m i a o w


Category: Bellaluna (Page 2 of 4)

Autumnal: What bird is that?

We live much closer to nature – a mixture of boat and camping. It is a nautical form of glamping.



  1. a form of camping involving accommodation and facilities more luxurious than those associated with traditional camping.
    “glamping is likely to satisfy any city slicker seeking a little refuge in nature—without foregoing any of life’s luxuries”

All around us are wetlands and mangroves – the tide is a focus puller – it is best when it is high first thing in the morning and again at dinnertime. We look out the windows of the boat and it seems like we are at sea!

The Smalls are thriving in their new surrounds. Small DB does miss the chickens, but neither of them have expressed a desire to return to our house. I don’t miss it at all, and have hardly thought of it – I think the five days of cleaning it before we left took care of that.

We went for a walk a few days ago, before dinner, and wrote down the birds we saw. They included a spoonbill, ibis, tiny wrens, ducks, masked lapwings and swans. After that we went to my mum’s house and they had a copy of What Bird is That? – it has coloured plates in it and the scientific names of Australian birds. Small Z was entranced. We found the Latin name of our local spoonbill, I sneaked toward the bedroom when they were supposed to be going to sleep and heard this:

The bird under most discussion is a Red Backed Kingfisher. I love how Small Z teaches – I have never heard her do that before. And I am gobsmacked at Small DB’s patience, particularly considering how tired she was. I am hunting for that book on eBay, because I think we will get a lot of use out of it.

What bird is that?

After breakfast, she became a bicycle mechanic.

Daisy in the swing chair...

Mid-flight - Autumn morning

The basics

Where to begin? Let’s begin with a ‘normal’ day on the boat. ‘Normal’ is actually me scrambling from the boat to get the Smalls to something, somewhere. Karate, violin, kindergarten, the train station. So let’s begin with a stay-at-home day, because I’d like the Smalls to have an idea of what life was like in the boatyard – way back before the boat was floated. It goes like this…

GODDAMNIT WE NEED A HEATER AND SOME DOORS!! The last few days when we get up, there is moisture poised to drip from the ceiling. It’s so bloody cold that by the time you’ve put the kettle on (if one of us has filled the water container the night before), you can no longer feel your toes.

But the doors are close. I’m hoping the heating is closer – and I am absolutely regretting getting rid of our two little oil heaters. Just one of them would make all the difference in the world right now. You know when you’re camping, and it’s so cold that the only reasonable thing to do is go to bed? That’s almost where we are at.

Here are the doors that are close:
The doors. Almost done.

(They were painted today – one side is white – the other is the woodgrain. Do you like the name? A combination of B and M ingenuity – cost four dollars…)

Oh – and see all the junk in the shed at the back of that picture? Gone. I hired a 15 cubic metre skip bin. M filled it. And then it was taken away. He said it was like an archaeological dig through the many years of building – bits and pieces, possums, a dead rat…

Day to day life can really be best described as ‘glamping’. The water tank that we will use for showering, washing dishes and clothes etc is not sorted yet. So we are fetching and carrying all water from a tap that’s about a quick one minute walk away. It’s interesting to notice how much water you actually use when you have to physically carry it. I am, by nature, a conserver – but now I’m even more so! When I hardboil the eggs, I use the hot water for washing up.

The rinsing of fruit and vegetables…sigh… We need another tank for drinking water – preferably stainless steel – because the main water tank is lined with epoxy. The stuff that is soaked with BPA – not ideal for little bodies to ingest. It is so hard to find a reasonably priced stainless steel tank that fits into the space we have spare… Gah. It will be worth the wait.

I’ve gone off track. The Smalls and I have breakfast. As it is a stay-at-home-day I just plan to lie about saying ‘yes darling’ to all their requests and drinking endless cups of tea. NOT. If I don’t have to run from the boat, then I have to time to sort out a shower – that involves filling a 12 litre bucket. I mix a kettle full of boiling water (this takes a little while on the camp stove) into the bucket of water – and be careful how I do it. Too much cold water means a lukewarm shower or having to wait for another kettle to boil.

The shower, at present, is a 12volt contraption. You plug it into a cigarette lighter plug that M has rigged up. The pump end goes into the bucket and you hold the shower in your hand. I generally soak myself, turn off the shower to soap up a bit, and then turn it back on to rinse off. The bathroom is a wet room – it’s good to remember to push the plastic cover down over the toilet paper!

