Are we really about to cross the Pacific? Well, finish crossing anyways…


In the next few weeks we will be making our passage to Australia. Do you remember when SV Estrellita 5.10b was at 53° North, traipsing about in “That. Green.” in the Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands), British Columbia, Canada?

There are many ways to count a Pacific Crossing, and as we approach our passage to Australia I find myself reminiscing about the start of it all. In many ways, it was when we turned South from Queen Charlotte City that started our crossing of the Pacific. At that moment, I knew the days of poking endlessly (slowly and joyfully) around the BC coastline were over and although we continued to cruise through the Haida Gwaii and down the coast of Vancouver Island (again) to Tofino, I was starting to think forward to our next legs – our first big passage to San Francisco, crossing into Mexico, the Pacific Puddle Jump. At the time I wrote “This stop was the Northernmost apex of our trip. We are officially Southbound from here.

And it all happened. We had an incredible trip down the coast to San Francisco. A few months later we crossed into Mexico. And 5 months after that we left for French Polynesia. Giddyup!

La Paz 013

And we arrived in what felt like a dream land. And as you already know, we tore ourselves away from French Polynesia at the end of our 3 months, only to shortly return and spend several years, again poking endlessly (slowly and joyfully) around as much of those glorious mind boggling archipelagoes as we could absorb.

P1040186 (2)

And then things sped up again and we left French Polynesia for Niue, for Tonga, and the next year for Fiji and now New Caledonia. Giddyup!

Here we are sitting in Noumea, New Caledonia, preparing for the last leg to Australia. It seems like so very far from 53° North on the west coast of Canada to 33° South on the east coast of Australia. Still, many people make that trip in about a year and so it is probably the fact that it has been nearly 4 and  a half years since we left Canada that adds to the feeling of distance.

Crossing the Pacific can't be defined by mileage for me. We’ve already passed the longitude of NZ, and we certainly started from nearly the furthest corner of the Pacific we could from here. We've done the miles, but as any sailor who has contemplated this last set of passages (to NZ or AUS) knows, this last leg feels like the finish. It’s a line in the sand. An accomplishment. As a climber might say, it’s a beautiful natural line begging to be finished.

We’re stoked!

It burns! Dealing with the sizzling tropical sun


Growing up in the Seattle area I didn’t spend a lot of time worrying about my sun exposure. Given recent research on Vitamin D and sun, if anything, I should have been trying to get more sun!

Questions like “is my sunscreen killing coral reefs?” or “will this sun shirt give me heat exhaustion?” were pretty far from my mind. Once we started boating, even in the WA/BC area, I had to take my sun exposure on the water more seriously. It was surprisingly easy to get burned on the water. However, it wasn’t until we arrived in the tropics and we started kiteboarding that I really had to get serious. Over the years, this is what we've come up with.

P1050605Block not screen: Our first line of defense is to block the sun with clothing: hats, rash guards*, long sleeve loose shirts (with built in or washed in sun protection), etc.

For areas we don’t cover with cloth – like our face or hands – for various reasons related to chemicals, effectiveness and water resistance, Carol and I have changed over almost completely to physical sunscreens (sunblocks) rather than chemical sunscreens. If you don’t know the difference and are curious, go here and scroll to the bottom section. Simply put, we wear zinc or titanium oxide based sunscreens.

So, do we look like 1980s lifeguards? Noooo…kind of…it depends..sometimes yes.

For our sunblocks. we divide them into a three types: those that can be worn every day without looking ridiculous, and those that look a bit ridiculous but are extremely effective when spending the worst section of the day kiting on the water in the tropical sun, and those that look completely ridiculous but are absolutely effective and we can use if we are already a bit burned or are spending too many days in a row kiteboarding our buns off in the sun.

Everyday: Our favorite sunblock which we can wear on our face without looking ridiculous is a tub (not stick) of clear zinc oxide. This is one of those items that we have had guests carry to us in their luggage because it can be hard to find while traveling and we don’t want to do without. I admit I still wear chemical sunscreen on my lips (some form of chapstick lip balm like this one with a light sunscreen).

