Thursday, July 31, 2008

Journal Entry - July 31, 2008 - Road Trip South

Author: Pam
It is truly a treat when we meet local people who want to show us their home. Michel and Viviane invited us to spend the day with them exploring the southern part of New Caledonia. They picked us up at 0830 as promised and we headed off to see the part of the country where red, blue and green meet.

Our first stop was on the shore of a lake where the red dirt met the blue water and sky with green dotting the background. The color of the soil is a very rich red, due to the rich mineral content. I found it interesting that the most prevalent car color is white, but they all ended up covered in thick red dust. Next we stopped to look at the dam that controls the height of the lake and to have morning tea. Viviane brought a thermos of coffee and some cookies. It offered us an opportunity to share a classic visually impaired moment, when both Scott and Viviane reached for their cookie and ended up with the rocks that were holding down the table cloth within seconds of one another. The rocks were about the same size as the cookies, but definitely would not have tasted as good. We all had a good giggle and when we headed back to the car, Viviane warned us there was a big cookie in the path. The cookie warning continued throughout the day and will now forever be part of our hiking terminology. Cookies have been added to koala's breakfast which is now the warning for low branches, borrowed from the Guide Dog trainers in Sydney. It is definitely more fun to avoid (or trip over) cookies and koala's breakfast, than rocks and branches.

Once back in the car we headed for the village of Yate. On the way we stopped in a small village where we saw the grave of a missionary in the shape of a boat by the edge of the sea. He was from France and when he died they wanted to send him home so they buried him by the sea in his own boat.

The church nearby was lovely, but we couldn't go in because there was a funeral in progress for one of the members of the tribe. As we walked by we heard the traditional Polynesian singing we have heard in churches throughout the South Pacific. Michel introduced us to one of the local woman who gave us permission to have a look at the preserved traditional hut that was just down the road from the church, which is no longer occupied.

Scott was sitting in the front with Michel and they chatted away about New Caledonia and the US. Michel had a habit of turning his head to look at Scott, I think he thought this helped him understand his English better, but it did not work for Viviane. One of the phrases she learned in English was "keep your eyes on the road", which she must have said to Michel twenty times or more throughout the day.

Our next stop was at Gite St. Gabriel a Gite and restaurant in Yate for lunch. Michel and Viviane had called ahead and made a reservation as well as ordered a traditional lunch. The well manicured grounds of the Gite overlooked the ocean through beautiful palm trees. There were very basic cabins that were for rent by the night. The price range depended on how many people and whether you wanted dinner and breakfast included.

After our walk we settled in for our surprise lunch. We were served a salad and the basket of bread that seems to be present at all meals. The main course arrived and Viviane told us it was a traditional New Caledonian style of cooking called "bougnia". It can be any kind of meat or fish wrapped in greens and cooked. To make it even more "local" Michel had ordered fish, which was a reef fish called Dawa. When we were given a plate for the bones, I thought oh no Scott is definitely wishing they had ordered chicken. But, he never ceases to amaze me. He tucked in and cleaned his plate of all of the fish, greens and veggies (potatoes, squash and pumpkin) cooked in coconut milk. I liked the fish (the greens didn't work for me) and the veggies, though I found them a bit rich. For dessert they served a lovely fruit cup and everyone had espresso except for me. It was a culinary experience and very sweet of Michel and Viviane to make it happen. We were the only customers in the restaurant and I don't think any of the cabins were rented out that day.

After lunch we wound our way along the coast to our next surprise. As we hiked a short distance from the car Michel was explaining that he knows the US has lots of things that are big and this isn't quite as big and about that time a beautiful waterfall was cascading in front of us. It is the Goro Falls and they are the biggest in New Caledonia. They were beautiful and I was quite impressed.

Next we found ourselves in the middle of newly constructed dirt roads with no signs. Things had apparently changed since the last time Michel and Viviane had been this way. After choosing to go right and finding out we should have gone left from a construction worker, it only took turning around one more time and two more construction workers to get us headed in the right direction. Michel had hoped to show us the Nickel factory, but that road was no longer accessible. It truly just looked like hills of red dirt to me, I was amazed Michel could even end up on the wrong road, much less the right one.

