Saturday, September 23, 2017

Hemispheric Travelers
By Michael
VITI LEVU, FIJI


Looking back at Del Viento from ashore.
So we got our window and made our short passage north, from Savusavu, Fiji, to Futuna, the smaller of the main islands that comprise Wallis & Futuna, the simply-named French protectorate out in vast Pacific Ocean.

It was sort of like returning to the Marquesas. Granted, everything is in French (though the 4,500 people on the island speak their own Polynesian language, Futunan, at home—and just them! The 9,500 people on Wallis speak Wallisian, blows my mind.) and the small supermarchés were filled with duck pâtés and cheeses and bread (bread that was much better than anything we ever got in all of French Polynesia), but what I'm talking about is the dense, green, rugged hillsides punctuated with dramatic sheer cliffs. "It reminds me of the Marquesas," is what we kept saying to each other after dropping the anchor.

All of this was unexpected. I'd focused solely on the understandable admonitions about Futuna, same as the widespread advice offered to us before we sailed to Pago Pago, American Samoa: "get in and quickly get out." I didn't expect else but the roadstead anchorage and the dinghy-killing pier. Following is the soundtrack aboard Del Viento en route:

"Girls, you know we're seriously only going to be here for the time it takes to drop anchor, check in, and check out—maybe as short as a couple hours."

"Seriously?! But we can't be stuck on a passage for two days and then not even spend the night."

The only place we found to get internet
on-island, outside the closed Gendarmerie.
"Guys, this is the whole point of this trip, to check in and check out and get back to Fiji. Besides, the anchorage is a shallow indentation and our weather window is closing—we can't be in this anchorage when our weather window closes and the wind comes up."

We arrived on a Saturday, early morning. We hit the beach running.

The Gendarmerie gave us the bad news: "You can check in and check out in this office today, but you must also go see the port captain for your zarpe and he won't be in-office before Monday."

Crap. We were told in Fiji we could do our check in and check out on a Saturday.

Fortunately, a quick check of the GRIBs showed that our weather window had accommodated us, expanding to give us the two placid days we needed.

Life is like that sometimes.

We didn't rock and roll in the roadstead anchorage, instead we sat peacefully for two days in a lovely, lovely setting, enjoying an unexpected Futuna experience.

Life is also like that sometimes.

Our sail home was as pleasant as our sail there. Both ways we crossed the antimeridian, exactly halfway around the world from Greenwich, England, and meaning that in our short trip we traveled east from the Eastern Hemisphere to the Western Hemisphere and then back to the Eastern Hemisphere.

--MR


Arriving Futuna.

Futuna streets.

Could be a Marquesan street for sure.

This is what the sail back to Fiji looked like.

Del Viento back on a Waitui mooring in Savusavu.

First thing we did upon returning was get together
with our friends Robin and Fiona from MonArk.
The couple are Good Old Boat contributing editors who
also run a site that encourages younger folks to get into
sailing and cruising. Check it out: youngandsalty.com

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Dreary Paradise
By Michael
SAVUSAVU, FIJI


Frances with a roadside vendor.
We've not enjoyed a lot of sunshine this month. Lots of drizzle—not a good thing. Drizzle is for San Francisco. Precipitation in Fiji is usually the warm, Tropical-rain kind, the kind that allows us to collect water in the tanks and bathe on the foredeck with a smile on our face. This is cool drizzle that turns dust to mud streaks. This drizzle is off-and-on and sends us opening and closing our hatches like jack-in-the-boxes.

It's where we are, Savusavu. It's got its own little wet climate, a result of the moisture-condensing mountains around us. There's a rain forest a few miles from our mooring.

All of that wouldn't be so dreary if I didn't feel stuck. The clock is ticking on Del Viento's time in Fiji. We've been trying to get her out-of-country since I arrived back from the July I spent in the States—a 2-day passage to Wallis-Futuna and two days back—but the weather hasn't cooperated. Not the drizzle this time, but the contrary winds that make that trip notorious. We're just looking for a break.

Is that all?

No.

I've got the job of my dreams, editor of a great sailing magazine. I can work from Fiji and anywhere, it's a dream job that allows us to cruise indefinitely.

But what does that look like?

The crab Eleanor found.
I'm working more than 40 hours a week. I'll remind you that this cruising life is work in and of itself. Getting water, fuel, groceries, and sundries, and disposing of trash, and doing laundry, and repairing and maintaining the boat, is nearly a full-time job. The cruising life is best when the cruisers are unencumbered to tend to the demands of self-sufficiency, like we were for the first five years of this adventure. Cruising doesn't easily accommodate full-time workers. It doesn't feel like we're cruising anymore.

And while working full-time in paradise is still more appealing than a conventional land-based life in the States, there's more.

Our kids are turning teen (Eleanor turns 14 next month!). This means we're confronting the characteristic needs for social lives that involve a more constant presence of other young adults. I cannot relate, but I cannot ignore.

Added into our life stew are aging parents; my mom in particular isn't doing well.

