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Sue's Logs

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2012 Thailand
2011 India
2007 Seychelles
2006 Malaysia
2005 Lautoka, Fiji
2005 Yasawas, Fiji
2004 Tonga
2004 French Polynesia
2003 Ecuador
2003 Venezuela
2002 Grenada
2002 Martinique
2002 St. Martin

2005 Lautoka, Fiji

September 2005, Lautoka, Fiji

Christopher, 18, just before leaving Ocelot for university
Christopher, 18, before leaving for university

My last log had us about to go back to the States in the "spring" of 2005. We spent March and April visiting friends and family and getting Chris set up for his life away from the boat. After all the excitement of college applications (thank goodness for on-line applications) he had some choices to make. He was accepted at the University of California (San Diego and Santa Cruz) and at the University of Washington in Seattle and Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA. He was wait-listed at MIT and Stanford. Way to go!  After much deliberation he chose the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle. While in the States he got his learner's permit for driving but before he could take the test our old car broke down, so friends offered to help him complete the driving skills after we left. Bless you Jeanne and Bob! By all accounts he is doing well: working as a computer intern for a small software company and doing independent programming for an even smaller company. He has re-connected with school friends he left in 2001 (all three of them had been to the boat to see us, so that kept the connections more current) and has spent most of the summer house-sitting. He now has his driver’s license and uses the old family car, which he fondly refers to as his car! Although we all miss him terribly, he seems happy and busy and excited about getting on with his life!

Amanda on a powerboat in western Canada, where she was working in August.
Amanda on a powerboat in western Canada,
where she was working in August

In late July Amanda flew back for a month-long dream job for a 16-yr-old cruiser: to crew and look after the two-year-old daughter for a family who chartered a powerboat for a one-month jaunt through the inland waters of British Columbia, Canada.  I doubt if Amanda’s teaching them much about toddlers, but she sure is helping clarify the realities of cruising: giving lessons in filleting fish, tasting bilge water to see if it’s fresh or salt, splicing lines, and coming up with witticisms like “On a boat, if it’s not broken … it’s breaking!”

We are proud of our two cruising teens, and miss them like crazy!

Meanwhile, out here on Ocelot: Six weeks of honeymoon! Wow. It was hard to see Amanda leave, but I was also looking forward to some time alone with Jon. After 26 years of marriage including 19 years with kids underfoot we were probably taking each other for granted a bit much. I was determined to strengthen our relationship and re-discover the bonds that brought us together more than 30 years ago. It was time to get rid of nagging, blaming, and being defensive. Sound difficult?  Not really.  It simply required a shift of thinking: from mom and caregiver of four people to partner in a relationship of two. The dynamics are much simpler with two. Instead of six possible friction scenarios (Chris and Amanda, me and Chris, me and Amanda, Jon and Chris, Jon and Amanda, me and Jon) there is now just one: me and Jon. I can’t change who Jon is, but I can change myself: and trust that he will respond to my better attitude. If you wonder what life is like for a husband and wife team aboard a sailboat, read on.

Jon and Sue under the hot tropical sun, 2005
Partners in all facets of life

Our boat jobs divide like this: I am the finder, cleaner, organizer, seamstress and thrower-out of things. Jon is the technician, the careful measurer, and mechanic. We make our own breakfasts, he sets out lunch, I do dishes (which I admit is a nice meditative time for me, and standing at the sink feels better than sitting after a meal).  I do dinners, because Jon is usually still hands-deep in grease, rust, salt water, or whatever while I do the preps. He does the evening email sending/receiving and reports the weather over the VHF radio to the cruising community. Going to town, if necessary, is always a free-for-all. Whoever needs the most items usually goes, although for two weeks Jon went everyday to see the engineering shop where our rudder bearings were being cut in Lautoka, Fiji, and he always did the grocery shopping. Since it was a two-hour round trip affair, plus errands time, it made more sense for me to stay aboard and get some things done. I love working on my own! I choose my own music played at the volume that suits me. I can attack whatever job needed doing or bothered me the most, and I can throw things around as needed to get into little boat spaces. I lived in grubby shorts and halter top, while Jon had to dress in nice shorts and polo shirts for his trips to town. At the end of the day we could swim in the ocean (we were anchored off Saweni Bay, south of Lautoka) for a refreshing wash off. One day it was my turn to row the dinghy to Bekana Resort and take the launch to Lautoka, hop a taxi to Vuda Pt. Marina in search of the right aluminum primer for the floor of the dinghy. I was gone 3 hours, enjoying my time off the boat.

