Greetings or as we say here in Fiji “Bula bula” and Happy New Year to one and all!
2011 was another awemazing year for me being one filled to overflowing with life, love and learning and I don’t think anyone could want for more. I know I’ve not been posting or writing as much publically the past few months and so I thought I’d start up again with this overview to bring you up to date and then some weekly updates going forward and add more as seems fit and my experiences warrant. With thanks to all of you who write and call to inquire and encourage me to post more updates, let’s get started!
As most of you know I am seriously “brevity challenged” but I’ll do my best to give you a brief update on 2011 to bring you up to speed to the present and as a lead in to my weekly updates. This will probably end up being a bit like one of those annual “holiday letters” you get from friends and family so if you don’t like those you can just skip this post and maybe the weekend updates will be more you style and length. For those interested there are blog postings you can read here on this Learnativity blog that will give you all the details of my sailing adventures first half of the year from the Marshall Islands to Fiji (and all the way back to my start in 2008) if you missed them or want to review.
I started 2010 still in Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands where I had sailed to from Fiji back in October 2010 to get out of the cyclone belt by being north of the equator. (Majuro is about 7 degrees N) While there is no mistaking Majuro for a “tropical paradise” it does have many redeeming qualities such as a US Post Office which is a huge advantage for shipping boat parts and equipment in and out, a good supply of hardware, groceries and other store bought items and a close community of cruisers, many of whom have been there for many years. Majuro is also one of the largest centers for tuna boats and there was always an entertaining steam of both the large tuna fishing boats and the even larger freighters which took on all their catch. One of the local cruisers organized a tour of a tuna boat and one of the carriers and we spent hours going through both these ships with the captains and crew answering all our incessant questions.
Both out of necessity and to take advantage of the supply of parts I did a lot of boat projects, mostly engine related and got Learnativity all ready for another busy sailing season down south of the equator and by mid May I was more than ready to go. I had decided to go back to Fiji as I had truly fallen in love with this country during my extended 5 months stay there the year before and so when the weather window opened up on May 23, 2010 and I bid Majuro a fond farewell, headed out the pass through the coral of the atoll and turned south. Having enjoyed them so much on my way north the previous year I once again made stops in Mili, Funafuti, Tuvalu and Rotuma rather than do it all in one go and arrived back in Savusavu Fiji on June 18th and have been here in Fiji ever since.
I wondered if I my love for Fiji had been a first time infatuation but having now spent the past 8 months here it is clear that for me at least this is the best overall location I’ve ever been to. It isn’t any one thing so much as it is almost everything about this country that I love; the people, the food, the climate, the scenery, the snorkelling, the sailing, the affordability, the cultures…….. well you get the idea. If it weren’t for the fact that I’m such a journey person I would seriously consider buying property and living here. Many do as this is almost the only country in the South Pacific with “freehold” land, that is where you can buy and own property outright. I’m now feeling that urge to head out again and several countries west and north of here are calling my name more and more loudly and so I’m currently VERY hard at work and taking advantage of an excellent marine yard and workforce to do a 20 year refit of Learnativity and be ready when the cyclone season ends which is typically about April/May.
2011 also brought me several great gifts of sharing “my” fabulous Fiji and this great life of sailing, snorkelling and sunsets with friends and family. My brother had just moved to Melbourne Australia with his wife and youngest son where he is establishing a new office and presence for his company and they all came for a holiday in Fiji in July and so I sailed down to the south side of the big island of Viti Levu and anchored in front of their resort at Pacific Harbour. We spent a week together, partly ashore enjoying all the amenities of the Pacific Harbour resort and partly out for some short sails on Learnativity over to the island of Beqa for some amazing snorkelling there.
For the month of August I was delighted to be able to share Fiji and this life afloat with two good friends from Vancouver, Steve and Joy and we had a phenomenal time sailing all over the many islands on the far west side of Fiji to experience everything from postcard perfect little islands where we were the only boat and people there to ones with small villages where we went ashore and had “sevusevu” with the Chief where we presented him with some kava and he performed a brief ceremony to bless us and welcome us to his island. We also went to a few of the popular cruiser spots such as Musket Cove and Port Denarau for supplies and a few dinners out. Once again this sailing season, my dear friend Philip, a single handed sailor from Switzerland, met up. Philip and I initially met when we were checking into Ecuador at the same time and port, were able to meet up in Fiji and although we only had a few days together before I flew out to Florida and he sailed to New Zealand, they were extremely special. I also met Philip’s Dad when he came to Fiji for his annual sail and then later in December I was able to take him up on his offer to come visit him in Switzerland.
On September 5th, Learnativity was hauled out and put up on stands or what we call being “on the hard” at Vuda Point marina which is about mid way up the far west coast of the biggest island in Fiji, Viti Levu. She had been long in need of some serious TLC to look after lots of little things and especially the growing amount of rust spots sprouting up on her steel decks and after serendipitously discovering that there was a very good marine repair company who worked out of this little marina I decided to bit the bullet and have them help me repaint the entire exterior of Learnativity. This is no small task I can assure you as to do it properly, I had to remove EVERY single bolt, fitting, window, hatch, lines and anything that wasn’t welded on, in order to get at all the spots, remove all the rust and cover them with top quality epoxy primer, filler and colour paint. I’ll fill you in on more details in the weekly updates to follow, but suffice it to say that I am still “on the hard” and have a few more months of long hot hard days of work to get her all shiny and new again.
