Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

by Maya

Wow, it’s been a big year. We’ve done lots of things. But where will I start?
Let’s start at the beginning of last year. We visited our paternal grandparents in Virginia. There was snow at their home, which doesn’t happen too often. Kai and I and our cousins built a big igloo in the snow. We had lots of fun. But soon we had to fly back to the warm tropics.

Panama. There we met our good friends Stray Kitty and Tyee. We almost adopted the cutest little kitten named Mochito. His tail was cut off. But we realized that he would be a lot better off on land.

We had just moved from Ecuador. Fortunately, there was another ‘kid boat’ called Victoria with two boys my age. In our little town, Bahia de Caraquez, there lived a big Galapagos tortoise in the schoolyard. His name was Miguelito. We traveled inland a bit, to Cuenca where we ate at the best meat ever at a restaurant called Tiestos with chef Juan Carlos. Then we went to Quito, where Kai’s old Spanish teacher Pilar lived.

Next up is the famous Galapagos. The wildlife there is amazing. There are penguins and sea lions,

marine iguanas,

land iguanas,

finches, albatross,

and the giant prehistoric tortoise, which I saw in Ecuador. Galapagos Archipelago is a very touristy place as well. The tour boats have taken over the islands, and several months after we left, a new law had been passed that allows cruising boats to stay no more than 20 days. Fortunately we were not caught up in that and got stayed almost two months.

We made the big crossing from the Galapagos to the Marquesas. With one movie night, one chocolate day, and one baking day, we were doing pretty well food- wise. It took us 16 ½ days before we finally sighted Fatu Hiva, French Polynesia.

Did you notice the word ‘French’ in French Polynesia? That means clean streets and good food. Fatu Hiva, and the rest of the Marquesas are all very lush and mountainous. There are beautiful hikes, and pretty waterfalls. The only downfall is the water is a tiny bit murky in some spots.

One of the best experiences in this island group would be snorkeling Tahuata. There are small Manta rays, only six foot wingspan, and we jumped in the water with them.
We’ve also seen bigger mantas, like the ones we saw in Maupiti.

But soon we had to move on to the Tuomotus. Our first stop was Fakarava.
Ever heard of The South pass of Fakarava? Sound familiar? Have you been reading the blog long enough to know? For those of you who haven’t, I will explain.
Fakarava itself is an atoll, a circle of land with water inside and outside. But there are holes in the circle, and strong currents flow through. These gaps are called passes. Rich nutrients flow through the passes. Nutrients means lots of fish, tons of fish means abundance of sharks.
These passes create beautiful diversity. There are the blacktip reef sharks, the grey sharks, the silvertip sharks.

There are also very pretty reef fish.

One of the most amazing fish is the humphead wrasse, also known as the Napoleon fish. That name is a joke. These fish are as big as a shark, and could eat my brother Kai!

Just kidding, they don’t actually eat people.
The cool thing is that the current runs really fast, and you get swept by the reefs without swimming.

But enough about Fakarava, let’s go to Toau. The reason I love Toau so much is because there are a bunch of dogs. One dog called Rubi has five puppies. There’s another big golden retriever who’s a really nice dog.

Next is Tahiti where we sailed 40 miles upwind with Oma and Poppa Nate to see the full solar eclipse. It was so impressive that we now count years AE for After Eclipse, instead of AD.

If you ever go to Bora Bora, make sure you do the hike. There’s an amazing view.
Suwarrow in the Cook Islands is full of sharks, and two really fun park rangers. Their names are Api and James. Once we went coconut crab hunting with them. They host parties onshore, with big bonfires. Suwarrow is a lot of fun.

Then there is Tonga, with all the whales that we didn’t see. Tonga, like Galapagos, has a tour boat problem. Instead of touring islands, these boats whale-watch.
They tell cruisers it’s against the law for them to get in the water with a whale. Then they cut between the yacht and the whale, and put their swimmers in.

Next Kamaya went to New Zealand, where people talk in funny English. They have different words for various things such as these. Take a guess at what they mean.


But I forgot all about resolutions!