We stopped at a lookout over Baie de Prony, a very popular and cyclone safe anchorage. We were jealous of the eight yachts anchored as Starship sat in yet another marina waiting for her new dodger. Once back in the car we wound our way down the hill and stopped to walk through a local village. There were about ten homes that are second homes rented by retired factory workers, the lease is for 99 years. They were very basic with no electricity or running water, however there was a creek alongside the road. They were surrounded by lush trees and a well manicured "road" wound its way among them. One of the houses had an anchor in front and Popeye painted on the side of the house. Popeye (although he is the sailorman) seemed very random. There was a lovely banyan tree with a giant root span. Scott's favorite site was the old prison wall, we of course have pictures of him behind bars.

The last box to check for our tour was to see a Niaouli Tree, we wanted to see the tree that the bottle of Niaouli essence Michel and Viviane had given us came from. Viviane had been reminding Michel all day to keep a lookout and just before dark he spotted one along side the road. We all climbed out and Michel plucked a branch. It has small green leaves and small white flowers. When you pinch the leaf the smell is very similar to eucalyptus. We climbed back in the car with the branch, the leaves can be dried and boiled later.

We pulled into the Port Moselle Marina parking lot at 1800 feeling as though our New Caledonia horizon had been broadened. We had been feeling sad we were stuck in the marina, we were grateful for the opportunity to see the countryside, especially with people as warm and friendly as Michel and Viviane. They left with promises to stop by the following Monday to bring us copies of the pictures they took. Any excuse to see them would be lovely.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Journal Entry – July 27, 2008 Dinner with New Caledonian’s on Starship

Author: Pam

Another lovely outcome of our connection with the association for the blind was meeting Michel and Vivian. Vivian is visually impaired due to Stargarts and participates in the painting classes, yoga and other activities at the association. When Scott and Michel went to the police station for the second time, Scott invited them to dinner aboard Starship.

Our day ended up being mostly devoted to preparing for dinner and started with a trip to the market next door, which is an overwhelming experience on Sunday. It is the biggest market day and very crowded. We struggle on a quiet day to find what we are looking for and to understand how much we need to pay. We still can not hear the numbers in French when they tell us the total. We often ask to see the calculator they have used to figure out how much we owe or we just give them a big enough note that we are sure will cover the outrageous amounts we are paying for fresh veggies. After making a couple of purchases and not being able to make out what our options were at the butcher, we decided to finish our shopping for dinner at the grocery store. We headed out to accomplish this task to find out to our horror the grocery stores are not open on Sunday. Oops, now what are we going to make for dinner? We only had one package of ground beef (mince for our Aussie & Kiwi friends) in the freezer. We brainstormed and came up with several ideas that we had almost all of the ingredients for, but not quite. We finally settled on pasta, Greek salad and cherry crepes for dessert.

By the time we got this all figured out we had an hour to whip it together. We finished one minute before 5:00 pm and Michel and Vivian arrived promptly at 5:00. There is no such thing as New Caledonia time, we find New Caledonian’s arrive either early or exactly on time. Once aboard they presented us with gifts from New Caledonia, a shirt for Scott and a cool and loose fitting dress for me. They also gave us an essential oil that is from the native Niaoli tree. It has medicinal properties, you can smell it when you have a cold (like Vicks Vapor Rub) or you can put a few drops in a pan of boiling water or an oil burner to cleanse the air. It smells like a cross between Vicks and Eucalyptus. We shared a lovely time in the cockpit and when I went down below to make the final dinner preparations, they confessed they thought they were only coming over for an aperitif (cocktail hour), there had definitely been a breakdown in communication. They said they were happy to stay for dinner, so we all feasted on a meal that we would eat at sea instead of the BBQ we had planned, well maybe minus the crepes.

