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Date: 09 Jul 2012 03:30:30
Title: Life on board - the first 3 months

Lat 17:32.38S
Lon 149:34.23W

Reaching Tahiti is a bit of a landmark for us. It marks the end of the first 3 months, the long passages, the remoteness and of course we will be losing Dad and Jamie as they fly home and back to life in London. When we reach Tahiti, we will have sailed over 5000 miles, with approx 4000 miles still to go in the next 4 months. It is the first major port, and major city that we will have seen since Panama in mid April. We are both really looking forward to being in civilisation again and will definitely enjoy the restaurants, availability and choice of everything in the shops, and internet access. We are also arriving into Tahiti in the middle of the annual month long Heiva festival, so there should be lots of things going on in the city. It's a good time to visit.

Before we forget, I wanted to write a blog about life on board, the bits I haven't written about before, the nitty-gritty, the less glamourous side of sailing; a kind of behind-the-scenes blog. Depending on your association with the crew members you may find this incredibly boring or perhaps more interesting than the other blogs, but I wanted to put pen to paper, so to speak, so that we don't forget all the other things that happened on board. I think I have already mentioned that this blog is also our only diary of our trip.

1. The most useful things we brought with us
a) Solar powered light from Ikea - we use this everyday and everyone who sees it thinks it's awesome - in a world where everything is rationed and monitored, especially power, it's great to have free light! Mike and Sammy you were right, and thanks Sutho and Chris for buying it for us!
b) Scopoderm - a little sticky patch that you put behind your ear to prevent seasickness. It lasts up to 5 days before you need to apply another one. A dream for people like me who hate taking pills! Thanks Ilana!
c) Crocs - essential for walking across reefs and getting out of the dinghy onto rocky sand or coral - thank you Lavinia! Archie is jealous of their practicality but says he won't wear a pair even if I buy them for him because they are ugly - not sure where this new found sense of caring about his appearance has come from??!
d) Kindle - again, used every day and perfect for the boat - how else would we have been able to bring enough reading material for 9 months with us? Such a great invention. Thanks Mum!
e) Yeast - loving the homemade bread, although could do with some recipes/ideas for other kinds of bread - so far we haven't ventured away from the white loaf. Jem?
f) Diving gear - we debated over whether it was worth buying our own gear in Panama, or just renting it from dive shops as we travelled. It was a pretty large investment to get two complete sets of kit, but we are so glad that we did. Diving now only costs us about $10 each (the cost of refilling a tank of air at a dive shop), compared with $85 if you didn't have your own gear. Plus we get the freedom to go wherever we want, whenever we want and swap the kit over between the four of us so that we get at least two dives out of each tank and everyone can have a go.

2. Food
a)Portion size is everything. Nothing gets served or dished up or cut up without it being critiqued for fair portion control by the portion police, Archie and Jamie. For one to receive less than the other would be a terrible crime against humanity. There are girly portions for me, larger portions for Dad, and "Jamie and Archie sized portions" that are larger still but must be identical to each other. If you dare serve up plates where one of them has more than the other, be prepared to feel the wrath or witness a debate about who's is bigger and why it is justified. Jamie is very keen for everyone to know that just because Archie is bigger, does not mean he should get bigger portions.
b)The standard of cooking onboard Mystic has been very high, and I have been surprised at the quality of food that has come out of our little galley. When we left Panama, I had envisioned nights of pasta and tuna, pasta and tomato, pasta and pesto, and suchlike. I couldn't have been more wrong. We've had curries, casseroles, pies, pasta bakes, pizza, omelettes, pancakes and scrambled eggs for breakfast, fresh bread every few days and even a few cakes and banana bread creations. Freshly squeezed lemon juice, orange juice and lots of fruit - pamplemoose, papaya, watermelon, bananas-fresh and dried, apples, pears, and oranges have all made their appearance onto our plates at some stage. Indeed, the one thing we haven't got stuck into is the bloody tinned tuna and tinned veggies, which I think we will be giving away to some very lucky (or not!) friends in Sydney at this rate!
c)Snacking is a key form of moral boosting and a key part of a cruisers diet. We have got through a huge number of biscuits and crisps. I have discovered that my father is more of a biscuit fiend than me, and he once polished off an entire packet of biscuits on his 2 hour night watch, and then was surprised to see the empty packet the next day - "Oh are those finished?" I am nearly as bad and will confess to a cheeky TimTam out of the fridge when no one is looking without sharing them around! Arnotts biscuits can be found all across the pacific - even in tiny sheds that pretend to be shops in tiny village communities there are TimTams and Montecarlo's on the shelves. Well done Arnotts I say. Very unexpected but much appreciated!