We've met cruising teens who pine for richer social lives. We've met cruisers who need to spend time caring for aging parents. But these were other people, these were their stories. We never saw our story the same way.

We're not throwing in the towel, this isn't my farewell post. I don't know what our cruising life holds. We're actively trying to figure that out. We're a family accustomed to an uncertain future, we just need to find the best way to make that future the best it can be.

Maybe when the drizzle clears.

--MR

Frances was keen on having a spa day aboard Del Viento and sold
Windy and Eleanor on the idea. This is what it looked like and on the
girls' faces is Frances's own oatmeal concoction.

At the nearby Waisali Rainforest Preserve.

A Fijian village near a stream. Note the women doing laundry.

A deserted beach we found--I love this little motu.

This dock and a few moorings comprise the Savusavu Marina
where we've spent a lot of time, and where we plan to again leave
Del Viento (on a mooring) over the cyclone season.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

In the Front Door
By Michael
SAVUSAVU, FIJI


Frances was obsessed with me
capturing this photo. I think this
is take number 17.
I wrote a while back about how the cruising life has given us unique access to many fancy resorts. There's a symbiotic relationship between snazzy beachfront resorts and cruising boats (seen as yachts by resort managers and guests alike) anchored off the beach. Anchored yachts make a snazzy place seem snazzier. The hick-up to this symbiosis is that there is an unalienable third party to this relationship, the unbathed, poorly dressed cruisers aboard these anchored yachts. While there may be a fortress-like guarded gate at the land entrance to these places, the beach is a wide open path to a snazzy pool and other amenities. Resorts usually either welcome us or they just tolerate us. We've seen it both ways, we don't care.

The other day was another such occasion, only this time we were invited to drive in the front entrance, of La Dolce Vita Holiday Villas here on Venua Levu.

Thanks Susan and Jeff.

--MR

This floor mural is made of countless tiny
tiles.

Another tiled mural. The detail was exquisite.

See? These are people in one of those arches.

Another tiled mural. If you're noticing an Italian theme, the place is
owned and built by Margaret and Luigi. We ate great pizza from one
of two huge wood-fired ovens on the property.

Frances looking out at the saltwater play lagoon.

One of many Fijian totems we saw here and many places in Fiji.

Happy Windy.

Happy Frances.

Crossing Windy.

Pictures to Windy's left are two of the guest villas. As you can see,
the place was empty, we had it to ourselves all day.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Small World, Great Game
By Michael
SAVUSAVU, FIJI


Fair winds Meri and Jim, we'll see you in Ajo!
So we got an email late last year, from a young cruising couple we'd never met.

"We are currently in Tonga headed to Fiji probably this week. Hopefully our paths will cross and we can meet." Amy continued, "In it's-a-small-world news, my uncle is friends with a couple named Mary Kate and Rick who worked with Windy in Washington, D.C."

Well well, MK and Rick aren't just former co-workers, they're dear friends, and about as far removed from the sailing life as any two people we know. It really is a small world.

As it turned out, Amy and David ended up spending the cyclone season in Tonga, so we didn't see them then. But they sailed into Savusavu aboard Starry Horizons a few weeks ago and we got together soon after. It was a pleasure and on a subsequent get-together aboard their boat, they introduced us to a game, the perfect cruisers' game.

It's an old parlor game called Fictionary, like what they play on the NPR quiz show, "Says You!" We used no board or dice or cards or anything, just scraps of paper, some pens, and a dictionary.

So here's the deal.

One person looks for a word in the dictionary that they think nobody else will know. They poll the players, "Does anyone know the word bibble?"

If anyone knows the word, the dictionary holder goes back to the dictionary in search of another. But ideally, everyone stares back blankly.
Now round one can start.

The player holding the dictionary does not share the definition of bibble with anyone. Rather, they write it down, paraphrasing colloquially, on their scrap of paper before folding it in half so that the definition is not visible. Meanwhile, each of the other players comes up with an imagined definition of bibble, writes it on their scrap of paper along with their initials, folds it in half, and passes it to the dictionary holder.

At this point, the dictionary holder should have a bunch of folded scraps of paper before them, equal to the number of players, including themselves. Nobody at the table should have any idea what is written on any scrap of paper except what they wrote on their own.

So the dictionary holder takes up all the scraps of paper, reviews them to be sure the writing is legible and that they'll be able to read each one as seamlessly as their own, and then begins reading them aloud, in random order.

As they do so, one of the players, the score keeper, transcribes the definitions, as multiple readings will likely be necessary.

The rest of the players listen, with the goal of choosing the actual definition.

That is surprisingly difficult. I secretly figured I came into the game with an unfair advantage as surely I'd be able to identify and exclude my daughters' attempts at a made-up definition, but I couldn't. It was great.
The game is surprisingly fun as each player (except the dictionary holder) weighs in with their guess and the score keeper records the guesses.