We will see them again on Thursday for a day trip in the car to go sightseeing to some of their favorite places outside of Noumea. Michel loves to speak English and is very chatty and although Vivian is shyer about her English ability, there does not seem to be a lack of topics to cover. Spending a day with them will certainly be educational and definitely fun.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Journal Entry - July 25, 2008 Lunch with a New Caledonian Family

Author: Pam

Visiting beautiful places, maintaining the boat, making passages, provisioning, and constantly learning is a short list of experiences we are having on this adventure, but it has become clear the top of the list is the people we meet. Some of our fondest memories are the people we have met through our efforts to meet and learn about the visually impaired community. Today was no exception. During the visit with the Association for the Blind on Monday we had the pleasure of meeting Michelle, the “2nd President” of the Association and before the afternoon was over she invited us to lunch at her home on Friday. Her son Jaque was also present and he offered to pick us up.

As promised he was at the boat just before 11:00 am with his eleven year old son Arnaud. Arnaud was a bit shy and did not want to have a look at Starship, so we hopped in the car and headed off to make new friends here in New Caledonia. When we arrived at Michelle’s home we were welcomed with the typical French greeting, cheek to cheek and kisses in the air with both cheeks. I am a bit more comfortable with this custom, because there is never a question if it will happen with a man, woman or child. In Scott’s case sometimes it happens with men and sometimes not, so he is never quite sure. He was quite taken aback when all three young boys offered up their cheeks. It was really sweet to watch though. We met “Papa” Michelle’s husband, Christine, Michelle’s daughter who works for immigration as a boarder patrol police captain, Eric and Mayana, he is a trainer for elementary teachers and she is a primary school teacher and their two sons. Mayana was married to Michelle’s son who was a pilot and died 15 years ago in a plane accident. Mayana married Eric and they are now both part of the family.

We were ushered inside to a huge, beautifully set table that we later learned is a ping pong table. Within minutes champagne was popped and poured, pictures snapped, horsdeuves served and questions being asked in French and translated into English by Christine. Arnaud wanted to know the name of our boat, he had drawn a picture of a sailboat on a white board. I spelled Starship for him and he added her name to his work of art, which then prompted more pictures. At least Christine and possibly Eric had taken the day off from work to meet us, it was as special for them to have two Americans sitting at their table as it was for these two Americans to be having lunch with a New Caledonian family.

We learned that food is very important to New Caledonians, even if you are poor you still have plenty of food on your table. The whole family had contributed to this special lunch and it was a feast. Jaque made the most delicious potato salad I have ever had, there was pasta gratin, grilled eggplant, steak, green salad, ashards (which is a local relish made with vegetables or citrus fruit). Everything was delicious and just when we thought we could not possibly eat another bite three desserts arrived on the table, flan, banana tart and an orange cake. We were served a small piece of each dessert with offers for seconds. The French love their desserts, it sometimes is a longer list on a menu at a restaurant than the main course options. Scott refrained, but he would have had seconds if he could have fit them in his big toe.

Throughout the meal the questions continued to fly from each family member. Mayana wanted to know what was the one thing we think is important to have on the boat, I answered fresh water and Scott answered gummy snakes. It turned out to be a difficult question to answer, I don’t think I could ever narrow it down to one thing. Papa wanted to know about the GPS and other instruments, he used to be a pilot and how we navigate was particularly interesting to him. Eric wanted to know about the computers on board and how we communicate. Michelle wanted to know if we believe in God or something bigger than us, especially when it seemed there was divine intervention when we were hit by the wave and Scott was not washed off the boat. It started to rain during lunch and Jaque shared with his family that we had been hanging laundry out on the lifelines when he and Arnaud arrived at the boat. That lead to a conversation about underwear and how we were told by friends in the beginning of our first cruising season, if you don’t hang your underwear on the outside of your boat you are not a true cruiser. We had used a clothesline down below the first time I hand washed laundry in Tahiti, but only once, because if that is what it takes to make you a true cruiser we could hang our underwear out for the world to see with the best of them. Papa commented that nowadays there isn’t much to woman’s underwear, so it shouldn’t take long for it to dry. He further elaborated (this was translated by Christine) that it used to be that you had to move the underwear to see the bum, but now you have to move the bum to see the string of the underwear. It was difficult to not feel part of the family at this point as we all laughed until we almost cried.