My last year’s resolution was to read 100 books. Then I calculated my goal and found out that I would have to read 3 books a week, so I changed it to 75. But that still seemed too much. It became 50. But I read that many early on, so I changed back to 75. Now I’ve surpassed that goal, and it’s back to 100. I’m at 83 books today and I have one day left. Can I make it?

Probably not. But I’ll try anyway.

Well, I still need some resolutions for this year. I was thinking of these, but it’s not enough.
1: learn to do a quadruple flip halyard swinging.
2: read 100 books. (again.)
3: … I don’t know, what do you think?

Please comment.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Perspective on 2010

This year, 2010, had some good things and bad things. Let's start with the bad things that happened to me.

Here's the worst thing that happened. In Panama while we were on the boat getting ready to sail across the Pacific, I shot Maya with a rubber band then she got really mad. She kicked me and my head hit a piece of wood. I felt the back of my head and there was lots of blood. Maya cracked open my scull! I got 5 stitches!!!!!!!

Another bad thing happened to me. In New Zealand, I was biking and I went sideways on a curb and fell. My face, my hand, and my knee was bloody! I didn't get stitches this time, but a lot of road rash.

And now the good things.

Memaw, my grandmother, gave me the game, Settlers of Catan, for my birthday. It's a really fun game! Plus, I had one of the best birthday parties ever in Fakarava, the Tuomotos. We played games and had a sand castle contest.

Another good thing. My great Aunt Tilly came to Tahiti on the 17th of July and brought us climbing harnesses. You see we learned how to halyard swing from Pickles, another kid boat, and now we have are own harnesses! With the harness, I can swing on the side of the boat and sometimes up high.

Books have also been good things. We just went to the Auckland City Library to pick up a book called, The Sword of Mercy. It's the fourth book in the series by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. It's really good, you should read it!

Here's another good book. We've been waiting months for The Emperor of Nihon-ja to come out. It finally did! It's the 10th book in the Ranger's Apprentice Series and you should read that too!

On Christmas morning, Maya and I woke up super early and then we woke up our parents to open our presents and look under the tree I made out of legos. I was happy because Santa came.

I got some cards that give you a few things and we each got a watch. Finally we opened our last present which was a stuffed sheep! His name is Shawn. I also got a cool black bicycle!

And, lastly, we fixed the freezer and now we have ice cream on the boat!

It's been a great year, but now it's time to stop writing and start eating ice cream!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Cinnamon Flop

What the heck do you think a Cinnamon Flop is?

Well, it's not a belly flop into the Pacific Ocean and it's not a total mess up on a bike. Cinnamon Flop is a really good dessert that looks like a cake with cinnamon, brown sugar, and flour on top.

For my Dad's birthday I wanted to make cinnamon buns but we did not have that recipe and we were also out of eggs so I made Cinnamon Flop instead.

Here's the special recipe:

1c sugar
2c flour
2t baking powder
1T melted butter
1c milk
(topping flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon)
push in butter chunks.

When you mix the ingredients, make sure to tell a story. First you mix the sugar, flour and baking powder, then add the butter and then the milk. Put this in a baking pan and then get ready to put the topping on top. You sprinkle the brown sugar, flour and cinnamon on top and then push in chunks of butter. Bake at 350 degrees.

Every time I make Cinnamon Flop, it tastes and looks different, but it's always good.

You should make it!

P.S. If I look a little bruised in this photo - I am. I had a little flop on my new bike but I'm doing much better.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

G'day Mateys!

G'day mateys ... while many of you in the northern hemisphere may be schussing down the ski slopes, building snow creatures, and bundling up for winter, we've got our "sunnies" on (sunglasses) and we're settling into summer in "N. Zed," that's short for New Zealand.

To bring a little of the wintry Christmas feel, we found a gigantic snow globe set up at the park in Auckland, our new home.

Instead of living inside the snow globe as some of you in Hood River and Minnesota are, we're in a marina in the center of the city, near some jaw-drop gorgeous yachts as well as intrepid America's Cup boats.

And we're learning to speak Kiwi. Now don't confuse that with the Kiwi fruit, that we're also enjoying, nor the Kiwi bird that we're still searching for.

G'day mates!

