Archive | July, 2010

packing and sniffles

19 Jul

I had a minor breakdown last night. Just a small one.

We’ve spent the weekend packing boxes and clearing through hidden drawers and cupboards and moving pot plants to their new homes and generally freaking Cowboy out. (That dog knows something is happening. And that it’s Big. But he can’t quite figure it out and it’s driving him nuts.) Generally, we’ve been Very Efficient. All the easy stuff is packed and now we just have to deal with all the masses of impossible to figure out how/where/whether to pack stuff.

On the subject of “whether to pack”: We’ve thrown out a LOT less than we thought we would. Obviously our days of living without possessions on a boat are far in the future and we *need* all the clutter we’ve accumulated. So we continue to accumulate (but in boxes).

Sorry. This post isn’t supposed to be about packing. Even though that’s all we’ve been doing … back to my meltdown:

Last night, as we were nesting for bed, I just started crying and crying and crying: I’m going to miss 50 Vredehoek. It has homed and witnessed so much of our life together.

In the Beginning (of stoffie n saartjie), Stof was looking for a house and I used to traipse the Sunday afternoon house search with him. Even though neither of us imagined that 6 years later we’d be married (to each other) and living there, we walked through the door that sunny afternoon, looked down the passageway (through the pillars and door frames that entice you in) and grinned at each other. It *felt* like home.

Our house is full of light. And beautiful detail: sanded wooden doors and floors, brass light-switches, 1940’s mezuzot, deco lamp shades, clay fireplace, a spiral staircase that descends to our never-ending basement. We have loved it and made changes that have enhanced its liveablity. Like the wooden ChrisGarratttsquared-built deck outside our COMPLETELY revamped master bedroom (with fabulous bathroom (double showers!) and awesome fitted cupboards) and the space (the space!) in the opened-up living area. The garden is full of our favourite fynbos treasures and Stof’s lemon tree in the front and my leper tree in the back…

Our beautiful house has homed us. It’s witnessed adult arguments and infantile fights. Stompings and ravings and stormings and tantrums and sobbing and snubbing. All that.

But it has seen us build our relationship. In our house we’ve moved from fiery lovers (in each room, mind you!) to closest of friends. We’ve held each other in each other’s lives. Each day we’ve been there (or away from there) it’s been the base for the weaving and knitting of our hearts. We’ve learnt to live together in that house. We’ve learnt to listen and to talk and to plan and to share. We’ve found that the best way is to reach for each other first, and tackle the challenges as two. We’ve realised that home is where the other is.

I love that house with an intensity that isn’t quite acceptable for an inanimate object. I love it’s painted walls and sanded floors, the pretty red roof and even the high skirting boards. I love each step (inside, outside, upstairs, downstairs) and every counter (wooden, marble, tiled). I love the little nooks and the big walls for big pictures. I love all the storage and how safe we feel.

I am excited about our adventures. Ecstatic, even. But, aah, I’m going to miss our house.


finding laura

15 Jul

I’m going to claim all the glory for finding Laura.

We’d been dreaming about sailing across the Pacific for months and trawling through nearly every day. I think I wouldn’t be  far wrong if I ventured to guess  that Stof and I became two of the most knowledgeable poppets out there when it came to yachts between 39 – 45 foot long and valued in the $100000 – $200000 bracket in the United States. One day I got a little distracted looking at Bristols and did a general search and “BINGO!” we found the Laura.

I’d like to say that we were immediately in love and that it all fell tickety-boo into place. Rather, we tried finding every thing wrong with the boat.

For sale in Mexico? She’s got to have something wrong with her! (Nope, the owners just don’t want to sail her back up to the States for sale purposes.)

Shallow keel? She must get tossed around in bad weather! (Nope, the heaviness makes up for that.)

Gosh she looks pretty in the pictures? MUST be because those pics are from years ago! (Nope, just two months old.)

A 1981 boat? Surely she’s got all manner of problems! (Nope, it appears those previous owners sorted out anything niggly and installed a whole load of new things. Generally, though, she’s solid and well built.)

A Bristol? What’s a Bristol? We are never going to be able to sell a Bristol in Australia! (Turns out there’s a broker in Brisbane who LOVES Bristols. And most of the quality boats in Aus aren’t very competitively priced, so at our price we should get lucky…)

Yup, we basically tried to find as many reasons as possible why this was NOT the boat for us, but at each step it seemed more and more like it just might be The One. We contracted a surveyor – the highly respected and ridiculously experienced Cecil Lange – to give her a “pre-survey”. When we  called him (it was  late one Saturday night in the mountains after more than a few glasses of red wine), he told us he couldn’t resist doing the full survey. “Don’t let this one go,” he said, “she’s a beauty.”

The REAL winners for us (well, probably me… Stof also looked at important things like sails and beam and generally quite technical stuff that is still rather myterious to me. I’ve got a LONG way to go…) :

  1. Low engine hours – only 1366. This is really good.


  1. Largely new electronics: important cos that stuff is CO-ST-LY.


  1. Huge storage tanks for both water (think: drinking, cooking, washing, showering etc while at sea) and fuel (so we’re not forced to fill up too much in expensive places like French Poly).


  1. A spicnspan interior. She is gorgeous inside.


  1. Large and comfy cockpit.


  1. A braai! (Bbq!)


  1. TWO generous cabins (NB if we’re encouraging people to join us for bits of the trip. Which we are!)


  1. Head-turningly pretty. Honestly, just look at that gleaming deck and those pretty wood toe and hand rails. Yay!


Eventually we convinced ourselves that this was it. We reached consensus with the buyer on the price and we were all a-go to buy a boat on the other side of the world. That we had never seen. Or been on…

BUT, you know what happened then.

