Friday, 22 November 2019

Come and See us at the Boatshow

The Fluenta crew will be at the Vancouver Boat Show ! Elizabeth is the keynote speaker for the Women's Day and the whole crew will be presenting three times through the weekend. 

We are looking forward to visiting with friends - old and new - during the show.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Fluenta and Crew on TV - Two Minutes of Fame

We spent several hours today hosting Paul Johnson and a camera man from Global TV onboard Fluenta for interviews and filming while anchored in False Creek.  Pretty amazing that they managed to take all the interviews, combine them with some photos and video that we provided, and come up with this two minute segment a few hours later.  

The link to the video is here:

Elizabeth's turn to be interviewed.

Johnathan chauffeuring the crew back to the dock

Monday, 21 October 2019

Fluenta and Crew are in Canada !

This afternoon Fluenta and crew tied up at the Prince Rupert Rowing and Yacht Club marking our return to Canada.  After many hours of motoring in Alaska we quite appropriately were able to sail again as we blasted across the border with winds approaching 30 kts.

Victoria raising the "Q" flag for the last time for a likely a long time.

In the continued series of "not in the tropics' photos ...
A few swells as you can see looking at the fishing boat passing us.  The sun did shine for a few moments.

And yes, we have lots of Alaska blog posts to catch up on ... eventually ...

Friday, 18 October 2019

More Fluenta in the News

"Family Completes 7-Year Cruising Odyssey" is rather premature as we are still in Alaska.  The main newspaper in Victoria, the Times Colonist, interviewed us awhile ago. That article - the link here - was reprinted in various other publications and even picked up by Blue Water Sailing magazine's weekly e-mail (screenshot above).

We have thousands of Alaska photos and words to organise into blog posts but the top priority at the moment is to keep moving south.  In the meantime I have added lot of photos to the previous blog posts from the long passage from the Marshall Islands to the Aleutians.  The posts start here:

For folks that want to meet us in person we have some exciting news coming up soon (well exciting for us anyway !)

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Fluenta in the News and the Comments ...

Five years ago CBC asked to interview us when we were visiting back in Nova Scotia after we travelled from Mexico to New Zealand.  They followed up with a radio interview this year before our departure from Majuro and another on passage.  CBC complemented these with web articles that were republished on MSN and elsewhere (friends in California even saw the article in their news feed).  An Albertan CBC station also interviewed us while we were on passage.

The first article can be found here and the follow-on article here

In 2014 at the CBC studios in Halifax after crossing from Mexico to New Zealand.  Benjamin, aged barely one at the point, was thankfully sleeping.

We were a bit apprehensive or curious to see how the interview was received but we were a bit shocked when we found out there were 310 comments in a few days !  We heard about all the comments from family when we were at sea and we were worried it would be a big pile of negativity like confronted our friends in Rebel Heart when they needed to be rescued in 2014. 

Fortunately most of the comments were like these:
  • "I love this story! What an incredible adventure and gift for this family! I wish them all the best with their new life in BC." 
  • "These kids will have been taught a kind of education that they never could have received from traditional schooling. How very fortunate for them. Wonderful story."
  • "How about the memories made on such an endeavour? What a great experience. Props to the Shaws for doing things differently. Cheers. 
  • "That an amazing experience for the family! They’ve created memories and helped build lifelong skills in their kids. Thanks for showing a happy life in a different way of living!"  " 
  • "All the sights, sounds and smells, and food and cultures these children have known and shared in. What a wonderous thing. Good on the family ." 
  • "Way to go team. What a terrific testimony to your vision for your family and pursued adventure of long time cruising. Without doubt your planning skills (we know where you two got that confidence), taking advantage of your personal enthusiasm for life and shaping an experience for your children that will frankly advantage them in this busy world is outstanding. All the best on your next "change in life"."
  • "Life is a gift. This family is certainly enjoying theirs. Welcome home"
Others were just funny like this one:
  •  "How awful to make your kids vulnerable to all kinds of dangers health wise and natural dangers like possible terrible encounters with whales and sharks."  Whales ! Yes, much better to be dodging traffic and crime in some city (I have traveled a bit beyond this sailing trip but my only significant impact from crime has been two break ins in Ottawa and one in Dartmouth.  None from the boat !).  Anyway, dangerous photos of whales and sharks below

