30 July 2014

Think Sweaters, Not Bikinis {Some Places On Our Sailing Bucket List}

Where should we go on our next sailboat?
While we've been figuring out where to buy our next sailboat in the States, we've also been tossing around ideas about where we want to sail to and explore. We're not sure how long we'll want to cruise full-time - it could be two years, five years or forever - so we probably need to think about what our "sailing bucket list" is so that we can prioritize where we absolutely want to get to. Of course, where we end up buying our next boat will have something to do with where we end up sailing to first.

So here is the start of our "sailing bucket list" - it definitely keeps evolving and growing as we think and read about new places. These are some of what I like to think of as "cooler weather" places. Bring your sweaters and leave your bikinis at home. 

The San Juan Islands, Washington State

Located in the Salish Sea between Vancouver Island and mainland United States, the San Juan Islands are an archipelago of 172 islands and reefs, only four of which are accessible by public ferry (Orcas, Lopez, San Juan and Shaw). That means that there are a lot of places you can only explore on your private boat! If we buy our next boat in the Pacific Northwest, this is where I think we would start off our next sailing adventures from.

A few of the places we want to go and see

Friday Harbor, San Juan Island - the busiest port in the San Juans, it is supposed to be a quaint little town chock full of shops, restaurants, historical sites, museums and art galleries. Sucia Island - known as the crown jewel in the Washington State marine park system, it has a reputation as one of the top boating destinations in the world. Garrison Bay, San Juan Island - we can learn about some history at English Camp, which is part of the National Park Service. Stuart Island - described as a marine park for mariners who want to get away from it all. Sounds perfect. 

Want to know more?

You can find a free San Juan Islands cruising guide on the Salish Sea Pilot siteSV Cambria is currently sailing in the Pacific Northwest and they have lots of great information about their adventures in this neck of the woods on their blog. Cruising World has an article on a seven day cruise from Bellingham to the San Juans. Northwest Yachting Magazine has a list of the top 10 places you don't want to visit, unless you like grounding your boat (always good to know what to avoid). If you don't have a boat, you might want to check out the tourism site which has information about the islands you can get to on a ferry.

Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia

Lying off the far eastern side of the Russian Federation, the Kamchatka Peninsula is relatively unexplored by your average tourist. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and known as the "Land of Volcanoes". I first learned about the area when I read James Michener's Alaska. In the early 1700s, the Danish explorer, Vitus Bering, was commissioned by Peter the Great to build ships and lead two explorations from the Kamchatka Peninsula to what is now known as Alaska. Maybe we can sail from Alaska to Russia and retrace Bering's route? 

A few of the places we want to go and see

The nearby Commander Islands - Vitus Bering was shipwrecked and died here. Today, you can go and see the amazing wildlife including seabirds and fur seals. The Valley of the Geysers - the second largest geyser field in the world. Avacha Bay - some people (aka the Kamchatka tourism board) say it is the biggest and most picturesque bays in the world. Located in Avacha Bay is the city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. It's the second largest city in the world that isn't reachable by road.
Want to know more?

So do we! Has anyone traveled there by sailboat or land?

The Inside Passage, Alaska

The Inside Passage is a protected coastal route which runs from the Puget Sound in Washington through British Columbia and then up to Skagway in Alaska. The Alaskan portion is 500 miles from north to south and includes a thousand islands and thousands of coves and bays and is home to the Tlingit, Haida and Tsminshian peoples. People usually explore the Inside Passage on a big cruise ship, but wouldn't it be so much better to do it on a sailboat?

A few of the places we want to go and see

Glacier Bay National Park - has rugged mountains, fjords, dramatic coastlines and, of course, glaciers. Ketchikan - has the world's largest collection of totem poles. Tongass National Forest - not only is it the largest national forest, it is also a great place to safely see lots of brown and black bears. 

Want to know more?

Check out SV Lealea's adventures on their blog and You Tube channel, as well as hear the crew talk about their experiences on The Sailing Podcast (you can also find an interview with me there too). You can find information on the Glacier Bay National Park here.

The Baltic Sea

Located between central and northern Europe, the Baltic Sea has everything you could want - lots of history, bustling cities and quiet towns, islands and peaceful anchorages. Several years ago we went on a Cities of the Baltic cruise (thanks to a cheap, last-minute deal) which was a great way to see some of the sights in a short amount of time, but it would be so much more fun to be able to explore the area at a more leisurely pace by sailboat.

A few of the places we want to go and see

Fårö Island - lying to the northeast of Gotland Island, Fårö is a popular summer resort area known for its peace and quiet, interesting limestone rock formations (rauks), an old lighthouse and a lot of sheep. Riga - the capitol of Latvia, is a UNESCO World Heritage site noted for its Art Nouveau architecture and is supposed to have a Prague-like feel to it. Aland Islands - an autonomous Swedish speaking archipelago in Finland, with around 300 islands to explore.

Want to know more?

SY Dolphin Dance has a list of the top 10 sailing destinations in the Baltic. You can find information about how to get to the Baltic Sea via the Kiel Canal on SY Kissen's site. Martin Edge has a series of posts about anchorages, harbors and marinas in Finland on Sail in Finland.

What's on your bucket list whether by boat, plane, train, bus, camel etc.?

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - we'd love for you to pop by and say hi!

25 July 2014

Shakedown Cruise Review: Relationships On Board

Background - When we decided to become full-time cruisers, rather than buy our "forever" boat and set off around the world, we took a different approach and moved aboard our "for now" boat in New Zealand for the 2013/14 season. We used it as an opportunity to do a shakedown cruise to discover what works and what doesn't for us in terms of the cruising lifestyle before we buy our next boat. This is the seventh in a series of posts on how it all went. 

