Monday, July 22, 2013

Back in Paradise

Today is Sunday, July 21 and it is 5:00 am.  I find that this has been the only time where my thoughts are my own, especially since we have my sister and her family on board.  I have written out a few posts and noticed that these next few posts will be more like photo logs.  Hopefully, I can steal some more time next week to write about our sailing plans and some observations that I have made along the way.  The kind of stuff I really like to blog about.

However, right now I have readers sending me emails asking, "Where are you?"  So I write quickly before my 11 guests wake.  Because once they do, it will be about making our guests feel welcome, fed and entertained (all of which we have had great success with already).

The only downside to currently being in paradise is that it has been a cool 90 degrees with 12-18 knot winds at times here in the Society Islands.  As I type, the wind is blowing so hard that AMARA is more like a ride at the county fair than the strong vessel that she usually is.  Her body seems to roll with the waves and is being pushed by the winds in circles, giving me a 360 degree view every time the wind picks up and swings AMARA around.  In fact, our sail from Moorea to Huahine yesterday brought us up to 30-knot winds all night.  My sister and her family asked for adventure and well, we are giving it to them.  The wind should die down next week by the time we get to Bora Bora, but before then, and like I said—it's still a warm 90 degrees out so I am hardly complaining.
Saturday, July 13

Martin and I arrived in Tahiti late Thursday evening and hit the ground running (as usual) but this time with an incentive.  My sister, Courtney, and her family were coming the following Monday to meet us and join us on AMARA for our journey from Tahiti, to Moorea (10 miles from Tahiti), then on to Huahine (90 miles from Moorea) then on to Fa'a and lastly, to Bora Bora.

Before they came, we knew that their was lots that needed to get done before they came, i.e.,  food shopping, possible purchase more pearls, and, of course, we couldn't miss out on another opportunity to dive to the bottom of the ocean and feed the sharks!  Oh, and there were a few minor boat repairs that needed fixing but we had our priorities!

The first day after our arrival, we went to the Heiva festival where we saw spear tossing, coconut shredding (copra), stone lifting and my favorite, music and dancing.
The men preparing for the spear tossing.
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Looks like they are still a good aim after all these centuries.
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The aftermath.
Now for the dancing.
We were so lucky to have been here in order to get so much of the cultures of the Society Islands under one roof.

We even got to meet Miss Tahiti and Miss Papeete.
After the Hieva festival, we got in our dinghy and headed for the harbor where the canoeing races were going to take place.  We got there just in time to watch them take off at the start of the race.
We had the advantage compared to the people on shore because we could follow them from behind in our dinghy which made us feel even more a part of the race.
After the races, we headed for the grocery store to do our last bit of shopping before my sister and her family came to town.  We had Sue go ahead and do all the shopping and then we met her later to bring the carts back to the marina where we could load them into the dinghy.  It's quite the sight seeing three grocery carts going down the main street towards the marina next to all the traffic.
After the shopping adventure, we were ready for my family to arrive and couldn't wait for them to arrive on Monday.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Vacationing From Our Vacation

Running errands.  Endless errands.
Only one more day in the states and then Martin, Lily and I are off to Papeete, Tahiti to resume our adventure on AMARA.  Since we have been home, Martin and I have been moving at a breakneck speed.  I am afraid there is no end in sight.  There are still boat parts to be purchased, new swimsuits to be claimed (at least for me), books and movies to download to our devices, and there are friends, family, business and taxes that need our attention.
Lily having a much needed play date.
Our home looks like it was caught in a tornado, or has been ransacked by thieves due to our comings and goings to and from the house—only leaving time for a quick meal while standing over the kitchen sink.  Truthfully, I feel like I am running around in circles, wondering if there is an end in sight.  I keep telling myself, "You can do this now and sleep on the plane."  The reality of me sleeping on the plane with a four-year-old is next to impossible, but I'll keep telling myself that just to get me through the next 24 hours.  Maybe on Saturday, when we are back on AMARA, I'll be able to get caught up on that much needed sleep.
Lake Powell
Since we have been home in the states, we were able to enjoy a week at Lake Powell.  It was so fun to be with my family and dear friends and just sit down and talk.