Swimming with whales in Tonga

and sharks ...
In a lot of the cases other commenters mocked or tried to correct the negative comments like in this one:
  • "What a selfish experience these parents inflicted on their children" mocked by the next commenter below
  • "Ya, those whole "world travel" and "self-reliance" things surely must put the kids at a disadvantage."
 or in this case:
  • "Last I checked kids need social interaction outside of the family unit, to develop coping mechanisms. Can’t imagine there’s much of that going on in the middle of the ocean"
  • Followed up  by multiple comments pointing out that the negative commenter obviously had not read the article or noted about the wide range people the kids have interacted with from widely varying cultures and backgrounds.  A few photos showing the lack of social interaction:
Kids camping ashore in Navadra Fiji.  No parents allowed and kids from Belgium, Spain, USA, Sweden, Australia and of course Canada with ages from one to 13.

With our host family at Fulanga in the remote Lau Group of Fiji.

and more recently Enejelar village in the even more remote Ailuk Atoll where we have spent almost four months over over two visits.

And the obvious question of money came up:
  • "Nice to be rich" said one commenter to which someone replied,
  • "What makes you think they are rich? The cost of a boat is a lot less than the cost of a house. Without a mortgage, car loans, etc. their monthly expenses would be pretty low. And they would both have military pensions." Although we do realise we are very fortunate to be in the situation where we can do an adventure like this.
 And oddly some food comments too:
  • "Must be vegans.Three servings of kelp everyday." Which was a bit strange considering the front photo was of Johnathan filleting a tuna ... or
  • "I think I'd crave a pizza every now and then!" and "They can get one on any of the islands they visit. :)" Hmmm  ... not a lot of pizza on many of the islands we visited other than areas where there was a tourism industry.

A feast with the other "kid boats" and our hosts in Fulaga.  Nobody was disappointed there was no pizza.

The kids and I "helped" the local ladies catch the mud crabs.  A caught one for a whole morning's work and the ladies caught a whole bag.

We went ashore in Nasasobu to go to church with Liz's parents and were invited to stay for lunch and kava too.

There were several along this vein too:
  • "I would love to hear/ see their story in a longer format, is a book or TV special in the works".
  • "How many of us really have the guts to follow our dreams? Not many! They have made future sailors out of all the children as well as collected a full life time of memories which I'm sure will be passed on in their families! I hope one of them writes a book and also children's books!! Good for them!"
  • "fabulous story! please write the book! welcome home" 
Well never say never but there is no intention at the moment for a book. We have been invited to present at two boat shows though. More to follow on that.

And finally my favourite comment was the theme song from the TV Show "The Littlest Hobo" that we have watched as a family when we have had good internet and could be our unofficial theme song too as it plays in my head as we leave a country:

There's a voice, That keeps on calling me
Down the road, That's where I'll always be
Every stop I make, I make a new friend
Can't stay for long, Just turn around
and I'm gone again.................

Monday, 19 August 2019

A Warm Welcome in Dutch Harbor (Alaska Week 1)

Berry picking in the hills.  No bears on Unalaska so a bit less stressful than in other locations.


We were told before we arrived that we would find a warm welcome in Alaska, and our week at Dutch Harbor confirmed it. From the fishermen on our dock who shared fish, octopus and local knowledge to the General Manager of the local department store who offered us a ride if we had too many groceries to carry, we received nothing but good wishes and generosity. We even had two women from a local church come down with some extra boots when they heard through the grapevine that we were short a pair (seven years in t-shirts and flip flops left a few gaps in our wardrobe even after lots of on-line shopping in Majuro).

