New Caledonia, Right Place Wrong Time

New Caledonia, Right Place Wrong Time

On May 3 we arrived in New Caledonia, a French territory in Melanesia.  We docked in the capital city of Noumea on a Friday afternoon, cleared customs, and walked into town in search of french baking.  We were pretty excited to get back to a country that takes the baguette seriously.  This whole country is shaped like a baguette, so our expectations were high.  Most of the shops were closed on that first Friday evening, but we found a 24…

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Departing New Zealand (with Cheese)

Departing New Zealand (with Cheese)

They say that sailing out from New Zealand is easier than sailing in, but it’s still intimidating. As we contemplated our passage to Vanuatu, Sarah experienced her usual pre passage weather anxiety, while I struggled with my personal phobia of never seeing affordable cheese again. With each provisioning run to the grocery store I’d ask her nervously, “Maybe we should get one more brick, just in case?” She would respond by ignoring me while staring at weather models on her…

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New Zealand and Frequently Asked Questions

New Zealand and Frequently Asked Questions

Yikes, 4 months in New Zealand and no blog posts. Let’s get right down to business and address some frequently asked questions: Do they have bacon bits in New Zealand? No, there are no bacon bits here. But what do people put on their perogies!? Brace yourself… There are no perogies here either. !!? How’s the pie situation? Robust! Pies are plentiful, affordable and delicious. They’re mostly filled with meat, so you need to be thoughtful when choosing an ice…

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Sailing from Fiji to New Zealand

Sailing from Fiji to New Zealand

Twenty years ago Sarah and I sailed from Fiji to New Zealand aboard the hundred foot tall ship Alvei. We knew nothing about sailing and nothing about this passage. By the time we got to New Zealand I felt like Ferdinand Magellan. Shortly after arriving we described our accomplishment to some other sailors on the docks. “You took 21 days!?”, they exclaimed in disbelief. Aye matey! We beamed like old sea dogs. Is that… pretty fast? It turns out 21…

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Fruits of Fiji

Fruits of Fiji

“Bula!” On a dirt road in the Fijian countryside, we all freeze. Where’d that come from? A bula must not go unacknowledged. There… waaaay over there, across a field, is a construction worker with his arm raised in greeting. “Bula!”, we shout back with a wave. Fijians are the most salutationary people that we have encountered. We’ve received a bula out of dense jungle with no identifiable source to be seen. And a wild cheering bula from an entire busload…

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Ziggy, Sonrisa and Fiji

Ziggy, Sonrisa and Fiji

On September 6th there was some hot gossip flying around the anchorage at Savusavu in Fiji. Did you hear a police squad boarded a sailboat? Omg yes! They brought in the drug dog! I heard there were children aboard? Oh my heavens! Where was the boat from? Canada! Well that’s a sketchy nation, which boat was it? The boat was called… [glances around nervously, then whispers:] Mandolyn. We made it to Fiji! We’re not sure exactly what triggered the vice…

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Bumming rides in the Kingdom of Tonga

Bumming rides in the Kingdom of Tonga

We made it to Tonga! The only constitutional monarchy in the Pacific! But how did it get that way? Well, during the colonial period the expansionist nations of the world were treating Pacific islands like candy from a burst piñata. Tongans were concerned and held an assembly to decide if they should accept ‘protection’ from one of these foreign powers. Tongan leader George Tupou 1 convinced the group that Tonga should skip the middlemen to accept protection directly, and exclusively,…

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Samoan Samoa

Samoan Samoa

We’ve arrived at the port city of Apia in Samoa! Our 4th country in a month! The trip from American Samoa was only 70 nautical miles, but transited the international date line. West went to sleep on Monday August 7 and he woke up Wednesday August 9. For most of August 8 we simply didn’t exist, which is a real bummer because that’s Fathers Day in Mongolia. We were met on the docks at Apia by four customs officials. As we…

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American Samoa and Buses

American Samoa and Buses

At 8am on July 30 we manoeuvred Mandolyn towards the industrial dock in Pago Pago Harbour, American Samoa, to meet with customs and immigration. Sarah and I were a little tired after 4 nights at sea. The harbourmaster met us on the dock to help with our lines. He was soon joined by another official, and then… eleven more. Thirteen people total. For perspective, a football team only fields eleven players. Now we were feeling awake. Despite intimidating numbers, the…

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Suwarrow Atoll, Cook Islands

Suwarrow Atoll, Cook Islands

Years ago I read the book An Island to Oneself, by Tom Neale, who describes his experience living as a hermit on a deserted atoll in the Cook Islands. I never imagined I’d see it, but on July 16, after five nights at sea, we entered the lagoon of Suwarrow Atoll, to behold the same vistas that old Tom would have seen back in the 1960s. After nine months in non English speaking countries we were excited to be able…

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