The road ahead

Six days till our departure date. We’ve done our practice pack, checked for excess weight, separated the unnecessary things and put them into a give- away pile.

 I was dreading this day, because the last time I found it hard to know what to pack and what not to, and even harder to let go of clothes and things I didn’t have the space to take with me. Luckily, this time was much easier and I managed to quickly decide what to take and what to leave behind. My bag got packed with little drama and with the correct weight.

Mick on the other hand was having a few more problems. These months on land, have allowed him to use the Alibaba site a bit too much and his bag is full of extra parts for the boat, the boards, the photography, the coconut oil making (don’t ask!) and of course the perfect coffee making (this time we’ll be taking a coffee grinder with us). Needless to say, it ended up being a bit heavier than mine.

We finished work a week ago and spent last week visiting friends and spending time with family. Yesterday and today we’ve been cleaning the apartment where we’ve lived for the last few months and later today we’ll be going to visit Mick’s mum and dad for a few days.

Our last weekend in Australia will be spent saying goodbye, re packing our bags and board bags and on Monday we’ll be flying to Sydney, from Sydney to Auckland, from Auckland to Papeete. The whole journey is going to take us more than 20 hours.

We’ll spend two days in Papeete and then take the ferry to Raiatea where Ondular has been for the last 15 months. We’ve booked an air bnb for the first two nights there so that we have a nice place to return to after spending, we assume, those two days cleaning her and getting rid of the unavoidable mould.

Once we make her liveable again, we’ll move in but we’ll still be at the boatyard doing the antifouling, getting the sails back up and setting her all up to be ready to be launched into the water again.  We hope this process won’t take more than 2 weeks, but hey! Who knows how long it’ll take.

Once in the water is another story; life will be more comfortable and we’ll also try to anchor near a motu (little island) with a nice passage (waves) nearby so that we can enjoy some surfing, snorkelling and all the things we like doing, while working on the boat jobs.

And that’s as far as we’ve got, after that is in the realm of the unknown. We’ll figure it all out once we’re there. We’ve got a one-year visa for French Polynesia so we’re in no rush. We haven’t seen much of the islands yet so this is a whole new part of the world for us to explore and we’re happy to not have a plan.

 We’re returning to Ondular with a different vision. It’s no longer a holiday; it’s our life and we’d like this life style to last for a while. So, we’re planning to be smarter with our money (yes, we’ll try to be even tighter than before and be even more self-sufficient) and we’d like to avoid any schedules or timelines. This would mean to be guided merely by the weather and by how we feel in the places we encounter.

We know how lucky we are to be doing this, to have the freedom and ability to leave everything behind, follow our passion and listen to our souls.  This is the beginning of our second chapter of being free in the sea and we’d like to share it with you so we can inspire, entertain, encourage, motivate or simply keep you posted.

 

Earthquake in Ecuador

It’s Saturday afternoon and Mick, Steve and I are sitting at a bar in Santa Cruz making the most of the 2 for 1 happy hour. We are celebrating Steve’s arrival to Galapagos after a 40 hour trip from Australia that resulted in his bags not arriving with him. Suddenly my phone starts to ring and my father’s scared voice is at the other end asking if we are ok. Yes we are fine, what’s happening? There has been a strong tremor but you’re mum and I are fine, be careful and alert are his next words.

The hours pass by and we hear more news about not the tremor but the 7.8 earthquake that has hit a few coastal towns in Ecuador. There is an alert for a tsunami but we don’t hear any sirens or warnings so we proceed to have dinner.

On our way back to the boat, I asked the water taxi driver if he knows about the tsunami alert and he said it’s been cancelled, but we can’t help to notice that we are one of the few boats left in the anchorage. We are super tired, should we lift anchor and follow the others? No, instead we turned the vhf radio and keep monitoring messages from Port Authority and after an hour they let everyone back at the anchorage and we are glad we decided not to move and stay put.

The next morning we went to the immigration office. It’s our time to check out from the country as the next island we are visiting, Isabela, has no immigration office. It’s Sunday and we are legally no longer in Ecuador, we have a trip planned, food bought but our heart with all the people devastated by the terrible earthquake. We need to start focusing on what’s left on the list of things to do before we go, but instead keep checking on how the rescue efforts are going and the death toll rising.

Natural disasters always come as a surprise, no one can predict them, no one can do much about them. The sad thing is when lives are lost unnecessary, and when you notice the differences that can happen in countries like Ecuador, where constructions are not well preserved or building regulations aren’t followed as strictly, making buildings collapse more easily or bridges fall down.