Unalaska has the most bald eagles we have ever seen !

More eagles.  This is going all traditional and actually in a tree.(Johnathan photo)

Not on atolls anymore ... (Johnathan photo)

We arrived in Dutch Harbor with a pretty empty freezer, as we had been eating up our provisions and had caught only one fish on our long passage. By the time we left, it was so full that I had to temporarily take out the top layer of pink foam insulation panels! By the time we left Dutch Harbor, we had been given Pacific perch, Pacific cod, squid, kelp cod, and octopus. I got chatting with some fishermen at a town BBQ, and they were fascinated by our story (especially as one of them had teenagers at home in Washington State and liked the idea of getting 'away from it all'). As we were parting company, they asked whether we liked fish. When I answered that we did, they said that they had some extra in their van, and would drop it off at the dock. I expected a token bag; what arrived was an entire box (big enough for Benjamin to play in)! We were also given fresh octopus by the small boat across from us. It turns out (as we learned from other cruisers who had learned the technique in French Polynesia) that octopus should be frozen solid and then cooked in a pressure cooker for 20-40 min (depending on size) before being skinned and cut into pieces to be fried in butter and garlic. This tenderizes the octopus, which can otherwise be tough.

Tasty octopus that got itself trapped in this fisherman's crab traps.

and Johnathan went out fishing with Wade from SV Just Drifting.

Now that Kodiak is no longer a port of entry, Dutch Harbor is the clearance port for sailboats from the west and the south (ie from Japan, Micronesia, and Hawaii). Within two days of our arrival, our numbers had swelled to seven yachts, and local people were coming to the top of the ramp to marvel at the unusual number of sailboats rafted up. For us, it was especially significant to be alongside in North America, as it was our first time on a dock since last December (in Fiji) and the first time with compatible (i.e. 120V) shore power since we left Mexico in 2014!

Fluenta actually on a dock.  First dock since December and first shore power since 2014.

Our social calendar filled up quickly. The first evening, we took a page from Lin & Larry Pardey's book and went to the local Bar & Grill for 'cook's night out'. We went next door to trade stories with the other kid boat one night, we hosted an impromptu dinner and talked about babies and kids on boats (one of my favourite topics!) another night, and we joined in a potluck BBQ and singsong, where the kids ran barefoot on the cold grass until the sun set at midnight, on a third night. We hardly had time for chores!

The Small Boat Harbour has BBQ's free to use.

More boat kids !

More boat kids !

It wasn't just our evenings that were full. Our neighbours took both big kids up to Blueberry Hill to look for early berries, and came back with buckets of salmon berries, as the blueberries were still a few weeks away. (Salmon berries are an Alaskan delicacy that we all loved immediately, and that the kids have picked at every stop since). We visited the museum, where we learned about the traditional practices of the Aleut people and were moved to tears by the story of their short-notice evacuation from their homes and multi-year internment in rainy SE Alaska during WWII.

Johnathan discovered common interests with our neighbour during their berry walk: he had grown up on a farm and had a lifetime of experience hunting and fishing. Johnathan spent the next afternoon and evening reloading ammunition [ie carefully weighing and measuring gunpowder and packing it into brass casings]. Our neighbour had been using some of these casings since he was a teenager. Johnathan and Max were invited to go with him the next day to shoot a big .44 revolver and a high-end bolt-action rifle on some land he owns nearby. This couple also took Johnathan fishing, and he came back with a rock cod. In true small-world fashion, they turned out to be friends of cruisers from Kodiak whom we had first met in French Polynesia, so we were able to deliver a birthday package when we met up the following week :)

When in Alaska ... do as the Alaskans do ...  Johnathan and I got to go shooting with Wade.

When in Alaska ... do as the Alaskans do ...  Johnathan and I got to go shooting with Wade.

When in Alaska ... do as the Alaskans do ...  Johnathan and I got to go shooting with Wade.

