Tanna. I wish we could have stayed longer.

One last photo of the Almighty One

Monday, July 11, 2011

So Long Fiji - Vinaka!

There comes a time when we need to haul up our anchor and sail west. Well our time has come and my heart sighs, but I smile loudly, thinking about the incredible times we've had in Fiji and the incredible people we've met along the way.

We swam amongst colorful coral and photogenic fish. Every time I don my mask and look at the life under our keel, I'm constantly amazed and intrigued. The patterns of the fish are so intricate and artistic, like this juvenile Semicircle Angelfish.



Take a look at this exquisite Striped Surgeonfish. His blue and gold stripes fit in perfectly with the Cal Bears cheerleaders.



But when I see the nasty Crown-of-Thorns starfish that's killing the coral, I want to cry. They're not so pretty. Look at how evil they look with their spikes. Our friend Frank took this photo one day when we were snorkelling - I hope the starfish doesn't ruin the home of the little clownfish that's precariously close.



The Crown-of-Thorns used to not be as prolific because the Giant Triton Snail and other natural predators kept them under control. However, man has messed with the fragile ecosystem by collecting the Giant Snail to sell in souvenir shops, thus allowing the Crown-of-Thorns to demolish reefs. Some people we’ve met have decided to flip the large starfish over so they can be food for the fish. We've talked about forming a flip the starfish club - not a bad idea and could help protect the coral reef.

Another really interesting creature under the water is the Giant clam that we saw in Mokongi. The island used to be a Leper Colony, but fortunately it's transformed into a happier place where they raise giant clams and protect green turtles. The baby turtles had already hatched by the time we visited to the island, but we did see the clams in operation. Here’s a picture of one massive bi-valve that 6-foot tall Tim swam next to. What colorful lips! Did you know these clams are also hermaphrodites?



Another treat during our journey in Fiji has been the kindness of the people, who have been eager to help, show us their island, share some fruit or just say, “Bula.”

One of the benefits of voyaging by boat is it allows us the opportunity to reciprocate hospitality. In Namata Bay, Oso Blanco invited the Fijian children living on the small island to their boat to celebrate their son, Bear's, birthday. Most of the Fijian kids had never been on board a boat before and were so eager to come and play. It was a fantastic day with lots of games. They tossed water balloons,



played on the kayaks and jumped off the second floor of Oso. I love this picture that Annie took of the two girls jumping from the boat. It's a scary leap!



The tradition of sevusevu taught us about consideration and respect. Every time we anchored in a village, we sought out the chief, introduced ourselves, gave him a bundle of kava (the coveted narcotic made from pepper root) and asked permission to be on the island. Some debate the benefit of giving kava, but asking for permission to use an anchorage now seems like the right thing to do. I wish we had done it in many of the other countries that we have called home.

Fiji also gave us the opportunity to visit India without having to travel there. Maya and I loved looking at the exquisite Indian clothes and we even purchased a Sari for her to wear back in Oregon.



Along with the colorful clothes comes flavorful curries and rotis. Thanks to Mara, my sister-in-law, who visited us last week, I’ve learned how to cook with mustard seed and masala. This morning I bought more exquisite spices at the market. Look at this beautiful red chili, tumeric and curry. I wish it were possible to photograph their powerful smells.



So long Fiji …. Vinaka (that means, “Thank You”)! We’ve had a wonderful time!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Berko-week




Hi! This is Ziva and Maya, the Berkowitz- Kimmels are back again on Kamaya for a breath-taking adventure once more. We don’t believe we have to start at the very beginning, even though Maria says so (Sound of Music). We hope you enjoy our post!



One of the funnest things we did this week was build sand castles and hermit crab habitats. Ziva and I made this ultra cool country out of sand and coral. There were coral forests and farms made of sand, small villages and market places made of clam shells or rocks. There were huge mountains and great rivers. We also built a gigantic wall around the whole place with a moat (or sandmine as we call it) outside.

My turn, sorry about that LONG paragraph. That was Maya, as most of you can tell. Anyway, another cool thing that we did was sail with dolphins. We are still in the long process of knowing what type they are. They were HUGE! But, in their lovely dolphin like way, they moved so gracefully and jumped so high, you hardly noticed. I loved that part, especially when I was at the bow and one jumped right next to me. Let me rewind a bit. Dolphins like to ride the waves that the bow creates. The faster you go, the more waves you make, the more they enjoy it.



