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Changes are coming..

In a couple of weeks I’ll be flying to Ecuador (solo, Mick will stay in Oz this time 😦  ) and although the main reason for this trip is to spend time with family and friends the other reason is a project that we’ve been working  on for the last few months called Ayni 11×11.

This Project was born with the intention of sharing with more people how to make our doormats and to be able to create the biggest mat made out of plastic bottle lids which will share  a message of unity, solidarity and positive change for our planet. We’ve put together a video explaining the process as well as many step by step posts  at .http://mingasporelmar.org/

At the end of my visit we’ll be organizing an event to showcase the mat and create a space for all the NGOs working in Ecuador to come together as well as local eco friendly products and alternatives, entrepreneurs and all the people and organizations working in the country to make positive change.  It’ll be a day of talks, ocean conservation, yoga, music, food and community.

There’s still a lot of work ahead but I’m pretty excited to try and make it all happen. I’m very lucky to have a great team of people in Ecuador with the same beliefs and motivation as me, helping along the way. We’ll keep you posted on how everything goes!

 

Back on land

Nine months ago we left Ondular safely packed and out of the water in French Polynesia and we came back to Australia. It was a difficult decision to make but a necessary one, due to personal and financial reasons. We were confronted with having to resettle again, look for a place to live, look for work and change our mindsets of relaxation and enjoyment into productivity and routine.

The first few weeks or maybe months were a bit shocking. The Gold Coast seemed to have grown and changed so much; so many people everywhere, crowded surf, crowded shopping centres, busyness, everyone seemed trendy and in style and then there was us, trying to fit in again or at least function among it all.

It definitely was overwhelming. From our tranquil and easy-going life on the boat, in our little cocoon, just the two of us, spending everyday and all day together, to a full time job, sharing an apartment with a friend, having no time for anything.

But it has been a very positive time as well. We’ve been so lucky that we have such good friends; our friend Henk, letting us share his apartment with him for cheap rent, only a block and a half away from the ocean, simply priceless! Our friends Junior and Lisa, so thoughtfully kept their mother’s car which was going to go the wreckers, for us to use when we got home. And my friend Jenny, helping me get a job back at the school I used to work for, so yes, we’ve been so very lucky!

I started working a 10 hour day job straight away in a Language School teaching English to adults. Mick got jobs here and there, but nothing too good, until December when he landed a good job but unfortunately it was a  FIFO (fly in fly out) job, so since then we’ve only seen each other for 3 weeks because he comes home for one week and goes away again for three. It hasn’t been easy but it’s  a means to an end and it’s not forever.

On one hand, it’s been great because I really love my job. In the past, I used to teach children and although I love children for their innocence and creativity , I’m enjoying interacting with adult students so much and with this age group I don’t have to worry about behavior management which makes it all so much easier. I’ve been blessed with meeting some wonderful people who happened to be my students and to have some amazing co-workers.

On the other hand, it’s definitely hard to be apart from Mick  but we’re both so busy that time is flying by and we know that soon enough we’ll be able to be together again. This experience back on land has made our will even stronger that we definitely want to get back on Ondular and continue our journey and has made it even clearer for us that we’d like our time on board not only to be an adventure but our way of living.

Mick has been able to meet people that have been doing the same job that he’s doing now for years, spending more time apart from their families than with them, all because of money and having to pay bills; but wouldn’t you rather be broke and being able to spend time together than having money but being apart. What is life for if you’re not spending it with the people you love the most?

More and more I think the world is upside down. That our belief system is completely wrong and that we go on in life chasing the wrong things, not stopping to think for a minute and wonder, is this right? Could I do things differently?

This time on land has been testing and challenging but very enriching and has reassured us that we’d like to continue doing things differently and this time around we would see Ondular not only as a journey but as a long term lifestyle.

We get trapped by our own choices and without realizing we set ourselves for failure. The moment you make the decision that you don’t need all that stuff to be happy, that nothing that is outside of you will ever give you happiness, that’s the moment you become freer. When we stop wanting so much, we find contentment in little things and that in itself gives us freedom.

