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2019 Rocked!

Well 2019 was certainly a spectacular year for the crew of Dazzler. It started off with a bang as our dear friends, Jack & Mary flew in from the states to join us on a three week road trip around New Zealand. We covered a whole lot of ground making it all the way down to Queenstown and back to Whangarei and we saw many wonderful sites along the way.

That trip ended and we were off to the states for a month to visit friends and family in California and Florida. Yes, having family on both coasts makes for a lot of traveling but we got it all in and still had time for a little sightseeing along the coast of California where Jilly got to see hundreds of Elephant Seals up close on the beach in San Simeon.

FIRST TO CALIFORNIA

THEN TO FLORIDA

After seven long weeks of traveling we returned to Dazzler who was on the hard. There was no time to rest as Dan got to work immediately preparing and painting the bottom as well as working on some other projects like replacing a thru hull and cutlass bearing.

No sooner had we completed all our work and it was time to start provisioning and preparing for the trip back north as our visas were about to expire. At the end of April we cast off our lines and headed back north on the nine-day passage to Tonga where we spent a month traveling the islands. We learned that we really love the Vava’u group of islands the most. And, we especially love the eastern most island of Kenutu. On one side of the island the Pacific Ocean crashes onto the craggily coast with the fury of God and on the other the bay is as flat as glass. It’s spectacular! The Tongan people are very kind and we thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them.

By the end of May we were headed north to Fiji where we spent the next five months. Fiji is a spectacular place! We fully circumnavigated the northern island of Vanua Levu with our German friends Lutz & Gabi on SV SuAn. We visited islands and villages where they had not seen outsiders in years! One village was so excited to have visitors that practically the entire village came to the shore to greet us. It was fabulous to get a chance to visit these remote places and get to know the people there. Most have little to nothing. They live in tiny box like homes with no windows or doors, just cloths hanging over the openings. Most have no furniture to speak of except maybe a mattress on the floor where they sleep. They have community kitchens that are usually set up in the middle of the village and all cooking is done over open fires.

The villagers live on the fish they catch and eat the hogs, goats and chickens they raise. The have some solar power that is provided by the government and their fresh water is collected from the rain. These people have virtually nothing but we can tell you this…we’ve never met more genuine, honest, hardworking and selfless people in the world. If we’d have asked they would have given us, total strangers, the last of their fruits or vegetables and never once asked for a thing in return. It was quite humbling to get to know these fine people.  Each village we visited we had the same experience. In fact, in one village the Chief had his son, Soniala take us on several hour hike up to Tavora falls while his wife, Elizabeth, fixed us a huge lunch to have when we returned.

We visited the island of Makogai where they grow clams as big as humans! This island was once a Leper Colony where people with Leprosy from all over the world were brought to spend the remainder of their days. It’s now a marine conservation station where they grow coral and giant clams and even sea turtles to release back into the wild. We enjoyed several wonderful days here. We found some electrical items, line, clothes and other things on Dazzler that we donated to the village. We also gave the kids a brand new volleyball. They loved that! Dan played volleyball and soccer with them for several hours while I enjoyed the afternoon chatting with the ladies and learning about their culture. We intend to return here next season to spend a week or two helping in the village.

After a month of traveling Vanua Levu we headed west toward Vitu Levu, the Mamanucas and the Yasawas. WOW! What absolutely stunning islands and waters we experienced here. There were places we could see the bottom 200’ below us!

We spent a significant amount of time at the island of Malololailai also known as Plantation Island. There are three resorts on the island and one, Musket Cove, is particularly popular with cruisers as it has a marina and their famous Island Bar. The bay here is well protected and they have very strong moorings as well. We spent so much time here because Dan had to go back to the states for his youngest daughter’s wedding and I was left on the boat for 16 days. If a girl has to be left alone someplace this isn’t a bad spot at all.

Don’t worry, I wasn’t alone the entire time. I had my friend Donna fly in from New Zealand for ten days. Donna and I enjoyed our “girl time” on the boat. Donna isn’t really a boater so teaching her to get in and out of the dinghy and how to conserve water and power aboard was a bit tricky but all worked out swimmingly.

