Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Four Years Afloat

We've been so busy over the last few weeks that we missed celebrating our fourth anniversary cruising aboard Astarte on February 6, 2013. That's right, it's been four years since we left the dock in St. Petersburg, Florida.

In those four years, we've visited numerous countries (some multiple times) and anchored near many wonderful islands. We've crossed off a few things from our personal bucket lists – including taking our own boat through the Panama Canal; crossing the equator where we turned from "polywogs" to "shellbacks;" made it to the "South Pacific" and to New Zealand. A lot of nautical miles have passed under Astarte's keel in these past four years and we've been so lucky to explore some amazing places. We're often asked what our favorite place or experience has been and we still struggle with an answer. We loved the wonders of the Galapagos. Going through the Panama Canal was an amazing experience. The long ocean passages were something we dreamed about for decades – and though not what we thought they would be – when they were completed, we felt like we had really accomplished something. The French Polynesian island groups were all different and offered so many incredible experiences: diving with hundreds of sharks in the atoll of Fakarava; experiencing Polynesia culture in Moorea; exploring the Marquesas; swimming with mantas in Bora Bora. Suwarrow in the Cook Islands was a magical, remote place that we didn't want to leave. Nuie, the smallest independent nation in the world, was simply fascinating and friendly. Tonga was a very special group of islands that provided great fun participating in the Vava'au Regatta, watching flying foxes and surviving big winds. The passage to New Zealand was something we hope we don't experience again to that level – but we survived it intact and together.

The people we met, both locals and other cruisers, have been remarkable. Put out your thumb and get a ride and meet incredible individuals. Invite the rangers from Suwarrow aboard for dinner and learn more than you could imagine. Let a young woman do your laundry to earn some money and meet her entire family. Visit a local school and experience the warmth and joy of a world made smaller. Other cruisers are also the heartbeat of our lifestyle. We always look forward to reconnecting with friends after we've gone our separate ways. Meeting a new boat is always fun. Playing dominoes aboard or sharing a meal is always a special occasion when shared with our cruising pals. Brits, Dutchies, Aussies, Austrians, Kiwis, Belgians, Scottish, Irish, Germans, Canadians all are now part of our extended cruising family.

Visitors have graced us over the four years. Often loaded down with "stuff" for the boat or us, these guests have added so much joy to our years afloat. As we've gone further away from the northern hemisphere, the guests have had to travel much longer distances. Richard "Soby" and Dave and Lorna have trekked across the equator for visits this past year and we really appreciate the long plane rides they had to endure. We hope they had as much fun aboard as we did having them with us.

After four years, Astarte has served us well and since being in NZ, she's been the top priority getting some much needed work done. After four years of taking care of us – now its time to pay her back. Though several things have had to be repaired underway, most of the work has been routine maintenance. Now, its time for some replacements and repairs. We've already accomplished a lot (replaced steering cables, major engine repairs, new mainsail ordered, headsail repaired/recut, main roller furling track wheels replaced, some new line...) but starting tomorrow we get hauled in a yard for a rudder repair and new bottom paint. Hopefully we won't see anything else.

The downside of this lifestyle remains the distance it puts between us and our family and friends. We often don't have access to good phone coverage or internet to stay in touch as often as we'd like. And the cost of frequent travel back to the States is not in our budget. We've managed to get back for big events and that's been great...but it is still hard. We're lucky we have family and friends who understand.

Bottom line: It has been a great four years. We still love the lifestyle. We still love each other. And, we're still very, very lucky.

Thanks for sharing the adventure with us though this log.

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