As we approached the dock on arrival, we noticed a rather unique looking boat flying a NZ flag. Max recognized it immediately from his extensive reading and research on all things sailing and safety: the boat was Kiwi Roa, and we were going to be two boats away from the man who had designed our beloved Rocna anchor. He and his wife turned out to be a delightful couple, and Max spent a very interesting morning aboard their boat, looking at all the details that he had designed into it. We were also able to share some information with them as they may well be headed to our neck of the woods for the winter :)

Me with Peter in front of SY Kiwi Roa.  Peter has done some serious miles in this amazing boat he built.

Internet was expensive ($25 for 1 GB or $80 for 5GB through a wifi signal on the dock - we paid about the same amount for 50GB in Majuro!) but we got connected so we could progress projects like school work and parts provisioning. Our boom vang components were out of stock, so we will have a bit of a wait for them.

We spent a lot of time in the Marshall Islands re-bedding deck fittings, but unfortunately while we were on passage I put my woven Marshallese recipe box on the galley counter where it was vulnerable to the one place on the port side that remains on the list and still seems to be letting in water. Victoria spent an afternoon interleaving pieces of paper towel with each of the recipe cards, and then we had a bit of a cardboard theme to our decor while we dried them out. Thank goodness for furnace vents! The bottom panel of the recipe box is corrugated cardboard wrapped with pandanus, so it had become quite saturated. The box is now only slightly the worse for the dousing: getting wet seems to have aged the lid, and it is no longer quite as resilient as it used to be. It was a good reminder that we live on a boat, and that we shouldn't get too attached to our physical possessions.

There are two big stores in Dutch Harbor, so I took the opportunity to re-stock some of our provisions, although I was surprised to see that the prices were similar to what I had paid in the Marshall Islands. It was actually a relief to find out than anything I had overstocked in Majuro had not been bought at an expensive premium compared to Dutch Harbor!

Heading out shopping in Dutch Harbor

I have to admit that I was surprised by our weather. Not only did we see the sun most days (in fact, we had one glorious blue-sky day where the green hills and white snow were beautifully lit up) but it was dry enough for laundry. There was a commercial (in-house) facility at the fish processing plant, but I was afraid of the dryer heat, so I decided to do just one sink full by hand so that all our wool layers would be sure of fitting us when I was done!

We had stayed on Marshallese time during our passage, with the intention of adjusting to Alaskan time on arrival. This turned out to be a tough thing to do: when the sun set at almost midnight local time, it only felt like 8pm to Benjamin. We also found that people naturally socialized until dusk, and then called it a night. It just so happened that dusk occurred sometime after 11pm!

After a week in Dutch Harbor, it was time to move on. With cries of 'fair winds!' and 'see you down the road' ringing in our ears, we left the dock on Sunday morning for an overnight passage to False Pass, a small village just over 100 nm away.

Love to all,
At 2019-07-01 6:23 AM (utc) SV Fluenta's position was 61°03.87'N 147°56.09'W

Retiring our light air spinnaker and moving the sock over to the old spinnaker.

and a fuel dock !  No lugging of jerry cans.

Sent via SailMail,

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Marshalls to Alaska Day 26: Sunday again ... and LANDFALL Dutch Harbor

Not in the tropics anymore ...


This will be our last 'on passage' update for a while: Fluenta docked in the wee hours of day 27 at Dutch Harbor Alaska (0500 Majuro time 16 July 19 / 0900 Alaska time 15 Jul 19).

You may have noticed that we sailed steadily from 171 deg E to 166 deg W without ever mentioning that we crossed the date line.  We crossed 180 deg longitude a few days before the end of the trip, when the weather was getting challenging and no one was very interested in celebrating, so we decided to keep things simple for the remainder of the passage and just stay on "Fluenta Local" time (GMT +12) which kept all the math and calculations for weather and watch rotations easy and consistent.  This meant that we needed to go back in time and 'lose a day' as we came towards Dutch Harbor, so what better day to repeat than Sunday, with its promise of juice and bacon! 

