Tuesday 17 December 2013

Ditch Bag

So over the last few months, I have been putting together what is often called a “Ditch Bag” this is not to be confused with “Douche Bag”, which is entirely a different thing. The “Douche Bag” is the person who will get you in the circumstances where you might need a “Ditch Bag” Ha! 

The content of our ditch bag
Seriously though; If you don't already know ; a "Ditch Bag" is one (or 2 or 3) bags that are part of the abandon ship drill which are always "at the ready" stored in a specific easy-to-access place on board. In other words: If you have to ditch the boat in an emergency situation, then hopefully you have assigned a specific person to grab this specific bag(s) during your safety briefing before heading out !  And hopefully the person you assigned, remembers to do this while you are getting the life raft ready !

So what goes in this “Ditch Bag"?  Well, that's an interesting question.This has been on my mind quite a bit, and one can get oneself in quite the philosophical state of mind if one thinks about it for too long. But I digress, there are definitely some basics that you should have:

First of all: Hopefully you remembers that you are in a marine environment and that most things aren’t designed to float, so you need to make sure that the Ditch Bag ITSELF can float and that it has a tether so that is can be tied to the life raft.

Then you need to fill it with things you and the rest of the crew would need to survive: 

In our two ditch bags, which are being assembled as I write this, we have put : 

A Small First Aide Kit & Sunscreen 
A whistle
Flares (IMPORTANT: Make sure you don’t drop your lit flare in your raft or YOU will be the "DDB" (Designated Douche Bag) for the rest of the time you are floating in a half sunk raft waiting for rescue)
A mirror (yes they DO work very well to signal distant ships or airplanes, not just in the movies...)
A waterproof flashlight, extra batteries
Some floating rope
Any prescribed medication
Sea sickness meds
A Handheld VHF radio (extra Batteries)
and OF COURSE : an EPIRB !!!!  

Ours EPIRB looks something like this 
(I affectionally call him “Eddy the EPIRB”)

What’s that ?  You want to know what a EPIRB is ?  Oh ! It’s just the most AMAZING invention. One which has so far helped rescue over 20 000 people in the last 32 years !  
Have a look here: http://www.epirb.com

To the above list we have ALSO added :
-Hats (or head scarves), Sunglasses, Dry socks and Undies 
-One toothbrush and one comb
 (Who says families can’t share?!)
-A leatherman tool
-Some patch/repair kits and a pump for the raft (for when you drop the leatherman tool and make a hole in the raft!)

So, is that it ?    
Dudes, come on ! Have you not seen the movie "Life of Pi"  ? 
Obviously, you’re gonna need some water and food !!!  And, unlike Pi, you probably wont be able to rely on killing a Mahi Mahi with your bare hands or for flying fish to land in your liferaft !  But on the other hand you probably won’t have to worry about feeding a full grown tiger either.

So, for the all important food and water :

We have some containers of water but check this out :  
A hand operated water maker
We also have a hand operated  WATER MAKER...which will turn sea water into fresh (drinkable) water !! 
(Pi would of loved that one)
-Food survival rations 
-A Fish line and Hooks
-One of those collapsible camping water jugs. 

Our sea survival instructor said that if this type of jug is filled to 80% capacity it becomes neutrally buoyant (so that you can have it tethered to the raft and  trailing behind, almost as a sea anchor.)

-Hard Candies (for when things get really ugly- no one will know about the existence of these except me and anyone who reads this blog.... hehe)

But is that all that one needs to survive ? Maybe not. This is where one can start getting philosophical.

As I was assembling things for the Ditch Bag I found myself day dreaming as I was walking down the aisles of the Shoppers Drug Mart. I was imagining Mark, the kids and I floating for days in a life raft, and I wondered: What would we need ? What would make this more bearable, what would the kids need to help them deal with it all??  Let me tell you; it puts you in a very strange state of mind giving yourself permission to think these thoughts “out loud” in your mind.

In such dire conditions as being stuck in a life raft with your family: It is so important to keep your mind active and in a positive state.That is why in training we were told that everyone in the raft must be assigned a task from day one: there is the Minister of Communications (Radio, EPIRB), the Minister of Internal Affairs (makes sure all is well with the Life Raft), a Minister of Food and Water etc...