P.S. Great Kiwi saying that I learned from my boat neighbor Angus -- "It was blowing so hard that it blew the chain off the dog."

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Bay of Islands

Opua is the first mandatory stop in the Bay of Islands for boats arriving from foreign waters. It is here where we must check in with New Zealand customs and immigration. Actually, the officials know we’re coming as their airplanes spotted us in the distant waters, and even radioed us on VHF Channel 16 from the sky. But to make sure they know we’re coming - you know government often likes redundancy -- we also were required to email authorities 48 hours in advance of our arrival.

At the quarantine dock, we raised our yellow flag and the officials boarded Kamaya. One of the first things they did was check our Raymarine chart plotter to make sure that we didn’t stop in New Zealand waters along the way. Perhaps they feared we were smuggling Tongans.

Next came the custom’s dog who sniffed the boat for illegal drugs and the man from agriculture took our remaining fresh fruit and vegetables. We had eaten almost all of our food, even the green bananas that I flambĂ©ed as we were motoring to the dock. We didn’t have much to give him except for a mostly eaten jar of honey and a withered cucumber.

Tim joked that our cupboards were so empty that they might send us to child protective services for failing to feed our kids. Our fear that they would take our collection of seashells, wooden bowls and other trinkets was unfounded.

A number of people from our South Pacific fleet park their boats in the Opua marina, buy a car and call Opua home, but after a few nights of uninterrupted sleep we were ready to explore The Bay of Islands (called "the bay" by locals) before sailing south to Auckland, the city of sails.

The Bay has fantastic anchorages with plenty of stomping trails, and calm waters to catch up on school. One favorite place where we called home for a bit was Russell, with its classic Boating Club, big green grass and floating oyster barge. Although it used to be a wild west town, it's now pretty quaint and, most important, it has two ice cream stores, both serving the infamous hokey pokey flavor (think caramel mixed with creamy vanilla).

Perhaps the most beautiful anchorage is at Roberton Island, where the great Captain Cook, anchored as well. It's also where Tim scooped up handfuls of green-lipped mussels for dinner.

Another rival in terms of stunning beauty is Urupukapuka Island (try saying that three times in a row).

Just across the bay from Russell is Paihia. Take a look at the glowing full moon --

Here, we do our big shopping at the CountDown, buy duck eggs at the Farmer's market, and walk the tightrope at Action World. Our new friend Christina, who lives in her camper van in Paihia, drove us to the bigger town called Kerikeri where we watched the much anticipated Harry Potter movie. Along the way, the sheep bleeted away happily, confirming that we indeed are in New Zealand. I’m still pinching myself, amazed that we sailed all the way across the huge Pacific Ocean.

Our favorite creatures, the bottlenose dolphins, frolick in the Bay, luring the tourist boats to their show.

We're looking for the flightless kiwi bird and haven't seen one yet. But we did encounter hundreds of shearwaters feasting at the Hole in the Rock. We watched them flutter along the water and then suddenly align themselves in perfect formation.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Happy Birthday Maya!

Maya turned 11 on Thursday, November 18th and it just so happened that our new friend Christina turned 22 the day before. Christina works at Action World in Paihia and that's where we celebrated Maya's Birthday Party. We couldn't have asked for a more perfect venue for Maya, our unicyclist.

Here she tried the flying trapeze just like they have in the circus.

She also mastered the tight rope - (4 meters/12 feet in the air) ... it took a lot of practice but she walked all the way across without falling.

And she flew threw the air on a flying carpet.

Even the parents had fun on the x-treme slide. Here's a great shot of Christine from Stray Kitty getting some air and notice her hair!

The jousting log was a hit. Dave from Nikita was the king of the log, even battling his wife, Rayann.

Ondine from MoJo was the Queen of the log.

If you are ever in New Zealand and have an urge to swing on the trapeze, we strongly urge you to visit Action World, The owners, Frank and Carol Osler, developed a special airbag landing system which allowed us novices to feel like we were ready to join the circus.

Tim might be ready...he received the first Champion certificate for flying like a bird to catch the second bar on the trapeze, walking all the way across the highwire, ringing the bell on the top of the climbing wall and flying over the sissy wall on the jungle swing. Go Tim!

