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coming in to land

10 Feb

Our camera was running low on battery, so I took these shots without the viewfinder out the window on the way to La Paz.

I knew I had a cushy bottom for something…

Approaching La Paz.

The marina to the far right of the bay is where the Laura Takalani has been stored on the hard. Hopefully by the end of the week she’ll be in the water at the marina on the far left of this picture.

The wheels come out.

Since we landed we’ve been going through every nook and cranny of the Laura Takalani: re-organising and figuring which of the things that were generously left behind by Laura’s previous owners will earn their place on an ocean crossing.

The lugging of heavy objects has sent my back into spasm, so I’m having a “rest” day while Stof oversees the initial sanding of the hull before she gets painted with anti-foul.


enter: wanda* the travelling dinosaur

6 Feb

We have a stow-away. Her name is Wanda.*

Here is Wanda getting all cushioned into the comfy Emirates seat (next to Stof’s man-bag):

Lucky for Wanda (and for us) we had an empty middle seat on BOTH flights from CT-Dubai and Dubai-LAX. We also had very comfortable seats and generous (for economy) leg room and beautiful hostesses and tasty food and a really really impressive movie selection. We liked Emirates.

Wanda quite likes the travelling life. She especially appreciates a good view. Like this one from the roof of our hotel in Dubai:

(She would have appreciated it more if we had taken a less blurry photo of her, but it was starting to rain giant raindrops and we needed to go shopping (when in Dubai…) so it was a one-shot Wanda.)

Wanda does not like to wait. We had to wait for about an hour before we took off in Dubai for LA after passing through the boarding pass section. Aaargh.

She got a little tetchy and tried to make a phonecall. It was about 3am in South Africa, so she reckoned our niece Electra would be awake.

Lucky for Rob’nPat she didn’t have a phone card.

After 16 1/2 hours in the air on our way to LAX** we were all a little nervous about our 5 hour lay-over in the US. These were some of the things we were worried about:

  1. We would get stopped at customs with our 5kg of chocolate and most amazing first aid kit which included, inter alia, two vials of morphine and adrenaline each.
  2. Not all of our 4 enormous bags weighing 32kg each (we got to weigh and re-pack them in Dubai where the lady at the check-in desk was friendly, but not as prepared to bend the rules as Lynn) would arrive.
  3. We would not have enough time to go to the UPS Store to collect the various items we had sent there from Amazon and other suppliers.
  4. We would not be allowed to check the new bag of freshly collected stuff in due to our copious other luggage.
  5. Stof might have to spend the night in LA due to anything going wrong.

But it was all fine! Really? We could not have wished for the LA bit of our crazy journey to have gone smoother. Stof and I kept looking at each other in disbelief and laughing and smooching (once we had finally brushed our teeth) and high-fiving and generally feeling better than lottery winners!

We all climbed on to the prop plane to La Paz feeling triumphant. If you look carefully, you will see Wanda grinning out of the top of Stof’s bag.***

The flight to La Paz was gorgeous. A little bumpy, but we don’t mind bumpy too much in our family. It was marvellous to fly over the coast of Baja California and to see from the air some of the islands we hope to explore in the Laura Takalani.

This one reminded Wanda of herself for some reason:

So now we have all arrived. Exhausted. Cold (we forgot about winter).**** Pleased that we do not have to step on to another plane for at least a year.

* Um… Dear Nieces and Nephew. “Wanda’s” name may not be Wanda. If it is not Wanda and you had already named her/him something else, please let us know forthwith and we will rename her/him immediately. Weloveyouthemost, Sara and Stof.

** We flew over the North pole! How awesome?

*** Erm. No, you will not see Wanda grinning out of the side of Stof’s bag, I’m afraid. But I wanted to work that information into the post now and I couldn’t figure out how else to do it because we forgot to take a photo of Wanda at that time. Mea culpa.

**** To be fair: all the locals reckon that today is the coldest it ever gets in La Paz and it was about a max of 20C. But when you have only come prepared for balmy island paradise, that is CHILLERS!

booked & bought

8 Nov

Our flights are booked!

Jeeperscreepers are we going to be in the air for a seriously long time?

Cape Town – Dubai

Dubai – Los Angeles

Los Angeles – La Paz (Mexico)

Team SnS has a certain philosophy when it comes to surviving long transfers across many time zones: sleeping tablets. We found some pretty miraculous ones before we went to Mexico to meet the Laura Takalani and we are SOLD! We also have a hotel roomed booked for our almost 24-hour lay-over in Dubai so at least we can shower, change our panties and lay our heads on a pillow. And stuff.

The actual purchase of the tickets is quite mind-blowing. A bit like the actual purchase of the boat, except the Laura Takalani seems just so far away that it’s not really a part of our lives. It’s like, in some parallel universe there’s a beautiful boat on stilts that belongs to us, but because it’s in a parallel universe it doesn’t actually belong to us.

The tickets! The tickets, though: they’re the link.

The other thing to be said about our tickets is that they were cheap! Well, as cheap as tickets could possibly be to the other side of the planet… It’s costing us a mere R9350 (each) to get to La Paz. That’s like US$1335. Which is a whole lot less than we were bracing ourselves for.

three month countdown

1 Nov



The measurement of time forwards is such a tricky beast. How will those three months rush by? I just cannot imagine that they will drag. What will three months from now feel like?

In order to measure time forwards, I’ve developed the habit of casting my mind back to the equivalent time in the past.

