Making our bubble great again

Free-range kids

As lock-down 2.0 was announced on August 13th, Auckland schools closed, and we retreated back to our bubbles, we decided not to add any complexity to the ever changing and (sometimes) absurd rules that governed our strange world, and let our children be free-range. No virtual hui. No homework. No schedule. No pressure. Except to let us work in (relative) peace, and help with the daily chores. And so they were left to their own device, although mainly off device*, free to explore being alive, get bored, and find things to do. Play outside, play inside, play some music, make huts, play Pokemon battles, climb, jump, run, row, swim, cook, bake, draw, write, read. They’ve really impressed us by demonstrating initiative and being totally able to entertain themselves (involving neighbouring kids and parents at times), while consolidating knowledge and learning new stuff in the process. Proud moment.

The bubble expands

We were also fortunate to be offered to stay at our friends’ house, while they were away from Auckland, enjoying freedom at the mountain. So, still in Bayswater, we became landlubbers for a few days, and indulged the luxury of space, a human-sized fridge with freezer (and even a mini door-in-the-door leading to the dairy compartment), a bath, a desk each, a trampoline, a veggie patch with abundance of fresh greens, a near home-cinema set-up, games galore for kids and adult alike, a view on Auckland skyline, and no need to bend to get to the kids room, with the risk of bumping a limb or our head! A very enjoyable stay overall, even though I must stay I struggled to get a decent night’s sleep away from my trapezoidal bed, the gentle rocking of the boat, and the sweet sounds of marine life popping underneath.

Spring clean

And finally, I took advantage of the whole family being away from the boat to undertake another paint job with Azur who relished the opportunity to assist me. We did a good job at lightening up the saloon with some more white (#cestmieuxenblanc). And back to the boat, every idle time was spent cleaning, polishing, or varnishing something, to slowly restore Obelix to her former glory, as they say. A never-ending task, but showing visible progress nonetheless with tidy bathroom cupboards, a leak-proof prism, a brand new emergency tiller, shiny brass fair-leads, and a vintage Sestrel compass promising to bring some cachet to our cockpit.

All in all we did our best to make our bubble great again, but let’s admit that this second time round wasn’t as pleasant as the first. The weather didn’t play ball, and the whole thing had a bitter taste of dejavu.

*However Thomas kindly reminded me that they actually spent a couple of very miserable days in the marina lounge with him, each on a screen, drawing on Paint 3D, watching scientific videos from NASA engineers, and, yes, playing video games. And now that I think of it, Azur even remarked that this second lock-down was way better for them because they were allowed to play Farmville 2, which he vouched was teaching them ‘stuff’.

Serendipity galore

Family impressions (part 2/2)

Azur & Zephyr busy reading while we’re sailing

And what about us, the parents? What is our take on this new lifestyle?

Thomas

  • He’s a natural, he’s been drawn to the sea his whole life, so, one might say he’s like a fish in the water! Being on a boat, stepping on the floating deck each morning, looking at the boats around, meeting people who talk and understand boats. Hard to single out what exactly he likes most about our new lifestyle. The whole package is what he likes!
  • One thing that stands out perhaps is the freedom to sail away on the week-ends. To travel with no carbon foot-print, using only the force of the wind, and the navigation skills he’s honed throughout his life, first as a kid with his grand-father and godfather, and later, on the many boats he’s crewed on. Glide on the water peacefully without any engine noise to disturb the picture, just the sound of the waves splashing against the hull and the wind whistling in our ears, be surrounded by boats once again, be it large sports beasts like Team New Zealand, smaller ones like the fleet of NACRA training for the world championships, or other cruising boats, against which we cannot help but try to compare Obelix performance.
  • And as our impact is becoming more and more top of mind, living nearly off the grid fills him with unequaled pride, with most of our energy needs powered by solar panels, except a tiny 3-way fridge (think plugged chilly bin) running on shore power while we’re at the marina, and our devices we tend to charge at work.

I’m sure there are things that are niggling him you might think, and you’d be right:

  • His aspirations to reduce our carbon footprint involve reducing our waste, so it won’t come as a surprise that one thing that bugs Thomas is the lack of composting system at the marina, and seeing our rubbish bags fill up way faster than they used to, due to the surge or organic waste.
  • Another factor that takes its toll on both his morale and energy level is the ever-expanding to-do list. We’ve just finished fixing something that something else breaks. Even so, Master Zen stays positive and focuses on the lessons learnt rather than dwell on the behemoth task of getting ourselves and our beloved boat ready for an offshore voyage next year.
  • And finally, so much for the sustainability, he wishes we could take a bath every now and then, you know, to soak in and relax after an exhausting week-end away, or after having ticked off on of those items on this bloody Mary-Poppins-bag-to-do list.

