Thursday, November 26, 2015

Of Elves, Spy Planes, Jeans and Passage Endings....

We're almost there!!! Its hard to believe but we are only 72 miles away from the entrance to the Bay of Islands, and Opua 14 miles farther inside it. Its actually a little surreal as this seems to mark a really significant step. The end of a season of South Pacific cruising, a deep South destination with a reputation for a challenging crossing and all of us crossing the 10,000 nautical miles traveled mark! We are all quite excited to get there, but everyone is patiently hanging out and enjoying a relaxing final day.

Late last night our wind luck ran out, and as predicted, the winds lightened further and moved further north, which was the bigger issue. At that point we would have dramatically dropped our pace, and so we started up one of our engines and let it help us move along. The wind has now lightened further and so we are practically under motor alone, although we keep our mainsail up for some propulsion help, and more importantly for stylistic reasons... we just look better with some sail up, just in case someone in the thousands of square miles of southern Pacific ocean wanted to swing on by to take a picture of us.

And wouldnt you know it..... we got a strange VHF call on Channel 16, the channel we normally monitor on passage "Family Circus, Family Circus this is New Zealand Orion, do you copy???". Now the strange thing is that VHF signals only travel a max of 25 miles, and we couldnt see anyone on the Radar, AIS or on the horizon. It turns out that it was one of New Zealand's Orion search and rescue planes out on patrol, and they were just checking in with us, and probably picked us up on AIS, or had our approximate location from the different radio nets we log in to! It was very cool, but the plane was so high we couldnt see it.

Its also gotten a bit more chilly though the sun still comes out which allows to wear shorts in the day. When the sun goes down, it gets cold enough that I can wear jeans! Yes, I own a pair of jeans that were stuck in the back of the closet, and they arent even moldy! It certainly feels weird to wear long pants, and I hear the spring/summers in New Zealand are highly variable- from sunny shorts to rainy galoshes!

Finally, with Thanksgiving past, Peter the Christmas Elf magically appeared on our boat again after a year long absence. He left us last in Mexico and must have had a good year as he looks quite healthy, but still has this unnerving smiling stare. Either way, it was a great surprise, and I suppose gets us more in the Christmas spirit, which has been hard to do in board shorts and palm tree lined beaches. We are all incredibly excited to be able to go back home for Christmas and visit family and friends!

Well we're in to our final passage dinner, and we're cleaning out the boat progressively. New Zealand has a very intense biosecurity protocol, of which we are well forewarned, and we have to give up any produce, meat, honey and a list of other items. So we're making our way through things, and it almost helps that our fridge broke two days ago as we are streamlining what we have left.

Its our final passage sunset for the year, so I will sign off and go enjoy it. There is something so cool about your entire universe being all in front of you and around you with no one else in sight, and the magic of sunrises and sunsets gets magnified on such a huge canvas.

Hope your thanksgiving was great and thanks for all of the well wishes. We are so thankful for all of the support, the opportunity that we have as a family, and the magic all around us. Talk to you all from Terra Firma soon- CHRIS

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HAPPY THANKSGIVING... AND .... Are we there yet?

Hello Everyone,


We are about 280 miles away from NZ and should land there Saturday AM if all stays good. I can't believe how amazing this passage has been. Of course it was a little rocky in the beginning but the last few days we have been flying under blue skies and flatish seas... We have been cruising in light winds at about 9 knots and for me this is a dream. I was so afraid of this passage that I think my hair instantly turned gray and I lost about 15 pounds but it was all for nothing... So far they are predicting light winds and decent swells for the rest of the trip... YAY! We haven't needed to turn the engines on once and even if we did we couldn't go this fast so I am very thankful for the weather we are getting.

It is Thanksgiving and of course we are doing the best with what we have to celebrate. Chris' glazed carrots are a must, along with baked chicken, mashed potatoes, broccoli and stuffing. We are very thankful for so many things but for me I am thankful for all the time that we have been able to spend as a family. I can really see how the kids have changed and how appreciative, flexible, fun, helpful, and supportive of each other they are. We have been trapped on the boat for the last 5 days and I can honestly say that they haven't fought once and all we hear are giggles and comments on how good a drawing is or when a game is over, "nice game, lets play again". It is really refreshing and I hope that this atmosphere continues... I just love these guys!

I hope you all have a great day and are able to spend time with family, rest, eat lots, laugh lots and get lots of hugs...

I am very thankful that we get to come home for Christmas and see everyone. I really miss family and friends, especially on holidays when we are usually altogether hanging out, playing games, cooking and going for walks together.. Can't wait to see everyone.

Love and hugs to everyone,


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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Crepes traveling at 9 knots!

Well we're still rolling down here in the Southern South Pacific Ocean! All is well, and we are really making great progress. Day three was 197 miles and as of this evening, 6pm Wednesday, we are at 670 miles down on a 1150 mile approximate journey. The seas came up last night, but have settled down again and we have a full main and jib up in a consistent 14-16 knots of wind, and we are flying along comfortably. We usually plan our trips with 150 nautical mile day averages, and for the Pacific crossing we averaged 6.9 knots for the entire distance, but now we are trucking along at 8-9 knots easily (192+ mile days) and even making crepes for the kids! So far so good, and we think the wind will hold favorably for at least another 24 hours, at which point will get lighter and come farther aft.