In an emergency, the last thing you want is to be the one that looses his or her cool and end up looking like one of these guys:

But how else to keep our sanity ? Well again in Pi’s example I’ve decide to include: a small notebook/pencil and to this I added some waterproof playing cards, a “hacky sack” (ball) and some dice. Oh, and a harmonica! You never know, we might end up composing a masterpiece while we are out there !  

I thought about bringing a book too but I got stuck on the question of which book?  I would want something inspiring, encouraging, something that would  be nourishing to the soul and I just can’t come up with THE book. Which book would YOU bring ? Have you got any suggestions for me ?   If you have any  suggestions, I would be happy to hear from you.

So, that is all for now, if you are wondering what to get us for Christmas; think of a water proof flashlight that does not sink, or an energy bar with a really long shelf life, and be assured that we will most probably NEVER get to use it !   

Thanks for reading, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year !!!

Wednesday 11 December 2013

Survival at Sea !

The question we most frequently get from people sounds something like this:  "But aren’t you afraid ?"

My answer to this is: Hell Yeah ! Most absolutely !  I think if I was not afraid of setting out into the ocean people should be worried !!!  I have read a few books written by women who talk about this subject and the common theme that keeps coming up is that they were afraid mostly because they did not feel that they were prepared for an emergency. That, if the worst happened, they would not know what to do !  I am glad to say that I feel the same way. It's the same with anything, if you head out into the mountains, if you decide to learn how to fly, or if you decide that you want to become a bullfighter !  One needs to face the facts and ask themselves: what is out there and what do I need to learn to protect myself ?

(This was sent to me recenlty, and although I still AM affraid of storms the sentiment is a good one I think)

You can’t imagine my ELATION when I found out that there was going to be a course offered on safety at sea and in my very own home town too !  
During two days of the course I sat in complete and absolute fascination as our excellent instructor taught us everything about life rafts, flares, the design of lifejackets, survival techniques, the medical aspects of survival at sea, weather, search and rescue techniques, storm tactics and so much more! 

I have to say that we were in very capable hands. Our instructor; Captain Eric Hill  from Maritime Helicopter Tactics, and Canadian Forces Maritime Warfare Centre, has a great deal of experience in marine rescue. Not only a rescuer,but also as the offshore training skipper for the Royal Canadian Navy, he holds a commercial endorsement for sailing vessels to 200 t and is a qualified RYA/CYA radar, diesel, and commercial Yachtmaster instructor. As Canada’s only Yachtmaster Instructor, he is an endorsed ISAF Sea Survival instructor for offshore racing and is a qualified Advanced Medical First Responder. So there, how’s that for credentials ?!? What was really great about this course was that Eric had many personal stories and experiences to share which made everything so much easier to relate to.  

But my favorite and best part of ALL was that we had plenty of hands on practice!   We got to jump in the pool, fully dressed in our foul weather gear to swim a few length  and experience putting on lifejackets (PFDs) and inflating them while in the water. We then got to practice getting into the life raft from the water, still fully dressed in what was now some very heavy clothe. I swear I gained 20 pounds in water alone!  
It may sound easy, but I assure you that it was NOT! Nevertheless, I am happy to say that I made it into the raft, before getting too exhausted !  Then the life raft was flipped over (did you know that as many as 50% of life rafts are deployed upside down?) and we each took turns to “right” it (flip it over). 

The next day, we all got a chance to set off a flare in the parking lot of the college where the course was given. It was quite a sight to see, 6-8 of us at a time, holding our flares up high, this even garnered the attention of a couple of the security guards from the college who come to investigate !  Flares can be quite dangerous as you can imagine and Eric gave us all some great safety tips such as; "It can take a couple of seconds after pulling the tab before your flare sets off, what ever you do, DO NOT TURN THE FLARE AND LOOK AT IT !”

This is the visual that comes to mind when I heard captain Eric say: What ever you do, DO NOT TURN THE FLARE AND LOOK AT IT !”

