It is 5 o’clock somewhere…

Sailors have always had a bit of a reputation when it comes to booze.

Way-back-when rum or grog was actually a daily ration, it often being safer to drink than the putrid water supply on board. And when the crew finally got a night ashore, sometimes after months or years at sea, it was not a wonder that many proceeded to get blind drunk.

Sailing these days is a bit different, but the tradition of sharing a drink with a fellow sailor is still going strong. Sometimes drinks are shared over a beautiful tropical sunset, sometimes around a campfire. Sometimes drinks are shared to celebrate and sometimes, like the last couple weeks on board Kate, they are shared to commiserate.

We’ve recently had a string of disappointments; parts ordered, shipped and patiently waited for have arrived and not quiet met our expectations. It started with some small bearings a couple months ago; they arrived and were two sizes too small, despite having ordered them by measurement. No big deal, they were just to make the mainsheet traveller travel a little smoother, we could live without them.

We had a beer
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Tsunami Stories on a Throwback Thursday

Todays 8.3 earthquake in Chile has again sparked tsunami warnings throughout the Pacific, although it does not sound like it will affect us here in Vanuatu. Thankfully. But this isn’t our first tsunami warning.

In 2010 an earthquake in Chile caused a tsunami warning to be issued while we were afloat in Panama City, and in 2011 we were awoken in French Polynesia by the sirens of the Gendarme warning the seaside community about an earthquake and massive tsunami in Japan.

I thought I would post a piece that was published in Blue Water Sailing back in 2013 about our experience during these times. It’s called Tsunami, Tsunami

And we hope that everyone, afloat and on shore, is safe.



Strange Drums and the Banks Band in Port Vila

I have always been attracted to the beat of a drum.

In the sixth grade when we all had to pick an instrument to study at school I choose the drums. For the next seven years I played in the school band.  I was never particularly interested in the drum set, no teenage dreams of being the spunky drummer chick in the next hot indie rock band (it was the early 90’s). No, I preferred the boom of the kettle drums during a classical concerto or the complex driving rhythm of the solitary snare drum that anchored a traditional marching tune. I went on to explore the variety the percussion section had to offer; equally enjoying the musical complexity of the marimba and the staccato simplicity of the claves.

Throughout the South Pacific we’ve encountered music, most of it played on a beat up guitar, often strung with fishing line, or tapped out on a local drum. The designs of drums have varied; tall stand up drums with still furry goat skin stretched across them, plastic buckets inverted and sat upon, whole logs hollowed out through a long, narrow slit.

My ear has been tuned to the sounds percussion section.I have even been known to follow the beat of a distant drum across the anchorage and into a village in search of the instrument and it’s player. So imagine my surprise and excitement when I stumbled across a band visiting from the Banks Islands in town a few weeks ago.
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I swam with the tiger sharks and survived!

I am not big on New Years Eve, never have been. Maybe it is because in Canada where I grew up it arrives shortly after we see the darkest day of the year, hardly feeling celebratory. Also knowing that the coldest of winter weather is still to come and months will be spent trapped inside, wrapped up in bulky sweaters trying to keep warm (especially when you’re monthly rent doesn’t include the heat and hot water bill) doesn’t usually lend to making resolutions that last. So a few years ago I started making resolutions on my birthday, after all that is the beginning of MY year not just a day on a calendar.

This year I resolved to stop being bound by my fears, to force myself out of my comfort zone to do the everyday things that I avoid because I feel scared. I decided to start with scrubbing the hull.
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Ground Breaking Event; Photographing Kastom Dancing in Vanuatu

In the South Pacific radio is still used as one of the main means of communicating with the local population. There is often death announcements, notices about power and water interruptions, flight information and, of course, weather bulletins. Local businesses use radio to advertise specials and promote services and if there is a local paper it usually provides the news that is read almost hourly. Although there is information that tourist might find useful, the audience for radio in the South Pacific is definitely the locals.

That’s why I make a point to listen in.

