SOMEWHAT DAILY LOG
The log - our log, because I'm writing it, will be more of a journal. Sierra and Greg both have their own page on this site. Greg's will probably be a combo log, weather and racing - I mean progress report. Sierra's, I honestly never know what to expect from that girl. I will attempt to bring you with complete candidness the wonderful, the miserable, the fun and the weird. You want to know, ask.
I can delay no longer or there will be a certain mutiny by absentee. My dear and crazy friend Marlene came to Grenada to spend my birthday week with us. We had a hysterical week, she wrote the log for that week and I must post it now even though it is out of sequence – it looks like you won’t be reading the final pages of the Greetings Log until after we are home anyway. Enjoy our week…
Wednesday, January 28, 2009 Grenada, West Indies
January 28-February 4, 2009 by Marlene Nielsen
On January 7th when I came out of my anesthesia stupor from my rotator cuff surgery, the first thing I did, of course, was check my e mail. Wow, a rare gem had arrived; an e mail from Teri, last heard from in Kuala Lumpur or some weird place at 3 am my time over a year ago!!! Did I want to meet them in Grenada at the end of January? I told her I had a broken wing (shoulder surgery) the day before and would have to think about it. We then e mailed back and forth until she convinced me that I would be well enough, it would be easy enough, she would look after me and it would be a great place to recuperate. That having been said I made the decision and wrote back “I’M COMMMMMINGGG”, to which Greg replied “oh baby, oh baby”…Who could resist and invitation like that? After determining what I would need to bring I asked if there was anything they were missing from home that I might get for them. Greg wanted “red vines” and Teri wanted “heath bars”. So, on Wednesday the 28th I boarded my flight out of Miami, to arrive in Grenada at 9:30 or so that evening. I asked Teri if they would be meeting me at the airport to which she replied “ha, I hope you are not expecting an airport…more like a landing strip and it’s a good thing you are arriving in the dark”! I arrived on time, left wing in a sling, dragging along 4 pounds of red vines and 4 pounds of heath bars…what a gal pal! The first time I went to the “head” I got my fingernail caught in the slot to the tp compartment. Boy did I get my first lesson in sailing. That and “don’t use too much tp” …great..Now I have to have wee wee hands for a week. I have since decided how much tp is enough; how much is too much; and how much I am going to use! The next thing I hear is how I have to write the LOG!!! I must be nuts and should have stayed home.
Greetings is much larger in the photos and much cozier, charming, immaculate (this is T’s home after all) and fabulous in person. She greeted me with all her grace and beauty and I was thrilled. I even had my own sea cave complete with a fan, a pumping toilet and a slab for sleeping….the stars shine over your head but don’t sit up to fast…the ceilings are a tad low. I settled into my suite and we opened the candy and talked and drank till one am. I did not sleep well at all. LOL
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Today we toured the island…well we toured about 2 square miles of it. Teri is the driver. Need I say more? Two control freaks in one vehicle was interesting, to say the least. Steering wheel on the right, driving on the left, the roads are about 6 feet wide, for both cars, and the taxis fly by even over the multiple “speed bumps”. Oh, and not to forget the machete toting men wandering up the road, people just standing in the road staring and not moving (kind of reminds me of Callie), goats hanging at the very edge of the road by their tethers, amaziningly brilliant dogs that wait to cross the road, I swear…one was even waiting at a roundabout checking left and right to cross, they even hang out on the retaining walls along the side of the road. There were literally hundreds of dogs…waging tails, sleeping, wandering…and they were all adorable, sweet, and non threatening. There is generally a small moat on one side that the taxis are bound and determined to make you go into…it’s ugly to say the least. “Keep your bud in the mud” as Sierra would say….was the mantra of the day. It was exhausting to be a passenger…worse to be the driver. Anyway, we were checking out places to sail and anchor to but mostly we were looking for a supposedly “best restaurant” in the area that had been recommended by a cruiser we spoke with when we stopped for our first Carib brewski at about 10 am. We found the restaurant at about 2 pm…it was less than 2 miles away. Needless to say, the restaurant at that point, because we were starving was good, but not that good. We passed the entry to it about 4 times in each direction! Everyone kept saying “you can’t miss it” about everything. Take the concrete road..ooookkkkkk. We took every concrete road we saw. Greg wanted to go to the rum distillery. We passed that about 6 times also, because everyone kept saying “you can’t miss it”…no perception of time or distance was ever given. There are absolutely NO signs. Just “you can’t miss it”. We finally found the distillery, which had no tours available, bought some rum and got back on the road.
Accidentally we found one of our destinations, “Laura’s Herb Garden”. They were closing in fifteen minutes but she said it was ok for us to take the tour for 2 us dollars each. It was beginning to rain so the guide Hazel Ann gave us 2 umbrellas for the three of us and one for herself. It was the highlight of our long day and probably hers too because by that time we were in rare form. The path was covered with nutmeg shells, like a yellow brick road of crunch. We meandered down the path where she would pull samples of various herbs from the bush and give us each a piece to smell and identify. It was so cool and she was very knowledgeable. At one point she gave us all something, maybe thyme, and as I crumbled it into my palm and took a snort, most of it went right up my porthole nostrils. We laughed, I sneezed and she was doing all she could not to burst out laughing in my face! We definitely got our money’s worth here.
We finally got back after our 8 hour trip to nowhere. Well, almost nowhere. I read my e mail from Maestro (my 7 year old Maltese at home). Thanks Peg for taking such good care of him! Hung out, played rummy cube and went to bed early. I did not sleep well but I did take an ice pack to bed with me and that was a bit cooling. I am used to heat, for sure, but I am also an air condition QUEEN! It rained most of the night on and off.
