Thursday, May 28, 2015

Our favorite swimming hole at our secret atoll

The calm after a violent low-pressure cell descended upon us

Family selfie

Paddling with Dad

The captain of the dinghy

Beach pose

Kayak perfection

Beauty and the Beast

Well, toddler cruising has begun in full effect and it's teeming with new adventures and challenges to say the least.
After a long winter bouncing between Maui and Lanai to dodge all the Kona storms, Namaste filled her sails to head south. Chris, along with his former firstmate Chris Cotter and his son Arii departed Maui on March 20. The 15-day passage was mostly uneventful. They had decent wind, small swells and spent almost the entire trip close reaching on a port tack. The sea withheld all its bounty until the final week when they snagged an ono and yellowfin tuna.
Isabel and I arrived to Fakarava in the Tuamotu island chain on April 16. After navigating across the lagoon and anchoring near the south pass, we've been living the good life everyday.
The entire Team Namaste has been diving throughout the past two weeks. The first few days of diving were unusual, with only 60 or so sharks circling in the pass. This may seem like a lot, but we are used to seeing 300! This past week, however, the sharks returned. Nobody knows where they went, perhaps spooked by a larger shark, but on Tuesday we dove with around 200, which is such a sight to see. I've dove this pass, Tumakohua, over 50 times and the experience is never boring. Drifting with an incoming current into multiple groups of 50-plus gray sharks is always exciting and thrilling. Schools of big eyes skirt the lower depths as giant Napolean wrasses stare at you curiously as they glide their massive bodies through the water. White tip sharks sit lazily on the bottom, waiting until you could almost touch them before scurrying off to another sandy patch. Giant barracudas shimmer in the crystal clear aquamarine water, unable to hide their spiky teeth which jut out from their mouths. It is an underwater extravaganza, teeming with sealife and pristine coral formations. 
We spent a few days cleaning up two different small motus, burning up the miscellaneous plastic (ughhhhh) flotsom and jettsom that finds it's way to the shores, along with palm fronds and old coconuts. The beaches at thess motus are constantly changing with the storms and tides. The sand merely shifts around and is redeposited to make some smaller and some larger than when we were here two years ago. We've built a perfect spot for bonfires on the motu we call Kite Beach, so named because it is our launching pad for kitesurfing. Chris has been fortunate to get out on a few light-wind days, but the conditions have not been steady enough for a beginner like me. I'm looking forward to taking the next step in the sport after a few lessons in Maui, and when I say looking forward to - I really mean "scared out of my mind."
Cruising with Isabel is an amazing experience - so much good, and just a little bit frustrating! She loves sitting on the paddleboard while we cruise around the motus, as long as we take plenty of swimming and running breaks. Her energy is endless, and I'm quite sure my husband has finally met his match in that department. She enjoys drift swimming, a new toddler sport, perfect for her beginner kicks. She is diligently testing her limits, and an absolute little spitfire. But she is a quick learner and rarely makes the same mistake twice, unless she wants to! She continues to name all the blacktip sharks that circle the boat on a regular basis.
She is constantly learning about tools and how her dad is a "hard worker" and knows "how to fix lots of stuff." Her French alphabet is hilarious to hear and she's winning over everyone she meets with her spectacular repertoire of nursery rhymes, sung at high speed with a high voice.
Chris Cotter and Arii left on Wednesday for a short hiatus in Tahiti, where Arii will reconnect with his relatives. It was quite an adventure for Arii, who is now officially a shellback after crossing the equator on a route very similar to his Polynesian ancestors.
Despite the lack of a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, the crew is dining quite well on locally grabbed coconut crabs and fish, thanks to the spearfishing prowess of both Arii and Catt. Our plates have been full of panko-macadamia nut crusted marbled grouper, poisson cru with parrotfish and coconut milk, and fish packets cooked in the firepit with bigeye emperor, rice and cabbage, even though Isabel threw sand on those! Stinkpot for sure!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Humpback Heaven

It’s been an unusually stormy winter here in Maui, with southerly Kona storms ripping repeatedly through the Hawaiian islands, forcing Namaste to find refuge in marinas. The high winds and big swells have made most anchorages untenable. Although we prefer to have the hook down in more remote areas, we’ve made the most of our glorified trailer park status.
The Freeman’s had an incredible stay in Maui, chocked full of big cliff jumps at Black Rock, lazy pool days, whale watching, sand mermaid making, and more. We had such a special time with some of our favorite family members, and it was awesome to share our unique lifestyle.
Haleakala sunrise
Mermaid in the making
Ka'anapali beach sunset selfie
Next generation