Salome

Maybe pressured by the need to make our transition a frank success, I am blind to what I miss or would change. Nevertheless, there are some annoyances that get in the way of total enjoyment:

  • Number one of daily life irritation is the discipline needed to rein in the mess. The mess that we can’t afford, because, primo, it is in your face straight away, and secundo, it delays any sailing trip by as much as it takes to tidy it up! This means dishes done as soon as we finish a meal, laundry folded and put away as soon as it comes out of the dryer, pajamas under the pillows and not in the middle of the hallway, games back in the cupboard as soon as we’ve finished playing with them, etc.
    God knows I don’t relish rules, but I’ve imposed one to the family which is clearly making our life hell challenging: The boat should always be ready to go within an hour. We’ll see how long it lasts…
  • Secondly, I f*** bump myself all the time! Head, shinbone, elbow, back. As soon as I think I’ve adapted to my new environment and become over-confident, BUMP! As if one scar wasn’t enough, the other day I woke up with a start, tried to sit up in the bed and hit my head against a wooden beam. And bing, a bump and a bruise on my forehead, still have it 😦
  • Finally, being closer than ever to what I’ve wished for all those years (sail away!!!) brings up a lot of existential questions, like, am I ready to tackle this crazy dream? And I feel a tad overwhelmed by the ever expanding list of things, not to do, but yet to learn. How to fish, how to adjust the sails, how to sail downwind with a good angle (and without zigzaging), how to fix this and that, how to decide it is the right weather system to go, you name it. I feel like everything I’ve learnt until now is coming to no use whatsoever for my sailing adventures ahead! Why have I spent so much time learning tango, and how to plot data gracefully, when I could have focused on knots, meteorology and engine anatomy ? Wait, I did study the latter, a long time ago, in another life, why have I not retained anything from those mechanics lessons???

Fortunately this cast only a faint shadow on our new life and the magic of ‘Banakuma‘ (sacred altering or the art of manifesting one’s thoughts into being) shines through, more vibrant than ever.

  • The Power of Play
    Live on a boat and you suddenly expand your playground by 200% (as 2/3 of the globe is water), you also get to play Tetris all the time (trying to fit everything you need in such a confined space), or adult Lego spreading all your colourful electrical fittings on a table and trying to figure out the best combination to wire your bilge pump switch, and, like any other game, the better you become, the more you enjoy it, so it can only get better.
  • Reclaiming connections
    Living in a small space, with my three beloved men so close makes me connect back with my animal nature, and incidentally, we affectionately call our living quarters “the Den”. I also feel more aligned with my values and my younger self who dreamt all of this. I also tend to connect with other people more, family, friends or even strangers. I have a sense of belonging to the army of cyclists and ferry riders who commute every day. Conversations start by the mere fact of noticing each other. We also feel a strong connection to the elements and nature’s cycles. And being outside more, we notice the weather, the wind, the sea condition. We observe birds and sea life manifesting around us, jellyfish, flat worms, dolphins. I even have a talking tidal clock in Azur who calls out ‘high tide’ or ‘low tide’ every time we cross the bridge between the floating deck and the land!
  • Serendipity abundance
    Whether it is Gods dropping a lot more good surprises on our path, or us taking notice more, we truly feel blessed. Recent examples include:
    – our friends’ move not only from a boat to a house, but around the corner, next door to the school in fact, which meant they unburdened us of most of our furniture and appliances, Thomas can carpool to go to work, we get together quite often and feel at home in our new neighbourhood, and I could call them to the rescue the other day when I was late for after school care pick-up ;
    – Devonport Friday after 5 festival where Skylark was playing which drew a lot of our old friends there and made it look like the farewell/welcoming party we never got to organise ;
    – Free dolphins show on Burgess Bay (see Magic moments in Kawau)
    – the visit of Jean and Candice, a couple of french filmmakers who were looking for a family with a boat to feature in their next short movie about Auckland way of life, and went for a sail with us on a sunny and windy Saturday afternoon to shoot us in action ;
    – randomly meeting our friends Elodie and Nigel (see Antifouling part 1) at the lava caves on Rangitoto, who ended up trading their return ferry ticket for a sail back with us, and a family game of Guess Who with a sticky note on their forehead ;
    – having new ferry/bike-riders friends who commute on the same schedule as me every day ;
    – moving to pier E and meeting Carmen, Madeleine, Vicky, and Matt, in whom we’ve found, in order, a play mate for Zephyr & Azur, a baby-sitter, and fellow liveaboard parents to share boatlife hacks with, have good times on the water, and get precious assistance from when failing to park in the berth in one go, drifting scarily pushed by wind and tide, nearly destroying all the other boats on the pier in the process of regaining control of our baby ;
    – meeting tango friend and writer John Crana while fixing Zephyr’s bike who happens to be friend with another liveaboard met that same morning while fixing the bike, have a good chat with him about alternative lifestyles through his recounting of “corporate refugees” he gives creative writing workshops to, and guess what, I’ve signed up, as a 2020 good resolution ahead of time ;
    And the list goes on and on and on…
    Sounds a bit much to you? It certainly does to us too, but we won’t complain about this serendipity galore!