It’s been hard enough to see the country go through so much over the last two years we have been around, all the taxes, the restrictions and unfair new rules and regulations, and now to see it go through this, knowing that the government is broke and won’t have the money to pay for all the help that all the people will need.

But there is always hope and people are coming together. The solidarity and compassion always shines through. We’ve read of countries like Venezuela sending some help. Mexican rescue workers are flying over to help with finding more victims and all around Ecuador people are putting together donations to send to the affected areas.

I wish I could be there to help. But as an irony of life, although I’m still on Ecuadorian ground, I’ve checked out of the country and it’s time to continue on our journey. Tomorrow we sail to Isabela where we’ll spend three days and we are thinking of starting our passage of 3000 nautical miles to the Marquesas this Saturday.

All we can do now is send our thoughts and prayers to all the families affected by this terrible earthquake, all the people that have lost loved ones or that are still trying to find a daughter or a husband. We send strength to all the people that have lost their houses and possessions and we urge people to stay calm and safe and to come together to help. We give thanks to all the many volunteers who are working hard on providing food and medicines and that are at the affected areas giving a hand to find more survivals. We can overcome anything by coming together and staying strong.

 

Nikki and Rob’s visit to Galapagos

This was a historical visit: Our first Australian friends to visit and on top of that they were on their honeymoon. Rob is Mick’s good friend. Rob was there when Mick and I first met in Hawaii and now he had married lovely Nikki and they were coming to spend two weeks of their honeymoon with us. We were stoked!

The first few days we spent them in San Cristobal. There were still some waves so as soon as they arrived we went surfing to Carola. Even Nikki decided to come on the mad dog (which is an inflatable mat) with her goggles on to see the wildlife. It was pretty small, but being an island, there is always a chance for a surprise big set and just in time I looked up and saw this big thing coming and screamed to Nikki “I think you should paddle that way” as I pointed to the horizon and luckily she did, and the poor thing didn’t stop paddling until she got back to the boat. That was the first and last time Nikki decided to venture into the Galapagos waves.

The next morning we decided to take the long walk to Tongo Reef and we caught a few fun waves there but chose the worse time of the day to start our walk back and by the time we got on Ondular we all had to take naps..the Galapagos sun is quite strong!

The third day, Rob and Nikki did the tour to see the giant tortoises and Mick and I stayed on the boat and had our Swiss friend Dani, who had arrived on the islands a few days before, visit us in the morning. By the time Nikki and Rob were back, we decided it was time to open the champagne we had bought for the newlyweds and a spontaneous party began, having our next boat neighbour Phil, from Alaska, coming too. It was a fun night and kind of like a farewell party as the next day we were sailing to Isabela.

It’s 80 miles to Isabela so we left at around 1pm and took us almost 24 hours to get there. It was a pleasant passage and Nikki and Rob were keen to do their first night watch on Ondular. I was really impressed by seeing how calm Nikki seemed with the whole sailing thing and it made me a bit embarrassed to think a few months back and remembered how scared I’ve always been and compare it with how calm and collected she was.

In the morning we were all in the lookout for some wildlife. We started seeing this white water and splashes in the distance. We all checked and agreed that it seemed like it was a big pod of whales. We were all excited, got the revs up and change our course a bit to go after the whales, hooting and screaming in excitement. The closer we got, the further they seemed. Our excitement started diminishing but we were still hopeful, until we realized it was all an optical illusion and it was white water breaking over a shallow offshore reef. Oh well, we could only try.

We arrived into Isabela around noon and while they went snorkelling to some lava rocks nearby, I stayed on the boat and did some yoga. The next few days we went on two different tours, one to Los Tuneles which was a snorkelling tour and the next day with a taxi up to the high part of the island for a hiking tour to the volcano Sierra Negra.

I think everyone agreed that the Tuneles tour was our favourite one. We left early morning on a power boat and they took us to this bay 30 minutes from Puerto Villamil where we snorkelled through some caves and saw sleeping white tip sharks, big pleasant turtles and all kinds of colourful fish. The hike to the volcano was a bit harder, starting at 8:30 and finishing almost at 1pm. The views were spectacular but it was a bit too hot to enjoy it.

 Isabela is an amazing island full of beauty. Other things we did while there was see the flamingos, walk to the tortoises breeding centre and snorkel around the boat to check out the cutest little penguins. After three days there we decided to keep moving and our next stop was Santa Cruz only 40 miles away so we left at sunset to get there by first light not without our share of excitement on our night passage.