Friday January 30, 2009
Teri gets us up at 5 am. She is tedious. She doesn’t exactly tell you to get up; she just bangs around everywhere until you get up. Actually she was up about 3 am, I could see her face illuminated in the light of the computer screen. It rained all morning…, and I mean rained. A late storm for the “dry” season. We decided to go to “Patrick’s” for lunch…A place recommended by the “produce” guy who comes by the boat every morning hawking his wares. We would NEVER have gone there on our own. But he didn’t open until noon…so we hung around all morning, antsy to get out, playing rummy cube until it was time to go. It was still raining! Now Patrick’s was a unique place to eat. The little purple run down house on the road had 2 tables on the porch, and 2 tables inside. No one was in sight…we called out and Patrick peeked over the door to the kitchen said he was open and we chose outside even though it was still raining and windy. It seemed like the choice table in the house. It was so funny, he had these window shutters that the glass was half covered in the purple paint meant for the trim. The porch was held up by a brace that had never been attached to the roof…the rain barrier was a piece of clear plastic attached with clothespins. Charming….and the food was WONDERFUL. There were no menus…he wipes the table, which has a lovely white table cloth, covered by a long stick to yours legs plastic sheet. Then he brings out these cool plastic placemats with all kinds of sea urchins on them, turns the Christmas plates face down and brings out the utensils with the napkin artistically arranged between the tines of the fork. Do you want something to drink? We all say sure, what do you have and he says fresh rum punch. We all opted for the punch. Holy s**t….it was like 180 proof rum with a few cubes of ice, lots of rum, some pink juice of some sort and fresh ground nutmeg on top. It was over the top…Teri; the driver opted out so Greg and I were forced to drink hers as well. So we are waiting, and waiting, and waiting…and he never comes back. Ok, island time…no problem mon. At some point Teri tells him she is vegetarian and he tells her…no problem mon. Eventually he appears with 3 cups of the best veggie soup we ever had! He places them on top of the upside down Christmas plates. Very convenient. After soup another 20 minutes go by. Mind you we never ordered anything..no choice, just sit back and wait. He ends up bringing out small portions of TWENTY different local foods from pumpkin, bread fruit, lambi (conch), ginger pork, flying fish, crab, curry beef, swordfish, soy nibblers, fried bananas, chicken…and on and on and on…OMG! Everything was so flavorful and we ate heartily for sure. At the end he brings out this old one gallon Gallo wine jug with one shot glass, because no one else said they would have an after dinner drink but me…ha! The bottle was full of twigs, sticks, leaves just short of having a frog in there, it was weird. The liquid was of course 250 proof rum this time. Greg and I had 2 shots; the driver couldn’t even smell it!
The rain had let up mostly by this time so Teri decided that today, since she now had two intoxicated passengers, it would be a good time to go all the way around the island…Ruby, Patrick’s bf said 2 hours…no problem! Four and a half hours later we had actually made our way around the entire island, passing through all the little villages, the fishing village with the Friday night fish fry (which we had to pass on after that huge lunch) and took some interesting photos and appreciated the lush foliage of the island, the dogs, the goats, the people in the road, the machete toting wandering men, the flying by taxis which make continuous stops to pick up and drop off passengers, and the multiple and I mean multiple speed bumps that made my wing scream. Finally we arrive back at Greetings and I have no desire whatsoever to go to the “regatta party” in our marina. I did not sleep well despite the cocktails and drugs.
Saturday January 31, 2009
Rise and shine!!! Geez it is about 6 am and Teri is making breakfast! Cheesy eggs, crisp (and I mean crisp) toast and the best tomatoes I have had in years. I have no idea what we did. Oh yeah, we went to Market. The highlight of the morning, other than all the produce, people, spices, smells of ganja and sights we saw, was the fresh fish market. Don’t get to close to the vendor. They cut this fish with machetes and clubs…Lots of fish bits fly around landing on you but no one else seems to notice or mind. Well…Yummy, a great looking tuna lay in the tray minding its business. The fishmonger had this beautiful piece we wanted but told us it was sold. I mean it was PERFECT by Teri standards.. So we asked for another just like that one. NOPE NO CAN DO.. so we said, ok, another like that. NOPE…we are like “what’s up with you”? She cut us a piece of 3 pounds as requested. Ok, so here’s the deal. They take this very sharp machete, cut a slice and then they take this huge club and hit the machete until it cuts through the fish. They don’t care if fish bits land on you as they club/machete this fish. She cuts the piece and then with a straight face says to Teri “do you want a bag?”!!!! We were all taken back, but she wasn’t kidding. Yes we want a bag for this wet hunk of fish. We laughed a while and that became the phrase of the day. After market, we went to Grand Anse beach, supposed to be the best. We got three chairs for 2 hours for 15us dollars. What a deal. The ganja smoking entrepreneurs accosted us the minute we put our feet on the sand. We really had no choice, so…we went with the flow. Teri and Greg ordered French fries and three beers…I ate their French fries. We walked down the beach to observe the Sailing Festival that we had no idea was the happening event of the weekend. Suddenly a typical tropical squall came upon us and we quickly guzzled the beers and scarfed the French fries and made our exit. Went to the grocery store in the rain and got all kinds of good stuff to round out our provisions. Snacks, cocktails and rummy cube completed the night. I think I might have won my first game!
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Rose early and planned to go to church????? Ok, I opted out and we did laundry instead. Picture this, a washing machine comes up from the belly of the boat and gets hooked up. We do laundry, and get ready to leave the St. George Marina. No more internet, we are going to really rough it from here. We set sail for Hog’s Island, which took about an hour or so and found a great little spot to drop anchor.