This year, Martin and I didn't take our houseboat and instead went on our friend, Amy's, new houseboat.  It was our one week to just relax and not have a care in the world, especially about boats... well, at least about AMARA.  It felt weird for me to not have constant discussions on what to do next or where to go next on AMARA with Martin.  I am sure we both had her in the back of our minds throughout the week.  We are anxious to get back and continue our adventure together, but it has been nice to take a little break from it and just focus on life back at home.  We keep laughing that we took a vacation from our vacation.  Who comes home from paradise?

Until then, there is a house to clean, bags that need packing and more errands to complete before we leave early Friday morning.  We will make the most of the next 24 hours and then it's back to paradise and AMARA.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

A few videos

Because I'm "time zone challenged" these days.  I thought I'd take advantage of still being awake at 4:30am and throw a few videos up for your viewing pleasure.  I don't think that I can get enough of being in the land of free and abundant wi-fi, so I may as well take advantage of my insomnia and be a little productive.

As an FYI... both of the videos posted below were made using our GoPro Hero 3.   It's a fun underwater camera and it helped us to get some great footage of our shark encounter, as well as, capture our trip through the Panama Canal.

The first video is of our shark "fiesta" in Fakarava.  It makes for a great screen saver if you turn down the volume, but I thought it would be fun to throw in the Jaws score just for kicks.  As I stated in a previous post, Martin and I dove with sharks over the course of 3 days and gathered footage which I spliced together for the short video below.  I especially love when one of the sharks got a little too close to the camera while Martin was filming and flicks the camera with its tail.  It was a thrilling experience to say the least.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we have.  It was really something I'll never forget because of the thrill of knowing that I was brave enough to swim with sharks.  Enjoy!

The second video is an extended version of AMARA and us going through the Panama Canal.  This time, the footage includes all three locks (it seems like going through the Canal was ages ago).  I put in a few fun facts about the Canal in the footage that I thought the viewers would be interested in knowing about the Panama Canal  If you have some time, take a look.  If you start at minute 3:15 on the video it shows the new footage that I added to the previous video.  Watch it, it's pretty fun and informative.  Plus, you get to see me running around 1,000 miles an hour (which is pretty true to life these days).

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Leaving Paradise

Martin, Lily and I are currently back in the states.  We are visiting with our family and friends at one of our favorite places, Lake Powell.  We will be there for the week, then home for another week.  Then we are off again and back to Tahiti where we will be entertaining my sister, Courtney, and her husband, Trent, and their six kids through the end of July.

We love being home and spending quality time with our family and dear friends but we are also excited to get back to Tahiti to entertain my sister and her family while we explore, Tahiti, Mo Ľorea, Huahine and Bora Bora.  Martin and I feel like we finally got to paradise and then before we had a chance to explore and enjoy it, we had to take off for home.  So, it will be nice to get back to paradise and get on with our journey.

In the meantime, I'll be taking advantage of all the free wi-fi and post some of the fun videos that I have made along the way.  Stay tuned!

Fakarava: A Scuba Diver's Paradise

Sometimes, I still have to pinch myself when I realize that we are actually doing this.  We are sailing to all these exotic places in the world.  It just seems so "off the grid" and foreign to me and yet I am a part of all this!

People REALLY are doing this... and WE are THOSE people!
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I say this because we have met some wonderful people that are now "thick as thieves" with our family.  Everywhere we go, we meet other cruiser families that are just as wonderful and interesting as the next.  It really is mind boggling to me.

So many of these people have found early success in their careers.  Some have just retired and others have just taken a sabbatical from work to take a year or so off to travel the world by boat… a lot of them with their families.  We have even met a few couples that decided to do this as their honeymoon.  Young couples that have socked away enough cash to make this dream happen for them.
An evening with fellow cruisers.
This night, everyone was required to come in costume.  (Except we didn't.  I wasn't feeling all that creative this evening.)
It's interesting, because none of us have the same routes, some of us stay longer in some anchorages than others.  However, we all manage to stay in contact and promise to meet up later in some exotic location.   We all know that we will meet up again somewhere down the line.

I am  especially grateful for the connections that I have made with so many of the women in the cruising community.  They really are wonderful women.  Some are mothers, grandmothers, and some are just starting out their families.  All of them are so inspiring.  While the men talk "boats", we talk about our lives, our children, our careers before leaving for the cruising life, and all the amazing life experiences that have led us up to the moment that we have met on some remote island.  I really look forward to these evenings because I know that I'll make a lot of connections and friendships by evenings end.
All our dinghies at sunset while we get together on the beach.
Life on a boat. 
For Martin and me, life on the boat is getting to be very normal.
We've had to resort to my skills (which are none).  This was my first haircut, ever.

