Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas in Palau...New Year's in the Philippines!

Santa ate his fudge and it looks like Rudolph chewed up a
few carrots...

Santa found Jake here in Palau and he spent all morning putting stuff together and trashing the main salon with all of his playing.  We spent Christmas Eve with some good friends drinking egg nog and Christmas night we had Bob from s/v Braveheart over for dinner and some lively discussions!  All in all, it was a great Christmas.  We’re back together, we’re healthy, and….. we’re leaving!

Homemade Egg Nog with Linda and Bob on Christmas Eve.

That’s right…we’re checking out of Palau this morning and getting underway for the Phlippines.  We’re all very excited.  We’ve thoroughly enjoyed Palau, but we are more than ready to move on.  We don’t have a very solid plan other than arriving in Cebu.  We’ll meet up with a friend of ours we met in Mexico and catch up a little.  Then we’ll move a little north and do some diving.  Following that, the only plans we have are to move through the northwest islands of the Visyas and make our way to Palawan. 

My brother and his wife went to Spain earlier this season
and brought us back some really neat gifts for
Christmas.  This was a small cutting board made out of
Olive wood.

All of our goodies from Spain.  We were VERY excited.
We should be underway for about 4 -5 days before we arrive at the first stop over, just before New Years.  From there, we’ll have to day hop to Cebu.  There are some strong currents and lots of debris in the water from what we’ve heard, so we’ll avoid moving around at night where we can’t see anything. 

Until then, we hope everyone continues to enjoy their holiday!  From our family to yours.

Andy and Sam getting the grill ready for the Christmas party
at Sam's Tours with the Yacht Club.

Jake and Maya - two peas in a pod.

He's really going to miss this little girl.

Jakes first solo dinghy expedition.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Someone has been busy...

Well, I finally made it back to Palau and our reunion was just as great as I thought it would be...lots of hugs and kisses and stories.  I knew Andy had been busy while I was gone, but it was really surprising to see all of the results of his hard work.

Project #1 – New Sails

We’ve been putting off buying new sails for a few years now.  Since we were going to be in Palau for so long, we decided it was a good time to go ahead and knock that out.  After researching quite a few places, we decided to go with Lee Sails in Hong Kong.  They have a pretty good reputation around these parts of the world and we were not disappointed.  The process was simple, relatively quick, and it didn’t break the bank (at least not any more than we had planned).

Project #2 – Repaint deck

If you’ve been following us for a long time, you’ll remember Andy repainted our deck in San Blas, Mexico almost 3 years ago.  It has held up pretty well, but it was time for an update.  Not only did it need an update, we had run out of the original paint so the deck was two different colors.  They were close, but not exactly the same and it always bugged us a little bit.  So now, it’s nice and new and all one color.

Project #3 – Refinish captain’s chair

The captain’s chair was beyond need for repair.  It was ripped, moldy, dirty and just ugly.  Andy took it up to a local shop and for $75, it looks as good as new.  They only had the option of grey or blue.  We went with the grey and I think it turned out quite nice.  AND, even though it wouldn’t have been my first choice, I think it will hide the dirt and grime much better than the previous white.

Project #4 – Fix our rudders

When we hauled out in Yap last year, we noticed our rudders had a ton of worm holes in them.  They needed some serious repair.  Andy was able to use Sam’s boat yard to haul them out and fix them.  He cut out all of the rotten spots, drilled a million holes in them and filled them with GitRot epoxy.  After that dried, he sanded them down and finished the fiberglass work.  They weigh a gazillion pounds now but they still float!

Project # 5 – Refinished the countertops

Our countertops were looking seriously used.  Andy found the same kit we used back inSan Diego and decided to refinish all of our surfaces.  I have to say, it looks fantastic.  This was the cheapest way we’ve found to get all of our countertops looking the same.  It lasted almost four years and only cost $250.  The second kit was a little less than $200 and he used some of the leftovers from the first time around.  Looking good for another four years….

Project #6 – Rebuild head

Well, that was the worst job I think, but it needed to be done.  More maintenance than anything…

Project #7 – new sail bag

Bob on s/v Braveheart was kind enough to loan his sewing expertise  and machine to Andy and helped sew a new sailbag.  It took about 3 half days, a case and a half of beer and a bottle of rum.  The seams are pretty straight considering...

Project #8– dinghy engine…unfortunately, this one is still in progress

We’ve hit our fair share of rocks here with our long shaft dinghy motor.  The result is a damaged lower unit.  Unfortunately, it’s a European model and no one here has the part we need.  I checked while I was in the States and that turned out to be fruitless as well.  We found the part in Singapore, but the cost of the part and the shipping is almost reason to buy a whole new motor.  We’re going to limp our way around the Philippines in hopes of finding the part there.   If all else fails, we have a perfectly good kayak and paddleboard.

