October 30, 2011

Belonging to a cat

Meet Bert.

Meet Bert.

Bert (short for Bert Sugar Ray Reynolds) patrolls the docks here at the Cammeray Marina. His home is the boat next door to us, but Bert has claimed us as his own. He's especially fond of the children.

I'm pretty sure he considers the dock to be his domain.

He does, in fact, own the dock
He defies you to go around him.

For a cat, he has his very sociable moments. He'll run alongside, on the deck of "his" boat, when you walk down the finger. He'll come up to the bow to intercept passers by.

Cathi and Bert
Really, it's too cute

In the morning, he comes an peeks in our hatches (peeping tom?). He loves to get rain from them, dragging his paw through the collected dew, then licking it.

He loves the hatches
Mostly, it just looks really funny to have him up there

October 28, 2011

The saga of the marina geese

When we arrived last spring, there were two resident geese in the marina- the children named them Peter and Paul.

Peter and Paul
I couldn't tell them apart, but they knew exactly which was which.

The office manager told us they'd been living around the marina for at least two decades- the shipyard crew feed them, and they forage around the bay. We learned not to feed them from the boat, because they'd come tapping on your hull for more... very persistently, and not always easy on the boat!

Peter & Paul

The ganders were inseparable- you really never saw one without the other.

Sunrise in the marina
Dawn departure from the marina

Until recently, that is.

In late September, Paul died. He'd been looking unwell for a couple of weeks- not keeping himself clean, not eating. One morning, he was found floating legs-up with his partner circling around. Peter honked pitifully. At all times of day (and many hours at night), he could be found be swimming around the bay, calling out for his companion. I would not have credited geese with so much feeling, but it was plain that he was looking for him and suffering.

After a week, he stopped honking, but he still seemed to be mourning. He developed the habit of swimming very close to a well-polished powerboat and staring at his reflection. His reflection, which looked (as far as I can tell) nearly identical to his lost partner, Paul. Instead of cruising the bay, he spends hours obsessively staring at his reflection.

Portrait of a lonely gander
He needs help.

The marina decided the solution was to bring Peter a few new friends. The children were trundled along on a mission to a farm outside Sydney, and came home with four geese. Niall has written about it in his blog.  They're being slowly introduced, to try and ease the transition for all involved and set it up for success. We've got our fingers crossed for him.

October 26, 2011

Community garden counterpoint

Here's another reason I'm so grateful for our commuity garden.The organic produce available in our area looks like this:

this is "organic" in Sydney

Hello, masses of unnecessary plastic packaging. You too, shrink-wrapped food. Not too pleased to see you, styrofoam trays. Whoa, $6.50 for a l'il bunch of green beans? or TWO heads of garlic? For friends at home, Aussie and US currency is about 1:1. Food here is more expensive, but those prices are almost criminal.

Yeah. Not so appealing. There are some CSAs, but they don't deliver- not really an option for us carless folks. There are a few delivery services for organic food, so we gave that a try. Here's what a $60 box (plus  $8.50 delivery) of mixed fruit/veggies looks like:

Organic delivery box
One ear of corn? One bitty avocado? ugh.  Taste was not up to standard.

The costs are crazy. I don't mind paying more- quite a bit more!- for organic- but on a per-kilogram basis, I benchmarked the delivery services at three times the cost of the grocery store. That's too rich for us.

So yes- thank goodness we have the garden! Check out this cauliflower. It is BIGGER THAN HIS HEAD. Oh, it was tasty...
bigger than his head!

October 24, 2011

Sailors and tattoos

Tattoos and sailors have gone together since explorers ships first encountered highly decorated residents of Pacific islands in the late 1700s, and brought the designs back home with them: marks of their journey and exotic encounters. the Marquesas are recognized as being among the oldest homes of this tradition. Traditionally, they were a mark of status, or power; identify family heritage, or mark an event.

Missionaries banned the practice (too much skin! sexual connotations!), and effectively killed it in many areas. The Marquesas stand out as one of the few places having a continuous practice: it was squelched, but never completely died out.

