Captain Franck Louis Ibanez, 1963 Libra/Year of the Rabbit
The French belief one cannot say the word “Lapin” (Rabbit) when you are on board a boat/ship, its bad luck. But this rabbit I know loves the sea. He does not get seasick, does night watches by himself during ocean crossing (I have relieved him on a few occasions; he is not superman!) still he must have eyes made of steel. I have witness him going without sleep for quite a few hours straight. Plus, he can eat anytime, anywhere in any condition in the boat. I would say its good luck for me as a crew/cook to have such a rabbit on board. Still, we are careful. This captain is prone to back problems and twisting his neck muscle either sleeping on the wrong side of pillows or raising the main sail manually; or during rough playing with the girls or during his morning exercise on deck. He knows now after a few minor injuries how to take it easy.
He loves diving (without a tank he could go 18 meters and more when he was younger). He loves spear fishing for me - to keep me happy. If you want to hear a French man swear in French you got to live in Constante Singapore for a few months or years. He could be changing the oil in the engine room, polishing, cleaning the hull, transferring the dinghy engine from the boat onto the dinghy during rough weather or dealing with Julie’s spilled pee. My goodness, you can imagine the kind of French I speak now. Not forgetting the girls are now at an age of imitating our language. Incredible! “P@#$ T@#” “Merde!”
His other duties to name a few, include showering the girls, shopping for spare parts for the boat when necessary, checking fuel prices, entertaining the girls while I run to the supermarket, gathering photos for the website, and the hunt for fresh water. Finally, besides managing the sails, checking the instruments and engine, he has to sometimes not forget to throw the “green octopus big hook looking lure” into the sea to catch a fresh fish to cheer the wife up when she is all green, weak and pale from the seasickness. He loves this lifestyle, don’t even try to change his mind.
Cook/Crew 1 Wang Meng Ngee, 1969 Scorpio/Year of the Rooster
Well, wouldn’t want to call myself a chef knowing that many of my friends back home are great cooks in big hotels and restaurants. But hey, since cruising I have learned how to bake bread, cakes, pie crust, baked fish, stews all from scratch, chopping cutting and no bread-maker machine. And thanks to my mother’s Asian stir-fry and rice and pasta. It’s always a hit when friends come to eat on board. Laundry-ha! BY HAND. Have to admit Thailand we were lucky. They charged by the kilos. In some places, they charged by the number of pieces and size of each piece; so we used our fingers. When there is no everyday restaurant, washing machine, dishwashing machine, vacuum cleaner, childcare centers, maids; you can just imagine what our life on the boat is. Yes, I say OUR life because the captain, me and the girls we are all involve. It becomes our routine and part of everyday life. Cleaning, washing, shopping, cooking and eating. No stopping. I am tired sometimes. The only time I have peace and quiet is when the “three active attention seeking monkeys” are asleep. I can breathe, I can write and I can read.
So, what do I like? I like food obviously. The problem is when one is sea sick; you don’t feel like eating or cooking for at least 2-3 days. When the cook recovers, everyone is eating regularly again. Say goodbye to white bread with peanut butter, biscuits and canned food. I like shopping for food for my family during this trip because it can be a challenge. In some countries it is hard to find things. Then, I have to be the creative mother/cook and start to improvise and modify the dishes; and hope that the crew can’t taste the difference. So far, Carmen is a difficult one to please. Nothing escapes her taste buds. She can differentiate the taste of various chocolates, fresh bread and fresh fish. She refuses when it is the generic brand of nutella. It has to be fresh and original. What a princess!
So my job is to provision food for at least 3 months, check the medicine cabinet, update the toys and books for the girls, buy some new movies occasionally, and find special items to make my crew happy when we are on shore - for example, ICE CREAM!
Besides being a mother/cook, I have to be a deckhand helper to the captain at times. Hopefully, I will somehow learn how to drive the dinghy steadily before Carmen and Julie. Some duties on the boat include pulling some sails (if I can), tie fenders (if I can get the knot to go the right direction), drop and lift the anchor (don’t worry we have an electric anchor winch only a push of a button. Good exercise for my thumb!) And helping the captain to look out for coral heads at the bowsprit when we are near atolls or approaching islands. (So this whole romantic “Titanic” scene with arms widespread open and flying without getting a single splash of salt water on your face; is not so on board Constante Singapore’s bowsprit) I am shouting “left –right- no stop wait! Turn – I said turn –reverse –what? You can’t hear me, oh yes I need to turn my head” and still trying to see after turning my head if there is something on my right or left. Meanwhile, if it’s starting to rain, I get wet and cold, raindrops beating on my eyes. And for some reason, waves of salt water always decide to splash onto me when I am standing near the bow spread. Great! How wonderful is this life! All salty and rough looking. Forget about make-up and trying to look elegant and pretty.
