Tyrii turned twelve today. Wow, how time flies… For his birthday present, he asked if he could do a dive course and become a certified open water diver. How cool is that? We’re in Munda and Belinda, who runs Dive SSI here, is a fantastic dive instructor. She started teaching him a few days ago. If he passes all the exams later this week, we will be able to dive together and he will be allowed to go as deep as 18 metres. He’s super excited and studying hard as I write. Of course there was still some time for chocolate cake this morning and tonight there’s pizza on the menu 🎉🍕🎂
We had a birthday to celebrate on Rehua today: Aeneas turned 7. The day started with presents and a birthday cake, then we took a walk around Ratua island together with Bruce and Di from Toucan. We had a lovely lunch onboard and a chilled afternoon and it turned out a perfect day for everyone 🎂
Yesterday Aeneas turned six! It’s his second birthday on this trip (last year we were in Fuengirola). It turned out to be a hectic day that started early to open presents. He was astonished to find Playmobil and Lego underneath the wrappers as they aren’t to be found anywhere in these regions. We had them stashed away since Tahiti! At 10am it was off to the fuel dock to fill up with diesel and provisions. There’s a great fruit and veg market in town and on Friday it is really bustling. The other shopping is less straightforward to obtain and requires running from one Chinese shop to the next to tick off all the items on the shopping list. Once everything was on board we returned to our mooring just in time to start the birthday party, which was organised by the local bar. They had baked a beautiful cake and decorated the place with balloons. Aeneas got lots of thoughtful presents from our fellow cruisers: a handmade personalised flag, someone’s favourite music CD, several nautically themed (compact) family games, a pirate game, a flags domino game, a seahorse necklace, and more! There were ten kids in total and they played hide and seek, went jumping off the pontoon and ate lots of cake. Aeneas had a brilliant time. To put it in his words: “The best day ever!”
On a crisp and fresh Friday morning in late June 2014 we are standing on the platform of the tiny train station in Taynuilt, under the imposing Ben Cruachan in the Scottish highlands with the last of our belongings: four big suitcases and one inflatable SUP. Seathan’s uncle Lorne is here to see us off: big hugs, kisses, a few tears but most of all an exhilarating feeling of excitement and trepidation. We are finally on our way!
On the train we admire the landscape and start talking to a lovely American couple who are touring Scotland. They sense our excitement and start asking questions. Where are we off to? We’re heading to Marmaris in Turkey, on a one-way trip around the world! Woohoo. Doesn’t get much crazier than that. Our stress levels built up during the busy preceding six months (selling our house, organising storage, taking the kids out of school, wrapping up our jobs and saying goodbye to all our friends and family) start dropping. The kids share our enthusiasm. They had no trouble saying their goodbyes. Perhaps they just don’t have a sense of time yet and don’t realise three years away is a long time? They were a little sad leaving our house but apart from that they take this whole adventure extremely well and they just go with the flow. They just seem happy to be with us.
At Glasgow airport the check-in staff are friendly and when they find out we don’t have return tickets and are off on this crazy adventure they check-in all our oversized and extra bags at no additional cost. Phew. We put up with loud Scots on their package holiday to Marmaris and are happy to step off the plane and head towards our new home: our 44 foot catamaran. It has taken us a while to find the right boat and we have flown across Europe during our selection process in search of a monohull and eventually a catamaran. We settled on the Antares 44: a true live-aboard with plenty of safety features and good resale opportunity.
We spend a month in the marina in Marmaris to get Rehua ready for the big seas. We head out once to a nearby island to test run everything and share a few fun days with Australian Paul and his two boys. It’s a relief to get out of the marina where the extreme midday heath (40+ degrees) can be immobilizing. We get a visit from London friends who are on holiday in Turkey. The kids make great use of the marina swimming pool and Aeneas does his first solo swim. The Turkish are friendly people, the food is delicious and affordable, and the marina has great facilities (including free Wi-Fi: little do we know at that point how challenging getting online will become). We are itching to get going. And finally, once all the paperwork is in order, the rigging has been checked, the engines re-built, a new sunshade fitted, and the boat is well provisioned, we drop the lines from the pontoon late July and are waved off by a charming South African/Austrian couple we met during our stay in the marina.
We love the Med. We sail from one gorgeous Greek island to the next, eating delicious fish, goat and salads (the kids stick to fish and chips). We stop in Athens and go through the Corinth Canal, a very narrow and high canal of only a few miles long, and halt in Cephalonia where we meet Joseph and Anne on board Zimbabalooba and spend a few days with London friends who are holidaying on the island. We leave Greece for Italy and complete our first multiday passage. We eat pizza, admire the volcanoes and sail our way along the Sicilian coast, the Aeolian Islands and onwards to Sardinia and then the Balearics. We take a little pause in Mahon to do some more work to the boat, catch up with my brother who visits us in Mallorca and are welcomed by Belgian friends in Ibiza. We don’t see many other kid boats or long term cruisers until we reach Gibraltar early November where we meet Taff Tumas. We will end up sailing with them for the next 6 months and spend some fantastic times with Sandra, Stef and Noeé.
