Thursday, December 24, 2015

From Sea to Snow and loving it in Mt. Shasta!

Hello Everyone,

       We had an amazing week with our friends in Lafayette.  What an amazing warm reception and it is SOOOOOOOO nice to be home for a short visit.  Like I had mentioned before we loved all the hugs and catching up visits that we got and I want to thank everyone for making time and space for The Family Circus in all of your homes and hearts.  I know we popped in at the busiest time of year and it was truly special for us to see everyone.  Thank you to the Andy and Katia and The Darins for making space for us to crash in your homes and opening your revolving doors to friends and family to come and see us.  You guys are so sweet and I know you wouldn't have it any other way but we are a big family especially when you combine our families and we fill every nook and cranny!  :@)

      We just arrived up to Mt. Shasta few days ago and have been outside playing in the snow ever since!  I can't believe that the kids aren't freezing to death... but with all the snow sledding, snow boarding, zip line snow ball fights, and regular snow ball blasting they haven't hardly wanted to be inside this beautifully decorated house.   Oma has spent a tremendous amount of time and energy making this christmas extra special for all of us.  Just decorating the 16' christmas tree that she selected out of her yard and brought indoors... pinecones still attached and all is just amazing.  There are candles on every branch that with tradition will be lit tonight and all the lights turned out (including the electric lights)... don't worry we have replaced the bucket of water with a new fire extinguisher for the occasional stray flame.

With the 2 acre property and a gentle slope down the kids have been able to build a nice long snow board/sled run down the property... we were out there until it got dark last night and then Chris and Josh had a brilliant idea to run outdoor lights along the run so the kids can do night sledding (not sure about the snowboarding at night) but I am sure they will attempt everything.  Not only illuminating the sled run but it serves as a perfect landing strip for Santa tonight!  I know he won't be able to miss it!  We are anxiously waiting for all the Christmas festivities to begin tonight and for tomorrow.  Then the rest of the family will come and join us.  We are so excited to see and spend time with all of them... I can see a family photo in the making.

Alina's Snowman

Fiona... Amaia wanted to donate the base of the gingerbread house to the birds but made sure she picked off and ate everything else!

Oma and little Amelia

Oma's beautiful tree

Amaia thought that if she opened wide so would Amelia... we all know how well that works (hee hee)

Uncle Josh and Amelia

Oma ripping up the slope!

Ethan on the zip line as Tristan pelts with snow balls... Brave

Tristan snow boarding down the run... he added a little jump to help.

Amelia fell asleep while I was holding... so I put her in the little sled... and pushed down to make sure it wouldn't suddenly go down the hill.

Alina, Emerson and me....

Beautiful Morning

Hope everyone has a happy holiday season, be safe and peace in the new year!
Hugs and Love to all!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Home for the Holidays!

Hello Everyone,

I just wanted to give a quick blip that we are back at home and staying with friends and family for about a month.  We booked these tickets back in the summer and have been dreaming of our arrival at home and seeing everyone again on a daily basis.  After we reached New Zealand we knew we only had a few weeks before we would be getting on the plane.  I can tell you that the anticipation and anxiety of coming home and seeing everyone was overwhelming.  All of us were so excited, the kids were all making plans with their friends to maximize time, Chris and I trying to organize our time with our friends and family and the kids schedules... and now that we are here even more schedules and time sharing with friends....  boy I can tell you that I am out of practice on having to be at two places at once and it is a little stressful in all the BEST ways.  It is just really weird for me to have to be somewhere by a clock, instead of the weather or tides.  Usually for us we look outside and if the sun is up we are up and if the sun goes down we are getting ready for bed, those are our cues and it has been really nice!