Last week I heard about the new cargo dock that is being constructed in Port Vila. It is a multimillion dollar project that is going to take almost two years to complete and will result in one of the most sophisticated, full computerized docks in the Southern Hemisphere. It took six years of negotiations between the Vanuatu government, Japanese and Australian investors and the Chief whose people own the land, amongst others, to reach an agreement. In celebration of the start of construction of the this much needed facility a ground breaking ceremony was planned and the local radio was covering the event. Continue reading

“You don’t know what you can do until you’ve done it, right?”

I recently had a virtual catch up with a dear friend of mine and she wrote that sentence in her letter. It jumped off the page at me.

She and her husband are working through the same problem that we are; trying to find a balance between the sailing life and working to fund that life. Except they have a kid, which I can only imagine adds so many more complications to things. She commented I was brave to be staying on the boat in the water, alone. She has a toddler and has spent several months as a “temporary single Mom” since he was born when her man is away working. I think she has beat in the bravery department hands down.

But I do believe in what she said; in life you need to constantly push and test yourself. These tests don’t have to be monumental, scary or record breaking, just doing something beyond your comfort zone is enough. You’re capable of more than you think. Way more.

I know, I have been testing the theory recently. Continue reading

Sickness and Seashells

Last week was my birthday and with Steve away I was totally expecting to spend it by myself. I thought if the weather was nice I would go to town in the afternoon, find a nice little café, order a very decadent dessert and a glass of red wine and people watch for a bit. I had planned to stop at the butcher to pick out a nice steak (Vanuatu is renowned for its high-quality, farm-raised beef) so that I could cook myself a nice dinner, watch the sun set and read the stack of emails and well wishes I was sure everyone would send to me. Maybe if I was lucky the internet connection would actually be fast enough to have a brief chat to Steve. I might be all alone but that’s no reason to call off the celebrations.

Wasn’t I wasn’t expecting was to wake up on the morning of my birthday to an ear ache that progressed to stuffy sinuses, and then a few days later a sore throat and a few more days after that a hacking cough. Needless to say there was no cake, no steak and no wine.

So in lieu of Bday excitement, a little something that happened recently.

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The more things change the more they stay the same

“I am about to spend the first night on the boat alone…yikes!”

That’s what I posted on July 9th, 2008 on Facebook (thanks for the reminder internet). At the time we were tied to a dock in San Diego, far from the threat of cyclones, close to grocery stores, good internet, hot showers and all the other mod-cons of life as most people know it. I was anxious about being the sole person responsible for Kate, the boat/our home, that we’d bought only a month or so before. But as Steve well knew, as he packed up his bags and headed off to a job for 6 weeks, there was little to be worried about.

I had lots of boat projects to keep me going, I went to town on the trolley once a week for groceries, the mail and for a little outside human contact, I frequented the gym at the marina and happily started on a little writing project I dubbed “Letters from Kate.” It was a solitary summer but not a lonely one. Continue reading

Grotty Yachtie or Bust?!

The other day, while standing on the side of the road outside town, I was picked up by an ex-pat. She had passed me by but then noticed in her review mirror that so had two taxis that were following her. She pulled a U-turn and asked me if I wanted a lift.

I hadn’t flagged down those taxis on purpose. It was Cruise Ship Day and they were actual marked cars, I shudder to think what they would have charged me. I was waiting for a minibus to drive by, that’s how I and the locals get around. They drive everywhere, no route, just where people want to go, and they usually cost a buck fifty. I was happy to wait, but I was happy for the free ride too.

I climbed into the cab to find a friendly 50 something Aussie lady. As we drove down the road she started asking questions; Where was I from? What was I doing in Vanuatu? How long had I been in town? I gave her the general rundown; I was Canadian, we’d just sailed here on our own yacht (boat, confusingly, seems to denote ship in Vanuatu, so although yacht sounds a little snooty, people understand I mean small, private sailing yacht) we’d be around for a couple months.

Then she turned to me and said “Oh, well, you don’t look like a yachtie.” I let the statement hang in the air between us, unsure what to say. My non-reaction seemed to make her uncomfortable. Continue reading