• I’m sorry Joselwyn

    He sat cross-legged on the grass surrounded by his friends. Trees towered above—the canvas behind him a vibrant forest. He talked in a hushed voice. Many things were discussed. One of them was the rising sea level in his village. He’s 41 and has had time to make his own observations. He talked about how they needed to get better, to try to educate the kids about pollution.

    These same kids carve their own surfboards and spend hours paddling canoes made from dugout trees.

    These same kids shape bows and arrows, taking them into the forest to shoot pigeons.

    These same kids primarily eat boiled plantain banana and sweet potato sourced from their garden.

    The village of 400 people has one miniscule shop stocked with cooking oil, rice, and a few other miscellaneous items. Their houses have no paint. They are made from coconut fronds and materials from the adjacent forest. Each family has their own garden. Occasionally they open a tin, or a plastic package and if they bury it, it rusts away and infiltrates their water source. For Joselwyn this is the pollution they need to eradicate. Also they need to minimise the fires they use to cook their food. They must work hard so that the sea doesn’t continue to rise. So they don’t have to leave behind the place they have dwelled for many generations.

    But could they really do better, and would it make a difference?

    To Joselwyn I say—I am more to blame than you are, for the sea that rises by your village. I’m sorry Joselwyn. I’m so sorry.



  • 20 reasons why you should just go sailing

    If you’re wondering whether to embark on a high seas voyage.. Here’s 20 reasons why we think that ya should. 2 weeks and we’re back to the Marshall Islands and back to Confederate! Yeowwww.

    1) Your house has a giant swimming pool around it called the ocean.


    2) You’re too far away from shops to spend money buying pointless crap, so you enjoy the things that are free.


    3)   You get by on around $400US/per person/month in the Pacific, or at least that’s been our budget for the last year and its worked. Wind, waves, coral gazing, star gazing, beach, sun, sea – all free. The best things in life – free.




    Marshall Islands

    4)   An initial cost of $40,000NZ for the boat puts house prices in Auckland and most cities to shame. Besides marinas mean you can live in a city too if you want.


    Confederate at Westhaven before we left

    5)   Your house moves – I’ll never forget the first morning I woke up after our first passage and realised our house was in Tonga. Or the morning we went through this reef passage into Tuvalu.


    6)   You are more sustainable; your footprint is small. If you want to move, you use the wind and a minimal amount of fuel. If you catch fish you are sourcing your food from directly underneath you – not miles away.


    7)   Catching fish is also rad.


    Spanish mackeral from Fiji

    8)   Fish tastes good and is good for you.

    9)   Eventually you’ll get sick of fish but you can trade it for vegies if you meet the right people.


    Vegie market Tuvalu


    Homemade breadfruit chips by host family in Nanumea, Tuvalu

    10)  You have time to meet the right people.



    11)  Having a smaller footprint feels good, you feel in tune the world around you – not disconnected from it.


    Southern anchorage Funafuti Lagoon, Tuvalu

    12)  If you need to fix something you do it yourself.


    13)  If you can’t fix it yourself you have a support network of other boats who have time to help you. You can pay them with baked goods.

    IMG_2022 2

    Boats anchored in Minerva reef on the way to Tonga

    14)  You have time to cook, read, kitesurf, play guitar and follow your passions. Time for all those things you’ve wanted to do for ages.


    Kiting Tonga


    Sunset at Musket Cove, Fiji


    Robins cinnamon scrolls

    15)  You can see dolphins, sharks, turtles, manta rays, fish, coral regularly. You dream about coral reefs. You feel in awe of the world every day.


    Dolphins as we left Fiji


    Dolphins greeting us in Nanumea, Tuvalu

    16)  You feel healthy and your stress levels are low. Until you head into 40 knots of wind n rain, and and your stress is high, but it is physical stress, not mental.


    Robin facing a hard night on passage to the Marshalls

    17)  Physical stress is fast recovering, quickly forgotten and at the end of it you get an incredible sleep. Mental stress is sleep depriving and wears you down.


    The day after we arrived in Fiji, well rested after a fairly hard 4 day passage

    18)  You bend, jump, duck, twist, lie, stand, walk, swim, row, climb in, climb out, pull, push and sit, as opposed to sit, sit, sit, sit, gym, run, sit, lie.


    Handstands on our favourite island in Fiji


    Ok so this wasn’t us but kids in Tuvalu, but we could all learn a thing or two

    19)  You start to really love the ocean even more than you ever thought possible, and feel a connection to the ocean.