Once upon a time, I wrote a post about relationships at sea. I tried to anticipate the types of challenges that might come up if we moved aboard a 26' sailboat together. I'm pretty sure 20 plus years of marriage doesn't really prepare you for something like this. But it sure did help. Here are a few of the things I learned about relationships on board during our time cruising in New Zealand.

1. Being the skipper can be stressful (and unfair).

Maybe we need to trade in pink and blue roles for violet ones?
I didn't fully realize how stressful living on a boat was for Scott at times until we moved back on land and he slept soundly through the night without worrying about our floating home. Because he was the skipper of our boat, he took responsibility for our safety, getting the boat from point A to point B and making sure the boat is in good working order. He was basically responsible the engine and everything "up above" and I took care of everything "down below" (like cooking, laundry, cleaning etc). 

Given the fact that Scott is much more experienced than I am when it comes to sailing, the division of  labor made sense at the time. But in reality, it just wasn't fair to Scott to have him be the sole skipper of our boat. I didn't feel like I was pulling my weight in terms of our relationship and my contribution onboard and he always felt like he always had to be on duty. On our next boat, we'll have to find a way to be co-skippers to balance things out a bit better.

2.  Sometimes when you're grumpy with each other, it's just the weather.

It's hard to sleep soundly when you're worried about dragging anchor.
Yes, there were times when we got grumpy with each other. Every couple has those moments (if they say they don't, they're probably lying). We did notice that we got grumpier with each other living on our boat, then we normally do on land. After talking about it, we realized that it wasn't each other that was making us grumpy, it was things outside of our control. Like not being able to sleep because of an annoying swell slamming your boat from side to side. Or being stuck in an anchorage or marina for days and days because of an ex-cyclone. Or staying up all night worried you're going to drag anchor in the middle of a gale. 

When you're sleep deprived and frustrated because things aren't going the way you want them to, sometimes you take it out on your partner. The trick we learned is to realize that it isn't us, it is the weather. And in the end, the weather always gets better and so do our attitudes.

3.  We really do learn differently. 
Math was never my strongest subject in school, but algebra seems like a breeze now compared to some of the stuff I've had to learn when it comes to sailing.
Scott knows more about sailing then I do, so he ended up trying to teach me things and help me practice new skills. The operative word here is "try". I wasn't always the best student and he wasn't always the best teacher - for each other, that is. I'm probably an amazing student for some teachers and Scott is probably an amazing teach for some students, but we have very different learning styles. He learns by watching people, listening to them explain how to do something and asking questions. The he tries it out (often nailing it the first time) and asks for feedback from people as to how he did. I have a more "internal" learning style - I like to read about something, understand the theory behind it, think about it, think about it some more and then maybe try it out in the real world by myself. 

You can imagine how this works when Scott tries to teach me something, like tying a knot. He shows me how to do it while explaining it, then expects me to try it out right then and there. Generally, I just stare at him blankly and then go down below to read about knot tying and think about it while eating a snack.

4.  We both like to travel and explore, but sometimes at different paces.

Where should we travel to next on our boat?
We already knew that we both like to travel and explore - we're both restless vagabonds at heart - and our time cruising in New Zealand affirmed this. However, we do operate at slightly different paces. Scott is a big fan of what he calls "guerrilla tourism". He likes to see as many places as he can and do as many things as he can when he visits someplace. He is a full-on type of traveler. I also like to see and do a lot, but I do require more rest stops and snacks than Scott does. 

So no surprise that when it came to cruising, sometimes I wanted to hang out in a particular anchorage for more than one day and just read a book in the cockpit. Fortunately, we've learned through the years to find the right balance between Scott's full-on mode and my slightly lazier mode.

5.  It's important to have fun together (and be silly). 

If you can get your husband to let you take a picture of him with a box on his head in honor of Boxing Day, then you know you have a keeper.

We wouldn't be married for this long if we didn't have fun together. Otherwise, what's the point? Living on a boat and cruising together can be stressful, so if you can't have fun together and do silly stuff, I don't think you're going to last very long. Overall, we had lots and lots of fun together cruising in New Zealand so we're hoping to get our next boat soon so we can continue our adventures on the water.

What lessons have you learned living with your partner 24/7 on your boat? 

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - we'd love for you to pop by and say hi! 

All images via The Graphics Fairy, except for the photo of Scott with a box on his head.

23 July 2014

Go West, Go East Or Somewhere In The Middle?

One of the problems with the States is that it is humongous! Not only are the portion sizes literally super-sized (42 ounces of soda pop and a 12 ounce hamburger are perfectly normal here), but the country itself is immense. At 3.71 million square miles, it dwarfs most other countries in terms of size. And many American states are bigger than other countries - for example, France (211,000 square miles) is smaller than the state of Texas (269,000 square miles). {Don't feel bad France - you have pain au chocolat and that more than makes up for your lack of size!}

So when we said to ourselves, "Let's head back to the States to look for our next sailboat!", we really didn't think through the practicalities of buying a boat in a country where driving from one coast to the other can take you days and days and cost you a small fortune in gas. We've also heard so many stories about people flying out to see a boat that they've fallen in love with online, only to find out that it wasn't meant to be after the survey and sea trial. Nothing worse than racking up flight and hotel costs only to be disappointed and have to start all over again.