Funny enough, it DID take my flare a few seconds before it went “Bang”, and it was all I could do to keep my self control to NOT look at it ! We heard more than a few stories of panicked sailors who had never set off flares before, and in an emergency, with shaky fingers, dropped them on deck or worse, in the life raft !  
MC holding up a flare in Survival at Sea training, Calgary
The class all holding our flares

I came out of the course absolutely electric with energy and eager to share all that I had learned with my captain and crew. I can tell you that on Amelie there will ALWAYS be a safety briefing before any departure and EVERYONE, including the kids, will know how to : start the engine drive the boat, set off a flare safely, use the radio, put on and inflate their own life jackets ! (Did you know that self inflating life jackets do not always self inflate? You didn’t ?  Then.. You are welcome my friend).

Now this from the RYA (Royal Yachting Association):
“Cruising is one of the safest leisure sporting activities, and 99.9% of those afloat will never use their life raft. However, if you are part of the unlucky 0.1% your chances of survival will be greatly increased if you understand how to use the equipment and how to help yourself. It is a well-proven fact that, in the event of an emergency at sea, people with training are more likely to survive.”

Mark and I have a firm belief that in this, and all ventures in life, one must be self sufficient and self reliant and this course just helps me feel even better about how we are getting prepared. I hope that we will never be in that 0.1 % but if we ever are another thing I learned in this course is to “NEVER TO ATTACH ANYTHING FROM THE HELICOPTER TO THE BOAT” as our instructor liked to repeat. Haha ! I got another funny cartoon visual from that one! People can really loose their minds in an emergency I guess ! 
Anyways, for the sailors out there if you are looking for where to book this excellent course here is the website:

Sunday 24 November 2013

So .......Why are we doing this ?

Why ?  It seems like a fair question to me...

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”  Mark Twain


Here we are living in a great (albeit cold at times) country, in a very comfortable home, surrounded by friends and family. Mark has a very good job working with great people, the kids are in the best schools we could ever dream of and have many wonderful opportunities in our city. Many times a year we have a chance to enjoy live theatre, live music, to eat in nice restaurants and there are endless opportunities for picturesque hikes in the nearby Rocky Mountains. 

We have a cool little cottage where we spend summers surrounded by friends, family and nature. I have a fridge that delivers ice into my cup when ever I want it. We have amazing machines which will wash and dry our dirty clothe for us and toilets that flush upon pressing a handle once (wow!) When I go to bed at night I am filled with gratitude for my comfortable bed and pillows and the knowledge that, with stores nearby that are filled with an abundance of food, it will be easy to plan a meal tomorrow. We are so very, very lucky. 

So...why are we doing this trip again?

While it's true we have become VERY comfortable, maybe, just maybe we have become a little bit too comfortable. It would be SO EASY to just keep going, keep putting in the hours in our everyday lives, and one day wake up; kids grown up, and feeling old. But you see, we have this unexplainable itch that just won’t go away.

When Mark and I first started going out together, over twenty years ago now, one of the thing we found that we had in common and that we both felt very strongly about was that life was an adventure, meant to be lived to the fullest and meant to be lived NOW !!! 

In the early years we had the opportunity to travel and live abroad and we both felt energized by all that we could see and learn around us. The world was just so cool and just so darn amazing ! 

Then came a series of big, life changing events which some would describe as tragedies. These became a renewed form of “wake up call” for Mark and I. Years of sadness and struggle followed where life as we knew it seemed to loose most of its beauty and colour. 

After that came years of resignation; not living but just trying to survive, learning to deal with all sorts of obstacles and challenges thrown in our path.

 And then, quite out of nowhere, came a memory. A memory of a dream that we once shared when we were still newlyweds, living in Australia; that of taking our sailing experiences and making a real trip out of it all ! This distant memory, quite faint at first, was to become more focussed and, through discussion over time, became fully re-ignited! This all in spite of the hand that we had been dealt in defiance of what we had resigned ourselves had become our new life path so the question became: why would we NOT pursue this dream?  What WAS actually standing in our way ?  And how were we going to surmount these obstacles to be able to actually achieve this worthwhile venture.

The defining moment in our lives when we realized that we  actually COULD do this; we COULD plan a sailing trip with our children and we could make our dream a reality, is one I will never forget. We started to make plans and started to work hard to make it happen. It was an energizing time for us as we started to look towards the future with excitement and renewed optimism. We were lucky in that we came across very few naysayers. Everyone of our friends and our family; including my dear mom,our brothers and sisters,cousins, aunts and uncles have been very supportive and share in our excitement. Yes, we ARE very lucky to have so many amazing and loving people in our lives !

