Monthly Archives: January 2021

New Year Party

A Polynesian New Year: 2021

We celebrate the New Year Polynesian style on Sugar Shack.  Little did we know what we were in for when we agreed to host our friends for New Year’s Eve.  Our friend’s Stephan and Manu took care of everything and I mean everything from food, drinks, décor, music, cooking, and cleaning.

Stephan and Manu came over around 1700 to drop off the food, chafing dishes, grills, coolers, drinks, folding table, and décor.  It took Matt and Stephan three trips in the dinghy to get it all on board.  We were expecting 11-12 people including one other cruiser, Eve from “Auntie” and 9 Polynesians.

The Décor:

Manu came prepared with flowers, palm fronds, and décor.  She is so sweet! She showed me how to decorate with the plants/flowers, brought batteries for all the décor and we had fun creating an oasis on the boat.  Bottom right corner is Stephan and Manu during pre-party prep.

New Year Celebration

New Year Celebration

The Food:

Two large chafing dishes were filled to the brim.  One was dedicated to rice (they love their rice) and the other had fried bananas, fried oranges, potatoes, grilled bananas, and green beans.

They rented three portable grills powered by a type of propane and 12 dishes of food.  Basically, the three grills were placed in the cockpit on our table and the folding table.  When it was time for dinner, we brought out several boxes of food and Stephan grilled the meats which included shrimp, beef, chicken, pork, and fish.  Guests loaded their plates with rice and vegetables and then the cooked meats were passed around.

The bottom right photo was just a funny photo of some of the shoes…most were left in the dinghy.

Stephan also brought a cooler full of beer, rhum, lychee rum, raspberry cider, whiskey, and tequila.  Each group that came brought their own cooler full of liquor as well.  Nobody touched our liquor because they all brought their own.  We thought hosting included us doing something…but nope!  They would not impose or consume any of our food or drinks. Nor would they allow us to cook or clean.

The New Year Party

After we fed everyone the first dinner (yes, there will be a 2nd dinner before the night is over) we headed to the bow.  Manu had brought these super cool balls that lit up and changed colors.  It was the hit of the party for sure.  We hung out at the bow until midnight. After all it would not be a new year celebration without glow, right?

At midnight there were fireworks on the dock.  Totally surprised us all as nobody expected them.  It was super short, maybe 2 minutes worth, but really cool! An excellent way to ring in the New Year.

The obligatory post next to our sail bag :0

The ladies all had beautiful floral crowns.  I was very envious.  Bottom left: Manu and I, bottom middle: Manu and Stephan, bottom right: full moon as it rose above the clouds.

Party goers

Party goers

A few of our guests took turns playing Polynesian music.  Several truly magical moments happened when they all sung along with the music in true Polynesian fashion.  What a blessing it was to ring in the Near Year on such a beautiful night, with a full moon, lots of food and drinks and good friends.

The funny thing is timing.  Cruisers refer to 2100 (9:00pm) as sailor’s midnight.  Why?  Because we are usually in bed by that time.  We are also up at sunrise.  Eve, Matt, and I were wondering how we were going to manage to stay up until midnight.  Lots of laughter and good company helped us solve that problem.  Eve left around 12:30am and the party was still going.  Matt passed out around 0300 and it was still going. 

2nd Dinner

Right around 0300, the food came back out.  Which is a good thing as we had enough to feed over 40 people!  There was so much food!  Stephan cooked up a second meal for everyone.

Somewhere around 4:00am, as the sun was rising, I had to tap out.  I asked Stephan if they could move the party to the dock as I was going to fall flat on my face!  We got everyone off the boat and I did some basic cleaning (put the food away, cleaned up some of the mess that might attract bugs/ants) and crashed hard around 4:45am. 

Somehow, I remembered to turn off all the electronics, battery operated lights and décor, bring in the underwater light, closed the hatches, turned off the VHF, and shut the shades.  I was hoping to sleep at least until noon!  Ha!  Didn’t happen. I woke up 4 hours later and started the massive cleaning project.