Project #9 – Transmission – also in progress…

Andy found a leak in our transmission and thought it was easy enough to fix.  After further scrutiny and a second opinion (Bob  and Andy spent many a beers contemplating this little issue), there may be more to it.  So, again, we’ve decided to limp our way for a little longer…we do have two engines after all.  We’ll just crank this one up when we need to maneuver and hope for the best.  We usually like to have everything in tip top shape, but sometimes you’re limited in your location and ability to find parts (not to mention we don’t have a bottomless cruising kitty, regardless of how we spend).  We’ve seen boats jury rig their way around the world….one or two ports hopefully won’t kill us.

Now we sit here waiting on our last few packages, getting ready to head out.  If they arrive tomorrow, we’ll check out Thursday.  Otherwise, we’ll wait until after Christmas.  The trades have kicked in and it should be a pretty fast passage to the Philippines.

If you don’t hear from us, we wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year (or whatever it is you celebrate) where ever you may be.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

What's for dinner?

Have you ever seen the show “Man vs. Wild?”  It’s a popular show on Savannah.  We have several episodes and it’s a family show we can all watch together without having to be subjected to another cartoon.  If you haven’t seen it, it’s about this British guy that puts himself in survivor type situations (stranded on a desert island needing to be rescued, dropped in the middle of a rainforest and has to find his way out, etc.) and educates/entertains the viewer with various ways to find food, water, make tools, navigate, etc.  You can imagine the draw to an eight year old boy. 

So it should come as no surprise that Jake likes to “play” man vs. wild when we go on hikes or venture out to the beach.  He has a “camel skin” pouch that he drinks his water from (there was one episode where the guy used a camel skin for various different things, one of them being to collect water.  I think that was the same episode he opened up the stomach of a dead camel and squeezed water out of his digested food.).  He has been known to try and navigate by the sun as well as use bamboo and a leaf to try and make a water catcher.  My favorite was when he and Andy went foraging for termites. 

Him:  “Mommy, mommy, mommy!  You have to try these!”
Me:  “Try what?”
Him:  “Termites!”
Me:  “Why?  I have snacks in my bag….good snacks.”
Him:  “Oh come on!  They’re good!  They taste like pine nuts!”
Me:  “Fine”  crunch, crunch  “hmmm…they do taste pine nutty”

These little adventures are often instigated by my dear husband and are usually pretty tame, yet entertaining all the same (like when he fried up grasshoppers in OK this summer for all of the cousins to try).

Well, it seems they’ve stepped up their game since I’ve been gone.  It started with an air rifle.  Before we get all anti-guns on me, let me just say, Andy and I both come from families with guns.  They were always used for hunting, we learned gun safety at an early age and while I’m not a card carrying member of the NRA, I don’t believe that guns do bad things.  I think people do bad things.  While we don’t have guns on board, its strictly because they’re a pain in the rear when traveling between the various countries.  Ok…with that out of the way….

Andy bought Jake an air rifle and while they were waiting out the super typhoon in their little hide out, Jake took target practice at some buoys Andy set up in the water.  When he got bored with that, he took to shooting the hundreds of leaves floating around and got quite good with his aim.  Like anything, when you get pretty good at it, you want a new challenge.  So it went with Jake.  He wanted to go hunting.

If you’ve ever been to this side of the world, you would know that there is never a shortage of rats.  All shapes and sizes…mostly the big, hairy, disgusting variety.  Andy figured no one would complain if there was one less rat on the islands.   So off they went to an undisclosed location and searched for the rats.  Apparently, Jake is pretty good at this hunting thing because it was a one shot, one kill right to the head.

As he stood there with his kill, Andy said he had the biggest grin on his face.  He said a 12 point buck wouldn’t have gotten any more excitement.

“Let’s eat it, daddy!”
“Yes!  You have to eat what you kill!”
Can’t argue with that…if don’t want to eat it, don’t shoot it, right?

So being the kind of guy he is (I just couldn’t find the right adjective there), Andy showed Jake how to skin and gut it (I had no idea that’s how they were fitting science in while I was gone), and threw it on the barbie….far away from the ribs they were supposed to eat that night (I hope).  After numerous bouts of “is it done yet?” they finally dove in.

 “Hey daddy, you know that really bad taste you get in your mouth when you eat a bad chicken?  That’s what this tastes like!  Yuck!”

And just like that, rat is off the menu. 

