Guest Book

The guest book is growing – who’s coming to visit us next?

 

HONEYMOON CRASHERS

Fiona & Mark – British Virgin Islands – April 2015

Fiona is an old manager and good friend (of mine – Brooke’s) from Sydney. Her and new hubby Mark were on their last stop of an incredible honeymoon itinerary that encompassed Costa Rica to Columbia, Curacao and the Caribbean. I jumped on a ferry from Tortola to the national park US Virgin Island of St. John (the US Coast Guard make visiting by private yacht arduous) to catch up with the blissfully loved-up honeymooners.

The following day they joined a sailing excursion to Jost Van Dyke in the BVI; stopping the afternoon in splendid White Bay, where we were at anchor. Fiona has been an avid follower of our travels and blog since the beginning. So she was just as delighted to meet our floating home finally my darling in person, as we were to have her on board for a quick tour and vino before she and Mark sailed back to St. John. The visit was short, but so sweet to reconnect on the other side of the world!

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CARIBBEAN PARTY ISLAND HOPPERS

Chad & Sarah –

Antigua, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Barts, Anguilla and Sint Maarten – March 2015

Canadian Chad is one of Mike’s oldest and best friends from high school; they lived together in Whistler from 1999 in the early ski-bum days and Chad stood alongside Mike at our 2012 Fiji wedding. Sarah, the crazy German, is a friend from our dearest adopted home of Manly, Sydney.

Chad and Sarah arrived to Antigua minus Sarah’s luggage (thanks American Airlines for an interim outfit!), and determined to help us unearth the party side of Caribbean boat life. There’s no denying Mike and I don’t party like we once did and would prefer insert earplugs to drown out an all-night beach bar party ashore rather than join it. Hell, our average “lights out” these days is 9 pm…!

These two, both very deserving of a let-ya-hair-down holiday, had other plans. Chad kicked off his vacation with an Antigua all-nighter, returning well after daybreak… he paid for it a few days later when a nasty parasite ingested from an after-party roadside breakfast in Antigua forced a visit to a shabby St. Kitts’ hospital for an IV drip!

Over the next two weeks we island-hopped between Antigua, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Barts, Anguilla and Sint Maarten. We danced to steel drum bands with rum punches in hand at Antigua’s famous Shirly Height’s Sunday sesh (on Monday Sarah discovered the joy of a six-hour sail hung over); hand-fed green back monkeys at pirate beach bars; foraged for coconuts; loitered at dingy rasta bars in St. Kitts; dined on sumptuous sushi, massive burgers and drank vinos and cocktails at swanky St. Barts beach bars; hired cars, scooters and a retro Royal Enfield motorbike for island touring; and lingered on countless crystalline beaches.

We had a hell of a good time with these two (despite the burn on our tight yachtie wallets) and think they departed with a dang fine taste of Caribbean Island life.

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OUR CANADIAN FAMILY

Eva & Jack – Dominica, Guadeloupe & Antigua – March 2015

Sometimes travel is a total headache. The last time we transited through an airport was 12 months ago, yet in that time we’ve touched three continents and 14-plus countries via our wind-propelled home. Our next – and very special – Caribbean guests endured the rigours of plane travel: forced to re-book after we tore the mainsail on our Atlantic crossing and next delayed due to snow storms, shortening their trip. Mike’s dearest Mum and Dad, Eva and Jack, arrived from snow-locked Nova Scotia, Eastern Canada to the rustic rainforest-clad island of Dominica in desperate need of some serious sunshine and R’n’R.