As it turned out, having cooked a big brunch on one day, I didn't much feel like doing the same again the next day, so we just played Sunday Music and reminded ourselves all day that it was Sunday instead. The currents were strong and in our favour, so even when the wind was very light, we made good progress.  We had a combination of motoring (ie warm boat) and light air sailing (ie silently gliding).  After several weeks of off-shore conditions, it was surreal to be in the flat calm.  The watermaker was running with the engine, so we had plentiful water, which meant the luxury of hot showers all around.  We had single-digit winds but 3 kts of current, so we were doing 3.7 through the water and over 6 kts over ground.

It was powerful, almost visceral, to come upstairs on Sunday morning and to see the height and breadth of the nearly 7000 ft glacier-capped hills that were sliding by, barely 3 nm away.  To our right we had the immediate view of Umnak Island and to our left we had an active volcano belching out smoke and ash into the cloud layer.  The sky was grey and heavy, as it had been for most of the previous week, so the brilliant greens that blanketed the island were especially vivid.  Johnathan was using the binoculars to look for waterfalls, teaching Benjamin to look through them and use the internal compass.  I had somehow been expecting bare granite (which I think is more to be found towards the western end of the Aleutians), so I wasn't prepared for the beauty and vibrancy before my eyes; there are so few shades of green and no elevation in the atolls!  When Benjamin had woken up and seen snow at the top of the mountains, he was disappointed that he couldn't stop and touch it: "All my life I have wanted to see snow" he told Max :) 

There was a lightheartedness to the atmosphere aboard Fluenta all day.  We had completed the hardest part of the journey, and we simply needed to stay the course (and keep paying attention) until we docked.  We regularly remind ourselves that 'we are not there until we get there' so we stay vigilant.  Victoria made pizza for supper, using our last two packages of sliced meat and plenty of cheese.

We had our friends on Sweet Dreams to thank for our dessert: just before we left, they arranged a care package of items for Fluenta, and as a surprise included some Skittles and some Jolly Ranchers for the kids.  After spending two months together, they knew these candies were well-loved but unavailable in Majuro.  The Jolly Ranchers have been carefully distributed at some of our milestone events on passage, but the Skittles had been untouched.  For dessert, we finally opened one treasured bag, and everyone received a tiny handful.  The kids are very good at savouring their treats, while making sure that Mom doesn't keep things so long that they spoil!

My night watch after dinner had a specific goal: to get us to Dutch Harbor at precisely the right time, not too early and not too late.  We had about 20 nm to go, and I had 5-6 hours.  The likelihood was that the wind would die as I came around the last headland before Dutch Harbor, so I would sail for a while and then motor the last stretch.  As it turned out, I had just enough wind to keep the sails from slatting on a deep broad reach, and we ghosted along at 2-3 kts for almost the entire night.  Just when I thought I would have to start the engine, the wind rebounded from its 3 kt low (1.9 kts of boat speed) and built back up to 12 kts.  We arrived at the outer harbour as dawn was lightening the horizon, so Max took the watch and jibed gently back and forth until it time to call the Harbor Master.  The kids woke on cue, so while I dozed in my bunk, they all got out lines and fenders and readied the upper decks for docking.

Docklines ! What !

The first thing everyone noticed when they looked around Dutch Harbor in the daylight was all the bald eagles!  They seemed to be sitting on every tree, post and surface that we motored by.  As we entered the small boat harbour, there was even an eagle guarding a massive nest (made with branches and old rope) at the top of the navigational buoy.  We started to feel like we had signed up for a guided tour when we started seeing sea otters.  The kids had seen a few during the day on Sunday, and we saw several as we entered the outer harbour.  Just like on the nature documentaries we had loved as kids, we could hear them noisily opening their food with rocks.  The closest one showed up in time for docking: startled from his breakfast, he dove under our bow as we approached the dock.  We had hardly been in Alaska 24 hours, and we had already seen volcanoes, a whale, bald eagles, and sea otters!