Floor is lava in 3, 2, 1, 0!

Family impressions (part 1/2)

One month in. Time to reflect: How is the family rating their new life aboard?
To get a qualitative answer to this, I asked each one of us to come up with our top likes and dislikes.

The first answer I got from Azur, was “But there is nothing that I don’t like”! Digging a bit more he could find things he didn’t quite appreciate though:

  • Our home is smaller – I tried to have him elaborate but to no avail
  • Stuff can fall off when we’re sailing – He’s quite true, and despite our careful tidy up before each navigation, we’ve had instances of a drawer that wasn’t locked properly opening in a loud “BANG” when we tacked, and a spice rack falling off the bulkheads in the galley because the double sided tape that held the hooks hadn’t been tested properly in sailing conditions.
  • We’re not allowed to climb the mast when we are sailing. So intense is our new feeling of freedom, that being forbidden to climb up the mast seems like a big restriction in this little fellow’s life. Think of all the children who don’t even have the opportunity to climb up any mast at all, you ungrateful child!!!
Zephyr up the mast (when it’s allowed and supervised)

He definitely displayed more enthusiasm sharing his new favourites:

  • We can be monkeys and we have a bigger play room, no a smaller one but we have a playroom – By being monkeys he means swinging around and going from one place in the boat to the other without touching the ground which they certainly do on a daily basis (see pictures below).
  • To go to school bike riding – Indeed, we do and it’s a shared pleasure, even when it’s pouring rain and we arrive at school completely soaked, like yesterday.
  • I get to play with Carmen – Carmen is the little girl that lives with her parents and teenage sister on a launch on our pier, just a few (seven says Zephyr) boats away. A real blessing to have another family nearby, which means children can play together and parents can relax a bit. And it makes for precious moments too when you hear Azur say to Carmen “I love staring at you” to which she casually replies “I know, you’ve got a crush on me”. With Carmen, the adventures have just begun but already include playing Lego on Obelix or Mytyme, countless bike rides on the parking lot or to the school and back, fireworks on Guy Fawkes’ night, and a shared dinner on Obelix last Friday followed by yet another bike ride (walk for the adults) at dusk.
  • I can get to sleep whenever I want to, because I don’t get scared because in the marina there is always light on. And so it is. We still read a bedtime story most nights, but there is no more cheeky little boy showing up in the middle of the evening saying “I’m scared” with a half-frown, half-smile on his face.
Kids playing with fireworks on Guy Fawkes Day

As for Zephyr, his concerns were more sobering:

  • Our house can sink – Yup, and we got a taster of that when we realised the bilges were full of water after our last navigation the week-end before last. It turned out the propeller shaft wasn’t sealed or greased properly and the bilge pump, which had worked reliably until then, had come unplugged due to a faulty wiring. No more sailing until we’ve got that under control!
  • We would be moving to lots of cities and countries and continent so we’ll need to make lots of new friends which is harder – Although from an outside eye, making new friends shouldn’t be much of a concern, given the speed at which he’s made friends at his new school and know all the school’s pupils by name already.
  • And I don’t like that we’re not close to as many people, so if we call for help it would take much longer – When we’re sailing in the middle of the ocean that is. We still have time to prepare for that, and don’t you worry my boy, or maybe do, cause mum is as scared as you!

