Reunited back with Ondular

After a long time of dreaming and waiting for the moment to arrive, it was here and we were all packed and ready to go back to Ondular. We thought this time wouldn’t be that bad going back (weight wise), considering that we’d already lived on the boat for almost two years; what other things could we possibly bring back with us?… I was so wrong! Mick’s luggage was packed full of boat parts, fishing things etc, it was so heavy and we were stopped so many times on the way to Tahiti; they must have thought we were real weirdos. Who travels with a coffee grinder, a pressure cooker and 100 or more fishing hooks and lures? We were also carrying with us, 4 new boards and a stand up paddle. Quite a bit of weight.

Anyway, after almost two days of travel and 500 us dollars in overweight luggage down, we made it to Tahiti with all our belongings, that’s always a plus! We spent a couple of days in Tahiti, we rented a car and went around the island, checked the supermarkets for future food stocking and went to see a local insurer for our boat. We even went to check the port from where our cargo boat would be leaving the next day to make sure there wouldn’t be any problems. We had booked this cargo boat called Hawaiki Nui months in advanced as we’d found out this was one of the only options to get to Raiatea from Tahiti to avoid the expensive airfares. It would take longer than a plane as it would travel  overnight but we were saving lots of money by doing that.

When we arrived to their local offices, there was a sign on the door that said something about jeudi (Thursday in French) but reading it quickly we thought it said that the office was closed today and will open again on Thursday. We left the premises very satisfied with ourselves, thinking that French wasn’t that hard after all and continued touring the island.

Next day came and we went early to the dock to leave all our luggage and have enough time to return the rental car. When we arrived, we saw that the office was still closed and read the message again, this time a bit more carefully and realised that it said that the normal trip to Raiatea was cancelled this Thursday and would resume back next week. We screamed, kicked and almost cried, felt pretty silly …what to do now? We went back to the hotel and asked a nice girl at the reception to help us calling all the other cargo boats or shuttles around. It seemed that there wasn’t any other boat going to Raiatea and that the Hawaiaki nui was our only option.

But then we found out we may have another shot with a different cargo boat called the Tapooro, that apparently didn’t take any passengers but maybe we could send our luggage with them and even see if they could fit us in somehow. We went to their office and found out that this trip they were travelling with diesel and gasoline so definitely no passengers but we were able to send our heavy luggage with them for 50 dollars then rushed to the only airline and managed to buy two tickets to Raiatea that afternoon. It wasn’t cheap but it got us there. We arrived around 6.30 pm and because we were supposed to arrive with the boat the following morning we had no accommodation booked for that night. We decided to rent a car and drove to the Carinage where Ondular was stored. We got a glimpse of the outside of Ondular and spent our first night in Raiatea sleeping in our tiny rental “the panda” outside the marina.

The next morning came and with light we were ready to open up Ondular and have a look inside of her to see in what condition it was in. We were happily surprised to see that all our hard work before leaving her, really paid off. There was a bit of mould especially in our front cabin but nothing like it could’ve been. So for the next few days we cleaned and cleaned and got our boat ready to be liveable again.

We spent the next two weeks in the boatyard, cleaning first and then fixing a few things that we thought were important to do before getting her back in the water , like the boom , setting all the sails and of course doing the antifoul.

Finally the day came when we were ready to do the splash in. Ondular was carefully picked up and put in the slip. We tried the engine but it didn’t start. Tried a few times and nothing happened and figured it might be the starter battery. Because they needed the space for another boat, they moved us and tied us to a stationary old ferry nearby and full of disappointment we left the starter battery charging all night to see what happened.  In hindsight it was the best possible outcome to be tied to the Ferry that night because we had time to test everything else that couldn’t be tested when out of the water, like the anchor , the toilet, etc and even though we weren’t quite ready yet, it felt so good to be back floating in the water.

To avoid making this post too long I’ll just name all the new problems we’ve encountered after storing our boat for over a year and being put back in the water.

The starter battery wasn’t really the problem, but it was actually fuel related and once the fuel got treated we were good to go.

The fridge wasn’t cooling, and the water maker wasn’t working properly: Mick thought of possible solutions and tried the water maker without the little pump that was failing, and it now seems to work fine. With the fridge, once we realised that the evaporator plate had several leaks, we had two options: order a new one from Papeete or try to fix the one we have. Which one do you think Mick chose?