We're thinking that it might make sense to pick a particular region of the States, base ourselves out of there for a while and look for our perfect next boat. But where to go? The West Coast, the East Coast, the Great Lakes or someplace else? There are just too many choices and pros/cons of different regions. As if there weren't enough things to think about when it comes to boat buying, now we have to think about where to buy our boat! Here are some random thoughts we have about each area - what do you think? What other things should we consider?

The Pacific Northwest

Our families live in the Pacific Northwest, so that's where we'll start our boat buying adventures from. One of the advantages of buying out here is that there is less UV damage to boats. Of course, that is also one of the disadvantages - the sun doesn't always shine here. I imagine there is less of a selection of boats available in the Pacific Northwest than in the more populated East Coast. But, if we buy out here, than we would have the beautiful San Juan Islands on our doorstep and we could head up to Alaska! Ever since I read James Michener's Alaska, I've wanted to sail up there. 

Of course, if we decide to head up to Alaska, we'll probably need to think about getting some sort of polar bear defense system. I'm thinking about rigging up a series of catapults which would hurl pink marshmallows and distract the polar bears away from our boat. By the way, the marshmallows really need to be pink so that they show up on the snow and ice. Of course, I imagine boats for sale in the Pacific Northwest probably already come with polar bear defense systems (and heaters) as standard equipment.

The East Coast

When we first started to think about buying our next boat in the States, we always assumed we would pick one up on East Coast and take it down through the ICW (the inter-coastal waterway which runs along the East Coast) to Florida and then down to the Bahamas and Caribbean. Depending upon whose blog you read, going down the ICW either sounds like a nightmare or the best time ever. Personally, I think it would be fun to explore all of the little seaside towns and historic sites along the way and an interesting way to get to the Bahamas and Caribbean. That area always seems like such a mecca for cruisers with its warm waters, frolicking dolphins, drinks which are enticingly called "painkillers" and of course the famous swimming pigs. 

I do worry about two potential downsides of sailing in the Caribbean - bikinis and overcrowding. The bikinis are self-explanatory from my perspective (think middle-aged woman who eats too much chocolate). It seems like all the pictures I see of people cruising in the Caribbean are fit young people and the girls seem to have an endless supply of bikinis. Of course, maybe middle-aged people who eat too much chocolate just don't post pictures of themselves wearing their one-piece suits and tankinis? 

Regardless of what type of bathing suit they're wearing, I do worry that there are a lot of people in the Caribbean and that the anchorages get crowded. I like my peace and solitude, which is one of the reasons I loved sailing in New Zealand, and I'm not sure I want to be surrounded by lots of other boats. Hopefully, I have it wrong and there are plenty of quiet anchorages and not so many bikinis.

The Great Lakes

If we can't decide what coast to go to, we could always head to the Great Lakes and look for a boat there. You have the advantage of picking yourself up a boat which has only been in fresh water and if you buy at the right time of the year, you might be able to get yourself a bargain. If we buy in the Great Lakes, then we would have two exciting options to get ourselves over to the East Coast - either through the Erie Canal or via the St. Lawrence Seaway through Canada. 

I grew up in Cleveland and had to take Ohio History, which was possibly the most boring class I ever took. Only a few things stuck with me - there are 88 counties in Ohio and the Erie Canal was an important trade route between the eastern seaboard and the American interior. If we traveled through the Erie Canal, I would feel like there had been some value in my Ohio History class, plus going through locks sounds pretty neat too. But, if we go through the St. Lawrence Seaway, then we could see the home of Anne of Green Gables on Prince Edwards Island! {Scott's eyes glaze over every time I mention this, he may be voting for the Erie Canal route.}

Or Someplace Else?

Or we could start our boat buying someplace else - like Texas. It never occurred to me that people sailed boats in Texas. Clearly, I didn't pay too much attention in geography class. When you think about it, it makes sense - there is this little thing called the Gulf of Mexico on the southern border of Texas. I don't know much about Texas, but I do like cowboy boots and the people seem to be really friendly and there is this cute little town called Kemah which I would love to visit. 

Or do we buy a boat in San Diego and then sail down to Mexico? Clearly, there are too many choices and I am starting to feel overwhelmed. Help us figure out what to do. It's either that or I think I'm going to ask my nieces to make us a fortuneteller so that we can let fate decide. You know those folded up paper things that you made in school which told you which boys liked you and what you were going to be when you grew up. Mine is going to say things like "Go to Kemah - your boat is waiting for you there!", "Fresh water boats are the best!" or my favorite, "You will win the lottery and can buy a boat in every port!".

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - we'd love for you to pop by and say hi!

18 July 2014

Shakedown Cruise Review: Wish List For Our Next Boat (Pt 4/4)

Background - When we decided to become full-time cruisers, rather than buy our "forever" boat and set off around the world, we took a different approach and moved aboard our "for now" boat in New Zealand for the 2013/14 season. We used it as an opportunity to do a shakedown cruise to discover what works and what doesn't for us in terms of the cruising lifestyle before we buy our next boat. This is the sixth in a series of posts on how it all went.

In the last few posts on our wish list for our next boat, we shared the things we want that make life easier, what kind of setup we want down below and what systems we need. In this post, we talk about what we want in terms of the boat itself (some of which might be unrealistic given our budget), as well a few other things.

1. Size

The all important question - how big should our next boat be. We're looking for something in the 35-38' range. Could be a little (just a little) smaller and possibly a little bigger. We want something small enough that we can easily manage as a couple and which can be theoretically single handed if the need ever arises. Cost is the other big factor in what size boat we're looking for - we don't have a ton of money to spend and we don't want to pay oodles more for a larger boat in terms of slips, maintenance costs etc. You can read more about our thoughts on size here.