Mick and I were downstairs washing the dishes and Nikki and Rob were upstairs doing their watch. I came up to check on them and suddenly saw a shade of something, it seemed like a rock but it couldn’t be one as it was moving too fast. We kept calling Mick to come and have a look but by the time he got to the cockpit the shade had passed us and until this day “the captain” still doesn’t believe us when we say that it must have been a ghost ship or something passing us by. I do think that situation scared the hell out of Nikki as she confessed having nightmares that night about the ghost ship.

Santa Cruz is the busiest of all islands in the Galapagos and it has a wide variety of shops, restaurants, bars and businesses. The same day that we got there, my cousin Juan that lives in Denmark arrived too and we hung up with him the next few days. Dani our swiss friend was also there and we had them over on our boat to celebrate Dani’s birthday. We were all pretty tired from the night crossing so Dani left with my cousin a bit disappointed by our lack of enthusiasm but luckily the nightclubs were opened so he still got to enjoy the rest of the night.

The next day we did the walk to Tortuga Bay a long white beach where you can see the marine iguanas in full swimming action and we spent the morning there and my cousin came along. At night we caught up with Dani again and had pizza in town. The last day in Santa Cruz, Rob and Nikki did a tour to see the giant tortoises in the wild and Mick and I went to the market to buy some fresh fruit and veggies. We left around sunset and this time my cousin Juan joined us for his first overnight passage which was uneventful but we did have to motor almost all the way due to a strong current against us and not much wind.

In the morning we said good bye to my cousin who was going back to mainland Ecuador to spend some time with his parents and we went for a walk to Tijeretas where we were hoping to swim with sea lions. We got in the water and it was so clear with plenty of fish but not many sea lions around. It was still a nice snorkel but by the time we were out of the water drying ourselves up we saw an incoming sea lion family. We all decided to jump back in and it was so much fun being in the water with them, all coming very close to our faces and playing with us. They are definitely some amazing animals and it seems like their lives are mainly about having fun and being comfortably lazy. The pups are the cutest but the big male ones can be quite aggressive and not cute at all.

On Nikki and Rob’s last day on the boat, we had a big angry male sea lion coming aboard and making it all the way into our cockpit. He was so agro that we couldn’t do anything when he growled himself into laying on one of our cockpit cushions and just stay there defiantly. We tried everything to get him out but he didn’t seem to mind when we gently poked him with a stick or clapped our hands or did anything, he just laid there and stared at us. Mick and I had to go to town to make a skype call and left Rob and Nikki there with the big guest. They finally got him off by using a saucepan and a spoon and making loud noise with it. We were glad when we came back and found the boat back to normal.

Nikki and Rob were with us for two weeks and we wished they had stayed longer. We had some great times together, lots of laughter and good conversations. They both did amazingly well at complying with all boat regulations and seamanship but if we had to pick the best one I think Rob has to come second best due to his confusion when trying to remove the water from the shower by pumping the toilet and we never understood why he needed those long meditative moments in the morning hanging from the anchor chain.

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Beach clean ups and a bit more

The idea of doing the beach cleanup project started one sleepless night in May 2015. The first few months of us trying to get it started were frustrating and disheartening. It turned out to be very difficult to try and plan something months ahead and not actually be in the country for it. But as we got closer to the dates, everything started to come together.

First was my friend’s younger sister, called Cecilia, who got in touch with me and offered to join forces and help manage the facebook page. She was a godsend and was of great help.

Then a young artist called Luis wrote and said he would love to work on the murals that we wanted to do. He and his girlfriend, Maria Gracia, were really passionate about the environment and Luis even offered to start running our instagram page.

Cecilia, Chechi, had some old classmates that run a website about travelling and adventure in Ecuador called Heroe 593 and they said they wanted to support us in any way they could and started to promote our beach clean ups and thanks to them we really got more people showing up and more people getting to know our project.

Rafael had helped Chechi in a previous clean up by donating the sacks in which we collected the rubbish and he committed himself in offering his full support in everything he could. So little by little we got a small team of people ready to get their hands dirty and help us out for our month long project in January.

The first clean up was the 2nd of January, and being so close to the New Years Day holiday, not many people showed up. All in all we were around 20 volunteers,  that included my uncle Andy , aunt Carmen and cousin Stephen, who helped us a lot, my mum came to give us a hand, Chechi and her family, some of the Heroe 593 crew and also my dear friend Genoveva, who was visiting from Canada and came along with her partner and son.  We cleaned the beach for three hours and in a very short distance we collected over 238kg of rubbish. We really enjoyed the day though and felt good to have accomplished so much with so few hands.

