On Island Time in the Prairies

Back in Fiji
Island time is a concept that most of us are familiar with. It is a weird concept because it links a bunch of very different people, living in very different cultures, to a single vibe. On the other hand, most people that have traveled in the tropics would agree that there is something real to it.

I haven't spent enough time in enough countries to hazard a theory as to the origins and probably most explanations are nothing more than guesses.

Still, island time has seeped into me, deep into my core, and changed me in a way that became starkly apparent as I re-entered North American culture. I've thought a lot about this and tried to get to the heart of my change. I believe it is this.

I no longer worship efficiency.

In North American culture, it is an article of faith that busy people are important, that managing your life to pack more things in is desirable, and that idle time is wasted time - or at least only to be allowed occasionally, in a scheduled manner, as an indulgence.

We are so strident in our belief that being efficient and busy is the ultimate life goal, that we get angry at anyone who makes us less efficient, who causes us to waste precious minutes. These slow people are disrespecting our schedule, disrespecting the busy lives we lead, by failing to properly adhere to rules of maximum efficiency. They are too slow, in the wrong lane, asking the clerk a question - all signs that they are not among the efficiency faithful. How dare they?!

Now, step back and imagine a culture that values quality over quantity, a culture that does not worship efficiency, but rather richness of experience.

Rather than the slow person being in the busy person's way, this culture sees the busy person as being incredibly rude for trying to force their rush onto other people, as being flawed for trying to do so many things at the same time that they feel they must sacrifice the quality of their interactions and their experience. These busy people don't say hello when they walk into a store, get upset when things don't appear instantly - all signs that they don't understand how life should be lived. How dare they?!

That is the head space I am now inhabiting. I refuse to value someone else's packed life* more than my purposefully unpacked life. I'm not trying to slow them down, or get in their way, because I'm not a jerk, but I'm not going to jump/hurry/apologize to accommodate their rush either.

I force myself not to get mad when other people try to rush me. It's a cultural difference and my internal culture has changed. I even feel a bit bad for incredibly busy people which I know is a bit judge-y - particularly because I know that I am still rushed by island standards even if I am slow by N American. I try instead to be amused by the lack of eye contact, the lack of presence caused by screen obsession, the people who walk underneath the happy clouds without noticing them.

Efficiency is overrated for this hedonist.

*For most people I know, the packed life is chosen, but of course if it is truly forced on someone like a single Mom with a couple of jobs or whatever, then just like the islanders I have met when I was in trouble, I will go out of my way to help.

Why We Stopped Cruising


Because we were done :)

While we were leaving French Polynesia we realized that we had about the same amount of fun left in our cruise as we did money in our bank account. In about 3 or 4 years, depending on how many things went wrong, we would need to head back to land to replenish both our fun factor and our savings. We also knew that our various qualifications in our previous careers were evaporating and so it was a good time to think about returning to work for that reason as well.

At that point we decided we would start keeping our eyes open for work that was both fun AND lucrative. We also decided that if nothing had come up within two years we would start looking for work that was fun OR lucrative and in about four years we would start applying to be greeters at Walmart!

Within the first year we had a number of possible opportunities that were both fun and lucrative, some of which dissolved, one of which suddenly came to fruition. Thus, it was on a high that we were able to finish our cruise - still having fun, still having money, but seeing the end of both in sight.

One of the most interesting things about finishing our cruise is the variety of responses we have had to our stop. The friends who know us the best tell us they are looking forward to seeing what we do next. Many of our cruising friends understand why because either they have finished their own cruise or are seeing their own sense of completion and ending in sight.

The weirdest part for me though are the number of people who see finishing our cruise as a failure or a tragedy of some sort. I think that there is a strange assumption that when people set out cruising, it is forever and that when the cruise invariably ends, that there has been a failure to achieve a goal. I know a few people who are trying to cruise forever. I also know people who desperately wanted to continue cruising, but have issues that cause them to stop (health, money, etc). So, I get it kind of - some cruising finishes are not what the person cruising wants, but the vast majority of cruisers I know are out "for as long as it is fun" or for a finite period of time that they have in their minds even if they don't voice it publicly. They aren't out forever.

Photo by Ryan Lewandowski
We set out on an open ended cruise. We were "going cruising" and we would stop when "we were done". We had no idea what we would think of cruising when we took off, or what specific number of years that cruising would continue to be fun.

Toward the end of our cruise, we were both ready for a change. We were having fun cruising, but we were ready for some other types of fun.

With our years of cruising experience, with the new knowledge of what type of cruisers we actually were (rather than the type of cruisers we guessed we would be from the dock), we were ready also to change boats. Our boat was the perfect boat for our level of experience when we departed, for our ages at the time, and for our first cruise. It is unlikely our second cruise, if we take off again, would be on the same type of boat. We've changed in many ways.