I’m the first to admit our blog favours the positive side of live-aboard cruising. There are plenty other sites where you can read about unclogging toilets, rough passages, family feuds, tedious immigration procedures or costly, unexpected boat repairs. That said experiencing all realities of boat life is an integral element of sharing our world with visiting family and friends. During their time aboard, Mum and Dad van de Riet were given a good taste of it all, including two heavy sailing days (beam reaches in 25 – 35 knot winds and side-on swell), the rigmarole of clambering in and out of the dinghy multiple times daily, howling winds at anchor, the inconvenience of boat repairs (such as a punctured dinghy on a rusty wharf in Les Saintes) and steamy, humid nights in the tropics. I’ve no doubt they departed, as all visitors do, with a new appreciation that it’s not all cocktails and beach lounging.

As we cruised between Dominica, Les Saintes, Guadeloupe and the turquoise shores of Antigua, we were certain to squeeze in our favourite things… involving plenty of cocktails consumed with our toes in the sand, beach BBQs, adventures ashore exploring, fishing, SCUBA diving lessons for Jack and family dinners on the back deck. It was in Antigua we said a teary farewell as Eva and Jack headed home to two metres of snow on their porch and the tail end of one of Eastern Canada’s snowiest winters this century. Their company was precious and we are truly blessed to share the adventure!

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ATLANTIC ADVENTURERS

Doug & William – Atlantic Ocean crossing – December 2014 – February 2015

We’d always intended to take on extra hands for our three-week passage across the Atlantic. As the time neared, we’d discussed several different possibilities, but when Dad suggested and approached a sailing friend he’d met earlier that year in Turkey, the fit was perfect. UK-based Doug Gardiner was an experienced sailor with a racing boat background. He, together with wife Michelle and 13-year-old son William, had spent several summers living aboard their monohull Classified in the Mediterranean. They were back in the UK for winter, and given Doug’s flexible work schedule and William was home-schooled they were delighted to join our Atlantic adventure, helping us sail finally my darling on her longest stretch yet; 3000 nautical miles from Canary Islands to the Caribbean.

To assist with final preparations Doug and William joined us in La Palma, two weeks before the Atlantic Odyssey rally start. Fate and circumstance delivered us a torn mainsail and unexpectedly our departure was delayed. Dad and Doug made a flying visit to the UK to source a replacement and we are forever grateful they could stick around whilst we patiently awaited a custom sail to be manufactured.

Sailing across the Atlantic is a once-in-a-lifetime kinda thing. OK, maybe twice for these two who’ll only be fully satisfied once they’ve crossed in a monohull, similar to their own. But we could not have wished for better company and support during the massive undertaking. Not only did we get along famously, they taught us plenty along the way and today we are better sailors thanks to our dear friends.

For a 13-year-old kid, young William constantly impressed me with his intelligence, resourcefulness, wittiness, politeness and consideration. He’s a better sailor than I ever hope to be, even-tempered, diplomatic, an IT guru, handy (sewing, editing a video of our crossing, studying survival skills) and a skilled SCUBA diver (his career ambition to be a deep-sea saturation diver). I’ve no doubt he’ll achieve any goal he sets for himself.

The bond between father and son was beautiful to watch; together they are truly living life to the fullest. Within weeks of crossing the Atlantic and diving wrecks in Martinique with us, they were off test-racing speed boats in Florida and skiing the French Alps. We miss them; along with beautiful Michelle who joined us after the crossing. It was an absolute pleasure to share the epic adventure!

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THE HAPPY HITCHHIKER

Ausrine – Gibraltar to Canary Islands – November 2014

For the sake of safety and two-person night watches on the challenging four-day passage to the Canary Islands, we picked up a new crewmember from the host of eager hitchhikers walking the docks in Gibraltar and La Linea. Ausrine was a young and adventurous backpacker from Lithuania who’d spent the summer travelling Europe. Whilst she’d not sailed before, she was keen and quickly learnt knots, equipment terminology and the effect of the wind in the sails. Ausrine’s English was strong and she impressively picked up a half dozen new words every day.