I know some of you are worried about the whole disease aspect of this…rest assured, these are not garbage eating rats…they’re coconut eating rats…I think that makes a difference?  Anyway, that which does not kill us, only makes us stronger, right?

A few extra tidbits about rats….
And in case you’re curious, Jake is not the only one who wanted to try the rat meat…

Friday, November 8, 2013

Super Typhoon Hiayan

From yesterday's weather report

Wow…the Philippines have really had their rear ends handed to them this year when you talk about natural disasters.  A major earthquake hit a few months ago and this week, the fourth typhoon of the year will crash through the Visayas, the central part of the country.  Super Typhoon Haiyan, the Chinese word for a petrel seabird… also known as the largest typhoon this year.  Once it hits Philippine waters it will be known by Yolanda…not sure why they rename it?  It’s a category 5.  Wow.

The eye passed right over Kyangle yesterday, one of the northern islands/atolls in Palau.  Further south, Andy had Savannah all tucked into a tight little hole with one other boat and he and Jake hunkered down.  Winds were supposed to reach 40 – 65 knots where they were depending on how close it passed.  I was a nervous wreck.  There was absolutely nothing I could do.

To compound my worry, we have several friends on their own boats riding it out in the Philippines right now. 

Savannah, with ALL of her lines out.
So what do we do in a typhoon?  Typhoons are pretty regular in this part of the world so the first thing we do is find multiple “typhoon holes” – coves or anchorages known for their near 360 degree protection from the winds.  I say multiple because other people will have the same idea and you don’t want to be the last one trying to find cover.  We retreat to our chosen spot a day or two ahead of time so we have time to put out the lines and secure everything.  In Pulawat, last year for Bopha,, we put all four of our anchors out and tied several lines from the boat to some hefty coconut trees on land.  This year for Haiyan, Andy put out all four anchors and tied many more lines to the trees.  They stocked up on groceries and rode it out.  If I were there I would have tried to convince him to leave the boat and go to a hotel, but that didn’t happen.

I checked the various weather sources non-stop for 24 hours, pretty much making myself crazy.  My brain would tell me they’re fine, but that didn’t stop this worrier from worrying.  I knew it would be a while before he could communicate with me so my coping mechanism was a bottle of wine, a good friend and the CMAs....imagine my relief when I got an email right before settling down in front of the TV last night that said all was good.  Palau saw wind gusts up to 75 mph, but Savannah never saw anything over 25!  Whew, am I glad that’s over.

It’s not time to stop praying yet…we still have friends in the Philippines, and well, the whole rest of the country.  

Monday, October 28, 2013

Honesty is the best policy...most of the time.

I was looking back on some old posts (I’m all by myself for the last 4 months) and getting nostalgic and noticed that I used to be funny.  I was candid.  I was funny.  I didn’t care what people thought.  So I asked myself, “what’s different?”.  I’m still the same me.  As a matter of fact, my filter has fallen off a few times here in the US and almost gotten me kicked out of my home!   So, what happened?

Other cruisers started reading my blog.  My best stories are either about other crusiers (I mean THE BEST) or they’re about my opinion on cruising.  When you leave the dock, you think you are the most unique people out there.  You sold your sh**, you got on that boat and you left, damn’t!  You’re family thinks your crazy, your friends are envious (they still have jobs), and your grandmother is praying for you non stop.  You pull into that first anchorage thinking you are the bomb!  The only problem?  There are 27 other boats ahead of you (and they all have blogs.!)  I know.  I’ve been there.  We pulled into the Marquesas after 21 ½ days at sea and not only did I notice how many boats where there, I also noticed how it looked exactly like Mexico (another post entirely)!  We were so not unique.

My point is, once you start traveling around the world, , you meet people.  Those people have feelings.  Those people are extremely funny.  They would make for very good stories.  Did I mention those people are your friends?

So here I sit in Norfolk, VA looking for something to write about.  I have a few really funny stories about my land lover friends here…. (thank goodness I’m happily married and don’t have to date with new gray hair I have discovered)….but they would appreciate them about as much as a fart in church (well, worse than that, but my filter is on so that’s about as graphic as I can get).  I have a few stories of fellow cruisers (even way over here in Norfolk), but like I said they read the blog.

So where is that line?  I was talking with a friend of mine lately that writes for a living.  I was talking about magazine articles.  She said I needed to find my “voice.”  My “voice” is sarcastic and crude.  The minute I start to write like I think a magazine would like, I fall asleep at my own computer. 