    Our first reef pass in Tonga Ha’apai group – one to be respected

    20) “I think first and foremost, people only protect the things they love. And you can’t love something unless you inherently identify with it.” – Kris Thomkins, PatagoniaIMG_2037 2



    Ye ha can’t wait to get back into it. For our itinerary for the next leg… http://windsquirrel.com/the-revised-route-sailing-2014/


  • Our impact on the Pacific and Micronesia – it’s not as far away as you think

    Being back on land and reflecting on close to a year cruising the pacific islands and Micronesia I realise how much I’ve gained from the experience – Fiji, Tonga, Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands. Before just names on a map, dots in a vast blue ocean. So what is different now?

    The reality of life in these places has been experienced. Ties have been made with people, faces aligned to a country, and an understanding of the land that they live on. My latest assignment for my development studies course is on development induced migration. You might think about the three gorges dam, or other high profile mass re-locations.  But there are countless stories like this on smaller scales around the pacific.

    Right now I’m thinking of what we’ve seen along the way, not necessarily experienced directly, but through the stories of people we’ve met…

    * Displacement from Bikini island for nuclear testing for “the good of mankind”

    * The impact of world war two on the Marshall islands and Kiribati.

    * Displacement from French nuclear testing in polynesia

    * Banaba island resettlement to Rabi island Fiji. And while we can say the above didn’t have a direct link to New Zealand – this last one did.

    Phosphate spraying in Northern NZ from 'Our sea of phosphate' by Katerina Teaiwa

    Phosphate spraying in Northern NZ from ‘Our sea of phosphate’ by Katerina Teaiwa

    For a low price the British Phosphate commission (BPC – including NZ and Aus) stripped Banaba of it’s phosphate by the ship load. Much of this was used in New Zealand for fertilizer turning hill country soil into arable and lucrative land. So we are connected to the people of Banaba as the phosphate from their island helped us increase agricultural fertility in the 50s and 60s. And we are connected to the people of Banaba in the sense that in gaining our fertile land, they lost theirs.

    This connection isn’t just true for people of the pacific. We are connected to people in China who make some of the products we consume, the factories that serve us derive their power from the three gorges. We also may even be connected to the people in Congo who work in Coltan mines so we can have phone batteries, and other electronics. We live in a world where we have no idea who makes our products. We don’t see who, or what environments are affected by our purchases.

  • Some food for thought for 2014….

    I read Charles Eisensteins’ book ‘Sacred Economics’ a couple of years ago, and at the time I remember thinking that I’d never read anything that resonated more.  Recently I watched this video, based on the concepts in the book, and I wanted to share it on the blog – just to show that this trip isn’t just about kite surfing and sailing, but it’s about more than that.  It’s a trip of discovery, a trip to connect with nature, a trip to hang out with dolphins and the ocean every day, a trip to explore remote communities, a trip to learn more about traditional ways of life, a trip to remember the past and think of how we can use that past for our future.  I guess for me I’m purposely avoiding the ‘real world’ – you know – the one where you sit at a desk all day, inside a box, and feel satisfied creating paper mounds and looking at screens. I’m sorry if this offends, I don’t mean to discourage those who are doing amazing work every day, I just mean to say that that journey is not for me, not right now anyway. When working as an engineer, as I was, you learn a lot about progress – you build stuff, you help society, and one might say it’s a noble profession, and of course it is.  But at this time I don’t want to be a part of it. At this time, more than ever, I think that we have to remind ourselves that when you make something in one place, you must take things from another place.  So it is very important that we don’t target growth for growths sake, that we are selective in our development, careful with what we take, and careful with what we create.

    There are two key points from the video that I’d like to extract…

    1)   The current economic system relies on growth.  We know this from any news report, remaining stagnant is not an option, we must grow to develop, the good graphs go up not down, GDP must rise, we must rise. No wonder we’re all so busy.  But if I’m not mistaken endless growth in a world of finite resources is not only impossible, but furthermore it doesn’t necessarily make us happy either? Studies have shown that once basic needs are met only small gains in happiness result from further consumption.

    So how can we go forwards and at the same time preserve our natural environment? As talked about in the video every time we make a product we are merely taking something from nature and turning it into a commodity to sell.  Of course there are so many useful life changing products that help people every day, we cannot discount this, but we need to transition to an economic system that doesn’t rely on growth to sustain itself. One that will allow us to reuse, and recycle, without it being a threat to the economy. An economic system that will allow us to use less, buy less, replace things less, and buy things that last a lifetime. As Charles Eisenstein suggests a monetary system is just an agreement between people, and we need to change this agreement to work with the environment not against it.

