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.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Pennies on the Dollar
By Michael
SAVUSAVU, FIJI


Hotspur has a very unique layout, with this aft
22-foot "great room."
Good old boats. Classic plastics. Call the older fiberglass monohull cruising boats what you will, they're plentiful and not going anywhere and growing in number. Whereas most of the wood-hulled cruising boats of yesteryear long ago wasted away to nothing, 40- and 50-year-old fiberglass good old boats are completing circumnavigations. In a world where a quarter-million dollars is close to the minimum cost of a new family-sized cruising boat, older fiberglass monohulls are an outstanding value.

And the market for vintage, offshore, world-cruising boats has only gotten more buyer-friendly, perhaps for these few reasons:

  • Older, heavy, long-keeled and full-keeled cruising boats really cannot hold a candle to newer boats in terms of performance and sail-handling ease.
  • A huge swath of the cruising boat market has drifted over to multi-hulls.
  • The traditional M.O. of buying a boat outright and saving up a cruising kitty before casting off has waned as more and more couples and families cast off for a 2- to 3-year cruising sabbatical aboard a shiny, sleek new boat purchased with a mortgage and a plan to sell at the end of the road.

The decline in the value of these boats is not all bad (except for sellers of vintage cruising boats). We could not have embarked when we did on this cruising life had we not been able to find our then-33-year-old S&S-designed Fuji 40 for $64,000. We've gotten to know 20-somethings who have sailed across the Pacific in their own yachts. I'm not talking about trust-fund kids, but hard-working young people who have shunned the trappings their peers could not and have saved a chunk of change, found a bargain, invested a lot of sweat equity, and cast off. These old fiberglass boats make stories like this possible for the first time in human history. Imagine that!

And the impetus for this post is a 41-foot, offshore-ready classic plastic for sale just a few hundred yards from where I'm writing in Savusavu, Fiji. My friends Meri and Jim and their kids were blogosphere inspirations to us before we began cruising and now they've reached the end of their cruising road. Their Hotspur, a 1976 S&S-designed Tartan T.O.C.K (Tartan offshore cruising ketch) has carried them from Mexico to Fiji and everywhere in between. They've made numerous upgrades. They just last week returned to Fiji from a sail to the French protectorates of Wallis and Futuna. Hotspur is well-equipped and for sale for $29,000! Jim and Meri want to move on and understand the cost of leaving a boat sitting in the Tropics waiting to fetch top dollar. They've priced her to sell immediately. That's an amazing opportunity for the right buyer, a dream launched for pennies on the dollar. Just check out this video from their sale site. Can your $29K SUV offer anything close?



I'll add that Jim and Meri are good people with a strong positive reputation in the cruising community.

--MR
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