Nevertheless, Zephyr’s appreciation of his new life is unequivocal:

  • We can sail anywhere – And yes, in a month aboard, we’ve sailed 3 week-ends out of four and already ventured in places not visited before.
  • We get to discover new things at a different school – Indeed their new school bears many differences with their previous one, they don’t wear uniforms, get to call teachers by their first name, school assembly is on Friday mornings and not afternoons, and much more I’m sure…
  • It’s much easier to play “floor is lava” – In this game, any player can announce at any time “Floor is lava in 3, 2, 1” and from then on, all the other players should avoid touching the floor or they die.

Floor is lava in 3, 2, 1, 0 !
… I win! Tucked in the central cockpit, the sun caressing my neck, with an enviable view on a clear blue sky, striped vertically by the marina masts, feet resting on a hatch frame, I am not touching the ground…

My view from the cockpit this morning

Magic moments in Kawau

Initially, our ambitious plans for the Labour week-end was to go to Great Barrier Island… Thomas had even taken his Friday off to give us four full days of adventures. However, our religiously watching the weather situation the week leading up to our mini-holidays, did nothing to slow down the wind, which was still howling loudly on Friday, to the great delight of the Coastal Classic sailors.

As for us, we took it easy, relaxed at Takapuna swimming pool (hammam, sauna and spa), had a rest, and Thomas took the children to the Bayswater Halloween trail after school while I was preparing the boat for an early start on Saturday. We would head towards Kawau Island, under more reasonable conditions, and meet our friends on Cirrus. Nothing to be disappointed about with the turn of events, as we had quite a few magic moments all through the week-end that completely made up for the plan downgrade…

Magic moment #1 – Guests for breakfast
As we passed Northhead, I saw a couple of kayaks who were getting scaringly close to Obelix. I was at the helm and altered my course to ensure we were not going to crush them, but they followed, got closer, and settled right behind us! I could in fact clearly hear them casually converse. They were delighted to surf in our furrow and enjoy a record speed with little effort. As we were having breakfast in the cockpit, it almost felt like we ought to offer them a cup of tea! We had a bit of a chat while they enjoyed the ride, until our course not longer suited them. Unless they decided it was time for them to really start exercising…

Obelix’ pilot-kayaks

Magic moment #2 – Team New Zealand foiling show
Soon after, we noticed a tall and slim silhouette on the water, and recognised Team New Zealand’s sci-fi looking boat. As we didn’t want to miss the show about to happen, Azur took the binoculars to carefully monitor their progress. It wasn’t long until they got started and actually zoomed very close to us, flying above the water, one foil up, one foil down at great speed, followed by their escort of power boats. Being in the front row like that and, above all, hearing the sound of speed was exhilarating, so of course I screamed with excitement. Well, apparently, this was too painful for Zephyr’s ears and he retreated inside missing most of the action…

Magic moment #3 – Zephyr saving the planet
We arrived in Kawau at noon, less than 5 hours after leaving Bayswater and were greeted by Gaspar, Rocio & crew on their dinghy, off to explore the island. As for us, we took it slow, or tried to. After anchoring next to Cirrus, and fixing us a laid back pique-nique aboard, Thomas went for a nap, and the boys, who had slept most of the way, were full of energy and harassed me to launch the dinghy to rescue what they thought was a plastic plate floating around. Zephyr, chief of operations, took us there and back. It turned out to be a biodegradable paper plate but still, I could read pride in Zephyr’s eco-wise eyes, who had set his mind on a mission and had accomplished it without failing, rowing courageously against tide and wind to retrieve rubbish from the sea.