Gosh Ziva! You call mine long? (How crazy is that?) Now let me continue and explain about the hermit crab habitats that SOMEONE rudely interrupted. It all started on this one island when Ziva and I were building another country, a bit like the one before but without walls. So anyhow, the boys built a castle with steep passageways and lots of castles/mountains. Then they put hermit crabs in it and we saw that the crabs couldn’t get out. We liked the idea, but their habitat was too shallow and the crabs were crawling out. So we made our own but it was too deep and kept caving in. I positively hate to admit it, but theirs was better. So we helped them, and made lots of other hermit crab homes along the way.


Another hermit crab habitat.

You just keep goin’ on ‘n’ on. One thing you did forget to mention what the hermit crabs look like. That is kind of important . I will tell them. Hermit crabs are like little lobsters-ish, in snail shells of all shapes and colors. So, another thing that I found interesting was the snorkeling. I’ll admit, Maya was a great guide, explaining lots of coral and tons of fish. She also taught me how to dive, and in turn, I taught my mom. When I say dive I don’t mean scuba diving. I mean snorkel diving. You curl your body and shoot down, sticking your feet straight up. Every few feet you go down, plug your nose and blow out. Then when you rise to breathe, you blow out of the snorkel (mouth piece). We saw parrot fish pooping sand, needle fish sewing and damselfish flirting with each other. How wrong is that???



These paragraphs keep getting bigger! (Thanks to Ziva.) I still don’t think I should have to write about the rugby game, after all, you watched it with the boring parents. {Then let me write!} That’s okay, I will. But the parents made us write about it so, oh well. Anyway, the adults at fault forced us to come ashore to watch a rugby game that they claimed would be a “cultural” experience. Yeah right. But I could see that there was no point in arguing, they would make us do it anyhow. So we went ashore and I could quickly see it would be dull. So could Noah. Can you believe we have anything in common? So we went to the seaside and Noah swam, but I just hung out. Soon we met some local kids and Noah and I played soccer with them. The whole thing turned out not to be as bad as I thought, but I’m glad I didn’t have to watch the game. Also my uncle Ethan (Berkowitz as we call him) went halyard swinging and the buckle was too small for his belly. (If you don't know much about halyard swinging then just research earlier posts.)



I have the honor of closing this lovely entry, but first, I have one last word. I disagree with Maya. It was not dull. The villagers were kind to allow us to visit them, and watch their rugby game. Lets close this up!
Can’t wait to hear some comments!

Some parting shots from our week ...

Here's Noah snorkelling. He liked looking at the fish, but he liked jumping off Kamaya with Kai even better.



Here's our Fourth of July cake that we decorated to look like the American flag. Too bad you weren't with us to eat it!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Give me a Stick!

Namena Island, home to nesting Red-footed Boobies

I handed a male red-footed booby perched on the tree, a small stick. You would have thought he won the lottery. He grabbed the stick with his beak.



"Look at me, look at me," he squawked proudly. It was as if he were flexing his muscles like men do at the gym, hoping to attract someone with his bulging biceps.

Instead of flexing his muscles, the booby did a lap around the bay parading the stick.






He then returned to his perch. His female friend seemed pleased. He continued courting and started his sky-pointing dance -- not as elaborate as his larger cousin, the blue footed booby who we saw nesting on the ground in Mexico and Ecuador -- but he fluffed his wings and pointed his tail into the air.

The female accepted the stick and together they placed it under her body. So far, she had only two sticks, not nearly enough for a nest, but a start.





Here, in the small island of Namena, about 20 miles south of SavuSavu, red-footed boobies congregate and nest in the trees. They are the only booby birds that nest in trees. Their special claws on their webbed feet allow them to grasp the branches without toppling over.




We saw some fluffy white chicks sitting alone in the nests, waiting for their parents to bring them breakfast. It took them 45 days to hatch and then they hang out in the tree for another 130 days.



Meanwhile both their parents are very busy, flying around, looking for fish. It's an arduous task, not because they have difficulty spotting fish with their bulging eyes, but it's hard for them to catch the fish and bring it back to the nest without getting bullied by a lurking frigate bird. The frigates can't swim so they rely on other birds to catch fish and then they steal the food. We saw this happen a number of times.

Also in Namena, we went for a night snorkel with Oso Blanco. Bear spotted a sleeping green turtle who we woke up with our underwater lights and followed him as he sleepily moved around the reef and surfaced for a breath of air. I grabbed my buddy, Jo's hand, when I looked up and saw a white-tipped shark patrolling the area. I know they're not interested in us, but still they do look fierce in the dark of the night. The reef fish on the other hand looked like deer stunned by headlights as they floated above the coral.

Looking Back

It took me more than six years to turn our blog into a hard covered bound book. At first, I was leery of wrapping up our adventure because i...