On occasion finally my darling’s saloon was turned into a floating, candle-lit spa as Ausrine shared her gift of massage and healing. She continued the tradition of female guests taking a trip up the 20-metre mast and treated us with some tasty Lithuanian and vegetarian meals. The trip to the Canary Islands was uncomfortable, particularly in the beginning though Ausrine adapted and despite some early queasiness quickly found her sea legs, loving the Atlantic sunsets and her first ever encounter with dolphins.

On reaching the Canary Islands Ausrine stayed on with us for a few extra weeks, touring around Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and eventually departing us in Gran Canaria to join a growing community of other hitchhikers looking for boats crossing to the Caribbean.

After much deliberation and a change of heart in finding the right boat and captain to sail with across the Atlantic she decided to head back to Lithuania, her family and boyfriend in time for Christmas. Ausrine was kind-hearted, intelligent and incredibly wise and, for a spring chicken 21-year-old, I reminded her that her days of travel were only just beginning. Perhaps we may see her again one day should she make her way Down Under.

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ROUND TWO

JAY & DEANNE – BALEARIC ISLANDS, SPAIN – SEPTEMBER 2014

You know you’re onto a good thing when your guests travel half way across the world for a second round. Our dear Whistler friends Jay and Deanne (D) joined us last summer in Greece and Turkey so we were delighted when they fulfilled their promise to return, meeting us in Spain’s Balearic Islands.

Leisurely cruising Mallorca, Menorca and Cabrera islands for two weeks, there was fishing, floating, sun tanning, swimming, jellyfish stings, cribbage games, hiking, exploring, tapas bar loitering, Spanish wine sampling and countless delicious meals care of our two talented home-chefs.

Jay’s birthday was celebrated during the trip with a breakfast of mimosas and D’s delicious French toast with caramelised peaches; popped the Parasailor with obligatory Bob Marley over the surround sound and concluded with a beach BBQ at Porto Colom.

Sadly engine troubles (resulting in a haul-out in Palma de Mallorca) prevented us from taking them to Ibiza and Formentera as planned. Instead we pottered longer around Mallorca and Jay’s departing wish was a fun afternoon of Hawaiian shirt pitch-n-putt golf. Next summer we’ll be in the Caribbean and half a world closer to Canada, so we are eagerly anticipating round three!

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PRECIOUS FAMILY TIME

BREE & BRETT – SARDINIA & CORSICA – JULY 2014

We took great pleasure in hosting the extended Darling family – sister Bree and brother-in-law Brett – for a week of fun in the Mediterranean sun. In their first foray to Europe and longest time away from their little ones, following a busy few days touring Rome, Florence and Pisa we collected the weary travellers off a ferry in Olbia on Sardinia’s north eastern coast.

To ensure max relaxing, short distances were covered daily as we pottered around Sardinia’s premier cruising grounds of Costa Smeralda and the superb La Maddalena archipelago, before disembarking our extra special guests on French Corsica.

Juggling a hectic life schedule of motherhood, career and university degree, Bree rarely gets a moment to herself. During their well-deserved break, she and hubby Brett relished sleep ins, exploring aqua-blue bays by dinghy, beers on the beach, sampling gelato bars, practising their Italian, learning the ropes, afternoon snoozes and long family dinners on the back deck. Bree impressed us all requesting a ride in the boson’s chair and hoisting straight to the mast top for panoramic views and selfie snaps!

Memories to last a lifetime were made, as family time is precious, especially when based so far from home.

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BOY’S TRIP

JAKE – CRETE, GREECE – MAY 2014

Regardless of the length of stay, nothing tops sharing the adventure with family and friends. Though finding a port that mutually suits both visitors and our slow moving sailboat is often a challenge. Fortunately the timing worked for Mike’s old school friend Jake to fly in and out of Crete for a quick five-day visit. Growing up together in Nova Scotia on Canada’s east coast, ironically both friends relocated to Australia – with Jake now based in Melbourne.