Our Cape Cod crew arrived at the tail end of our cousins visit. Sam had a dream fulfilled as he paddled into Honolua Bay, where we had anchored the big boat. On our trip there, we witnessed a rare sight – a very young, perhaps only days old, baby whale calf and her mother. We watched from a distance with binoculars as the mama gently helped her newborn to the surface, teaching it how to blow. The baby calf was practically lying on top of the mother as they rested and nursed. Isabel was delighted to see such a small tail and hump and excitedly talked about the baby for days afterwards.
With the arrival of our Tahoe family, Nichole and her sons Xane and Kai, we checked out of Maui again, headed for Lanai. It was a rough trip, with high winds and a very short interval between waves creating a nasty chop. Everyone quickly recovered and we enjoyed a few calm days at the idyllic Hulope Bay beach. Our Maui friends, Chris and son Arii, joined us in Lanai and Namaste was at full capacity with bodies covering almost every horizontal surface. The following morning, we had an incredible sail to Moloka’i, capped off with a whale breach that soaked our decks. Pretty scary in retrospect, but awe-inspiring nonetheless.
Nichole captured this amazingly close breach right off the bow
We anchored in Kamalo on the southern side of the remote island. It was the first time I felt like we were actually cruising since our November arrival in Hawaii. The anchorage is picture-perfect, protected by a large reef and very isolated with a black sand beach on shore and resident manta rays at the pass.
It was just like the good ole days on Namaste, well considerably tamer, but with just as much action-packed fun. The rope swing was swung. We wakeskated and tubed behind the dinghy. Built beach bonfires and caught cool little geckos. Explored the nearby creek. Invented new ways to have fun, like kitetubing. We SUPped, Chris kited.
It was so amazing to introduce the Namaste lifestyle to the next generation of our friends’ kids, and watch Isabel marvel at all the excitement. I really love sharing all this and to see the pure joy in their faces everyday was just awesome.
Kai doing his silly thing
Boat bath
The crew at Kamalo

Chris kiting, the kids tubing


Beach love

The handsome birthday boy

Kamalo sunset
We reluctantly returned to Lana’i a day early due to unfavorable sailing conditions predicted for the following day. However, just an hour into our passage from Kamelo the MOST AMAZING thing happened. We were slowly motorsailing, towing our dinghy in the glassy conditions, when suddenly we were in the middle of 10-12 whales. They were literally everywhere and within moments they were closing in on Namaste. The mostly adult male group seemed very interested in our dinghy and started making extremely close passes to it, perhaps curious about this floating thing with the bright white bottom.  For about an hour, 6-8 males cruised slowly with us, surrounding the boat in a leisurely fashion. They would approach and then do these incredible underwater twists, seeming to show off for their captive audience. It’s such a sight to see these massive mammals acrobatically swish through the water.
The approach

Close breath

Underwater dance
Whale photobomb
Whale gapers
Tails of Namaste

Going diving

It was an incredible end to an amazing time with some of our closest friends, and gave the kids something unforgettable to remember their adventure.
The fun continues here on Namaste as we prepare to return to French Polynesia in early April…

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Awesomely spoiled

You know your kid is getting seriously spoiled to island life, when they look at you with the most serious expression on their face and utter the words, “Mom, I really wanna see a dolphin and a rainbow right now.”
Oh really, I ask myself, when these incredibly indulged phrases come out of her mouth. “Would you like the dolphin to also jump through the rainbow?” I ask jokingly.
“Uh-huh,” she says back as we swing in the hammock.
Well, I guess that’s what I should expect. She will probably never know how lucky she is, but we will and I’m sure we will constantly remind her of that!
It’s amazing to me how whales appear at the islands. One day, there are none – the next day, they are everywhere. Isabel and Chris left for their daily morning dinghy ride – smoothies in hand – and upon their return Isabel shouted excitedly, “Mommy, I saw a whale. A baby and a mommy whale. They were swimming in the ocean with the dolphins.”
Again, I couldn’t help wonder when, and if, she will ever realize how lucky she is to be living this life with us.
Her pure joy at this sighting was fun to see, as was her immediate acceptance that this is just everyday life for her.
The boat projects have been numerous and very challenging for my multi-talented husband. The wind generator is installed but not producing any power yet, but the solar panels are rocking. The diesel generator was successful repaired at a minimal cost, and is now sporting new motor mounts. The list has been endless for him. I’ve been having major flashbacks to our Napa re-fitting days, sweaty behind my dust mask as I sand floorboards and the companionway.
We (and by “we” I mean Chris) finally wrapped up some of the big projects in preparation for the Perry crew invasion. My brother, his wife and their three kids rented a place in the upcountry for the holidays. We rocked the big island everyday of their 10-day adventure.
My Christmas gift from them was a helicopter trip – best two-hour gift ever! It was incredible to see Kiluea, the most active volcano in the world, up close and watch the destruction those lava flows can cause. Ripping its way through heavily forested areas, giant trees are left in its wake.
The coastal waterfalls left us all speechless, and the lush, green, deep valleys were an amazing sight. Two thousand foot waterfalls cascaded from one pool into the next into the next.