The evaporator plate has an aluminium tube which was the one that had suffered from electrolysis and was full of leaks. Mick being Mick, decided to replace that tube with a copper one and joined it to the plate using fyber glass and later on fusing it properly. We are still in the process of fixing our fridge but I can honestly say that we can survive just fine without one. Our lives would definitely be a bit fancier with one and the fridge saga isn’t over yet but we’ve made sure to not only be stuck here trying to fix everything without enjoying ourselves.

Of course, there have been some frustrating times trying to sort all these different boat problems when we were so eager to go out and explore.  Being out here in a tiny French speaking island adds to the difficulties, especially if our level of French is saying good-morning and good-afternoon not even at the right time of the day sometimes. But anyway google-translate is our new best friend and we are using duolingo to try and get better at it as we go along. There’s still hope for us and we are definitely learning to be more self-reliant, to persevere and to work on our patience big time.

I guess this is life on a boat. There’s a lot of hard work and it can be really testing at times but that’s what makes the good times even better. I have to say, the Pacific is showing to be so much more challenging than any other place we’ve cruised before. Now that I think back on our time in the Caribbean or Panama and Ecuador how easy it was, everyone spoke English or Spanish, there were all kinds of shops and access to parts and things all around, the cruising books made everything so easy; you knew where to anchor, how to anchor, what to expect, most navigation was straight forward and apart from strong winds there wasn’t much to worry about.

Here is a completely different story; shallow waters filled with coral heads so no more relying only on the charts but keeping a close look on the depth sounder and using our eyes to spot corals and show the way.  A weather, that as our new friend Tom described it, is nothing short of schizophrenic , one minute is calm, the next is stormy then rainy, then sunny, windy, calm.. And in general it feels like a more explorational kind of cruising; it’s not all given to us in extensively researched cruising guides but it’s more dependent on us, where we decide to anchor and how to navigate certain areas. So yes, definitely more challenging.

So far I can tell you I’ve been so very happy to be back on Ondular, the closeness to nature, the sunsets, the rocking while sleeping, the underwater world, the quietness and other days I’ve missed land so much, the safety, the stability, the known.  But what is life without a bit of challenges? They say difficult and unease times are what makes us stronger. Welcome to a new season on Ondular. We hope you enjoy our tales and join us on another go at living free in the sea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Video about Panama

We’ve been waiting for a moment of peace and quiet to catch up with the writing on the blog, and creating videos with all the footage we’ve recorded, but it hasn’t happened yet. Our time here in Ecuador has been super busy, with not much relaxing time. (not complaining just stating)

So yesterday, between Christmas celebrations we created this video about our last months in Panama. We had a wonderful time there, made some amazing new friends, surfed some great waves and saw some beautiful scenery.

Panamanians are really friendly and happy people and the country is full of natural beauty and so much to see.

We spent almost three weeks in Santa Catalina and we loved it there. We surfed every day and hung up with Shane and Amy our Irish friends. We also made some new local friends, Michelle and Mike that own a hotel there and managed to do a talk in the local school thanks to Michelle.

After those three weeks we continued our trip and had a couple of days stop in the islands of Coiba National Park, which were stunning. We were usually the only boat around and it had such clear waters and lots of life in it.

We then did our last stop in Panama in the area of Morro Negrito, where we met with our Irish friends again and did our clear out of the country from there.

It took us 8 days to sail from there to Salinas in Ecuador. Apparently we chose the worst time to do it and we were hit by adverse currents and strong head winds almost the whole way, but we made it and most importantly we worked well as a team.

So here I share a video of our time in the pacific side of Panama. Hope you enjoy it!

 

 

Be as simple as you can be..

“Be as simple as you can be; you will be astonished to see how uncomplicated and happy your life can become.” Yogananda Paramahansa

I’m a true believer that we need to change our way of living. Our attitude towards achieving things and consumerism has to change. We have to definitely start asking ourselves the question: DO I REALLY NEED THIS? And I know for some of us, if we see a nice pair of shoes, although we have 5 or 10 others similar to the one that we are admiring, we would still think..yes I need that! But do we really?

Why do we need to have so much? Why do we always need to upgrade things or have the latest of everything? I know sometimes we feel pressured by society. I’ve often been in situations where I’ve been questioned about getting a new phone or a new computer because it’s already a few years old. For me, if something it’s still good and working, why do I need to change it?

Our resources are ending, we are making too much of everything and that is showing in the rubbish we produce. Electronic waste, plastic waste, it’s everywhere. There’s no where to put it and rubbish does not magically disappear; it’s now becoming a big issue, like ending in our oceans and becoming part of our food chain. The oceans are a plastic soup that we have yet to figure out how to clean.