When it was time to leave the goodbyes looked like the hellos, more kisses, but in a few hours we had become friends and our lunch with a New Caledonian family will be a special memory of our time in a country that we were actually not originally planning to visit. Jaque and Eric drove us back to the boat laden with a bag full of gifts. They had all written a message and their email addresses in the back of a 2008 agenda, there was a 2009 calendar, mosquito spray, a dishful of the yummy potato salad, a sampling of all of the desserts and a loaf of French bread added at the last minute. There were offers if we need anything in the time we have remaining and promises to keep in touch. Scott and I came back to the boat feeling overwhelmed by their generosity and blessed that we crossed path with the Bellet family.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Journal Entry - July 23, 2008 – Dodger Disaster Sorted Out

Author: Scott

Ah! The stress is rolling off our backs as I write this entry. Today we came to a negotiated truce with the vendor who was originally hired to construct our new bimini/dodger.

On Monday while returning home from our visit to the association for the blind I asked Michel if he had any ideas regarding our rights for recourse regarding the breakdown in communication with the vendor we selected to complete our dodger/bimini. Michel was a Gendarmerie for most of the 1980’s in New Caledonia and I figured who better than a retired police officer could give us advice. Michel asked for the vendor’s contact information and told me that he would call and instruct him to come to the police station to make a statement and would then take me to the station the following day to make a statement as well.

The next day Michel turned up and together we went to the Noumea police station. It turned out that the translator was off duty and we were instructed to visit a different office, today. Michel picked me up at 13:45 and we drove over to the a police station near the adjacent bay and on the way Michel told me that he could not stay due to a prior commitment, but not to worry as he arranged a meeting with the translator.

The police station was a small single story blue and white building that blended in with the surrounding homes in this suburb of New Caledonia. We entered into a crowded waiting room that appeared to be teaming with people clearing up legal disputes and automobile altercations. The mood in the police station was surprisingly light and the staff was very friendly. Michel checked me in and we waited on plastic chairs for our turn with the translator. When the translator called our names, Michel explained that he had a prior commitment and asked if the translator could drive me home. Wow, not only was I in a police station but I might even get a ride in a squad car. Everything was arranged and Michel made his departure. Now I was alone!

The officer who served as the translator told me his name, and I promptly forgot it, I must have been a tad nervous! I found him to be kind but serious. I explained our side of the story and he read a statement that we had prepared. I also provided a letter received that morning from the vendor. The officer then explained that this was not a “criminal matter” and was a “civil matter” but he said the police would like to help resolve the dispute. He then phoned the vendor and without giving a reason, instructed the vendor to report immediately to the police station. The conversation lasted twenty seconds and the vendor was on his way. To pass the time while we waited, I pelted the officer with a million questions about being a police officer in New Caledonia. I learned that there are 500 police in New Caledonia and drinking and domestic violence are the biggest problems they face.

To the relief of the officer the vendor arrived in ten minutes saving him from further unrelenting nervous questions from me. The officer asked us each to tell our side of the story and then matter-of-factly asked each of us how the problem could be resolved. We each gave our story and after some heated discussion we both were able to come to the table with some compromises. In the end we shook hands. The officer gave the vendor a stern warning to finish the project on time and to do the work to the best of his ability, or the situation would become a matter for the police. Since we were now all getting along again I was given a ride back to the marina from the vendor, undermining my plans of riding in a Noumea police cruiser.