    2)   You can’t just create community in a monetized world, you need to have interdependence to have a community.  There are still many people in this world that live in a community, in places like the Philippines, in the Marshall islands where we are now – so we can look to these examples if we want to rediscover our communities.  But is this really that important? Well it depends on whether you value sharing, laughter, and collaboration – to give and be given to.  Yes we have this within our families and friends, but we can also neglect those from a wider group. As our world becomes more digitized we spend less time interacting with others, less time popping over to see neighbours, and even family, less time on informal chat.  If we want a bigger support network and more humanity then I believe community is important – it is what builds spirit and ensures a sense of connection and greater good.

    And if you liked all of the above then this one of Robin and my favourites…

    Ok that’s enough philosophy for now…

  • Random reflections from Kiribati – Part II – Apologies a bit of a deep and meaningful

    There seems to be a large development presence here. Among others, Australia Aid and NZ Aid offices, and a Taiwanese milkfish breeding project similar to what we saw in Tuvalu. One of the main issues is water – both for us and the I-Kiribati. While there are rainwater harvesting projects underway these work on the provision that there is rainwater to harvest. However with such close proximity to the equator rainwater is infrequent – and unfortunately population is dense – around 40,000 people in Tarawa.  Water is everything – both in the sense of drinking, and in irrigation for crops (the only fresh produce we have found since we arrived is some bananas, and small pumpkins for $12AUD – no thanks). It is cheaper to buy imported meat products than local vegetables. We did manage to buy some New Zealand carrots, which is ironic and really bad of us as we are trying to buy local produce where we can. The reality is that here we can’t.

    Anyways all of this has got me thinking about desalination and its place in our future world.  While it is energy intensive it seems like a practical solution for these islands surrounded by miles of salt water, and very little fresh. NZ Aid recently completed a solar powered desalination project in Tuvalu which is apparently not operating at the moment. I need to find out more about the story there.  Before Robin and I left we looked into getting an Open Ocean desalinator on the boat so that we didn’t have to collect rainwater. In the end we decided the $5000 (yikes) could be better used on something else, and the idea of collecting rainwater seemed manageable.  Everything was going fine until we got closer and closer to the equator and it stopped raining! Of course everywhere there are people, there is water, but in some places like Kiribati you feel like water is so precious you don’t want to take it.  Considering at the moment we are using 10 litres of water a day between 3 of us (just a little more than what we are drinking) I don’t think we are being too demanding.

    In saying this it feels good every now and then to feel a connection between your livelihood and the environment. Generally growing up in New Zealand we take water for granted, we turn on a tap and it comes out. We use as much as we like, except for the occasional summer when there’s been shortages and we are reminded by advertisements to do our part and “if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down”.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to turn a tap and have water magically appear for us – but similarly once in a while it is also good to think about where it comes from, and the systems and pipes that take that water from the treatment plant, out of the rivers, from nature, to our tap.  It gives a deeper sense of appreciation for really one of the few things we need in life.

    While a desalinator would be nice, appreciating rain, for drinking and soils is also nice. It creates a sense of connection to nature that is lost in every step of development. It is the same for food – as we get further and further off the beaten path you realize that in terms of food products nowhere is off the beaten path. In Kiribati I can get NZ products, Chinese products, even Filipino products. It is quite probable that tuna caught in Kiribati waters gets sent to Asia and returns in tins. I think development in the future will be about connecting the dots between our consumption and nature, knowing more where our food and water comes from, and attempting to meet needs with the local before the global.

    Returning to a more local world sounds limiting and restricting but I think there is also a sense of satisfaction in knowing where things come from.  Similarly there is a satisfaction that comes from a connection to nature as a provider – catching a fish, pulling fruit off a tree, or vegies out of a garden. That’s why even as we develop we still want to do these things, not out of necessity, but out of choice. Of course this becomes harder and harder with more of the world living in apartments, but I hope not impossible.  Our land and minimal population density in New Zealand makes us incredibly lucky.

    In short if life feels busy and complicated then one need only turn on a tap, pour a glass of cold water, and take a sip. Then remember that to get one of the few things necessary for survival is as simple as turning on a tap. But also remember this is not the case for everyone. We know if we start cursing the rain we are forgetting our connection to the earth, and our connection to those who live in countries where it is hard to get water. Really we should celebrate and marvel at taps every day but we don’t.  I wonder what point we stopped appreciating taps. If we can’t appreciate taps then there will be no end to our development as we will never be satisfied.  Of course this is not just about taps. It is about a shifting sphere of requirements, of which we can’t “live without.” Will we stop when we no longer marvel at space travel? A while back Cat Stevens said of skyscrapers, “will we keep on building them higher until there’s no more room up there?” You have to admit he has a point.