I can’t dive deep, I am afraid of sharks - any big sea creatures or anything slimy I squirm, I get seasick and homesick. I am beginning to miss my bass and piano, but with all that said; I love to travel on board this magic carpet. Rocking and rolling as it is, we have all our amenities on board; beats paying a fortune for a seat on the plane, queuing and squeezing in crowded airports or ferries, sitting beside someone sneezing all the way and getting the bug upon arrival, packing luggage for 4 people, missing luggage upon arrival, unable to sleep well during the ride, expensive cab rides, uncomfortable cheap hotel beds and unhealthy oily microwave food. On board our boat everything remains the same.
So I guess something good somehow someday will come out of this rocking and rolling. “I have to suffer to truly grasp the essences of great things in life” as the captain always remark. Ay-ay-captain!
Crew 2 Carmen Huili Ibanez, 2004 Cancer/Year of the Monkey
If Carmen can write this is what she will write:
My parents are … different. So it’s no wonder I am different too. They keep telling their friends that I don’t speak a word, especially my French papa, and my Mandarin mama. But really what’s the BIG DEAL. I only like to speak when necessary. As long as I have my favorite movies, nutella, Oreo cookies, ham, egg with Soya sauce and rice egg, milk, water, toys, books, fresh fish when papa is lucky, chicken if any, bananas, ice-cream, coke and sprite (When my parents allow me to drink without stopping me every 2 seconds), swimming when it’s hot, get to sleep when I want to-what else more does a 4 year old girl need? But, there is always a but; I am starting to miss this place call school. I like this school when we arrive at the island called La Digue in Seychelles. There were so many toys and kids running around the playground. Now that we have left, I don’t miss it. After all, I have plenty of time for school what’s the rush? Right now, I play, play and play with my sister of course Julie! She’s cool but sometimes she drives me nuts and she is growing bigger and taller. What happen to the baby that was sleeping in the small portable bath tub? I like to be first to get off the dinghy and boat and nowadays she is fighting to go first too. I wish sometimes she would just listen to me.
As annoying and nagging they are, I miss them when I don’t see them. My maman comes back with my favorite food every time she returns from food shopping. She would walk towards us calling us as we are swinging the swings in the playground with papa, and I would run towards her and say “Maman-I miss you.” Julie is running after me. I want to hug her legs and not let her go. I do the same when papa returns after a few hours of disappearing. He somehow returns with a big fish, some new stories, new navigation routes, or new friends for us. My papa is brave and my maman is careful.
Recently, I start to vomit when the boat is rocking and rolling a bit too hard and raining outside. It has happened twice to me. Now I just walk to the bucket, pick it up and put my head down towards it and wait. First, I press my stomach and whine a little, sometimes I cry and walk to my mother for a hug. She strokes my head and holds me tight, I feel better already. I don’t know why this funny feeling in my tummy and suddenly it’s like a wave rushing out of my throat. That wave contains a mix of what I ate before, milk, some bits of rice or biscuits and it smells bad! After the wave comes out I feel better almost immediately. During the last trip, I did not vomit but went to sleep instead. It’s the best medicine for me. I hate medicine and I hate to vomit. But that’s my only passport to meeting new friends and seeing “live” animals. I love farm animals, wild animals, sea animals and all kinds of animals. My favorite is to take 2 toy animals and sometimes a family of toy horses and I make conversation and stories, like a puppet show in the movie “The Sound of Music”. Sometimes I sing and dance. I like to draw and color too. I like markers but it gets messy and papa takes them away and gives us crayons instead. My papa says I am a good swimmer and diver for my age. My parents enjoy listening to my imitation of animal sounds, especially horses, roosters, a fierce eagle, whistles, donkeys and pigs. It makes them laugh. I love to run and gallop. I can do that all day.
I can almost drive the dinghy if my papa lets me. Sometimes my papa forgets the order of starting the dinghy engine and I have to show him. When he has trouble starting I show him where the pump is so he can pump more petrol in for the engine to start. I love to row the dinghy too but I need to have longer arms and bigger muscles.
To conclude I like to say adults are strange. First of all, they have to speak different language, why can’t they just stick to one common language like English – all English or French- all French. They have to force me to become bi-lingual or better yet recently someone ask my mum if I am tri-lingual. Do I speak Mandarin?