After nearly four years into this voyage we have never faced a conflict with a vendor of this magnitude. Although we had a written quotation, it was a solid reminder that we should also always insist on a detailed contract with firm completion dates. It was also refreshing to see that even amidst a conflict with no apparent solution, in a foreign country, people can step back, regroup, and come to a reasonable compromise. Big thanks to the Noumea police department for their keen negotiation skills.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Journal Entry - July 21, 2008 - Association Valentin Hauy

Author: Pam

We were in the process of trying to contact the Association for the Blind (which is not an easy feat when you don't speak the language) when a reporter was "tipped off" about our arrival in Noumea by another yacht (Kracht). He came by Starship and he asked his questions as best he could and we answered the best we could considering our language barrier, it helped that he has circumnavigated several times. The outcome of our interaction was a very nice article in the Les Nouvelles Caldoniennes, Noumea newspaper. On the same day the article appeared Michel, a volunteer from the Association for the Blind tracked us down at the marina and once again thanks to media the barriers were immediately broken down. He speaks very good English which certainly helped as we had a million questions. After a mutually informative initial meeting he invited us to visit the Association on the following Monday and offered to pick us up at 13:00.

We were ready at 13:00, but we really had no idea what to expect. When Michel arrived he was accompanied by his wife Viviane (who is visually impaired) and a photographer from a magazine. The photographer took a couple of pictures of Scott and I on the boat and then disappeared. Michel was eager to get going, because he explained the TV station was planning to meet us back at the boat at 15:00. That was news (pun intended) as I stepped off the boat looking at her complete disarray as we were mid dodger and dodger frame repair, I just had to go with the flow.

We arrived at the Association Valentin Hauy after about a fifteen minute car ride. We walked in with Michel and Viviane and I immediately felt like I was Cinderella entering the ball. There were about 20 people in the room and whatever they were doing was instantly and completely interrupted. The plan was to observe the normal activity of the "center", but it became clear that between us and all of the media that had shown up for the occasion that was not going to be the go. We were introduced and then introduced to a few individuals before we were whisked to the couch were we held court with two radio stations, one magazine and the same newspaper reporter again. Thank heavens, Claude the leather teacher originally from Canada graciously interpreted for everyone. We answered some questions four times and hopefully we were consistent. There were several participants who sat as close as possible so they could hear and sometimes asked a question or made comments, none of which we could understand.

There unfortunately was not time to give a presentation to all of the participants and given the language barrier in this instance they will hopefully learn a lot more from the information we were able to share with the media.

Once our media "commitments" were fulfilled we were given a tour of the building the Association owns. The walls of the main room when you first enter the building are lined with bookcases filled with books on tape. The Association has 15 volunteers, 12 of them record books at home for the lending library. As mentioned, Claude is the leather arts teacher and he is teaching Gilles the craft with the goal that Gilles will pass the skill on to other people with visual impairments. Gilles is a big, gregarious guy who lost is vision in 1998 to a brain tumor. He speaks very good English because he worked in the hospitality business before losing his sight. He believes he was given a second chance in life and he clearly embraces it with every ounce of his being. His connection with the Association and the gift he believes he has received to meet Claude and learn to tool leather exuded from every ounce of his being as he towered over me. His handiwork was beautiful and he will fulfill his goal of being the next leather arts teacher and who knows what other doors may open.

We learned that the Association does what it can to assist clients to find employment, but New Caledonia is not exempt from the discrimination that so often limits employment for people with disabilities. In a typical year the association finds employment for two to three people. Some of the employment placements include civil servants, telephone company representatives, tourism, and retail positions.

We met one of the two guide dogs in New Caledonia. His name is Shine and he is a boofy looking boy with a big head. He was just getting his leash back that had been repaired by Gilles.

There was an individual Braille lesson in progress in the same room where they have several computers with some assistive technology. Unfortunately, they do not have a computer teacher or anyone to maintain the computers at this time. It is very difficult to know that Scott has so much to offer, but under the circumstances would not have the opportunity to update the equipment and software.

On Mondays there is a painting class. Viviane participates in the painting class; she used to paint on silk before she began losing her vision seven years ago. She also takes the yoga class every Friday.

The Association has identified 130 people who are blind or visually impaired in New Caledonia. The Association struggles with locating visually impaired people, as many families isolate and "protect" family members from the outside world. The volunteers have made an effort to try and meet each person to let them know what services are available. Funding for the Association comes from service organizations and the New Caledonian government.