Once Dan returned from the states we took off for the Yasawa Island Group. These are the northwestern most islands in Fiji and also the most beautiful. We visited several islands and met some incredible villagers. We happened into the village at Noboro Pointe on the only day of the year that they hold their church fundraiser. What a wonderful experience this was for us. All three villages on the island gathered together. The goal for them was to raise $21K FJD. This is equivalent to the salary of two people working at a resort for one year. That’s a lot of cha ching for people who make between $100-$300 FJD per week. ($50-$150 USD)

We were treated to a kava ceremony to celebrate them reaching their goal. It was by far the largest one we’ve ever attended with forty or more people sitting on the woven mat drinking kava. It was an exciting and very enlightening day for us. We were honored to be a part of this special day and can’t wait to return next year.

Before we knew it the time had come for us to leave all of our dear Fijian friends and head back here to New Zealand. This is a passage that neither of us was really looking forward to making. You see this passage is known to be one of the toughest in the world. You pass through an area where the Coral Sea, Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean all meet. This makes for some pretty interesting weather systems and often times turbulent seas. Sailors who have made this passage all say the same thing… “This is not a pleasure cruise. This is a get there safely as quick as you can passage.” Just prior to our departure two sailboats sank making the passage. One was just south of Fiji and the other off the northern cape of New Zealand. In that sinking a man lost his life.  As you can imagine we just wanted to get it done.

Our eleven-day passage was, at times, filled with rough weather and more than half of the trip was fraught with issues including a large wave that crashed over the top of us literally swamping the entire cockpit sending water down the companionway. 

On three different occasions we had to heave to in order to work on the water lift silencer which ended up with several holes and a large crack. The first night we were bobbing in the sea in the middle of the night while Dan tried to diagnose the issue. At one point we lost all power, which really freaked me out. I had visions of the Navy coming to rescue us. As it turns out Dan accidentally hit the kill switch. He thought it was hilarious. Me….not so much. Thanks to an amazing little product called Minute Mend Dan was able to patch up the unit and make it work to get us to New Zealand. 

And let’s not forget the leaking jury can full of diesel fuel that we dealt with in the middle of the night or the leaking chain plate that allowed water intrustion into our lockers. Or, there’s my absolute favorite…the morning I was catapulted off the head with the seat attached to my bum as I slammed face first into the head door. Yes, this was quite a trip.

By day eight we were both exhausted and ready for our passage to end. Seems God must have sensed our exhaustion and blessed our final three days with amazing sailing and beautiful weather. We arrived in Marsden Cove Marina almost exactly eleven days to the minute from when we left Momi Bay in Fiji. I could have kissed the dock and probably would have if it hadn’t had bird poo all over it!

We now have the boat tied up at Whangerie Town Basin Marina. Dan has been working on many projects not the least of which was to replace the exhaust lift silencing unit, fix the leak at the chain plate and rebuild two teak hatches in the cockpit.

Of course we have taken a little time to enjoy being back in New Zealand. Our Thanksgiving was simply spectacular. We made a full Thanksgiving dinner on Dazzler which is quite the feat in a galley that’s only about three foot square. We enjoyed a wonderful day of laughter, family, food, drink and music with our wonderful German friends from SV SuAn and SV Rebell. Dan played his ukulele and I played my Irish tin whistle. If we couldn’t be with our blood relatives this was the next best thing. As we like to say, “ We had an American Thanksgiving in New Zealand with our German family!”

We spent Christmas in Auckland with our Kiwi family there. We had three lovely and relaxing days of family time and even met another wonderful new couple who have become the newest addition to our Kiwi family. Jilly got the new Huawei P30 Pro phone that has a 40 MP camera so you’ll see a lot of really great photos in the future. (Note the difference of the ones below) Dan got a custom made, hand-carved flagpole created for him by Macu, a wonderful Fijian carver from the Lau group of islands. Of course he says it’s too nice to put out in the elements so it’s become a beautiful piece of art that is displayed below deck on Dazzler.

