November 28, 2012

And then there were three

Two days after we swam with whales in the lagoon here in PNG's Hermit Islands, we were told one of the whales had died. At this point, the pod had been inside for eight days. This sad news didn't resolve questions about whether they would be able to leave, or if we could have a group stranding.

We gathered input from from a number of sources, thanks to help from friends and a network of forwarded messages to seek expertise. Contacts filter into our radio-based email account to offer assistance and help evaluate the situation. A group PNG fisheries department visited for several days, but they were focused on their task of surveying the beche de mer (sea cucumber) population and didn't have any input to offer. With all of us on site unfamiliar with the scenario, these expert opinions from afar feel like a lifeline.

Our fuel supply for the outboard is limited, so we don't have the luxury of regular runs out to the reef. But men in the village pass by in dugouts as they paddle several miles to gather trochus shells or fish on the outer reef, and bring back news.

The day after the fatality was reported, we planned to make another trip. Our friends from sv SeaGlass had arrived, with more fuel and more suitable cameras (our ruggedized point-n-shoot camera died, and I'm a little protective of my nice DSLR). We hoped to get a sense for whether the whales were in distress and the nature of any injuries. Not long before we headed out, an update came back to the village: after nine days in the small inner reef, all but three of the whales had left! What a relief.

We've learned that these whales are highly social. Researchers had suggested to us already that they may have come into the lagoon to allow a sick member of the pod to heal. We'll never know, but the fact that the pod left within a day of a single death lends credence to the theory. Visitors and villagers alike, we were all just glad the whales could get out! We were told situations like this can be the precursors to mass strandings, when the strong bond shared between the whales works against them.

When we got out to the reef, the remaining three were as curious about us as the pod had been previously. We moved in their direction, and they came cruising by to check us out. It was certainly a lot less intimidating to be in the water now, compared to the pod we had estimated to be at least 20. This time, all the children got in the water to share the magic: listening to the chirps and whistles, watching and being watched.

Two of them stick very closely together, nearly close enough to touch; the third is always close by. Is the whale unwell? Or is a juvenile just being given a little helicopter parenting? Either way, it's sweet to watch knowing how tight social and family bonds are in the species. We're hopeful that these whales will also leave when they're ready.

Our pictures are- well, they're OK. We'll get more posted when we have internet access, but that's still going to be some number of weeks. For now, I'm so grateful to have good news, and for the support from the folks at ORRCA, Whalesalive, Whale Rescue, and Sharksavers.

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November 26, 2012

Oh yes, whales in the lagoon! Oh no, whales in the lagoon...

On our second morning at the Hermit Islands, Jamie went ashore to meet with Bob, the village elder who is shepherding us during our visit. He came back to Totem bubbling with information, and after reeling through what he learned, saved the most interesting for last: a pod of whales was in the lagoon! Not only that, but the villagers were eager to take us to see them. Wow- and, yes!

And yet- "oh, no." The flip side of this exciting news is that the whales appear to be stuck. They are inside a small circular reef, maybe a half mile across, which is then inside the larger lagoon of the Hermit islands' barrier reef. They'd been there for a number days.

The villagers haven't seen this happen before: they are concerned for the whale's welfare, and have already tried to get them out. They have more than the usual lineup of dugout outriggers at their disposal, since a fleet of small fishing boats was provided to them by the Chinese fishing company they supply with live fish (the boats have a well, so line caught fish can be kept alive and transported to a trap until the mother ship pays a visit to the lagoon). But despite attempts to both lead, and to herd, they haven't been successful at getting the whales out of the lagoon.

The villagers wanted to know if we could help, but how can we possibly help?

Thanks to our friend Emmanuelle on s/v Merlin, we've been connected with a cetacean research & rescue organization in Australia (quick plug: Emmanuelle's gorgeous Dean 44 catamaran is for sale & ready to go in Brisbane! I think the details are at merlinsvoyage.com... someone please correct the address in the comments if needed). We can't get online from here, but we knew Emmanuelle- who has a doctorate in marine biology- could help hook us up with the right people. Check! And so we have traded email with ORRCA, and hope to have some guidance for the best path to take soon.

While we share info on the scene here and wait for feedback, it's impossible not to be wowed by what we experienced this afternoon. With Bob and Mata on board, we navigated out to the small circular reef. Almost as soon as we entered, the whales approached us directly. Groups of two or more would pass by the dinghy, while others stood off together- almost as if they were waiting their turn. A cacophony of chirps called out. After some thin jokes about becoming whale snacks, it was too exciting not to get in!

It's hard to explain what it's like to look at a whale, and have that whale look straight back at you. It is both exhilarating and a wee bit terrifying. To feel keenly observed, and to feel very, very small in their presence. These aren't the giants of the cetacean world, but they're no shrimp, and it's impossible not to feel a little intimidated when they hurtle by and check *you* out from just a few feet away.

Looking at our references on board, we're pretty sure they're false killer whales. False killer whales are actually ocean dolphins, not whales- like orcas, minkes, pilots, and other dolphins commonly referred to as whales. Whatever. It is a mindblowing, and will probably be one of our most memorable experiences from this journey.

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November 25, 2012

Oh yes, whales in the lagoon! Oh no, whales in the lagoon...

Jamie went ashore this morning to meet with Bob, the village elder who is shepherding us during our visit. He came back to Totem bubbling with information, and after reeling through what he learned, saved the most interesting for last: a pod of whales was in the lagoon! Not only that, but the villagers were eager to take us to see them. Wow- and, yes!

And yet- "oh, no." The flip side of this exciting news is that the whales appear to be stuck. They are inside a small circular reef, maybe a half mile across, which is then inside the larger lagoon of the Hermit islands' barrier reef. They've been there for 6 days.

The villagers haven't seen this happen before: they are concerned for the whale's welfare, and have already tried to get them out. They have more than the usual lineup of dugout outriggers at their disposal, since a fleet of small fishing boats was provided to them by the Chinese fishing company they supply with live fish (the boats have a well, so line caught fish can be kept alive and transported to a trap until the mother ship pays a visit to the lagoon). But despite attempts to both lead, and to herd, they haven't been successful at getting the whales out of the lagoon.

The villagers wanted to know if we could help, but how can we possibly help?