Later that day Greg had the dingy out and was cleaning the boat and doing whatever he does and he pulled up along side the boat; Teri was down below doing whatever it is she does and I was up on the porch and decided to do a test run on the dingy embarkation. So I go over to Greg and I say, let’s do a test of me getting in the dingy. Ok, he says…so I sat on the swim step, put my legs in the dingy. Greg was on my left, the side of my 3 week old shoulder surgery (which the doctor told me to be very very cautious with any movement…supposed to be in a sling at all times for 4 more weeks) and I was now trying to lift my ass up from the swim step into the dingy using just one hand. Unfortunately, my ass was waaayyyy to heavy to be lifted up with just one arm. It would be like doing one handed pushups!!! No way…As I lifted up on the good side, with my legs in the dingy and my ass still on the boat, I must have pushed the dingy away just a bit. Now my legs in the dingy are rising heavenward, the dingy is moving away, my bad arm, shoulder is on Greg’s side and my ass is slipping into the sea. And we are laughing hysterically. Greg tries to help me…and reaches for the gimpy arm at which point I yell…”my arm, my arm”….which brings Teri flying up the stairs, she sees me in this precarious position would like to grab my head and squeeze just about the exact same moment we all realize…LET HER GO!. So, butt first, folded like a taco shell I slip into the sea. They are beside themselves, I am still laughing hysterically and my hair never even got wet. Teri was PISSED, “What are you two doing, are you crazy I’m shaking, I’m frantic, I hear you two laughing and then I hear Mar screaming…My Arm!” Needless to say, it was the highlight of the day. We cannot recall if alcohol was involved therefore we presume the affirmative. I certainly seemed to have the courage or stupidity to try.
We had a great dinner, salad, “the” hunk of tuna fish and corn on the cob. Delicious…great cook that Teri. They went to bed early; I stayed up and finished my novel about the serial killers and we all slept lousy in a new location; them worrying about the anchor and me hearing the nonexistent “neighbors” up on the deck. Again, the rains came and Teri and Greg are up and down all night opening and closing hatches. I’m the gimp, so I stay out of the way and watch.
Monday, February 2, 2009
We took the dingy out and cruised about checking out the shelling and snorkeling possibilities. We found a little spot we wanted to check out and headed to shore. Just then a “naked man” pops up from under a tree and puts his trunks on. We decided it was too windy to go in and turned around. As we cruised away, he took his trunks off again and settled in to his little piece of solitude. It is now known as Naked Man Beach. We ended up visiting it the next day.
We had egg, cheese and bean burritos for breakfast and hot dogs and beans for me and Greg, and killer pasta salad for dinner, and my famous never made before fried okra. Teri was feeling a bit neglected since it was already the second day into her birthday month and nothing special had happened. She had earlier remarked that if Weeble had been here she would already have started the celebration at midnight. I thought it was the perfect time to bring out the party “stuff”. First the six foot “Happy Birthday Banner”….we hung this in the salon. She was perking up so I brought out the birthday balloons in several great colors, blew them up and hung them across the back porch…Now she is beginning to smile. Next I brought out the noisemakers and we started the party! But, as we were all a bit weary from first night in a new place syndrome, early birthday festivities (I had a killer mix the alcohol headache) we went to bed at SEVEN!!! The strange thing is, I can go to sleep at that time too.
Ok, so about, well who knows what time it was, the first hurricane blew through. OMG, wind, rain and I mean big wind and big rain. The team was up and running, back and forth all night opening and closing the hatches. One minute you could see stars out the hatches and the next minute it was pouring rain in your face….well, not my face. I just have these tiny little slit windows in the cave. I’m glad the big windows were in the front, the rain on Teri’s face would instantly wake her and spring them both into action. That was only the first of two horrendous storms. It is amazing the severity of the weather considering this is the dry season. When I asked what time it was, Teri said 3:30…what a long night.
Tuesday February 3, 2009
We get up at 7. The sky is still a bit cloudy but the storms have passed for the time being. The balloons survived on the back porch. That was my big concern. Lol After breakfast of leftover pasta salad and beans we snoozed and took it easy from the busy night before. Early afternoon decided to take the dingy out and check out Naked Man Island and perhaps do some snorkeling. We made our way over to the beach. A very bouncy ride I might add. It was a veritable smorgasbord of conch shells and sea urchins! The huge sea grape trees with their intricate root and branch system had “trapped” a copious number of conch shells…of which Teri picked and chose her favorites. Plus we had the whole thing to ourselves…naked man was not there. Greg checked out the reef and said it was not really worth the swim. The sea urchins and conch were enough to keep us happy. After a couple of hours or relaxing on the beach we took another bouncy wet ride, laughing and sunburned, back to our home.
I brought out Teri’s next and best so far bday gift. A silver plastic tiara with a blinking gem encrusted butterfly. She has been wearing it ever since. Great score Peggy finding that in Target for 86 cents. We had an assortment of hors d avers for dinner, and for a while were watching some strange goings on over on the shore. Some other boaters were looking very hard in the brush for something waving their flashlights up and down. Of course Greg had to make up some pirate story with machete wielding men that would swim over to the boat and rape and pillage. We watched the stars overhead and went to bed late. It was 8 PM. Every night Teri would put this metal turtle used to burn bug repellent on the top step of the cockpit so that if anyone tried to come on the boat they would make a racket knocking over the metal turtle and alerting us to any intruders. So I’m lying in the sea cave and started thinking about the men on the island. Since mine is the first cabin I got up to check and make sure the turtle was in place on the step. OH MY…my security system was not in place! So, I got up and dug him out and got him settled in on the step for the night. There, now I felt better! In the middle of the night I got up to get my trusty ice pack...it has come in so handy for sore wing, hot nights and tonight to put on my sunburned back. Teri heard me crashing about and got up to put nice cool Solarcaine on my back. It only rained a couple of times and we all managed to get a reasonably good nights rest.
THE BIG BIRTHDAY DAY February 4, 2009
Teri is FIFTY today!!!! We had breakfast biscuits with the best tomatoes in the world, mayo, lettuce and red onion on Teri’s “Your How Old?” birthday plates. We have decided since it is her big day and my last that we will sail about and end up returning to St. George for the night. It will be much easier to get me to the airport for a 9:55 am flight if we don’t have to dingy in with suitcases in the dark. We are now preparing to set sail. We will hop over to Prickly Bay and then to St. George where we will have dinner of fresh mahi mahi, grilled eggplant and whatever else we find to strike our fancy. We have Sara Lee pound cake for our B day cake, sliced strawberries with vanilla ice cream and a bottle of Veuve champagne and of course, I brought the 50 candles. Unfortunately I don’t think Greg had as good a time as we did, as he has come down with a nasty cold.:( We did get in a couple of rummy cube games which I might add I think I won!!! We all turned in about 9 ish with the air conditioning turned on, setting the alarm for six am. Goodnight Grenada and my Birthday girl!