Now that our dream is coming closer to becoming a reality; we can say that we look forward to spending time together, quality time with our children, even as they enter their teen years ! Mark is looking forward to having more time to be better involved in the childrens everyday lives and to see first hand, everyday, evidence of who they are becoming as they grow. 

We look forward to teaching them, not just about the different cultures and sites to see but also about LIFE. What life looks like for others and what we have in common with all people. We want to teach them about over coming challenges (internal and external) and to learn about themselves; who they are, how to find strength within themselves and help them to figure out who they want to become as citizen of the world in the 21st century.

I supposed also that trip is an unconventional way of teaching our kids that life is not easy and sometimes it just downright SUCKS, but it never ceases to be something to be in AWE of, it never ceases to be worth living regardless of what happens AND that the best gifts life has to offer can sometimes come disguised in the form of something scary or unwanted at first.

And YES!  We ARE looking forward to getting out of our cushy comfort zone, out of our comfortable beds and endless rows of supermarket choices to get out there and re-learn how to live for the moment, to be self reliant & self sufficient, to challenge ourselves, to reconnect with nature and all it has to offer; the good & the bad. To turn and face fear, look it straight in the eye and then follow through with the knowledge that we are prepared and we can DO THIS! 

quote from John Burroughs

One of Mark’s favourite (borrowed) expressions that he often uses is: “ Go to the beach when you are young!”  and I know without a doubt that his mom and dad would be very proud of him (and us all) in pursuing this dream, now.

I am so happy that my dad, whom I had a chance to share this dream with before he passed, was giving me the thumbs up too. Even with the potential of getting sea sick, this is the kind of thing he would have loved to try. I just know.

Tuesday 19 November 2013

Amelie is back in the water and looking fine !

Amelie IV in the BVIs

After spending nearly 7 months out on the hard and getting pampered by a fine crew in St Lucia, Amelie had her big splash down on Tuesday Nov 12th  !

Captain Mark went down on Sunday with the boys to get her ready and he says that she is looking REALLY good, with a newly painted bottom, new bumper and shiny clean decks !

Mark picked a great time to get down there as the temperatures in town here plummeted to nearly
 - 30 C with windchill! When he called he said it was hot; "almost too hot!" at 29 C. His comment was followed by a long silence, with nearly 60 degrees of difference between us there was no sympathy from the crew up here !

The boys sound like they are working hard with a list of projects on the go. It is quite wonderful actually that between the four of them there are 2 mechanical engineers, one electrician and one telecommunication expert. I’d say that Amelie is in excellent hands. (Mark, if you are reading this, I look forward to seeing if anyone can fix the ice machine, no pressure though)....Hehe! 

Other than this, there is not much more of an update except to say that MC is STILL keeping busy with digitizing all of her school resources. It has been a great journey back in time to re-read (as she types) all of that stuff ! It really helps to get her back into teaching mode ! She has found a great place in town where she has been able to procure herself with all of the material she needs for science, even the coveted microscope! She is really looking forward to sharing all this stuff with the family. She had almost forgotten how much fun science is !

Oh, and in October, we took a little break from all the madness ( home renovations, work, school etc...) to grant a special little lady her lifetime wish to see Disney World. Mark stayed home with Matthew while the girls went out to meet Mickey.
Meg and MC go to Disney World

 Having never had any desire to go there, it was a VERY pleasant surprise for MC who got caught up in all the happiness of the place. Meg LOVED it ! It was a mother-daughter trip to remember and we feel extremely grateful that we were able to do this for Meghan before our big trip, and before our budget gets dramatically cut ! We got a chance to embrace our inner pirate while we were there, having fun with the Pirates of the Caribbean site.

After seeing this photo I realised that I should of asked Meg to be Cptn Sparrow because seeing her in Keira Knightley's body kind of freaked me out a wee little bit, but still funny.

