I have created this blog with the hopes that you, my friend, will follow me as I sail around the world (figuratively or literally, not sure yet) with my parents on their Contest 48. Whereas I hope to keep you updated with exciting adventures of exotic ports and epic waves, keep in mind that cruising - that is, traveling by boat in a leisurely fashion - tends to be filled with days of intense boredom, punctuated by moments of sheer terror. Please keep this in mind as you read these entries, for this platform will be just as much an attempt for me to maintain my sanity (and connection to the California-based world), as entertainment and reassurance for you. And so, follow me as I sail the world.

P.S. All material on this blog, words and photos alike, are copyrighted by me. Copyright 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018. If you decide that this material is worth re-publishing, please give me credit and lots and lots of money.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Change of Plan pt. II and a Happy New Year!

Happy 2012! Starting the new year off right with a surf sesh at Sandy Bay.

A few days ago I went shopping in preparation of leaving for Fiji. It is the duty of those flying in from "civilized" countries to bring goodies for the crew who have been in the tropics, so I called Sean on Slow Dance to see what everybody wanted/needed from New Zealand. "Nothing - just you," he said, "And 10 pounds of coffee." Hmmm... better buy the bigger suitcase. Funny side note - I have traveled 10,000 miles without a suitcase, and only now do I need one.

"Oh, and one more thing," Sean said before we hung up, "We are thinking about heading over to the Gold Coast next week, so we will be going to Vanuatu and New Caledonia too, not just staying in Fiji."

Huh? You mean, like, with me? I bought a round trip ticket in and out of Fiji, but I guess that is easy enough to fix. And I have been wanting to go to Vanuatu, but I thought I would wait until after cyclone season ends. However I am lowly crew and do not have a say where we go, so... I am down.

In reality I am pretty excited about this change of plan - to do a passage on Slow Dance will certainly be an experience. While it is cyclone season, we will have very good weather forecasting as well as take all precautions necessary. Besides, Sean told me if we do encounter a cyclone, we girls and the owner get to go stay in a hotel while Sean and BJ hold down the fort. Doesn't sound all bad. I have always wanted to go to Australia, too.

To be completely honest I was a little intimidated when Sean told me this. When I told Dad about the change of plans he cracked a big smile and said, "Wow! Lucky! Think I could go too?" He has always supported me in my adventures and it was great to have his encouragement with this as well. Mom was not quite so pleased.

Dad and I have been spending a lot of time together. Last night we had a fun dinner party to bring in the new year with Mark from Merkava and Jared and Christine from Architeuthis. Dad made a delicious dinner and chocolate fondue for dessert. Then we went up to our favorite Irish pub to celebrate at midnight. The bar was packed and there was a live band, good beer and lots of holiday cheer.

Jared and Christine spent the night on Rutea and we got up in the morning, nursed our hangovers with coffee and pancakes, and then headed out to surf at Sandy Bay. The gods must smile on Kiwi holidays because the waves were super fun and the sun even came out for a bit. I surfed until I thought my arms were going to fall off and made sure I got plenty of waves, as who knows where or when the next time I will surf. Plus, surfing is the best way to start a new year.

2011 was an epic year, and I think that 2012 will be even more so. My new year's resolution for this year is to go big. Or go bigger. I want to take advantage of all opportunities, to not hold back because of fear or uncertainty, to seize the day and relish the night.

Regardless of your resolutions or intentions for the coming year, I wish you health, wealth, happiness and success with whatever it is you do.

Next time - from the tropics!

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Kiwi Christmas and Other Short Stories

Rutea at dock in Whangarei on Christmas

Happy Christmas, my friends! I hope yours was filled with the people you love and the activities you enjoy most in life. Although it was a little sad to be so far away from friends and family this Christmas, Dad and I made the best of it.

On Christmas eve we threw a dinner party for a bunch of yachtie friends on Rutea. The eight of us spent the afternoon drinking very alcoholic eggnog (homemade - you can't find eggnog here), eating delicious food, and enjoying each others' company. After all, these friends are the closest people to family we have around here. Dad made an amazing dinner of prime rib with wasabi sauce, creamed spinach and chocolate chip bread pudding with cinnamon-rum sauce for dessert. Our friends brought lots of good eats as well.