The First Day of the New Year

Everyone offered to come back over to clean but I tackled the project as Matt recovered.  We still had the folding table, grills, chafing dishes and tons and tons of food and liquor.  Stephan and Manu came over with 4 other people and we enjoyed a New Year’s Day dinner.

Believe it or not, there were still lots of left-over food and drinks.  We luckily piled it all back into the coolers and loaded it in the dinghy to bring it back to Stephan’s house.

We found out that they took the party to the dock and then the beach.  They never went to bed!  Yep, can you believe that?  Of course, they are all in their 30’s.

An absolutely excellent way to start the New Year of 2021!

New Year’s celebration in this blog post occurred on NYE 2020.  Our blog posts run 8 weeks behind our adventures.

St. Michael's Church, Christmas in Gambiers

Christmas in Gambiers

Beauty is all around us as we spend Christmas in the Gambiers!  We celebrate a few days before Christmas in a small bay on the West side of Taravai called Onemea.  We are all by ourselves and have an unobstructed view of the sunset. Once inside the bay you are surrounded by reefs on three sides which provide excellent snorkeling.  Matt flew the drone and captured these beautiful photos.

Onemea on the West Side of Taravai

Onemea on the West Side of Taravai

A beautiful rainbow over the hillside.

Matt gets the drone out and captures a really pretty photo of Sugar Shack with the sun and puffy cloud.

Onemea bay, Taravai

Onemea bay, Taravai

Cookie Baking Day

Our family used to do a cookie baking day where all the ladies gathered together to bake dozens and dozens of cookies.  When I moved to Texas, I continued the tradition by inviting my girlfriends and their daughters over for baking and decorating.  It was a great way to get out of decorating the cookies and getting sharing the cookies.  I love to bake but decorating does not bring me much joy.  Last year, I invited several gals from other boats and we decorated them together…but this year I was all on my own.  I made the dough for two recipes (gingerbread and sugar cookies) one day and then put them in fridge.  The next day I baked 288 gingerbread cookies (with red hots) and 130 sugar cookies (stars, hearts, sea horse, bells, and a mermaid). 

The next day I made 75 white mice (or Mexican wedding cookies) and 75 chocolate candy cane cookies with white chocolate drizzle and peppermint topper.  Then I made frosting for the sugar cookies and decorated the bells, hearts, sea horses, and mermaids.  Whew!

Christmas in Gambiers is a day of Sharing

Part of the joy of baking is being able to share the cookies with others.  So, Christmas in the Gambiers came on Christmas Eve.  Each boat in the anchorage (6 of them) received a cookie care package and 5 different local families did too.  What fun!

Christmas Eve Activities

There are only 8 boats in the entire archipelago right now which is amazing, albeit shocking!  One of the boats is a family of 4 with a teacher from the UK.  They invited everyone onshore to do caroling.  They even had song sheets.  I must say we sounded terrible!  But it was great fun.

After caroling, we headed to St. Michael cathedral for  evening service.   We were not sure how they would handle service with the pandemic restrictions, but it went off really well. Everyone wore their masks, no hugging or kissing (which is huge for French and Polynesian people), and we all tried to sit with at least 2 people space between us.  It was crowded and hot though.  I can only imagine what it is like when they are literally full to capacity with people body to body. 

The church was decorated so beautiful with natural plants and flowers.  A beautiful nativity highlighted at the entrance and of course the beautiful stations in each of the corners.

St. Michael's Church

St. Michael’s Church

The alter was decorated with live trees and fresh flowers.  Everything worked in harmony to accentuate the stunning alter covered in natural pearl shells.  Truly beautiful.

Christmas in Gambiers at St. Michael's Church

Christmas in Gambiers at St. Michael’s Church

After service, I went back to Stefan and Manu’s place to enjoy a tasty dinner.  Stefan had been cooking since noon and man oh man did he cook for an army!  I thought there would be more people but it was just he and his wife, their two young kids and Matt and I.  I am not sure where he thinks we can put all this food!

