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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!


news: some kakky, some exciting

26 Jan

Disastrous news first: Stoffie has been struck down by a ghastly 24 hour (we jolly hope) stomach bug!!! That’s like 1/6th of the whole time we have left here. yheeee.

BUT on another altogether marvellous note: Something That Deserves A Post All Of Its Own (and, particularly, free from panic-inducing sickness notifications)… but I have blog-time so infrequently these days I might not actually have time to post it and that would be a tragedy.

Ladies and Gentlemen: I introduce our “boat cards”. Boat cards are a lot like business cards, except, there’s not too much business-y about cruising, so calling them business cards would just be cheeky. Our amazing and brilliant friend Sam designed them and they are being printed as I type!


More excitingly, they are the basis for the new look decal for the Laura Takalani and the new look of this here website! Which will happen some time soon. Flippin awesome.

Happy happy happy

6 Jan

Back in CT! Less than a month to go until we step onto the plane and join our Laura Takalani… We have one million-trillion things to Get Done before we depart, but: Hooray!

New Years was spectacular. It looked for a very long time like it might not be spectacular as it was raining in paradise and I was ill and feeling sorry for myself. I did all the things one SHOULD do to ensure a recovery (rest, vitamins, abstaining from bad-stuff) in time for our new years celebration and I continued to feel lousy, which was… lousy. Finally, at about 4pm on the 31st of December I decided to just drink through it. What a rousing success! What followed was one of the most marvellous new years celebrations. Ever. It involved masks and champagne* and dancing and laughter.

I continued a few fundamental New Years traditions that I have been following since I was a wee lass in Brazil for Rotary exchange. I wore a new white** frock, but I had run out of time to buy a new pair of panties prior to entering the Transkei, so one of my staples fell by the wayside this year. However, I did INSIST on traipsing down to the sea shortly after midnight and numerous “HhhhaaaAAPPY new years!” so that Stoffel and I could jump over seven waves and make seven wishes. I have done this every year since I was 17, and I figured it wasn’t a good idea to miss out on any rituals that might amuse the sea gods in the year in which we will be living on the sea.

As usual, I have no idea what wishes we made as the party was a goodie and there is no point in having a party for new years that actually enables remembering the wishes. Nevertheless, the wave-jumping-wishing box was ticked and I only wished for good things (of course). After making our seven jumps and seven wishes, Stof and I removed our masks (which we had crafted rather brilliantly earlier) and tossed them into the sea! It felt like a fitting offering and we were very pleased with ourselves:

…as you can see.

I wish you all a beautiful start to 2011. May this year be a year of passion and vision and (importantly) achieving that vision.

* Of course.

** Not quite white, actually… more of a greyish off-white. White will not be good to wear on a boat.

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.


20 Sep

For a variety of reasons, we have registered our boat on the British small ships registry. We will therefore have to sail under a british flag. The realisation made me feel sad and unpatriotic and a bit of a longing to somehow identify ourselves as South African.

Now, we like the name “Laura”. We REALLY like the person after whom the boat was named. We loved that MikenLaurie had held a beautiful naming ceremony for the boat and we felt sure that our journeys on her would also be blessed.

But on that registration day (ok. also the days preceding it) I just felt like “Laura” wouldn’t say enough about us: where we come from, who we are. I have a strong impression that within the cruising community, the crew is referred to by the name of their boat. And “Laura” just wasn’t “mh!”* enough for the Hillratts.

So as we registered our boat, we made the onthespot decision to call our boat “Takalani”. Takalani means “be happy” (to more than one person) in Venda. Takalani Sesame is the South African version of Sesame Street. The name conjures awesome memories for both of us. When I lived in the Transkei (rural eastern cape), my friend Backpacker David had an old painted kombi that would excite the children to run out to the road and scream and laugh “TAKALANIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii” as we drove past. That kind of youthful exhilaration is exactly how we feel about our journey.

BUT! Since then, we’ve had naming remorse: we just don’t know if we can say goodbye to “Laura”. The solution? Right now we’re referring to her as the Laura Takalani until we can figure out which fits better. Honestly, how many boats have a first name AND a surname?

*No  qoqo-bility. No chakalaka.


10 Aug

It’s ours: the sale of the Laura finally closed yesterday evening (our time)!!! Wow. Wow. Wow.

It took some time due to the intricacies involved in international monetary transactions from SA, but the Hillratts are now officially owners of a beautiful boat in Mexico. What a flippin awesome start to the week!

In other news, Stoffel’s team in Cowes cleaned up their pretty competitive J109 class sailing on Jeroboam. I am so proud. So are they! Particularly as prior to this week, Jeroboam has (apparently) not been a big performer. They “won” two trophies. Basically, they got to have their photies taken with two trophies and then they had to give them back… but they still got the glory.

Now they have a hectic week of getting ready for the Commodore’s Cup where they are sailing on the Zelda (also a J109) and representing southafrica! Commodore’s Cup is a serious international competition in which each country puts forward a small, a medium and a big boat. Zelda is SA’s small boat, Tokoloshe is the medium one and Wind Power is the big one.

Here is an article about how well they did in Cowes Week, and here is an article about the SA team for Commodore’s. Glorious.