Thursday February 5, 2009
Up early, showered and ready to go. Teri is below making me her famous cheesy eggs for my departing meal. Then she will likely go back to bed! Greg is feeling worse I fear and I will leave him all my travelling medicinal to help with a speedy recovery.
It has been a wonderful week with my friends and one that I certainly will not forget. They have both taken such good care of me (minus the dingy episode of course! Lol) and I am very grateful to have been invited to share in their voyage. I wish them the very best on this, the last leg of their journey. Many laughs and lots of good sailing. Love you my friends. Over and out. Mar.
Leg Four - Going home
Canary Islands - Barbados - Grenada - Bonaire - Cartagena, Columbia - San Blas Islands, Panama - Panama Canal - Costa Rica - Mexico - Catalina Island
June 17th – Brook, my little goat, went home.
14th - Back in Russian Bay off Poros
We enjoyed this quiet cove so much we decided to stay another night or so. In the morning the hills are covered with goats going west, in the late afternoon they traverse east across the sloops of our cove, some just hang out and watch us; we now refer to this cove as Little Goat Cove. Brook does the cutest little goat sound, so I now refer to her as my Little Goat. Little Goat was still wanting to work on her tan so we got out the rafts we picked up in Singapore, convinced Greg he was better at blowing them up then us and spent much of the afternoon floating around, giggling and watching goats.
11 – arrived Idhra
Our guide book stated that it was common for boats to moor in this pretty little port three deep. We luckily arrived just in the knick of time and were the last boat to be able to tie up to the quay, new arrivals would have to back down to our bow, tie off to us and then somehow get from their boat to ours and clamber across us to get to shore. To Brook the whitewashed Greek village built up the hillside in this little fortressed cove was idyllic. She jokingly said it would be a perfect spot if the boat next to us was full of cute guys. Ask and you shall receive, the crew on the adjacent boat returned…an adorable group of rescue pilots for the British Royal Navy.
Around sunset Greg, Brook, Sierra and I were playing games in the cockpit, the pilots next door inquired as to what we were playing, the distance between boats is the thickness of our fenders. We were enjoying a game of Catch Phrase; they thought it sounded like fun and within seconds three boats full of “cute guys” descended on our cockpit each bearing the gift of cheap Greek wine. When we drank all the wine we had and all the wine they brought, our charming neighbors decided it was then time to go into the village and that Brook should go with them. About 5:30 am as the sun was coming up we heard muffled voices and laughter, Brook was home.
9th buzz in and out of Spetsai, went over to Kheil
As we are backing to the quay in the port of Kheil this kid, about Sierra’s age, leaps on board like a flying squirrel and immediately starts telling Greg what to do, how to adjust the lines and in moments is behind the wheel controlling the boat while Greg is following orders. His name was Harry. In a flash he left us to assist another boat that was racing in before the oncoming squall. Harry was back on Greetings within the hour; CD’s in hand, which he promptly, without asking, put into our CD player. Before she knew it, Sierra found herself dancing with Harry. We spent the rest of the stay in Kheil avoiding Harry.
7th Moved on to Poros, Russian Bay
Poros is pretty much what you may picture when dreaming of a Greek village. Shops, waterfront restaurants, inter-connected small whitewashed hillside homes with pretty painted doors, we enjoyed a lovely day here.
5th – Nisos Moni - Aigina
Or what we call Peacock Cove. We didn’t go ashore here but from the boat we could see deer and beautiful peacocks strutting around, squawking with their fabulous tails fanned. In the middle of the night there was a wind shift putting us on a lee shore in a fresh breeze, we pulled anchor and moved about an hour away to Ormos Mouritos. There was not another boat in the cozy cove we choose to spend the remainder of the night. The morning light illuminated huge signs on shore declaring, WARNING, DO NOT ANCHOR ELECTRICAL CABLES – oops.
It’s touring day with the girls! Zea Marina is an interesting 40 minute walk through Piraeus to what I call the transportation district. Here within blocks you can catch a ferry, a bus or a train. We caught a train which whizzed us past upscale trendy neighborhoods, run down buildings covered in graffiti and billboards touting strip clubs before dropping us outside the famous Acropolis.
We were there to greet the Acropolis early yet the crowds were gathering. The scaffolds of restoration and the clicking of hundreds of memory saving cameras could not diminish the beauty of what once was. The four of us stood there enjoying the feeling one gets when in the presence of a famous or long awaited place, concentrating so long and hard the image will never drift from our minds eye. We tried to imagine what the area looked like in its former glory, what the residents wore, how all went so wrong.
We choose to have lunch on a pretty street wide, two block high, curvy irregular staircase. Lining the stair case were cozy restaurants with brightly painted French style windows, small tables with pretty cloths scattered among the uneven stairs, grape vines strung above our heads. I wish you could have been there too, but I wouldn’t recommend what I ordered. Greg and Sierra had meatballs, Brook had a Greek salad; having already had a number of Greek salads I thought I’d go for the grilled Calamari. The waiter passed my plate before my nose and then set it down. The smell was not something I could identify but there was no problem making a visual of the fully intact - it could reason and speak - big eyed, 10 inch squid that lay in front of me.
June 3rd - At 5:40 pm Brook and Sierra were due to arrive in the Athens airport. Of course we were there at 1 pm. I’m quiet sure the only time in my life I have ever been early to an airport is when my girls are flying in. Greg was just as excited to see them as I was so we happily explored the airport and waited. They had to be the last people off the plane and though customs but it sure was great to see their beautiful weary faces.