I must have consumed 5,000 or so calories on Christmas eve considering all the food and booze I enjoyed, so on Christmas morning I headed out to get a nice long surf session at Sandy Bay. It was the first sunny day in weeks, and Mark and I spent three hours in the water catching waist to chest high waves. It was a great way to spend Christmas morning - my favorite, in fact - although I did get very sunburned. I even put on two different types of sunscreen, but the sun is INTENSE here.

In the afternoon Mark and I headed back to Whangarei and spent the rest of the afternoon drinking eggnog and champagne with Dad, and eating all the bomb left-overs from the night before. All in all I would say it was a very successful Christmas, albeit different.

Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, is a big holiday here and there was a lifeguard patrol out at Ocean Beach so I decided to head out and spend the night out there. Although it was pretty windy and cloudy, the waves were decent and lots of people were hanging out, so it was a good time.

The most fun part of the day was when one of the lifeguards, Lindsay, took me out in the IRB (dinghy) to play - er, I mean "train" - in the surf. The lifeguards use the IRB to do rescues and have to be comfortable taking the boat out in all conditions, so even if the waves are huge the guys will take it out to practice.

The waves were only about head high for us, but I am incredibly sore today from launching off waves and slamming down the back of them, punching through walls of water and hanging on for dear life. It was pretty thrilling to be in the IRB out in the surf, especially since yachties usually avoid surf with their dinghies like the plague. Good experience for me if I ever need to land our dinghy in breaking waves.

The rest of the afternoon was fairly uneventful, although two of the lifeguards rescued a guy who had fallen on the rocks and broken two vertebrae (they used the IRB to pick him up). To show his gratitude for their help, he brought us a case of beer to the surf club as we were shutting down for the afternoon. We spent the rest of the evening drinking beer and cooking a communal dinner of pot roast, gravy and vegetables.

At around 11:00 PM, when the beer was gone and the whiskey was being passed around, Evan (patrol leader) decided we would do more "training" and go swim around the rocks on the south end of the beach. Now I am not opposed to going in the ocean at night - I love a good night surf as much as the next person (or probably more), but I usually try to avoid going near the rocks and usually try to go out when there is at least a bit of a moon.

Last night was pitch black, and there is not exactly any civilization to give off lights. Nevertheless we all ran down to the beach - the braver guards in their speedos or bikinis, and the rest of us in our wetsuits because it was freaking freezing. We started swimming through the pitch black water only to see our strokes illuminated by phosphorescence in the water. Coooool. The only way to know a wave was coming was to listen for it, as it was nearly impossible to see. Quite an adrenaline rush.

We swam over to the horseshoe, a channel through the rocks that the waves wash through. We swam around that for a while, climbed on the rocks, and managed to make it back safely to the surf club where we resumed drinking beers to warm up. The rest of the night was fairly uneventful, as was patrol today. I even left early because the weather was so cold and nasty out at the beach.

BUT, this cold business is about to change very quickly. In less than a week I am headed to Fiji, where right now the average temperature during the day is 95 degrees, with some horribly high humidity. To be completely honest I am a bit intimidated. There is a reason why people sail to far out of the way places (like New Zealand) for the tropical summer, and I guess I am about to find out why first hand. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Change of Plan

Life is a funny thing. Earlier this week I hit a low. I was so depressed that I cried. My sadness was the combination of many things - the fact that I am very far away from most of my family and friends this holiday season; the fact that it has been cold and raining pretty much non-stop for 3 weeks; the fact that the surf has been shit; the fact that it is harder to make close friends in a more urban setting; the fact that the U.S and world politics are horrible and soul crushing; the fact that my job search is not going well... the list goes on and on.

And then, yesterday morning I woke up to a call from Sean - captain of Slow Dance - inviting me to come spend a month with them in Fiji as crew. It was a very nice way to wake up. Surprisingly, I did not accept right away. I told Sean I needed to think about it for an hour and then would call him back.

