Happy New Year 2012 and the Conclusion of the Stray Kitty Chapter!

Our big news to start this year is that Stray Kitty has been sold. Our cruising life is now officially over! I can't even believe that I am writing these words.

Over 22,000 nautical miles, through some highly cool places, Stray Kitty has been our home for the last 4 four years and Cari’s home for over half of her life.

Since we moved four truck loads with trepidation from Ottawa to Parry Sound, Ontario and onto our new boat in spring of 2008 to Brisbane, Queensland, Australia where we have now moved all of our stuff off the boat. It does seem like it was only yesterday that our family adventure was beginning, and we had multiple years of cruising ahead of us.

The reason we stopped in Australia is because of the shocking piracy attacks occurring in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden which is preventing boats from getting into the Mediterranean, onto the Caribbean and completing a circumnavigation.

The Six Options

There were six options to consider. 1. Sail up to Thailand then Chagos and around the bottom of South Africa then from South Africa to the Caribbean, a lot of boats have chosen this route, but it is alot of miles and one could encounter nasty weather for some parts of the passage. 2. Go up through Asia, over to Japan, then a 4500nm crossing to Victoria, Canada. Yikes! Those miles relate to a 30-40 day passage. 3. Ship the boat, this is very expensive and hard to find information. 4. Try to sell the boat in Australia. 5. Hire a crew to sail the boat all the way back to the US. 6. From Australia to Tasmania to South Island of New Zealand to Gambiers in French Polynesia, then north through Marquesas, Hawaii then west coast of North America. We know of two boats doing this route. Option Four worked for us!

Our Top 10 List

We all agree, these were our top travel destinations we visited on Stray Kitty

1. Galapagos Islands

Isabella Island, Galapagos - Swimming with the manta rays and seeing the blue penguins swimming around our boat at anchor. Listening to the sea lions huff and puff under the boat and shooing them off the cockpit and stairs every morning on San Cristobal Island. All the animal encounters that we experienced in the Galapagos Islands: the giant tortoises; the land iguanas, seals, sea lions, and blue penguins were incredible and a very memorable experience.

2. San Blas Islands, Panama

Meeting the local residents of this area - the Kuna Indians, learning about their culture, how they live, visiting their villages, buying their molas. The river tour with Lisa, the famous transvestite mola maker. Taking her dugout canoe to the river entrance, hiking up through sacred burial grounds, then up through the rainforest and sliding back down the river, and jumping through the waterfalls. Unforgettable!

3. Port Resolution, Tanna, Vanuatu

Mt. Yasur Volcano. We will never forget this experience. Jumping into a truck with ten other people, driving down the most potholed so called road, you will ever experience, walking up to the active volcano (there was sticks kind of marking the path) and being able to peer over the side while it is shooting out magma and huge rocks. Unbelievable.

4. Suwarrow, Cook Islands

The only way to get to Suwarrow is by private yacht. There are no airports, no ferries, no nothing except, and this is what made it so special, two park rangers who live on this remote island for the summer. Snorkelling, spear fishing and coconut crab hunting during the day, getting together for pot-lucks in the evenings on shore. Learning how to make coconut fluff pancakes. When you imagine a sun kissed island paradise in the South Pacific, it is Suwarrow!

5. Cartegena, Columbia

Anchoring and hanging out inside this extremely hot and humid South American walled city. Learning about the history while walking all the way around the wall, visiting the museums and going for a the very inexpensive but huge Columbian lunch everyday at noon which would keep us all full until breakfast. We loved it.

6. Venezuelan Offshore Islands

The long white sandy beaches and clean air, the sky looks green because of the reflection from the ocean. The abundant bird life and laid back atmosphere. The crystal clear clean water for swimming.

7. Fraser Island, Australia

Renting a 4x4 land cruiser to explore the island. The adventure of driving the sand roads to get to the beach then driving along the white sand beach that seems to go on forever while stopping at different points along the beach to check out the attractions. The possibility of seeing a Fraser Island dingo. Watching all the Aussies driving up and down with their camping gear and fishing rods attached to their 4x4's. This is classic Australia!

8. Lugenville, Espirto Santo, Vanuatu

Millennium Caves - The Millennium Caves was a really fun thing to do. It was a full days outing and we got to walk through and see several villages and how they are making a living through tourism. They do a great job and it was a memorable experience hiking up to and through the caves and then swimming back down.

9. Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Australia has been so great, we have really enjoyed our time here in the sunburnt country. Lizard Island was especially enticing. It is a place that you can just hang out for months and never know that time is passing. The weather is sunny and warm, the waters are sparkling clean, and snorkelling is amazing and varied around the island. There are different walks to do around the island and the proximity to the Great Barrier Reef is a huge bonus. I shouldn't really say too much more as I don't want the secret of Lizard Island to get around!!

10. New York City, NY, USA

Hanging on a mooring ball for $25.00 a night right outside of West 79th Street in NYC. Walking to Broadway to catch the latest show (George Wendt played a great Mother in Hair Spray) and being minutes from all the action. It was so cool and we still talk about it to this day. Cari says that was her favorite spot.

Honourable Mention: All the Tuomotu Atolls.

Drift snorkelling with the sharks, meeting the locals who live on an atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. You can only get this experience by yacht.

When we look back on our four years we are amazed at the plethora of remarkable people we have met whether that is other cruisers or locals.

After travelling through hundreds of villages and seeing how people live, downsizing from a three story house to a 42 foot boat and now from a 42 foot boat to five backpacks, we have all realized how material things are so unimportant and how little we need to be happy and have a wonderful life. Less is MORE.

Learning how self-sufficient we can be was a bit of a surprise: fishing for our dinner, baking our own bread, using solar energy to charge our batteries, travelling with the wind, or against it sometimes!, collecting our own drinking water from rain, and cherishing it, not wasting it, schooling our children, relying only on ourselves when we were thousands of miles offshore, and just living with nature and living in the moment.

It wasn't always easy, like getting used to home schooling, and living together 24/7 in a small space. We have learned allot about ourselves on this trip as well. One thing I've learned is that attitude is everything. Here is a great quote that I believe is so true.

“Attitude to me is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than success, than what other people think, say or do. It is more important than appearance, gift, or skill. It will make or break a company...a church...a home.

The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day...I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our attitudes.”

- Charles Swindoll

Next Chapter

What in store for us next? After everything is packed up, shipped off and what's left is hauled onto our backs, we plan to see a bit more of Australia, then fly to Asia to do some land travel, then in March we will be visiting Victoria and Ottawa, Canada for a visit. We haven't been back since 2009 so looking forward to seeing everybody! After that we are still not sure, I will keep the blog going while we are travelling so feel free to check in on us.

I still can't believe that our adventure on Stray Kitty is over; it seems to have happened all so fast. To all the people we came across over these last four years thanks it's been a blast and we will cherish our memories forever!!!

“In the end it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.”

- Abraham Lincoln

Moving Out

The last few weeks at the marina was very hectic, we had surveys, paperwork, test sails, but the biggest headache was dealing with all of our stuff. I thought we had donated a lot when we came through Fiji and Vanuatu, but the reality was that was only maybe 2% of what we could have given away to the islanders who really could have used a few things.

We sorted, gave away, donated and sold things on tradingpost.com. Then we would look at the remaining things and do it all again. In the end, we shipped 12 boxes back to Canada.

Our stay at the marina in Manly, Queensland was splendid, the people we met there are so kind and inclusive, and made us feel right at home. Cari fell in love with Rosie and I think it was likewise. Luckily Rosie’s mom was very tolerant of Cari knocking on her hull at 7:00 a.m. every morning wanting to take her for a walk, then they would plan to meet at 1200, 2:00 p.m and 5:00p.m. so Cari could walk Rosie again, it was very sweet.

On our final two days in Manly we had a visit from our friends on Totem, who we came across the Pacific with and are in the process of moving from Sydney to Brisbane. It was so great to see all of them again after so long. Plus I was able to transfer the contents of my whole galley to their galley, what good timing!

Manly was a great spot to hang out, I think I have mentioned before the bike trails, the swimming pools, the forest walking tracks, the convenience of chanderlies (although not a great one), restaurants and grocery stores and last but not least the beautiful weather. Here is a poem that Ryan wrote for school about where he lives:

Manly Is Awesome It Really Is

The sunshine deflected off the great mountain and came down on the sparkling water of Manly Bay.

The day was hot and bright in the suns’ fiery ray here in Manly Bay.

This happens every day here in Manly Bay.

Here in Manly’s Bay you can swim, sleep and bike without being interrupted.

It’s a great place it really is, it has sparkling water like diamonds the leafs of trees so green you really should see it, you really should.

Stray Kitty is now an Australian vessel and not ours anymore!!! All the best to her new owner, may she take you places that you never dreamed you could go!