Scoring:

  • If nobody guesses the actual definition, the dictionary holder earns 5 points. This is huge.
  • If a player guesses a player's made-up definition as the actual definition, the author of the made-up definition earns a point (one for each player who falls prey to that definition).
  • Any player who guesses the actual definition, earns a point (and dashes the dictionary holder's only chance at earning any points).

That's it.

Then the dictionary holder passes the dictionary clockwise and round two can begin.

We played with Amy and David (6 people total) and one game took a while, and we enjoyed every minute.

More recently, we played with the crew of two other boats, 8 people total, and it was just as fun, and took even longer.

Oh, and bibble—v. to drink often; to eat and/or drink noisily

And I'll note that one of the other crews we played with was Meri, Jim, and Caroline of Hotspur.

We said goodbye to them yesterday, shortly before they boarded a ferry for Suva, a bus to Nadi, and a plane back to the States. They're not coming back. It looks like they've found a buyer for Hotspur and they're shopping for an RV trailer to tow behind the truck they just bought. They're going to cruise the U.S., for now, as empty nesters.

Savusavu already feels empty without them.

--MR
Caroline and Eleanor fictionalizing aboard Del Viento.
David and Amy of Starry Horizons with us at
Lia Café in Savusavu.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Slow Travel Tidbits
By Michael
SAVUSAVU, FIJI


It's good to be back home with Windy
and the girls.
Just last month I stepped up to the counter at a Bank of America in Camarillo, California.

"Hi, I just want to cash this check I received." I pushed the Bank of America-drawn personal check and my ID to the teller.

"Okay, are you a Bank of America customer?"

"No."

"Okay, that's not a problem." She tapped on her keyboard and looked down at my driver's license. Then she tapped some more and looked down at my driver's license. "Hold on one second, I'm going to have to get a supervisor."

She walked over to where a supervisor seemed to be helping another teller. She waited and waited. Finally she gave up and came back to me. After more tapping and looking, she furrowed her brow, "I just don't see any licenses that match yours," she said, swinging her monitor around so I could see.

"Oh, those pictures are all examples of Washington state IDs, my driver's license is from Washington, DC."

She stared back at me blankly. And here I have to say, having lived a decade in the District, I'm no longer surprised by when I come across people who have no idea that Washington, D.C. is not a city in any of the 50 states and who can't even say what D.C. stands for.

"The District of Columbia," I added.

"Colombia?" she asked.

She was clearly a Latina and she pronounced the word like the South American country, with two long Os.

"Habla Espanol?" I asked.

"Si…" she answered, curious.

I went out on a limb, taking a chance she was Mexican. "El District of Columbia en Los Estados Unidos es como DF." I knew a Mexican would immediately get the DF reference.

Her face lit up, we were on the same page. She and I spent a few minutes talking (in English) about D.C., about how small it is, how it's home to the White House and Congress and many incredible museums, and how so few people live there that here in California, she is unlikely to ever see another D.C. ID.

She seemed appreciative.

And this is one reason why I love our nomadic life. Not sharing information, but acquiring it myself, in a way that our unique lives make possible. I could have traveled to Mexico a dozen times for vacation and never have learned that Mexicans refer to their seat of government, and usually Mexico City itself, as DF (pronounced "day effay"), that there is not a Mexican alive who doesn't instantly know what someone means when they hear those two letters. I know this only because our cruising life has allowed us to spend a lot of time in Mexico, and like the time we spend in every place we visit, it’s filled with the sundry tasks of laundry and shopping and doctor's visits and more that give us insights and knowledge we'd not gain traveling another way. It makes my experience, and my life, richer.

In the month I spent in the States, I mentioned Fiji to a ton of people. Many have seen the water bottle, many associate the name with an exotic vacation destination. Few know that it's a country, where it is on the planet, what the population looks like, what the greetings are, what the shopping malls in downtown Suva are like, what sevusevu with a village chief entails, and a million other things. And I don't report that as a slight—I know just as little about the hundreds of countries I've not visited.

But my point is that I want to visit all of them because of what I feel I've gained in perspective from the few I have visited. Knowing that many shop keepers in Tonga use Chinese calculators that feature a little speaker that shouts out the keypad numerals in Chinese as they're pressed, is a tidbit that means absolutely nothing, but that I cherish. Knowing the two-letter abbreviation that Mexicans use to refer to their capital won't make me rich, doesn't prepare me to write a book on Mexico, and doesn't make me any smarter than the bank teller and anyone else who doesn't share this knowledge. But these things, combined with all the hundreds of thousands of arcane bits of info I've acquired about the people and places we've been fortunate to visit over the past seven years, make me happy. These are miniscule pieces to life's puzzle, a puzzle that none of us can ever fully assemble, but which we're all lucky to spend time working on.

And of course, picking up knowledge—some of it useful, much of it meaningless—is something that happens to all of us as we age. And maybe the way in which it shapes perspective is what we refer to as wisdom. But a diversity of that knowledge is something that comes from slow travel. It's what I'm happiest about when I think of the benefits my family realizes from our nomadic life.

--MR
A near-daily trek into town from our Savusavu Marina mooring.

The crossroads in downtown Savusavu.

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