I got out of bed and told Dad that I had just been invited to go work in Fiji on Slow Dance for a month, but I don't know if I should go... And he said, "Why wouldn't you go?!" My response was: granted, I am not really happy here. I mean, I like it here, but it is not what I expected. But I feel like if I leave without figuring out why I am not super stoked on New Zealand, I will feel defeated. You know? I don't want to feel like I am running away because I don't like it here. I want to face my problems and work through them so that I can look back on my time here as positive. Plus, I want to finish my lifeguarding award and surf Shippies again.

And Dad said, This is true. But an offer like this, to be paid crew on a luxury yacht in Fiji does not come around very often. You have no commitments here and can come back to lifeguarding and surfing, besides you will only be gone a month.

This is true as well. A minute later I called Sean back and told him I was booking my ticket. It did not take much convincing, but having Dad's support is awesome. Besides, now I can scope out all the good places for when we head up to Fiji in April (or thereabouts).

I don't want to give you the impression that I hate it here - I do not. I have made friends and picked out my favorite surf spots, know that there is so much more of New Zealand to be explored and plan to do so. But given my current circumstances - that I need a job and this is bears somewhat of a resemblance to one - it would be silly not for me to accept. I love the tropics and I really, really enjoy spending time with Sean and the whole Slow Dance experience. I am ecstatic to go back, even if only for a month.

I probably won't get to surf. I might not even get to go for a dive. After all, I will be "working". I will also, however, swim in that warm clear water I have been dreaming of since I left it.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Normal Life

My sweet as Strida bike.

I have been bad about updating my blog because I generally try to wait until something exciting has happened before I write, and life has been a bit too... normal... around here for my taste. This whole "living in one spot" thing has kind of thrown me off, but I am getting used to the Kiwi way of life -- although I will admit I have checked on flights to Fiji once or twice.

The most exciting thing that has happened in the past few weeks is that my uncle Paul sent Mom, Dad and me super sweet "Strida" folding bikes. These are not normal bikes. They are rad. They fold up small and are super light weight, but also well made and fun to ride. Mine is neon green and have gotten some looks as I ride down the street, but hopefully this will help cars to see me as well. New Zealand is not exactly super bike friendly, and I cannot wait to ride my new bike around an atoll.

Along with the bikes, a totally unexpected package arrived addressed to Dad. When we opened it we found three boogie boards and one "Flowrider" surf/skate board, all designed for a standing wave like the one at the Wave House in Mission beach. We were totally perplexed. Nobody would send any of us boogie boards - for one none of us are spongers and two, nobody likes us enough to send us a package like that (except Paul).

After asking around and not getting any answers, Dad was sick of having the boards on the deck and told me he was going to give them to the marina office. I told him to wait, that I would email the company the boards came from and see if they knew what was up with them. So I emailed the people - threatening them that if they did not tell me where the boards came from I was going to take them on the sand dunes and ruin them.

I got a prompt reply back that, yes, it was a mistake for the boards to be sent to S/V Rutea (still not sure how they got to us), and please please send them along to the right people in Japan. The email also said something to the effect of, if you are ever in San Diego and need anything, contact us.

Well, funny thing: I am going to be in San Diego in July! I sent a reply telling them this and hinted that I would very much like a few free sessions at the Wave House and they said no problem. After all, the value of all the boards is somewhere near $1000, so I am doing them a pretty big favor. You will find me shredding a huge barrel in San Diego next summer.

That is about the extent of the excitement around here recently. Mom is in San Diego right now so Dad and I are holding down the fort. It seems like all the wives of our cruiser friends are going home for the holidays, so it looks like I will be spending Christmas with a bunch of old guys. It could be worse, but I will definitely be missing my family.

The waves have been coming and going. Waves here on the East coast are all windswell waves until the cyclones start kicking out some groundswell, so it seems like whenever there are waves it is also windy. Can't be too picky around here. It has also been cold and rainy. Summer my ass. Today my friend Tom and I surfed what looked like the shittiest, small, onshore slop, but it was actually a great time. But get this - I chose to go surf those crappy small waves in the rain over going to the pub with Dad and Mark for a hot lamb dinner with mashed potatoes and gravy, complimented by a cold, FREE pint of delicious beer. Now that is dedication.