2. One Hull or Two?

We're going to most likely getting a monohull for our next boat. Cats are more expensive and they are generally bigger which kind of rules them out for us. However, I am very interested in the Gemini cats - small enough to fit into a standard slip and big enough for a couple. And they aren't tippy which is a big draw card for me. You can read more on our thoughts on cats vs. monohulls here

3. Type of Boat & Set-up

We're looking for a sloop with a keel stepped mast. Ketches, schooners and yawls look nice and evoke that romantic sailing feeling, but one mast is enough for us. Scott really wants a keel stepped mast - he seems pretty adamant about this. But I know that there are a lot of different opinions on the matter and pros/cons. Let's hear what you have to think about the subject in the comments!

On our sloop, we want fibreglass decks - teak is pretty, but it is a real pain to maintain. We also want a center cockpit as they allow for an aft cabin (think center-line queen bed!) and you get more protection from the elements. Which brings us to dodgers, spray hoods and biminis - we want some of those! Our last boat didn't have any protection, so when it rained we were wet and we didn't have protection from the harsh New Zealand sun. We also want a decent size lazarette to store all of our stuff in.

And the final key thing in the set-up is easy access. I get enough bruises from sailing without having to add to my collection banging into things when climbing over the pushpit rails. I would love a decent swim platform, an open transom and/or a sugar scoop. 

4. Anchor 

We loved our Rocna anchor - with just one or two exceptions, we never had any problems anchoring and pretty much always felt secure with our ground tackle. We would like another one of these for our next boat, as well as one or two more for different types of conditions and those times when you need an extra anchor or {gasp} you lose your main anchor. Add in an anchor hose, and we'll be as happy as Larry.

5. Other Stuff 

Besides a winning lottery ticket to be able to buy all this stuff with, there are few more bits & bobs that we want in our next boat. Davits would be awesome. This should have been listed in our post on things that make life easier. We hauled our dinghy up using a halyard on our last boat and stored it on the deck which meant it was constantly in the way when you had to go forward. Davits would make life that little bit easier and keep the dinghy out of the way.I should have also included good ventilation in our post about the set-up down below. And finally, Scott wants a 3-blade folding prop. I have no opinion on the matter - do you? 

So what do you think? What else should we consider when it comes to buying our next boat? 

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16 July 2014

Organising Our Sailing Medical Kit

Thank you Graphics Fairy for another great vintage image.

In addition to being First Mate and Chief Communications Officer, one of my other key responsibilities is organizing our medical kit. Before leaving New Zealand, I met with my GP to talk through what medicines we might need for our medical kit. I did a bit of research beforehand and brought a list of potential medicines with me to discuss. One of the things I discovered is that some of the medicines people listed in their medical kit lists aren't necessarily used in New Zealand or if they are, they aren't funded. I worked with my GP to get prescriptions for a number of different medicines to start us off initially. We will need to think about replenishing and adding to our kit over time. 

I thought it might be useful to share what's in our medical kit, as well as provide links to some of the resources I found useful when I started doing research. If you have any questions or want any more information, please don't hesitate to email or leave a comment. 

The New Zealand Healthcare System

I should probably start off with a little bit of an explanation of the New Zealand healthcare system for folks who aren't familiar with it. I think it is fabulous by the way, especially compared to some other systems around the world. Medical care is considered a basic right in New Zealand. This is one of the reasons why I love this country.

New Zealand has a mixed private-public health care system which works like this:

  • Accidents - Anyone who is involved in an accident is entitled to free treatment through the ACC. This applies to citizens, permanent residents and tourists. (To be fair, this does seem a bit ridiculous at times as when I cut my finger on a soup can and needed emergency treatment, the cost of my visit to the clinic was free and it really was the result of my own stupidity.) 
  • Hospital Care - If you're a citizen or permanent resident, it is all free. Yes, there can be waiting lists, but you can also choose to purchase private insurance if you want to speed things up. All the lab tests I've ever had here have been free as well.
  • Primary Care and Prescriptions - For citizens and permanent residents, you have to pay a co-payment to visit the GP and fill prescriptions. The cost of GP visits varies depending upon the practice and where it is located. For example, mine is in central Auckland and costs NZ$56 which is pricier than you might pay elsewhere. Some people are eligible for a reduction in costs (e.g., beneficiaries, people with long-term illnesses). In terms of prescriptions, medicines that are on the official government list are either free or require a NZ$5 co-payment.

To get my medical kit organized, it cost me NZ$56 for my GP visit and NZ$55 for my prescriptions. I had twelve prescriptions filled - one of which was fully funded. I did have a prescription for an Epi-Pen, but decided not to fill it as it isn't funded and would have cost me NZ$200. Neither Scott of I have severe allergies that would cause us to go into anaphylactic shock (as far as we know), so I thought it was worth the risk of not getting one. Plus, they only last a year and then you have to start all over again.

Our Medical Kit (so far)

In addition to having a basic first aid kit, here is what we have stocked up in our medical kit so far. Any thoughts and suggestions very welcome. If you can't read this and want me to email you a copy, let me know. It basically boils down to treating allergies/asthma, dealing with infections, coping with pain, sorting out tummy issues and some basic first aid things.

In addition, I also have a nine month supply of levothyroxine which I need to take every day. I'm going to have to figure out a way to get more of this when my supply runs out.


