Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Think before you say YES!


    If anyone ever approached you and says,"We have three days of really good weather coming up.  I think we can pull the boat out of the water, clean and anti-foul her.  What do you think?  Want to help? Shouldn't be too much work."  Ladies and gentlemen, JUST....  SAY....  NO....!!!
    That being said, I had one of the more educational experiences as far as boats are concerned about 2 weeks ago.  I was amazed at how easily a 40 tonne boat was hoisted out of the water, and how dirty you could possibly get cleaning a hull.  Plus, as soon as your boat comes out of the water, the weather no longer want to co-operate.  Here are a few pictures:

 As we approached I begin to wonder how this was going to happen...

Here she rises...  Improbability is starting to kick in
Full on the sling...

The yard boys hard at work.

Providence settled on the stands for a quick anti-foul.

The color of my hand and the paint chips on my chest are after 10 minutes.

Clean bum, anti-foul, touch-ups, and coating for the prop...  Check

Last minute coating
All said and done, we managed replacing all the batteries, sea cocks, scraping, sanding, anti-fouling, cleaning raw water intakes and having a few beers in three days.  Not including the crazy rain storms that would come through for an hour at a time every three hours.  Oh, and I got to live in a boat yard.  After all my home was on the hard....  What an adventure...  Not to be repeated till next year!!!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Still Wondering, or, What Have I Done?

This seems to be my go to when in the airport getting ready to
travel.  Good ol' messenger bag, water bottle, and a sausage,
egg, and cheese McMuffin.  Don't judge me.  I was up early as
all get out to catch a plane and all I had was a lousy cup of

When I stepped off the plane in Townsville I was greeted by
33 C. (91.5 F.) temperatures and 95% humidity.  This was at
12:30 pm local time.  What am I doing?  The ferry ride is quite
short compared to what I'm used to in New Zealand.  Only
takes about 20 minutes.  As we departed the terminal I noticed
they run their Coastguard here the same way as NZ.  All
volunteer.  Familiar ground.
Providence V on my first day.

Cleaning, wiping down, and re-organizing the saloon. (2 day job)

Re-painting and texturing all the hatches

My first sight on Magnetic Island was of my home to be for the near
future.  She's a beautiful all wood schooner built as a replica 1/2 size
in 1988.  Her name is Providence.  I am also made aware of what
kind of work I have lined up for me.  No small feat.  She's in need of
some general TLC and a neat freak's eye.  (Where I come in)  The
owner works for a cruise line as an engineer and spends 49 days at
sea, then 17 days at home where he tries to balance a wife, family, and
business.  What am I doing?

One of the things I have had to get used to all over again is living in a very small, restricted space.  My kitchen is the navigation station, engine access, communications station, bar, and pantry.  All in a place just over 6 ft. x 6 ft. x 6 ft.

 Yet, I still manage to cook for myself.  And healthy even!  The people on the boat next to me were jealous of veggie stir-fry.  Lizzy, you'd be proud of me!

Just when I was really starting to despair a bit,
things started looking up.  First, I spotted the
elusive Bikini Tree.
You have to get up early in the morning and travel to the far reaches of the island to observe it in its native habitat. 

In the past two weeks we have had more and more bookings for sailing.
We are currently in the tail end of cyclone season here and the weather has
been a bit fickle.  The true end isn't until April, but may hay while the sun shines,
One of the random perks of living on a boat in a marina is that you get to  enjoy your neighbors' toys and gadgets sometimes.  The gentleman on my right side and his wife have a 55 ft. launch with these amazing blue L.E.D. lights off the stern.  When they turn them on it illuminates over a 100 ft. semi-circle behind their boat.  Instant aquarium!  I have spent many evenings watching the tens of thousands of fish swimming around.  Mesmerizing, entertaining, and cheap!

Of all the experiences I have had in the past month, for good or bad, I still feel incomplete.
I am currently working on getting accepted to University of Tasmania or NZ Maritime
School.  I'm living on a sailboat on an even smaller island than Waiheke.  And Lizzy is not
here to share it with me.  To give me here special kind of insight and reality to decisions
I'm making.  This is the longest we have been apart in almost 2 years.  Miss you Lizard.

More to come.....

