Friday, March 10, 2017

A little something from New Caledonia and a big welcome to Sydney!

Catch up time! Sorry we've been so slack. We've been having a lovely time; been sailing far and wide and visited by lots of grandparents. Back in December we sailed from New Caledonia to Australia. We had Christmas at sea and new year's eve in Sydney. Here's what we should have posted on new year's day...

New Caledonia is French. It's not Europe but there's no doubt whilst you're there what country you're in. There might be palm trees and hibiscus flowers but there are also cars driving on the right, baguettes, cheese, wine and a slight undercurrent of cool.



Whilst there, we really went crazy with the Vin, du pan, et du fromage. Paté de Champagne has never tasted so good, we even tried a paté du cheval!

Checking in was blissfully free and just entailed trailing around a few offices. They even let us check in and check out at the same time since we'd arrived Thursday and planned to press on on Sunday.

Nouméa harbour is busy and anchoring is only permitted in small well marked areas. Sadly these areas are chock full of Moorings so anchoring on the edge or picking up a mooring are your only options. We picked one up just outside the marina expecting to have to move on later so were pleased when a Frenchman rowed over and said we were welcome to borrow it for a few days, the owner was inside the marina for cyclone season.

We'd only planned on a weekend but we ended up staying a week as our visa for Australia had the complication of requiring medical examinations and chest x rays. We weren't seeing new Caledonia at its best since we only stayed in the capital where officials, phones and Internet are, but it appeared to be a troubled place. There was a palpable animosity between the mix of cultures there. Shiny buildings and fast cars with some of the people left behind and despondent. Alcohol can only be bought at some times on some days such are the problems.



Having said this, people were nice to us and we'd like to visit again to learn more, but next time sail around the island. However we were deep into cyclone season by now so on the 22nd December visas in hand we headed out again.

Christmas at sea was a blissfully low key affair. We had a good meal, a nice bottle of wine and watched a film. The sea was kind to us that day of a generally quick and pleasant passage. We'd worried that the trade winds are lessening at this time of year but we had no such trouble.


Ravi with our Christmas roast. He had his first scrap of food on the day but it was lychee, not roast.

Having a chat about the weather...




Eight days at sea unusually for us clock watching all the way. And we made it! We had good wind until about 30 miles out of Sydney when it died, then so did Pip. Bloody engines! So we flopped about in view of our goal for a whole day and finally picked up the quarantine buoy as light faded on the 30th Dec.

We'd been reticent about visiting Australia; until it became the obvious thing to do given the changing season; because of stories about difficult check ins. Particularly those concerning their caution over wood dwelling insects. We had visions of being impounded, fined, our woodwork being carved up and our mast being carted off by over zealous bio security officers. Perhaps it was the season or that Sydney does not see many international yacht first check ins but the guys we had couldn't have been more delightful or reasonable. Once they heard that we only spend time at anchor and wouldn't be doing any modifications whilst in Oz, their concerns were allayed and we sailed through our inspections.



Then we had to sail off their dock! It was new year's eve morning and the wind had been picking up such that one of the officers had started to go green! It was hooning into the small bay with much gusto so an elaborate plan with dinghy and long ropes was implemented. We span round within a whisker of a beautiful moored wooden ketch, quickly getting in all the lines before tacking out amongst all the moored boats. It would have been a tricky manoeuvre with the engine but without it was nail biting stuff.

Ravi is used to having us both right there to attend to his every whim but at this time he had to be left to cry lonely bolstered up in the bow safely out of the way. He only cried less than 5 minutes before giving up and going to sleep.

We sailed out into the main harbour and found ourselves a good spot and waited.




We weren't disappointed. What a welcome!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Blue water baby...



