November & December 2019: Vanuatu / Australia / Hawaii / Australia

Dale sailed home from Vanuatu.

The girls and I flew.

We all flew to Hawaii.

We all flew home.

Gosh, writing about jumping on and off planes feels like blasphemy in these times, but this all happened over five months ago.


Our buddy Ben sailed from Vanuatu to Australia with Dale: 1,098 nautical miles from Tanna, Vanuatu to Southport, Australia. The passage completed MUSCAT 7’s little loop of the South Pacific.

We met Ben seven years ago in the islands off Sumatra, Indonesia. We were sailing with baby Willow and (fetus) Hazel on our first boat ZINC. Ben was crew on our friend’s boat. Ben has his own catamaran now and is preparing for offshore cruising. Dale reckons Ben’s onto it. I believe it.

Dale reports the passage was good: nice but variable winds, reasonable seas, long and monotonous.

Thank you for helping us Ben, we look forward to cruising with you in 2020…. Hmmm… raincheck 2021?


The girls and I flew to Port Vila. We explored while we awaited our cheap flights home; we spent the savings, and more. The irony.

Willow freedove through another ‘cave’. Her snorkel guide said it was 10m. Her tiger mum said it was only 7m.*

*I do however acknowledge it was not an ‘easy’ ‘cave’ freedive, there was current to navigate. A British backpacker chap gave it a crack, several times, and did not succeed; his girlfriend was disappointed. Shame.

The girls befriended the kids next door. I tagged along as the solo parent. I am used to this.

Forever, Dale and I have travelled separately, to suit interests, work, social commitments etc. This arrangement continues post-children and generally means I travel with the girls and Dale precedes or follows, foot-loose and fancy-free. It works. I love travelling with Willow and Hazel; and happily Dale is fresh at the other end, slicing fruit, boiling porridge, pouring milk like a rockstar, while I catch up on sleep.

The girls posted cards to their nanas from an underwater post office.

We learned sandroing, a ni-Van artistic tradition where you use your finger to draw a continuous meandering line on an imagined grid to produce a graceful geometric pattern.


Dogs, cats, birds, bees, trees.

Friends skipping school to play.

Python, car, bike, kite.

SAILING. They made it!

It was amazing to have Daddy home.

We hauled MUSCAT 7 out of the water…

…left her in the corner of a boat yard…

…and jumped on a plane to Hawaii.


SUNSET BEACH. It was Dale’s 8th visit, my 8th too. Willow’s 5th. Hazel’s 3rd. Perhaps we should try somewhere new? And we do (did?), but we always return. We love the North Shore. The surf is part of it, but it is also the memories: the places, the friends, the experiences. We drive roads, ride the bike path, surf breaks, jog and hike trails, visit tourist spots, and remember, wonderful times with family and friends. We pause to watch the sunset, and we are grateful, every day.

SURF. First stop. Costco. For the latest. The greatest. The top-of-the-range US$100 (A$8,125.96), eight foot soft top. Yeew.

“And she will probably say, ‘how do you surf on this board?‘”

Well, yes, Hazel surfs on this crappy board, better than I do. It would have been nice to learn to surf when I was five. Just saying. Here goes Hazel.

On Hazel’s next wave, she did surf ALL the way in… over the rocks and into the tree. Gee. There is no footage because I was scrambling over the rocks to extract her. Bad parenting moment #12,483.

THANKSGIVING. We enjoyed our first.

Hazel created the place cards. Willow prepared the menu. Homeschool. Tick. Our turkey was a pumpkin. No chance of exotic viruses jumping species in our family’s vego-land here. Just saying…

Gosh I wish Australia would scrap Halloween and adopt Thanksgiving, the happy holiday, celebrating explorers, being grateful to be alive, sharing good food with friends and family, and working together to make everything alright. Surely, this beats ‘bribing’ people for junk food, and dressing-up. Everyone knows I am not one for dress-ups.


SURF NIGHT @ SUNSET BEACH ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. Nor am I one for autographs. It has always seemed silly to gather scribbles. Nevertheless, when this chap arrived part-way through the local school’s charity ‘surf night’, I hustled and bustled the girls to the signing line. Ha!

Kelly Slater is an amazing personality: physically perfect at his craft, ultra driven, and a positive role model for surfing and the world of sport, generally. My take from the sidelines (for what it is worth) is he brings intelligence to surfing; he encourages ‘smart’ to be cool in an industry that is too often too wanky, too cool for school, too… Anyway, I don’t know how he navigates the bone heads. My head explodes watching. Please smarten up surfer people. It will save your precious ocean.

Anyway, Kelly Slater was the last professional surfer to leave surf night, long after the advertised finish time; no kid was left waiting for his scribble. And for his effort, Hazel did her best to skittle him in the carpark playing tag with her buddies. She ran full pelt into his knees. Oh Hazel. He calmly and kindly steadied Hazel’s course, away from harm.