Getting inked was a popular activity for cruisers in the Marquesas. There was a local rock star (in the tattoo world, anyway) home on Nuku Hiva during our visit. Many beat a path to Bryce's friendly door, and left with beautiful art.

Getting a tattoo wasn't a foregone conclusion. I loved the idea,and wanted to mark the milestone, the accomplishment, of sailing across the Pacific- but didn't just want to hop in the line. After much hemming and hawing, I couldn't quite nail the "what" and  "where" - kind of important for something I expect to carry with me for the rest of my life! So for a while, I just enjoyed the artwork on friends, instead.

Ken's modern hammerhead... worked with traditional icons

Mike's awesome tiki. loved this. His wife Hyo has an amazing gecko on her arm, I need a picture!

Brian had traditional Marquesan motifs worked around an existing tattoo... neat.

Aha! The foot!

Can you spot the manta?


It was a few weeks later that it all came together for me, but by then our great Marquesan artist was a long distance upwind. I was ready, but the opportunity was gone! I couldn't see having a Marquesan style tattoo done by anyone but a Polynesian.

How lucky then to meet Teuira in New Caledonia. From Tahiti, trained in France, we shared no common language but worked with pictures and some interpretation by his lovely girlfriend. This week is my tattooversiary! I love it, perhaps a little irrationally.

Thank you, Teuira. I'm so happy to carry this reminder with me.

A turtle (it's there, trust me) in the center- marking my shellback status for sailing across the equator. Icons for my family, my husband, for protection and strength...for the waves of the Pacific.

October 19, 2011

Vegetable porn

There was plenty of fruit in the Marquesas, but precious few fresh veggies beyond long-storage varieties. If you wanted, you could pay $12 for a plastic-sealed bag of rapidly ageing lettuce in the Tuamotus. Through most of the islands, familiar fresh veggies were scarce. It was fun to work out things to do with the omnipresent starchy tubers and hardier new greens, but we crave what we cannot have.

Maybe that's another reason why I'm so enamored of the gorgeous produce coming from our community garden effort. Here's a peek at the current bounty... or at least the best I can give with the lousy camera that's built into my phone.

Not the garden glamor queens, but possibly my favorite... fava beans. A little time consuming to prepare but worth every bit... if I make these for you, it means I love you.
fava beans = love

Gorgeous PURPLE broccoli. With little yellow flowers. Have you ever seen prettier broccoli? Didn't think so. Oh and then there's the chard and some lettuce and a couple of forgotten swedes in the pretty basket...
purple broccoli

Kale, celery, carrots, radishes, beets, green onions. Take me now.

Mind blowing color. Stems on the chard are even more vibrant than my lame camera phone suggests.
fluorescent chard

Mind you, it is only mid-springtime Sydney right now. Tomato season is so close, I can almost taste it!

October 17, 2011

Marina living: finding our tribe

The garden has been a great source of local community for us, but the tightest community we find is always with fellow boaters.

Last summer, the children had great company from the three girls living on the boat next door. We originally met the family on Tangaroa in French Polynesia. They got to Australia well before we did, but they had a bit of a deadline. They wanted baby Evie to be born there! She arrived a couple of weeks before we did... thus making the marina an dream location for me.

I thought I was the one who would love the baby fix. Turns out Siobhan loved getting to play big sister at least as much.

5/6ths of the marina children
Hard to believe but we are creeping up on a year since this was taken.

The lack of mutual language between our children and the Dutch girls was hard in the beginning. They're all pretty used to this, but it can get frustrating for a little one who wants to be understood (Tamar and Suze were 1 and 3). They all got very close, though, and we sure do miss "The Tangaroas." Besides their lovely selves, it's been an adult only group: there haven't been any other resident marina kids since they headed back to the Netherlands last fall.

A host of boats passed through during the "off" (hurricane season) and made the marina home, helping build the fabric of our salty little community.

The crew from Hokus Pokus particularly endeared themselves:

The theater
Max and Ulla didn't just give the kids finger puppets- they made a theater for them to play with.