I’m trying to concentrate and write to you but between the Greek’s yelling at each other on the dock and Greg pulling out his toe nails it is difficult, I don’t have much of an attention span to start with. The toe nails, you are stuck back on the toe nails. Greg with his numerous years of racing and ensuing wet feet had developed infections in several of his toe nails. Finally convinced they are not a badge of honor, just ugly, sought the advice of a chemist (pharmacist) in Oman. The creepy killer he was given worked well but Greg being Greg was too impatient for the new nails to grow in and decided to pull the old ones out. See, Mr. Wonderful is not always so wonderful.
We have only been in Greece a few days but the believed romance of beautiful warm friendly Greece is eluding me. The islands we sailed past to reach Pireaus and the coastline have been disappointedly dry and barren. The people we have encountered with the exception of the one gal in the marina office have been rude and dim. For example, all the men we in countered during our check in process have been at best dim – I assure you I’m being kind. Never before have I experienced anyone that was not sharp and actually fun during check in process. Fortunately Greg was with me when I encountered the guard at the gate to the Port Police office. He was somewhat of a cross between Gomer Pyle and Forest Gumps friend Bubba. After calmly and repeatedly explaining I was a non–EU citizen arriving by yacht from a non-EU country and needed to speak with the port authorities, he asked me in a Bubba drawl, “What you wanna go there for?” I reached for the revolver on his stupid hip just as a vehicle he recognized arrived, he turned his back to greet the driver and I ducked under the security arm – Greg did not hesitate to follow. At every office I was sent to, speaking to an “official” lead to someone being called on the phone for some kind of instruction. We never did get checked into the EU, I gave up trying to be accountable.
Then there were the checkers in both the local grocery stores that were down right mean, not just with me but locals in line too. I was guilty on both occasions of not having exact change but gees it was in the middle of the day in large stores.
We decided we would buy yet another mobile phone*, agreeing it would be handy in contacting marinas throughout the Med and particularly useful when we meet up with Fawn and Righetto in Italy. We were told we could buy a used phone and this was confirmed at the first of three Vodafone stores we visited. Two days we wandered following the instructions of various phone store employees only to end up back at the first store, which was next store to another visited phone store. We purchased a medium priced phone and left the store with our jaws hanging open. There directly across the street from the two phone stores we visited and within 2 blocks of three others was the used phone store! Granted we didn’t notice it when we walked out of the two side by side stores but they looked at it everyday!
Would you like me to continue…?
*We already own 3 that were said to be usable throughout the world, not one of which is actually compatible anywhere but the US and Mexico.
Thursday May 29th
Arrive Greece – Chapel cove
Wednesday 28th, depart for Athens
Sailing to Greece
There is not a cloud in the beautiful blue sky; 18 knots of breeze blows across the beam of our decks, the sails are full and we are making 8 knots. We have thrown open the bimini to refresh our tans while reading good books. Greg starts laughing, “This is what people think we do all the time, little do they know this is our 2 hours of perfect sailing in 2 years”.
27th – Bozuk Buku, Turkey
Cute girl sells us tablecloth – We have checked out of Turkey but could not bear to leave, we’ll anchor one more night. We were not here but hours when this young girl motors over in a skiff with things to sell. We have been bewitched by all that is Turkish, her fresh smiling face offering tablecloths and what-knots made by her and her mother were met with no resistant’s other than the lack of much Turkish lira in our wallets.
Turkey - wine
Sometimes I come across some wines I like out here. I don’t have sophisticated tastes in wine but here is one for you anyway. Turasan brand, it’s Turkish. The label also says Bogazkere 2004 Diyarbakir, from the Cappadocia region. Oh, it’s a dry red. I’ve had a couple others by the same label and all have been inexpensive and good.
I wish I had been keeping track of various good finds along the way just in case they turn up on our local shelves; I’ll look through my scatter of notes.
Ephesus – I had to drive us around today but what a pleasure. Through dense mountain forests occasionally offering peeks of the sea, across open plains of rolling hills bordered by yet another range of majestic mountains. We made a pit stop for some water and a toilet, even that was a pleasure; we were received with smiles, jokes about nothing and bathrooms as clean as my mothers.
We have heard repeatedly we must see Ephesus, and now here we are barreling towards it at 100km/hr plus. Greg’s white knuckles expose the truth beneath his somewhat composed expression. Ha! I’m not concerned; my lead foot has learned a few things in Egypt. Our guide was waiting for us at the entrance, brief introductions were made and we were off. It immediately became evident that he possessed far more knowledge than we could comprehend. Once again we were glad we splurged for a private guide, as he was able to adjust his info and pace to suit our meager minds.
I’m going to let you look up Ephesus on the internet yourself to learn a bit about its history. I will tell you this, the mosaics and frescos which are still preserved here are unbelievable. I took too many pictures, some I’ll put on the website for you – beautiful! The marble streets have grooves worn by chariots and carts, the library façade is spectacular. It will be one of the highlights of our travels.
We so enjoyed the company of our guide we asked him to dinner and would he recommend some place fitting of our day. We went to a place he knew well, they set up a table out on the lawn in the garden for us. Dish after dish after dish of wonderful food was set on our table, one better than the next. Everything we have eaten in Turkey has been delicious. The conversation turned to the carpets Turkey is famous for. Following our meal we rolled over to one of the larger private carpet weavers. What an education! What gorgeous carpets! Greg’s wallet was spared by the fact we live on a boat. The silk carpets we loved would have set us back dearly.
The Survey – Our thorough surveyor was very impressed with Greetings, he said if did not see the documentation he would not believe she was a 2001. In every category she received the highest remarks possible for a used vessel. We were not surprised and are sure Sean, our insurance agent, will receive a little pleasure passing our survey under the noses of the pain in the %^$ underwriters.
Back to Turkey
MAY 17th *** COLIN and PATRICIA’S WEDDING!!!! *** XXXOOO!!!!!
Fly to London – Colin and Patricia arranged for a driver to meet us at the airport even though it was 3:30 in the morning. We are truly enjoying this trend in instantly appearing car service.