Magic moment #4 – Unexpected morning visit
The kids then left me alone and I took a well deserved rest lying in the cockpit (Thomas was still sleeping) until our Cirrus friends came back from their expedition. We had apero on their boat and dinner on ours. But a speedy one as they wanted to watch the rugby semi-final at the only pub on the island, as did all the other boaties who by then had filled the bay which looked like a floating village. I stayed behind to look after the kids and realised after all the grown-ups had left that I wouldn’t have a clue what to do, was anything to go wrong with the boat!!! Fortunately it was a quiet evening and by the time Thomas got dropped off by Cirrus crew, I was falling asleep in our berth in front of Rita & Chico. In the morning the sun was shining, I knew I ought to take a dip in the water before breakfast, but the fresh breeze was deterring me to jump in, when I saw Cormack and Sacha – Thomas’ workmate and his girlfriend, who I had met at their last work function, approaching on their dinghy. I then dived before they could reach our boat, not to show off (or maybe a bit), but mainly because I craved the alive feeling it provides and knew too well I would have lost the momentum after their visit. So they came onboard while I was still dripping, and even though we knew Obelix wouldn’t compare to the super yachts they’re both used to, we were proud to give them the tour of our new floating-mobile-home.

Obelix in Kawau
Zephyr & Azur on “magic” log

Magic moment #5 – Gaspar’s voice on Channel 6
After our own exploration of Kawau by foot and lunch break at the Governor’s garden under the hoot of peacocks, all the while observing Cirrus heading off North with their bright yellow spinnaker, around 4pm we set off ourselves and resolved to find them. Started a very laid back circumnavigation of the island under a barely noticeable breeze which allowed me to refine my landmarks identification skills. Approaching the northern bay where we were expecting our friends, everyone got a bit discouraged as we couldn’t spot any sailboat. But the sailing was pleasant enough, so we decided to carry on and go all the way to Burgess Bay, further South, to anchor for the night. We were nearly there when we heard a familiar voice on the radio. The VHF is not like a phone, you don’t know if or when someone will try to communicate with you, so in doubt I had ours on channel 6 (the one we had decided we’d use), but it had been silent until then and we had completely forgotten about it. So what a surprise to hear Gaspar telling us they were heading towards Burgess Bay too and would be there soon. Hallelujah, we would be reunited with our friends for the evening!

Cirrus appearing behind dragon rock, from Burgess Bay

Magic moment #6 – Dolphins party in Burgess Bay
We anchored just before sunset, in a very cute little bay with only one other sailboat and two pods of motor boats, just in time for another swim under the sun. I just went in and out in a blink, and started making dinner while the boys all set off for the beach on their different embarkations. Stand-up paddle board for Thomas, surf board for Azur and dinghy for Zephyr. And when I came back up on deck, I could hear strange heavy breathing as if someone with asthma was snorkeling nearby, I looked and then saw grey fins coming in and out of the water in cadence next to the boat. I immediately yelled “DOLPHINS!!!” to draw my mens’ attention, and the family fleet quickly came over paddling and rowing to look out for them as they they kept disappearing under the water and reappearing somewhere else. Zephyr took me on the dinghy and stopped rowing as they swam towards us and underneath the boat, letting us admire their grey and white graceful bodies. Definitely the highlight of the day, especially when, later on, when Cirrus had finally arrived, they started jumping around, and doing their trademark back flips. The camera battery was down so I didn’t capture the moment but Azur wonderfully illustrated it.

Spot the dolphins!
Five dolphins by Azur
Kawau Island chart + Obelix course

Pour une traduction optimale (bien meilleure que Google translate), copiez-collez le texte sur Deepl Translator.

Happy Bday Obelix!

Blessing ceremony family picture

At 8 am on Sunday the 13th, at high tide, after a full-moon night, our dear friend Naomi rocked up all dressed up with orchids and hibiscus flowers around her neck and arms ready to lead Obelix’ blessing ceremony. We showed her and Dave around, had a quick chat, and finished to prepare ourselves. Our outfits were carefully chosen for the occasion, a T-shirt brought back from my trip to Argentina for Zephyr, an “I’m the captain of my own life” T-shirt offered by Mamidou for Azur, a black and red Fijian shirt bought just before a delivery trip for Thomas, and the colourful Desigual dress bought during our trip to Canada for me. The boys insisted on wearing their gems and surfboard necklaces which I had to untangled from the mess in my jewellery box, and I even found a couple of fake flower necklaces in our dress-up bag to brighten things up. We then each took our position on the jetty, next to Obelix anchor and Naomi started creating a sacred space with a nice prayer-song and distributed the four hibiscus flower bracelets she had weaved for us. We shared our boat stories and intentions, sang Nga Iwi E as a family (on Azur’s explicit request, and you should hear him on the “Tamatu, tamatu”!), all took part in Mahalo call and response song, and finally we interlaced our individual lays with Obelix big orchid necklace to obtain a colourful flower composition which we hang off the pulpit.