I’m all over the place…where did I start this blog?  Oh yea…don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.  And I don’t.  So, bear with me.  The best comments I’ve ever gotten on this blog were about my honesty.  So I’m going to work really hard to find a line not too big and not too fine that I can walk without getting knocked off.    Feedback is always appreciated.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A long look back

It appears they're doing just fine without me!!

I was reading through our old blog entries the other night – feeling nostalgic and missing my boys – and I came across our list of projects we HAD to do before we left.  We completed a huge amount of work, but I found it quite funny that many of those projects are still unfinished 3 ½ years later.  So this post is for those people who aren’t quite sure if they’re ready to leave.  I think this is timely as it’s getting close to the end of hurricane season in North America and many are preparing for the Ba-ha-ha in CA (the yearly migration to Mexico) or for heading south here on the east coast.  My advice, Just go.  If it’s important, it will get done. 

Just for fun…Here’s our list from 2010 and the CURRENT status of those projects…it’s actually a pretty short list now that I look back on it.

Galley Remodel
Lucky for me, this was complete and has made a world of difference in our comfort level.  We expanded our fridge and added a freezer.

Extend bed, new mattress
While we did get a new mattress (love it!), we never extended the bed.  We just switched which way we lay our heads.  And now that I’m stateside in a real bed, I find myself sliding down to the end so I can hang my feet over and hugging the edge of the bed (normally the wall on the boat, so I give Andy more room).

Single Side Band “stuff”
We did install the modem but it took a good year after being out to finally figure out how this thing worked.  In the end, we bought a new radio (and still took an additional six months to come up to speed).  This is an area that still seems to need chicken bones and voo-doo dolls to make it work.  One lesson learned for us though…we bought a huge, expensive antennae and drove it down to Mexico for better reception.  It never worked properly and literally broke off into the water shortly after purchasing it.   After duct taping it back together we now use it to hold the very inexpensive 30 feet of wire needed for proper reception.  Most of the time, it works like a champ.

Lifeline netting
Installed and very helpful for keeping toys on board.

Deck box for compressor
Never did this.  The compressor has a permanent home in our head on top of the engine cover.

Configure cockpit for shower curtain so we can have some privacy while bathing
Never did this.  We still shower outside but have decided it’s not that big of a deal.  The way our cockpit sits, I don’t’ think anyone can actually see anything.  I wear my bathing suit top anyway just in case, but overall, cruisers aren’t really that concerned with your showering habits (I do have to watch out for tour boats in Palau though…learned that the hard way).  Jake forgoes the shower altogether and just jumps in the water naked, using soap when forced to do so.

Now here’s a list I did find useful…

  • ·       Quit Job/ Retire/ Leave of Absence (my favorite)
  • ·       Get all checkups, shots, teeth cleaning, eye doctor, hair cuts, etc.
  • ·       Beef up the first aid kit for long term/remote travel
  • ·       Put together ditch kit
  • ·       Establish residency in homeschooling, tax friendly state.
  • ·       Sell Car/Truck
  • ·       Provision – a few times.  I find that I am always thankful to have too much, rather than not enough.  Many people disagree with this advice.  It depends on your relationship with food….we love food, therefore we never leave home without the essentials.
  • ·       Last but not least…Plan a party!  Say goodbye to friends and family, relax, have fun.  You’re just getting started…

Good luck to all those leaving this season!  Maybe we’ll share an anchorage one day.

Some of the latest from Palau....

Not sure what the toilet paper is about...I'm usually the one
that brings that

I seems the one good thing I'm missing is all the
crappy weather they're getting.

It looks like he still has enough left to lick off the bowl!

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Great Dismal Swamp

Years ago, when I first started dating Andy, he took me on a kayaking trip to the Great Dismal Swamp here in Virginia.  We paddled the 3 miles or so back to Lake Drummond and had a little picnic.  It was absolutely beautiful as very few people ever go back there.  Large motor boats aren’t allowed and it’s not all that easy to get to, so the traffic is pretty sparse.  (Incidentally, the Dismal Swamp Canal can be used by shallow draft sailboats to transit he ICW, so this post isn’t totally disconnected to sailing).

When trying to think of something fun and unusual to do with my friend while I’m here, I thought it would be really cool to go back there on our stand up paddle boards (well, HER paddleboards).  She loves to paddle and has never seen Lake Drummond, so why not?  I tried to down play my reasons for buying the super duper Deep Woods bug spray.  There was no need for her to worry about the bird size biting flies we might encounter.  I tried to sound confident when I told her where we needed to park and put our boards in.  I didn’t think it was necessary for her to know that all of my intel was gleemed from google earth and not any actual experience.  I tried to be nonchalant when I asked her to text her boyfriend and tell him what time we got started and how long we thought we would be gone.  No need for her to worry about things she hadn’t thought about yet (like getting lost or abducted or whatever).  Because the chances were so remote that we would ever see one, I didn’t think twice to tell her that there were black bears back there.  When it looked like she might panic, I reassured her that Andy said that at the rate we talk, anything of any interest would be scared away before we even knew it existed. 