The marina where I thought we had a reservation was full but there was another marina in the area with a space available. A few hours later we are checked into the slip, checked into the country and have internet. The SKYPE is on; we call Colin, “is there room for us at the wedding?” We hear excited voices, “yes!” Did we say goodbye or just hang up? I check flights and call Colin back, “we are coming”, we hear intense screaming.
Dropped anchor in Turkey at Fethiye Adasi Island.
A little yellow puffy bird joined me on the way here today. He did watch with me for awhile before going below to read. After sometime I went down to check on him, he was sitting above sleeping Greg; I did a poo check too.
May 11 – Mothers Day
Depart Port Said, Egypt, again.
8th – varnish rails
May 6, 2008
North half of the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean
6 am, depart from Ismailia with the end of the northbound convoy up the Suez Canal. Non eventful transit, Yasil, a friend of Karkar, proved to be another pleasant pilot. In Port Said a small pilot boat (bumper boat could be a better description) came along side for Yasil to disembark and return home. The crew of two on the pilot boat were calling for “baksheesh” but Yasil quickly shut them down and off he went smiling – he was happy with the baksheesh we gave him.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Egypt, it was an unforgettable experience greatly enhanced by our friend Amr’s hospitality, nonetheless we were eager to get to Turkey.
Four hours out into the Mediterranean the GRIB predicted winds of 6 knots were in reality 22 knots and on the nose. Greg was frustrated, I just cried, the predicted GRIB winds for 5 hours from now were 13 – 16 knots, 20 plus the following day. So much for the advice of the British chap that told us the GRIBs in the Med are spot on. We turned around and headed back to Port Said.
From the entrance of the port to the PSYC (Port Said Yacht Center) it is barely 2 kilometers. The PSYC is set up for med style berthing, meaning you drop your anchor and back towards the quay wall where you tie off. Just as we were doing this one of those crazy pilot boats came buzzing towards us yelling “pilot”. I got on the rail to fend off the boat, we were both bobbing madly in the wake of the ferries, pilot boats, ships…, all the while he is yelling “pilot, why not?” and I’m yelling “no!, back off!”. How Greg managed to keep us off the nut I don’t know, some of his boat handling maneuvers could be legendry. Greg lined up again for our anchor drop while the pilot boat hovered. We are backing towards the wall and even though it is almost 11 pm there is someone there to catch our lines. There is also someone there yelling about a pilot, our papers etc.; he wants to come aboard. #$%@. We are tired.
The guy, Said, turns out to be an agent for Felix, the agency we have been using for canal related travel. Even though after numerous inquiries I couldn’t get our passports stamped and “check out” of Egypt, he was telling me that he needed our passports stamped and we had to “check in” with immigration. This was fine; I know each port in Egypt requires a check in, no problem. BUT when he told me it would cost $70 US for the pilot we never had to go the 2 kilometers from the port entrance to PSYC I became on the verge of irrational. To his credit he was calm and sympathetic; with my muscles aching and fever rising I explained we would need to go to an ATM bukra, tomorrow. He knew he would get paid as he left the boat with our passports and original vessel documentation, Greg and I went to take some more aspirin.
May 2 - 3
Arrive Elsawaf Villa
Another car has been sent to the marina to pick us up. Today we are going to finally visit with Amr and his family. The drive was a bit longer and more harrowing then we anticipated but 5 ½ hours later we walked into a home that instantly felt familiar and comfortable. (I hope people feel this when they walk into my home) Amr’s warm smile and the welcoming of all his family was exactly what we craved. We thoroughly relished 2 full days of great conversation, excellent food, beautiful views and a wonderfully soft, fluffy, white, sink into bed. Amr’s dad, Amin, ever the activity director even arranged a parasailing outing for all of us. It was difficult to turn down the offers of an extended stay but we need to be ready to continue north to the Mediterranean.
We had the same driver for the return trip to Ismailia. A truly kind and thoughtful young man, we enjoyed his company. He even bought a lovely gift for me and some small pillows to rest my head on for the trip home. We are not sure if it was because it was now dark or if his driving was markedly worse then the south bound leg, which was extremely nerve-racking, but Greg and I were both physically ill from fear induced anxiety by the time we got back to the marina. I took solace in the fact that we were in a very small car going 100 – 120 miles an hour and our collision would most likely be head on, therefore making extended pain unlikely, death would be instant. Greg, the ever positive, felt our charming driver was a candidate for Formula One racing.
Cario and the Great Pyramids
Ahmed, a long time friend and employee of Amr’s family came early to the marina in Ismailia to take us on a tour of Cairo and to one of the great wonders of the ancient world, the pyramids at Giza. Driving into Cairo was incredible; this was always just a far away city in the news to me. I couldn’t get over we were there, I still haven’t. Another thing I won’t get over is the driving in Cairo. I already told you about the driving experience we had with Romney. Cairo is more of it, 8 lanes more of it. The best way I think to illustrate Cairo driving is to tell you that the only thing that made sense on these completely packed roadways was that the donkey drawn carts stayed in the slow lane on the freeway. Can you imagine a donkey cart going along on an LA freeway at rush hour?
They are off in the distance but you can see the pyramids from the freeway, exciting and weird. We are so very far from home. You can’t go inside the pyramids; you just stand there in the dust with your mouth open and say wow.
April 26, 2008 Port Suez and the south entrance to the Suez Canal!
The canal is 160 kilometers long, running north and south. Northbound or southbound vessels run in a convoy departing at scheduled times during the day. It is compulsory you have a pilot on board your vessel for each segment of the transit. Smaller vessels like Greetings the transit is done in two parts; we must stop for at least one night in Ismailia - we plan to leave the boat in Ismailia while we see the pyramids and visit Amr. To transit the canal you must pay a fee to the pilot, the agents and the Suez Canal Authority (SCA). This SCA fee is based on tonnage, in short the bigger the boat the bigger the fee. It’s not a tonnage measure we are familiar with; it is a difficult to define Suez Canal Special Certificate of Tonnage (SCSCT). We had a general idea of what we should be charged so when our fee came back at almost double what we expected I cheerfully alluded to the possibility that somebody, surely not the men now seated before me, made a slight error in the calculations. A couple of phone calls to somebody and we agreed on a fee.