It was very special to hear Zephyr and Azur’s not only singing but also express their views and concerns, Azur really wasn’t happy with the prospect of flowers falling off Obelix, he also asked me to voice his intention for him “Be cool”, as for Zephyr, he exposed his intention very clearly but has requested on several occasions that it remained private so I’ll leave you ask him when you get a chance!

Elodie was there too to witness the ceremony (you try to bribe her too), and we finished things off with a big breakfast buffet on the open cockpit. There was croissants, bread and jam, as per the french tradition, but also cheese and crackers in a more kiwi style. I had even found a “Rond du Val Papillon”, all the way from Villefranche-de-Panat (the village I spent all my summers as a child), which stood tall and proud next to a Baby Kikorangi from New Zealand. That set us up for a very good day indeed.

And while our morning guests departed, the celebration continued in the afternoon with the visit of Julia and her children Noah and Keziah. With them, we got out in the harbour for Obelix to stretch his sails and to throw the flower lays in the water to make our intentions known to the Universe.

Happy Blessing Day Obelix!

PS: If you feel like sending your own blessings to Obelix or its crew, they now receive mail at:
S/Y Obelix, Bayswater Marina
21 Sir Peter Blake Parade
Bayswater, Auckland 0622
New Zealand

I wonder whom Obelix will have the honour to receive the first postcard from…

Sharing our intentions with the Universe

Bye-bye St Heliers!

Last week-end was one of transition, endings and new beginnings.
Marcia and Camille, neighbours and friends, took the kids for a sleepover on Friday so we could have the night off and release a bit of the pressure accumulated over the past few weeks. Watching The Dust Palace and the APO’s epic production ‘Dawn’, then dancing some salsa at Tomtom definitely helped. We could even indulge in sleeping in the next morning. Still the sound of Camille’s baritone voice through the fine walls of our unit reminded me I should check on our kids. Marcia assured me they were fine, playing with Theo and Arthur on their new board game Pandemic, trying to save the world against a fast-spreading disease, and she was making breakfast for them, so why not enjoy the peace and quiet a bit longer with Thomas. But frankly, a breakfast just the two of us, in an empty house (except from the mattress we slept on, temporarily borrowed from the aforementioned neighbours) with nothing left to make tea or coffee, let alone eat off, wasn’t so appealing. So, we invited ourselves at theirs and gratefully enjoyed their morning buffet 🙂

Then, some final loading of the truck, vacuuming and mopping of the floors later it was time to go. Leaving St Heliers wasn’t easy, we reluctantly said our goodbyes to the neighbours (both side), took a few last group photos on our (ex-)deck, promising to catch up with each other soon, and I dropped the keys at the Real Estate Agency. Vacating 2/31 Vale road, ticked.

Last picture before the big jump

Ensued a gloomy ride from the house to the marina, Thomas in his work’s ute, and me in the car with the boys at the back not uttering a sound. I wish I could have lifted their spirits up but I was heavy-hearted myself. Fortunately, by the time we reached the boat and emptied our last truck-load of stuff, it was time to… eat again! Nothing like food to take our minds off our early nostalgia. Indian takeaway eaten at the nearest park under a glorious sun did the trick, and, inspired by summery vibe, we then headed straight to Narrow Neck beach to soak in the holiday feel, with a detour to the marina for me to deal with the laundry, and get my first bike ride in our new neighbourhood.

The evening was spent helping Obelix gulp down all the stuff dumped on him in the morning, grooming him for his blessing the next day, and getting some well deserved rest…

Spring cleaning in progress for imminent downsizing…

Obelix may be a fat bastard, but there is no way we could fit all the stuff we’ve accumulated over the years (and that will mainly have lived through the time of their negotiation*) on board. Nor is it our intention to keep things for later, when we decide to return to landbound life. Indeed we want to spread our wings and sails as wide and free as possible, not being pressed by this idea of a return. Where and when, anyway?

*approximate recollection and translation of a quote from Yasmina Reza’s l’Homme du Hasard.

So, we’ve toughened up, and armed with a ruthlessly selective mindset, have gone through our belongings, identified the must-keep, and accepted to let go of the rest, deciding for each item the best “life-after-us” path, using all means we could think of to dispose of them: friends, neighbours, garage sale, TradeMe, “Mamans à Auckland” Facebook group, charity shops, bucket full of free stuff left at the end of the driveway – firm believers of the reuse/recycle motto, our rubbish bins have only taken the strict minimum, though I wish I had lived by the refuse/reduce part of the hymn even more!