Our reentry in coming home has been more welcoming, warm and supportive that I could have ever imagined.  The big hugs that we are all receiving are the biggest holiday gift we could ever ask for. Not to mention all the questions... at first it was a little overwhelming, I am amazed at all the questions, but I realized how much I loved them because they begin to jog little wonderful memories that I had completely forgotten... It is so fun to share some of the little adventures we have been having and be reminded again how our life right now is not the norm and that these sea creatures, beaches, villages, countries, jungles, etc... that we are exploring really are amazing and colorful.  It is unfortunate how you start to become spoiled in a way to the wonders that are out there and it starts to become another white sandy beach... or from the kids mouths... "I don't want to do snorkeling today... I have already seen that fish!"  Then Chris and I get frustrated both with ourselves and the kids because we know our time is running out and we are really trying to appreciate and explore everything that we can but for me there truly are days when you don't feel like getting sand in your toes or salt water in your hair.

It is funny when you are out in the sailing community everything you are doing everyone has already done and may even have a better tale.  Our life is the norm for everyone we associate with, they are all on the same route and having the same adventures, boat issues, passages, and so forth.

I just wanted to thank everyone for the amazing homecoming from being met at the airport by Chris' brother and family (tears flowed to see them) to all the parties and dinner with friends (tears flowed) and the quiet times just sitting and catching up with friends and sharing pictures, videos and stories (tears flowed)... I am so touched and reminded how much I miss and love you guys!  Thank you from the bottom of my heart and I look forward to our return to our little village of lafayette in 8 months!

Happy Holidays to everyone and have a wonderful New Year.. (in case I don't get back to the blog till then)

Hugs and love to all,

XOXOXO and a ho ho ho


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Going home for Christmas.....

Hello Everyone,

We all are so excited to go home for a month for Christmas.  We are leaving tomorrow and will be home for the holidays.  We are in the process of finishing the repairs, packing up the boat, cleaning it and getting it ready to be left for a mont... (crossing our fingers we don't get to much mold on the inside and to much growth on the outside).  We have been trying really hard to get caught up on school work.. I know Tristan thinks I am a drill sergeant but we are slowly making progress and checking to do items off of his school work list!

On the really bright side we bought a van which has helped tremendously with all of our errands that we needing to do.  It has been a lot of fun refamiliarizing ourselves on how to drive on the wrong side of the road again and also driving in the rain... and just remembering that everything in the car is on the opposite side, the gear shift, the blinkers, blah, blah, blah.  The kids are loving it we went to dinner last night and really couldn't agree on what everyone wanted to eat so we ended up with our fail safe of eating pizza... but to make it more fun we turned the seats in the van so they faced each other and had a picnic in the car with the pizza.  The kids thought it was the coolest.

The cars down here are a super great deal and many of the cruisers find it easier to purchase and resell than to rent, if you are going to be here for the cyclone season.  We will try to sell it in Auckland before we leave New Zealand and start making our passage up to Vanuatu.

In the mean time we will be home for the holidays.. (oh did I say that already :@)... and then when we get back just a few more boat maintenance and then we will cruise the Bay of Islands for 2 weeks and then head down to explore Auckland and all it has to offer down there.  Then around the beginning of February we begin our month of road trip around North Island and the South Island.. white water rafting, bungee jumping (not for me thank you) Lord of the rings set visits, waterfalls, nature hikes, caves, glow worms... OMG.. there is so much to see and then on top of that we still need to keep up on school.  I swear when we get back I think Tristan will think that he will have all the time in the world to complete assignments because he won't be scrambling to find WIFI, rushing to do errands, babysitting, fixing boats, and traveling... not to mention being sick on passages...

Hugs and love to everyone... and hope to see you soon..


Saturday, December 5, 2015

Glow Worm Caves, Hiking and Picnicing with the Lil' Explorer crowd...

