Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Confessions of a Less Than Average Sailor

At the helm.
I’m going to be honest here.  At the moment, life at sea isn’t quite as romantic as I thought it would be.  Let me clarify.  Life at sea, during a long passage, is much different than visiting one wild, exotic island after another - like we were doing prior to the Pacific passage.   For all you novice armchair sailors, the Pacific crossing is the longest passage of all ocean passages.  It can be as fast as 16 days and as long as 35 (depending on the type and speed of the boat).  One item that I have gleaned from this experience is that it will be my ONLY experience doing the crossing.
I wasn’t born with salt water running through my veins, or the adventurous spirit ready to uncover the undiscoverable.  Rather, I find life… uh umm… “normal-everyday-people-life” quite satisfying.   In fact, more than ever, I miss running a good errand or getting Lily ready for school.  I probably miss itmore because I am surrounded by miles and miles of ocean with no plans to escape… only because I can’t. 

Like all memories, I know that this one will be filed away as it fades from my memory and becomes an experience that toughened me up, made me ask myself deep questions and will probably become it’s own kind of folklore in my head.  The stuff of legends.  But for now, I just miss air-conditioning and the international food section at my local supermarket. 

Ask me in a week when I am swimming with whales and I will equate this experience to having a baby.  After giving birth, most mothers forget about the pain they endured during labor once they are holding a little bundle with rose-colored lips in their arms.  Babies are masters mind benders.  Once that little babe has arrived you finally realize that it was worth the nine months of doubling in size, endlessly looking for benches to sit on and surveying a building for the closest bathroom.  Instead, after giving birth, you just talk about the miracle of it all. 

I am positive that once I see my first coconut tree or try on a cute little grass skirt, this time at sea will all have been worth it.  I am sure that I will look back at this experience with fondness.  However, right now, my ankles are swollen and need to be placed above my head.  I’m craving pickles and begging for that knot in my back to get rubbed out as I look for pillows to surround and cradle my heavy belly.  (This is just a metaphor, mom).

This isn’t to say that I didn’t grab onto this adventure of crossing the Pacific Ocean with both hands.  I picked up both ends of the stick with zeal and the sense of adventure tingling in the tips of my fingers.  I was flat out given the option to take Lily home during the crossing and then meet Martin in paradise at the end of the passage.  My stubbornness won out without me even considering the monotony of everyday life on a boat.  Yep.  There was no way that Martin was going to be able to talk about this experience without including my name in the adventure.  I was not going to miss out on the ending credits. Surely, I was tough enough to get through this.  Looking back, it all boils down to ignorance, and boy was it bliss!  Like that newborn baby; it will have been worth it in the end.  For now though, where’s that bench?

Life at sea consists of our days being broken up into 3-hour increments in whose watch is when at the helm.  After my watch, I know that Martin will be up at the flybridge from 12-3pm.  After him, Meredith takes her turn at the helm from 3-6pm.  Then Sue and lastly, David.  By then it’s 9pm, and waaay past my bedtime.  I’m off the hook for night watches because Lily is an early riser these days and I have to be alert for this little one.  In fact, most nights I go to bed at 7pm because it’s dark, reading makes me nauseous, and a movie never seems quite as entertaining as I always hoped it would be.  The kicker is that by 4:30am, I have slept 9.5 hours and I just can’t sleep anymore.  So, I get up and muddle around the dark room trying to stay quiet for Martin (who will have just gotten off his 12-3am shift an hour before and needs his sleep).  So mainly, I write, read as much as I can before I get nauseous, I plan out my future i.e., cooking classes, finishing my masters, maybe try running, etc… Lastly, I practice boiling a good egg.  No lie.  I’ve gotten quite good at hard-boiled, soft-boiled, poached, cottled and the old stand by, scrambled.  You name it; I probably mastered it by day nine.  I mean, what other time in the world would I have had the time to just focus on the different ways to cook an egg?  None!

Some days I dread having to do my watch.  Going up top and just sitting there, watching out for ships or lending a hand in changing a sail.  I have a terrible habit of looking at my watch far too many times to count.  It gets really bad when I start timing how far it takes AMARA to go one nautical mile and then figure out from there how many hours it will take us to get to Rangiroa.  Other days, I relish my time alone.  I’m allowed to just listen to my music and think.  Think for hours if I wanted to, which I’ve found that mostly I don’t.  My "people-person-persona" gets the better of me and I think about all the lunches and dinners I am going to throw the minute we get home after this adventure has come to an end.