Finally Ravi's passport arrived on Friday. We'd applied for it when he was 5 days old at the end of September, now he's a chunky 2 ½ months. Much to every Fijians surprise a Fijian passport was never an option since neither of us have citizenship. Apart from being a little pedantic about the background of a photo which is supposed to show authorities what Ravi looks like up until he is five years old, the delays were numerous but mostly not to do with the UK passport authority. Once a countersigned photo and covering letters for all our irregularities were received, the passport was sent on the 21st November. It then proceeded to take 17 days to get here. That was on DHL expedited documents service which estimates 4-5 working days. Customs was the main problem in the UK, apparently they always sit on passports for a bit before worrying about looking at them and sending them on. At every stage it seemed to need chasing.

Anyhow back to Friday. We picked up the passport from the lovely marina ladies and then were sung out by an ad-hoc gang singing the Fijian farewell song ‘Ni Sa Lei...’ as we rowed back to Impetuous anchored outside. A sail north up to the port had us checking out just in time on a Friday afternoon... Or so we thought. 




We’d visited the port twice in the previous two days checking details would be ok for our imminent departure and enquiring about overtime fees in case we had to leave at the weekend. At neither of these visits had Peni the customs officer felt the urge to inform us that we had to add Ravi to our crew officially with immigration. Their office is in town and only open during office hours. We'd already been to see them that week to ask for a few days visa extension since we were now over the 6 months readily allowed, but no one at that time had mentioned the need for this extra form either. 

We quickly realised that we needed to stop arguing in frustration and find a taxi and get there, before the office closed in 15 minutes. We ooched and owed along the hot tarmac without shoes and flagged down the first taxi we saw. ‘Please straight to the immigration office and with the meter on please', there was no time for bargaining prices. For once no queue in immigration meant the simple and pathetically short form was filled and stamped in moments. Back at the port Peni was true to his word and waiting for us just past 4pm, his knocking off time, he didn't have the gall to charge us overtime and by half past we were free to leave. 

Smug in the knowledge that all the port officials were heading to a party so there was therefore not going to be anyone around to notice us taking a bit of time. We went into town to spend our last few Fijian dollars and back to get both dinghy's stowed away.

As dusk fell on Lautoka we pulled up the anchor and main sail waving ‘see you sometime' to friends on ‘Eos' and ‘au revoir' to this Western section of Fiji we have gotten to know quite well.

It was a gentle drift out towards the pass and a gentle drift once outside too. Still in the wind shadow of Viti Levu for many hours to come. A few squalls later then finally the SE trades graced us with their presence mid Saturday morning. Since then it has been a surprisingly rambunctious sail to New Caledonia. The forecast seemed to say 15-20 knots on the beam, ideal. However we've had the staysail stowed and the jib and main both double reefed getting sloshed by short steep waves until the last day when we've slowed ourselves to a gentle 6 knots with only double reefed jib. 




It took us just under 5 days to do just under 700 miles. Once inside the reef here in New Caledonia the sail round the island was a treat, 8 knots downwind sailing with just the jib and no more waves, Ravi enjoyed this all from his car seat. Until then we'd had to cower inside for fear of a frequent drenching from waves.

Like us all, Ravi has some places on Impetuous he loves to inhabit when on passage. Sprawled out on the leeward bunk, like everybody else is high up on the list. Fortunately he isn't too big so as not to share it. However, sharing a Lee bunk with a small baby isn't as regenerative as not sharing it; oweing to what we call the squish factor.





On passage we still sleep in the bow more often than not. Indeed with a fan on either side it's quite a pleasant place to read a book. So despite all the sloshing of the boisterous sail Ravi spent a fair amount of time in the bow. With the simple addition of his dancing birdies mobile he can spend hours orchestrating them as they sway to the rock of the boat and he rolls from pillow to pillow.

We've jammed in a spare wind vane to the side of the pilot berth, covered with a sarong and padded by a blanket it makes a great leeboard. A neat addition to what has become his bunk; with his mobile frame at one end over his quilt and an enormous pile of nappies at the other. But on passage it wasn't where he wanted to be. As the occasional wave slammed in to the hull side cascading itself across the boat Ravi would be awoken; startled, from his slumber. We call it starfish baby. Arms and legs spring out as does a certain aura of panic. Ravi didn't spend much time in his bunk.