Goodbye Estrellita

RV CLIPTAKE in Ten Sleep, Wyoming

A summit in Smith Rock, Oregon
I am in a car (a car!), towing a small fiberglass trailer (a trailer?), in the open prairies of Saskatchewan (what?!), and I'm sobbing.

They say that the two happiest days in a boat owners life are when you buy your boat and when you sell it. Six months ago I left Estrellita 5.10b floating at the broker's in Australia and I knew I was saying goodbye. It was a sad moment, that I marked carefully in my mind, as I motored away from her at sunrise across a glassy calm bay in our dinghy loaded with luggage filled with all of the bits and pieces that were our possessions. Carol was already back in Canada working and I had finished my pre-sale prep and Estrellita was a gleaming beauty. I said goodbye, shed a few tears, and boarded my shuttle.

Now that the boat was selling (while we were on a climbing road trip of course), I expected to feel relief and I did. While the boat was still for sale I didn't feel like I could truly close the chapter. I had a million things I wanted to write about but felt like opening a conversation would be too painful while she was still for sale. She sold, and I felt relief that I could move on.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
I didn't expect to feel such tremendous sadness. I thought I had said goodbye when I left Australia. Yet when she was actually selling I felt deep loss, a physical wrenching in my chest. I had a very real relationship with this inanimate object and that relationship was ending - we were breaking up and it tore at me even though I knew it was the right thing to do.

I also didn't expect the lightness and sudden freedom I felt. I recently read a blog post in which the author spoke about how the commitment of cruising closes off other options. This resonated deeply with me because as Carol and I discuss our long term future plans, when I think of cruising again, at the same time that I reimagine the delights I experienced on the water and in the islands, I fear losing the mountains again. Right now, even though we are in the prairies we are taking regular road trips in our wee trailer (RV CLIPTAKE) and my life has been full of peaks, of forests, of rock to climb. For all of the joys she gave us, boat ownership is a tremendous responsibility, and by choosing cruising we said no to many other ways of vagabonding and of living.

Carol (front - left) & Livia (back - right) summiting a Flatiron in Colorado
I have more odds and ends to say about finishing our cruise. I'm also going to be converting the sailing blog back into travelogue format. I'll be posting much less regularly, but our Giddyup Plan doesn't end with SV Estrellita 5.10b.

Video: A Taste of New Caledonia


It's up! Here is the 7th video in our “A Taste of…” cruising video series. A taste of the places that we’ve explored.

First, we posted tidbits from our time in the Marquesas, then the Societies, then traveling backward in time to British Columbia, then Tonga, the Gambiers Islands, the Tuamotus, and now, A Taste of New Caledonia.

One of our favorite places.*sigh*

SV Estrellita 5.10b is SOLD

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wauquiez_ad (2)((UPDATE: Estrellita has been sold.))

The one, the only, SV Estrellita 5.10b is for sale. Details and contact information can be found here at DBY Yachts.

This is a happy time and a sad time at the same time. We are excited about our plans and the successful completion of our cruise and we are very sad to say so long to our beautiful girl.

The true hero of our voyage has always been and will always be Estrellita.

I will write more eventually about our reasons for completing our voyage, but the short version is that all is well, that we will be returning to Canada and to work, that this blog will over time reconfigure back to its namesake (The Giddyup Plan) and that our vagabonding days are on pause, not over.


Most passages are short, but most passage nights are spent on long passages

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In the last 5.5 years we have sailed from Victoria, up to the Haida Gwaii and then down to Mexico and over to Australia. What are our passage NUMBERS?

GOPR3942 (Copy)In those 5.5 years, we have spent 136 nights at sea over 45 passages. 

Data by passage: Of the 45 passages, 22 (49%) of those passages were single overnighters between anchorages and 9 (20%) were two nights. We made 7 (16%) passages between three and five nights and 4 (9%) passages between six and nine nights. Only two passages were 10 nights long and 1 passage – Mexico to Marquesas obviously – was 26 nights.

The data show that most of our passages were short one to two night hops and only 15% were passages of six or more nights. But this is a bit misleading when you want to know what the average night at sea might feel like. What was the most common

IMG_5881 (Copy)Data by night: Of the 136 nights at sea, 34% of nights were spent on passages of 10 days or longer and 18% of the nights were on passages between 6 and 9 days. This means that more than half of the nights we spent at sea were part of “longer” passages of 6 or more nights. 23% of nights were part of 3 to 5 day passages, 16% of nights were on single overnighters and 7% of nights were on two night passages.

If I want to know what most passages were like, I can easily say “short”. But when I think back at my nights at sea, so many of my memories are from our long passages, where the night watch had become part of my daily rhythm and I was starting to enjoy that time.
As an aside, twice we left on a Friday and we were *gasp* perfectly fine. We actually tried to leave on a Friday the 13th but the weather never cooperated.

