Annual Summary of 2003

We had a good year in 2003 as we sailed 5000 miles from New Zealand to Micronesia and saw 7 countries. We are above the equator on New Year's Day 2004 for the first time since 1998. We continue to enjoy the cruising lifestyle, especially visiting local people in different countries.

New Zealand was our cyclone refuge for the third time last season. We enjoyed the holidays in the Bay of Islands with new and old friends partying on the beach. We cruised to Whangarei, Great Barrier and other beautiful spots, and saw plenty of America's Cup action. We accomplished a great deal of boat work with help from friends Pete & Judi ("Twisted Sisters") and others in Auckland, and with Pat & Jan in Tauranga. We got new rigging, ropes, windows, hatches, props, door, jib, daggerboard, rubbing strakes, stove, toilet, and worked on many other improvements.

Tonga was revisited in early June after a sail to Nukualofa. Pete & Judi joined us there to tour Tongatapu by taxi. They then took "Arctracer" to Vava'u while we flew to see our families.

The USA was a cultural shock, seeing the enormous consumption of energy, goods and resources after our times in communities of subsistence farmers and fishermen. We endured long, uncomfortable flights, did a lot of driving, and needed tight scheduling to visit all our family members, but it was good to see them after two years away. It was great to see our parents every week for two months. Mom let us borrow her car, which made traveling easier, but we still did not have time to see many friends. We bought a new digital camera, and used it everywhere. A nephew's wedding was a big social event and family gathering, and there were many other pleasant times. Family camping and hiking was fun, and we had some good city experiences with our kids too.

Samoa was our first "new" country of the year. We sailed there with Pete & Judi, and arrived in Apia on September 1 for the Teuila Festival. We enjoyed traditional dancing, longboat racing, and other events for a week, took a taxi tour around Upolu Island, and visited Robert Louis Stevenson's home. Then we sailed by ourselves to Savai'i to see the larger, less developed island. High volcanic mountains on both these islands give fertile soil and ample rainfall. Away from Apia most people live quite traditionally, with thatched roofs, individual gardens, and almost no industry. They seem proud of their heritage and to be an independent country.

Wallis is a very beautiful small island surrounded by a barrier reef, with fertile soil in which grow many tropical fruits. Since everyone has their own source of fruit, none is sold in the markets, and Jerry could not get his daily bananas. It is French, so the language barrier made it more difficult for us to make friends, but the people are hospitable and it was easy to hitchhike. There are almost no tourists, but we rode around the island with another cruising boat couple in a borrowed car.

Tuvalu is a tiny country of just a few coral atolls. We stopped at Funafuti, the capital, where over half of the country's total of 12,000 people live crammed together on a skinny island. We saw most of it on a two- hour motorbike ride. More than a dozen cruising boats, an exceptionally large number this year, progressed north like us to avoid South Pacific cyclones. We saw WWII wrecks, bunkers, and big guns in these countries as we moved in essentially the same direction as the Allied Forces sixty years ago.

Kiribati straddles the equator for 2400 miles, but has few people on its scattered islands. We checked in at Tarawa in early November, really liked Abemama, Nonouti and Abaiang atolls, and stayed in Kiribati while most cruisers moved more quickly up to the Marshall Islands. The locals are shy but nice, and most live quite traditionally in open-sided thatched-roof houses. Fish and coconuts are their mainstays. Their government is now paying a high subsidy for copra. We toured by minibus in Tarawa, by borrowed bicycles in Nonouti, and failed to get far on foot in the heat of Abemama. We made good friends in Nonouti, took them on overnight trips, feasted, and exchanged gifts. We had a Christmas feast in Abaiang with two other cruising boats and a local family. Our digital camera and on-board printer produced photos for the locals, and we also gave t-shirts and other "trade goods." The locals still sail outrigger canoes in the lagoons, but motors are taking over. The weather was splendid. We did not have rain for six weeks in Kiribati, and had to take baths in the sea to conserve water for drinking and cooking.

Fishing, Eating, Reading, Snorkeling and Crafts are some of our pleasures. We caught more good fish than usual, including several yellowfin tuna and our first wahoo. We read many books, concentrating as usual on those which helped us to understand the local cultures. Nina learned to make traditional Kiribati blouses with fancy crocheted necks which are cool and comfortable. Some of our gastronomic firsts provided by islanders were moray eel, pandanus fruit "leather", sooty tern eggs, and kamaimai (syrup made by boiling coconut palm sap, or "toddy"). The lack of fruits and vegetables in coral atolls is something we had not experienced since the Tuamotus in 1998, but we found some New Zealand produce in Tarawa. Jerry had fun with photos and wrote a little poetry.

Plans are vague and subject to change as usual, but we might go to the Marshall Islands next, then the Federated States of Micronesia, the Solomons, Palau for the Pacific Arts Festival in July, and then down to Papua New Guinea, the Louisiades, and Australia by next December.