So off we went with our backpacks packed, complete with lunch, drinks, and bug spray.  As soon as we put the boards in the water, it started sprinkling.  Lucky for us, it was short lived and didn’t really bother us that much as it was a beautiful day.  We were really into the scenery and my friend was starting to relax and enjoy our little adventure.  We took a leisurely approach and decided to paddle on our rear ends/knees.  I’m not sure if this was for any other reason than we were being lazy, but it was working for us.  After about 30 minutes or so, I saw something about 100 yards in front of us swim across the canal.  I was excited that we were actually going to see something bigger than a turtle so I said “oooohhhh…look at that!”

Then we watched this creature swim across the canal.  It was fast.  It was HUGE.  It was black.

“What was that!?” she asked me.
“I have no idea”
“It was HUGE!”
“I know.”
“I’m a little freaked out!”
(laugh, laugh, laugh)…that’s me laughing at my friend.
“I think I’m going to vomit”
(laugh, laugh, laugh)  “It was pretty freakin big!  Come on, we’ll just be loud and it will go away”
“I don’t think I can go any further”
“I’ll go check it out…I’ll be right back”  I was really, really curious.

So I paddled a few strokes then I stopped cold…I heard a loud growl or roar or whatever you want to call it.  “ooo!!!”
“What?  What did you see?”
“Nothing” I lied.
“What?  What was it?”
“Nothing.  Let’s just hang out and have a beer and give it time to go away.”

So we do.  At this point we’re both thinking we saw a bear.  So we’re freaking out a little bit but I’m still trying to convince her to keep going.  I’m hoping the beer will do the trick.  And I tell her how skittish bears are and we have surely scared it off now.  I remind her that some people come back here in the hopes of seeing a bear (Andy being one of those people).  Then I look back and I see the darn thing swimming back across the canal again, only a little closer to us. 

“Nothing” I lied again.
“You’d better tell me”
“I saw it again” (me starting to paddling) “Let’s go”
“Where was it?” (paddling really really fast) “How far back?”
“Oh, way back there” I lied one more time.

So we hauled butt out of there all the time convincing ourselves that the bear was stalking us.  We decided it was a mama bear with cubs and she wanted us to go away.  We kicked ourselves for not studying up on how to survive a bear attack in the water on a paddle board and vowed to do this as soon as we got home.  At one point, we were both hungry so we thought about taking our sandwiches out.  Then I remembered that Yogi bear always loved a good picnic so we thought better of it and just paddled faster (but now we had a plan…we would just throw the sandwiches to the bear!).  I turned around again and we saw a large figure in the middle of the canal about where the bear was.  We convinced ourselves it was just standing there watching us making sure we got the message. When we got back out to the main canal, we stopped and had our lunch (and another beer) while recapping the whole thing.

Pretty soon, we saw a couple in a canoe coming from the same direction (hindsight, this was probably the figure we saw in the water…not a bear wagging his finger at us) and I paddled over to ask them if they saw anything.  They were trying not to laugh at our story, as they politely informed us that they thought we might have seen a large beaver.  “They can get to be 40-50 lbs.  Bears are 200 lbs and almost 4 ½ feet long”

“Thank you…yes, yes, maybe that was it.  Thank you”

They paddled off.  We looked at each other and at the same time we said “That was a freakin bear!”  I know they were probably thinking we should just take our “city-girl” selves back to the mall and leave the nature loving to people who knew what they were looking at!

We paddled back to the dock we had lowered the boards in on and a ranger on a four wheeler with a big gun on the back hollered across the canal at us, “You girls almost got yourself in a predicament.  I was just about to lock that gate.  There’s a boat launch down the way.  You should use that.” 

“OK, we’re sorry.  Thank you” blah blah blah

Then we go to put the boards on her car and I see not one, but two no trespassing signs that I swear were not there when we arrived earlier that morning.

I don’t think we thought that whole thing through.  My idea is to go back with more people so we lower the odds of getting eaten by a bear (my friend Ray politely told me that he didn’t think bears were actually known for eating people – but he didn’t volunteer to go either).  But sadly, I don’t think I have any takers.  If they only knew how pretty it was back there…

I later told Andy this story and he said he saw a bear just about every time he went back there…I think I’ll keep that to myself.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

What's Palau like?