At the end of the weekend we came back to the boat to check that everything was ok. That was one of the hardest parts of the month as we had to travel all over the coast to organize the clean ups while our boat was left alone at anchor. Luckily we found a nice “marinero” from the Yacht Club who looked after our boat while we were away in exchange of 10 dollars a day.

After relaxing a few days we were ready to hit back the road and go to our next clean up, this time in a small town called Engabao but by that Monday everything started to change. Apparently our project had reached the ears of the Ministry of Tourism and it also had coincided with the President of the country saying how terrible and dirty the beaches were during his weekly speech. From that Monday on, our phone wouldn’t stop ringing, different people from the government wanted to get in touch with us and offer us their full support. It was all a bit overwhelming and confusing as we didn’t really know what to expect.

That same week, before getting to Engabao in Playas, we were asked to stop in the main city Guayaquil to give a press conference about our project and we were guided by all these people from the government specifically from the tourism ministry. That same day that we had the press conference, we went back to the government offices and had a skype call with the minister himself and he said he would join us in our next clean up in Engabao.

From that meeting to the actual day of the clean up, a lot of things started to happen. The media got involved and one channel in particular were promoting our project as if it was their idea and inviting all the country to come on Saturday. This made us worried because we didn’t want the clean ups to turn into a show, where people just go to have their photo taken and don’t even understand what they are there for. The government has done that in the past. They’ve organized an event called Playaton were thousands of people go to the beach one day a year to clean up but they arrive and leave without learning anything about it.

We were very specific about what we wanted our message to be. This was an initiative from common people and we wanted to let everyone know, that we can all make change, so we were a bit worried about having all this attention from the government now and misleading our main message. We were also adamant about keeping it low profile, having a plastic free event and focusing on educating people about the plastic pollution issue instead on having a big scale show.

The Friday before the clean up the minister of tourism agreed to have a meeting with us from Mingas por el Mar and all the other people that had been working on small projects along the coasts. We invited a few of our friends, Paula from Mi playa Limpia and July and Cesar from Montanita and it was a hopeful meeting to gather ideas on what to do and how to go about improving our beaches and keeping them cleaner. We left the room feeling hopeful.

Unfortunately the next day wasn’t as successful as the night before as it kind of got out of hand. It was a complete show. We had TV stars, all the media there, the minister, who did work hard cleaning up but then all kinds of political groups just showing up and picking up one thing for the camaras.  There were people from the media giving free plastic water bottles to the tv stars, and there was a lot of people there, but a lot of them were there to see the starts and just watch, nothing else. So although we picked up 434 kg of rubbish, we were left a bit shaken and not that happy about this so called “support” we were getting.

That Monday we had a meeting in the government offices with the people from the ministry of tourism and the ministry of the environment to try and gather ideas on how to improve the situation on our beaches. We also use the opportunity to tell them what we didn’t like about the last clean up and hoped that by the next one it would be a bit better and luckily it was.

The next clean up was in Salinas. We were there a few days in advance and like in all the different places we visited, we did a few talks in schools and got everything ready for the day. This beach is called Mar Bravo and is never visited by tourists because it has really rough waves, so it gets a lot of rubbish washed out from other beaches and it never gets cleaned. For us, this was the best clean up we had. We had a good group of people turned up. We didn’t have the TV stars anymore but some of the media did show up to cover the day and everything worked well. All the volunteers worked together, the trucks were there at the right time to take the rubbish to the dumps and we picked up 499kg of rubbish.

The following week we visited Montanita, which is one of the most touristy towns along the coast. We visited the school and showed the documentary in two different venues but this clean up was a bit disorganized as well. We had the association of beach vendors all going out to clean earlier than what we asked to, with their own plastic bags, not separating the rubbish and even just bringing their own home rubbish to leave at our pile. At the end of the day we had much more work separating the rubbish and the truck that was supposed to come at a certain time, never showed up so they gave us a little car to take all the rubbish to their dump and didn’t want to recycle all the glass bottles we had separated. This clean up we picked up a total of 392 kg of rubbish and we were glad when we were finished.

The last clean up was in Ayampe. We were so glad to be there as this place is one of my favourite places in Ecuador. We didn’t get to visit any schools because all the schools were finished for the year but we did show the documentary and did a short talk the night before the clean up. This clean up worked really well. We had a lot of volunteers showed up and the whole town came to clean the beach with us. We ended collecting 246 kg and the difference of weight wasn’t in the amount of rubbish we found but because we didn’t find much glass on this beach. We also worked on a mural and it turned out great. This being our third mural, we did it in less time and much more efficiently. We also left a mural in Engabao and Montanita.

