Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Now that we’re back in Whangarei, I’ve been meeting with the girls from my antenatal group once a week. We have coffee, watch our toddlers bash each other over the head with plastic trucks, and talk about the things that matter to young mothers. Our babies’ first words, for example. And home remodeling projects. One woman is taking advantage of the down market to move to a bigger house, and one is installing a patio so she can host elegant outdoor dinner parties over the summer. And as it happens, Peter and I are renovating our home as well, so I jumped into the conversation at my first opportunity.

“Our toilet can flush!” I chirped. “We don’t have to pee in a bucket anymore!”

The room fell silent. Sandra sipped her tea.

“And we have a heater! And a stove!” I gushed, sounding like a happy peasant in an ad for the Red Cross.

Leslie reached over and pulled her son’s diaper off his head. “But… didn’t you have those things before?” she asked, genuinely confused.

They have no idea.

By the time we anchored in Tahiti, we’d been cruising aboard Sereia for nearly two years, and her systems had begun a slow slide into chaos. The Christmas Poo of 2005, for example, possessed our toilet with a demonic force that sealed the outtake hose and mocked us with low, maniacal laughter. Peter eventually managed to exorcise it with a crescent wrench and a vial of holy water, but not before we’d spent a week on intimate terms with a bucket.

Sereia has an excellent diesel-powered heater on board, and when we were first dating, Peter and I spent long evenings gazing into its dancing flames while we cuddled in the forepeak. Then its flue filled up with creosote, so that one night, when we’d fallen asleep with all the portholes closed and the flame on high, we awoke to find our brains cooking with neurotoxins and the cabin filled with a poisonous black cloud. We haven’t had to use it since Northern California, and by the time we reached New Zealand, the heater had seized with a diesel-rust combo that looked like burnt concrete.

Our Force 10 stove, which Peter purchased for me in lieu of a diamond ring, made a valiant effort to survive. In fairness, few marine stoves have been asked to produce Hollandaise sauce, Tarte Tatin and puff pastry, all at a twenty-degree heel at sea. But by the time we reached the Tuamotus, we were boiling water over a gasoline-powered camping flame, and anxiously hoping that our fire extinguisher still knew what to do in a pinch.

Our electrical system is in pretty good nick, despite the fact that countless owners have installed layers of amateurish circuitry on board, so that the tangle of wires behind the main panel looks like a jaunty bouquet of rainbow-colored death. Once, when we were sleeping in the quarterberth, Peter woke up and murmured, “Isn’t that amazing? There’s mist coming down the companionway.”

We watched for a moment, mesmerized. And then we heard the live wire, sputtering and sparking in the bilge. The mist, as it turned out, was white smoke from an electrical fire that we’d managed to ignite beneath the cabin sole.

Now that we have a baby, poisonous fumes, electrical fires and puddles of flaming gasoline don’t seem as fun as they once did. And for some reason, the Red Cross doesn’t have an aid category for unemployed hedonists who live on their yachts. So Peter has been working long hours on Sereia, displaying the dogged work ethic that fathers tend to adopt in war zones and pandemics, when they are protecting their babies from imminent harm.

He is doing a fantastic job. In two weeks, he’s given us a working toilet, free from malevolent forces of evil. Our stove cooks, if possible, better than it did before. And the diesel heater lights right up, warming our little cabin with no discernable toxic cloud.

Soon we’ll have a floating home that’s cozy enough for a baby. If we ever make it to Fiji, we’ll be able to give elegant tropical dinner parties in the cockpit. No patio required.


  1. Jesus're still in NZ? At the end of June!
    And you plan a passage out when?

  2. We plan to make passage as soon as we see a massive low coming in from the west. Want to come with?

  3. Nevermind the ones that can be seen, be FAR more concerned with the Lows that come down the pike from the NNW and deeply dramatically.

    I suggest you sell the movie rights of your sons budding career to Bob McDavvit for his wx advice.