While on the topic of washing – I have been trying to do regular little loads in my hand cranked ‘pressure washer’ machine (like this one – although mine doesn’t have a fancy drain pipe) that we got for $10 at a garage sale. It’s actually not too bad – I just need a wringer!! It does, however, seem to use quite a bit of water – probably about 20 litres all up, with washing and rinsing.

On rainy days I have hit the coin laundry – I usually peg everything out to dry under the boat – but once or twice I have paid for a dryer.

Cooking? We are cooking on one of those $20 stoves – one burner – it runs off those propane gas canisters. Little regular gifts to landfill. I am keen to avoid having gas on at least the interior of the boat (we do have a gas BBQ that will go outside on deck). Boats and flammable agents are things I prefer to keep separate.

However, for cooking, fuel choices are kind of limited to gas or kerosene. Diesel is also a (very expensive) option – as diesel is not flammable, I’m leaning toward this… but need to start haunting German eBay where there might be a chance of finding a diesel cooktop secondhand.

The Thermomix has been my saviour in the boatyard. We are hooked up to electricity, and that’s the main thing we use it for. I have become more wide-ranging in what I do with it, in an effort to conserve our bloody gas canisters.

All up, domestic tasks take longer. Quite a bit longer. Fetching water and heating it up. The washing by hand. There is a lot more driving involved now that we can’t walk to the shops or to kindergarten. But on the plus side – the boat is a LOT quicker to clean than the house!!

My major issue is food – I need to meal plan or we will perish as I will go mad. Although our fridge is about quarter the size of our old one, there is enough room in it for us to go five days or so without shopping – as long as I plan well. Meal planning is currently my holy grail – I am off to pursue it.

Homecoming :: Charades

The strange thing about camping on my own for five days was the way in which I could feel it doing me good. I had booked to stay from Monday to Thursday, but didn’t feel like it was time to leave so I stayed an extra night. M and the Smalls came and got me, and I knew when I saw them that it felt right – like it was time to go home and be amongst them again. I had sort of rebooted my system by having some time out.

135/365 • back home at the boatyard - a big fat catamaran about to get pulled out of the water and scrubbed clean • #135_2015 #liveaboard #catamaran #7yo #4yo #M #boatyard #creek #boats #autumn2015

Just after we arrived back at the boatyard the Smalls had great excitement – a Very Large Catamaran was coming up the creek and was to be pulled out of the water. It doesn’t happen all that often, and it’s always fun to watch – the big rusty engine that looks like it should be in a museum, gets started up and helps to winch vessels up the boat ramp. The bottom of this boat was covered in weed, and when you looked at it closely the weed was DANCING. It took a while for us to decide whether the weed itself was protesting at the lack of water, or whether it was tiny worms on the weed doing the protesting. I think it was the latter.


I have recently taught Small Z charades. She is entranced. I can see how her brain loves all the ‘first word sounds like…’ – the whole structure of it. Tonight was the second time we have played – we were lying in bed, so our actions were limited. I started – mimed a book – three words… We invented a sign for ‘the’ so she got the first word straightaway. The second word proved difficult to communicate and then I remembered how you can break words into syllables.

First syllable sounds like…. I mimed casting a fishing line into the water. No luck. I did fish movements with my hand.


I nodded. Second syllable sounds like… I pointed at my ring.

“Ring! Fishing!! The Fishring?”

Third word, sounds like….I tugged on her hair.

“Hair? Hair! The Fishring Hair? Um… Sounds like hair? The Fishring… THE WISHING CHAIR!!”

And then it was her turn…

Two words, first word, sounds like… She performed a familiar karate move with her hands. Unfortunately the name of the move had dropped out of my brain. She was beside herself, to the point where she couldn’t help it and told me that it started with ‘P’. I told her clues were forbidden in charades. She karate-d and karate-d at me, to no avail. She moved on to the second word.

Second word, sounds like… She inhaled sharply and deeply.

“Snot?” I queried. “Sniff? Smell? Inhale? Snort? Snuffle?” Each of my suggestions frustrated her further until she was snorting in so hard she almost turned her face inside out.

“I give up,” I said. “You’ll have to tell me. Because I don’t think there’s a book called ‘Karate Snort’”

“MUM!” She karate-d at me again. “This is a parry!”