By 1 August we had moved out of our lovely home. Scissor and I were completing our open water dive course and high-tailing back to Durbs to catch our flight with happy faces and pressurised ears (that only became worse on the flight). People, there’s a reason why they advise you not to fly on the same day you dive. Or dive with a cold. In retrospect, though, that diving was the best thing for my months-old cold and it quickly dissipated on returning home…

On 1 August, Stoffel was in Southampton, getting ready (with his team) to sail so jolly brilliantly that his team won their J109 regatta in the esteemed Cowes Week.

Already, it is now! 1 November 2010 will be remembered as a Very Important Day: today I resigned from the Bar and gave notice on my chambers and parking. One more month as an advocate. One more month of work. [One month ago we had just celebrated our anniversary…]

Between now and 1 February 2010, there is so much to do. I must complete sailing, first aid, spanish and french courses. We will celebrate ten family birthdays (including Cowboy’s! (and mine)), two friends’ weddings (two weddings, four friends), Christmas and New Year. The to-do list grows everyday.

But I have a growing tingle in the pit of my tummy. It grows at at least the same rate as the to-do list. It’s the tingle of excitement and wonder at the audaciously awesome nature of the life we are living.

*As abundantly clearly as I think I write, I am aware that there are times when all is not as clear in my mind as it is in yours. We need to fly to La Paz in Mexico on 1 Feb 2011 to meet up with the Laura Takalani and then we will work very hard getting her ready and then we will leave to sail across the Pacific.

first sight

3 Aug

It’s a very strange thing to glimpse in the real life fibreglass flesh a boat that you’ve obsessed over on the interwebs for hours. When we finally pulled into the boatyard and marched over to the Laura (sitting on stilts), we felt this strange mixture of excitement and trepidation. I think we both wanted desperately to love her, but not be taken for a ride. We really really really (but REALLY) wanted this boat to be The One: it was too (mainly emotionally) exhausting a prospect to start again; to fly back to SA “empty-handed”; to have to maybe endure the same disappointment again (if it could go wrong once, it might flop a second or third time)… But we knew we couldn’t let our hopes get in the way of objectivity. It’s somewhat important to have a boat that is a goody, especially when it comes to crossing oceans.

We were met at the boat by owners Mike and Laurie and our intrepid surveyor: Cecil Lange. Cecil is a proficient Kiwi boat-builder, retired to La Paz and “just loves boats too much to stay away from them”. We marched around the hull, peering and inspecting. Correction: Stof and Cecil did the knowledgeable stuff, I mainly just ran my hands up and down (collecting powdery blue residue) and took photos.

Standing to the side I asked Laurie whether the boat was named after her? If so, why? “Aah”, she smiled blushingly, “my husband always wanted to name a boat after me. He’s a little romantic like that.” Perfect. We’d not minded the name Laura for our boat, but had wanted to know the reason or meet the person after whom it was named to see if we liked her. I liked her already.

Then we walked up the ladder to mount the Laura and explore her cabin.* Frankly, it looked like the pictures. But spacier. And comfier. And so solid. I told Stof later that stepping onto the Laura felt like I’d come home.

While I was completely falling in love (“oooh, pretty boat”), Stoffel was Being Objective. I was trying to be objective with him. But even “bad cop” let on that he was impressed.

The next step was the sea trial. Obv, before we could trial at sea, we had to getoffhardandintowater. Which was a fairly mesmerising process. This beeeeeeg three-sided square moving contraption moved up to the boat so that she sat within its three sides. Then they attached two beeeeeeeg slings under her belly, the contraption fired up and lifted the boat off the stilts and she was floating on air! And then they drove down the road (with our boat) to a double pier where the boat could be lowered into the water (the wheels of the giant contraption fitting on either pier, the boat into the water between the piers). All the while, the vertigo-stricken Mike was pretending he was ok with travelling down the road from the vantage point of his suspended boat.

In summary, the next few days were spent as follows:

Day Two: Sea Trial – light wind, hoisting of beeeeg asymmetrical sail, chomping of Walmart-bought picnic (first trip to Walmart! Surprisingly delicious!), boat being solid and swift. Followed by dinner with Shelly, Mike and Laurie (more Mexican deliciousness).

Day Three: Inventory, tutorial, general chit-chat with Mike and Laurie on the Laura while spending loads of time on the Laura. Meeting with Cecil about What Should Be Done.

Day Four: Meeting with sailmaker, canvas artisan, metal magic-worker, rigger, electrician (Cecil’s beady eye promising to keep a watch over it all). Lifting boat out of the water, back on Contraption, re-securing on the hard in the yard. Farewell to MikenLaurie (a bit emotional). Drive around town (boat shop, fishing shop, bank). Return to boat for StofnSara for plugging the valves, pulling the rigging, measuring up the spaces, generally packing her up. Climb off Laura, exhausted. Trudge to the Walmart at 22h30 to find a taxi. Sign language to taxi-driver to get back to bnb (it took a bit more time than we originally thought)…

Day five: return home as owners of a boat. W-O-W.

It was one of the craziest, most fantastic experiences. (**Cliché alert**) It was made more wonderful by the people. Shelly from La Paz yachts couldn’t have been more helpful and accommodating. She is frank and friendly and genuine. The way she ferried us around, constantly chatting and sharing, blew us away. And we owe her a taco lunch!

Mike and Laurie are gems. We like them whole-heartedly (i.e. with our whole hearts… sometimes it’s necessary to breakdown the word). It’s a privilege to buy their boat: the Laura is tangibly imbued with their love, care and dreams. They are people whose “flag” we hope to fly while we travel. And that we hope to invite into our home one day, and visit them in theirs.

* “mount the Laura and explore her cabin” sounds like it could come from an exceedingly poorly written  Mills&Boon. It’s not… sorry.

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.