Hello Everyone,

We have been frantically working at getting situated here in New Zealand, getting the boat ready for us to leave it for a month and hoping to have it all set so that when we get back we can go exploring up at the bay of islands and back down to Aukland and then some backpacking... we haven't figured out our timing as of yet... trying to make it work for family visits, the off season for New Zealand's summer vacation and then also the best time for weather and WARMTH both in the water and out.  While we were here we met up with Lil' Explorers and have had a great time hanging with them.  Lots of park time for the kids and one night of mad Uno and cookies... deadly combination.. I think the marina was wondering what all the shouting was all about.  They offered to take us up to the local glow worm caves for a little exploration.  They have a car so with 2 trips we were all there... our 4 kids and their 5... Such a blast to get back into nature and do some hiking, little bit of rock climbing and then the caves.  The only two requirements that they said to explore the caves were surf shorts and torches (flashlights) because 5 feet into the cave there is ZERO visibility.  So excited these caves have little worms that glow green when they are hungry to attract the bugs into their silk strings.  The hungrier they are the brighter they glow.  So we pack our lunch for our picnic in the meadow... get our shorts on in 50 degree weather... grab our angry small girls because they are already freezing and not wanting to walk through frozen river water in dark caves... but that is what parenting is all about.  Forcing your children to be miserable their entire childhood right?  Courage picks us up with their oldest daughter Cassidy and we are to hike in and meet the rest of the clan in the first cave, Mom Shannon, then Integrity, Vitality, Valiant, Innocence and Intrepid has really bad asthma so he decided to sit this one out.. he had already gone the day before.  We get to the cave and start going in and OMG... the Fricking Torches... of course the circus forgot our torches and Courage (dad) wasn't kidding when he said it is darker than dark... Well we had at least one flashlight to share for the 8 of us until we caught up with the rest of the group deeper into the cave...

Well it is always a small adventure when you go with the Tzortzis clan and the kids had even more fun trying to share the flashlights.  It was so fun being in the caves and then when you turn the lights out the ceiling glows with green dots like the night sky or the peter pan ride in Disneyland.  It is a little cold (you can see your breath in the light) and the water was extremely refreshing shall we say..
After climbing through the first two caves it was time for a little lunch and field play.


Chris, Courage and Cassidy decided to brave the last cave... it was rumored to be the deepest and would be up to your chest to wade through... UGH no thanks and carrying all the little kids through that freezing water or making them swim... Okay for that one I would even consider calling CPS on me... Hee hee...  Anyway Shannon and the kids and I were having a nice chat when I looked up and saw two big white bears heading our way... Oh wait that is Chris and Courage with their shirts off looking a little lost.  They had gone through the cave and ended up coming out on the other side of the hill so they were a little turned around but eventually heard the children and figured it must be our clan.  In the cave they had encountered an eel... that they say was REALLY large.. of course it was dark but.... Yuck!  Definitely glad I skipped that one, no regrets.

Today is Sunday.. We are going to focus on school, possibility of buying a car, and still more boat tune ups this week.  Hopefully in the mix we can have a day or two to go out and explore more of what this beautiful town has to offer.  I pinch myself every morning thinking that my life is a dream and I will have to wake up soon... For now I will keep enjoying the dream.

Hugs and love to all,


Friday, December 4, 2015

Yes- we made it! and we're already immersed in NZ Land Life!

South South Pacific Sunset

Hello!  I cant believe its been a week already since our arrival in New Zealand in Opua.  We had a great passage finale, pulling in to the Opua quarantine dock at 7:15am in the morning. Alina won the closest guess on the passage crossing, as we went faster than all of us expected, and actually sailed in at under 6 days for 1142 miles:  5 days, 22 hours and and average of 8.05 knots The "Q" dock is very long (600ft) and is connected to nothing, but is tantalizingly close to land and all its enticements.  It was great to be able to tie up and hop on the dock, and compare notes with the 16 other boats that were on the dock.    New Zealand Customs and BioSecurity were wonderfully efficient and pleasant, especially given the anxiety of what you can and cant bring in to NZ, but aside from some very old black beans, ginger and salami, and a few other small items we kept the rest of our stores. By 1030 we were done and were allowed to go on land.