Homemade Soft Pretzels

Soft Pretzel Recipe

2 t instant yeast
1 c milk, scalded and cooled
1 T barley malt syrup or honey
2 1/2-3 c flour 
1 t salt
2 T butter, softenened
1/4 c baking soda
egg yolk + 2 T milk
rock salt

Stir the yeast into milk till dissolved (helps if milk is still slightly warm).  Add syrup or honey, then 1 cup of flour.  Stir.  Add salt, then butter, stir.  Add 1 1/2 c four or enough to get a nice dough.  Knead 5 minutes.  Cover and let rise 90 minutes.

Divide dough into 8 pieces.  Form pretzels. 

Boil 3 cups of water in a pot.  Add baking soda and stir to dissolve.  Turn heat down until the water is just at a simmer.  Dip pretzels into water for 30 seconds.  Remove with slotted spatula (or whatever you have-just not your fingers). 

Place on parchment lined baking sheet.*  Brush tops with egg yolk and milk mixture.  Sprinkle with salt or other toppings.

Bake at 450 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.*

*The parts about the parchment paper and  baking sheet, as well as the oven temperature and timing were added for using a conventional oven.   I cannot vouch for these steps.  When using the earth oven, I simply stick my arm in and if I can leave it there for about 6 seconds without the hair singing off, then it is ready for pretzels.  My nose tells me when they are done.

 On a side note......I felt two earthquakes today.  That was a first.  Sort of felt like thunder was shaking the house.  But it was definitely not thunder.  Maybe his cousin. 


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

View From Atop a Spider...or...Apples for Apples

In most of the communities where I've lived in the past few years I've found that many people are open to bartering and trading for services, food, clothes-whatever people are in need of.  In Washington, I even attended the well-known Okanogan Barter Faire, a multi-day festival devoted to the idea of sharing and trading goods.  This system is truly alive here on Waiheke Island.  Perhaps it is left over from Waiheke's counter-culture days or perhaps island lifestyle still necessitates it, but whatever the reason, it's great fun to give what we have in excess and get what we need in return with no money exchange.

My most recent "trade" has been with our neighbor and her horse.  Though he's just one horse, he produces way more manure than his owner knows what to do with.  On the other hand, because our land is solid clay and we collect any sort of organic material we can get our hands on, we fully encourage Spider to poop as much as he wants.  We come and collect heaps of poo to add to our compost and Spider the horse gets a clean paddock.  (Luckily, all of the wwoofers have been willing to help me with this job.)

Riding English style
In addition to us coming to visit Spider once a week to shovel poo and bring him tasty treats from the orchard, I've also been riding.  His owner often has to go to town all day and was worried about him getting a bit lonely.  Knowing that I would be too timid to offer to ride him, Chad made arrangements on my behalf, and now Spider and I enjoy each other's company each Wednesday for a sunset ride.  It's been a great learning experience for me, as well as a chance to overcome a fear.  I've always loved horses and riding, but I've never had the responsibility of saddling one myself and riding alone.  Even when I was little and had an absolute OBSESSION with horses (like so many little girls do) when I actually had opportunities to ride I'd become too nervous to even enjoy it.  I even remember a couple of times at 4-H camp when I faked being sick so that I didn't have to do the trail ride.  Of course, after a few minutes of being on a horse, I'd feel much better, but those initial butterflies were hard to ignore.

I still get those butterflies each time I ride after taking some time off, and I certainly had them when I first took Spider out.  Each time we go, however, I become more and more confidant.  Being able to ride the same horse regularly is not something I've ever done before, and I'm beginning to better understand the relationships that people form with their animals.  I look forward to my rides each week and his owner is happy for him to have some company.  And Spider loves the apples and carrots I bring him.  Win-win-win!

Flat Stanley has been staying with me for a few days now and was very excited to meet Spider.

Almost looks tropical....

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Away From Home

    It has now been almost 10 days since I have had to depart my home for the past 9 months.  It was a very bitter-sweet departure and I still don't really know what to think about it.  My visa in New Zealand came to an end on the 24th of February, but in the interest of saving money, I departed on the 18th.  I have found myself in Sydney, Australia.
    Sydney was chosen for several reasons.  Lizzy and I have friends here, it was the least expensive to fly to, I can get back to NZ at a moments' notice, and we are still trying hard to get work visas in this part of the world.  Easier to do when you are actually there.
    When I say departure was bitter-sweet, I sincerely mean it.  Firstly, I have had to leave Lizzy back on Uma Rapiti.  Who knows what kind of trouble she's going to get into without me!  I kid!  I kid!  I have left a beautiful place I have called home for nine months, my favorite fishing spots, a great social circle with very supportive individuals, and the volunteer coastguard.  Other than certain isolated times in life, this one of the most "complete" times I have had.  Food  available any time, an amazing orchard...  This is going to be hard to top.
    The sweet portion comes into play when I have had an opportunity to set foot in a country I have wanted to visit my whole life.  Not only that, my introduction was Sydney.  Sydney harbor, Bondi Beach, Coogee Beach, snorkeling....  And now, I'm heading north to Queensland to go work on another little island working on a sail boat.  Magnetic Island to be exact, and a tall ship by the name of S.V. Providence V.  providencesailing <----  here's a link to where I am.  I just received a call from the owner of the boat and found out that I will be the only one living aboard.  And I guess the only mate.  I wonder if I know what I'm doing?