Parting shot....

Birthday girl Christina demonstrating her skill on the trapeze.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

We made it to New Zealand!

Early November when cyclone season officially starts in the South Pacific, most sailboats migrate to safe zones. Some sail to Australia, some to New Zealand and the bold ones bury their boats in sand in Fiji. We chose New Zealand, even though the 1050 mile journey from Tonga can be treacherous.

In fact, it can be such a difficult passage that Jim Corenman warns in his South Pacific primer guide to "avoid getting pasted twice. The problem is that the weather fronts cross New Zealand every 7 or 8 days, but the northern end of the front trails behind as the front moves east. So the fronts are effectively moving north as you head south. The farther south you are the earlier you will see the front and the more boisterous it will be. So take your licks early and try like heck not to get pasted near the end of the trip."

While waiting for a weather window in Nuku’alofa, I started getting nervous about our last big passage. I knew Kamaya can handle strong winds, but it's super unpleasant to beat into 40 knot winds like some of the boats had encountered on their journey. Tim assured me that we wouldn’t get pasted twice.

That last week in October, we were with a fleet of boats also heading to New Zealand. All of us constantly looked at the grib files, chatted about the weather, and waited for New Zealand weather guru Bob McDavitt to advise us when to come south. On October 31st, we received the go ahead. Our window was open, McDavitt emailed us. But he also stated that we need to worry about the low forming off of Australia and must arrive in New Zealand before the 9th of November.

So on Halloween, after a morning of trick-or-treating boat-to-boat (Maya was a witch and Kai was King Arthur),

and a game of tug-of-war...Big Mama's was a great place

we hauled up our anchor and headed towards Minerva Reef, 275 miles away. The winds were perfect, 10 to 15 knots from the East, as we said good-bye to Tonga.

Two days later at 8 am on November 2nd, just as we were pulling into Minerva Reef, our fishing line went zipppp. We scampered around as usual. Maya and Kai doused the main and furled the jib, I slowed the boat down and Tim doned the fighting belt. Then suddenly the fish went super deep and pulled hard on the line. We fought harder. He fought harder, or so we thought.

When we managed to get the yellow-fin tuna close to the boat, it looked funny. It had a huge bite out of it. It was half eaten by a shark! We were battling a shark! Well, at least the shark shared.

We anchored inside the atoll, enjoyed tuna sushi, the respite from the rolling seas, and snorkelled the pass. Another boat, Shannon, was with us and they said while snorkelling, they saw white-tipped sharks mating. We saw the sharks, but not in the act. We also saw a huge grouper the size of Kai.

Continuing on from Minerva Reef to Opua, New Zealand we had wind in all different directions, but never over 30 knots. In fact, contrary to Jim Corenman’s article, we never got hammered. Poseidon was super kind to us.

At night, the bioluminescence sparkled in the water and the farther south we sailed, the more layers we had to wear. The flying fish continued to whizz through the air. Kai found this unlucky one on our deck.

We had one spectacular day flying the spinnaker, another day with little wind that forced us to motorsail for too many hours. The most stunning day happened early Monday morning just after sunrise when I saw land.

It was a morning I'll always remember and made up for all the sleepless nights at sea. There was a rainbow circling the sky and an albatross with its 8 foot wingspan greeting us. Once the kids woke up, we had dolphins playing on our bow.

We made it! We made it all the way across the Pacific Ocean and we didn't get hammered.

Parting shot...New Zealand customs dog sniffing the boat

Kiting with Dad

My dad is really good at kiteboarding and I've been watching him whizzing through the water all over the place. We talked about kiting together for a long time. I’ve always wanted to try it.

Finally, I got the opportunity. It was in Tonga, at Big Mama's beach. Tim surfed in and jumped off his board.

I climbed on his back.

And then we zoomed through the water.

We experimented with me being in front of him and on the board, but the line connecting to the kite squeezed me. Then, we tried kiting with me standing on the back of the board, and that worked perfectly. What fun!

Here are some photos of Dad flying fast on the kite. He can jump super high.

And he likes to show off.

I can't wait to go again.

Photos of Tim jumping courtesy of Tom from Emily Grace

Looking Back

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