Our time on land is slowly coming to an end and soon enough we’ll be back among the ocean, falling asleep with the sound of the water caressing the hull of Ondular and rocked by the waves. We’ll be back to our simple life and away from the cars, the noise, the alarm clocks and the big shopping centres. It’ll be difficult to say good-bye to friends and family, the ones that we hold dear, but we can’t ignore our spirits calling, calling us back to sea.

 

 

 

The longest passage

It was a Wednesday, it had been raining for a few days and although we weren’t that excited about leaving port in such wet conditions, we were tired of waiting and decided it was only a bit of water and would be alright to start our 500 mile journey to the Tuamotus.

Ten minutes after we had come out of the bay in Nuku Hiva, big black clouds got on top of us and a very strong squall of a bit more than 30 knots started. This usually wouldn’t have stopped us but this time it just gave us a bad feeling and the sky did look like there were so many more like that one coming. So for the first time ever, we decided to return to port and wait for better weather.

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The next morning, the conditions were much drier and the forecast predicted winds of 15 knots for the next few days. We left with high spirits and Ondular was enjoying a nice beam reach and easily making 6 to 7 knots. By the end of the day the wind picked up a bit more and we were kept on our toes throughout the night and the next day as we had several visits from cheeky squalls.

By the fourth day, the squalls had stopped and we had pleasant sailing with steady conditions. We were only 60 miles and one night away from our destination, the atoll of Makemo, one of the biggest in the Tuamotus but unfortunately by sunset we could see that exactly where we were going to, there was a massive front being formed with angry looking clouds.

Before life on the boat, clouds were meaningless to me. I could admire their different forms but that was it, they really didn’t represent anything to me. But being on a boat, in the middle of the ocean, clouds take a completely different meaning; they can be your best friends or worst enemies and when you see clouds like these ones, you really wish with all your heart that they would go away, but they usually don’t.

So as you continue sailing towards them, you try not only to prepare yourself physically by shortening the sails and putting your weather gear on, but more importantly mentally and you’re kind of on the edge, feeling anxious, moving slowly towards the black sky not really knowing what to expect.

We had two nights and two days of rough weather. After the first night, we had to make the hard decision of changing our plans by changing our route and instead of going to the Tuamotus keep sailing until reaching Tahiti. We made this decision based on the fact that this weather pattern was going to prevail for several days which would make the currents and waves at the entrance of the atolls much stronger and bigger. We also didn’t feel like it was a good idea to be inside the atolls, where there isn’t much protection from the wind for the next week or so; going to Tahiti seemed like a better choice.

What impressed me the most was the consistency of the wind’s strength, 27 knots for hours, sometimes hitting the 30s and very rarely going down to the 20s. By the end of the second day, the sea started to get bigger and by sunset we were going down big waves and reaching 12 knots. There was no way our auto pilot was going to hold on these conditions and we were too tired to try and steer like this all night. The forecast showed that the weather was improving in the next 12 hours so we decided to heave to, have a bit of a rest and wait either for conditions to get milder or for daylight so that we could steer more comfortably.

By sunrise, although the wind was still blowing, there was a little blue hole in between all the grey in the sky which gave us hope that the front was through. And luckily we were right, the worse had passed and for the remaining 3 days we had blue skies and nice steady winds.

It was a difficult passage due to the fact that we weren’t mentally prepared for spending that much time at sea. I even found it at times more difficult than the long Pacific crossing; we had definitely worse weather, it was only Mick and I, so we got less sleep and more time on watch but we made it afterall and we also had some good times in between it all.

We caught a mahi mahi, played yatzee on the cockpit when it was calm enough and had some good laughs. We also had a few tears, the worse one was during the strongest conditions, while serving dinner and a wave came and made me spill the curry vegetables and left us with almost nothing left to eat. I lost it badly and Mick even said he was actually worried that I wasnt going to be able to stop and when he thought it was over, I would start crying again. It lasted some good 5 minutes of letting it all out.

With more settled weather it gave us the opportunity to do some more research and see whether we really wanted to go to Tahiti or somewhere else. Because the reality is that our plans not only changed during this passage but also our bigger plans had changed in the last few months which gave us a different perspective on everything.