Matthew is doing very well, enjoying school and his activities like swimming lessons but definitely NOT enjoying the cold or the snow boots  and all the layers he suddenly needs to wear. He can't wait to be barefoot on deck again soon.
This is Matthew's idea of the good life.

Well, according to our official countdown we are 121 days away from D-day. Got to go, lots to do!

Friday 4 October 2013

Happy Boat Contract

People who will have read my last blog (Globetrotting Puppets) might say; Is that how they are getting ready for this trip? Puppets? Really ?   

Well, yes, partly, but  those are just distractions to keep me amused while I do the more “adult preparations”, stuff like; medical training, school preparation , survival training and one more.

On my LinkedIn profile, I list one of my jobs on S/V Amelie IV  as “Conflict Resolution” and let me tell you:  it’s a job I take very seriously, especially in OUR family.

Now YOUR family might have its very own favourite recipe for conflicts, but I thought I’d share ours with you today:

The 4M Home Made Recipe for Conflict:

Take one passionate, red-headed (can be masked with blond at times), opinionated mom, and make her right 99% of the time, and make sure she is EXTRA sensitive.

Now add one strong-willed, equally passionate (but not as transparent) dad, make sure he is a no-nonsense kind of guy (Read; Quote: “I had a feeling once and I didn’t like it”), and make HIM right 99% of the time.

Mix well, for at least 15 years, (give it time to accumulate baggage)

 To this add one energetic, no holds barred, 100 mile-an-hour, only-stops-when-he-sleeps-tornado of a boy who just entered puberty

Finally, add a passionate, (and oh-so-dramatic) pre-pubescent young lady who has been know to use the sentence “Oh WHAT EVER! ” a lot more recently .

Blend well

Note from the cook :(these are not ALL the characteristics of the four main ingredients. Indeed they do have some wonderful, positive sides ! I just mention  those who mix really well to create the” near perfect conflict condition” required for this recipe)

Next : Sprinkle on some stress, (I find that “Settling An Estate”, or “Home Renos”, or “Leaving A Job”, works well but you can also use “Out Of Town Business Travel” or some other of your family favorites...)

Now, take this mix and then... 

 ....shove it all in one long floating tube for about a year or more, add heat (tropical heat seems to works well for our family)

.....and “VOILA ! ” (kisses fingertips with her lips) 

You have yourself one big beautiful brewing conflict in the making !

Now if you are NOT into conflicts like me, then perhaps you might want to try a little something I brewed up in my spare time lately, in preparation.It is a contract for our family members to agree on, before boarding and I don’t mind sharing this with you, even if it shows my more mature/sensitive under belly. It is called the “Happy Boat Contract”


 Happy Boat Contract : 

 As we embark on this adventure together, lets all please remember that each one of us has the power to make this either a happy boat or an angry boat. 

Our behaviors towards one another will impact everyone onboard. 

Of course there will be days when we are in a foul mood, when we are feeling stressed  frustrated or angry but HOW we chose to behave towards one another is still within our control.

Think about what your tools will be in those difficult  times before they happen and use these tools out of respect of everyone else on board. 

Follow these steps if you think you might be feeling angry/frustrated:

1- Realize that you are in a bad mood 

2- Choose to take some time on your own to work it out by: 

    Going for a walk, Listening to music, Writing something down.

4- If you need to, let people know that you need some alone time.

5-Avoid spreading the negativity to others by blaming or lashing out at them. 

6-Once you feel calm decide whether or not this really is a big deal.

7- If it is not (and it usually won’t be)  just wait it out and the feeling will eventually fade. 

8-If it IS a big deal and is an ongoing issue that needs to change and that you need others’ help to make it change then take the time to communicate without anger to the rest of the crew about what the issue is, so that all can make a plan to help you with it. 


If you are feeling anxious scared or sad about something that is not the same thing !  

Make sure that you tell someone, this probably will help more than you know.

When you are feeling happy, proud, giddy  or hopeful : SHARE this with everyone; it might just be contagious! You have the power to make everyone else feel the same way!

We don’t want to look back years from now and have regrets on how we behaved towards one another. We want to cherish the memories of the time we got to spend together.

We only have one shot at this, one chance at doing our best and making this a happy boat, as best we can, so let's do this !


