The cockroach, the rotten papaya and the wrong detergent

Yesterday (Dec 31st 2016) I woke up and went straight to the kitchen to get breakfast started. I was still half-asleep and more-or-less on “autopilot mode” as a crunchy feel under my left foot, partially muffled by the socks I was still wearing, startled me. Trying to pretend that it hadn’t happened, I still attempted reaching for the coffee maker at the counter, but a glimpse down confirmed the inevitable: I had stepped on a cockroach …

Having peeled part of it from the socks, cleaned the rest from the kitchen floor, and recomposed myself, I resumed breakfast. The papaya seemed right and was elected for the menu. Since arrival to Polynesia, we’ve been treated to a parade of flawless, incredibly tasty papayas. But not this time – as I opened it, something slimy slid through the opening at the papaya’s skin and onto my hands – it was rotten inside. The yucky thing washed over my hand, dripping on the counter and quickly from there to the kitchen floor.

Having mopped the kitchen floor for the second time, I returned once again to breakfast and managed to finish preparing it without further glitches this time. Well, at least until putting the dishes in the washing machine. I had just sat on a sofa to start writing a Year-End post on Facebook when one of the kids yelled from the kitchen. I had obviously put the wrong detergent in the washer, for the floor was now fully covered in a foot-high white foam which was gorging from the machine.

Kneeling in the kitchen, and cleaning its floor for the third time that morning, I felt a bit of frustration to be wrapping up what I felt to have been an awesome year in a rather quirky tone.

But the day unfolded in a fulfilling way to each of us, and I eventually realized the odd events in the morning were not a bad omen, but rather an invitation to reflect on and appreciate the year that we’d had. In fact, we didn’t have a year – we earned it, in some instances in hard ways.

To start with, the time we chose to sail to the South Pacific was during a Strong El Nino, a weather phenomenon that disrupts established patterns and reduces forecasting predictability. It would have been easier to push it by a year, but our resolve was strong then. Besides, we don’t have an unlimited time for cruising, so it was better to seize the opportunity as it appeared.

Then, preparations proved to be far more daunting than we had expected. Right off the bat I lost our passports right when we needed to start application for French Polynesia’s long-term visa, and that triggered a desperate run to have them renewed in Mexico City in between Christmas and New Year’s eve. Soon afterwards Pesto, which had recorded a pretty solid uptime since our journey had begun, presented a host of unrelated and yet critical glitches: from an overheating engine to a collapsed fridge/freezer, and a worn out rudder joint. We ended up with an unforeseen haul out at a boat yard in La Cruz and a multitude of high-charged projects which led me to absolute physical exhaustion in January. But we managed to get ready in time for the crossing of the Pacific.

Departure also became a story in itself. We were two days underway and some 300 miles away from Mexico’s coast when a failure on our rigging forced us back to port. Worse, it was the day before Easter – a sacred holiday in Mexico when everything shuts down. It was a maddening hunt for hard-to-find parts in Puerto Vallarta and it took a lot of resolve to find them, fix the rigging, and get ourselves out again. And when we finally left – for the second time – as we made it to the open ocean the boat yanked, catching Adriana unprepared, causing her to fall in the cabin breaking a toe in the process. It wasn’t an easy decision for her to push forward on a 3,000-mile ocean crossing with a broken toe while land – and hospitals – were still within sight.

But we did.

And it was in French Polynesia that the El Nino presented its cards. For each day of fine weather, there were plenty of windy, rainy ones. More than once were we caught in dicey conditions – both at sea and at anchor. Many times it was very uncomfortable, and in some even scary. In fact, when we got to Tahiti in September we were feeling tired, and I even thought we might have been done cruising for the year. But again we recomposed ourselves and after a two week respite went back cruising the Society Islands – Moorea, Huahine and BoraBora – and had another fantastic time (which I am yet to publish here on the blog).

Anyway, easy it wasn’t.

We could sit, look back, and think of 2016 as a tough year – there was enough raw material to label it that way. But none of us feels like it. We feel accomplished – tremendously so. We feel rich with memories that will be ours forever and no matter what. We feel bonded in ways and to a level that we still didn’t know. I dare to say that we’ve had the most awesome, meaningful and fulfilling time of our lives. And how about all the hard work, the minor accidents, the crappy weather and the odd hairy situations? They don’t taint the memories, and 2016 doesn’t feel a tough one because of them. They were hurdles that we chose to overcome one after the other, in the process of building an awesome year. And as a bonus we ended up with a bucketload of experiences which shall serve us well in the future.

Anyway, as strange as it may sound, yesterday’s cockroach, rotten papaya and dishwasher crisis ended up being an opportunity to reappraise the achievements of 2016, and how entitled we are to feel that we have earned every bit of them