    John Stuart Mills, in 1985, said that “A world from which solitude is extirpated is a very poor ideal.. and solitude in the presence of natural beauty and grandeur, is the cradle of thoughts, and aspirations, which are not only good for the individual but which society can ill do without. Nor is there much satisfaction in contemplating a world with nothing left to the spontaneous activity of nature, with every road of land brought into cultivation which is capable of growing food for human beings, every flowery waste or natural pasture ploughed up, all quadrupeds or birds which are not domesticated for mans use exterminated as his rivals for food, every hedge row or superfluous tree rooted out and scarcely a place left where a wild shrub or flower could grow without being eradicated as a weed in the name of improved agriculture. If the earth must lose that great portion of its pleasantness which it owes to things that the unlimited increase in wealth and population would extirpate from it, for the mere purpose of enabling it to support a large, but not better or happier population, I sincerely hope for the sake of posterity, that they will be content to be stationary, long before necessity compels them to it.”

    Meanwhile a kid in Kiribati squeals in shear delight jumping off a wharf into the sea.

    These kind folks gave us some of their water

    These kind folks gave us some of their water

    The dark side of Tarawa - trash everywhere

    The dark side of Tarawa – trash everywhere

    Heading out to the boat

    Heading out to the boat

    Local fisherman

    Local fisherman

    Local style boats

    Local style boats

    A good days catch

    A good days catch

    Tuna on a bike

    Tuna on a bike

    Kids fishing off the wharf

    Kids fishing off the wharf

  • Random reflections from Kiribati – Part I

    What can I say? Other boats have described this place as none other than a “stinkhole” and yes – that it is. But beneath the layer of grime and litter-stricken streets are a group of people who will go out of their way to help you. The spirit of the place, as always, comes from the people.  Taxi vans cranking “when you’re looking like that,” at full volume, speed down the main road – an approximately 30km stretch with sea on both sides. Several islands are joined by causeways – which contributes to the “stinkiness” of the place given the fact that the sea can no longer flow between the islands. This means that the water in the main lagoon, apparently full of e-coli, doesn’t circulate properly – whether this is speculation or fact we are unsure.

    Crossing the equator into the northern hemisphere has also meant, despite being in the middle of nowhere we are starting to see the impact of world war II on these island nations.  In Tarawa there are still cannons lying around, a reminder of the how these tiny, seemingly “insignificant” atolls in the middle of the Pacific became a playground for American and Japanese soldiers.  The unfortunate location of these islands half way between the two countries, has forever changed their history, and their present story. In the Marshall islands where we will head next the picture is even more vivid with hundreds of wrecks to dive, planes and cannons left lying around, and the of course Bikini atoll – another place that should have been an indiscrete tropical island in the middle of the Pacific however got caught up in American nuclear testing, of all things. The more you think about it the crazier it seems.  More on that when we get to the Marshalls.

    And a few photos from Tarawa – unfortunately due to customs and immigration issues we didn’t make it out to the outer island atolls which are supposed to be pristine, and less stinky.  BUT it is good to see both sides of the story, and Tarawa was indeed an interesting, but at times a saddening place – a tropical atoll at the crossroads of development – imported products and of course too much imported plastic waste for a small island with no infrastructure to handle, few exports to pay off their imports, very little water and fertile soils, plenty of fish, and plenty of overseas fishing boats taking them away.

    Arrival Kiribati

    Arrival Kiribati

    Lunch one of the few restaurants in Kiribati

    Lunch one of the few restaurants in Kiribati

    Fetching the dinghy

    Fetching the dinghy

    Robin and a guy from Tuvalu we delivered a suitcase to from his family in Nanumea

    Robin and a guy from Tuvalu we delivered a suitcase to from his family in Nanumea

    A stick throwing game to commemorate Kiribati's attendance in the 2014 Commonwealth games

    A stick throwing game to commemorate Kiribati’s attendance in the 2014 Commonwealth games

    Bairki park ball games

    Bairki park ball games

    Customs and immigration aboard Confederate

    Customs and immigration aboard Confederate

    Anchored near to the supply ships

    Anchored near to the supply ships

  • The consequences of consumption

    This sombering story featured last week in the Australian press about yachtsman Ivan Macfayden who recently completed a trip from Melbourne to Osaka and then across the Northern Pacific all the way to the US. It was a trip he did 10 years before, and noted the stark contrast in fish and bird life on the trip.


    Next year a film documenting some of the sights of plastic around midway (some of the most remote islands in the world) will be screened. If you are interested in this kind of thing check out the trailer here. Stories like this are hard to watch, but need to be shared if positive change is to take place.


    MIDWAY a Message from the Gyre : a short film by Chris Jordan from Midway on Vimeo.