“Riiiiight!” I remained uncomprehending.

She inhaled violently for the millionth time. “And I am a snotter! A SNOTTER?”


“Parry snotter. HARRY POTTER!!!”

I shrieked. She then grew concerned at my silent shaking shoulders.

“Are you OK? Mama? Ha! Ha ha!!” She was gleeful. “I’m going to tell Dadda I made you cry laughing!! You’ve been so sad for so long and now you’re crying from laughing! PARRY SNOTTER!! PARRY SNOTTER!!!”

Definitely glad to be home 🙂

It just got warmer on the home stretch…

Sunrise in icy frost.

It is warm in here. It is not as cold as it was last night (which was superfragilistic freezing) – it would have been good to try the Webasto out last night, however, it is on now and it is far better than the normal heater. It is keeping the lounge at a steady 20 degrees. Small DB is abed – having called me “stupid dumber mama” at least nine times today. I told her that if it happened tomorrow I would take twenty cents from her money box each time she said it. “Stupid dumber mama,” was her learned response. We are all so tired.

The past few days have been the stuff of ratracing, and thus the stuff of our nightmares. Dragging the Smalls out of bed at 7am, stuffing some kind of breakfast into them and then dragging them out of the ice-covered boat to the ice-covered car – having to pour water over the windscreen to melt the ice in order to be able to see through it. This morning the water tap we rely on was frozen solid and we had to find a container of water lying around to do the job.

A bloody cold morning. Ice on the boat.

There is fatigue here. And children that are still not 100% recovered from their descent into coughing and fevers a week or so ago. They are so rarely sick – Small Z has been sick the once this year, and Small DB twice. But it is usually when we hang out with other families with school or day-care kids that we pick up the bugs – it’s just the odds. We don’t come into contact with lots of kids five days a week like most families do, so we don’t get the sicknesses. Another plus to our no-school life. Quite a few people I know spend MOST of their time sick with bugs that their kids pick up at childcare and/or school. They recover, and then cop another one a few weeks later. It sounds diabolical. And very wearing.

I am reading ‘Bumfuzzle‘ at the moment – a book written by a couple who sailed around the world between 2003 and 2006 or so. At that time we followed their travels via their blog, that they went on to turn into a book. It’s interesting reading. They didn’t know how to sail when they started – they had literally had one lesson before they set out. Their mantra was ‘how hard can it be?’ I find this very comforting. Obviously I am going to be relying on M a huge amount at the beginning – he is the sailor. He has built two boats and has been sailing from a young age. He helped take a catamaran to Sydney this time last year (and I was very glad he did this! It really gave him the kick we needed to move us aboard).

I want to do a navigation course. I need to get my boat license. But other than that, I plan to learn by osmosis. There is no way I want to become one of those ‘boat-wives’ that, when their husband is winched from their boat with a suspected heart attack or punctured lung, has no idea how to sail the boat, dock the boat, anchor the boat, navigate the boat – I want to have my shit together and be confident enough to handle all those things – both for my own peace of mind, and to also model to the Smalls that such things are not only possible, but normal.

Dauntless 11x14

So this is the first night we have had our diesel heater running and M is having his second shower in 24 hours – it makes instantaneous hot water. His first shower, last night, was punctuated by his cries of delighted glee. He is in there right now, still making comments in tones of respectful wonder about the heat exchanger and the tempering valve – bot cruicial ingredients contributing to his hot water experience.

We need to get a shower curtain to try and limit the amount of post-shower clean-up required. The bathroom is wet-room. The toilet is able to get wet, as are the counters and walls – the toilet paper roll has a waterproof door that you close over the top of it. But if there was a shower curtain, it would restrict the amount of wall-drying required. I can hear the snip of scissors. He is murdering his beard – the one that he swore to keep until he could have a proper hot shower that did not involve using a bucket. The beard is trying to resist, but slowly succumbing. Soon M will no longer look like a Winter criminal, and more like…um…Small Z! Smooth of chin and chocolate of eye.

Slowly, slowly, things are coming together. It has been about six weeks of tenuous progress – tenuous because M has been working on the wiring and plumbing – both absolute necessities, but not (dare I say) exactly TANGIBLE to the rest of us. One of the hulls now has so many wires and circuits and god knows what else that is is:
a) quite impressive, and
b) rather daunting.