Then there is the matter of Lily.  Lily joins me for most of my watches.  I hook up her earphones and she joins me in listening to the songs that followed me into adulthood.  I am hoping that she is starting to gain an appreciation for Van Morrison, Cat Stevens, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Johnny Cash, Dar Williams and ok, I’ll say it… even a little Carrie Underwood now and then.  At this point, Wilson Phillips' well-known song, “Hold On” has become my personal mantra on my iTunes.  I can “break from the chains and hold on for one more day.”   This song has shot up the charts and made a comeback in my personal, life soundtrack.

Sure, when this adventure ends, I admit that I can’t wait for the conversations that I am going to have and all the limitless hours that I am going to spend on the phone talking to my 3 sisters throughout the day.  I miss them.  I miss that life.  But I wouldn’t have missed this experience in the world either.  So torn, but not really.  Maturity holds me steady knowing it will all be there when I get back - so just enjoy the monotony for the next seven days.  Once we arrive in Ragiroa, all it will take is one good scuba dive with whales or a swim with manta rays and I’ll forget about this entire Pacific crossing whoa-ing and wallowing.   I know that I can mind-muscle through this when I remind myself what’s at the end of it all.  So, for now, I’ll take the advice from the offspring of the Beach Boys and the Mamas and the Papas and, “…just hold on for one more day.”  Things will most definitely go my way.

Only 188 hours, 54 minutes and 59 seconds to paradise.  …but who’s counting?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Pacific Crossing Statistics So Far...

A quick stop at Turtle Bay in the Galapagos before we took off last Saturday.
So far, this is what our Pacific Crossing statistics look like:

•       On Friday (May 24), after 6 days at sea, we officially crossed the 1,000 mile mark.  Only 2,000 more miles to go!
•       Avg Speed: 7 knots  (Although a few days we were doing well above 9!)  We have been lucky to have a lot of current going with us.
•       Weather:  No rain and quite comfortable breeze the entire time (post edit:  It just rained, for about 5 minutes.)
•       Fish Caught: 2 Mahi Mahi: 1 caught by me and then an hour later, 1 caught by Meredith.   Mahi Mahi remain faithful to their mates throughout their lives.  So, we figure I must have caught "Fred" first and "Joan" (Meredith's fish) may have sacrificed herself to spend her remaining days in the freezer with Fred.  Completely speculative, but it makes sense.
•       1 Skip Jack Tuna (I don't remember who caught the tuna).
•       2 small Mahi Mahi (released).  At least 20 squid and oodles of flying fish have found their way onto AMARA's deck each morning.
In fact, one day, while Sue and Martin were up on the fly bridge, they saw a flying fish fly up over the fly bridge and almost stop in mid-air to assess the situation and then continue on to the other side of the boat and into the water.  It may be a fish tale, but these two are sticking with their story.
•       Sea Life:  2 spouts from a whale (witnessed by Sue and David) and a pod of around 100 spinner dolphins (witnessed by all).  Jumping Mahi-Mahi.   Martin saw more whales and dolphins on his afternoon watch today.
•       Books read:  David-1.5, Sue-3.5, Meredith-1.5, Kym-1
•       Bouts with seasickness:  Kym, 7 days and counting.  The rest of the crew, are reading books, watching movies and I may have even witnessed a little dancing.  In other words, the rest of them are just fine.
•       Bananas Consumed:  40.  Only 160 more bananas to go.  Turns out, the Frey family is not big on more than one banana each per day.  Had we known this prior to purchase;  instead of paying $13 for 200 bananas, we would have just spent $6.50 on 100.  However, Sue is determined that the banana's not go to waste.  It feels a bit like an excerpt out of Forest Gump when Bubba starts naming off all the things you can do to prepare shrimp.  It's an ongoing joke... Well, not really because anytime you walk out of the kitchen, Sue says, "Would you like a banana with that?"

Currently, we have had the following banana concoctions prepared by Sue:
        1.  Day 1: Banana Bread (2 loaves)
        2.  Banana Custard
        3.  Bananas Foster (sans Rum)
        4.  Banana Pancakes
        5.  Banana Smoothies
        6.  Candied Bananas-Pan fried with syrup and sugar
        7.  Plantains
        8.  Crushed Bananas on you name it
        9.  Bananas and Peanut Butter on toast
       10. Day 6: More Banana Bread (2 more loaves today)
       11. There's even been a discussion of drying some sliced bananas above the generator to make banana chips.

Meredith had to bow out of the banana smoothies, but she gave it the old college try.   I really tried to like the banana custard, but with my sensitive stomach; toast and saltine crackers are pretty much my food of choice these days.  Lily is probably the best sport in eating bananas.  She even had them with her eggs yesterday morning.  As usual, she thinks anything that Sue prepares for her is like ambrosia to the gods - so she is game for anything.

At the end of one day, Martin and David counted that they had eaten 16 slices of banana bread between the two of them.  If only another ship would come by so we could throw them some bananas... not so lucky.  So far, we have seen no other ships.  Just us in the middle of the ocean.

We are shooting to reach the Marquesas on June 6 or 7th, but Meredith and I are secretly hoping it will be the 5th.

Spirits are high and our determination to get to the South Pacific remains steady.

Keep following us!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

We're In This Boat Together

Last night as I was getting ready for bed, I glanced over at this little ceramic boat that I had given to Martin when we first bought AMARA.  I didn't realize the significance of it maybe at the moment I gave it to him, but last night it hit me.  "Buddy, we are in this together."

Buying AMARA and then sailing her has not come without headaches.  Yes, we have amazing adventures as we sail together with our family.  We have the wonderful opportunity to go into new ports and discover new land, people and cultures.  But along the way, we are also discovering ourselves and one another (a little more under the microscope, I might add).

We have only been sailing for 2 months together and we still have so much more to sail to and see.  However, these two months have pulled us even closer together as a couple.  No longer do we go about our day doing our own things and interests and then come together in the evening.  Now, we wake up, eat together, get Lily ready together, make decisions together, we pray together and we sail together.  I feel so blessed to have this time with Martin.  I feel so blessed to have him as a husband who listens to me and always asks me each day, "What can I do to help you today."

Sailing hasn't come without it's arguments.  Martin and I didn't meet and marry until we were in our forties (well, I was barely) and we had lived a lifetime before meeting one another.  So, yes, we have differing opinions at times, but because we made a commitment to one another, we are both willing to bend.  Sometimes Martin bends a little more and sometimes I bend a little more.  We take turns, we talk, we reason, we remind one another how much we love the other person, and again, we continue to sail... together.

Today, we are about to take off and leave for our 22 day passage across the Pacific.  NO LAND FOR 22 DAYS!   Thinking about it gets me excited but it also makes me nervous.  For 22 days, Martin and I (and Sue, David, Meredith and Lily) will be there together, with little time to be apart or find alone time (something I crave).  But I am strengthened knowing that Martin will be with me every step of the way.  He will teach me and I will teach him more than anything... patience.  Sailing has brought us a whole new level in our relationship.  One that I couldn't have understood unless I had lived and experienced it.  

I am so grateful to have AMARA as she teaches Martin and I daily to face the wind, trim the sails if necessary and know that more than anything, "We are in this together."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Don't forget to follow AMARA by clicking on the big blue map in the right Nav bar (Where in the World) and follow us as we sail across the Pacific.  It updates almost hourly, so you can see exactly where we are at any given time.

Also, I have a really cool tool now that allows me to blog while we are on the boat (it will be slow, and it ain't cheap) so my updates will probably be once or twice a week.  Keep checking back because we have so much more to discover... together.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Life in the Galapagos

IMG 0591
Oh, you know… just your every day sea lion
"sawing logs" while you wait for the local water taxi.
Everywhere I turn in the Galapagos, I am entertained by the wildlife that is in abundance here on the island of Santa Cruz.