Perhaps his favourite place is his car seat that we've bungied on to the boat. From there he can truly embrace the wonder of sailing. Smiles always abound when he is placed in it, A happiness we're keen to foster. It won't be much longer before his wriggling turns to crawling and the car seat has buckles that still work, despite the salty years of service it provided for our friends on Eos II. We haven’t told him this yet.

All in all Ravi has taken the whole experience in his stride; noticing only that whilst at sea there's always someone awake to give his head a stroke should he open his eyes when a noise disturbs him. Also at sea his dangling toys never stop dancing!




So we’re now in new Caledonia enjoying all the culinary delights a French country has to offer. The plan is to feast on baguettes, pate', cheese and wine for a few days before heading off to Australia. It will be Ravi's second blue water passage; they say that we can only dream of experiences we have already enjoyed, we often see Ravi dreaming of drinking as he sleeps. But now when he closes his eyes he has one more experience to dream of. Dreaming of blue water sailing.





Friday, December 2, 2016

Rubber Bucket

With Christmas round the corner some of you might be wondering what boat treats you can buy your sailing obsessed loved ones without shelling out a ridiculous sum of money. The answer is a rubber bucket. Ruth bought ours several Christmases ago before we had even launched the boat.  There was quite a bit of suspense as to what that big parcel for me might be, she assured me she hadn't spent much money but that I would like it. Ever since, it has been an indispensable boat item.

They can be a little tricky to track down. I bought my first in a builders store in Spain. Ruth found Impetuous' bucket in an equestrian and farm store. The beauty of both against anything you might find in a chandlers is the price tag.

The main attraction of them is that they are pretty much indestructible. With their heavy build and malleability they wont crack when squashed in to the locker or crushed by the tiller when you tack. They don't degrade like plastic does when left out in the sun, they can be lost over the side however. My first was swept away the day that my cooking hero Keith Floyd died, a sad day indeed. So make sure you have a leash and get in the habit of tying this precious gift to the boat.

We keep ours out as its pretty much in constant use. There is currently a pile of clothes having a soak in some rain water caught by the bucket. Ruth loads it up with her varnishing paraphernalia when she goes aloft to varnish the mast; as it is soft it doesn't dent the mast as it swings around. Though we recently finally got round to connecting our saltwater washdown pump; intended for rinsing a muddy anchor down; we did so to aid the washing of nappies, for which it excels at. For rinsing the deck down once the anchor is up, the bucket is still our tool of choice.


Recently we found yet another use for it. One that brought smiles to all our faces. 






Thursday, November 17, 2016

Wailea...

Wailea!  Papa? How many months? 5 weeks? Ni Sa... Baby boy? Ni sa... Born here? Fiji baby? Wailea! Can I hold? Ni Sa... Bula papa!
It's hard to get anywhere in Fiji without Ravi causing quite a stir. Fijians love children in a way that's often commented on; even by people not trying to get across the market in order to catch a bus with a babe in arms. There's warmth and positivity towards all children here more noticeable than anywhere else we've been but common to all island communities. It's deep in the culture.

Wailea is a general exclamation word similar to wow. Ni Sa shows warmth and is added to lots of greetings but is used on its own to coo over Ravi. Papa is the Fijian word for baby. Fijians everywhere we go want to give Ravi cuddles. They pinch his cheeks, they stroke his arms and sniff his head showing affection similar to a kiss. Children come up and kiss him then parade him round their friends. 

Any Fijian you encounter can be willingly entrusted with holding the baby if you're trying to do something. Where else would a lone man wandering past be delighted when a tiny one only a few weeks old is thrust in their arms? It means that dragging the dinghy up the beach or rearranging shopping bags is a breeze. Given half the chance they'll keep him as long as they can; no one's ever too busy to gush over a baby. In Fiji time everything else can wait.




