Top Ten Ways You Know You’ve Been Sailing in the South Pacific for a Long Time 

  1. You can communicate a whole range of greetings and emotions with your eyebrows alone.
  2. The smell of rancid coconuts rotting in the midday sun doesn’t bother you anymore.
  3. When you ask a local a question and they answer “YES” you know that A. that does not mean the answer is actually yes, or B. that they understood the question at all.
  4. You usually ask a local if a fish you caught is safe to eat – free of ciguatera, a highly toxic and very localized fish poisoning. And when they say “Yes” you know to see above.
  5. When provisioning or looking for hardware store items you expect to visit at least half a dozen stores and only find half of the items on your shopping list.
  6. You no longer trust the accuracy of your charts and consider sticks and rebar acceptable navigation beacons.
  7. Limes and coconuts are considered staple foods onboard.
  8. You can self-diagnose and treat fungal infections, staph infections and cellulitis and know the difference between the symptoms of dengue fever and malaria.
  9. You’ve eaten over 25 varieties of bananas, probably in 25 different ways.
  10. You consider cyclone season the perfect time to sail around the islands; better winds and a heck of a lot less boats! 

Markets: Food for the Soul

Amidst the unfamiliar countries and uneasiness of travel the markets are where I find a connection to the people, to the landscape. Although I have a deep and passionate relationship with food this is not why I seek out these places. It is the everyday-ness of the market that I crave.

Disconnected from family, country, home and all that is familiar the markets are a constant in our travels. The world over people grow food and make goods and sell them in a common space. The produce sold, the faces smiling back at me and the colour of the money changes but the routine is always the same. People coming together to sell food, buy supplies and socialize. Unlike the tourist I am not looking for the exotic, I am searching for the familiar.

On the remote island of Nuku Hiva in French Polynesia I would wake at 5am, before the dawn, and dinghy across the harbour to go to the Wednesday morning market. You had to get up that early, at 9 degrees south business is done before the wilting heat of the sun brings island life to a halt. After weeks of long passages and limited fresh vegetables I was excited by what might be there to buy.

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Tropical Boat Storage article in Cruising World

It is that time of a year again, the seasons are changing and many of us sailors are planning how and where spend the storm season. We spent four cyclone seasons holed up in Vuda Point Marina, Fiji, which meant we got the process of packing up and shipping off down to a fine art.

You can read about it in the September issue of Cruising World, in stores and online now! Check out their “How To” section for my best tips and tricks for storing your boat in the tropics.

Cruising World Sept Cover

Cruising World Sept 2015



Underway to New Caledonia

We’ve departed on our 700NM passage from Fiji to New Caledonia.

The weather looks good so we are crossing our fingers that it will take 5-6 days. However, we all know how accurate the weather man can be, so don’t get worried if it takes up to 10 days.

I have activated our SPOT, a GPS tracking device that we use while on passage and away from WIFI signals to let you know where we are. Every morning around 0800 local time (Fiji is UTC+12) we will send out a “We’re OK” message and drop a pin on a map so you can follow along in real time. Check it out!

We’ll check back in when we find WIFI in Noumea, until then safe sailing.

New Caledonia or bust!

New Caledonia or bust!



Some things are sent to test us.

Some people like to call it a “Shake down cruise” but I think that sounds too nicey nicey.  There has been nothing “cruisey” about the last two weeks on board Kate. The term “Sea Trial” seems much more appropriate.

As is the norm before a passage and after a long period on the hard we took the boat out for sea trials. It is a chance to test new equipment, check existing systems, find faults and set up gear. It is a chance to re-familiarize ourselves and the boat with the business of sailing and living on board in the harsh environment of the ocean. Breakages are expected, even preferred at this point. After all it is easier to fix things when you’re only miles from the nearest chandlery or town than it is when those resources are literally days away. They might say that bad things come in 3’s, but after a couple of days it was starting to feel like we are getting them in 3’s3. 

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Hard times, no more

The last few weeks have been long and exhausting. This time of year in the South Pacific always is. As the heat of summer recedes and winter brings calmer weather and favorable winds there is a rush to get projects completed, to meet deadlines, to catch weather windows. But this year our transition from being a boat packed up and battened down for cyclone season to being a boat ready to sail into the wild blue yonder has been especially trying.

Trying for three weeks to organize the two boats behind us to move so we could launch Kate.

Trying to do semi impossible things like paint on a new coat of anti-foul while still in the hole.

Trying not to loose too much sleep or my cool while we wasted away on land when we could have been bobbing peacefully at anchor.

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“Safety never takes a day off.”

During the first few months we lived on board I would often find myself awake in the middle of the night, my mind swirling around worst-case scenarios, wondering how, or if, I would cope if something bad happened. Sometimes I was worried about the big stuff but as often it was knowing that a chipped tooth, a sprained ankle, a small infection or a high fever can quickly become life threatening when you have no chance of getting proper medical attention for days or even weeks. The myriad of little things that could, in the blink of an eye, go horribly wrong was down right over whelming. When I started to think about the unthinkable, a time when things went so bad we’d have to abandon ship, my fear would almost drown me. Eventually I learned that the only way to control my tsunami of worry was to do as the Girl Guides taught me; Be Prepared.

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Safe and Sound… and so very Grateful

I am not sure we realize how very lucky we were this past weekend.

As we boarded a plane on Tuesday to return home to Kate in Fiji it wasn’t our luggage that was weighing us down. It was a deepening low pressure system, a late season cyclone in the South Pacific, that was heavy on our shoulders. After 36 hours of transit and very little sleep we arrived after dark and had a wet and windy cab ride home. It was sheer exhaustion that let us sleep; TC Pam, a potential super storm, was still threatening to head towards Fiji. Continue reading

Hope floats

We use our dinghy a lot. It is more than just the “family car” that carries us to and from shore. It is our “off-road”exploration vehicle, our means for mobile entertainment, our backup plan and more recently our escape pod.

When we bought Kate she came with a Zodiac Zoom, how long it had been baking in the California sun fully inflated on the dock we don’t know. It was a little worse for wear but held air, and after I made a set of chaps to cover the worn pontoons it didn’t look that bad.

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The heat is on

When I was in my early 20’s and traveling around Thailand I came across a photo studio in Phuket that was selling reprints of old negatives. It was obvious that the photos were from a personal collection; more everyday life pictures  than set up shots. Most seemed to have been taken in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. I was fascinated to see what that part of the world looked like back then, what people wore and how the street I was standing on had changed. The photographs were scattered across a table on the sidewalk and I spent a couple minutes sifting through them, waiting to find the one. Just as I was about to walk away I came across an photo that grabbed my attention. Continue reading