Ahead of us, there still is a small weather front forecasted to come in on Saturday evening in Opua, and with it some increased winds and rain. We are trying to do what we can to make it in to port before it, possibly changing our landfall to Opua instead of Whangerei, as our marina spot wont open up until December 1st anyway. We join two radio roll calls each day, the Pacific Seafarers Net and the Gulf Harbor net, and both give us something to do, other voices to hear and a nice comfort that someone is taking down our location and can be of help if need be. There are quite a few boats that are headed to NZ in this window from Tonga, Fiji and New Caledonia. The Gulf Harbor Net is especially useful as David gives fantastic weather information and can give you advice localized to where you currently are. In their opinion, this has been the best weather window for NZ crossings all season- which is a cool relief. I know behind us Fiji is getting hammered by some wind and rain and I hope Shine is tucked away somewhere safe with a nice cup of tea and a movie.

Socks! Hats! What weird inventions from cold weather people! We have dug out socks for this first time in 13 months and are refamiliarizing ourselves with their usefulness as we head more to the South Pole and it certainly is getting colder as well. Its not bad at all, but you definitely notice this isnt the tropics anymore. Inside the boat it stays nice and warm so far, but the watches are getting chilly.

Otherwise we are just going about our passage lounging. Its too bouncy for schooling, so movies, music, games, light reading, drawing, crafting are all on the agenda. George continues to amaze me with his patience for the young girls, as he's regularly involved in games of Speed and others. Our various laptops are putting the hard drive movie collections to work and we also catch up on sleep whenever we're tired so that we can manage the night watches.

There isnt much to watch for, as there hasnt been a boat on any part of the horizon since we left Fiji, but we keep an eye on wind and weather changes, and boat behavior. We hit a new swell last night and the converging ocean swells had us ploughing through a washing machine. We eventually made it through enough of it that it calmed down and today you can really sea the power and vastness of a REAL ocean swell. These swells come up from deep depressions in the Southern Arctic Ocean and they consume the whole horizon, making it pulsate up and down every 10-12 seconds in a slow but incredibly powerful movement of water. Thankfully they are far apart and Family Circus happily rides up and down them like a champ, probably thankful for a change of pace. Its also an awesome reminder of the power of these oceans and nature- you feel really quite small in our little home, cruising along as a thankful guest.

Well that's probably it for now- we're heating up chili and have made rice for dinner and will bid you adieu until we chat again. Sota Ta-le CHRIS

If you want to see our exact position please check the website, and look for our name either on the lower right or left.

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Monday, November 23, 2015

FAMILY CIRCUS to NZ - Day Three Dawns

On to Day Three! We have just completed our first 48 hours and have covered 389 miles in our first two days. The second day ended up pretty darn bumpy (read uncomfortable) but day three has emerged much nicer. The winds and seas have abated and we have put Family Circus in to "Baby Turbo" mode. We've looked at the weather information and listened to some very good radio nets, and it looks like shooting straight for New Zealand is the plan, with an incentive to get there before Saturday night when a front passes through. Either way, the front shouldnt be a bad one, and shouldnt "have much in it" but its a good incentive for us to make the boat go, as long as its comfortable enough. So we've put up more sail and are sprinting along at 8.5- 9.5 knots with the wind on the beam. Go Circus Go!!!

The kids are doing great, and just seem to think its business as usual. George has been fantastic, standing a stoic watch, and playing card games with the small girls who love their "Georgie-Poo". Heather is feeling under the weather, and unfortunately, or fortunately, its not sea sickness, but she's laying down outside and really wanting us to push the boat hard to go fast. She is an awesome partner, and looks right sexy in her oversized foul weather gear.

We haven't put the fishing lines in as we havent had a flat enough boat to really cook and eat the Dorado that we caught, and we cant bring any fish in to NZ. We'll see if we can pan fry it this afternoon.

Otherwise, all is good. The boat is handling this really well, and a small tear we have in our jib is holding, and we'll tackle a better repair in the next 24 hours. Additionally the winds should get a bit lighter as we get farther south, and more in to this high pressure system, but hopefully not light enough that we can't maintain our pace.

Hope all is well with you and that the Warriors keep winning! CHRIS

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Saturday, November 21, 2015

FAMILY CIRCUS is underway for New Zealand!

After a lot of sad goodbyes with the Shiners, we are underway for New Zealand. We packed George's stuff on board and headed out from Cagalai, and the winds were already picking up. We had an expected rough start for the first three hours making our way around the East side of Fiji, but we finally were able to change course and we're cruising now. The seas are pretty bumpy and too close together, but its manageable now and everyone seems to be feeling better. The Captain already got to take a nap as George stood watch!

We've already made bets on how long the passage will take, given our 9am departure on November 22nd. I hope we aren't jinxing it but we've all picked between 6 and 8 days. I hope I am right, as I picked the shortest passage! (actually Alina just weighed in with a shorter guess!)