The school kids and Lani the teacher at these boy's school would shout Ravi Ravi from the shore out to the boat for him to come and play


The ladies in this supermarket said they would baby sit him 'come back for him when he's 12!'


Tom the chief of the village of Yalobi on Waya, Ravi with Mary who, pleased to see we used cloth nappies gave us a big one from her boys 'all grown up now'


These kids had never ventured up the path scaling the hillside but scampered up alongside us if it meant they could hang out with Ravi just a little longer... 

We're pottering along nicely here. We thought the passport might take some time and we weren't wrong... There have been several tedious stumbling blocks the trickiest of which has been getting the right background for the photo. Our first attempt was to use a photographer in town but not only was it rejected because the background was wrong, it was also technically too small and missing a border. Ridiculous we know, but it's not as easy as you might think finding a suitably coloured and clean sheet, then getting him to hold his head square on it without wrinkles. Hopefully we've finally found a solution and together with all the extra forms and proof required, the UK passport authority should be processing it any day now.

A few photos that didn't make the cut


    
 




Life continues as normal here in the meantime.  Alongside handwashing around 15 nappies a day, we've still got boat projects and fixing things as they fail. In the last month or so we've been keeping on top of the varnishing and trying to figure out why the engine wasn't starting so well.  In the end the culprit was the injectors which have now been serviced and in the mean time our exhaust muffler developed a leak and so we've re-designed that system to make it more convenient and less likely to fail in the future.  Also our main halyard winch pulled out of the mast whilst sailing.  It made a dent in the mast but could have been much worse.  It's now through bolted to the staysail winch on the other side and all the old holes are plugged. Sitka spruce whilst being light and strong does not take fittings well.  Thankfully we made the mast solid at that point so this is no problem and we're glad we already overbored and epoxied the mast track screw holes.

We had a lovely couple of weeks out at Waya staying by the village of Yalobi.  We liked it so much we are wending our way back there now.  We hope to give them our old main sail as we think the villagers will put it to good use as a shelter or for drying pandanus in order to make the mats they weave.  It's quite an industrious village what with the big boarding school serving the surrounding islands and with visits from cruise ships most weeks. It's still very much a traditional village though with a chief and a laid back friendly feel.


Yalobi village, Waya.


Ravi enjoying the sunrise outside


We tried to encourage Ravi to look at the camera but he was too overwhelmed by the sight of his beautiful wooden mast so we went with that look instead.  Along with Ravi's first photos we've lost our straightening program with our dead hard drive. A necessary tool when taking photos on a boat!


We're taking him for regular dips. Baby steps.


We lost the path on the walk up to the ridge so eventually had to abort, I was barefoot but the main problem was the mosquitoes and the sun getting higher.


Waya on the way out, we'll be back


Heeled right over he was oblivious... until we tacked!


Life never gets boring on a boat, if nothings happening you can just dance to the windscoop fluttering...


Or laugh at the clouds...



Our bright eyed boy is getting more interactive all the time...


So I'm sure some of you might be wondering how it's all going. Truthfully it's great. We can't compare parenting on land but there are loads of things great about parenting on our boat. The trickiest is probably how careful we need to be with him and the sun.  He's fine around town or rowing about as he's quite happy to have a sarong flung over his head and generally goes to sleep or has a feed. However we've found that even just the reflected sun from the water out in the cockpit has to be carefully rationed and when going for a swim not only does he risk burning but also gets cold very quickly too. All part of the learning curve! Hopefully from the photos you can see how good a time we're having, probably the most important is that we have the time to really enjoy it. All those boat jobs can wait.  We're on Ravi time.


Ravi in his carseat having a gentle sail back for his check up and immunisations

Friday, October 7, 2016

First week in the life of a newborn sailor...

If you read our blog for anecdotal and sometimes comical accounts of sailing tales from the high seas, then we apologise.  On Saturday 24th September our lives changed forever for the better when our son was born.  Normal service will resume shortly; our next big passage should be in around 6 weeks time or so but until then it's wall to wall baby pictures and gushy soppy prose.