He does all this stuff, and then eventually one day we had LIGHT IN THE KITCHEN and LIGHT IN THE BATHROOM and LIGHT IN THE COCKPIT. And the nights spent cleaning the Smalls teeth by torchlight using a glass of water fade with eel-like alacrity and it’s as if they never happened.

I can see the heat-the-kettle put the pump-in-the-bucket showers will be a thing of the past from tonight. Quite honestly, I have showered about eight times on this boat since we moved aboard in February. I bathe at my mother’s once a week, and sometime get to the pool in between times. M’s mother, many moons ago, gave me details on how she used to ‘top-and-tail’ with a face washer in tougher times, and I have been doing that every morning (the unsung power of the baby-wipe).

It will be good to have everything working and together by the time this thing is actually afloat. I would much rather be getting this all solved and sorted now – even though it means wintering in a boatyard. This morning we had to go down the stairs from the boat very gingerly, because they were covered in ice. Not so nice, with a ten foot drop below. I have my heart set on the end of July – for floating this thing. M is sceptical, and of course, so am I.

The only thing slower than boat time is… well, probably glaciers. But even they are giving us a run for our money. With one person doing all the work required, it is hard. We are still cooking on our one burner camping stove (with the welcome addition of the Thermomix) – but this need to be solved. I continue to wrestle between settling for a (cheap) gas dual burner cooktop and a fancy (expensive) diesel cooktop. The main issue being (besides price) that gas is more flammable, and the less flammable things there are aboard, the happier I am. Diesel is not as flammable. And we already have a diesel heater…

If we knew we were going to be living aboard for a couple of years, the decision would be easier – but we don’t know. It will be a process of trial and error. In my head, we’ll give it six months to a year and then we will know whether we love it, hate it or are willing to tolerate it for the lifestyle that it gives us. In the secrecy of my own head, and the Interweb at large, I am keen to take a leave of absence from work and go sailing for at least six months. We have the money to do it, if we are frugal, and I think it would be the kind of adventure that would stay with the Smalls forever.

They are a great age to do it. My decision in this regard is also informed by the grand adventure my parents took me on when I was five (turning six in Kuala Lumpur) – big chunks of it remain very vivid for me. Far more so than the many years of schooling that came after it. We went to so many different countries, backpacked, travelled on two ships, explored India, Europe, Malaysia… It showed me that the world was bigger than Black Rock.

This is not to say that I am keen to sail Bellaluna around the world. I’m not. Not right now. If I get my choice, we will sail up the east coast and take our time exploring the waterways near Sydney and, depending on how long we noodle around, keep going north to southern Queensland, or head over to Lord Howe Island (one of my two top Australian cruising destinations) or turn around and head down to Tasmania as the weather warms up. M, I am sure, is only too aware that if I am happy (which generally means I am WARM) the sailing will last LONGER.

But who knows. It’s all a roll of the dice. One of the Smalls might be incurably seasick and render the whole idea null and void. If that happens, my plan B is to sell the catamaran and head to Europe, use the money to buy a narrowboat, and explore that way. Now THAT would be dreamy (although I haven’t figured out the Winter bit of that plan…yet). Whatever happens, I know that right now… this is the home run. The culmination of years of building, dreams, resentment, hope, and doing it pretty tough a lot of the time. The weird thing is, the people that we will meet as we sail won’t know any of the back story. They will just see us aboard this amazing looking boat, decked out with the leather upholstery (stolen from our eBay couches), the diesel heater (bought via German eBay) our mainsail (bought on eBay many years ago), our kitchen sink (bought for $10 at a garage sale nine years ago) and our other bits and pieces and probably assume we just both left our full time jobs and bought this thing brand new.

They won’t know that the build, from idea to afloat, took nine years. That we loaned money to fund it. That my dad, who believed in it, and helped me access the loan, is not around to see us launch it. This boat could float right now on the tide of emotion that surrounds it, that has brought it from an idea to a reality. It took too long. She is overly perfect. But we are living in something beautiful, extraordinary and we are all together. And that… is awesome.

163/365 • the three of them • #163_2015 #7yo #4yo #M #campfire #solstice #wintersolstice #Winter2015 #boatyard #family #love
– s o l s t i c e –

Page 2 of 4

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén