Cave. Man. Cooking.

We don’t eat out at restaurants very often, but we do love eating ashore.

We’ve cooked breakfast in a volcanic steam vent, found secret grottos for picnic lunches and dragged our BBQ up a river to cook sausages beside a fresh water swimming hole. If there is a beach around we’re planning dinner over an open fire or cooking bread on hot coals. We’ve even popped popcorn over a bonfire just so we had snacks to enjoy with our sunset drinks.

Palau is short on beaches due to the typography; steep limestone islands. The few that are around are in National Park areas so open fires are not permitted. This, of course, put a serious cramp in our beach bbq plans. Which was rather disappointing because it had been a really long time since we’d felt comfortable cooking ashore. Continue reading

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! 

Eating Local: How Sweet It Is

One of the foodstuffs that I always try and source locally is honey. Usually it is a side of the road or local market purchase from a small producer, sold in reused and mismatched bottles with hand written labels. Like wine honey has terroir. The relationship between the land the bees live on and the final product is obvious with the first taste. Over the years we’ve been lucky enough to find Mango Honey, Palm Flower Honey, Sugar Cane Honey, Bitter Orange Honey and Tropical Wildflower Honey. Each as unique as the countries we bought them in.

This season in the Solomon Islands I found honey on the island of Rendova. A local man had a couple of hives in his backyard that over looked the anchorage. His property was more or less just a well maintained garden brimming with budding trees, pineapple plants and tropical flowers nestled into rolling hillside covered in wild forest. His English wasn’t great but I gathered that his two hives yielded about 5 gallons of honey when he harvested every 3- 4 months. Continue reading

Gone Livin’

If we had a door knob onboard that is the sign that would be hanging on it – 

“ Gone Livin’ ”

Life onboard for the last few weeks hasn’t been hectic but it has been full. Full of conversation and good food. Full of catching up and slowing down. Full of unplugging and recharging. Full of life.

And sometimes life is not for documenting and dissecting, it’s not for chronicling and comparing. It’s is not for writing blogs about or posting pictures of on instagram or sharing on Facebook. Sometimes life is just for living.

I think sometimes we forget that.

Things are great onboard and we’ll be back soon with more, we just got a little more livin’ to do first.

Love,

H&S

10 Down, 1 to Go 

When we first bought Kate in 2008 I had no expectations about what life onboard would be like. I hadn’t been dreaming of sailing the world since childhood, hadn’t furiously read any and all books related to sailing and I wasn’t an armchair sailor who leafed through a pile of sailing mags every month. I didn’t know anyone who’d tossed it all in and gone sailing, Facebook was in its infancy and if there were sailing blogs out there I didn’t know about them.

I wasn’t (too) worried.

I had enough experience sailing dinghies that I knew the pointy end was called the bow (thank goodness we didn’t buy a double ender!), the difference between a tack and a gybe and basic reefing techniques. I had been working on big boats (30-50M) for four years so I had done ocean passages, sat watches and tried to learn as much about navigation and radar as I could.

Besides I had Steve who had tonnes of sailing experience, who drove high speed catamaran passenger ferries for almost a decade, who had racked up more sea time and miles working on those big boats then I could count. I figured we’d make it through the 18 months we planned to take off work and find ourselves on solid ground in Aus ready for the next adventure.

But then things changed. We fell love; with our home, with our life, with sailing. 18 months floated by and we hadn’t even left Panama. It was obvious we needed to rethink the plan. And it was more obvious still that we would need money to fund our new plan. So when Steve got an unexpected offer of 8 weeks work we jumped, carefully, at the opportunity to fill the coffers. It meant I would be left taking care of the boat. A proposition I was a little nervous about but a challenge I agreed to face. Continue reading

Goodbye

Saying goodbye is par for the course when you travel by boat. The people you met ashore stay on land as you sail away. The friends you make on other boats sail in the opposite direction. Saying goodbye is something you get used to but it never gets easy. But when you miss the opportunity to say goodbye altogether it feels like something is missing.

I never got to say goodbye to Shelley.