Our eight-day crossing to the Canaries is extremely rough. Another yacht loses a crewmember overboard and several other yachts have to take shelter in a harbour just south of Casablanca. We have enough sea room and make it through a heavy night and then continue to Las Palmas where we take a few weeks to get Rehua ready for the Atlantic crossing and catch up with Seathan’s mum who visits us.
On Christmas day we are in the middle of the Atlantic and the kids are delighted Santa has found our boat and dropped some presents. We stop in Mindelo in the Cape Verdes and experience a change in culture: there is a definite African atmosphere. We love it. We are awestruck by the magnificent landscapes of Santo Antao. We celebrate New Year with our friends from Taff Tumas and then head over to the Caribbean. It’s a rough 15-day passage. The wind stays in the high twenties and early thirties and the waves are big. We get used to it and we like the speed. Three days before our arrival our steering mechanism breaks and we have to hand steer with the emergency tiller. Tyrii steps up as a valuable crewmember and helps with sail changes, manoeuvres and navigation. We are very happy to set foot ashore in Bequia, just before nightfall, where we are welcomed by Seathan’s uncle Lorne and his wife Anne who happen to be holidaying there.
We island hop our way through St Vincent and the Grenadines and then to Grenada and onwards along the coast of Venezuela. We stop in Islas de Aves and are in paradise. The most stunning snorkelling, cosy campfires on the beach, remarkable wildlife, … We meet Gert whose boat is sinking and escort him back to Curaçao where he can get repairs done. He’s a life long cruiser and we enjoy his company for a few days before continuing to Aruba and then San Blas where we meet Robbie and Nev on Blade Runner II.
In Portobello (Panama) we celebrate Tyrii’s tenth birthday with a party on board Rehua: chocolate cake, kids games and dancing on the aft deck for the adults later on. Not bad. We meet Toucan who will become our travel buddies and Tinkerbel, another kid boat with two lovely girls on board, Luna and Nika. We spend a week in Shelter Bay marina and then go through the canal together with Taff Tumas. On the other side we say goodbye to Taff Tumas who stay in Panama and we head to Galapagos.
The sail to Galapagos is frustrating, there is little wind and a strong counter current and it takes us ten days. We stop in Santa Cruz and Isabella and are surprised by the amount of tourism. The place remains very special though and being able to observe the unique wildlife is a once in a lifetime experience. The kids are thrilled to meet two other kids boats and spend the last few days swimming with penguins and playing with their new mates.
We leave together with Toucan and remain in VHF contact nearly all the way. Having a buddy boat adds some security and it’s nice to have someone to chat to and compare sail plans and weather forecasts with. Eighteen days later we see the high mountains of Fatu Hiva looming in the early morning sky. It’s a glorious sight and one never to be forgotten. We are all four ecstatic about seeing land and can’t wait to get ashore. There are no restaurants and only one small shop (and we can’t get the local currency so we can’t buy anything). The locals are friendly and helpful and we obtain some fruit and veg in exchange for a bottle of wine. The grapefruit are out of this world and the most delicious we ever tasted.
We continue to the next island and have a big reunion party on board Blade Runner with Tinkerbel and Toucan. What fun! Then it is onwards to Hiva Oa where we see Alkira and Skyus, the two other kids boats we met in Isabella. We pay homage to Brel and Gauguin and sail to Nuku Hiva, the biggest island of the Marquesas. Seathan fits a new water-maker membrane and we are ready for our passage to the Tuamotus.
And here we are: in Raroia, probably the most idyllic stop on our trip so far. This atol in the Tuamotus is one stunning lagoon surrounded by a strip of land and palm trees. The locals have welcomed us into their village and tonight we are invited to see the end of school year show in the local school. We are here with two other boats: Toucan and Nelly Rose. We had a few sundowners on board Toucan last night and Di treated the kids to a movie. This morning the boys are fishing off the stern before we start school. Seathan is going shark diving with Di, Bruce and Pim (Tyrii says he wants to go too but he doesn’t have a tank). This afternoon we will go snorkelling with the kids.
We miss our families and our friends as we are a long way away from home but we are enjoying every minute. We feel much closer as a family and of course there are some ups and downs but overall we get on great. We’ve made some fantastic new friends, seen some amazing places and had unforgettable experiences. And we are ready for more. Bring it on!
Christopher Colombus discovered the bay of Portobello in 1502 during his fourth voyage. It later became an important hub for transferring South and Central American gold and silver to Spain. Sir Francis Drake is also buried in the bay but his grave has not yet been discovered despite several British expeditions searching for it. Portobello is an interesting place, drenched in history and with lots of local colour. There are many boats anchored here, some waiting for a transit date for the Canal (Colon is less than 20NM away) and others just seem to hang out here for years. We reunited with several boats we met during the last few months and yesterday we had a big party onboard Rehua to celebrate Tyrii’s tenth birthday. He had a great day even though we had no presents (no shops). Home made birthday cards and some cash did the trick and he’s looking forward to going shopping in Colon or Panama city. We did however manage to buy ingredients for a chocolate cake in one of the Chinese mini-supermarkets. The party was a success and the kids spent most of the afternoon jumping off the boom into the water (again and again and again). Adults had fun too and Rehua turned into a true party boat. After enough rum punch we even managed to turn the cockpit and the aft deck into a dance floor!
Tomorrow we set sail for Colon to get organized for our canal transit. We don’t have a date yet but should find out more in the next few days.