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3.5 Anchorages in Sydney Harbour

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P1070657 (Copy)Our first anchorage and one of our favorite was Athol Bay near Taronga Zoo. It was packed, and full of party boats on Saturday night, and had the normal amount of Sydney daytime bumpy wash, but it was beautiful and full of the sounds of zoo animals at night and in the morning. On one side of the boat I had the jungle and on the other side a postcard perfect view of Sydney Bridge and the Opera House.

We anchored out at first but there was such terrible anchoring techniques in display, with people putting out 1.5:1 scope and backing up at 4 knots, that we thought we had a serious risk of having our anchor pulled up by another boater. So, the day we were planning to leave the boat all day we moved to an available mooring after breakfast. Thanks for the beers Kate!

sydney blackwattle bay

P1070662 (Copy)We spent our longest stretch at Blackwattle Bay, right in the heart of downtown, near the Sydney Fish Market (but not too near if you know what I mean). It was excellent. The anchorage was busy but with everyone cooperating worked out well. One local boat of dubious character drifted away in the middle of the night in a bit of stronger wind without its owner aboard and was impounded.

P1070680 (Copy)The Fish Market no longer has a dinghy landing as the piers have been condemned and so we used the Rowing Club and several other public jetties conveniently located on park land bordering the anchorage. A great place for a run and we took full advantage, as did a huge number of runners and dog walkers. It was easy to walk to downtown, or to take all kinds of public transit to wherever you wanted to go from there. We spent days just wandering about downtown, letting ourselves get a little lost and accidentally find new neighborhoods which is how we accidentally went to the Lord Nelson Brewery. While we were in Blackwattle we had a great seafood Christmas lunch/dinner (more on that later) and took a trip up into the Blue Mountains (more on that later).

sydney farm cove

Farm Cove is where we spent our amazing NYE. Dinghy access to shore is normally easy with a jetty near the Opera House. This is closed on NYE so do your booze run the day before if necessary! We heard that you can get big fines for taking a dinghy up to the wall and climbing over it. So if you do that, maybe don’t admit it.

sydney spring cove

Our last anchorage (it counts as half because we were hardly there) was an Spring/Manly/Little Manly Cove and we arrived, went into town for ice cream, and enjoyed the view from the cockpit but didn’t do much else here as we were bound the next morning up to the Pittwater area.

In sum, we could have easily spent another month in Sydney, enjoying the city. We probably would have alternated between the harbour anchorages which are lumpy all day as a wash builds up from the gazillion boats but fades at night, and then moved to Blackwattle/Rozelle when we wanted some flat non lumpy time. It’s a great town for boaters.

A Pacific Ocean’s Worth of Fees


How much did our Pacific crossing cost us in fees for entering and exiting countries? Time for a NUMBERS post!

estrellitaImportant background: We are 35’ with two people aboard and no pets. We spent four seasons in the South Pacific between 2012 and 2015.  I am counting the cost of all required things for entrance and exit, even if the money doesn’t go to the goverment because I’m counting how much it cost us. We made some choices that other people don’t have to make. We didn’t visit all countries. Fees have changed over the years (particularly in the Cooks) so YMMV.

In sum: If you aren’t interested in the nitty gritty, the most we’ve paid in fees for clearances was for Australia, with Mexico coming in a close second.  The least we paid in fees was for New Caledonia where we paid nothing. Most other countries were in the approximately $200 range.

Country break down: All of the below are listed in the approximate USD cost.

IMG_0270Mexico: $400 USD buys a lot of cheap tacos! At the time of clearance in 2012 we had to pay a little over $110 for our TIP, $40 twice for fishing licences, and $210 for Mexican liability insurance (required by the govt, paid to a private party, despite our having other insurance). This would have allowed us to stay for quite a while (I forget how long) but we left after 6 months.

French Polynesia: We paid about $200 for an agent so we could avoid the bond. If we had been willing to risk the ups and downs of the currency markets and also getting our bond back in CFP at the end of our stay, this amount could have been zero, but I think our choice was fairly representative. If you count our return to Canada for our long stay visa, P1050239this would, of course, be the most expensive country on the list, particularly if we included airline tickets in our estimate of the “cost” so I’m just considering our first run through the country which was more normal.

Cooks: We paid a total of about $300 - $50 to clear in Suwarrow and then about $250 in various fees to exit.

Niue: It is a little difficult to decide how to categorize Niue. We only spent $54 in fees but you essentially must take a mooring which adds another $10 per day. Depending on how long you want to stay (and are able to with the exposed anchorage), this could become costly.