Now that the holidays are about over it’s time to get back to work. Dan’s working feverishly on varnish while I’m working very hard on our Book Buying Fundraiser for the children on the remote islands of Fiji. During our travels to the remote villages of Fiji we were blessed to get to know many of the families and tons of children. On Kia Island when we visited they let the kids out of school early for their afternoon meal to visit with us. Two of the young ladies grabbed me by the hand and rushed me across the lawn to see their new library. It is a wooden building about 20’ x 10’. I could smell the freshly cut lumber and new paint. These girls, about 13 or so, were so excited to show me their new library but as we walked in I immediately noticed that the beautiful wooden bookshelves were virtually empty. I broke my heart!

More and more kids came pouring into the library. Each was as excited as the next to tell me all about it and how everyone in the village participated in building it. Still I kept looking at the empty shelves. Later Dan and I spoke with Epeli, the headmaster, who told us that reading books are what they need most. It seems the Fijian government provides textbooks, paper and pencils but no reading books. Before we left we asked the kids what they would like us to bring back to them when we return next year. Each and every child replied, “BOOKS!” They could have asked us for anything else in the world but all they asked for were books. As we visited more villages along the way we heard this same request over and over from the children. 

This experience touched us both very deeply and we made a pledge that we will  return to these villages next season with as many books as we can buy and carry. As of today we’ve raised $1405 USD which brings us just short of 50% of our goal but we’re not done yet. We will continue to take donations through March 1stand we truly believe we will get there with the help of our fans, friends and families.

If you’d like to help us help the kids of Fiji, please CLICK HERE to make a donation

Well, that’s about all from the Sovereign Nation of Dazzler. If you want to see some photos of our adventures be sure to check out our Dazzler Art Photos & Videos Page by CLICKING HERE We’ve recently posted several hundred photos. We’re also working on a book of our travels, which we hope to have ready this year.

We certainly hope you all have a Fabulous and Propersous New Year!

Cheers,

Jilly & Dan

P.S. Grape Ape also had the time of his life this year. He is growing rather quickly and acts much like a teenager wanting to spend more time exploring on his own than hanging out with us but then that’s kids for ya. He does enjoy riding in the dinghy when we pull it behind the boat though. He loves his Uncle Lutz of SV SuAn and he’s made quite a few new friends this year. He’s looking forward to seeing what 2020 has in store.

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Going Home!

The last few months have literally flown by…actually, the last year seems to have come and gone in a matter of moments. We’ve spent a little over three months here in La Cruz preparing for the Puddle Jump to the South Pacific later this month. There have been numerous projects and preparations since our arrival but one important thing for both Dan and I was getting home to see our families before we depart. With his family on the West Coast and mine on the East, it’s quite a task. As much as we both would have liked to visit each place, time simply did not allow it so I headed back home to Florida in January and after I returned, Dan took off for California.

It had been nine months since I’d been home and my mother consistently asked when I was going to make it back. Each time I’d tell her, “I don’t know but we are working on it.” One afternoon as I was talking with her she said she had a dream that she went to the door and there I stood. She got a little emotional telling me that. Of course, the Hasty women do have a tendency to get a little sentimental at times. Anyhow, it was that day when I began to hatch my plan.

Since time was moving so quickly I had to finally give her a date of my arrival. What she didn’t know is that I told her I was coming in on a Thursday when I was actually arriving that Tuesday! Of course Dan kept warning me that at mom’s age this surprise could result in a heart attack but I decided to do it anyway.

My dear friends, Connie and Jay, picked me up at Tampa International Airport late in the evening on Tuesday. They are two of the greatest friends you could ever have. They are always the ones who pick me up or drop me off and unfortunately the flights to Puerto Vallarta are never at convenient times. But, God bless them, they never fail to be there.