Everyday is a bit of a misnomer; I don’t actually put either of these on every day because I don’t walk around in the full sun for long periods every day. If I am only going into the sun for a short period, I just put on a hat and a sun shirt. But if I need more than that, I reach for a tub of clear zinc. It rubs in without feeling too sticky (but more sticky than some chemical sunscreens), it lasts a long time, looks normal and really works.

P1050782 (3)Ghosting: When we get ready to go on the water, we resort to zinc or titanium oxide in a stick format which goes on thicker and pastier (and thus less comfortably). Again, we tend to use a simple brand found in a drug store like this. TIP: You can often find sunblock in a brand that normally makes chemical sunscreen like Neutrogena by looking at the baby formulas which is how we found this one.

Although these sticks are generally advertised as clear they leave you white and pasty looking which we call “ghosting”. Once we are “ghosted up”, we can go a full day of kiting without reapplying except on our lips, or on a really long day, on our noses.

The only thing we have found that really works on our lips long enough on the water to be worth it is Lip Armor which you can find at REI. Even with Lip Armor we need to reapply once on a long day because of all of the ways that it gets rubbed off your lips (drinking water, shouting encouragement, epic kissing sessions, you know the drill).

P1050369The FULL Monty: If we’ve been naughty and burned ourselves, we go with the super sticky, not very comfortable, but incredibly effective Badger Sport sunscreen again with Lip Armor. You can see Carol in this photo after he let his nose get burned and so applied a very thick layer of Badger on his burned bits. It is impossible to get burned through this. Don’t be fooled by the SPF 35 rating and you should read a bit about water resistance ratings if you are into water sports. I’ll take an SPF 35 sunblock that doesn’t break down or easily rub off over a suncreen SPF 55 that comes off as soon as I get wet and in the sun. I am fairly certain you could coat yourself in Badger Sport and walk across the desert.

Except that you couldn’t because, the thicker the sun block, the sweatier it makes me. This isn’t a problem kite boarding because we are in and out of the water and in the wind, but it is quite difficult for me to wear even the Ghosting levels of sun block and then go for a hike. I find myself not wearing sunscreen until we reach the summit (but wearing a sun shirt and hat) and then applying some every day zinc, and walking down in my tank top (and hat).

The Burly Girly FULL Monty: A couple of different surfer girlfriends of mine turned me onto Shiseido’s sunscreen stick. It is still thick. It is still pasty. But it doesn’t make my skin clarity unhappy like some of the other thick stuff. I used the “translucent” which was still super, duper Ghosty (but excellent) and have also used the tinted (which makes me look like I’m going kiteboard clubbing – I feel the need to wear tinted lip balm at the same time to complete the makeup vibe).  Even though I’m joking about both, I love them. If I weren’t so tanned I would prefer the clear because I’m not interested in looking like I did full makeup for a day of watersports, but with my tan it looks less shocking to wear the tinted. Both stay on forever and really, really keep me from burning.

And that’s it. I feel a little silly writing about this because sunscreen isn’t rocket science. Still, it took me a few years of being in the tropics to figure out what worked for us.

*I am a ridiculous fan of NRS rash guards and also their .5mm neoprene Hydroskin line (including shorts!). They last 3-4 times as long as any other rash guard I’ve used. We are, of course, really hard on our rash guards. We use them while kiting and while snorkeling, they get dried in the tropical sun regularly and not washed as often as they should. NRS never completely loses its elasticity like other brands (which turn into hilarious blouses). We don’t get anything for saying this.

Critter Report


P1070081It has been quite a while since we posted a critter report and we’ve seen a lot of fun ones in New Caledonia.


The most novel of which are sea snakes. We first starting seeing these in Niue, but New Caledonia is crawling with (and swimming with) them. Carol has had several close encounters with the buggers, crawling across his feet, giving him a little snuggle on the leg while he was wading out to get the dinghy at night.


They are gorgeous and we see them and their skin all over the place.


We saw a dugong from far away but didn’t get a picture.