    Over the past few days I feel like I have been completely inundated in surreal setting.  As I stated above, I am visiting/staying with some friends here.  I managed to land a spare room in our friend Patrick's parents' house.  They live about a 5 minute walk from the beach.  I was amazed at the size of the swells and the amount of sandy beaches after being on Waiheke.  Our little island is surrounded by shallow water, so we do not get big waves.

On day 3 of enjoying sun and sand, a massive storm  rolled in out of the north.  I could hear the waves pounding on the rocks all night long it was seriously intense.  Still, the temprature never dropped below about 80 degrees, even at night.  Terry, Patrick's dad and I even took the family dog for a walk in shorts, sandals, and rain jackets during this storm.

People here are totally unfazed by this weather.  There are these incredible swimming pools made right on the edge of the beach or on the rock walls.  During 8 ft. waves crashing right over the edge, people just kept on swimming laps.  Thought for sure someone was going to get washed out.

This is a typical spot along the coast of Sydney where people go snorkeling.  I ended up getting a chance to go myself.  There are all kinds of amazing fish cruising around down there.  From little multi-colored angelfish to 2 ft. long grouper with beautifully colored eyes.  Even after the storm, visibility was still 10-15 ft.

In the middle of this whirlwind trip, Patrick managed to drag me away for a quick climbing trip.  Lizzy and I have only had an opportunity to go bouldering on Waiheke.  Our plans to go climbing on the South Island of New Zealand were thwarted by a terrible mountain biking incident.  We were both reminded on that trip why we hate mountain bikes so much.  Here are a few shots of the climb.

We park the car and I follow Pat into the bush...
After a 10 min. hike we break through an all I see is bush for MILES!
Our other 2 climbing partners.  Chris is experienced, his friend is on her first climb.
   So now here I am facing another plane flight to another strange place and I'm excited to see what the next stop brings...  But, I feel like this all a bit hollow without my traveling partner here to see what I'm seeing.

More to come at the next stop.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


You knit me a sweater in my dream last night.

First it was blue.

Then it was white.

It was a pretty scalloped pattern.

It was actually crochet.

A t-shirt sweater.

And unfinished.

But you were so proud.

And I was so happy.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Journal Excerpts from the Rees Dart Track

Day 1: Bus from Queenstown to Glenorchy, bus from Glenorchy to trail head.  Dropped off with 5 other trampers.  Two Canadians, one solo Calafornian, and a father/son duo from Australia.  First half of the day was sunny.  Walked through private pasture land.  Mostly flat but parts of the trail have been washed away by the recent flooding.  Some creativity required.  Some dry trail but most of the first 4 hours were boggy.  Multiple river crossings.  Afternoon, rain.  Left flats and began ascending as we entered Mount Aspiring National Park.  9 hours to hut. 

Day 2: Cloudy, turning to snow around lunch time.  Passed over Rees Saddle.  Snow, rain, sleet, then sunshine.  Slippery decent to hut.  Arrived at Dart hut before 4pm.

"Morning Coffee-Dart Hut"
Day 3: Despite some soreness, I feel better than I have for a long time.  An hour of stretching and then a pack free day hike to the Dart Glacier and then Cascade Saddle.  A rather technical track.  Lots of water crossings, steep, and many areas have no trail.  Glad I didn't have a pack on today.  To the top and back, 10 hours (for me), shorter for Chad because he ran back to poop.  (There are no broad leafed plants on the trail.  And no one likes to wipe with scree.)