I thought I would deviate from the usual “we did this today” post (as riveting as they are) and talk a little bit about Palau, specifically for those cruisers who are deciding where to go next. 

If you’ve followed our blog, you know we never intended to end up here.  We were to leave the Marshall Islands and head back down to Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, New Cal, and then Australia like everyone else.  Given the wind patterns up here along with our very conscious decision to go the wrong way all throughout the Marshalls, I pressured our beloved Captain into heading “downwind.”  My insides couldn’t take it anymore.  He might as well have been single-handling.  It was a win-win for everyone.

And we have never looked back.  Micronesia has truly been the highlight of our adventure so far.  The people here have a unique culture and such a warm way about them.  While the area is visited by more and more cruisers every year, you can still find atolls and islands that are virtually untouched by western civilization (or not…whatever floats your boat).  And there’s no need to tell you that the diving is outstanding, particularly if you’re interested in WWII and wreck diving.  After spending a year in FSM and enjoying all it had to offer, we decided to continue west to Palau.  We couldn’t come this far and miss it.

This is what Jake and Andy have been doing while I'm gone.
…another decision we have yet to regret.  The first and most obvious benefit of Palau after traveling through Micronesia (or even PNG and the Solomons) is the wide variety of “stuff.”  You can take a break from taro and rice and actually visit a real grocery store (or 3).  Vegetarians be prepared to be delighted…not only are there actual vegetables, but due to the large population of Seventh Day Adventists here, there are all kinds of healthy meat substitutes and alternatives to the pork, pork, pork seen throughout the area.  There are hardware stores, restaurants, taxis, and diving.  The diving is phenomenal.  Which leads to the second benefit that some, but not all, may be aware of.  Sam’s Tours.  Hands down, the most hospitable place to cruisers we’ve ever been.  Sam’s is also home to the Royal Belau Yacht club, providing services such as a dedicated dinghy dock, showers, water, ice (when available), mail services, and of course, there’s always a cold Red Rooster for those who want it (the local beer).  Since being here we’ve participated in movie nights, Cinco de Mayo Cookoff, and a kayak race just for kids.  There are many other activities we either didn’t participate in or weren’t here for.  The point being, there’s always something to do.  Sam’s also offers very competitive prices for diving and any of his other tours.  You can rent a car right at the bar and Sam’s drivers even stop and pick you up for a ride every once in a while when they’re not full of tourists and space permits.

Palau itself also has lots to do.  You’ve read enough about the rock islands on this blog (and don’t forget jelly fish lake), but there’s plenty to do on the main island(s) too.  There are two museums, the National Museum and a privately owned one whose name escapes me right now (Etpison?).  The private one is actually cheaper than the National Museum and is really fantastic given its size and location.  It’s actually a museum for all of Micronesia so it’s not limited to just Palau.  The gift shop rivals most medium size museums in America and on the outside there is one of the famous Wyland murals (of which we love…Jake likes to keep track of all the one’s he’s visited – I think he’s up to 7).  Incidentally, there’s one at the airport, too.  There is a fairly decent public library and the college has a library as well.  If you have kids and plan on being here for a whole season, there are numerous sporting activities:  soccer, judo, baseball, tennis, etc.  Go to the National Gym and you’ll find a plethora of information.  There’s a dolphin awareness program that while a little costly is a very fun event for the whole family.  Jake actually got to ride a dolphin…no joke.

He caught this all by himself :)
For the culinary sorts who got hooked on mangrove crabs in Pohnpei, it is possible to get them here too.  It’s a bit harder though.  You see, there are saltwater crocs in Palau so being a mangrove crab fisherman takes on a whole new meaning here.  The prices go from $2.50/lb (Pohnpei) to $8.50/lb and you still have a very hard time finding anyone to sell them to you (most crabs are reserved for the restaurants).  But, if you really really really want some crab, you can drive up to the north western side of the island and find the crab farm (it’s on most of the maps).  They don’t have a ton of them, but they’re usually very eager to sell what they do have.  If you call first, even better.  At the very least, it’s an interesting tourist opportunity to see how they fence everything off and then watch them actually catch the crabs.

There are a few downsides and if you asked me 6 months ago, I probably would have focused more on those as they seem to have a direct affect on cruisers.  The bureaucracy is nuts and they’re constantly trying to find ways to squeeze another dime out of the few cruisers who stop here.  Sam’s and the Yacht Club work diligently on our behalf to keep these things under control.  We’ve had a few run-ins with the rangers, namely in Nikko Bay.  I don’t think it’s the entire force; just a few that we apparently rubbed the wrong way.  Unfortunately, the result is that no one can take the big boat back to Nikko anymore.  For that we apologize…although we, along with everyone else, are still not sure what we did.  It’s not a huge impact as very few cruisers ever go back there in the big boat (so few in fact that we didn’t meet any others), but frustrating none the less.  Maybe it will be like all the other rules and change very soon.  We’ve had time to get over it and let all the good things outweigh the bad.