Martin is still an expert babysitter.  He loves reading any book out loud to Lily (even if it's a book that he is reading for himself).  She honestly seems entertained by anything that he reads to her.
Scuba Diving in Fakarava.
When we left Takaroa, we set sail for Fakarava in the Tuamotus.  Fakarava is known to have some of the best diving in the world and it did not disappoint.   Every morning we would go for a dive and see hundreds of fish, sharks and other sea life.  It was like having an aquarium in our backyard.
I have to admit, swimming with sharks really gets the blood pumping and is so fun.  One dive that we went on had over 200 sharks just sitting in "rank and file"  while we watched from the sidelines 80 feet down below the seas surface.  It was so fascinating.

I came up from this dive and said, "I'm not quite sure if I was freezing or truly petrified after having done that!  I'm going to go with the latter…"  It really was scary, but after about my 3rd dive, it became more and more normal to just be out swimming with sharks.  I still can't believe that I did it.
A Napoleon fish.  
Napolean's are HUGE and just swim right by you as if they own the ocean.  They are also so colorful. I wish I could have taken a photo to give it justice.
We could jump off the boat in any direction and just swim with the fishes.
The water was so clear, that I was able to stick my waterproof camera in the water and snap a photo of David and Sue scuba diving 80-feet below. 
Even closer of David and Sue down below.

The only low moment that we have had so far, was when Martin lost our GoPro.  He had just gotten back from a spectacular dive where all the grouper from the atoll (1,000's) were spawning and the sharks were feeding off the eggs that were being spawned.

The dive was a spectacular sight to watch underwater and I don't think that we will ever have an opportunity to see something like this in the wild ever again.  We were elbowing the grouper to get out of our path so that we could swim past them.  There were THAT many fish!  It was amazing.  Anyway, Martin got some "one of a kind" movies of this spawning happening all around us and we were so excited to share the footage with our readers.  However, in all the excitement, our GoPro camera got lost amongst all the flippers, wetsuits and masks and we think that it went over the side of the boat.

We were determined to find it.  First, we mapped out a grid and Martin, David and I jumped in with our snorkels to see if we could see the GoPro on the ocean floor.  However, the current was so strong that after drifting a good 500 feet, we decided to get back in the dinghy and figure out a second plan of attack.  Hence the pictures below of Martin being pulled by the dinghy while he checks out the sea's floor below.
We never found the camera, but it did make for some funny pictures of Martin being pulled behind the dinghy.

Also, before we lost the camera, I was able to download some amazing footage of our encounters with the sharks.  As soon as I get a chance, I'll load it and post it.  We love looking at all the sharks close up and in HD.  You will too!
Besides the diving, Fakarava is just plain beautiful.  The waters were inexplicably calm the first few days we were there and we could see clear down to the oceans floor.
The sharks would keep vigil out the back of our boat hoping for any scraps that might come their way.  We were careful not to feed them since it would impede our swimming.  They were happy to share the water with us and we were fine sharing it with them.  (As long as I didn't see any while I was about to jump into the water.)
I know, I look like a terrible mom after just writing about swimming with sharks and I still put my daughter out into the water.  Just know that the sharks are very scared of us folks and keep their distance.
Plus, Lily loves the water.
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So does Sue.  While on board, we celebrated Sue's birthday.  Here she is celebrating it "Island Style."
I didn't have wrapping paper for her present, so I improvised.  
The great thing about sailing is that there is time for picnics and campfires.  One night, we decided to do dinner on shore and have a campfire.
Our spread.
Why use the fire when you have a state-of-the-art BBQ?
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Another great thing about sailing, is that there is plenty of time for exploration of some "deserted" island or lagoon.
Off Martin and Lily go to start their exploring.
I always bring her floating tube just in case Martin gets tired of carrying Lily.  (He never tires of it.) He loves just holding her and explaining to her everything that he sees.  He's a gem.
While exploring, we found a coconut tree.  Martin was determined to take the coconuts back to the boat.
Success!  Now to figure out how to carry them along with Lily and all the other treasures that I had been picking up along the trail.
Bingo!  I knew this would come in handy!
Last but not least, this is what I have grown to love the most while on this adventure.  The ocean and it's sunsets.
AMARA enjoying the sunset as well.  There is beauty everywhere.