The first day we pulled into the harbor, we were greeted by sea lions that were all too anxious to make our acquaintance.  We saw over-sized pelicans ready for any scraps that the fishermen would throw at them down at the pier, and large iguanas in quantities I didn't care to count.
We took a stroll through the Charles Darwin Research park and saw turtles and tortoises, birds and even more iguanas.
I am enchanted by the quaint little town of Santa Cruz.  All along the harbor, the artisans sell their goods.  The restaurants are unbelievably good and well-priced.  The every day atmosphere is laid-back and there seems to be more people on bikes than in cars.  Your typical beach town.
Everywhere we go, we are greeted by, "Hello, have a good day" or "Are you having a good day?"  The people are so friendly and warm and we feel quite safe.  In fact, Lily and I went on a long walk last Saturday and mothers with their children would come up to greet me and walk with me as I went to visit the local market that was filled with fresh produce, loud music and dancing.  Now how is that for local hospitality?
You just need a little fly swatter to shoo away the
flies from getting on the meat.  That's all.  
As Martin and I were strolling the streets this evening, I remarked at how quickly we have come to know each of these towns and cities that we visit.  We seem to be able to fit into the rhythm of our lives, while taking in different landscapes, people and cultures without blinking an eye.  It takes us all of two days to figure out where the best markets are located, where the best hair stylist is found, and where to find a good electrician.  I even map out where to go to purchase the best kinds of keepsakes to remember my time in each place.  Of course, it helps having David and Sue around since they have been to all the cities we have visited and have, in essence, already "staked out the place".

On the island of Santa Cruz, we have stepped into island living with ease and feel as if we have lived here for much more time than a mere 6 days.  I have started to wave at the same people that I see daily and have found my favorite stores to shop.  However, we are already feeling the tug of the Pacific and are preparing for our long journey.
This has been an interesting and busy week for our family while AMARA rests in the harbor of Santa Cruz island.

We started the week off by going to a little island called, Isabela.
All the benches had these little messages on them.  I loved it.
Isabela island is this quaint little beach town, where you can see that the lay of the town is being built up using only natural elements from it's own landscape.  Take this light pole, for instance.  They are made of natural drift wood.
The area down by the beach was also done in recycled wood, making it welcoming and unique.
We strolled down the boardwalk and saw the children at play living in all they have ever known.  Oh, to be so lucky.
IMG 0536
We sure are glad to have Meredith join
us for this part of our trip.
When we arrived on the island, we were picked up by buses which quickly shuttled us to our first stop… to see the pink flamingos...
The way it was described by everyone we talked to before going was that  we were going to see THOUSANDS of flamingos.  Instead, Martin said we saw ten.  I am sure there were more… somewhere, but not where we went.  Still, they were quite elegant and indeed very pink.  We loved watching them stand there and make the the perfect poses for us to click away on our cameras.
The next day we went on a hike up into the highlands to see the volcanos and walk on lots of lava.  This hike was a bit interesting because our guide was none too pleased to see a child on the trek, let alone one that can't walk.  Before the hike began he said to me, "this is a VERY difficult 11-mile hike, we're going to be slowed down by having a child on the hike."  My first thought was, "Well then why didn't someone tell us this while we were booking the hike?"  My second thought was, "Oh, he doesn't know who he is dealing with now, does he?"  I let him think that I was unfazed by his comment, but inside, I was slowly steaming.  Martin could have skipped up the trail backwards, and Meredith did the climb in flip flops and I stoically carried Lily on my back up the whole way without a complaint (which is HUGE for me).  We were "hardly" a burden.
The only caveat was that Lily only wanted her mom to carry her; making my load a little heavier.  Really though, who can resist this face?
IMG 0555
So we saw the "volcano" and touched the lava and got our money back after telling the tour operator that the guide was not so happy to be 'guiding" that day and left it at that.  We still had fun.  We were together and that was what mattered.

After our trip up the mountain, we went on a tour to see more iguanas, finch's, the famous blue-footed boobies and even more iguanas.  I have finalized my opinion on iguana's… "Those things freak me out! "  They were everywhere and blended in so well with the lava that every step I took, I didn't know if I was going to step on an iguana.  Finally I just said to Martin, "Can we be done with this part of the tour?"
The famous "Blue Footed Boobies"
I love this picture of all the "mothers" having a discussion at the water's edge...
The only place in the world where penguins can be found north of the equator.
The highlight of the trip was swimming with sea turtles and sea lions.
This little guy was such a scene stealer.  Before we got in the water, he would swim back and forth showing all of us how well he could swim and ready for us to come in and play with him.
I love this picture of Martin snorkeling and unaware of his little friend following him.  When I tell Martin, he turns around and immediately loses all focus on me and starts playing with them.  Martin turns into a little boy when he is in the water with sea turtles, sharks and sea lions.  I could hardly get his attention from that moment on as he just wanted to swim around and play with them.
Pretty soon, the LONG day had to come to an end and we headed back to our AMARA.  In the Galapagos, everywhere you go, you have to take a water taxi.
It's a very sleek system and we love the convenience of just having to call them on our VHF radio and they are at the boat within 5 minutes ready to take us to and from the boat into town.
Today we are going to go to Turtle Beach which is known for it's flour-like sand and beautiful landscape.  Even better, you can snorkel and see more sea lions, sea turtles and if we're lucky… sharks!
We plan to take off on Saturday for the Marquesas, hopefully I can post one more time before we leave off into the big blue ocean.