~Ricky2It was truly wonderful to see my friends after so long. We talk on the phone often but to be able to chat face to face is the best. And, these are the amazing people who adopted my dog, Lyla and my cat, Ricky T. McHopper, Bigfoot, Bushy Tail, Stink Butt, Silver Streak, Love Kabob, Green Monster, Schnadoodler, Big Kahuna, Fuzzy Footed Sleepster with the bright eyes. Yeah…he hates signing that name! Anyway, they adopted these loves of my life and have given them an amazing home. Since my plan arrived so late we went back to their house where I spent the night. We would surprise Mama in the morning.

~LylaWhen we arrived at their house they had me open the door. Lyla came running around the corner, looked up at me and literally stopped in her tracks. It took her a couple of seconds to realize it was really me standing there and then she went nuts. Lyla is part Hound Dog, part Labrador and she can get up a nice little howl when she’s wants to. It was truly awesome to hear her voice again. She and I had been through a lot in the seven years I had her. I was just happy she remembered who I am. Now, Ricky, on the other hand, wasn’t quite as happy to see me. I had to seek him out. It didn’t matter though…I was with my babies and my best friends.

The following morning we got up, had coffee on the back patio overlooking the Manatee River and then got ready for the big surprise. The plan was that we would go to Mom’s and Jay would go to the door. He’d tell her Connie had an accident and he wanted to show her what she did to the car. We would be standing in the driveway waiting. Well, you know what they say, “If you want to see God laugh, tell him your plans.”

Mom wasn’t home! Fortunately I still have my key so Jay moved the car to the neighbor’s house, we let ourselves in, made a cocktail and waited. It’s rare that Mom goes out for long and everyone knew I was going to surprise her so they wouldn’t have invited her out that day. She always parks the care in the garage so we were certain we’d hear the garage door go up, but, we were wrong. Here we were sitting in her living room and all of the sudden we hear her hand not he doorknob. I almost knocked Connie down trying to get out of her line of sight.

Now Mom wouldn’t think a thing about Jay or Connie being there. Jay is consistently coming over to help her with things. So he just stood up while Connie and I race to the kitchen doorway. We waited until she opened then door and out I popped! I can’t remember ever seeing my mother so surprised. I wish we had gotten the first couple of seconds on video because it was priceless but here’s a clip of what we did get.

 

As long as I live I will never forget the look on her face when she saw me. Needless to say, the surprise was a complete success!

Of course what does one do after surprising their mother? Head to Duffy’s Tavern for a burger and some beers, of course. Now if you ever get to Bradenton, Florida you HAVE to stop here. They are on Anna Maria Island and Peggy, the owner, is awesome. I promise you will not be disappointed. We’ve been going here since her mother owned it in the early 70’s and there is no place better on the island!

Mom, Connie, Jay and I had a wonderful afternoon. It was truly wonderful to be back with my family and friends again.

From that point on my trip seemed to fly by. My sister, Julie, came down from Palm Coast for the weekend and we celebrated my great nephew’s second birthday. There were lunches, dinners, parties and get togethers. When you’ve lived someplace for so long you know everyone and it’s really hard to see them all in the space of a week but I certainly tried!

Friends of ours on Delta Swizzler went home over the holidays and I learned of a great idea from them. I set up a day and time that I would be at a local pub and put the word out. This way, anyone who really wanted to see me could pop in and we’d have a few drinks together. This worked out great and kept me from doing any additional running about. Honestly, being there was exhausting!

I was fortunate that I was able to see the most important people and pets in my life while I was there and I got to spend a great deal of time with Mom. We had a truly wonderful visit and before I knew it the time had gone and I was leaving.

As I said earlier we are a tiny bit sentimental in our family so I was prepared for a bucket full of tears the morning I left. After all, it will be a long time before I see my mother again. Interestingly enough there were just a few. I think Mom probably shed a few more after I left but she held tough in front of me. Thanks Mom!

Jilly & Dan La CruzOne thing I realized while I was there is that Bradenton is no longer my home. To some degree I felt like a stranger there. Sure I have lots of friends and family and it was terrific to see them but the entire time I was there I was thinking of how much I wanted to be back on Dazzler with Dan. This is where my home is now and I couldn’t be happier!

Until next time…

Jilly