Jon doing prep-work so Sue can paint Tomcat
Jon doing prep-work so Sue can paint Tomcat

While we worked on the rudder bearings in Saweni Bay we still had time to socialize most evenings with other yachties, but Jon needed a break, and we needed to test the rudders for shimmy. So we took a three-day break from boat work to sail to Musket Cove (in Fiji’s Mamanuca Islands) at the end of August and got a chance to see friends on other boats. At Musket we had hoped for time to snorkel and take walks but we hit a bad weather period and got rained in for three days! Ah well. At least the sailing there and back was beautiful: wind aft of the beam both ways (!) with bright blue topical skies and blue sea.

For Jon and me to be on a sailboat in some exotic location is hardly new: we did it for seven years in the 1980’s before and after Chris was born. What is new is for the two of us to be captain, cook, crew, and all-round sailors on Ocelot. Moving the boat is now more work for both of us, but not a major deal. After all, we taught the kids their roles. Now we just have to remember all the things we haven’t had to do for almost 4 years!  Before sailing I do all the deck and below decks checking and porthole closing while Jon preps the mainsail. We trade off the job of driving the boat and picking up the anchor, although in some of the muddy coastal Fijian anchorages we let the boat take care of itself while one of us raises the anchor and the other washes off the gluey mud. Yuck. Where are the kids when you need them?

Jon fits a new formica panel in our cabin after Sue removed the old liner.
Jon fits a new Formica
panel in our cabin

Sailing means more work for us both, as there are only two of us instead of four to take reefs, roll out and roll up the jib, even set the spinnaker, which we did on a glorious 20-mile sail last week. I have to admit to having fallen prey to an old habit: griping about putting up the chute (spinnaker) when I didn’t really think it was “necessary.”  So, instead of sailing off happily into the tropical blue I questioned the need to put it up, which made Jon annoyed, and I backed off from a real argument by pointing out that it was HE who needed the break from boat work, whereas this sail to Musket Cove meant I wasn’t going to be able to accomplish the things I wanted to get done with Amanda gone. After some niggling and apologizing and my minimal help in setting the chute (he can actually do most of it by himself, and he seems to like to do it, so it worked out OK) I spent the 3 hours of peaceful downwind sailing to begin emptying and cleaning out the starboard fo’c’sl’e which had not been excavated in over 3 years. Blech. Dirty water, wet old sail, rotten cardboard boxes around uninstalled hatches. How satisfying though, to get it all hauled out and into the light of day. Having done a hard 3 hours of work, I was in a much better mood (it’s funny how life works, isn’t it?) and had fun that evening with friends from Shoreleave who were about to sail (well, power) off towards Fr. Polynesia en route to Canada. I continued boat work each day, despite the rain, finishing new mattress covers for Chris’s cabin, a soft cover for the piano keyboard, and new pages on the website. With Amanda returning in early September with her cousin, and cruising friends with teens arriving from Fr. Polynesia about the same time, we wanted to have major jobs finished so we could devote ourselves to some serious play time!

Our dinghy, Tom Cat, on the beach at Saweni Bay.
Tomcat, on the beach at Saweni Bay, Fiji

The hardest thing about being so close to each other all day is that we know exactly how much the other person is working and what they are working on. Sometimes one of us is reading or taking a siesta, or drawing or playing solitaire on the computer while the other works. Although I have been known to grumble about “being the only one working” I need to stop and think of all the hours we’ve both put in, and recognize that Jon does not begrudge me the time I spend writing or drawing or playing the keyboard. The trick is to try and feel that we’ve accomplished some good project before lazing around. The other trick is to recognize that we’re both big people now, and can plan our own time, work as hard or not, as desired.

Jon did give me a shy smile a few days ago, as he was working on the new Formica panels for the cabins, “I’m going to delete Spider’” he said.

“Spider Solitaire?” I asked, surprised.

“It’s the only way,” he said.  He was referring to the computer game that seemed to have hooked him. I praised his “brave move” and he shrugged and looked a bit sheepish. “There are worse things to be addicted to,” he said. True, true.

So now morning tea is over, Jon has finished cutting a rusty old lock off the stainless steel chain painter in the dinghy (left over from Caribbean days when we had to chain the dinghy to keep it from being stolen) and we’re ready to go to town, together, for the first time in weeks. I’m ready to walk around Lautoka, Fiji looking for paint, fabric, paint brushes, and to make some phone calls. Then we’ll be happy to relax in the shade of  a verandah, sip a cold beer, and indulge in a good curry lunch at the Northern Club --  I have my little baggie of cat food (which I found when cleaning a locker!) to feed the skinny little black cat at the club. I love this life in the tropics! And I love sharing it with my husband!


Sue's Logs: Up | 2012 Thailand | 2011 India | 2007 Seychelles | 2006 Malaysia | 2005 Lautoka, Fiji | 2005 Yasawas, Fiji | 2004 Tonga | 2004 French Polynesia | 2003 Ecuador | 2003 Venezuela | 2002 Grenada | 2002 Martinique | 2002 St. Martin

Sue's Pages: Sue Muller Hacking | Logs | Provisioning

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