I met Shelley on the island of Laipari in the Solomon Islands where we have been moored for the past several weeks. She worked at the local store and lived nearby with her husband and 5 children. Always welcoming with a friendly smile and bright eyes I found myself stopping to chat for a while whenever I went to buy a few onions or a bag of flour. One day she offered to lend me her coconut scraper and I ended up sitting in her thatched-roofed cook house for almost an hour talking about everything from how to make coconut rice to global warming to the intricate cultural differences between various Solomon Islanders. We had plans to make bread together and bake it in her 44gl drum oven.

Then one night she coughed up blood and Shelley’s husband chartered a local boat and took her to the nearest hospital 12NM away under the cover of darkness – not a trip I would like to do even in good health. The next time I was in town I made a point to go to the hospital to see her. She was jaundice and gaunt but greeted me with her usual smile and good humour. We chatted for a bit and she said she was feeling much stronger, she hoped she was on the mend. When I returned home I dug out a stack of magazines and sent them to her, something to take her mind off her dreary surroundings. A few weeks later, before I got a chance to visit again, her condition deteriorated and she was transferred to Honiara for further care.

Shelley died on Thursday morning. Continue reading

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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Bread Making Workshop or No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

A couple months ago I taught a bread making workshop to a group of ladies on the island of Rendova. It was the same village that we found Erol to do the inlay work, which is how it all came about. We had spent over a week anchored in the quiet bay and gotten to know some of the people who lived there. One of the village elders regularly paddled out in his canoe around dusk. The Old Man came for “story”, which sometimes meant to chat and most other times to check up on what’d we done during the day as we had become grist for daily village gossip mill. The day before we left the topic of making bread came up and by the end of the conversation it was organized that I would lead a workshop when we returned.

We sailed away and explored the Marovo Lagoon for more than a month. We planned on stopping back at Rendova for only two days, so I intended on bringing with me the flour and yeast required for the bread making workshop, as the small local store didn’t stock them. I went to three stores in the pouring rain to find the 10kg bag of flour but thanks to our giant waterproof bag I got it back to the boat dry. (Not only was the ship late that week but flour is most often sold repackaged into 1 or 2kg plastic bags, and full of bugs.)

We pulled into the little harbour on Rendova late one Saturday afternoon and the Old Man paddled out shortly after we arrived to remind me about the workshop that had been arranged. I assured him I had not forgotten; in fact I had come prepared. I asked him to rally the ladies for 0800 on Monday morning.
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Home Improvements

Kate is not just our boat it is she is our home, and over the years we’ve made her a space we enjoy living in. We want our boat to reflect our lives; colourful, vibrant, exciting. We’ve achieved this the traditional way, using paint and fabrics; a sunshine yellow transom & matching headsail UV cover and in the head pacific sky blue walls and cheery lime green cupboards. But we’ve recently started doing some rather non-traditional upgrades.

Which is I recently agreed to let an almost perfect stranger in the Solomon Islands take a knife and chisel to the teak trim in the galley.

The western province in the Solomon Islands is famous for their bowls and decorations hand-carved from local hardwoods and inlayed with intricate mother-of-pearl. We heard all about it from friends we met in Vanuatu who had spent just sailed from the Solomons. We knew we have no space for such frivolous souvenirs but Steve suggested that we find a tradesman whose work we liked and him to pretty up the cabin a little. The teak trim in the galley seemed like a good place to start.

We looked at a LOT of carvings and talked to a LOT of carvers before we ran into Erol on the island of Rendova. We had been invited to the village to look at the work of all the local carvers. This suited us fine as it meant we’d be able to see everyone’s work in one hit instead of having a steady stream of canoes visit the boat- a tiresome parade we’d already had our fill of at other anchorages. Continue reading

A History Lesson in the Solomon’s

It is surprising how little I knew about the Solomon Islands before we arrived.

Part of this is because I had such high expectations for Vanuatu that were mostly unfulfilled that I kind of purposely didn’t do a lot of reading. As it turns out years of waiting to arrive and months of fantasying about all the wild, undiscovered places we’d visit just made the real experience in Vanuatu a little “less” than I wanted it to be. I wasn’t about to make our time in the Solomon’s a repeat performance.

Steve mainly plans passages and researches anchorages so I was full of confidence that he knew what we were getting ourselves into. At least as far as boat safety and general sailing timeline were concerned. I figured if I just showed up I would see everything with fresh eyes and an open heart and our time here would be all the richer for it.

Not long after we arrived in the Solomon’s my lackadaisical approach starting causing a little friction between the two of us.

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