Several freshly minted cruisers fledged from the marina this year: Kadoona and Moonraker, Mary Blair and Liberty. Each departure was cause for celebration. Better yet if we can send them off from the water! This parade of our neighbors sailed out to anchor in a bay just inside the heads of Sydney Harbour when we bid Kadoona goodbye.

Mates parade out to Manly
That's Liberty right behind us! They left on a year-long coastal cruise shortly after.

With a core of liveaboards in our little marina, we started a tradition for everyone to meet up on Friday nights to barbecue.

Tales were told. Songs were sung. Goon was drunk.

marina music nights

After listening to me complain about the lack of lyrics to his favorite tunes (OK, so it was a little slow pulling them up on the iPad) John even made up a songbook.

marina music nights
Goon is part of our new Australian lexicon. Some say it's derived from flagon (because, ya know, boxes are a rather larger than usual vessel for wine)- but it's also an aboriginal word for drinking.

We kept up our Friday night barbecues all year. Sometimes we had to sit closer to the grill to try and keep warmer. We definitely wore more clothes. There were times when the goon was warmed and spiced to help ward off the chill. And somewhere along the way what started as a friendly collection of neighbors with a lifestyle in common became a tight group of friends.

October 14, 2011

Feed the body, feed the soul

Something I've missed about living on land is having a garden. Oh, sure, you can put pots on the deck for boat style patio gardening- but that's highly impractical while cruising. Aside from the harsh environment (salt spray is foe to the hardiest!), quarantine in most countries generally won't welcome live plants.

Thanks to a friend at work with an interest in permaculture, we became connected to a community garden in our area.

community garden
Many moons ago: radishes lining the bed of Tuscan kale.

It's a little different from the usual plot system in Seattle "P-Patch" or most other community gardens. This operates entirely as a collective: there is no Yours and Mine. Participants share all the work, and share everything produced. On Sunday mornings, we take the bus to the other side of our district and meet up with other volunteers around 10. We work until about 1, with a generous break for midday tea. As we get ready to depart, the fruits, and herbs which were harvested are on a table, and we each take what we need, with an eye on ensuring something for everyone. A few dollars contributed each time to help cover expenses, which is also funded by the North Sydney Community Council

We've had the obvious benefit: really, really good food. It's just so very much more than this, though.

It's a community of truly lovely people, who have been a gift to get to know. Carol, below, is our matriarch.

helping pull cauliflower
Pulling out cauliflower is hard work!

The break for tea usually includes scones or other homemade goodies from a member. We make tea from a mix of herbs in the garden: kaffir lime leaves, lemon thyme, sage, or whatever is handy.

tea time at the garden

It's when we sit with our fellow gardeners, and chew on issues bigger than the cutworm crisis over a cuppa.

garden community

The kids claim teatime is their favorite part, but I know it's more than that, too. It's about how proud Niall is of the meaningful contributions he makes- putting nets over our tamarillo trees, or constructing the tomato trellis. How Mairen loves ferreting every last little cutworm in a bed, and dedicating it to a bucket for some hungry chickens. Siobhan's pride in having what see sees as utter and complete ownership of the eggplant harvest (although truly, she sees fruits we missed completely).

tomato trellis

And then, of course, there are usually dogs.

there are usually dogs
Few things better than an adoring canine fix.

Over the last nine months, the children have been able to harvest vegetables from plants that they started from seeds. Really understanding how to produce your own food is a valuable life skill. They also know what real, good, organic produce should look like... and they compare that to what we see in the supermarket.

So much more nourishment than you'd think, from a pile of fresh greens.

early spring haul
Siobhan preps the haul of an early spring harvest at home: cauliflower, peas, lettuce, parsnips, kale, pansies, rutabaga, chard, lots of herbs... I think there's a daikon hiding in there, too.

October 6, 2011

The biggest lure in a hotel room

The best part of Alison's visits are the time to hang out and catch up. She was on Totem this week, which I am really sorry to have missed (new job = some travel). We often end up ordering food and just gabbing away in her hotel... we've had some take-out pizza or sushi fests in her posh downtown rooms.