3. Infestations
Unfortunately one of the known hazards of provisioning in Panama, is that while everything is very cheap, it also comes out of supermarkets that look more like B&Q warehouses than somewhere you'd buy food from. We were warned to keep all cardboard off the boat as cockroaches lay their eggs in cardboard, and microwave all of our pasta, rice, cereal and flour to kill the weavels and their eggs. However, despite taking all the precautions, some of the little buggers inevitably survived and decided that a huge double bed sized locker full of yummy food on a boat in tropical humidity and 30 degree heat was actually the perfect place to reside, lay eggs and let nature take it's course. Twice we have had moth infestations, similar to what we had once in Sydney. These pesky creatures lay their eggs in dried food - biscuits, pot noodles and cereal seem to be their favourites, and a few days later the maggots start crawling around, they then cocoon themselves and turn into a moth and the cycle goes round and round. The only way to get rid of them is to go through every single item of food and check for holes, or signs of cocoons. It's really gross and extremely time consuming. During this process we also found some weavels in some of the beans we'd bought. Note to other cruisers: weavels can survive even a minute in the microwave!

4. Cleaning
...is something that does not happen as often as it should, but I guess everyone could say that. On a boat though, there are more nooks and crannies for dirt to hide, and I have inevitably relaxed into my new cruisie lifestyle and things that bothered me when we first bought the boat no longer do as I realise there's just no point in cleaning some things. For example, there is a constant yellowish ring just below the seats in the cockpit from the suncream on people's legs. This is always going to be there, there's no point in cleaning it now (it takes hours), we'll just scrub it up in Sydney. Or the faint mould on the walls of our cabin that don't come off with any cleaning product that we have - all ideas welcome! Our clothes are permanently stained as no soap powder works that well in salt water, and the laundrettes seem to wash in cold water so that doesn't get the stains out either. It doesn't bother us - clean clothes now means clothes that smell ok, rather than those that actually look clean! I don't own anything on this boat that isn't stained with either oil, paint or that annoying yellow tinge that you get from suncream (again). I shall be buying some more clothes in Tahiti though! When we've done some washing, usually quite a sporadic occurance at anchor, Mystic takes on the look of a floating laundrette, with all sorts of washing lines tied up with jib sheets and spinnaker sheets. We also have to clean the bottom of the boat. We put a fresh coat of anti-foul paint on in Panama when we were hauled out, but it's amazing how quickly the algae grows - Mystic has a semi-permanent green moustache at the bottom of the scoop deck above the transom that has to be scraped off every couple of weeks!

5. Infections
Since we've been in Polynesia, everyone has suffered from skin infections. These occur either from scrapes on the coral, insect bites that go bad, or even just spots that won't heal. When we're in the water every day, things just don't get a chance to heal, but even a couple of days out of the water doesn't really help. Every morning Dad will give us an update on his puss filled wasp sting on his ankle from a month ago that still hasn't scabbed over, or the scrape on his arm that is now up to scab 9 I think. (oh actually I've just been informed that we are up to scab 10) Jamie seems to be more subject to insect bites that the rest of us, (or at least we hear about it more:-)) and he's not helping himself by kiteboarding over shallow coral bommies! Archie had a terrible rash that was comprised of lots of round red patches that each had lots of tiny blisters in them - this spread to his chest and other arm but he applied so much anti-fungal cream that he then got an allergic reaction to the cream! I have been relatively lucky until recently when I got a couple of spots on my face got infected and wouldn't heal - anti-biotics seem to be clearing that up though, So no one has escaped and we have got stuck into the $500 medical kit that we purchased in Sydney! Sorry, that paragraph is a bit gross, but you know, it's all part of the "experience"!

6. The damp
The problem with a boat for a house is not the space. We are perfectly adapted to the smaller space and have been for a while. It's the fact that everything gets salty, and it takes real effort to prevent things from being permanently damp. Sometimes you sit on one of the cushions in the living area, and you get a damp arse. Or dry clothes that you left on the sofa for a day become damp. Or when the polished wood floor gets wet from wet feet bringing saltwater inside the whole floor becomes like an icerink - not good if we're heeled over! Nothing that a few hours out in the sun doesn't sort though.

So you see, this cruising malarkey is really not that wonderful at all ;-)

Right, enough of my mind mumblings for now. This is much longer than I planned it to be!

We're on our way to Tahiti. Whoop whoop!

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