Our plans at first were to get a longer visa for French Polynesia and stay here for a while and then continue to Australia next season. But we couldn’t get the long visa so we have to leave by the end of August. That, plus being away from Australia for almost 3 years, made us change our itinerary and now we’ll be storing the boat here in Raiatea and flying back to Australia at the beginning of August to be there hopefully for a maximum of 6 months. That would give us enough time to see family and friends, spend Christmas there and save some more money to continue our trip.

With all of that in mind, we later changed our route again and decided that maybe the little island of Huahine would be a better choice to spend the last month here; it’s known to have some great waves and a chilled vibe.

So here we are, we got here yesterday and the first thing we did after getting the anchor down, was to go to town and we just walked around for two hours; it felt so good to just move our legs. At night, for the first time in so long, the boat was completely still and we had a great night sleep.

We have around 4 weeks till we have to make the move to Raiatea to get the boat ready to be pull out of the water and stored and our new reality to begin. Until then, we are in one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever been, we have to eat all our stored food and there’s a swell coming. Life is good!

Crossing the Pacific

The famous Pacific crossing, the longest crossing there is when going around the Equator, it’s been hanging in the back of my mind since we even started talking about the idea of buying a sailboat, creeping in my thoughts like something I had to do but really didnt want to. But as the months passed by and more and more miles were added to my experience, the sentiment for it, started to change and it became more of an exciting thing to do instead of a dreaded one.

Even with my new found courage to do the trip, I still knew I didn’t want to do it only the two of us; a third person would be perfect to help out and give us all a bit of a break. But the time was getting closer and none of our friends and family members were coming forward so we started considering looking for a crew on one of those websites, although we were really hesitant having heard many horror stories about crew being found that way. Luckily we didn’t have to continue with our search because one month before leaving, our friend Steve managed to get some time off from work and signed up to be the third member of our crew; it couldn’t have worked any better!

As with any adventure, unexpected things are bound to happen and in our case they caused for our departure date to be slightly delayed.

First, poor Steve, who was flying from Australia and had to endure more than 30 hours of travel nonstop, managed to arrive in one piece to Galapagos but his luggage didn’t. After several phone calls with astonishing information of the whereabouts of the suitcases (Someone saw them in Chile, no they are in Quito, they’ve been sent to Guayaquil, no they are in Lima?), many visits to the LAN airlines office in Santa Cruz, receiving a $50 voucher and some flashy white outfit with the LAN logo to wear and 5 days later, we finally received the missing luggage, Steve finally could get himself a fresh pair of undies and we could move on to our last island in the Galapagos, Isabela.

Over there we had another set of problems having to wait for the gas permit to be able to buy diesel . It took more than a week to get that piece of paper but we finally got some diesel and we had plenty of time to have everything else ready for our departure.

On our last night there, we went out for a celebratory dinner, called our parents to say our last goodbyes and left the Galapagos in the morning of 26 April.

The first few hours after we set sail were all full of excitement in anticipation to finally be starting such a journey. To make it even better, Steve caught a beautiful tuna that we had for lunch and we had very little wind but enough to get Ondular slowly moving. Things were looking good.

Before leaving we never talked about having a set schedule of watches. Mick and I have always done three hours on, three hours off but it’s always been a very relaxed schedule. By the second day I started to feel like we needed some more structure, specially during the day as i didnt like feeling like I should be out on the cockpit when I wanted to be resting. I suggested it to the rest of the crew and that same day we came up with a proper schedule and put it on the wall so we could check everyday who was on and who was off and we also rotated on the cooking roaster. It worked really well and gave us all enough time to rest and recover and no room for any arguments or misunderstandings.

The first three to four days were very light with the winds around 0 to 8 knots which were ok to take because we always knew that the conditions around the Galapagos are usually like that. By the 5th day the wind started to pick up to 15 knots and it kind of fooled us to believe that we had reached the trade winds and that from now on it was going to be a smooth ride.

It wasn’t that way at all. We would have a few days of good wind and then back to nothing which made everyone a bit anxious specially the captain who really didn’t get much quiet time because he was constantly working on keeping the boat moving or whether to change our route a few degrees more to the south or something.