Docking can sometimes be one of the most stressful times in a passage.  After 3,000 nm, it all comes down to putting Fluenta in exactly the right position with only a few feet to spare.  We were given a spot on a long dock, with a fishing boat to one end of us and the bow of another sailboat facing us at the other and a gap just long enough for Fluenta in between.  The wind was negligible, but was blowing us slightly off the dock, which meant that Max made a steep approach, and the kids and I were to step off as soon as we were close enough (but without any heroics!) and get the lines secured.  It went off without a hitch.  Seven years after leaving Anacortes with two small children who had to be kept downstairs during such maneuvers, we made our first docking in North America with two teenagers who could take the bow and stern lines while I stepped ashore with the center line (and a five year old who stayed downstairs!).  Fluenta glided into position, we each got our lines into place, and without a raised voice to be heard, we were secured with room to spare.  Job done.

It is sometimes said about parenting that the hours are long but the years are short.  Similarly, as we sailed from Majuro to Dutch Harbor, the watches sometimes seemed long (and cold) but the passage now feels short.  Having crept up the latitudes along the Mexican coast, we flew by the latitudes where special people at home live (Oregon ... Ontario ... Nova Scotia ... British Columbia) all in the space of a few days.  It was fun to have people at home being parallel to us, but we didn't have much capacity to stop for contemplation at the time!  Before we knew it, we were further north than anyone we knew, and we were carefully following our route around the Aleutian Islands to our destination. 

Entering Dutch Harbour

Everything we had read about Dutch Harbor had suggested that the welcome here would be warm and friendly, and that has certainly been our experience.  We expected to be alone on the dock, but found that there were already three cruising boats here, so we felt immediately at home and part of a community: before the end of the day, the kids had been invited to go for a blueberry-picking hike (apparently is wise to go here and now: it is safe in the blueberry patches around Dutch Harbor as there are no bears in the Aleutians, unlike spots further east in Alaska).  To top it off, in the best kind of small-world cruiser serendipity, dear friends whom we hadn't seen since NZ (over a year and almost 6,000 nm ago), tied up beside us the next day, so our kids have an instant social circle.

For those who love statistics, here are some numbers:

Direct distance (Majuro to Dutch Harbor) - 3004 nm
Miles traveled - 3782 nm
Avg speed 5.5 kts
Days sailing from Rongerik to Dutch Harbor - 24 days 16 hours
Days sailing from Majuro - 26 days 10 hours total
Total Engine hours - 104 hrs
Engine hrs for heating - approx 5 hrs
Engine hrs for charging - negligible (once or twice)
Fuel used - approx 50%
Bags of Milestone Chips for the 500's - 5
Starting sea temp - 30 deg C
Current sea temp - 9 deg C
Maximum sustained winds: 29 kts
Minimum sustained winds: 0.9 kts
Time drifting: one night
Significant maintenance issues - 3 (torn spinnaker [we have a spare], vang gas cylinder [can use the topping lift instead], fractured vang end piece [lashed together with dynmea line]; we also re-stitched much of our rain enclosure and some non-essential electronics failed)

We made a list of our hopes for the passage before we left Rongerik.  I am grateful to say that I was able to check off all the items after we docked.  This was our list: no gales; motor little and have enough diesel; calm period to cook NZ steaks; arrive in time to have a nice visit at Prince William Sound; surprisingly good weather.  We spent over a month with no one to socialize with but one another, and we are all still on speaking terms; in fact, our teamwork and skills are stronger than they were before we left.  We have had a good trip.

Thanks as ever for your love and good wishes as we crossed such a vast stretch of the Pacific Ocean.  We are grateful for your support and emails, and are glad that we had the technology for you to vicariously travel along with us!

Love to all,
At 2019-07-01 9:51 PM (utc) SV Fluenta's position was 33°20.87'N 166°42.48'E