Our first sailing excursion ended with all three kids feeding the fish overboard at some point. But they were not to be deterred. Two days later, decked out with scopolamine patches, we sailed out of the harbor again. We didn’t make it far before we spotted the local spinner dolphins. The kids, my brother and I all jumped in for just your average swim-with-the-dolphins experience. They came within 20 feet of us three different times, and the kids were beyond excited. A mellow afternoon of whale watching and unsuccessful fishing followed.

We hit the best beaches, boogie boarded some fun waves, built some amazing sand castles and race tracks, ate way too much amazing food, and drank way too much beer, great wine and champagne.

As soon as the crew left, we started prepping for our sail to Maui. Ryanda, our awesome friend from Maui, flew over to join us for the mellow trip. We had a very easy motorsail, and spent most of our time playing the playdough and looking for whales.

Our first night in Lahaina on a mooring was awful, as unpredicted winds kept us beam to the swell. We bailed first thing in the morning for Lanai, but had unexpected winds that gusted to 25-30 knots. Not a problem for our boat, except when we’re towing our dinghy with the motor on, and the radar bracket dislodges. Despite surfing down 6-foot waves and being jerked all over the place, everything survived the abuse and we pulled into the idyllic Manele Bay. We ended up getting a slip in the extremely small harbor, through Chris’ good looks and charm, and have been at the beach and in the water, trying to forget all the projects that are still looming. Our cousins’ from the frozen tundra, also known as Michigan, arrive next week, so I better stop writing and get to work…

Monday, November 24, 2014

Boat life, version 2.0

Namaste is floating again after a summer hiatus in Kailua Kona. Chris dropped her back in the water two weeks ago, and has been busy upgrading and installing new equipment, including solar panels and a wind generator.
Isabel and I arrived 10 days after him, and he is still elbow-deep in grease and projects. Cruising is currently best described as fixing our boat in an exotic location. But that was the plan in bringing Namaste north from French Polynesia last spring.
Isabel is blossoming into quite the first mate, although she often times acts like the admiral.
The terrible two’s take on a whole new level when your toddler is on a boat. We’re embarking on an 8-month long journey with Isabel around Hawaii and French Polynesia. When she was six months old and we could plop her down anywhere, cruising with her was a nice, steady breeze. But now, it’s more like a hurricane. And she is at the eye of the storm.
But we’re all adjusting to our “boat home” fairly well, considering she is sweaty all the time and the mosquitoes love her as much as they love me. Our life is all about the hammock, beach, puzzles, tea parties, dinghy rides, and scouting for crabs and dolphins and turtles – yeah, her life is pretty rough.

We originally planned to spend Thanksgiving in Maui, but a generator issue has kept us on the big island through the New Year. Luckily, our craving for family time at the holidays will be filled when my brother, sister-in-law, and their kids join us for Christmas. More to come as the fun increases and the work decreases (yes, that does eventually happen on a boat!!)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Best of spring '13 Tuamotus

Carol with his massive trophy jack caught in Tahanea pass
The GoPro shot from Livia, location undisclosed
Isabel and I wrapped in foul weather gear during squally Fakarava dinghy ride

Chillin' at the bar

Our mark on SudBar in Fakarava, Isabel's polynesian name

The derelict crew in the anchorage

Catt, doing his thing

The "Fly-By"

Isabel, doing her thing

Cracking coconuts for fresh drinks, just add rum

Celebrating our lucky lifestyle with friends