Thanks to our friend Emmanuelle on s/v Merlin, we've been connected with a cetacean research & rescue organization in Australia (quick plug: Emmanuelle's gorgeous Dean 44 catamaran is for sale & ready to go in Brisbane! I think the details are at merlinsvoyage.com... someone please correct the address in the comments if needed). We can't get online from here, but we knew Emmanuelle- who has a doctorate in marine biology- could help hook us up with the right people. Check! And so we have traded email with ORRCA, and hope to have some guidance for the best path to take soon.

While we share info on the scene here and wait for feedback, it's impossible not to be wowed by what we experienced this afternoon. With Bob and Mata on board, we navigated out to the small circular reef. Almost as soon as we entered, the whales approached us directly. Groups of two or more would pass by the dinghy, while others stood off together- almost as if they were waiting their turn. A cacophony of chirps called out. After some thin jokes about becoming whale snacks, it was too exciting not to get in!

It's hard to explain what it's like to look at a whale, and have that whale look straight back at you. It is both exhilarating and a wee bit terrifying. To feel keenly observed, and to feel very, very small in their presence. These aren't the giants of the cetacean world, but they're no shrimp, and it's impossible not to feel a little intimidated when they hurtle by and check *you* out from just a few feet away.

Looking at our references on board, we're pretty sure they're false killer whales. (Jody R-M., are you reading this? You probably know exactly what they are! Throw us a comment with your opinions if you see this!). False killer whales are actually ocean dolphins, not whales- like orcas, minkes, pilots, and other dolphins commonly referred to as whales. Whatever. It is a mindblowing, and will probably be one of our most memorable experiences from this journey.

November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

From our anchorage in the lagoon of the Hermit Islands, a Happy Thanksgiving from the Totem crew!

We didn't have a turkey or play touch football in a leaf blown backyard, but it was a sweet Thanksgiving on board. The gray skies and misty rain were reminiscent enough of our Pacific Northwest holidays, although the tropical temperatures would never let us forget we're far from home. Celebrating holidays without a pantheon familiar hallmarks puts memories of good times in sharp focus, but doesn't have to detract from the present: we keep our own traditions to make the day special.

There have been some unsettled stomachs on Totem so we mostly laid low: playing games, reading books, talking. The kids read out loud from different books we have about the origin of Thanksgiving (the cleansed version, then one dosed with a bit more of 1620s reality). We reminisced about favorite Thanksgivings at home, from walking the beach on Bainbridge with the Denlingers and Pecoes to gatherings with our family in Bellingham. This segued easily into a game of Chicago Rummy, which we'd always play with the Castle clan.

The meal was a far cry from feasts of the past, but options here are relatively limited. Then again, we did pretty well considering it's about a thousand miles as the crow flies that separate us from shopping that would even remotely resemble the good ol' Town & Country Market back on Bainbridge!

There was never a question of having turkey. But we had chicken and gravy- even if it was the bird I had canned up before we left Australia, since shoe leather is an improvement on the island birds we've tried. Jamie shaped stuffing into a turkey shape that cracked all of us up when it came out of the oven: there WAS a turkey on the table now! Cranberry sauce was dug up from a hiding spot in the bilge, stashed there for the celebration. Niall was convinced that a pumpkin pie wouldn't taste the same unless it was made from canned pumpkin, since island pumpkins look nothing like the deep orange sugars from home. After a bit of a debate on the subject I might have just told him a little white lie and said I'd find a can to make it from. The snag is that I knew we didn't actually have any canned pumpkin on board (Australians eat lots of pumpkin, but I never saw it for sale in a can) so that was never going to happen; but we had traded for a nice pumpkin back at Ungalik island. I waited until after Niall pronounced the pie delicious to 'fess up.

Sharing the things we're grateful for around the table, I'm secretly relieved that some version of traveling afloat as a family still features for the children as something they are thankful for. Still, Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that makes me the most homesick, full of the memories of special people so far away from us. But doubts shrink in the flickring evening shadows of our little family circle, laughing and sharing stories into the night.

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November 18, 2012

Adventures in fueling

Refilling the diesel tanks aboard a boat is generally the simple process of a taking side tie at an accessible dock, where helpful staff assists in fueling your boat and processing your credit card. At least that's our memory of most of the developed world. However, it bears almost no resemblance to fueling we've experienced recently. Here's one recent day-in-the-life.

Take dinghy along shoreline to locate a "fuel dock." This turns out to be an iron riprap wharf. There are no pumps, just a concrete slab with some rusty bollards on top.

Return from scouting and figure out how to get boat into the dock. Understand that bay is literally full of wrecks and volcanic ash making charted data irrelevant. Be grateful that wind is near zero knots for tying up.

Discover that available bollards are massive, designed for large ships. Tie up awkwardly. Try not to get anxious about the fact that bolts that are supposed to hold bollards down are mostly cracked or missing.

Locate the office associated with selling fuel at the wharf. This turns out to be a 10 minute walk down a dusty track towards town.

Find out that fuel is only available by the 200 liter drum. Recalculate drums to purchase from gallons originally desired. Pool total volume for purchase with other cruisers, so everyone can get something close to whatever they want (since nobody needs a perfect multiple of 200 liters).

Pay for fuel: they take credit cards. At least something is simple! Cross fingers that card does not get put on hold from large charge in a third world country.

Get boat to dock, then return to the office so they know you're there and will have the diesel delivered.

Return to boat. Wait. After an hour, a truck loaded with the drums shows up. Yay! Truck leaves abruptly, without unloading drums. No! Feel confused.

Wait another hour. Truck comes back. Drivers decide to make small talk for a while. Chat a bit then ask if you can fuel up please. This seems to be what they were waiting for.

Peel metal cap off drum with pliers. Insert four foot long length of pipe provided by truck, at the top of which is a hand-crank pump and ten meters of hose.

Take hose to deck fill inlet. Hold a baja filter in one hand, and hose in the other. Realize baja filter is too big for deck fill, and you must also hold a funnel underneath it. Wish you were an octopus.

Call out to a man on the dock to begin fueling. Man manually cranks the pump and fuel comes bubbling and gurgling into the tank. Keep communication going with the man pumping, so he doesn't exceed the filter flow rate.

When fuel has been dispensed, prepare to depart. Discover that breeze has kicked up and is now pushing you directly into the dock. Eyeball rusty riprap and worry about how to get off sideways.

Return to anchorage. Realize this has taken all day. Kick back, crack cold local beer, watch sunset behind the volcano and be grateful for living in paradise- even if it does involve convoluted fueling procedures.