If you want to find out more about medical kits, here are some of the resources I found useful. If you have any suggestions of other links to add, please let me know.

Where There Is No Doctor - This is a free health care manual which you can download. It is used by health care workers around the world and is easy to understand from a layperson's perspective. It covers a whole range of topics including examining someone who is ill, prevention and treatment of common illnesses, and guidelines on the usage and dosages of different types of medicines. 

Dr. Mark Anderson has a comprehensive list of what you might want to include in your medical kit. He is a sailor and an MD so he probably knows what he is talking about.

S/V Estrellita talks about how they put their offshore medical kit together and provides a link to a PDF copy of their medical kit list. Their post also has links to other great resources which I've included here. 

The Monkey's Fist has a great collection of posts about health care experiences far from home.

Beth and Evans list the contents of their offshore medical kit including useful information about what prescriptions are only available in the States.

Marine Medic Courses - Scott went on a two day first aid course in New Zealand which was designed specifically for medical emergencies in a marine situation. If you're in New Zealand, this link takes you to information about the course run here, although I'm sure there are similar courses run in other parts of the world.

Commuter Cruiser has a number of useful posts about things you think about before you set off cruising, like this one about what to ask your doctor when putting together a medical kit. Commuter Cruiser is such a great resource that I've even stolen their disclaimer:
ly-used health care manual for health workers, educators, and others involved in primary health care and health promotion around the world. Current edition includes updated information on malaria, HIV, and more. - See more at: http://hesperian.org/books-and-resources/#wtnd
ly-used health care manual for health workers, educators, and others involved in primary health care and health promotion around the world. Current edition includes updated information on malaria, HIV, and more. - See more at: http://hesperian.org/books-and-resources/#wtnd

This post does NOT constitute medical advice, we are generally healthy with no health issues.  The important part of this post is to have a discussion with your doctor before you go cruising and put together a well stocked medical kit tailored to your specific needs!

Thanks for stopping by our blog - we love it when people come visit! We're also on Facebook - we'd love for you to pop by and say hi!  

14 July 2014

Scenes From Auckland, New Zealand


Random photos from when we lived in Auckland, New Zealand in 2008-2014.

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11 July 2014

Happy Birthday Mr. Blog & Random Blogging Tips

I can't believe that we started this blog a year ago and that this is our 177th post! It all started because of my mom. Bless her cotton socks. Like most moms, I imagine, she wants to know what we're up to and wishes I would email a lot more often. So when we decided to move onto a sailboat and start cruising full-time, I thought starting a blog would be an ideal way to keep her up to date on our little adventures. And as an added bonus, it seemed like a great way to organize our photos and keep a record of our travels. So two birds, one stone. {Random side note: Isn't that just an awful little saying to use to describe an efficient action? Death to birds = efficiency. Do vegetarians use this phrase?}

I'm surprised that I've kept this going for so long - I usually get bored of things much more quickly. But for some reason, I find writing up these random posts to be quite enjoyable and, at times, cathartic. And when we go back and read them, they make us laugh. Oh, the stupid things we've done! 

I really didn't know what I was doing when I started this blog and I still don't. So I've been having a look at various tips about how to write a great blog - such as this one on Blogher, this one from Bumfuzzle and of course this one from Windtraveler. After having a little review, here is how I think our little blog stacks up against some of their criteria:

1. Write about what you love

Tick. I love traveling, I love Scott and most of the time I love sailing. There are definitely days I don't love sailing. But I love writing about those days because it is cathartic. And people feel sorry for you - which I love.

2. Do good, don't bash others & don't be a "misery loves company" blog  

We try to tick this box, but yes, there are times when I write about the miserable days (see point 1 above). But on the whole, I try to keep things fun, not complain too much and bear in mind the golden rule. Because let's face it, we're lucky enough to go cruising, we have way too much to eat and we have a place to sleep every night - so really what is there to complain about? All you have to do is pick up the newspaper on any given day just to realize how darn lucky we are. 

3. Be different

Yeah, we probably don't tick this box. There are exactly 1,357,546,079 sailing blogs out there already. So we're not exactly different. And surprise, surprise - lots of people have sailed in New Zealand already. And pretty much everyone writes about the stupid things they've done on their boat. So, no, we're not different. But my mom likes our blog and has never read another cruising blog in her life - so at least she thinks we're different.

4. Post regularly

Tick. We try to post three times a week - Tuesdays, Thursdays & Saturdays. Except, of course, when we have difficulties getting internet access or charging our computers. But generally, I write a whole bunch of posts at one time and have them all lined up and scheduled to go out. Which explains the alternative timeline and universe that my blog lives in - things often get reported in blogland a month or two after they happen in reality.

5. Keep it short and sweet

Nope, don't always tick this box. I sometimes write long, rambling posts with lots of weird tangents. This probably isn't going to change. However, when I write a day-by-day log type of posts, I try to do a shorter intro section which describes the theme of those few days so that people can just scan that and then move on to someone else who keeps it short and sweet. My mom on the other hand, is retired and has plenty of time so I expect she is reading all the way to the bitter end of each post. You are, aren't you?

6. Use pictures

Tick. One of the main purposes of our blog is a place to store our pictures, along with our stories. Scott is our camera man. He desperately wants a Go Pro and thinks this would take our pictures to the next level. I know that I love looking at the great pictures other people share in their blogs so I think this is a really important criteria. We even have a whole series of "Going for a Walk" posts of the places we've meandered, hiked and tramped in, which are mainly photos. (If you're interested in checking them out, click on "Walk" in the labels section on the right hand side and it will bring them all up. Or click on the New Zealand tab on the top and you'll see a list of all of them there too.)