After we partook of refreshments we were whisked back into Michel and Viviane's car and headed back to Starship to meet the TV crew. When we arrived at Port Moselle we discovered that half of the participants from the center had also come along to see the boat. We stood at the top of the dock and chatted while everyone gathered and the cameraman began shooting the casual conversations. Once we arrived at Starship it became chaos. There were people everywhere and the cameraman was walking around filming, he had yet to speak to us. I ended up giving tours of the front of the boat, and Scott was between the helm and the back, we didn't see one another at all. After an hour I came out to say goodbye to Michelle and Jaque and one of the TV crew asked if he could ask me a couple of questions, Scott was nowhere to be seen. After they left I asked Scott if they interviewed him, no they just filmed him demonstrating Zoomtext with charts on the computer. We looked at each other in our complete exhaustion and said I guess the word will be out now in New Caledonia. Then I asked Scott if he had made any future commitments, while I shared that we had been invited to lunch at Michelle's house on Friday so we could experience time with a New Caledonian family. We owe a huge thank you to Michel and Viviane for organizing another amazing experience for us and the wonderful opportunities for us to share our message in New Caledonia.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Journal Entry - July 20, 2008 Vendor Drama in Noumea

Author: Scott

Okay, last week when I sat down to the computer I felt like there was not much to write about and this week I am staring at the blank page thinking ‘now what?’

The only thing of interest that has happened this week is the complete meltdown with our bimini/dodger vendor. If you recall from last week’s journal the dodger construction was scheduled to start on Tuesday July 15. On the morning of the 15th the vendor did not show up leaving us in awe of his unpredictability. When he eventually did show up I had a serious discussion with him, sharing our concerns and growing unease over the multiple delays. At this point he told me that the vybak plastic that we thought had arrived last week was actually being shipped to New Caledonia and the completion date would now be August 5th. He believed this to only be a week later than originally agreed upon, while we see this delay as nearly three weeks late. The following day Graeme and Rebecca helped me phone Australia and we sourced a warehouse that had the plastic material in stock immediately. However, when I called the vendor and offered to provide the plastic he went ballistic stating that he had already purchased the material and could not cancel his order. He then said that he was fed up with this project and would not complete the work. I asked him to return our deposit and he said he was also keeping our deposit for his inconvenience.

This entire situation is like nothing we have experienced to date on our voyage. We have had very few negative interactions with trades people thus far, and now we are in a foreign country, ignorant of our rights as consumers, facing a huge dilemma. We have been advised to visit the police and possibly the media. We have already found a new vendor and we have opened discussions with him. Fortunately it appears that he can complete the project on a similar timeline.

On a brighter note, when I was in the marina office having a recent newspaper article about the voyage translated, a man came up to me and introduced himself as Michel Michel is a volunteer for the local association for the blind, and speaks some English. We have been trying to contact the association with little success, and now they were looking for us. Michel and I had a great chat and I immediately liked him. I asked a million questions about the association, its members and about blind people in general living in New Caledonia. Michel invited us to visit the center on Monday, July 21.

Meeting other blind people as we travel through the world is our highest priority and is always a rich and wonderful experience. So, in the midst of a very trying week there is a glimmer of excitement in us as we anticipate meeting the members of the association for the blind. Hopefully we will soon have positive news and stories of our visit. So, stay awake and stay tuned because things surely must be getting ready to perk up for the better.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Journal Entry - July 13, 2008 – Illegal Immigrants Awaiting Repairs

Author: Scott

This past week in New Caledonia has presented us with some real challenges. Our day to day life has become almost routine, but our ability to reside in New Caledonia has been prolonged while simultaneously threatened.

Our agreement with the vendor who we have hired to build our new dodger/bimini was supposed to start construction on Monday July 7, when he returned from a vacation in Australia, where he was also going to purchase the Sunbrella Plus fabric and Vybak plastic for our project. Monday passed without seeing neither hide nor hair of him and when he finally did appear, we were told that New Caledonia Customs had seized his materials due to some bureaucratic glitch. We were told that construction could not begin until the material was released. Every few days the vendor would show up with an update, but the end result was always the same, no fabric yet and it would be a minimum of two weeks once the fabric was released. To further our predicament, the vendor had purchased the materials with our deposit, and so we were stuck waiting.