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November 16, 2012

Kicking around in Kavieng

Kavieng doesn't disappoint for a cruising trifecta of greats: surfing, diving, and resort-style relaxing. Couple that with a town has all the basics to top up provisions, and a resort that offers passive security while welcoming cruisers to enjoy the vibe and refreshments. It's no wonder people rave about this place!

Yet somehow, we didn't get quite as warm and fuzzy feeling here that we've had so far in PNG. Partly because it just wasn't as friendly... the betelnut juice stream that gets a little too close to be accidental, the kid on the wharf in town who needed a staredown from Jamie not to spit at our dinghy. Partly because during our stay, it was gray and squally: so the things that should be fun about being here were just a little harder to get out and enjoy, and the boat gets stuffy when we have to keep it closed up for tropical downpours. And partly because we were waiting for wind to continue west, but the wind never came, and the weather put a damper on finding fun as we played the waiting game.

That's not to say it was all gloomy. Hardly. I love poking around towns. With Emily in company, I tracked down the hidden customs office and second hand shops. The wax and wane of the public market through the week was always a feast for the eyes, and getting stuck in a thunderstorm just meant striking up conversation and making a friend. For snorkeling adventures in bay are a Japanese torpedo bomber and a sweet little reef with incredibly colorful, diverse fish and corals. Iona from Nalukai and I went to a special Thanksgiving service on Sunday, when congregations from around the area came into their "parent" church for annual giving... an event which pitted their choirs against each other (such sweet harmony!) and ended in a fantastic feast (best. fish. curry. evah.).

The resort on Nusa Lik is part aviary, and we never got tired of visiting. There's the old cockatoo, "Kaki", who is lame (broken legs, doesn't fly) but chipper and friendly and will talk to anyone in range. The hornbills, who are gorgeous and cheeky and will steal french fries off your plate if you give them a chance. The gorgeous parrots and birds of prey, and... the pigeon. Among these amazing, exotic birds- which are everyday features of this amazing country- the presence of what looked like nothing more than your average urban American rat bird was the truly exotic creature.

Giving up on waiting for wind, we topped up our diesel and then broke away a couple of days ago to begin working our way around the top of New Hanover under power. We will have to come to terms at some point that we are in the doldrums and between the change of seasons, and so there is probably a lot of motoring in our near future! Catching several Spanish mackerel softens the blow, and we hosted dinner on Totem for our friends from Nalukai and Muscat with a smorgasboard of fish dishes: sushi and poisson cru, and Jamie's special, pan friend with a butter/caper sauce. Another sweet reef, one we dubbed "the theme park" for the incredible variety offered in sample sizes. A lionfish, a sea snake, a pair of immense batfish, a seahorse, a lobster. It also had more anemones and clownfish species than I've ever seen in one place, and several massive schools of fish you could literally lose yourself in- all in 6 to 12 feet of incredibly warm water.

We're at Ungalik now, a little island near the top of New Hanover. On our own again, we were ushered in by a stream of dugouts as children came back from the "mainland" from school. We joke about how There is often a welcoming committee, and this time it's Lawrence. Giving him a fish we caught on our way in, he led us into a good anchoring spot. Later we were given a tour around the island, with an entourage of children that grew to something over 70 (who could count?). In the evening, a suprise boatside delivery of a mumu dinner of yams, cassava and smoked fish (looking a lot like the fish we'd brought in earlier!).

We really need to get west. I'd like to have time to spend at Ninigo, and we know we're on the wrong side of the season now. But it's OK: we'll get there. And while Ungalik was intended as a brief stopover, I can see our visit stretching through the soccer games tomorrow, and can imagine the hymns at church on Sunday...

November 14, 2012

Trading in the Louisiades: what will you get?

What you should bring to trade was covered in the last post; We knew we’d do a lot of trading, but we weren’t entirely clear on either side of the equation. Here’s a rundown of some of the things we traded for during our weeks in the Milne Bay Province of Papua New Guinea.

Lots of fresh food.


crayfish

You can cover a wide range of seafood, fresh fruit and vegetables through trading. Unless personal or dietary constraints limit what you eat, this is worth considering when provisioning. We've been offered:
  • Starchy tubers: more of the yam/cassava/potato/sweet potato assortment than we can eat
  • Vegetables: pumpkin, ibecca (a slightly bitter green), cherry tomatoes, hot chilis, long beans, green beans
  • Seafood: reef fish (no ciguatera!), mud crabs, crayfish/lobster, and squid
  • Fruit: limes, green-skinned oranges, passion fruit, bananas (many varieties and SO good), papayas, and other fruits we'd never even seen before – like the soksok on Budi Budi
  • ...as well as eggs, coconut crabs, and even a prepared dinner of whole chicken cooked in coconut milk showed up (it was just this side of shoe leather)

Gorgeous shells.

After a few years of picking up the odd shell on the beach, we have more than we should already- but we have been stunned at the beautiful shells brought to us for trade. Large tritons, helmet “conch” shells as big as your head, beautiful nautilus and cowries. We hardly needed to expand our collection but have trouble resisting some of the lovely shells brought to us.


Carvings and Crafts.

The wood and style will vary with the island, but the carvings are lovely. We had nice pieces made by Ishmael on Panapompom, and gotten a beautiful ebony seahorse on Budi Budi. Also on Panapompom, we acquired a beautiful scale model sailing outrigger from Rubin. This is just the beginning! There are also bagi, the shell necklaces which are historical (and current) forms of currency. Women do lovely weaving: we have beautiful baskets holding our fruit, and a soft pandanus mat on the floor of the main cabin.


Knowledge.

We found it was really worthwhile to get our trading partners to look beyond "stuff." People have generally wanted to trade in concrete items with us, and I've tried to show that we are also very happy to trade for a service or knowledge transfer…especially when we really didn’t want our 45th lime or 253rd banana (that stem had well over 200 on it!).
  • On Panapompom, I spent a memorable afternoon having cooking lessons from a woman so I could better understand how local foods were prepared. Wendy was pleased to get flour and yeast to make bread to sell a visiting rally; I didn’t just learn a skill, I made a friend and gained cultural insights.
  • On Budi Budi atoll, we got together with a few boats and organized a lesson in weaving pandanus mats. The church women's fellowship group was happy to share their knowledge and very pleased to get a stack of exercise books, pens and highlighters.
  • On Panasia, we traded for help to guide us to the spectacular limestone caves. We might have found them on our own, but I doubt it, and it wouldn’t have come with the history and personal experiences that our guide could share.