Looking back on the whole experience it was a crazy but very successful time. When we had the idea of doing this project all we really wanted was to get people motivated, to change that attitude we seem to have now more than ever, of watching our lives through screens and feeling that with a like or a comment we are creating change. We wanted to make people understand that change happens when we act and that it is in our power to make things happen.

It gives us great sense of achievement that our project got lots of attention and got people to start noticing the rubbish on our beaches and maybe even encourage some of them to pick it up. That for us is very promising and gives us hope that there can be change.

On the other hand, our experience during this whole month was also shocking and an eye opener. We got to see first hand how the government operates, how disorganized they can be and realizing that there is so much to be done in Ecuador in order to get this problem a bit better. We also felt like we were out of our depth when having to manage a group of volunteers and having to make all the big decisions as well as answer questions that maybe we weren’t that prepared for like : How do we go about solving the waste issue in Ecuador?

 I can honestly say that the whole experience left us feeling a bit deflated  but luckily before we left we were able to leave behind a well established group of volunteers lead by Cecilia who will continue to do beach clean ups every month and visiting beach towns and schools around the country. Although we won’t be physically there, we’ll still be in touch and seeing that it  runs well and we will continue doing our part wherever we go, picking up every bit of plastic we see, refusing as many plastic products as we can  and doing our doormats with the bottletops we find along the way.

If I have to pinpoint one thing that this whole experience taught me was that when you believe in something strong enough and you’re determined to make it happen, it will happen. And I believe strongly in these words of Margarete Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful commited citizens can change the world. Indeed , it is the only thing that ever has.”

 

I.M. RECYCLED goes to school!

We’ve been really busy since we’ve been back from Colombia.

Feria Bonaterra

Last Saturday 16th of August we had the opportunity to be a part of “Feria Bonaterra”. This is an organic market organized by a local school in Guayaquil called “Unidad Educativa Balandra” and it happens usually every two weeks. It’s a great initiative and the first one like this happening in the city, that promotes organic farming and buying directly from the farmers.

They not only sell the most amazing fresh organic produce, but they also have on offer a variety of natural products, handcrafts, yummy organic food, live music and even yoga classes. Ever since we heard of it, we knew this would be the perfect place to bring the “I.M. RECYCLED” mats and show our project to the community. If you live in Guayaquil, don’t miss out on the next Feria Bonaterra. You can find them on their facebook page where they post what products would be on offer and the dates for upcoming markets. https://www.facebook.com/feriabonaterra

That  same Saturday I had a yoga workshop so I couldn’t be at the market myself, but thankfully my good friend Ana Maria gave us a hand and went to the market with Mick; that way she could talk to the people in Spanish and explain what we were doing with the bottle caps and why. We also got two signs printed with information about the 5 gyres in the ocean, the North Pacific Garbage Patch, the real problem with plastic and what we can all do to lessen our impact on the planet.

We thought it would be a good idea to wear some kind of uniform for the event, something that would represent what we are doing and what we stand for. We looked through our clothes and thought what better way to promote our message of caring for the environment than wearing our Patagonia t-shirts with the logo “Life Simply”.

This is not only a good motto to live our lives, but also by wearing these clothes we’re backing up a company that, in our opinion, is leading with a great example the way to do business. Their mission statement is: “Our goal is to build the best product, causing no unnecessary harm. We donate our time, services and at least 1% of our sales to hundreds of grassroots environmental groups all over the world who work to help reverse the tide”.  To learn more about the projects they are involved in, you can visit their website http://www.patagonia.com.au/about/.

We had a great day at the market, with many people approaching our stand and asking questions about our project. We got a lot of positive feedback and Anita and Mick did a great job.

Talk at the kindergarten of the Colegio Aleman Humboldt

Today we had an amazing morning. We went to the kindy of my old school to give a talk to almost 90 kids about the problem with plastic and what they could do to help. We loved it and, I think the kids also enjoy it.

We had prepared a power point presentation, full of pictures of beautiful clean beaches, next to dirty beaches full of plastic. The children obviously didn’t like the dirty ones. Then we showed them pictures of animals affected by plastic and it was amazing to see the kids so impressed and sad by those images.

The children had made some musical instruments using recyclable materials so to finish the presentation we sang a song with them about being friends with the environment. Mick played the ukulele really well and I tried my best at singing; it was so much fun!.

The children were very much involved, putting their hands up all the time, saying all the good things they were already doing for the environment and they sang really well too. We had an amazing time. We’d like to thank Martha Ycaza for helping us make this happen and to the Colegio Aleman and all the teachers involved today in our presentation.

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