We’ve seen heaps of turtles. HEAPS!


turtle carol 02So many turtles that when we had friends visiting we decided to have a turtle selfie competition at Phare Amedee which Carol won hands down (see left).


We have had regular visits from dolphins and one set of mother-baby humpbacks in which the mom was breaching and the calf was making hilarious attempts at mimicking.


The underwater scene has been varied but we’ve had some spots with lovely coral and loads of fish. That’s it for now.





Dreaming of Mato




IMG_9235 (2)Another dream.


Another memory of being snuggled up between reefs, in mind blowing blues and greens, in unbelievably clear water.


It’s another one of those many, many cruising experiences I can’t convey in words and can only capture a sideways glimpse of with photos.


I sit down to blog about it and I think how overused the words that I want to select are, even though I *swear* that this time the colors really were blowing my mind and the clarity of the water was actually difficult to believe.


When I give up trying to explain and say “you have to have been there”, I say it because I wish that for other people. I wish that they could see something this intense, float in it, and let it sink in slowly over hours, over days, over different angles of light and different levels of view. I was so glad to be able to take our friends from “back home” to Ilot Mato to share it with them.


Places like this are why I am out here.

Gear Review: Once you go Lavac, you never go back


You might remember the great toilet crisis, followed by our installation of a manual Lavac toilet.


Or maybe you’ve repressed it?


IMG_0808The installation was 5 years ago this month. We have the no electricity Lavac Popular Model. We get no kickback for our review; we are just happy customers. The custom handle in this photo was provided for us by the coolest crew in the world, Ryan and Christine, who took a lot of time, energy, and I’m certain dollars in order to create the coolest Lavac flushing handle you will ever see.


Other than vinegar treatments, and changing the lid seals one time, in 5 years we have done absolutely no maintenance on the toilet. We have not rebuilt the pump. We have not needed to.


This is absolutely, fan-freaking-tastic-ly, amazing. There is not a single marine product that we have purchased that I am more happy with than my manual Lavac toilet. You might find this enthusiasm weird, but if you are a boater, or have done any work on septic systems, you may also understand.


I cannot tell you how many times we rebuilt the pump in the three years we owned our Jabsco toilet prior to buying the Lavac but we at least changed the joker/choker valve at least once a year and rebuilt the entire pump more than once.


Yes, a Lavac (even the manual kind like ours) is expensive, but you want to know how much I would pay to not open up a pump that is full of crap? At least as much as a Lavac. Seriously, no contest. And when I say a pump full of crap I am not being metaphorical.


The only downside: In certain sea states, and at heavy angles of heel on a port tack (Lavac is to starboard) we find that there seems to be a pumping effect from the inflow that can fill the bowl even when the lid is open. This is true even with an antisiphon valve. Our bowl top is above the waterline when we are flat but not when heeled or rolling and so in those conditions we have to shut the seacock. We didn’t sail enough sea miles wit our Jabsco to know whether this is an effect of our configuration, installation and plumbing or the type of toilet.

Logbook: Mbe Kouen (CLOSED)

kouen upwind

Apparently, we slid into this anchorage right before it closed permanently for bird nesting reasons. We were there a few nights with some guests from the USA and midway there a small boat came in and installed a metal post, as if for a sign, but didn’t install the sign. We searched online later and found out that they had recently decided to close Mbe Kouen for tern nesting.

P1070213So, enjoy these pictures…but you can’t go!

We have a thing for low scrub covered uninhabited islets. Although we prefer some coconut trees, these low islands often are surrounded by brilliant colored shallows, and if there is enough water depth and sand, can make for great kite spots, like Ilot Goeland.

In New Caledonia we’ve really been enjoying the view of the mainland from the small off lying islands.

We had enough wind for a kite session, followed by a crazy flat day in which we spent the entire day snorkeling, lazing about on the beach, sitting neck deep in the water, paddle boarding, and BBQing up some tasty lunch. The water was clear, the underwater scene included live coral and plenty of fish, the colors were amazing and, other than the pole installers, we had the place to ourselves.



Click on the dollar and buy Livia and Carol a cold frosty one:


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