But gosh. Where am I going to keep this crappy poster on our boat?

These scribbled on things are not good for the environment either… And please do not get me started about the energy required for those environmentally irresponsible wave pool things…

SURF. Dale remains as mad as a cut snake. He towed outer reefs with his buddy.

And enjoyed nice days at Waimea Bay.

We went to watch.

The sets were huge.

They washed over the ledge.

Fight-flight-freeze response.

Willow frothed on her surfing.

She has always been ho hum about surfing, and we have not pushed her, but for the time she was two years old and surfed her-head-high Nias… she was terrified…

Anyway, seven years later, something clicked and Willow wanted to surf every day and paddle around catching her own waves. We were thrilled. Bad parenting can perhaps be reversed. Phew!

She is a nice little paddler.

TOUR GUIDE MELDRUM. Dale and our girls detest when I drag them to tourist hotspots: they whinge, complain, bicker; roll their eyes and tease. Nevertheless, I pride myself on being unflappable in the face of belligerent companions: we MUST enjoy these experiences, TOGETHER, as a family. Over the years, Dale and our girls have realised I refuse to renounce my dream of a happy tourist family, and have become somewhat compliant, they even recall places fondly, including these two:

(1) PEARL HARBOR. The Rowneys were fascinated by the U.S.S. Bowfin, a WWII fleet attack submarine operating in the Pacific.

The instrument room. Wow.

Happily, they loved it so much, they begged to return to Pearl Harbour a second day, to visit the USS Missouri, the last battleship commissioned by the United States.

Fender envy.

Anchor chain dreams.

The USS Missouri is the site of the Japanese surrender on 2 September 1945, the end of WWII. It was moving to stand at this site. I cried. I always cry. Even Hazel was subdued. There is an anecdote about a teenage kamikaze pilot. It gave Willow bad dreams. She is a sensitive soul. I feel awful, but she needs to learn these things, we all do.

The USS Missouri is also famous for Cher straddling one of these guns.

You remember this clip from the 80s, right?

Yep. It is set on the vessel where WWII ended – a clear victory for the economy over sentimentality. Oh. My. Gosh.

Inside is a city. We spent hours there. It was interesting to watch the girls explore and ask the attendants thoughtful nautical questions. They may be learning stuff from our life afterall?

(2) SHANGRI LA MUSEUM OF ISLAMIC ART, CULTURE & DESIGN. This is the estate ‘the richest girl in the world’ created. It is a gem.

Doris Duke was an American heiress, socialite and philanthropist and this is the estate she created; her escape in Hawaii, a place where exquisite Islamic arts are juxtaposed against lush, tropical Hawaiian landscape.

It is a place to return. This was my second visit and Willow (almost nine) joined me. Our tour began sketchy with Willow fidgeting in the carpark through the boring introductory speech, generating frowns from oldies in our group, but once we were inside, Willow was memermised; she didn’t even break the rules and wander off and touch stuff, as many frowning oldies in our group did. Sigh.


Willow and Hazel met their match in the shory with the North Shore surf rats, while John John beat Kelly for a place on the US Olympic team.

Queen Hazel somehow scored a VIP snack bag and ‘chair’. Outrageous. Sigh.


SANTA. We saw a lot of Santa… happily, photos with the big guy in red are free in Hawaii; there is no racketeering that prohibits free snaps on your mobile phone as there is in Australia.

CHRISTMAS. It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Queen Hazel somehow scored front seat ringing Santa’s bell. Outrageous. Sigh.

Christmas Day itself was the most horrid weather – torrential rain, howling onshore winds. We could not see the sky.

We ventured out during a break in the weather…

…and enjoyed a crappy surf, behind the North Shore cesspool runoff…

Santa was generous.

FAREWELL SWEET 2019. We flew home to the east coast of Australia.*

*We do not travel lightly… this time: five surfboards, one bike, snorkelling gear, twenty books… our best travel advice for a flight home from Hawaii is do the curbside check-in: Tip a guy with a trolley and he organises it all; you don’t even see the check-in counter and waltz straight through security. It’s the best. But please don’t be a tight ass shit. Please tip generously – super duper uber generously if you are Australian and do not understand how to tip in the first place.

We drove west.

And heel toe polka’d into 2020, a new year full of promise and good times…

And we all know how this pans out… Gosh. Please stay well, in the best physical, mental and financial health, wherever you are. And please continue to think holistically and internationally in your response to this brave new world. It is not a time for nationalism and the nastiness it brings. Please be kind, accepting, and encouraging, happy for those you see having fun. Happiness and fun do not spread this virus. Enjoy your life.