We didn't need the things we traded for, but had fun with the process. Oh, it was a great way to supply fresh produce. I'm having fun collecting souvenirs of crafts and shells, something we really haven’t done much before. And the learning has been among my favorite experiences. I can imagine looking at the triton years from now, or attempting to bugle from the conch, and picturing the idyllic atolls where they came into our lives.

November 12, 2012

Trading in the Louisiades: what to bring

We knew trading would be part of the experience of cruising in Papua New Guinea, but failed to appreciate just how much. For trading in the Louisiades, here's what I would like to have seen gathered in one place before we left. This is based on our admittedly limited experience, through the western islands in the Louisiades- from Panasia through the Deboyne group- and Budi Budi atoll.

Model outrigger
First, understand that trading is deeply ingrained as part of the culture: it is expected. Where there are no stores, and effectively no cash economy, trading is how many needs are satisfied. At the same time, there is a great deal of need. It's tempting just to give a pair of shorts to the naked kid that paddles out to your boat. We think that even when we are basically giving charity here, the formality of making a trade is still important...so while we didn’t try to drive hard bargains, we did stick to trading. When a dugout with three children come out with a pretty shell, a few green cherry tomatoes, and big smiles- some might call me a sucker, but if they want clothes- they all get clothes. They want rice? They get rice. But when the young fellow with a mobile phone and a watch shows up and presents a list of the things he would like visiting boats to give him, we wonder about the precedents that have been set, and just ask what he has to offer in trade.

So, what do people ask for? What do they need? Here’s what we heard the most.



Food staples: flour, sugar, and rice are the most common requests; also, yeast, onions and powdered milk.



Clothing: smaller children's clothing especially, but shirts (nothing sleeveless!) for all, longer shorts for boys, skirts to knee length for girls, and mid-calf for women. I did not consider or realize how conservative and modest the norm for dress would be, and many items in my stash to give or trade aren't useful except for the cloth they are made from. We took donations from friends and our children's classmates in Australia and have given away a large portion of our own wardrobes. For boats coming from Australia, ask at Salvos, Vinnies and Lifeline about bulk purchases. Many op-shops will sell clothing at a very low price-per-bag or price-per-kilo if you explain why you are collecting it.


Randles listCotton cloth, elastic bands, needles and thread (aka "cotton"): a great deal of clothing is made by hand. Yardage of cotton cloth would have been a really great thing to bring. A dozen meters of elastic- so cheap at Lincraft!- would be gold. Most skirts/shorts for children and women, and many tops, are made by hand with these basic materials. I really wish I had appreciated this before we left.



School supplies for schools- dictionaries and books were especially appreciated, and the supplies mentioned below were all gratefully received. Our early reader books were a bit hit, since most instruction puts the kids into a crash course in English: teachers are often from different islands and don’t teach in the local dialect. Schools are reasonably supplied with exercise books and writing instruments, all things considered, but still strikingly sparse compared to what we expect.



School supplies for everyone else- exercise books / workbooks, biros (pens), pencils and erasers were often requested in trade. The schools themselves are often reasonably supplied with these, but it is a limited part of the population that actually attends school. Many children drop out very young: schooling beyond year 2 in many islands often means living for the duration of the term on another island, and fees are hard to meet for people who don’t live in a cash economy- both hardships for a family. But the pastor may need a notebook to help plan their Sunday school program. A carver wants a notebook to use for basic correspondence and to keep a record of his work and sales. A child who isn’t able to attend school still wants to practice writing. None of these people have ready access to writing tools.



Fish hooks and fishing line. Different places sought different size hooks; hooks are asked for more than line.

Hand tools for woodworking: large planes, chisels, metal files, handsaws, drill bits, clamps, axes, adz... a hand drill would be invaluable. I keep thinking of the men I met selling old hand tools on the sidewalk south of Kangaroo Point for just a few dollars, and wish I'd picked up a boxful. These are high value trade items.



Batteries: primarily D-cells. Only a few people asked about any other size. D-cells are used to power radios for news, and lanterns for evening light. We brought too many AA and AAAs, which hardly anyone wants, and not enough Ds, which we are consistently asked about.



Solar or manually powered lights, radios, etc. Devices that can be powered by an integral solar panel or manual crank is highly valued. You can get cheap garden solar lights to bring, but many of them are pretty light duty for “outdoor” gear- try to get something that will last.



Magazines. Magazines offer a glimpse into the outside world for people without regular external media. I really wish I’d gotten that stack of cheap National Geographic magazines spotted in a thrift store before we left Australia; they would have been gold.



Flashlights and headlamps. After lollies and balloons, a torch is the first thing children ask for- coached by their parents on that count I’m pretty sure! In a place where darkness falls early, anything that helps extend usable hours of the day is valuable.

We were asked a couple of times for Bibles, especially the NIV (New International Version). Carrying Bibles isn’t really our gig, but that might be helpful for others to know.

Boat gear. The following may be particularly valued in Panapompom and Brooker, as canoes are made in the Deboyne group, but the waga / solaus are used all over. We were asked for:
  • Marine paint – not necessarily bottom paint; anything for the sailing canoes
  • Nails
  • Retired sails, or plastic tarp to use for outrigger sails and for shelters
  • Hand sewing needles for sails, and 1/2mm nylon or synthetic twine to use
  • We think a quality synthetic small diameter line (like Robline) would be very valuable for the lashing in outriggers
  • "Silicone"- really, sikaflex 395, 3M 4200, or similar stuff for joined hulls. Many of the outriggers leak like sieves and there’s often at least one person on board who is continuously bailing
  • Line- this fisherman below on Brooker, Frank, was seriously jazzed to trade a couple of bagi for a strand of new polypro line. Rubin so happy to get one of our old halyards and immediately put it into service as a mainsheet on his family’s canoe (their old poly line was hardened and cut into the fishermen’s hands)

Frank and Jamie

Other things we've been asked for:

  • printing or copying photographs, sending email. It's such an easy thing for us to do with what we have on board, but can be so helpful to someone without these capabilities
  • baby bottles. I am a deep believer in extended nursing, so I cringe to say suggest a bottle. But the practical reality is that sometimes it's not possible, and mixed with the plump cherubs there are some very skinny babies here who might be helped by a bottle- they’re drinking water from coconuts. Another mother I spoke to tended her gardens on a very steep hillside, without any shelter; a bottle made it easier for her to leave baby with father/sibling/aunties for a few hours to work growing yams
  • bedding. Most bedding is just a pandanus mat to lie on. we were asked a couple of times for a sheet or a baby blanket

One thing we haven’t been asked for directly, but which would be a great aid, is mosquito netting. Treated nets can be readily acquired at low cost through charity organizations (skip the camping stores, they are outrageous!), and would be a great thing to have for gift/trade. On Budi Budi, malaria is endemic but there is no health facility and many people do not have mosquito nets. Getting medical care means going to Woodlark Island, which in their sailing canoes takes one full day/night IF you have the right wind...and several days if you don't. This all means that people here, and children in particular, die unnecessarily from malaria for want of a cheap bit of netting.