Day 4: Downpours.  Rest day at Dart hut.  Turned sunny in the afternoon.  On a recommendation from the warden, I went on a hike, off the trail through the bush, along a ridge line.  Made several mistakes here: One, I wore sandals in order to keep my boots dry for tomorrow.  Sandflies were ruthless to my ankles. Two, my thin pants do nothing to ward off attacks from the speargrass which can puncture skin with the slightest contact.  Three, should've found myself a walking stick.  Once in the low bush, the ground is irregularly covered with dense mosses, shrubs, and grasses, and it's difficult to see where solid ground is.  So with my sore legs and inadequate clothing I made my way through a foreign landscape and found myself a cozy moss cover rock to sit on and overlook the river.  Not long before the sandflies were making a feast of my feat and I resigned myself to the fact that today was not a day for adventures.  Quick dip in the river.  Breath takingly cold.

Day 5:  Fast pace.  Our companions left yesterday so just Chad and I on the trail. Chad coming down with a cold.  My mouth is breaking out in coldsores.  Getting low on fuel.

Day 6:  Final day.  I want to be done walking but I'm not ready to be out of the woods.  Save for a trail detour at a major river washout area, trail is not very technical.  Plenty of time to dwell on our imminent return to Queenstown and civilization.  Feeling like a child as I drag my feet.  In my best whine, I want to shout, "but I don't wanna go!"

Favorite part on the trip: the challenge of organizing and cooking good, nourishing (and light) food.  As we've done in the past, Chad organized the route while I planned the food.  That way are never short of an adventure and our bellies are always full.  Lessons learned regarding meal planning and cooking:
1. You only have so much fuel.  (The coal fired stoves in the huts were an added-and necessary-bonus on this trip.)
2. It's impossible to make biscuits over a stove that only has a setting for high heat.  Next time, I'm making soup and dropping in the biscuits like dumplings.  On the third night, I got so frustrated making biscuits that i went to bed hungry and let Chad eat the whole backpacker meal.
3. A two serving backpacker meal feeds one Chad
4. Chad's aluminum camp pots that he's had since he was 8 are not indestructible.  Nor are the sporks

Bragging point: Besides the 1 dehydrated backpacker meal we bought, I made all the meals from scratch, dehydrating veggies from the garden in the earth oven before we left.  I think the other folks in the huts were a little jealous!  After watching all of them choke down meals from a bag night after night, I new the extra weight was worth it. 

Pleasant surprise upon leaving the trail: Hans, the driver that picked us up at the end of the trail, was a great storyteller and full of fun facts on life and the trials of living in rural New Zealand.  Plus, he was the animal trainer for the Lord of the Rings movies.  Seems like everyone here has a connection to the films.  His other accounts were of packing coal in on horseback up to the backcountry huts with his daughters when they were little, working as a chef in Queenstown when money was tight, and most recently, how he lost his garden and his pigs in the recent flood of the Rees river.  He and "The Cook" had to climb a tree to escape the rising waters and after living on their farmlet for 30 years, for the first time are thinking about selling and moving on to a new adventure.

Why We Tramp:  Before leaving for our trip, a friend of mine (who would never dream of spending a night in the woods) asked me just why one would want to "do this."  I gave her a few reasons why I like to hike, camp, carry a 45lb. pack up mountains and across rivers, etc. but I also asked people we encountered along the way to see what they had to say.  Here are some responses I got.
"To be in nature." -Pat
"I'm inspired by the pioneersmen.  I want to be like Lewis and Clark, or Jeremiah Johnson.  To feel the high of being on a dirt path." -Andrew
"Punishment and reward." -Chad
"To get away from the office and test myself, to see beautiful scenery, and to do it while I still can." -Terry
"The scenery, the quiet, and the amazing country. (Not for the self torture.)" -Ben
"It has something to do with my relationship to the plant.  Freedom."
"For the sense of achievement and the views."
"To get away from the madness of the modern world."
"It's the closest I can get to another universe."
"To get out of cell phone range."

The common themes seem to be to either get away from something-work, society, technology, or to go to something-wildlife, stunning landscapes, nature.  Besides Chad, however, who called the labor aspect of tramping "punishment" no one seems to do it for the work and struggle required.  I find that modern technology and most areas of work, do not require much physical exertion.  It's why we need sports and gyms, and weight loss programs.  But there was a time in our collective evolution when walking with your home on your back over a mountain, across a plain, and through deserts was a part of existence.  Physical discomfort was apart of everyday life.  Bumps, bruises, a growling tummy, insect bites, and cold bath water were not out of the ordinary.   Silly as it may seem, I think I crave these things just as much as I crave that view from the top.