In London to visit family and Stockholm for a work conference, he welcomed a break from his hectic schedule before returning to Melbourne to complete his PhD in Neurological Science. Yep he’s one smart cookie! Joining the boy’s trip in the small port of Ayios Nikolaos and cruising the northern coast of Crete, there were crib games, SCUBA diving lessons and afternoons loitering in Greek tavernas. We wish him luck with the remainder of his studies and research into the mind-boggling intricacies of the brain.

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A LOCAL HOST

JOSEPH AND ANNA – KASOS & CRETE, GREECE – MAY 2014

When arriving to an Athens’ marina last summer, we were introduced to Joseph Papadopoulos – President of the Greek Microlight Flying Club. Visiting us at the boat, we quickly learned Joseph also had a long-term love affair with Australia following a missed opportunity to immigrate in the 1980s. Dad and Joseph stayed in close email contact and he took the first available opportunity to join finally my darling for some sailing and to provide Dad with long-awaited training on his Microlight Trike aircraft fitted with floats. Joseph joined the boat in Rhodes and they immediately benefited from having a Greek-speaking local guide on board ensuring smooth sailing into any ports, villages and tavernas. Dad and Mike were privileged to receive an insightful guided tour of the seldom-visited islands of Khalki, Karpathos, Kasos and then onto Crete. Particularly special was their visit to the captivating near-deserted mountain town of Olymbos on the island of Karpathos. With Joseph as their host, they were welcomed into the village priest’s home, ordered handmade boots from the local boot maker, received olive wood spoons as gifts from the priest’s wife and lunch personally prepared by the taverna owner – all people well known to Joseph.

An expert pilot with many years flying under his belt, when not in Athens, Joseph’s second home is the peaceful island of Kasos east off Crete – where his wife Anna’s mother was born and raised. In and around Kasos is Joseph’s preferred location to fly his own weight-shift Microlight on a small inflatable boat hull. Whilst belated, Dad was thrilled to finally get his Trike and floats in the air – thanks to Joseph’s guidance.

At the tail end of the trip, finally my darling and crew welcomed Joseph’s better half and wife of 40 years – the lovely Anna. Anna spoiled the guys with fresh and delicious Greek dishes made from local ingredients and schooled them in several games of backgammon.

An accomplished Greek news journalist and host of popular website www.RibandSea.com – Joseph documented much of his trip on his website – including brilliant footage of the Trike in the air.

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Vietnam Vets reunited

John & Tess – Turkey’s south western coast – September 2013

John and his lovely Greek-born wife Tess hail from Melbourne and joined us at the tail end of their three-month Europe vacation visiting Tess’s family in UK, Paris and Greece. John was a very old friend of dad’s back from their Navy Clearance Diving days. In fact dad’s special ordnance disposal diving team relieved John’s team in Vietnam back in 1968. Dad was only 18 at the time, but they’ve remained in contact over the years and through various reunions and Naval events.

John continued with the profession to become a deep-sea saturation diver and supervisor on offshore oilrigs in places such as India and the North Sea.  The incredible Naval, Vietnam and diving stories, tales and nautical knowledge between these two was captivating and enough to sink a ship (so the speak)!

John was an excellent chef and previous restaurateur, and it was obvious he’d missed the kitchen after three months away from home, as we couldn’t keep him out of there. But we were also more than happy to sample many delicious new dishes and menu ideas he whipped up out of our compact galley.

Despite being a cute, giggling lightweight on the G&Ts, Tess was an exceptionally good sport – climbing mountains with dad, SCUBA diving for her second time and up the mast in the boson’s chair on a glassy full moon night. Though what impressed me most were Tess’s multi-lingual skills speaking and understanding English, Greek, Spanish, French and Arabic. She would make a very valuable crew member for future expeditions!

Again it was an absolute pleasure to share a leg of the journey with John and Tess… which I think might just have whet their appetite for some future boating plans of their own.  