Carrying out our “empty-the-house-everything-must-go” mission is not without drawbacks. We get dizzy, hit moments of utter doubt, sky-rocketing stress, and record-low energy levels, catch ourselves losing patience more, yelling more, postponed a party we were suppose to organise, not to mention the missed milongas, and the fact I caught a cold over the weekend… So definitely not an easy task to part from things that once provided us great comfort and stability, but a necessary one, and how satisfying and liberating to execute a plan drawn out for so long, and feel closer to our dream by the minute!

I can now say that, with our armchair, dining table, chairs, bathroom cabinet, full-length mirror, dresser, chest, piano, and fridge gone, and our beds just about to, we’ve past the point of no return. Did I mention our car decided to give up too? Windscreen to replace, couldn’t be done without changing the whole frame which was too corroded to fit a new windscreen. Too much $, not worth repairing. That’s a sign. The Universe doesn’t want us on the roads but on the sea…

Brunch on Obelix with Paul, Margo and their parents

If I had to pick one thing that we won’t bring on the boat and I will sorely miss, I would say the framed puzzle, pictures, and paintings from siblings that are still hanging on our walls. Runner up is my favourite arm chair (found on the street and refurbished, with the perfect angle and which arms can hold a cup of tea, though not fully horizontal, without letting it slide) I get comfort in the thought it is now taking the sun in the patio of a good home.
Thomas will miss his piano.
Zéphyr will miss his school.
Azur will miss his parents’ big bouncy bed!

The missing piece of the puzzle

What about you? Can you think of something you would miss if moving on a boat?

Celebrating Obelix first times

With a Margaux, Château Marquis De Terme, which was waiting all those years for the right occasion…

  • First cruise on Obelix as a family, just the four of us, for the pleasure.
  • First time without having to go all the way to the marina toilets to pooh.
  • First time communicating on the VHF with another boat (“Cirrus, Cirrus, Cirrus for Obelix, is it you behind us with the yellow spinnaker? Over” […] “Obelix, Obelix, Obelix, for Cirrus, you’re going too fast, stop your engine! Over” Our engine had been off for a long time NDLR).
  • First time anchoring, in a nice little bay (Waikarapupu Bay, on Motutapu).
  • First time getting ashore on Idefix, our grey and yellow dinghy, with a working outboard!
  • First time getting a sight of Obelix from the shore, while taking a walk up the headlands of Motutapu.
  • First time having visitors over for dinner who came and went with their own dinghy.
  • First night aboard while anchored and not moored to a marina deck.
  • First time …, no that wasn’t the first time.
  • First time diving off Obelix, braving the cold water for a morning swim.
  • First mosquito inside (and God knows the damage it did on Azur who got bitten all over his legs!)
  • First time cooking pancakes aboard Obelix.
  • First time having breakfast in the half open cockpit.
  • First Father’s day celebrated on the water.
  • First time rehearsing lines (acting) while lying on the deck in the sun.
  • First handstands on the flush deck (still hard to find one’s balance though).
  • First time letting the kids row the dinghy on their own (“I can’t believe we’re doing this!” Azur). We had a blast watching them row, get to the beach, get off and pull the dinghy out of the water. We thought they wouldn’t be able to because the outboard was still on, it is quite heavy, and has no wheels, but they did brilliantly. I later asked Zephyr how they managed and he explained “Team work, and we saved our energy for when the waves were helping us”. They then boarded the Idefix again and made it back to Obelix while adults were having brunch on Goldfinger (our friends’ friends’ boat). We watched them approach Obelix, then stand up to grab the rub rail and pull themselves towards the ladder. Zephyr climbed safely on board, Azur stayed behind and it wasn’t long before he was drifting away as they had forgotten to tie the dinghy. So here was Azur on Idefix, struggling to row in the right direction and Zephyr astern coaching his brother : “Come on Azur, you can do it, believe in yourself!” He was so sure they could manage without adults, he was furious when Thomas finally came to the rescue borrowing Goldfinger’s dinghy to tow Azur & Idefix back to us. The whole scene was so entertaining, we could have let them try longer, but were short of time as everyone wanted to make it back to Auckland before sunset…
  • First time maneuvering a boat back to a marina berth, and I managed to do it in one go without scaring anyone! The sight of Cirrus’ crew as our welcome committee definitely offered me the right psychological support and incentive to perform, I guess.