I think Jake took this picture.
The biggest problem in Palau seems to be felt by at least ½ the fleet that comes through here.  Where do we go from here?  The possibilities are literally endless.  Philippines, Solomons, PNG, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Japan.  There are even a few, more adventurous folks that go back through Micronesia. But it is always a hot topic here.  We’ve considered every single one of those options and I think we’ve finally settled on the Philippines.  When I return from the states we’ll be packing up and moving on. 
I could go on for pages, but I won’t (you’re welcome).  If anyone has any specific questions about the area, please don’t hesitate to ask.  I haven’t been too diligent about my “cruising notes” on Palau because there is so much information in the guide book we use (I don’t have it in front of me, but I think it’s Cruisers Guide to Palau…google it, it’s worth it).  I’m attempting to just document the changes and /or our unique experiences and post that before we leave.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Happy Birthday, Jake!

Warning!!!  Sappy alert! I swear I’ll write about cruising stuff again some day….

I do believe someone is happy to see his daddy.
As I was standing on the beach watching a Daughtry concert a few weeks ago (really great concert, by the way), he started singing his hit song “I’m going home.”  I wondered…what does that really mean?  While I admit, it wasn’t exactly an event where I would expect to dig deep into my thoughts, but the question is one I think about all the time.  Particularly while I’m here in VA, Andy and Jake are in OK (Andy arrived yesterday), and our boat is in Palau.

My first response used to be, “Well, home is Atlanta of course!”  because that’s where I grew up, where I went to school, and where my brother and his family still live.  Once I got married and had a kid, of course home was always with them, but I still felt a sense of going “home” whenever I would go to see my parents, even though they were in California.  Moms always make you feel like you’re home no matter where you are, right?  Once we moved onto the boat, going “home” meant back to the US.  But then when we got back here, a whole different question of home presents itself.  Last year, I realized another place I call “home” is VA.  This is where I met Andy, got married, bought our first house together, and had our son.  It’s where the majority of my friends are and where I still run into people in the grocery store that I haven’t seen in years.  I like to call it my “adult home.”

But now that Andy has landed in OK and he and Jake are back together, I feel really far from home.  Today is Jake’s birthday and that makes it even harder. 

I think it's been almost 10 years
since they've all been together.

Jake and Natalie...a cousin he's meeting for the first time.

Jake and Jet...Aunt Shannon's "baby"

Part of my little "family" here in Virginia.
I think anyone who travels or has moved around a lot probably goes through a point where they don’t quite know where home is.  And in the end, I think it always comes down to family.  It can be your immediate family, or it can be your extended family, or it can be the friends that feel like family.  But all in all, it’s where you feel loved.  Given that definition, I’m going to put my big girl pants on today and quit feeling sorry for myself (and guilty) for missing Jake’s birthday.  Because while I am far away from both my immediate family and my extended family, I am constantly surrounded by friends here that feel like family and make me feel very loved.  And I know without a doubt that Jake is feeling love today too, surrounded by ALL of his [McKaskle] aunts and uncles (even Uncle Matt made it for the celebration all the way from TN), almost all of his cousins, his grandmother, grandfather, great grandfather and most importantly of all, his Daddy.   He has grown up so much since we left California 3 ½ years ago.  He’s a confident, happy, smart little boy with an amazing imagination and a quirky little personality.  This summer he has grown even more (literally, about an inch, I think).  He’s grown more independent not only in what he does but in his thinking and decision making as well.  He’s made some very good decisions on his own regarding relationships, learning and even deciding what should be deleted on the iPad (“It was just the right thing to do, mommy” – insert mother’s shock here).  I couldn’t be a prouder mom.  It’s a day for celebration.  Happy Birthday, Sweetie! 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Life around the world

I know I’ve been neglectful of the blog lately, but honestly, it’s really hard to come up with anything interesting and relevant when we’re all three in different areas.  So, I thought I would just give a little update on how we’re all handling things and show a few pictures from Jake’s time on the farm.