Stepping on to land in a developed country was a pretty surreal experience.  There were paved roads, and street signs, and new buildings with abundant marine stores and services, and importantly, a wonderful cafe and general store.  We enjoyed lingering in each of these, and having our first New Zealand lunch and beers, followed by ice cream.  The other notable change was the weather, where the cold lingered and New Zealand's summer still hasn't kicked in, but that also left the surrounding islands and countryside a brilliant shade of green.  It reminded us a lot of the San Juan Islands with beautiful islands and bays, and farms and pastures dotting the hillsides.  We quickly found our "dreamhouse" which had a great old Colonial building at the water level, complete with a dock and beach, and behind it was a  farmstead that stretched up the hill.

Over the next few days we enjoyed being stationary, catching up with other boats we knew from across the Pacific, and getting our bearings on NZ.  On our second day we got a cab to take us 15 minutes up the road to Pahia, and then took a small ferry across the bay to Russell, which is a great little town that used to be the "Hell Hole of the South Pacific" when it was the southern hemisphere's largest whaling port many moons ago.

 There is still quite a bit of history there including, New Zealand's oldest surviving church and hotel and the Montpellier mission.  We enjoyed playing tourist and took the tour of the Mission and its gardens, which was started by the first Catholic contingent from France. To spread the word they created a Maori translation of the bible that they printed themselves with a press from France, and they also operated a Tannery to get the leather to bind the books.  It was fun to see how interested the kids were in the short tour, and the hands on part of the press.  We counted it as homeschooling for the day.

the kids got to use the press

Conveniently, Russell also has a nice looking tattoo studio on the main street, called Bay of Islands Ink, and Sailing Heather (as she is now known) got a more permanent memory applied to signify the crossing of the Pacific (and sailing over 10,000 miles).  Its a Manta Ray (good luck) with Family motifs and even something signifying the husband, so I finally made it on a tattoo!

After spending a few more days in Opua, we headed down to Whangerei, which is where we will leave the boat for a few months as we travel home.  Its usually a two day trip, but we were restless at 2:30am, so Heather and I decided to head out on a friendly outgoing current, and thankful for first world navigation buoys with working lights, and no hidden coral reefs.  Whangerei is a working 53,000 person town two hours up a river from the coast, and getting there reminded me a bit of sailing up the Delta back home.  The Whangerei Marina is right in the middle of the Town Basin, at the center of town and is an awesome spot for us.  The town has put a lot of improvements in over the last 10 years, and we are right next to a huge brand new playground (score!), walking and jogging path (pointless :-)) and a gigantic grocery store right across the parking lot.  Within walking distance are tons of marine services, and the town has a great library. movie theatre and collections of shops and restaurants.  We've thoroughly enjoyed exploring it every day, and have already watched two movies, eaten sushi and shopped for warm clothes!  Mornings are still quite crisp here, but the sun does come out enough to wear shorts later in the day.

Cool clouds over the Cape at Marsden Cove and the entrance to the river to Whangerei
"Dont leave us George!"
Sadly, we also had to let "Super Crew" George leave us and start his exciting work in Auckland, so we packed him up one morning and put him on the two hour bus down to the "Big City".  From his facebook posts we know he is doing well, but we certainly miss him up here.  He was an amazing crew and is a more amazing friend and companion to everyone on the boat

In between we still get to see boats we have met before somewhere in the Pacific and also get to meet new ones, like ones we have been tracking for a long time.  We had heard about Lil' Explorers when we bought our boat, as the previous owners had met them in Panama, and we had checked out their blog, and communicated a few times through email.  When we pulled up in Whangerei, we realized we were right across the way from them, as they are quite recognizable with their 58 foot cat complete with two swings on the foredeck, complete with children endlessly climbing all over the boat.  Like us they are a large family out here cruising and in their case they have their 6 kids (5 under 10) with them, which finally makes us not the "big family" in the vicinity.  They came over to introduce themselves and we have already visited their boat for an aggressive game of Uno and some great cookies.

We're trying to catch up on homeschooling, and are making some progress, and we're lining up all the boat work we need to do, or get done.  We are now less than a week away from our return home, which is awfully exciting and also a little overwhelming as we try and tackle planning, packing and prepping the boat.

Time will fly by this week, but we'll hope to post some where and get away for a few local adventures! CHRIS