So, all in all, perfect week-end, perfect weather conditions and perfect friends to share good times with.
Next time we’ll just need to learn to do all the maneuvers without screaming at each other with Thomas, which is absolutely useless as we can’t hear a thing when one is in the cockpit and the other on deck, and frustration and anger are only inferred by our facial expressions which increases the frustration. Better learn sign language so we can actually communicate, and life will be perfect indeed!

Thanks Cirrus’crew for the pictures of Obelix on the water 🙂

Obelix now in Bayswater!!!

Two months after patiently checking the weather forecast every day on various websites, Thomas has finally spotted a fine weather window last week, quickly gathered a crew, found someone to drive them to Whangarei, and organised everything to attempt the voyage for the second time last Saturday 17 August. As a cautious skipper, he minimised the risks carefully selecting seasoned crew only i.e. Gaspar and Rocio – who have half a world circumnavigation under their belt- kindly encouraging me and the kids (who he had to look after last time as we were throwing up one after the other) to stay behind and keep our energy for better cruising conditions to roam around the Hauraki gulf to “ease into it”.

However Zephyr insisted on being part of the adventure, and I pleaded in his favour, to give him the chance to feel special, and proud, and learn the ropes with experts, but also spare me siblings fights for an entire day. And overall I’m told he had a good time and entertained everyone with his endless list of jokes, when he was not resting or complaining “I’m bored”.

Two hours by car, thirteen by boat to cover the 83 nautical miles from Marsden Cove to Bayswater. Sure, sailing teaches you to slow down, nevertheless, all things considered, a 6.4 knots average speed is not too bad. The conditions were near perfect for most of the trip according to the crew, and the few pictures they sent me along the way, and as Gaspar puts it, Obelix pulled up his breeches to show them what he was capable of 😉

Ashore, we had our own sort of cruisy day with Azur: Early start at 8 am to rush to Otahuhu swimming pool to catch up with Claire, Paul and Margot (whose Thomas was the aforementioned taxi driver, who just needed an excuse to drive to Kerikeri to check up on his own boat), followed by a quick visit to the library next door, getting lost on the way back home, eggs and soldiers for lunch, a couple of loads of laundry to hang, regular calls to the crew for trip reports (they were definitely faster than anticipated and the long to-do list I had planned for the day was compromised), unexpectedly long nap in the afternoon (both of us slept for 3 hours), vacuuming, cleaning up the most disgusting parts of the house, under the oven and the washing machine, places that never get done because it requires moving heavy appliances and no one sees it any way, shopping at the fine foods dairy and liquor store to put together a gourmet hamper for Gaspar & Rocio as a token of gratitude, baking an eat-me-raw chocolate cake, all the while Azur was reading me jokes and riddles from his newly borrowed Christmas joke book, last call to the crew to check on their progress, F****, they were already past Devonport and only had half an hour to reach the marina. Roughly the time it would take us to get there too! I chucked everything in a big bag, blankets and PJs for the night, as well as food and gift, and madly drove to the marina with a half-baked cake riding shot gun, a chatter box still wanting me to listen to all his stories, and heavy rain and lightning slowing down the driving. I prayed I’d get there before them, but realised on arrival I didn’t have the marina badge yet and the gate was locked. “We can’t go under it, we can’t go over it, we have to smash through it” said Azur, but I knew better and remembered Rocio’s account on how easy it was to climb on the side of the gate and indeed it was, we ran to the far end of the pier, caracal speed, to welcome Obelix who had just arrived, engine still on, and the triumphant crew tying it up to the dock.

We celebrated proudly that night with a long dinner altogether on-board Obelix, reheating a shepherd pie pre-baked by Thomas on Thursday, washed down with Belgian beer, and rum, and we finished off with a creamy fondant brownie. The night was good despite the screeching of the ropes, the pop-corn sound of the barnacles in the water, and the rain drumming on the rigging.

Now I feel whole again, reunited with my baby, after being estranged for a couple of months, since my accident. This is official, Obelix has relocated to Auckland, our home city, taking its berth 62 on pier D at Bayswater Marina. Expect a party soon to celebrate this milestone!