7. Use social media & make friends

Maybe 37% of a tick on this one. I recently started a Facebook page for our blog - something I never thought I would do. Clearly some sort of demonic spirit possessed me, took over my computer and set it up. And then I got sucked into the world of Pinterest. Who knew how much fun pinning pictures could be? I'm still a little bit unsure about this whole social media thing and a recent experience has kind of put me off a bit. However, one of the best things about blogging and reading other people's blogs is connecting with folks through email, comments and, yes, even Facebook and Pinterest. We love hearing from you - keep it coming! What do you like about this blog? Let us know and we'll try to keep doing it.

8. Write like you talk

Tick, kind of. When I write a blog post, it is basically a brain dump of what all the weird little voices are saying to each other in my head. So yeah, it is kind of how I talk. Except when I'm working. No one at work really wants to hear you talk about demonic spirits or zombie wallabies. Instead, you're expected to use big words like "paradigm", "fungible" and "hegemony" and corporate phrases like "think outside the box", "it needs to be sticky" and "transformational change". No one really wants to hear nonsense like that in a blog. Especially Scott. 

So there you go - another long, rambling post to celebrate Mr. Blog's first birthday. I have no idea why my blog is a boy. But then again I have no idea why boats are girls. Blog just sounds like a boy's name. You wouldn't really name a little girl, Blog, would you? But it would be a great name for a cat. Blog the cat - it has a ring to it doesn't it. We're not getting a cat on our boat, so go ahead, you can name your cat Mr. Blog. Send us a picture though. Maybe I should host a Mr. Blog the Cat competition - best cat wins the opportunity to guest post on our blog. I better go check email now, I imagine the entries are flooding in. Better hurry and get yours in - email to thecynicalsailor (at) gmail (dot) com.

Random tangent now over. We'll see you back here on Tuesday.

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09 July 2014

8 Things I'll Miss About New Zealand

After spending over five years in New Zealand, I'm heading back to the States this weekend for a few months to visit family before we start looking for our next boat. It got me thinking about the things that I'll miss while I'm away. 

1. Whittaker's Chocolate

If you’re at all familiar with our blog, then the fact that chocolate made it on to the list will come as no surprise. The folks at Whittaker’s have been making chocolate since 1896. But they do point out that chocolate has been around a lot longer.

“Nowhere in the Bible does it specifically suggest an exact date that God created chocolate, but if you were a betting person you’d go Day One. Quite early. Probably not long after breakfast in fact.”

The Dark Ghana is my favorite. It is 72% cocoa from Ghana with just enough sugar from Costa Rica to make you go “yum”. Because it is dark chocolate, theoretically you only need a few squares. Theory doesn’t always match my reality. It is even better if you melt in the microwave and eat it with a spoon. Get the big block – they’re designed to share. But don’t. Keep it to yourself. 

2. Pohutukawa Trees

A bit cliche, I know. But they're cool. They're known as the Kiwi Christmas tree because they get these amazing red flowers in the summer. And when you think of New Zealand, this is one of those things you think of. And one of the things I'll miss.

3. The Libraries

I like libraries because they remind me of my sister. As part of my downsizing, I got rid of most of my books and as a result spend a lot more time in the Central Auckland library. I think you get a feel for a city by hanging out in the library and people watching. I also like checking out a random selection of books from whatever is on the "recommended by the librarians" shelf. Sometimes they have good taste, other times I wonder what they were thinking. But I always learn something new. And it is free. Except if you don't return your books on time. My sister and I might know something about this. 

The picture above is probably my favorite library in Auckland - the Waterfront Container Library in the Wynyard Quarter. It is literally an old shipping container that they've turned into great place to borrow books, swap books or donate books for others to enjoy. It was started with just $65, some books gifted by the Auckland Libraries, some plants from the Auckland Council and donated furniture. Maybe this is the kind of place that Jorge Luis Borges was thinking about. 

"I have always imagined that Paradise will be like a kind of library."

4. Blokes in Shorts and Gumboots

Kiwi blokes pride themselves in being able to make anything, fix anything and do anything with just a piece of number 8 wire. When I think about the number 8 wire mentality, I always think of guys in shorts and gumboots. Practical, no nonsense and could care less what they look like and what you think of them. Self-sufficiency is big part of the Kiwi DNA. You might not have to be self-sufficient in the big cities and you certainly don't see a lot of guys walking around in shorts and gumboots in Auckland, but it seems like there is still a deep seated belief that Kiwis can do anything they turn their hands and minds to. So no real surprise that Kiwis punch above their weight in so many areas. Maybe that's what Eric Sharp was alluding to when he was talking about the 1995 America's Cup. (We'll pretend that 2013 never happened.)

"The United States invented the space shuttle, the atomic bomb and Disneyland. We have 35 times more land than New Zealand, 80 times the population, 144 times the gross national product and 220 times as many people in jail. Many of our big cities have more kilometres of freeway than all of New Zealand, our 10 biggest metropolises each have more people than all of New Zealand, and metropolitan Detroit has more cars on the road than all of New Zealand. So how come a superpower of 270 million got routed in the America's Cup, the world's most technically oriented yacht race, by a country of 3.5 million that outproduces us only in sheep manure?"