Finally, on Saturday July 12 the vendor came by to tell us that Customs had released the materials, and that construction could begin on July 15, as July 14 is Bastille Day a holiday in New Caledonia. Hopefully things will start to move forward, as we are now officially a week behind schedule, after waiting nearly two weeks just for the material to arrive in New Caledonia.

Our next hurdle this week has been the expiration of our New Caledonian visa. When we arrived in Koumac we were not told how long our visa was good for. So, upon investigation into the expiration date we learned that our visas expired on July 9. We are now illegal aliens with a broken boat. Next week we will face the music and see what happens. If we end up in a New Caledonian pokey – please send a cake with a file.

Otherwise, our lives in New Caledonia continue to be routine. We are enjoying our new friendship with Graeme and Rebecca. I have been working with Rebecca on her computer. Both she and Graeme have Ipods and we are getting them loaded full of new music. I have also got them watching computer movies and they are sure to become computer media geeks.

We are learning our way around town and we have now visited Ansa Vata beach, the main tourist area in town. Our trips to the market have become an almost daily event, buying our tomato, zucchini, piece of meat or whatever items will meet the day’s needs. We have gotten familiar with a nice young man at the market café and he now knows our order on sight. Our coffee comes in giant bowls for 300 CFP each, with me getting a café latté and Pam a hot chocolate. It is strange that we have been here long enough to have our coffee order memorized.

That’s about it for this week’s update. As you make your way through your week, every now and then send some energy to the two stranded sailors, awaiting repairs and avoiding deportation, as the nickel dust drifts down on their dirty boat in New Caledonia.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Journal Entry – June 30 – July 6, 2008 Life is Slowing Waaaaaay Doooooooooooown in New Cal

Author: Scott

During the past week we have finished up a number of boat tasks. Our watermaker may now be finally working and our wind generator bearings were replaced. Now all we have left on the project list is the replacement of our dodger/bimini and this will take another two weeks (sigh). It is nice that we are able to move to the non essential boat task list and turn our attention to things like rust removal and cleaning the boat.

To add to this exciting week we started the process of obtaining our Indonesian visa. It turns out that Indonesia is one of the toughest and bureaucratic countries to enter with a cruising sailboat. The first hurdle was applying for and paying for a Clearance Approval for Indonesian Territory or CAIT. This is essentially a cruising permit for Indonesian waters and can be obtained online from the Bali Marina once a hefty fee has been wired. The second step is to obtain a visa in advance. Tourists are granted a thirty day visa automatically but to stay longer is a whole other ball game. Crew on a visiting yacht must request a visa in advance from an Indonesian consulate or embassy, but you can not request a visa prior to ninety days in advance of your trip. This means that we would have had to apply for a visa from Darwin Australia or Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (a scary city), but with our temporary marooning in New Caledonia we are fortunate to have a local Indonesian consulate available to us, and yes we are now within the ninety day window. I must say that our first experience at the consulate was quite hospitable with a charming woman who sent us away for a week, but she sent us away with a kind smile after learning about our voyage. Apparently there was a change in diplomats with the new official arriving this week. Our first impression is that we will succeed in obtaining our visa, clearing the final Indonesian hurtle.

Other highlights include seeing our friends from “Aloha” Sandy and Gwyn who we met in New Zealand. We had a nice sundowner cockpit evening with our friends on Harmonica. I got a haircut and managed to communicate so that I still have a quarter inch of hair left. And!!!! I found very tasty GIANT bowls of café au lait for 300 CFP or about $3.85 - Starbucks eat your heart out! We got to move Starship to the Visitors Dock miraculously after being told that there was absolutely no room. The final uneventful thing in an uneventful week was that we did not even realize it was Independence Day in the states until we received Happy 4th emails from friends.

Well folks that’s it from the Starshippers for now. Back to watching the grass grow and listening to the wind blow!

Au revoir.