This is always a mini adventure for the children. Without a TV on the boat, you'd think they would make a beeline for the remote, right?


Apparently, the lure of the BATHTUB is even sweeter.

they LOVE the bathtub
"Trying" to avoid having a picture taken... at least they gave it an appropriate blur.

The girls were pruned before they let Niall have his turn. And then they  had to jump back in anyway.

they LOVE the bathtub
Then, of course, they hammed it up. Silly kids

October 4, 2011

Special Delivery

The combination of traveling in places of scarcity, being frugal, or simply not having any options (very few stores in the coastal Baja desert) means we often just go without.

On one hand, we have grown accustomed to doing without something we 'need.' Very rarely is it a true need anyway- it's a desire, a want, a convenience. But on the other... wow, there is nothing as sweet as the delivery of something that isn't feasible to get locally! Lately, that delivery has come in the best packages.

Alison is one of our fellow travelers.  We met her (and Allan) in Mexico; Totem and FlyAweigh shared a few anchorages. We bonded hanging out in New Caledonia waiting on a weather window for the passage to Australia while ducking the herd group think on when to go. She flies the really big busses in the sky for United Airlines, and recently has been doing the LAX-SYD run. Lucky us! We are soaking in the time with our cruising buddy when she is here... trading stories and remembering how much we love being "out there". Trading notes on the challenges of re-entry and how you sometimes feel so much like an outsider from the norm. And o, has she brought some excellent goodies with her! 

Alison has been our boat parts angel. Most recently, she's been bringing in new HF radio bits (we have given up and won't fix the Furuno again. Besides, they are interfering unnecessarily to hamper Sea Shepherd's efforts to stop illegal whaling activity. Losers! I don't want to give them our business). Meanwhile, we can't get the radio we want in Australia- it's not sold here. The closest thing to it has reduced functionality and costs considerably more. Enter: the pilot courier! With components coming in over a couple of trips (trying to keep our customs duty costs down) we now have a functional system on board.

I don't know how I missed getting a picture of the awesome super engineered packing job (with integrated handle) that Alan did... but this is sweet. A little girl time. Mairen doesn't snuggle up to just anybody, but really loved sitting for Alison to brush out her hair.

hairbrush from Alison
Mairen hates having her hair brushed. Hates it. But she didn't want to get up from Alison's lap...

Michael is also a pilot- he flies private jets. Everybody close your eyes for a sec and hope that his corporate bosses need a few more return trips to Australia, okay?

He and Judy are another branch of the extended cruising family... they live on Milagro in Alameda, and we met them during the month-plus we spent at Gate 11. That was more than three years ago... how cool was it to have them check in and offer to bring goodies? I think this is cruising spirit at some of it's finest!

Special Delivery!
The girls looking a crafts projects... Michael sampling our homebrew.

The kids had special treatment- crafts and an excellent book. Thanks to Michael, I am now running again (my tried-and-true trainers are more than 2x the US cost in Oz. I couldn't stomach it)... and we are eating some sweeeeeeet chocolate chip cookies. We knew we missed those, but didn't realize HOW much until the first batch started filling the cabin with good smells.

Good thing I have those shoes to run off the extra calories.

October 1, 2011

Returning from a hiatus: The Happy Factor

Life had extra complications for a bit, and the blog was ignored. Changes are happening and new rhythm is starting to thrum. What Jamie calls The Happy Factor is back. What's up?

We're moving (well, sailing) north to from Sydney to Brisbane. Yay! Boat on the move! 

I'm starting a new job. Still a nomad, just postponed a bit longer.

Yoga rocked my world. Again. Amazing how a simple commitment to daily practice can help with a  positive perspective.

And with (or because of) the confluence of all these things, the Happy Factor returned. You've GOT to have it with you, or  make a change- life is just way too short to settle.

Goodness, and a backstory, comes. Stay tuned.

Out for a paddle with my girls
Out for a paddle with my girls, sneaking up on a pelican.