Tonga: We spent $183 in Tonga for three month stay. The clerance was inexpensive but after one month the visa ran about $30pp/per month.

Fiji: We paid $180 for all of the standard fees including visa extensions for our more than 4 month stay.

New Caledonia: No fee! No bond! No exit fee! …but you only get 3 months as a N American.

Australia: We paid $450 for two visas and the quarantee fee. Granted, they give you a year but holy crap!

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Watching the Sydney to Hobart race start


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IMG_0085 (2) (Copy)We chose to leave Estrellita in Blackwattle Bay and watch the 2015 Rolex Sydney to Hobart Race start from South Head which, as it sounds, is the southern land mass at the entrance to Sydney Harbour. Leaving the dinghy at the rowing club, we walked a short walk to Darling Harbour and boarded a ferry, transferred once to a different ferry a the main downtown wharf and road that all of the way to Watson’s Bay. With Sydney’s new OPAL transit system making the transfers automatically for us, it cost us $8 pp each way, and included quite a harbour tour in the process.


We went to the lighthouse arriving at around 11am and found a prime spot to watch the boats round the first mark, and to watch them pop their spinnakers (in the North wind conditions of the this year’s start), although you miss the actual start across the line.


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There were a few other early birds enjoying picnics as well but even as the race start closed and the area became more full, it was never a real madhouse. The harbour, on the other hand, was absolutely crazy. The anchorages filled, boats were milling about, and as the race went on their was a stream of boats heading out and then back in the harbour. It looked really fun but although it would have been fun to be on someone else’s boat, we were glad that we could enjoy without the stress of navigating our home in the pack.


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We had brought a tablet with cellular internet and as the race start approached we watched the livestream (which apparently was down outside of Australia this year, but worked inside the country). We started passing news to our neighbors as the race horn went off. With supermaxis in the mix it only took about 5 minutes before the first boats came into our view. As non-race afficianados, it also gave us a chance to read more about the background of the boats.


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I will let you read the official race reporting if you want a good overview; I enjoyed the way their writer laid things out over the course of the event. The start was a crazy series of upsets and we got to watch several of the main dramas unfold by the first mark -- when the Australian sweetheart and regular line honors winner Wild Oats tacked inches behind Commanche, when Commanche took the lead, and when Perpetual couldn’t get their chute up.


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IMG_0126 (2) (Copy)The supermaxis and maxis were followed by the “normal sized boats” of which there were many. This was all unfolding to our left.


Simultaneously, on our right we watched a series of blows spinnakers as people attempted to hoist them in peppy winds as they turned out of the harbour and headed South.


One things I really enjoyed about watching from South Head was how into the race the crowd was. There were gasps, commentary, cheers and a great vibe on the way to the area and away from it, even though the crowds were all trying to funnel into small paths and staircases on the park trails.


It was an exciting year for American yachting as an American supermaxi, Comanche, took line honors. The actual winner of the race however, was Balance, an Australian Farr TP52.


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Overall, this was a memory for a lifetime. So delighted we were able to be in a position to attend. When we made landfall in Coff’s it wasn’t at all clear that we would make our way all of the way down to Sydney and I am really glad conditions were favorable to do so.

Sydney New Years Eve 2015


There are times while cruising that I am filled with such joy at our choice to take off on a boat – not a plane, not a campervan, but a boat – because whatever I’m experiencing is so much better from the vantage of a floating home.

Being on Sydney Harbour, with our own boat, after having sailed there across an ocean, watching the fireworks explode seemingly over our head, from multiple directions was an experience of a lifetime.

We anchored in Farm Cove in about 35’ of water. We had arrived on the 30th of Dec and anchored farther into the harbour in shallower water. By noon on the 30th there were a dozen boats in the harbour and at least the same amount at the mouth of the harbour by the point on the East side. On the morning of the 31st we saw a nice hole in the anchorage with a better view and moved to it (S33°51'36.50" E151°13'13.07"). By noon, the anchorage was packed. By 5pm it was getting ridiculous and as the winds switched direction, people had to reanchor to avoid hitting other boats as we swung. By 8pm, the already packed anchorage had a few last minute additions – the last minute people being the least skilled at anchoring of course. We watched one boat try so many times that another sailor got in his dinghy, boarded their boat and helped them anchor (he was downwind of their gong show). With all of that said, the winds were light, the mood was exuberant and friendly all around us, and we only felt the need to put fenders down once on one side of our bow. Not too stressful.

The air show was excellent, the water spraying tug amusing, the lighted boat parade was classic and both sets of fireworks were spectacular. Go Sydney!

On a NUMBERS note, in the 2015 cruising season which began at the end of April for us and finished at NYE, we used 153 engine hours, about 43 gallons of diesel, about 50 gallons of gasoline and we refilled our 20lb propane tank 4 times.


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


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