Second of all, every adult I meet they ask me the same question – “What is your name?” And then I reply : “My name is Carmen.” If I don’t answer, my papa tells them “Oh she does not speak.” Ya right papa. I am not in a mood to always answer what is obvious. The funniest is sometimes the adult say : “Carmen, what is your name?” Now, didn’t you just say my name? So why are you asking?
The next question, my mum taught me “How old are you?” I am suppose to say “I am 3 years old” now suddenly a few days ago she tells me “No Carmen you are 4 years old now. You just blew your birthday cake remember?” Say “I am 4 years old” so I reply “My name is Carmen” that drove my maman nuts! Now, why can’t she make up her mind, am I 3 or 4 years old? What has it got to do with the cake?
I always get the next one right. “Where do you live?” I say “Boat!” (with the “t” sound at the end) “I live in a boat!” “Bravo” my papa will say, because he wants all of us to like the boat. Don’t ask me what Julie thinks of all this. Her answer to all questions now at 2 years old is : “My name is Julie!” She always has it easier because she is the younger one.
Crew 3 Julie Huichun Ibanez, 2006 Aquarius/Year of the Dog
If Julie can write, she will write this :
I am the youngest on board, maybe the youngest Singaporean to ever sail around the world. One day, if I want to know the answer, I will find out. I love my family. They are my everything. Without them, I will be alone. I love the movies my parents pick for me. Recently, there is this movie where an elephant jumps off the mountain and splashes into the lake in the forest landing face down in full force, and then he swims the back stroke. His action is hilarious and I always burst out laughing when I watch that scene. His name is Horton. My mum says the book is for children and it has been made into a colorful movie for children. I like this and could watch it day and night, night and day. Like the movie “Finding Nemo” I must have seen it a million times. When the wind is blowing hard or if the engine starts, papa says we can watch movies. Carmen and I are always waiting for the right moment.
Not long ago, my papa put some big rubber thing around my both arms and suddenly I can float just like the elephant. I can also swim without sinking. It’s a good feeling to be independent in the water, but I still stay very close to my papa or maman. I don’t like to have the water on my eyes and drink any of the salty water, although now I am starting to acquire a liking to the taste. I suck my hair when it’s salty. It’s rather comforting. Now, I love the beach and the water, they can’t get me to stop even when my lips turn purple and my body starts to shake. I go to maman and say “It’s cold”. She gives me a towel. I love to throw sand and roll around the sand with Carmen my sister. I cannot live without her. Sometimes she is out of my sight and I already miss her. I will call “Carmen! Carmen!” and then she appears “Boo!” We run towards each other and reach out our arms for a big hug and say “I miss you!” I am happy when I see her. When she cries, I try to make her happy. Sometimes she pushes me or hits me or pokes me in the tummy, and my parents come to my rescue especially papa. But now, I learn to fight back, but then, I get the beating from papa. In our family, papa and maman is fair, and there are many rules to follow. When the sea is rough outside, everyone inside. Only papa can go out. When the night approaches, everyone inside, only papa allowed on the cockpit. He wears a special belt so he cannot fall off the boat. We each have one and use them when we want to walk around the deck outside.
I love to eat anything, everything, and anytime; except food that taste spicy and soft. But ice-cream is soft but it’s yummy. We like chocolate! I love everything Carmen likes. I hate medicine too. I don’t vomit. I hate to see Carmen vomit. I feel sad for her and rub her tummy or stroke her hair when she is lying down. I like to dance round and round. Turning is a good feeling and seeing my hair flying is beautiful – it makes me smile.
You know something don’t tell my parents. Carmen and I love to empty the toys out of bags on our bed and not put them back. Sometimes when my mum is tired she will scream at us and tell us to help her. The other thing we like to do is untie the little ropes on the back sail-cover. We are still too short to reach the one in front. We like to untie little knots here and there. It drives my papa crazy. He sometimes thinks maman did a bad job putting the sail cover back properly. But now, he knows and stops blaming maman and yells at us in French. “Je vais me facher!” (I am going to get angry!) And we run away and hide in the bed.
I love to read picture books especially when papa and maman reads to me. Papa says French and maman says English and her weird Mandarin. I get angry and upset because it sounds wrong when she says all the animals in Mandarin. She told me a few times: “one day you will understand and want to speak Mandarin.” I am a parrot now, I love repeating every English and French word the adult speaks and likes to speak in short sentences. “My name is Julie, I am 2 years old, I live in a boat! See you later! Aurevoir Goodbye!”
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