I'll document it here so the court of public opinion is well informed:

GEORGE: 8 Days 00H
TRISTAN: 7 Days 9H
HEATHER: 7 Days 00H
ALEXIA: 8 Days 3H
CHRIS: 6 Days 11H
AMAIA: 7 Days 10H
ALINA: 6 Days 8H

We're sliding back in to passage mode, just sort of hanging out and getting our bearings. Some movies are being watched and books read, but mostly just hanging out. Otto is driving well and there isnt much to see, although we're still in Fijian waters and passing between Kandavu and Beqa islands. We've got the fishing line in the water.......NO WAIT! We just caught a 12lb Mahi Mahi on the new pink lure I made this morning! George must have brought his fishing luck with him. I'll pack the fishing lines in for now, until we can work through more of our food!

Anyway, I have fish to clean, and miles of ocean to stare at, so I will say So long for now and Sota Tal-e (Fijian for "until we meet again")

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Friday, November 20, 2015

Departing Fiji, Watch out New Zealand

Hello Everyone,

Well it is with much sorrow that we have to say goodbye to Fiji and make our way to New Zealand.  Although we are extremely excited about our new country and all the wonderful things it has to offer,  we have really enjoyed being here and all of the friendly people that we meet.  We are never disappointed and now are never surprised when and where ever you walk around you get the most amazing brilliant smiles and the energetic BULA shouts of hello and welcome hugs, sniffs and kisses.
If you would like to check in as to where in the world Family Circus is you can go to the website "Yachts in Transit"  Once in the site go to the bottom right side and you will see the category Yachts updates and just look for our boat name in there and click on the link.  We will be updating it as we go through our SSB.  Our window to go is great right now and a lot of boats are leaving today or tomorrow so we will be in the mix with a few other boats.

I must say that I have been in tears the last few days because we are leaving our friends on Shine.  Although we are taking George the eldest son for crew it is so hard to imagine our daily lives without them.  I feel like I am leaving a piece of my heart here and am so sad.  We are ALL sad to be leaving them.  They have been such a big part of our adventure.  We have been so fortunate to have met the boat families that we have a long the way and the two that we have really stayed and traveled with side by side I couldn't imagine our journey without their camaraderie and their support, humor and just being...   Thank you Shiners!  You guys are amazing and we look forward to seeing you in a few months in Australia or New Zealand... WE LOVE YOU!  Okay that'll do pig... Stupid Cows!

Hugs and love to everyone at home,


Makogi, Fiji... Exploring and learning about the old leper colony, turtles, giant clams and last village performance

Hello Everyone,

We had been told by many that this is an island not to miss.  Makogi is the old leper colony for Fiji.  The leper colony was discontinued in 1969 because of the discovery of the cure for Leprosy or Hansens Disease.  At one point they had over 5000 residents with the disease from all over the world.  The colony wasn't just for Fijians but had people from Europe, Asia and The South Pacific Islands.  Fiji has now turned it into a marine reserve park and a historical site.  The government owns the island and pays for the up keep and care for the land and the waters around it.  They have been working on bringing back the giant clams and have been able to grow quite a few.  It was fun to see how they grow the clams from a microscopic eggs to small clams to the largest of them at the base of the dock that was 700 pounds.  They really are beautiful creatures.  The clams are also very important for the health of the reefs because they filter the eggs from the damaging Crown of Throns star fish.  The marine park also is a turtle rescue facility and while we were there they had a large (really large) turtle that they were given to rehabilitate.  Unfortunately the turtle had been speared by a someone through the head but it survived.  The turtle is now completely healthy and has no permanent damage and they are just waiting for the doctor to give the go ahead to release him.

They grow the baby clams on these slabs of concrete and then take the concrete out into the bay and set them slabs down in the water for the clams to grown then after the clams have gotten bigger they move them around to better locations for them to grow and grow and grow....

The workers on the island still use a generator that was given to the leper colony back in 1906...  It is amazing because it is still running like a champ... things were really built well back in the day!

The leper colony had a little jail for 

Old Cemetary.. there are over 1500 people buried here from the leper colony :@(

Alina diving down to some of the small clams in the marine park

School is hard to do with the scenery surrounding you...

Amaia and Chris getting ready to play underwater with the scuba and as Amaia says borrowing the Octopus... She loves hanging out underwater.. Dont worry they are only in 6 feet of water in the shallow bits!

The last night we were there a small cruise ship came into the bay and the one village that is on the island came and performed for the guests on the ship.  It was really cute because the adults in the village sang and played the instruments and then the kids from the school performed the dances in the traditional costumes..

Sweet little Mary is allergic to bees and was stung by one while we were there.  We left her mom a bottle of Childrens Benedryl... There was a doctor on the cruise ship that they spoke to and so he said if we had extra that would be great to leave it with them... Love being able to help when we can.

Amaia was teaching the kids Cops and Robbers... they had a blast running around hiding "the keys (her flip flops) and playing tag.

Again parting is sweet sorrow... 

Hugs and love to everyone at home.