March 31st- the day finally arrived and Frank is now formally retired!
He was truly dubious it would happen, but after he was required to parcel up his computers & phone for courier pickup & his work email account was cancelled by 9am on Apr 1st, he faced reality. The few days since, Frank has kept busy but says that he feels like he is on holidays, and has to go back to work after Easter. Maybe then, it will hit home that he is a free man! However, our greatest thrill now that Frank has retired, is that we can finally go where we want, when we want, with no time schedules, restrictions & can change plans at any time.
Life has felt pretty ‘cruisey’ for the past 11 months (yes, can you believe we have been living on board SE2 for that long), although our lifestyle has been somewhat restricted by responsibilities due mostly to Frank’s work commitments. That being said, almost a year of enforced sedentary cruising has allowed us to adapt to life afloat.
It also gave us time to assess all the paraphanalia we had yanked on board, seen the futility of having useless items taking up valuable space, & then renegate a whole load of it to the shed. This has created space for me to fill up the lockers with provisions enough to last us for 6 months.
That was all well & good, until Cyclone Pam ravaged through the islands of Vanuatu, and Frank & I felt compelled to deviate from our intended course, in order to offload some much needed donations and offer our help. Now we need to find room for a whole conglomeration of assorted goods that are being kindly donated by family, friends, and generous perfect strangers. We will have to fill the spare cabin with goods and not have visitors on board until after we have offloaded the donations.
The decision has proved more complicated than we initially thought. The Vanuatu Government has advised that yachts cannot simply enter Vanuatu waters and start giving away items to the islanders. They have set up a DMO (Disaster Management Organisation), & the best way for us to legally help the people of the islands is through a registered charity that has exemption to import goods into the country.
Thankfully, we have friends who already have an established registered charity- The South Pacific Assn and under the umbrella of ‘Sea Mercy’, they have gained permission for a “blanket cover” to be granted for yachts coming in to Vanuatu with them.
We hope to set sail from Brisbane in the first week of May the 900 plus miles to New Caledonia. There we will wait for a couple of weeks to allow other volunteers to get their boats ready and then sail from New Cal towards Anatom, Tanna, Erromango & Aniwa Islands. Assistance expected to be offered will include mobile clinics, building repairs, clearing of trees etc.in fact, any assistance that is necessary at the time.
Once we feel we have done our bit for this mission, we plan to cruise a further 770 miles to Fiji until the cyclone season begins by late November, when we will need to head for safer waters.
This month before we leave, we will be busy preparing Stars End 2. The long list of things we want to complete before we go includes such things as adding more solar panels, replacing our anchor chain, a new life raft, a new VHF radio & Epirb. We need to overhaul our dinghy, check our grab bag & flares for emergency evacuation (God forbid!!!) and to ensure we have enough practically feasible spare parts on board.
We are also enjoying spending time with family & friends without the restriction of Frank’s working commitments. It feels pretty liberating being able to play grandparents mid week since the concept of keeping track of days has just flown out the window!
Over the past 11 months, we have enjoyed tranquil anchorages around the bay with daily swims & magic sunsets, occasional rough anchorages with strong winds & violent storms, & long weeks on the marina sweltering in the heat whilst we work on the yacht. Not once has Frank nor I missed life on land or regretted our decision to move on board.
Now we look forward to the next chapter of our lives. Watch this space!