Update, 2013: we've had a lot of questions about our source for malaria test kits and mozzie nets. We got ours in Australia from Buzz Off. Besides the fact they had great prices, I liked supporting an organization that is focused on aid work- that's a nice place to know your dollars are going! If you're not in Australia, Google for local suppliers. The Buzz Off test kits were actually made by a New Jersey based pharma company.

Next post… what you’ll be getting for your trades!

November 10, 2012

Rabaul and Kokopo: WWII history and volcanoes

We had a very uneventful sail from Budi Budi atoll up to Kokopo, at the NE corner of New Britain island. I use the term 'sail' very loosely here, as we motored or motor sailed almost the entire distance- about 325 miles. The sea state matched what we experienced floating along the equator during Totems passage to the Marquesas from Mexico: a tie for the most board-flat, almost oily, seas we've seen. We saw schools of tuna but had no luck ourselves, catching only a skipjack (and nearly losing it to a shark as we pulled in the line).

It's in Kokopo that we officially entered Papua New Guinea, more than a month after leaving Australia. Quarantine visited Totem while I was ashore with customs: it was one of the easiest clearance processes we have experienced. Visas acquired from the consulate in Brisbane smoothed our entry. The official who completed our paperwork clucked like a mother hen over the children and wondered how we managed to keep them fed during our travels. She didn't let us go until we had been given an orientation to the locations of the public market and various grocery stores.

Kokopo is the first place we've been where I have reservations about our safety. It was in this area that the prior owners of a boat we met in Mexico, Rio Nimpkish, suffered a brutal attack that prompted them to end their cruising years. Last year, men armed with machetes came down a hatch into a boat anchored off town at night, tying up those aboard and stealing goods. They weren't seriously hurt, but it was a traumatic experience. But we've also been told these were isolated incidents in an otherwise friendly place. Our choice was to keep our visit brief, and to stay in the company of the boats we'd met in Budi Budi: looking out for each other and being available if needed.

We nearly passed Kokopo by, and that would have been a shame. It was extremely friendly: the kind of exuberant recognition that can go to your head. Walking to the market, it seemed like every other minibus or flatbed truck/bus going by erupted in waves and smiles and "Helloooo! Good morning!"  Students called down from a hilltop with big waves. Almost everyone I passed in the street offered a greeting.

This was our first chance to check out hardware stores (time for a coconut scraper and a machete!) and get access to the Internet. The market was fantastic and offered welcome variety after weeks of similar island produce. We supplemented our staples with sweet pineapples, gorgeous eggplant, fresh greens, fresh ginger, bell peppers, spring onions, even bits of iceberg and a cabbage so tender I could pass it off as lettuce. Prices at the grocery store are higher than Australia- sometimes strikingly so. Powdered milk (forget about fresh) was at least double. It's painful to see food costs so high in such a poor place, and think about how limited the options are available to locals.

Kokopo is on the south side of a volcanic rim, with the town of Rabaul about 10 miles across the bay. Rabaul is the official capital of the province but was devastated by volcanic eruptions in 1994. Most of the population was moved to neighboring Kokopo, but Port facilities remain along with one main street of 'haus kaikai' (restaurants), a public market, banks and a few shops. It's supposed to be safe from eruption right now, but it's still unsettling to look up at the rim of a still-steaming volcano from our mooring at the Rabaul Yacht Club. An earthquake one night created some disturbing wave action around the boat, although it nothing dangerous.

Rabaul is full of interesting sites related to WWII history and the surrounding volcanoes. To try and take in as much as we could, we got together with our companion boats to hire a mini van, driver and guide. Thankfully many of our group are were quite a bit smaller (we have nine children between three boats!) and we all managed to squeeze in, despite exceeding official capacity by a few bodies.

At the volcano, we were able to drive close to the base to hot springs. Not knowing what to expect, a few of us had tucked swimming suites into our bags for the day. Let's just say the boiling water we found was nothing like the hippy heaven hot springs we know from the Pacific Northwest! We might not have been able to go swimming, but a landowner who showed us around made quick work of boiling an egg in the steaming water to demonstrate.

Later, at the observation tower, a diagram helped identify from our high vantage point the many volcanic peaks around the rim of the bay. Several of them are new, the most recent mountain popping up in just the 19th century. Welcome to the ring of fire.

World War II monuments, ruins and relics were next. Niall has written up his experiences with the war relics on his blog, http://totemtravels.blogspot.com. It is incredible to see these tangible pieces of history: it reminds us how truly awful war is. Even when the lines of good and bad and motivation to fight are not as blurred as they are today, it is still cruel and devastating. It seems that the innocent still pay the highest price. In the tunnels carved by Japanese to load submarines, in my minds eye the Indian slaves who worked them huddled in the shadows on the side: thousands of them died during the war under the Japanese. In Admiral Yamamoto's bunker, a small circular room painted with regional area maps and a range map centered on Rabaul left the chilling reminder of their use for warfare. We visited just a few hundred yards of the thousand miles of tunnel said to exist around Rabaul, carved by hand from rock. Peeking from the damp air through the cracks to the sea, you can imagine where anti aircraft guns would have trained on allied bombers.

With the looming monsoon weather change and the prospect of a friend meeting us in Indonesia for the holidays, we felt pressed to keep going and moved on to Kavieng. It seems like we could always linger to learn more and enjoy every place we visit, but we're all looking forward to snorkeling the pretty water and wrecks in the water off New Ireland.