At the end, it took us 26 days to reach the island of Hiva Oa in the Marquesas. From those 26 days, maybe 5 of them were a bit uncomfortable with stronger winds and bigger swells, the rest were very smooth going. We had maybe two nights were we were hit by squalls that reached 30 knot winds and a bit of rain. On those nights, the captain would be awoken by the screams of his crew asking him to come and reef the sails. We all did pretty well and rode the squalls with grace with no major upsets.

We had one morning were we had a front passing through with lots of rain and strong winds. That day was also my birthday which made it even more memorable but after the rush of the morning and after getting off our wet clothes, we got to enjoy a freshly baked chocolate cake and a hot cup of coffee that made everything better. It was a weird feeling celebrating my 37th birthday in the middle of the ocean but thanks to modern technology I was able to be in touch with family and friends and receive all their congratulations so I didn’t feel too far away from them after all.

As I mentioned before, Mick didn’t get much off time during the passage being the captain and all. Between changing or reefing sails, he also had to repair the sink which was falling apart, a sail that got a rip, the fridge who stopped cooling well, the gooseneck which was coming off the mast and finally the engine mounts which got loose. Apart from that, he was either checking the weather or thinking about what he could do differently to make the boat go faster and unfortunately because we had many slow days, there was lots of thinking/worrying time for him.

We also had the other thing to worry about which was getting Steve in time for his flight, which by day 10 we already knew he wasn’t going to make it, so he had to contact the travel agent and make the necessary arrangements. Due to this gime restrain we contemplated/discussed using the engine during days of no wind, but we decided not to use it until we were a bit closer to landfall.

Something else we did to keep us occupied was to collect sample water for the project called Global Microplastics for this NGO from America called Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation. It’s a project that you can sign online and commit to get samples of water wherever you are in the world so that they can gather the largest data about microplastics and the health of our oceans and waterways. Because we were travelling 3000 miles, we decided to collect the samples every 250 nautical miles so in total we got 12 bottles of 1 litre water. If you’d like to know more about this and other projects please visit their website at http://www.adventurescience.org

The food lasted all the way and it all worked so well that we managed to have the last spoons of coffee and the last of the milks right on the day we arrived. The fresh vegetables and fruit started dissapearing one by one but without them a new surge of creativity arrived for all the cooks in charge of dinners or lunches. All in all I think we did pretty well, everyone was well fed, we always had a cake or a fresh loaf of bread to snack on and there were no massacres over the last carrot or anything like that.

Some of the memorable things that happened along the way: I spotted a very big meteor falling from the sky one night. All of the crew got to witness countless of falling stars and magic night skies. We got to see the biggest number of dolphins coming from every direction, maybe hundreds of them, it was an incredible show of nature! We found a flying fish that got through one of the hatches at night and landed on our couch. Steve used sugar instead of bread crums one day to cook fish cakes. We got a wine glass (spinnaker wrap) that gave us all a bit of fun to sort out. Arriving at Atuona in Hiva Oa and sensing the smell of the earth and seeing green again.

I’ve heard a lot of people romanticize about this ocean crossing. Some talked about spiritual experiences, others about being one with the ocean, we even heard a guy compare it to being on a trip (as in drugs). I dont know about Mick or Steve, but I kept myself busy the whole time, maybe out of fear of freaking out about the time spent at sea. So I read a lot and watched movies and time went by easily. I didn’t experienced any kind of out of this world experience just days passing by and lots of ocean all around.

I think on a long passage like this one you definitely get to experience a bunch of different emotions raging from exhilaration to boredom but one thing I’m sure of is that it definitely gave all of us a sense of achievement to have made it and I was also very happy not having to experience anything too scary on the way.

So with a pad on our backs for having made it safe and sound and a big thanks to our mate Steve for coming along on this crossing and giving us a hand as well as to our family and friends that followed us from home and sent us words of encouragement along the way we finish this tail of crossing the big Pacific Ocean.

A new chapter has began for Ondular and us, we are now in the islands that we have been dreaming about for years; Will it be all that we are hoping for? Will we find some waves? Will Mick finally make his dream come true of catching lobster and having it for dinner? All of these answers and more on our next blog post. Thanks for reading!