And while this is taking a VERY BIG bite out of my VERY fixed budget I’m quite happy with myself that I’ve been able to pay others to help me as it is something I find very difficult to do. Being fortunate enough to have most of the skills to do all the work on Learnativity and of course feeling that no one can do it better than I can, (and the fact that my life literally depends on the sea worthiness of my boat!) I tend to do all the work myself. But there is only one of me and only 24 hours a day so there is a very finite limit to what I can get done by myself and I’ve exceeded that limit for a while now. So I checked out the work this company, Baobab Marine had done on other boats over the past few years and was very impressed and so they have been working with me almost every day since September to sandblast, grind, weld, prime, sand, fill and paint Learnativity inside and out. We’ve still got a LONG ways to go but huge progress has been made and when I “splash” her back into the water, hopefully by April, she will look like a brand new boat.
2011 was also quite a year for me personally as I managed to fall in, and alas out, of love with two amazing ladies. Thanks Linda and Heidi for making my life in 2011 SO memorable and full of life, love and learning. For now though, it is back to sailing through life’s experiences single handed. While it remains my hope, though not my expectation (more on that theory some other posting) that I will some day find my “soul mate”, I leave that all up to serendipity and synchronicity as to if, when, where, who and how that will happen and by simply continuing to truly live in life’s moments, be present in the present and experience my experiences fully. It’s been working incredibly well all my life, why would I change now?!
Of course I’m never alone as I’ve got so many friends, family and new local people I meet and interact with as I sail, and I have my ever faithful and amazing Ruby the Wonderdog at my side at all times. She is not only a great companion but also a great teacher and I do my best to learn all that she has to offer such as how to adapt to whatever life offers up moment to moment.
I spent the month of November back in New Smyrna Beach Florida with my beloved “second family” where I’m blessed to have four “God children” and two extraordinary friends. This is also one of Ruby’s special spots and she had an extended vacation here with her buddy “Coco” a chocolate Cocker Spaniel when she stayed there while I flew over to Europe. I was also delighted to have my colleague and friend Elliott provide me the opportunity to make several presentations at his large learning conference in Orlando the first week of November and it also provided lots of gifts of time with many other colleagues and friends who come to this annual professional gathering.
At the beginning of December it was off to Europe for a few weeks where I was able to visit with several friends and some family. I spent two day’s with Philip’s parents in their small town near St. Gallen in Switzerland and then continued by train to the lake of Biel to spend a week with my cousin and her family who I had spent lots of time with when Diana and I lived in Germany from 1980-84. Although I had to cut my trip to Europe short to return to Fiji and look after some new boat problems that came up, I was still able to get in some time with my dear friend Erik who flew into Heathrow just to spend a day and evening with me and then I spent one more night at the home of friends Robin and Jayne who live outside of London, before I had to fly back to the USA.
A brief stop in Florida to pick up Ruby and say goodbye to my family of friends there, and then it was off to LA to spend a few days with my daughter Lia, husband Brian and their two dogs Piglet and Ponzu. It is such a treat to be the parent of two such incredible “kids” as Skyler and Lia and watch and learn as they become such amazing adults. Lia and Brian let me just “hang out” with them and catch up on their busy lives. The timing worked out very well as Brian is a high school math teacher and had his last day of classes just before I arrived and Lia had just finished her stint as a lecturer at Cal Poly Pomona before going back to her job with a fascinating nuclear medicine and unique chemical compound making company who made her “an offer she couldn’t refuse” to get her to come back and work for them again.
On December 20th Ruby and I headed off for LAX and caught our flight back to Nadi in Fiji and though we missed December 21st completely due to crossing the date line, we were back onboard Learnativity on Dec. 22nd and back to the hot humid weather we both much prefer. As you may recall, Learnativity is “on the hard” and so we have to climb up a ladder to get onboard as she sits here on her stands so it isn’t ideal but Ruby goes up and down the ladder like a pro and never misses a step. I’ve set up all the systems so we can continue to live aboard with water, stove, electricity, etc. and there is a nice clean show and bathroom facility about 100m away so it all works out well.
So Ruby and I celebrated Christmas and New Years quite literally “up in the air” on Learnativity as we adjusted quickly to the heat and humidity. It is the wet season here in Fiji so most days are around +35C/100F and we have a good tropical thunder and lighting storm with rain most afternoons and evenings. It makes working on the boat trying to do welding, sanding and painting a bit challenging but so far the rain usually holds off until late afternoon and usually after 4:30pm when they work crews like to finish, so it is all working out quite well. If there is such a thing as “sweat equity” I’m building up a fortune!!
Whew! As I warned you at the beginning it takes me a while and way too many words, but that will at least bring you up to speed on where I’m at as this new year gets underway and some background for the weekly updates I’ll start posting now. I continue to be awemazed at the charmed serendipitous life I lead and while much of that is in reference to this life I now live of being on the water, so directly connected to nature and the world around me and truly living IN life’s moments as they happen, I am blessed mostly to be able to love and be loved in return by so many special friends and family. Words alone will never adequately express my love, appreciation and gratitude for all that you do and all you enable me to do, so the best I can do is continue to live, love and learn from you and with you and share it all as it happens. Thanks to ALL of you for making all my past years SO rich and SO full and here’s to continuing that trend for as many more moments we are gifted with.
Wayne & Ruby the Wonderdog
Up on the hard in Vuda Point Marina, Fiji