All pics on this page are from yachtworld. We poured over them for HOURS on a daily basis. Pics from our time with the boat coming up next.

so so suck your toe, all the way to mexico

11 Jul

Our 48 hours of (almost) non-stop travel have been characterised by luck. We stepped of our flight from CT in Heathrow, tootled through the bus station to catch the connecting bus to Gatwick and we were able almost immediately to board the bus (which left 5 minutes after we bought the tickets). Check-in on our Mexicana Air flight opened just 10 minutes after we arrived at Gatwick. On landing in Mexico City (hurrah – and smuggling our biltong through customs: even though the bags went through an x-ray machine!) we found our hotel guide, boarded the shuttle and were showered and tucked in bed in less than an hour of arriving in Mexico.

Mexico! Flippin awesome.

My immediate impression is of how similar Spanish is to Portuguese. This makes it surprisingly easy to understand el mexicanos. But even more surprisingly difficult to respond. The task should have been easier as I bought that cheapaschips phrasebook in Gatwick (jeepers books are cheap in the UK). Sadly, I left my “Latin American Spanish” phrasebook in the seat pocket of the plane from Mexico City to La Paz. Judging from the lack of foreigners on the La Paz-Mexico City connections (let’s just say it was fairly easy for Shelly from La PazYachts to figure out who were when we landed), the next person who digs into that pocket isn’t going to think she’s a “lucky fish”. I can’t really say what she will consider herself as any such consideration is likely to be in Spanish, and due to my lack of aforementioned phrasebook I have no clue what the translation would be…

I haven’t been the only one struggling with the transition from Portuguese to Spanish.  Despite only knowing, um, about one word of “Porra”, Stof consistently has thanked people with a resonant “OBRIGADO!” No amount of reminding on my behalf (or confused looks on the faces of the locals) has persuaded him that it might be anything different. I’ve resorted to trying to jump in with an even louder “GRACIAS” as soon as I notice a grateful look in his eye. Lucky I know him quite well.

But moving on: the food! Yumskins. I’m pretty sure I could subsist on only Mexican fare. Which is probably what all those Mexicans think too. We can’t wait to spend a whole MONTH eating here. Another marvellous discovery is that Matzalan has a thriving shrimp industry. Which means that the restaurants of La Paz (a mere 9 hour ferry ride hop across the Sea of Cortez) offer some of the freshest, tastiest prauwnes I’ve ever eaten.

Which reminds me: is there an actual difference between shrimps and prawns? The “shrimps” I devoured in my tacos both looked and tasted like “prawns” (as I know them), but one can never be too sure. It might just be another one of those US English v Restoftheworld English things. With a large community of American cruisers in La Paz, and the prospect of spending at least another month in Mexico before we start our Pacific crossing early next year, Spanish is not just the only language we’re having to grow accustomed to: American is the lingua franca of the cruisers in this part. And Stoffel and Saartjie are about to join that cruising world!

View from our first lunch spot…

where we watched the Ghana/Uruguay clash (thankfully we had to get back to the boat before the scandal).

Enjoying another of Mexico’s delights.

Another charming view of lovely La Paz.

travelling with the vuvu

11 Jul

So we’re in London! At Gatwick Airport in London, to be precise (I feel the need to explain WHICH airport in London as we were at Heathrow this morning before catching the connecting coach). This time last week, we could not have imagined that I’d be sitting in Gatwick writing the first post (of many, we hope) describing a series of adventures that Stof and I intend embarking on over the next few years. This time last week we had just put in an offer on a boat in Mexico. A beautiful 41’ Bristol in La Paz that looks to be in pristine condition. All of our research has confirmed that a 41’ Bristol yacht might well be the perfect vessel to carry us across the Pacific during the course of 2011 and this specific boat, the “Laura” currently on the hard in Baja Sur, has been loved and meticulously equipped by the current (previous!) owners. Her electronics and rigging are new, hull is sound and has been recently reconditioned, the engine has low hours and the sails are young. [On reading this paragraph, I have to smile a wry grin. While Stoffel is a seasoned sailor, I knew boggerall about boats a mere 4 months ago… I have a lot more to learn before the real journey commences!] I digress. Our offer was accepted, but we only expected to be able to see the boat sometime in September. Escaping South Africa during the world cup is both expensive and something we didn’t really want to do: we have been *feeling* the gees most enthusiastically. Various commitments would keep us both tied up for a further month and a half, so we felt on slightly shaky ground bidding for a boat that we wouldn’t even be able to lay hands onto until she was fully and actually OURS! We felt nervous, but willing to take the risk, when Stof’s dad intervened. “You’re crazy!”: Rick’s reaction to us forking out a third of our joint estate on a vessel we’d never seen. So he offered us airmiles to London from where we are flying to Mexico in about two hours time. It’s currently Stof’s turn to “bird bathe” himself over the airport bathroom basins and then proceed to the “Halls of Beauty” to lather himself in lotions that are ordinarily way beyond our budget! I have at least 100pounds worth of product on my face, eyes, neck, hands and arms. I’m well-prepared to battle another 12 hours of dehydrating (“it sucks the moisture out of your skin”) flight to Mexico City. I’ve also bought a “Latin American Spanish” phrase book in the hope that it will help us communicate when we land in Mexico. More on the boat and the planned voyage when we arrive. We’re pleased to report that we have been (mostly) warmly recognised as South African. It might have something to do with the large yellow Vuvuzela poking out of our hand luggage. So far we’ve managed to keep ourselves from tootling it too vigorously but we have been called upon to make the odd demonstrative hoot for the bemused Brits. Of course, we willingly complied.