Disclaimer:  Internet is poor and the writer is tired from all her adventures.  I apologize if there are any typos.  I have to write fast before the internet goes down or my head falls on a pillow.  I sure hope you are enjoying our adventures!
Don't forget to follow us on our map that we have provided in the right navigation bar.  It should be updated hourly.  The numbers underneath the sailboats are just indicating different data points.  You can click on the boat and it will point to where we are exactly in the Pacific.  It should be fun!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Fish Tales

So, you know the story about the guy that walks in and begins to tell a story about a really big fish that he caught (spanning his hands out as far as they can reach) and saying, "It was this big!”?  Everyone around him nods, rolls their eyes and says to themselves, “I’ve heard this one before.”  

Well, I have my own fish tale to tell.  I caught a fish.  It was my first fish EVER, and if truth be told, Martin and David helped me catch him pretty much the entire time while I was reeling him into the boat.  But still, I caught my first fish!  He was HUGE!
 My Caravalle Jack. 
That really isn’t the only fish tale that I wanted to tell, because the one I am about to tell you will completely deflate my story.  So, I had to tell mine first.

About 4 days into our 6-day trip to the Galapagos, we heard the reels screaming telling us that there was a fish at the end of the line.  So, Martin ran over to the rod, grabbed on to it and said, “I think this may be a really big fish!”  About that moment a Blue Marlin comes jumping out of the water wiggling his sword showing us, that he, in fact, was a “big fish” at the end of Martin’s line.  

Martin sat holding that rod and watching the line just peeling out without being able to reel him in at all.  If you know Martin, he was not going to let some "fish" get the better of him.  So, every time the Marlin would peel out the line, David (our captain) would help Martin reel in some line by circling AMARA back towards the fish.  It seemed like a dance between the two, as each one did their own version of the two-step.  Give a little. Take a little.  This dance lasted for hours.  
The fish was so strong that it broke the metal rod holder.  (See below.)

After a few more hours, David jumped in and started helping Martin by pulling up the line hand over hand for at least another hour.
Sue and I even to help relieve some of the pressure off Martin by holding on to the middle of the rod as David continued to yank up the line.
Finally after 5 hours and more than half a mile of line (that Martin reeled in at least 100 times) we landed the "fish"... and he was no ordinary fish.

Let photos begin...
Martin and his trophy Blue Marlin.
400-lb and 11' 6" long
A picture of their prize.
Now for Sue to work her magic.
The story doesn't even end here...  The next day at almost the exact same time, Martin and David switched roles and David caught this Blue Marlin which we caught and released.
Another Blue Marlin estimated to be about 7 feet and 200-lbs.
Apparently, we've finally figured out how to catch fish.  Here is to more fish stories in our future!

Also, another monumental accomplishment for the Frey family is that when we crossed the equator, we were officially initiated from Pollywog status to being Shellbacks.

Festivities and lots of shaving cream were involved.

More Adventures Await...

Friday, we made it to the Galapagos Islands.
I can't even begin to explain the beauty of this place.  There are tortoises, iguana's, pelicans and sea lions in abundance.

Check out those toes!
Our little stowaway this morning.  All he wanted was a little peace and quiet.
 Meredith arrived safe and sound with 4 bags for our enjoyment (All things ordered by us.)
We also found Google Earth at the Charles Darwin Research Station taking photos.  (Don't worry, I tried getting in them but failed miserably.)

We are off for the next week to go and visit the islands and see all the wildlife, do some scuba diving and just enjoy this magical place.  I hope to be able to post during our travels.