         (Add signatures (preferably in blood), date and notary stamp)



Friday 27 September 2013

Globetrotting Puppets

So...about the project we’ve been working on.....

Rocky and Chloé from our play "Oh! Canada"

Back in 2011 when we took our offshore training with Mahina Tiare III  (http://www.mahina.com)  one of the goals was to always try to have a positive impact upon the places we visited and the people we met. Often crew would be encouraged to bring medical and/or school supplies.

 This got me thinking : What gift could we bring to the places we go ?  What is OUR area of expertise ? Um, well...I am pretty good at making a puppet come to life ?  And....Come to think of it.....Meg is pretty good at story telling ! If we could combine HER creativity and MY immaturity we might just be able to do wonders !!!

We started off by going to look at an old favorite puppet factory online (http://www.living-puppets.de) to see if any of their characters would jump up at us, looking for Canadian ambassadors.

So, this guy immediately made an impression
                  (Love his belly button...)


We named this one Rocky

Then we found out that they were all out of this radical raccoon, and we quickly fell in love with an awesome  grizzly who even comes complete with a hump on his back and giant paws. The only way he could have been any more realistic would of been if he had a couple of australian campers in his jaws...Oh right...this is supposed to be a kid friendly show...

We found our Chloé

Next we found a beautiful girl puppet and we felt she was the PERFECT addition to the cast.
Finding names for our new friends was pretty simple. It was clear to us from the beginning that our goofy grizzly just HAD to be named Rocky and that our girl, well she just looks like a Chloé doesn’t she! 
Next we had to make these guys look a little more.. Canadian eh ? We thought of putting a Molson’s Canadian Beer in Rocky’s hands, or a “ I ♥ Justin Trudeau” Tank Top on Chloe, but again we have to remind ourselves that this is for kids, right. So we went for the painfully obvious Canadian stereotypes; Hockey and Toques.

Now; You may find this hard to believe but when you go shopping for clothe and you casually tell the person behind the counter that; “these are for my puppets”, you get a few raised eyebrows, but then when you take them out of your bag and let the puppets do the explaining to the salesperson, and it ALL works out in the end. No one called security on us or anything !

   It turns out that Chloé’s feet are a kids size 10 !


I think that the guy at the jersey store especially got a kick out of the whole thing...
What ??!!!  30 Bucks for a mini Habs jersey ??!!! Well, on the bright side, Rocky won’t be outgrowing it anytime soon.

The final look for Chloé
And for Rocky

We are currently working on the script. This will not be completed for a while, as we are quite busy preparing our trip in other ways, but Meg and I sat down one evening and did a quick brainstorming. We had loads of fun bouncing ideas off each other, this is what we’ve come up with: 
Chloé; A sporty, Smart Young Canadian Girl from Aboriginal Descent. She’s bilingual (of course) and has been traveling on board a sailboat with her family for the last five years.
Rocky : A Goofy-Patriotic-Hockey-Loving Grizzly Bear, who is obsessed with Maple Syrup and who is known to spontaneously start singing “Oh Canada!” when ever someone mentions Canada.
Opening scene: 
Chloé is sitting on deck, binoculars in hand, when she suddenly sees a very peculiar sight: An Ice float drifting in the distance, carrying a bear, who is wearing a hockey jersey and frantically waving for help.
Our opening scene.
We later find out that Rocky was stranded on this ice float when he was visiting his cousin ‘Inukshuk’ the polar bear in the Arctic.

The story continues with the new friends reminiscing about all that they love about Canada...friendly banter ensues, yada yada...

What we really hope to achieve with this project is to find a way to build positive relationships with the communities we visit. We figure that kids, no matter where they’re from, love puppets and love to hear about other  countries. We hope to bring them a new outlook on the world, a chance to ask questions and maybe a few laughs too, by visiting their schools. Oh, and it might just fit in nicely in Meg’s school goals too AND it takes care of my puppet addiction.

Before signing off I have to give a shout out to the ‘Minister of Canadian Heritage’s’ office in Ottawa.I wrote to those lovely ladies today and they said that they would gladly help us out with a big bag full of Canadian pins to hand out on our visits to school and such, so nice !  THANK YOU!  Gee, I wonder how much that big bags of pins weighs.