Our very professional and pleasant pilot joined us at 10am and off we went. Ahmeed drove; this was a little difficult for Greg to get use to at first but he enjoyed sitting back watching the behemoth ships glide past us on the glassy waters of the famed Suez Canal. Here we were, finally! We worked so hard to get here, the day was perfect.
Saturday April 26
Making a run for it!
It’s 4:30 am, I’m awake and the wind is calm.
It’s now 5:30 am, I’m still awake and it’s still calm. I wake up Greg; we have coffee, look out to the sea with the binoculars and decide to GO!
10:00, so far so good
11:15 and we have arrived in Port Suez!
I apologized for being late to our agents who have come to the dock to greet us and help with the cumbersome Suez Canal formalities. We have been in contact with the agents, whom Amr arranged for us, for weeks. Our unpredictable weather encounters resulted in rescheduling numerous times. Magdy just shrugged off my apologies saying he can look out his window and if the winds are up no boats will come. He was acutely aware of what the northbound boats are up against. He made us feel very welcomed.
Said, the produce man was the next to greet us. Did we need anything? “Yes! Please bring some fruit and vegetables”, I was delighted. Next came Karkar Malah, a young man with quiet demeanor and a warm smile. “Do you need fuel?” ” Yes” “I have it here tomorrow.”
We had read and heard that we would be bothered for “Baksheesh” and pestered incessantly throughout Egypt; contrary to this every encounter we have had in Egypt has been polite leaving us with the impression of a genuine desire to be of help.
That afternoon Said returned to the boat with bags of produce, including the best melon we have ever tasted. He popped right aboard and made himself at home, producing a few cans of beer for Greg.
I can’t remember now when I first offered ice tea to Karkar, but you would think I tried to intentionally poison him. Being a youth of strong conviction he let me know he was outraged that I would invite him aboard to offer him this glass of cold dirty water. He nonetheless stayed aboard to talk with me about his feelings on life and opportunities as a Muslim in Egypt.
Said showed up the following day with more bags of fresh produce, when he came back for the third time with yet more bags of produce I had to point out we were only two but come and visit anytime, which he did.
April 25, Friday
Ras Sudr, Sinai Peninsula, Egypt
Daybreak; it was a long night with huge ships funneling in towards the canal and us, crappy seas, blah blah. We are only 25 miles from Port Suez, there is one last safe anchorage between Suez and us, it’s directly east of our current position on the Sinai Peninsula. We didn’t need much conversation to convince each other that an abrupt right turn was the call of the day.
By 9 am we were anchored behind a large reef which protected us from the swell. Our wonderful CQR anchor hung on bravely in the now howling wind. Defeated we fell into bed. Greg was snoring as his head was going down and as my eyes were closing I hear, “Captain, Captain!” From my side of the bed I can see through the salon and out to the cockpit. There was a well used fishing boat, a bit smaller than Greetings on our swim step. “Greg, Greg get up! There is a boat on the transom!”
They were fishermen that came to trade, they asked for food. We didn’t have much left but would be in Suez soon, we gave them what we could. They gave us a 15 inch stiff fish. Have you ever seen a monkfish? They are usually about 3 feet long, big ugly mouths, slimy but they taste quite good. In New Zealand I bought it when I could. Maybe this was a baby monkfish. The fishermen were barely out of range when I started pleading with Greg to throw it over. He didn’t want to touch it but I held my ground; throwing small creepy fish over board was unquestionably a “blue job”!
I thought I was dreaming but they were real. Two hours have passed and the fishermen are back. “Captain, Captain!” Greg is in another dimension but I manage to wake him and he stumbles up on deck. This time they give us two huge tiger prawns. We enjoyed them with our last two shriveled potatoes, delicious.
April 24, Thursday
At 6:30 pm we have 12 knots from the south, then a very warm wind coming from the north at 20 – 25 knots, the wind has now turned cold; it’s currently 6:40 pm. Here we go again???
Luxor and the Valley of the Kings
Connected to the marina at Port Ghalib is a hotel which is completely geared towards divers. They give PADI certified lessons, arrange endless dive boat excursions, fill tanks etc. The diving in the Red Sea along the northern Egyptian coast is reported to be excellent. The Red Sea has an incredible reef system and relatively little human invasion. It’s through this hotel and its helpful staff that we were able to have a terrific WIFI connection, okay so granted we almost always were abruptly cut off, at least we got to talk to you or send a message. We found ourselves with a bit of time until the winds calmed down and asked the hotel to help us arrange a trip to Luxor. It would be a 3 ½ hour drive without going by convoy or 6 ½ with the convoy. What is the convoy? It is a police/military escort for cars, trucks and buses between the coast and Luxor. All vehicles, particularly tourist carrying vehicles, are legally supposed to transit this segment of road in the convoy. My next question was the same as yours, why? To this question we could not get a straight answer until much later but we pieced the reason together. The convoy was established following the 1997 massacre of 58 tourists at the Temple of Hatshepsut near Luxor. It was set up as a security measure against terrorism. Like you, I very much resent having my freedom of movement compromised as a result of terrorism. We found a driver that would take us without using the convoy.
Romney picked us up at 4 am. Greg and I were in the lobby at 3 because I had the clock set wrong, oops. Romney was a wonderful guy and one heck of a crazy driver; lanes are for other drivers, they don’t use them either, passing is really a game of chicken and brights on all the time. He was also a Coptic Christian, rare in Egypt. 94% of the population is Muslim, only 6% is Coptic. He spoke pretty good English and enjoyed talking with us about Egypt, his faith, anything, he really helped pass the time while going 120/hr.