 I get a lot of comments from other mothers along the lines of “I could never leave my kids that long,” “I don’t know how you’re doing this” or “I can’t even imagine being away from my little ones.”  While I certainly miss Jake with all of my being, I had a conversation with my mother-in-law yesterday that confirmed my suspicions…Jake is thriving being away from us for a little while.  He’s becoming comfortable with his surroundings and all parts of the family – aunts, uncles, cousins, great aunts, 2nd-3rd cousins, papas, grandmas, great grand-dads…you name it.  He’s becoming more independent, learning conflict resolution skills, learning how to communicate to people that don’t read his mind (mommy had gotten pretty good at that)…I couldn’t be more proud.  So, while I may be a bit uncomfortable with the distance, I truly believe this is turning out to be a wonderful experience for him while developing a bond with the family he wouldn’t get otherwise.

I think his goal is to get to the top of this huge stump. 

Luke and Jake

Ice Cream!

Keeping cool and helping water something??

The reason I ran 9:31 min/mile...running with
my good friend Ray (he slacked off for me).
Thanks to my other good friend, Glenda for sending
me the pic.
As for mommy, I finally started my job.  I wasn’t sure that was ever going to happen…  I’m enjoying going into the office every day, getting a little socialization of my own, dressing up (except for the heels), and using my brain in a way that hasn’t happened in quite some time (I forgot how large my co-worker’s vocabulary actually was!).  On the after hours side, well, I’m going to start being a grown up next week.  I think without Jake and Andy and any real responsibilities, I forgot I was pushing 40 and not 25.  Aside from my extensive time with friends, I’ve really gotten into my running (I completed a 5K this weekend and actually ran a 9:31 min mile….I’m a slow poke and normally can’t break 10 min.) and I joined a Crossfit Gym.  I’m hoping to dazzle Andy when I get back with my transformation J.

How is Andy handling his newfound freedom?  He’s been to the Rock Islands a couple of times, hanging out with the other bachelor in the anchorage.  He’s done some diving/picture taking, of course.  But I think mostly he’s been working on the boat.  He’s repainted our deck, refinished our countertops, and fixed numerous mechanical issues that have popped up recently.  Oh yea, the list wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t tell you he flooded the water tanks again and has spent a fair amount of time cleaning up (not sure when he’ll learn that lesson!).  Overall, I think he’s doing fine.  He’s kind of the loner in the group so all in all, he might be getting some peace he didn’t know he was craving (or maybe he did?).  He’ll head out in another 3 weeks or so and pick Jake up from OK and bring him back to Palau.

So there you have it, the latest update.  Apologies for the lack of pictures…if I ever get paid, I plan on buying another camera complete with ability to upload pictures.  In the meantime, thanks to my mother-in-law for keeping us posted with pictures of Jake!

Friday, July 26, 2013

It's a different world out here! Or is it?

I know I’m long over due for a post, but we’ve been busy flying!   Jake and I finally made it to the States.  We had a wonderful week in sunny California with my parents (we even got to spend an afternoon with our friends Sue and Ginger that we met in Palau) and we’re now enjoying the solitude of rural Oklahoma with Andy’s family.   

Being here is kind of surreal because in reality, it isn’t that much different from being on the boat and in some ways, its even more isolated.  The nearest grocery store is a 20-minute drive away…if I had to walk like we do in Palau, I don’t believe I would worried about these extra pounds I’ve packed on!  The new cell phone I bought doesn’t get service out here…in Palau we even get service in the Rock Islands!  There isn’t a ton of outside stimulation so for entertainment, you have to either turn inward, or get back to nature.  Jake now knows the difference between a steer, bull, heifer and a plain old cow.  There seems to be a hostile takeover going on by the grasshoppers, so we spent one afternoon counting them in the driveway (well over 60 by the way) and trying to identify all the different kinds and putting a name to them.  We even saw a pair mating.  It’s a very peaceful place and while on the surface it seems to be a lifestyle in direct opposition of our own, it actually didn’t take that much getting used to.  Instead of dinghies there are four wheelers and tractors!

Unfortunately, my time here is coming to an end.  I finally received a start date for my job in Virginia and I’ll be flying out sometime next week, leaving Jake to enjoy the rest of his summer with his cousins, aunt and uncle and grandparents.  I would love to show you some pictures of all of the little people together but I left two key items back on the boat…1) my camera charger and 2) the card reader I use to upload to my computer.  So…those will have to wait. 

This will be the first time I’ve left Jake for more than two weeks.  I’ve no doubt he’ll benefit from the experience (I’ve already seen that happen in some of the ways the he’s resolving his conflicts), but I have to say, this mommy is going to need a few extra prayers.  I’m lucky that I’ll be distracted by a job as well as some old friends.  Now I guess I’ll get a taste of what Andy went through all those years on deployment (and vice versa…I’m sure he’ll be hearing a lot more “daddy, daddy, daddy” than usual ;) ).