Some people may ask, but why should I care about the oceans being polluted, that doesn’t affect me, but it does! Oceans provide so many benefits to humans, including essential nutrition, climate regulation, oxygen generation and the provision of food. We are all linked and interconnected, if the oceans are sick, we are sick as well.

It’s time for us to be the change. We are the ones who can make the right decisions towards a better world. Of course, we would hope that the leaders from all the countries in the world could take a part in this change and focus on what’s important and necessary: saving the Earth; but until they do, we can all make small changes that would create a big difference.

Let’s think before we buy. Let’s reuse, repurpose things, fix things, use them until they completely die; let’s make our lives simpler. I know, I’m talking here to a part of society that has the choice to make choices. I know there’s another part that can’t afford to make these choices, the part of society who is just surviving, day to day, figuring out what they’re going to eat, how they are going to make ends meet. But they are not really the problem, because they’re already reusing, fixing, and utilizing their resources the best way they can. It’s the other people, the people who have money to spend as they please; this is the part of society who needs to change and make more conscious choices.

This is one of the reasons why we have chosen to live on a boat. We have chosen “voluntary simplicity” (I’ve just learned that new expression from listening the other day to Teresa Carey’s TED talk, very inspiring writer and sailor) “Voluntary simplicity, or simple living, is a way of life that rejects the high-consumption, materialistic lifestyles of consumer cultures and affirms what is often just called ‘the simple life’ or ‘downshifting”. (www.simplicity collective.com)

Living simply doesn’t mean being poor, it just means living with what’s necessary, using resources wisely, desiring less. I found a quote the other day that I really believe in “the less you own, the less that owns you”. It’s just easier to have less and by wanting less or acquiring less you stop desiring. Desiring things can be tiring and I really think that the more you get the more you are going to want. Humans, we are never completely satisfied.

Before making the move, we were living in a flat, waking up, going to work, coming home, cooking, going to sleep, and starting all over again the next day. We found ourselves being richer in our bank accounts but poorer with our time. That’s not the life we wanted to live for the rest of our lives; we needed to make a change so that we could still be productive, but have more time to do the things that we enjoy the most, to concentrate on things that we really care about.

Living on a boat makes this concept of simplicity simpler. We’re going to be living closer to nature, watching our water and electricity use closely and stocking ahead our food supply and resources. It’s a confined space, we won’t have many places to put things into, and that means having less things. It will mean being frugal, learning to fix things and do things for ourselves as sometimes we will be in the middle of the ocean far from anyone to give us a hand. But you don’t have to go live on a boat like us to achieve this kind of life or try to simplify yours. Small steps towards change, conscious choices, asking questions, seeing the bigger picture, this should be our goal.

We can all make a difference thinking about what our environmental footprint is; how much rubbish are we producing a day, how much stuff (that we really don’t need) are we buying each month, how much single use plastic are we buying each week? How much food are we wasting? We need to start thinking about these things, is our human responsibility and as Mother Teresa said it: “Live simply so that others may simply live”.

 

 

 

 

 

Plans are better unplanned

no plans zone

This story is divided into two parts

1st part

Once we decided to embark on this new adventure, we knew that our lives (from now on) would have to be lived without a set plan; always open for adjusting and adapting.

While we were in Ecuador we had thought that if the boat would take a while to be ready, we could go to Costa Rica to visit my brother and spend some time there. We also knew that it was now time (after 8 months of the REAL good life) to look for ways to decrease using of our savings and lower our expenses. So we started looking for ways to maybe do some volunteer work in exchange for accommodation or food.

That’s how we came across a really useful website called www.workawayinfo.com . It’s not free but for a reasonable amount of money ($35.00 for two years) you can become a member and be in touch with people worldwide that offer a place to stay and sometimes food in exchange for some hours of work. I really like this website because there are endless possibilities of what you can do, from taking care of monkeys to helping out at backpackers.

We wrote to a few interesting places in Costa Rica and also Nicaragua and we did get a few responses.  We were all set; our plan was to fly to the British Virgin Islands, find a boat, and while the boat went through the maintenance and so on , we would go to CR, visit my brother and start volunteering.

At the airport in Guayaquil, not knowing what was expecting us!!
At the airport in Guayaquil, not knowing what was expecting us!!

But then we packed all our stuff and we flew from Guayaquil through Miami to San Juan Puerto Rico to Tortola, BVI and the plan changed a bit.

Arriving into Miami we had to pass through customs. There was a huge line that went really slow. Once we got to the immigration officer, I got called in into “the special room”; they didn’t tell my why (luckily Mick was allowed to come with me as well). We sat there for about 15 to 20 minutes and then they called my name, gave me back my passport and pointed at the door. We still don’t know why they gave us such special treatment!