Before we left, we stopped off at Rapopo for a  night. It had been a huge treat to see the s/v Bobbie moored there when we arrived from Budi Budi: we first met Emily, the woman single handing Bobbie on her adventures, back in Mexico more than two years ago. Bobbie had been hauled for work about eight months ago, then abandoned by the crane which took her out of the water, leaving the boat marooned on the hard. She'd just been splashed the week before. After a companionable evening on board, she decided to take a vacation from boat work in Kokopo and catch a ride up to Kavieng with Totem. She's excellent company so this worked well for everyone!


PNG isn't known for cruising guide coverage, so here are a few tips to this area for those in our wake:

* Kokopo: the safest place to anchor is off the Rapopo resort. It's less convenient to the public market and facilities, but you can dinghy over or anchor shorter term there. We wouldn't trust the moorings but didn't dive on them (they do not belong to the resort and do not appear to be maintained). There's one sandy patch, but the bottom here is mostly hardpan coral and difficult to get the anchor set.

* If you do anchor off town, know that customs did not want boats there. We stayed 2 nights then moved. For a reasonable fee, security guards for businesses onshore can provide guards, 24/7, to watch dinghies and boats if desired.

* Kokopo is a great place to provision for food, fuel, propane, and other supplies. The prices are probably about as good as we'll get without going to the mainland. Diesel was 2.50 kina/liter during our visit, with a minimum purchase of a 200 liter barrel. If you have a lot of islands left to visit, check out the wholesale stores for goods from bolts of cloth to pencils and workbooks for trade.

* Internet is available from the Rapopo resort, through a direct plug in at the front office. If you'll be in areas with cell towers (don't bother if you're headed towards the Louisiades!), a Digicel USB modem is a good buy and readily topped up in areas with coverage. For boats coming west, I suspect the Digicel modems in Fiji work here with a change in the country setting.

* In Rabaul, the bay at is so littered with wrecks and underwater junk (mostly WWII era) that you may not want to risk anchoring. Nylon rope at both ends of the chain of the RYC's mooring was sketchy at best, so Jamie went down (only about 22') and secured our own line to the mooring base.

* Rabaul security: there are a LOT of kids hanging around the dock at the RYC. A boat near us had their dinghy somewhat trashed. Most was good natured from kids jumping and playing on it while they had it at the jetty while they were away on shore, but it appeared to have been deliberately spiked with something sharp as well. Consider hauling your dink up to the RYC (you'll want wheels) or asking the adults fishing on the jetty to help keep an eye on it. Many of them are mothers to the children splashing nearby.

* Touring: we got our guide and driver through the RYC. Ask there or at the hotel for a recommendation. Total cost was 250 kina for 1/2 day (about $125), 350 for full, plus 20 kina/adult or the guide. You need a lot of small bills to pay the property owners at locations you visit (typically 5 kina/adult).

* A few of our group climbed up the volcano rim. This is not recommended by the officials at the observatory, but a local guy is happy to take you up for 50 kina / trip. He is the traditional owner of the land adjacent and is at the hot spring site daily from dawn to dusk. The extreme ends of the day are best for this hike, as the heat on the blackened earth is brutal. Round trip (plus dinghy ride from the RYC) can be done in a couple of hours.


November 7, 2012

How to cook yams, with cultural lessons on the side

Yams and coconut are diet staples where we have been cruising in southeast Papua New Guinea. We have traded for many, but my first attempts at preparing them weren’t very interesting. One of the first women I met on Panapompom Island, Wendy, came on board to help me work out the secrets one afternoon.
The first step is to peel the rough skin from the yams. Before we began paring, she pointed out that the trader who brought these to me was giving away her seed yams. This time of year (September/October) is planting season, so she cut off the top couple of inches from each yam and reserved them to be replanted. Our lesson diverged into a long tangent on growing yams: the many varities, how gardens are owned, and who works in them.

Wendy's yam lesson-1

Wendy used a paring knife she’d brought in her bag. Actually, she’d probably love to have a proper paring knife. Like a lot of knives we’ve seen, this was just a broken blade which had long since been parted from its handle, but served the purpose.

Next, yams were cut into similarly sized pieces (about 1 x 2 inch chunks) and put in a pot, to which about an inch of water was added. She said we should put some salt in. I asked if she used seawater, since anytime we can use a little seawater helps conserve our fresh water supply. “Of course!” was the reply- and felt a little like an idiot. Her potable water is collected from rain during the wet season, so her method conserves fresh as much as possible: it’s a precious resource. Of course. The pot was put on to simmer.

What makes these yams really good is fresh coconut milk. This is probably where my yams prepared on board fell short compared to what we tasted on shore. Wendy laughed at my cleaver and suggested I needed a "proper” bush knife to crack them.  She made quick work of getting a mature coconut cracked, and the meat cut out in chunks, but it was minutes instead of seconds with the right tools. Getting meat out of a coconut is a lot harder than it sounds. I’m already fascinated with how everyone from about the age of two seems to carry these big machetes around, and have another reason now to seek out a bush knife. Meanwhile, I’m collecting photographic evidence of PNG toddlers as knife experts.

Next the coconut meat is grated. Once again, we are lacking island-style tools. Most homes have a coconut scraper that looks a little like a footstool, with a wicked looking piece of metal off the end. Half of a coconut is inverted over the metal bit, and with some vigorous rubbing the meat inside is quickly turned into a pile of fine shreds. Our grater didn’t work as efficiently or uniformly, but Siobhan helped us to get the job done.

Next, the grated coconut meat is put into a colander or strainer over the yams. All Wendy really does is squeeze it by the handful to eke out a few tablespoons of rich milk, but a little bit of water helps. She didn’t do much more than shake a wet hand over the top of the pile to get enough.

Wendy's yam lesson-5

I couldn’t resist breaking out a can of coconut milk, and showing her how we would normally acquire the creamy liquid. The very idea is anathema: we did a taste test, and of course, there’s no comparison to the fresh stuff. In the context of her home, though, Wendy was fascinated. Coconuts litter the ground, but canned goods are only acquired at relatively great expense and by traveling to another island. It embarrassed me, to be honest, and I quickly regretted grabbing the can from a pantry locker- but she just laughed it off.

The yams were tested periodically with a fork, and were cooked through in about 20 minutes. Scooped out onto a plate, we snacked on them as soon as they were cool enough to touch. Yams are cooked and eaten throughout the day. Children poking their heads out see the “dim dim” clutch them, and like children everywhere, don’t find a mouthful of fluffy yam to be remotely an obstacle for talking.