Ravi Arthur Fagg had a hard time trying to get out and in the end was born around midday by caesarian section 36 hours after my waters first broke. Fiji has a caesarian rate of around 12% as opposed to most of the Western world being in the 25-30% region and the USA even higher at 33% (WHO). They don't do them readily here but if it's absolutely necessary they can.


He was born uttering a lusty cry and continued to do so the next half hour whilst they cleaned him, checked him and sewed me up until he was brought to have his first suckle and relaxed straight in to our little family. Duncan and I have both never been so relieved.




   



Thus he began his lifetime of experiences. The world outside is a confusing and concerning place for a newborn and you can see it in their faces. The first touches they feel, the first smells and light; they react instinctively to begin with, moving towards or away according to preprogrammed responses.





We were lucky that I recovered so quickly from the operation most likely influenced by the extreme euphoria I was feeling to have him OK after those difficult hours. When visiting time was over at 7pm Duncan was evicted from our company by the severe maternity unit security guard. At this time due to the spinal I'd had, I was still wide awake but could not move my legs. Nevertheless I was left on my own with Ravi to take care of with no obvious way of summoning help. 


Duncan was careful to make sure I had everything I might need within reach and got me comfy before he left. Had I had a girlfriend available to help that would have been encouraged, they just had a strict no men outside visiting hours policy despite there being posters about the place encouraging father's involvement... It was sad him heading home so early and alone.


An hour or so later the nurse came to take Ravi for his first bath. Can I come help? I asked, keen to keep him near and learn what they did. Can you walk? She replied quizzically then looked back in disbelief as I slowly heaved myself after her down the corridor. My abdomen was still numb but otherwise the spinal effects had worn off. Later that night the doctor tried and failed to cannulate him so he had his first intra muscular injection poor mite.




Ravi slept his first night only waking a couple of times and being given a suckle and lots of cuddles. We both had to stay in the hospital three days for antibiotics and monitoring then finally we were allowed to go home. He had his first taxi ride in his first thunder storm but as Duncan had left all the hatches open when leaving the boat at anchor that morning, he rowed out to shut them in the thrashing rain then we all stayed in a nice dry air conditioned bungalow for our first night together. 


This was disappointing as we were desperate to be home for his first night as a family but Ravi had been suffering a bit from the heat and mosquitoes at the hospital so we thought the AC would be good where a hot soggy boat probably would not help his rash. That night at the marina bar he was the star attraction whilst we caught up with some friends. In the end Duncan went to find him to spend some Pappa time to find Ravi quite happy asleep on a Fijian lady.  His first night out at a bar.


The next afternoon we rowed out and were finally home. Duncan pulled up the anchor and Ravi went for his first sail aged 4 days old. We were only going a few miles and the wind was at our back until we tacked into the anchorage; still only with our Yankee jib; to the whoops and celebratory hollers of friends there cheering Ravi in.


We had some photos from this sail however sadly our hard drive has failed and so they are lost.  Thankfully Doug on Renegade snapped these as we sailed past him.






And Ravi helping get the anchor ready on the foredeck...



5 days old and it was time to start Ravi's passport application. We rowed in and caught the bus to the city and started the merry dance to get his birth certificate. As we're not married we were told Duncan's name could not be on it by the nurses. However, we found out there was a way; it just meant jumping through some hoops in various offices. Ravi managed this long day with aplomb. We were exhausted! 





Ravi's first paperwork and passport photo; rocking the Ramones babygrow at 5 days old!

The next day we all had a very well earned rest.  Ravi not only heard his very first Beatles album but was also subjected to his very first 'The Archers Omnibus', it was a pivotal one including Helens trial.  We were a bit behind what with one thing and another...






Grannie made him a lovely quilt to lie on at home and to take to the beach




Our sailor boy has a cyclone in the middle of his forehead!