 By the time we arrived to American Airlines they told us we had missed our flight and we got put into another line. Once we reached the counter, we found a really nice guy who even took some extra time to talk to us about surfing, he gave us a new ticket which was only two hours later than our original ticket to San Juan. We were finally able to relax, we went and had lunch and walked slowly back to our gate.

While we were sitting waiting for our flight, Mick looked at our tickets and realized we hadn’t been assigned seat numbers so he went and approached the lady at the counter. “Excuse me, there must be a mistake, we don’t have any seat numbers”, said Mick in a friendly manner. “That’s because you ain’t on this flight!”, replied the AA lady abruptly. (I will stop this dialogue now, to prevent from writing any swear words that may have occurred after that response).

To make the story short, we were only stand-by passengers and the friendly guy at the first AA counter, wasn’t really that friendly;  he probably didn’t want to actually explain what was happening and distracted us from asking any questions with his smile and quirky chit chat. Unbelievable!!To make things worse, there weren’t any more flights to San Juan that day, so we had to stay in a hotel overnight.

The part that was the most frustrating for us, was that fair enough, it wasn’t really American Airlines’ fault that we missed our flight, but it wasn’t our fault either that we got held up by immigration (we had 1.5 hours to connect to the other flight!, that’s plenty of time in any other airport in the world!), but the people in American showed no compassion and no sympathy whatsoever. Every time we would approach the counter to ask about our situation they would treat us like we were the last people they wanted to see on the face of the Earth. That’s what’s sad about this. But anyway…

Luckily we managed to change our connecting flights and we were back at the airport really early the next morning trying to catch the first flight. This time, we were successful. We arrived at Tortola only a few hours later than what we had expected.

After all of that we went through, we didn’t feel like travelling anywhere anymore for a while, especially carrying all the stuff that we were travelling with. Imagine dragging a board bag filled with 6 boards on one side and a long board on the other, plus two backpacks, two ukuleles and two 23kg bags..No way!! We were going to try our best to stay on the BVI until we had a boat and we could travel that way from then on.

So that brings me to the second part of the story.

2nd part

It’s been over 10 days since we arrived and everything’s worked out really well. We have been staying in this really cosy and comfortable granny flat up on the hills in Tortola. We found this place through a website called www.airbnb.com . It’s an amazing way to find great accommodation (from cheap to luxurious) but instead of staying at hotels you can stay with families or rent people’s houses or apartments. For us, this was the cheapest way to stay on the island. BVI can be quite expensive and when you’re on a budget, like we are, cutting costs is very important. This granny flat has a little kitchen and it’s perfect because we can cook at home instead of having to eat out all the time.

Once we settled in we started visiting all the different marinas to look for boats. We kept ourselves pretty busy the first few days and once we had a few on the lookout, we started focusing on ways to stay on the island. We found a few volunteering opportunities through workawayinfo but then we also remembered there was woofing. For those of you who haven’t heard about woofing, it’s a way to travel around and get accommodation and food in exchange for work in organic or sustainable farms around the world. We looked into the Caribbean woofing website http://www.wwoof-caribbean.org/home/  and found a few options. We soon realized that the place where we were staying at (the little granny flat on the hills) was listed there as needing some woofers to come and help.

We didn’t want to miss our chance so the following morning we talked to Majel about it, the lovely American lady who owns the property, and she told us that we were more than welcome to stay for as long as we needed to, in exchange for a few hours of work a day. How good was that? We didn’t have to move our things anywhere else and we got to stay in this lovely and comfortable flat.

We really love it here. It’s up on the mountains so we sleep with the sounds of nature; it’s all green and peaceful. The only downside to it is that it’s up on the mountains!; for now it’s good because we have a rental car, but on Sunday we’ll return the car and from then on it’s hitch-hiking for this pair of budget travellers! The last few days we have been giving rides to everyone we encounter, hoping on building our karma bank :).

CONCLUSION

We have our eyes on a boat but we can’t say too much about it yet. The only thing we’ll say is that it’s on the process of becoming ours, but we’ll need to wait a few more weeks for that to be certain. So for now, we won’t be saying anything else about it. If and only if it becomes ours, we then will have to wait 6 weeks for it to be fixed and ready for us. So at the moment the only definite is that we will be staying on the island at least until the end of October whether we get that boat or we find another and from Monday on our paid accommodation finishes and we’ll start woofing. See as I told you at the beginning of the story, life is all about adapting and adjusting.