We’ve eaten yams like these on almost every stop so far in PNG. Even if I weren’t already a little obsessed with what we eat, it’s hard not to be drawn to understand these mainstays of a subsistence lifestyle.  The lessons I learned along the way from my afternoon with Wendy underscore how food offers windows into a culture.

Wendy's yam lesson-6

Wendy and I had also talked about how to find new ways to engage with cruisers to her home of Panapompom island. She and her neighbors are interested in trading, and curious to meet people who come to visit. But visiting boats don’t always want or need what islanders have to sell. Bringing them a service to trade, like a cooking lesson, is a different way of thinking. It gets cruisers and islanders into the same space and talking together: anything that can elevate the conversation from how many papayas for a t-shirt has got to be good! Even if the lessons are just be about cooking yams, at the absolute minimum it’s almost impossible not to make a friend, and learn more about the beautiful and friendly place we’re visiting.

November 6, 2012

Pictures of our first month in Papua New Guinea

Thanks to the good folks at the Ropopo Plantation & Resort near Kokopo, PNG, we have enough internet to get a few photos uploaded. Hooray! Kinda makes me want to stay here another day, but we need to keep moving. Having a schedule doesn't suit us well but it's well worth the upside of meeting a friend... in December, in Indonesia. Yep, time to get headed west!

For now, enjoy the photos. There's a full set here on Flickr, and a few of my favorites below.

Island swingset

Just a swingset by the seashore. The propane tank at left is a gong to call the village. -Brooker Island

lunch at the pastors

Lunch after church at the pastor's house. -Pana Pom Pom, Louisiades

Panapompom children

Beautiful children. - Pana Pom Pom, Louisiades

Elizabeth's family

I love kissing babies. With Elizabeth's family, Pana Pom Pom Island

Brooker school kids
The primary school children on Brooker, SO HAPPY to have a soccer ball!

Julie Toby and daughter

Julie Toby and her baby girl  - Pana Pom Pom Island, Louisiades

Drumming and Dancing-7

Just a little drumming and dancing. -Budi Budi atoll

November 5, 2012

Reflections on provisioning


Produce stalls, Zihuatenejo
Public market, Zihuatanejo, Mexico
People everywhere have to eat.

This is a lesson I seem to need to re-learn periodically. A lot of provisioning, I believe, is really just the result of over thinking things from a fear of scarcity- and as a result, buying far more than necessary.

On the other hand, this is coming from the person who has a very large spreadsheet to organize provisioning needs (and cross reference items to their stowage location on board)- so you can take that with a grain of salt. But I think almost everyone we know coming across the Pacific had unused food confiscated by Quarantine upon arrival in Australia or New Zealand, and I'll bet that like ours, a lot of it had been on board since Mexico.

But the thing is, I really do love to eat. We all do on Totem. Food isn't just something that sustains us, it's something that inspires us and creates memories. So living on rice and beans between opportunities for provisioning isn't going to happen, either.

One way to think of provisioning is to break down your ports into a three rough categories.

1. The Rice Category. First, there are the little village shops, which fundamentally are the same whether you're in the sparsely populated coastline of Baja, Mexico or the remote atoll of Fakarava, French Polynesia. Most goods are packaged for long term storage. Many may have been on the shelf for a long time. The selection will mostly be national staples (is there any place you can't find rice?), but nothing so unusual that you can't base your diet on what's available.

2. The Ooo, Peanut Butter! Category. Then, there are the small towns: the places like La Paz, Mexico or Neifu, Tonga where you can find a public market for fresh produce, and a few grocery stores that will also have some refrigerated and frozen goods. This is where you can find a larger variety and a few imports - like peanut butter, which as the children get bigger, we seem to need in increasing quantities.

3. The I'll Have Sushi Category. These are the major provisioning centers where you can source nearly anything you want and extensive imported goods, although some may come at a price. Puerto Vallarta, Papeete, and Brisbane ultimately had pretty much anything we wanted- from wasabi to quinoa. We might not have wanted to pay the price of that foie gras at the Carrefour in Tahiti, but it was there; meanwhile the brie and baguettes were fabulous.

So don't do what we did four years ago, when I hauled multiple carts out of the Trader Joe's in San Diego as if we'd never see proper food again. The local food in Mexico was so fresh and delicious. It was much more fun to seek out the market in villages down Baja (meeting people and finding adventures along the way) than dig into the freezer for another steak. And don't do what we did two years later, we bought enough rice and beans to take us around the world. It was embarrassing and a little depressing to hand that over to Quarantine in Oz.

Think of provisioning as an arbitrage game. Stock up on things you love where they are cheap. Get those things you well and truly can't live without (my Irish Breakfast tea!) in bulk, but worry less about staples. You'll find those between ports, but meanwhile, you will have all of those little things that can make your day that much better...from your morning cuppa to sundowners.

In many cases our storage space has been better used for specialty items. We did manage to run out of peanut butter, but have arrived at that level 2 port just in time to resupply. Meanwhile, it is pretty fantastic to be able to sit in the cockpit here in North of Nowhere, Papua New Guinea, watching the sun set while nibbling on a little Camembert and good olives.

I've got a handful of other ruminations on provisioning in the blog- get em all here: http://sv-totem.blogspot.com/search/label/provisioning :

- Long term provisioning approach on Totem
- Stowing: finding space, tricks for making fresh provisions last
- French Polynesia: what's good, what's available, and costs
- Favorite provisions on Totem
- Local help with provisioning in Mexico
- Mexico to Australia: what we over provisioned
- Mexico to Australia: what we were really glad we brought



Click on the monkey's fist to read others bloggers on this topic.
The Monkey's Fist

November 3, 2012

Holy medical mayhem, batman!

Malaria scares and scorpion stings are not part of the usual suburban American experience. Like most cruisers, we went to great lengths to educate ourselves on what might happen “out there,” how to handle it, and stock a medical kit before we departed. Other than the occasional Tylenol or meclizine, most of that kit has happily gone unused for the last few years.

Well, that’s changed. In a recent 24 hour span, we had the unwelcome opportunity to break out our first malaria test and to use our venom extraction kit on a scorpion bite. We’re all fine, but was an educational process.

dummy proof kit

We’ve had exceptional health while cruising. That all changed when we parked in Australia for a while. It might seem counterintuitive to some, but the school and office germ factories were just much less healthy than our vagrant lifestyle.