Stefan literally prepared a feast with lamb, lobster, oysters, potato casserole, and many many side dishes.

As we were headed back to the boat, we heard the Taporo coming in – yeah!  The supply ship has arrived. 

Christmas in Gambiers – The Supply Ship

I have written about the supply ship on many blogs.  If you might recall, I always say it is like Christmas.  And wouldn’t you know it – they actually arrive on Christmas day this time!  It is so amazing to see all the locals congregate on the dock waiting for their packages and presents.  We saw new bicycles, TVs, outboards, fresh food and produce, fuel, propane and oh so much more.  Everyone was happy and excited to get their holiday on!

Everyone checks in at the little “hut” where you order and pay for your goods (upper left corner photo).  We had wanted to buy 25kilos of flour and 4 cases of beer, but they were out 🙁 So sad for us.

Several boats needed fuel, so we loaned out our jerry cans and gave hand – because that is just what you do.  

Stefan and Manu invited us back to their house for lunch (Christmas eve left overs) – who would say “no” to more lobster?  We stumbled back to the boat after being overly fed and rested for awhile before going over to “Auntie” a new cruising friend that we met. Eve on “Auntie” invited other cruisers over for Christmas happy hour which was lovely and just a perfect way to end this beautiful Christmas celebration.

Although I miss my family tremendously, Christmas in Gambiers showered us with love and happiness (both from the locals and other cruisers).  Life is good and truly blessed.

Events from this blog post occurred around 12 December, 2020.  Our blog posts run 8 weeks behind our adventures.

Christmas Tree of the ocean

The Ocean’s Christmas Tree

Kimberly, my beautifully talented sister, went Christmas tree shopping over the Thanksgiving weekend with her family.  Pangs of jealousy and want shot through me.  Not only because I was not there with them for the holiday, but also because we would not be getting a tree as well.  Sure, we have a small wooden one for the boat, but it is not the same.  Yes, even living in paradise, with the one you love, still has you wanting more.  Greedy little thing that I am!

A few days later, Matt took me snorkeling in the little protected reef where we are anchored within the Amanu lagoon.  It has been calling to us to explore for a few days, but the winds have been such that it was not conducive to good visibility.

There were not many fish, but there were tons and tons of ocean christmas trees!  I love these little creatures (yes, they are live)!  When they are out in their full glory, they look just like miniature christmas trees

Sure, I can’t smell them or decorate them or even enjoy them for a month like you landlubbers do.  But I have living, breathing, colorful christmas trees.

Love the variety of colors on each christmas tree

Love the variety of colors on each christmas tree

Each worm (yep they are worms) sprouts two trees.  You always see two by two in the same colors.  They also seem to like the same type of coral.  Check out the black tree with a white top (3rd photo down on left).  Just love all the colors.

A Christmas Tree in every nook

A Christmas Tree in every nook

They are fascinating and fun to play with.  Probably not nice, but I love to watch them disappear and reappear.

We also found loads of clams with a rainbow of lips.

Colorful clams

Colorful clams

Several really large oyster shells – all growing upside down with little things that look like teeth.

Large Oyster Shells

Large Oyster Shells

A beautiful, little starfish sitting in the middle of the sand with nothing else around her, large sea cucumbers, and my own little fish enjoying the snorkel.

The reef is full of beautiful coral sculptures that invite closer to visit its communities.

The reef itself is beautiful.  The top photo is the reef above water and the rest are below water.

When they get scared or feel threatened, they suck themselves up into their little tubey thing.  These are my favorite shots from this snorkel.  I love the pink and white christmas tree.

Love the pink christmas tree

Love the pink christmas tree

We may not have access to all of the holiday trimmings, but seeing these sweet christmas trees brightened my holiday season!

Events from this blog post occurred around the 1st week of December, 2020.  Our blog posts run 8 weeks behind our adventures.