5. Moas

Despite what people may tell you, the moa is alive and well in New Zealand. The photo above should be proof enough. This amazing flightless bird can be up to 12m tall and weigh 230kg. That's a big bird. Not to be confused with Big Bird. Although Big Bird and the moas do have a lot in common. They're both friendly and good with children. You can tell them apart by the color of their feathers - Big Bird has a rather flashy yellow coloring so that everyone notices him, while the moas have a bit more of a subdued plumage as they don't like to draw attention to themselves. Which is why you don't see them very often. 

If you would like more information about how to join the Moa Preservation Society, click here. They're a great organization dedicated to making the world a better place for moas. And keeping them from being turned into beer.

6. Volcanoes

From time to time, I remember that living in Auckland means you're living in the middle of a volcanic field. There are 53 volcanoes dotted about - all of them dormant. Or so they say. The last eruption was around 600 years ago on Rangitoto Island. You can see the volcanoes all around you. Go for a walk through the city and before long you have to climb over one to get to the other side. Go for a sail in the Hauraki Gulf and look at all the volcanoes sticking out of the water. They call them islands. It's pretty neat to live in a city chock full of volcanoes - as long as they keep to themselves.

7. Four Square Markets

The Four Square is a chain of grocery stores that you usually find in smaller towns in New Zealand. You'll find the iconic Mr. Four Square image on a whole range of Kiwiana souvenirs from tea towels to coffee mugs. You might call it kitsch, I call it fun. When you go into a Four Square market, you feel like you're stepping back in time. They're often tiny, with narrow little aisles jam packed with all of the basics. The choice is more limited. Which isn't always a bad thing - how many varieties of tinned tomatoes do we really need? Everyone always seems to know each other in these stores. It's very sweet and a good reminder that there is far more to New Zealand than the big cities.

8. Sailing

And of course, no list would be complete without a mention of sailing. I signed up for this little adventure of ours for the opportunity to explore the world by water. We've been lucky enough to do a bit of traveling before, but usually by the more conventional means of transport like planes, trains, buses, cars and the occasional camel. But I have to say, seeing the world from a boat takes the cake. It gives you a really unique perspective on a country and its people. I got to see some amazing places in New Zealand, places I probably wouldn't have gotten to without a boat - like Great Mercury Island, Browns Island, the Cavalli Islands and Whangamumu, just to name a few. They say New Zealand has some of the best cruising grounds in the world and I can think of no better country to explore by boat.
"Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends." Maya Angelou

Want to know more about New Zealand?

Check out our travel adventures in New Zealand on this page.

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07 July 2014

Our Cheap & Cheerful Travel Style Over Time (Pt 2/2)

This is the second part of a series about our cheap and cheerful travel style and some of the places we've been lucky enough to explore during our 20+ years of marriage. If you want to start at the beginning, you can find part one here where we talk about the start of our cheap and cheerful travels (eloping to Copenhagen and honeymooning in Paris) and some of our travels in Europe.

Picking up where we left off...

7. We Finally Make It to Greece!*

Poppies trying to overtake the ruins in Greece
After our failed attempt to get to Greece on 9/11, we were thrilled when we booked a classical Greek cruise. And not any ordinary cruise, but the ultimate in "cheap and cheerful" - an EasyCruise cruise. If you're familiar with EasyJet (one of the European budget airlines), then you may recall that for a couple of years they also ran budget cruises. The idea was to offer no frills cruises with basic amenities which targeted people who wanted to spend time onshore, rather than on the ship. Our stateroom was basically a mattress on a platform, but it was en-suite. The facilities were limited to a small dining room/bar and the outside deck.

Surprisingly, they didn't allow you to bring your own food onboard (something budget travelers love to do) and wanted you to buy a meal plan and eat in their restaurant. The food wasn't anything spectacular and, as the boat sailed overnight, we took our lunch and dinner onshore. So much tastier and cheaper. And we hid croissants and muffins in our jackets and snuck them onboard for our breakfast. Breaking the rules is sometimes part and parcel of "cheap and cheerful" travel.

With EasyCruise, you got what you paid for. For us, it was a cheap way to travel on a floating hotel and visit places like Athens, Delphi, Ithaca, Corinth, Mycenae and Nemea. 

*Note: Scott has reminded me that we actually went to Rhodes before we went on this trip. This is one of the reasons why he is handy to have around - he remembers all that detail stuff. Anyway, this was the first time we went to mainland Greece.

8. Hanging Out with the Old Timers

Peterhof Palace (also known as the "Russian Versailles") in St Petersburg, Russia
We ended up doing another cruise, this time on a proper cruise ship, in the Baltic. It was another one of those last minute deals and ended up being around £500 each. The cruise was everything I had always imagined cruises to be - cheesy entertainment, endless buffets heaped with food and lots and lots of retired folk having the time of their life. I think we were among the youngest people on this particular cruise, and we weren't all that young. 

Like our EasyCruise, it was a convenient way to see a lot of places we had never been to before like St Petersburg, Tallinn, Warnemunde and Helsinki, as well as revisit some old favorites like Oslo and Stockholm. One of the drawbacks, though, of going on a larger cruise ship was the amount of time it took to disembark the ship and the relatively short amount of time you had in each port. But we did get to see St Petersburg without all the usual visa hassles that you might normally get traveling to Russia. And we got to hang out with the old timers. They were awfully adorable - especially the ones celebrating their 50th anniversaries.