Back in cruising mode, once more we’ve had nothing more than the occasional mal de mer. So when Mairen spiked a fever, we took notice. The fact that we’d taken ourselves into malarial territory made us nervous. With medical care a multi-day journey away from our location, we didn’t wait too long before opening up our first test kit.

Thankfully, it was a snap to use. The hardest part was keeping Mairen from falling off her seat when she was startled by the pinprick. The instructions were simple and the results display was very clear: a valid test, with a negative (e.g., desirable) result. Whew.

Then, there was the scorpion.

We know- we really do know- that a stem of bananas should get dunked in water before coming on board. There are plenty of critters hanging out in there that you don’t want to introduce on board, so an extended bath in the sea is a good way coax them off first. Before leaving Panapompom, the family we had anchored off had given us a large stem of bananas (very large- I stopped counting at 200). They didn’t think there would be any gardens in Budi Budi, and wanted to make sure we had more than coconuts and fish to eat!

I was cleaning up the stalk and cut off a hand of bananas one morning to bring below. I had a gorgeous plumeria lei on, a parting gift from one of the girls I'd done some trading with, so when felt something on my neck...I just thought it was the flowers. But something wasn’t right- I brushed at it, and it was not a pleasant moment when I realized that dark spot to fall down to the cabin sole was not a dead bit of flower, but a little scorpion. YIKES. Scorpion was promptly disposed, and then I noticed the pink spot on my neck where it had been.

Great.

It could have been so much worse- if there was going to be a painful reaction, I think I’d have known by pretty quickly, so this was probably no more than a love bite (ha, ha). But I took the dead critter, my neck, and a magnifying glass to the cockpit so Jamie could check us all out. My neck was going a little tingly and numb, so he pulled our venom extraction kit out. Also a first, also easy and drama free. We’re just getting tired of the medical firsts on board.

By way of silver lining, a careful process of cutting out and dunking banana hands later in the day, we found another (and more welcome) critter in the stalk.

Meet Stevie.

pet gecko

Geckos, the ultimate low maintenance boat critter! This is probably our fourth or fifth “Stevie”, but they all get the moniker. We listen for his welcoming chirp and hope he’s having lots of good midnight snacks from any uninvited insect guests on Totem.

November 1, 2012

Preserving a family’s history

Punchline: I’m looking for a good Samaritan / karma seeker who can retouch a photo.

Here’s the backstory.

Our first day anchored off Panapompom, Toby paddled up to Totem in his outrigger. He was hoping we had some powdered milk to trade, because his wife wanted to make a special bread for a feast on the weekend. In his bag were passion fruit, papayas, limes, and green beans from his garden. We had just arrived a few hours previously, so after our trading was finished, sat in the cockpit and shared some biscuits and a cool drink and learned from Toby about the island he calls home.

Before he left into the fading evening light, he made a special request. Could we help him save a photo? The oldest photograph of a member of his family, taken of his great uncle in the 1960s, was deteriorating. We were happy to try what we could. The next day, he paddled back out with this photo carefully tucked into a ziploc bag.

Toby's Photo

We have a basic printer/scanner on board. It typically does duty for providing copies of documents for clearance into a country- I think this is the first time it’s been called into service to scan someone’s photo. I spent some time retouching it as best I could, and then printed off a few copies onto our plain paper.

We have Toby’s mailing address. I would love to send him an improved copy of this photo, printed onto quality paper (whenever we reach a place that can do this- probably Bali, which is still some  months away). I don’t think it’s a big job for someone with Photoshop skills- something we don’t have.

If you or someone you know can help, add a note in the comments or email me! The photo can be downloaded from our Flickr account. Click through the image, then on the Flickr page, select “show all sizes” from under the ‘actions’ menu above the photo. An option on the page that takes you too is to download the original file.

A day in the life

A peek into our day on Totem: normal activities in a not so normal life.

In full Halloween pirate regalia, Niall is working on a map that we're going to age with tea bags. At 13 years old, Niall has been telling us for weeks that he's not getting dressed up for Halloween this year. It could have been the possibility of candy, but something changed his mind yesterday and he went full steam ahead into costume planning. We have the requisite puffy shirt (Seinfeld anyone?) and can accessorize with a machete, bandanna and earring.

Mairen will be an elf, and wants to make prosthetic elvin ears from clay. She's is deep in her book of craft concoctions, studying up on a recipe: it uses beeswax and crayons, so the appropriate skin tone can be achieved. She's been channeling Arwen, wearing her "elf dress" for days.

Juicing that pile of limes on the table is part of my morning task to deal with our rapidly overripening fresh fruit on board. That's just part of the stash. I've got more to write about trading later, but suffice to say we acquired far more fruit then we can eat! I squeezed almost a quart of lime juice: we'll use it to sprinkle on fresh papaya for breakfast, to stir up chilly limonada, and maybe a margarita or two. I used about 20 sweet little bananas in a cake first thing in the morning, to get the oven use over before it was too hot; I'll probably make another tomorrow. Next come dicing up our ripe papayas, pulping our remaining passion fruit to store in the fridge. As long as I'm on a roll, there are onions getting soft that can get pickled, and our kombucha needs to be refreshed.

Looking around, check out the shelf behind Mairen for two of our latest shell acquisitions. A beautiful triton, the kind we would see at roof peaks in Fiji, and a nautilus shell. A sweet girl wanted some sugar for the nautilus...a man wanted a couple of t-shirts for his small children for the triton.

On the table, we have a fan on a pandanus mat. It's hot here- not horribly, just mid to upper 80s- but the humidity makes it oppressive. The water is over 90 degrees, not quite cool enough to be refreshing. And this bay is stagnant, with hardly a breath of air; an artificial breeze helps keep us comfortable below.

Today, we're next to the remains of Rabaul, looking up at the gently steaming volcano that covered it with ash in 1994. The town and it's residents were relocated to nearby Kokopo, but the relative protection of the bay here left the port activities intact. Massive fishing boats anchor nearby. A container ship glides out. The rusty hulks of wrecks dot the shore. And over it all, the faintly sulphuric smell pervades below deck to remind us of the devastation.

It's Halloween! We have a tropical pumpkin to carve. Siobhan, who plans to be "an 80s girl," is cutting out bats from construction paper to hang. We are still with our cruising kid crew, 9 between 3 boats, and have two more cruisers nearby to flesh out a full round of trick or treating later. Another day in the life.

Familiar tasks, unusual places, and keeping our version of the holidays.