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Canadian besties

Jay & Deanne – Cycladic Islands, Greece and Turkey – August 2013 

With a few months between guests, it was next turn for a visit from Mike’s long time best friend Jay – multiple-time housemate, snowboarding partner in crime, groomsman – and Jay’s darling girlfriend Deanne (D).

Several years ago when dad began making serious plans towards bringing his boating dreams to fruition, and Mike and I were indicating our commitment to stand as his crew, Jay had been right there. He’d shared those dreams with us. So we were incredibly grateful of the extra hours worked and effort made by both Jay and D to get themselves to Greece.

They travelled half way across the world just to meet us and we were ecstatic to share the adventure. They flew from Vancouver to Athens, followed by a fast ferry to Naxos Island. When they arrived we were anchored a stones’ throw from the ferry wharf, under the ancient watch of Apollo’s circa BC temple (or what little ruins remained).

Their first visit to Europe was instantly immersed into the magic of the barren and whitewashed Cycladic Islands. Together we explored Naxos, Paxos, The Little Cyclades (heaven), partied in Ios, soaked up Santorini sunsets, tackled lumpy seas to the Dodecanese Island of Kos and introduced them to their first ‘customs entry via boat’ on arrival to Bodrum, Turkey.  Their visit ended with a blissful few days pottering through deserted bays on Turkey’s southwest coast.

Their company for those two weeks was pure gold and we hope they fulfil their plans to visit us again in 2014!

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European Honeymooners

Bek & Joel – Cavtat, Croatia – June 2013

Our next guest’s stay was short but sweet. As grade eight high school besties growing up together in Mackay, Rebecca was my (Brooke’s) oldest friend.

Accompanied by her darling new hubby Joel, they joined us part way through their extended honeymoon travelling France, Croatia, Greece and eventually Thailand. They were tanned, relaxed and blissfully happy when we welcomed them on board in Cavtat, just south of Dubrovnik. Non-stop chatter and laughter ensued that afternoon and well into the night, as we caught up on the gorgeous details of their Hamilton Island wedding and honeymoon adventures.

The smitten newlyweds were intending to re-join us once we’d reached Greece’s Ionian Islands. Though understandably, they got distracted in each other’s company and we lost them to the seductive Cyclades Isles.

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Milestone Birthday Celebrations 

Aunty Robyn – Venice & Northern Coastal Croatia – April/May 2013

The very first guest to join us on finally my darling – after just one month afloat – was mum’s sister Robyn. Aunty Robyn’s trip was a treat to herself – an early birthday present to celebrate her 70th year.

We’d set an ambitious task to collect her in Venice, Italy. Whilst we’d forced ourselves to cover a significant distance in a short amount of time (Brac Island to Venice) the trip positioned us at the northern-most Croatian entry port (Umag). This set us up nicely for the slower return trip south to explore as many of Croatia’s 1,200 islands and islets as time allowed.

The trip also gifted us the incredibly unique opportunity to motor around Venice Island – surrounded by cruise ships, cruise ship protest boats, sleek Italian taxi boats and gondolas braving the swell. Whilst it was just as easy to get lost on a sailboat as it was navigating the twisting alleys and canals on foot, we’ll never forget the experience.

Our familiar faces greeted a weary Aunty Robyn at Venice Airport, who we then transferred back to the boat moored in a marina on the fringe of Venice’s main island. After a whirlwind day including a gondola ride, canal-side lunch and wandering the overwhelming spider web of laneways, we departed the next morning back across gulf towards Croatia’s Istria Peninsular.

Four weeks with the birthday girl included port and island hopping to locations such as Rovinj, Pula, Cres, Opatija, Mali Losinj, Krka National Park, Murter and Trogir. Her favourites were gelatos bars (A$2 double cones, yes please!), sundowner G&Ts, afternoon naps, long walks with mum and pottering around local markets. Anchored off Trogir on the final night and a short hop to Split Airport, we farewelled her with an early birthday party on the back deck. Happy Birthday Aunty Robyn!!

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So… who’s coming to visit us next??