9. Exploring New Zealand by Car

Pins from places we visited on the South Island of New Zealand
After seven years in the UK, I got a job in New Zealand and moved to Auckland in 2008. Because we don't keep a car in Auckland, whenever we decided to go on holiday in New Zealand, we ended up having to hire a car. The neat thing about New Zealand is that there are a lot of car rental places catering to a range of budgets and you can hire an older car (which is conveniently pre-dented) for a pretty reasonable rate and with unlimited kilometers. So although we would end up spending a bit of money on petrol, the car itself wasn't too bad.

We did a few trips in New Zealand over the Christmas holidays. Pretty much everything shuts down in New Zealand for three, sometimes four weeks, and Kiwis head off on holiday. We were no exception. We did three car trips around the North Island and one trip around the South Island (flying in and out of Christchurch). On one of our trips we even got ourselves a sort of "camper car" so that we could try to blend in with the young, backpacking crowd. It was kind of a downmarket version of those bigger camper vans that the New Zealand roads are jam packed with. Even the young, backpacking crowd seemed to look down on our "camper car." In the end, it pretty much rained that entire trip which made the "camping" part of our trip not so much fun and we quickly decided to embrace our middle age and stay in motels.

New Zealand isn't exactly the cheapest place in the world to travel around in, but if you use those tried and true budget traveler tricks (like buying groceries and making a lot of your meals), then you can manage your costs to some degree. New Zealand is one of the most amazing places in the world to travel around in (there is a reason why it is on everyone's bucket lists) and is well worth saving your travel dollars up for.

10. We Up Our Game in Tahiti

Ukelele players in Papeete, Tahiti
If you grow in someplace like Cleveland (me) or North Dakota (Scott), Tahiti sounds like one of the most exotic places you could ever hope to get to one day. Fortunately, that one day happened for us. For folks living in New Zealand, going on holiday to the Pacific Islands is pretty run of the mill. {Here is a bit of trivia - did you know that Auckland has the largest Pasifika population in the world? Samoans, Cook Islanders, Tongans, Niueans and Fijians make up a good chunk of this city's diverse population.} 

We got a good deal on a flight/hotel combination (yes, "deals" are an important part of our travel philosophy) to Tahiti and off we went. We ended up staying in a really nice ocean front resort in Tahiti which felt absolutely luxurious to us after our years of "cheap and cheerful" accommodations. But not to worry, we still managed to do things frugally. We didn't eat at the resort, we bought groceries at the market to make our breakfast and lunch, we ate at these amazing "roulottes" (or food trucks) and we brought some duty free gin with us. 

While we were there, we did go to the neighboring island of Moorea for a night. It was a bit strange to have a hotel we were paying for sit empty in Tahiti, but we really did want to explore a bit more. We compensated by staying in an absolute dive in Moorea - a recommendation from one of the hotel staff. But the snorkeling and scenery on the island more than made up for it. 

11. Celebrating 20 Years in Southeast Asia

Some cute kids we ran into on our way up to the Golden Triangle in Thailand.

For our 20th wedding anniversary (where did the time go?), we decided to travel around SE Asia for a month. We flew from Auckland into Bangkok just in time for Christmas (who knew it was such a big thing there?), then flew up to Chiang Mai where we hired a motorcycle and drove up to Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle, then back down to Chiang Mai (with the motorcycle breaking down along the way) where we caught another flight to Phuket. From Phuket we went by boat to Koh Phi Phi (party center for the university students), then off to Koh Lanta (which was much quieter and better suited to middle aged folks) before going to Koh Lipi and then to Langkawi (on a boat that broke down). From Langkawi we headed to Kuala Lampur, then over to Melaka (a fascinating World Heritage city) before making our way to Singapore where we finished up our trip.

It was fabulous. It was cheerful. It wasn't necessarily cheap. There were a number of flights and we stayed in pretty decent hotels in Koh Lanta, Bangkok, Kuala Lampur and Singapore. They weren't four or five star hotels by any stretch of the imagination, but they weren't the one and two star hotels we enjoyed when we first eloped to Europe. However, we balanced that all out by eating lots of street food (yummo!) and staying in some cheaper places along the way. We knew it would all be a bit of a splurge, but we had saved up for it and it was our 20th anniversary after all. 

{Mom - if you're reading this, wherever it says "motorcycle", just delete and insert "car" instead.}

12. Exploring the World by Sailboat

Our boat, Rainbow's End, anchored in Paradise Bay, Urupukapuka Island in the Bay of Islands
Now we're exploring the world by sailboat. It can be a truly "cheap and cheerful" way to travel as you're essentially taking your house with you wherever you go (like an RV on water). Of course, that is if nothing expensive breaks. Because that never happens on a boat. We bought our first boat in December 2012 and spent the 2012/13 season cruising around the Hauraki Gulf over the holidays and during other times that I managed to take off from work. After that, we decided this was the life for us and we moved aboard our boat full-time for the 2013/14 season and cruised all around the Hauraki Gulf, Bay of Islands and other parts of Northland. {If you want to read more about our time in New Zealand, check out this page which has links to all of our posts.}

Since we plan on making this our way of life for at least the next couple of years (if not longer), we're tracking every penny we spend so that we can try to manage to our budget. During this last season, we ended up spending close to NZ$7,000 over a period of 16 weeks (you can find more details of our budget here.) Some people spend a lot more living on a sailboat, some people spend a lot less. A lot of it does come down to where you're cruising - New Zealand probably isn't the cheapest place in the world.

We're now off to buy our next boat in the States and continue our cruising adventures from there, so stay posted as we continue to share what we get up to and how we continue to try to do things on a budget.

What's your travel style like? Are you a "cheap and cheerful" traveler or do you prefer to do things a little bit more upscale?

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