If you have driven across the United States then you have enjoyed the beauty of the ever changing scenery. I’ve made the drive between California and Wisconsin several times always thinking about the arduous journey the earlier settlers endured. Now as we drive across the harsh Egyptian landscape; seemingly endless miles of hot, rocky, plains of sand interrupted by barren mountains, I think of the Bedouins. They lived a life I can’t really begin to comprehend; it is a way of life they still live today.
Romney abruptly pulls over to the very edge of the road. There is nothing or no one around other than some tall craggy rock cliffs as far as the eye can see. Romney speaks pretty good English but his accent is sometimes difficult to understand. Not sure what he is talking about we followed him towards the cliffs climbing up and over large jagged boulders. There etched on the rocks and the side of the cliffs are beautiful hieroglyphics. From I don’t know where, a man in a white robe and headscarf appears. He shows us around to the various places amongst the rocks where the hieroglyphics can be found. Romney suggests its time to continue to Luxor. The robed man wants “baksheesh”, a tip, what do you give a man that appears from no where in the middle of the Egyptian desert? I gave him the approximate equivalent of $7 US dollars, he was not happy, so I gave him $20. Throughout the day we would see some remarkable reminders of the long-ago; however, the roadside drawings being so unexpected and remote, remain some of my favorites.
Romeny again pulls over, this time on a very crowded street in Luxor, the door opens and in pops Yasmin with huge movie star sunglasses and large bling handbag, she was to be our guide for the day. She took her job as tour guide very seriously and we quickly learned to pay attention as she was repeatedly quizzing us on the information she shared. She never stopped sharing, except to quiz us. We still didn’t remember much. Crossing the Nile the multi-level apartment blocks of east Luxor were immediately replaced by simple homes and farming techniques used hundreds of years ago. Yasmin explained the children don’t go to school on the west bank because they are needed on the farm, few complain as that is the life they know.
Yasmin kept us moving at a brisk pace wanting to be sure we saw the Temple of Hatshepsut, the Valley of the Kings, some of the tombs and Luxor. Greg the builder was reeling at the tremendous human labor required to build the massive and elaborate structures. Today was a nice spring day at 38C/100F, I was thinking of the difficulty of doing much of anything in the intense summer heat. A packed day of ruins under the Egyptian sun had even heat loving me feeling a little peckish. What impressed both Greg and I the most was the painting in the tombs and on the statues that still remained in very good condition. In some of the tombs the paint appeared less than a generation old. Greg was astonished that with few exceptions there was nothing to prohibit the curious from touching the paintings and cravings, even in the tombs. The number of visitors to the tombs is reportedly limited to keep down the level of respiration inside the deep passageways.
The four of us enjoyed an ice cream in the park and with a hug goodbye Yasmin disappeared back into the crowded streets of Luxor, Romeny estimated our arrival in Port Gahlib by midnight, so we sat back and hung on for the ‘flight’ home.
Port Ghalib, Egypt
Well, that was something. When we left Sudan we intended to go directly to Hurghada/ El Gouna, Egypt to visit my friend Amr. The GRIB said we had a good four days of calm. I hear you groan, you would think we would give up on these GRIBs. I'd love to, Greg likes them, but the truth is it's all we've really got to go on. This is what happened. The GRIB showed the winds coming from the north, the direction we were going but we expected that. It also said our highest wind speed would be 8 knots, the highest. We sent out a position report to let you know where we were and how we were doing. I believe we said we had calm seas, HA! Not four hours later we could have been in the southern ocean! We had again the steep seas the Red Sea is known for and 36 knots on the nose. The swell built up to at least 15 – 20 feet and short! Short refers to the distance between each wave, because we are going up wind there is no back to the wave, it just drops off. Greg estimates we had maybe 60 feet between the crest of each wave, we are 47 feet long. Try to picture a boat dropping from your ceiling and then instantly being thrust up to drop again, everything shutters, the boat shutters, your ribs shutter, your teeth shutter and your nerves are quickly shot. Billy, it was like a mini Sydney-Hobart with you, hey at least we were thing of you!
From about 9pm we fought our way north in this mess, we were barely making 2.5 to maybe 3 knots headway, at daybreak Greg made the wise, and welcomed, call to turn around.* We were seventy miles from Hurghada but had to turn back and run to Port Ghalib forty miles south of us. We were exhausted and did not want to keep pushing Greetings so hard.
The upside of this is we are now going downwind and the same seas that were so brutal are fairly manageable, not comfortable but we are getting somewhere fast. The downside is when we went to jibe/ turn in these seas we torn our main sail. We should have done a number of things to have prevented the main from ripping, from releasing the boomvang to lowering and re-hoisting the main. This is the price of exhaustion. Greg will fix it, he fixes everything.
Good news, we made it to Port Ghalib and they have room for us. Bad news, the port is closed until 6 pm, it is 12 pm. Beyond tired we head out into the seas, an hour north is the closest possible place to anchor and wait.
8:30 pm – passports stamped, port clearance given, rum & coke and wine poured, showers taken, and the sun sets on a full day.
*We later spoke with a number of boats, all much larger than ourselves that were in the same wind, they kept pressing on, the winds increased to 45 knots and many suffered serious damage.
Departing Suakin, Sudan
We didn't tour the ruins but we did stroll through the "town". The men guided heavily laden donkeys, butchered animals, hawked their wares and sat in the shade talking while drinking coffee in long white robes, sandals and scarves wrapped upon their heads. A few women hurried through the market covered in bright flowing fabric from head to toe, always averting our glances. The dusty market stalls displayed carefully arranged tomatoes, onions, eggplant, potatoes and cucumbers. (The tomatoes were delicious). Occasionally a crooked old wooden door that probably hasn't closed for 20 years would give a glimpse of someone sleeping on an uneven dirt floor cushioned only by a thin rug. Many of the buildings lacked a roof, but it doesn't rain much here. The dirt roads were lined with buildings that appeared to be from the time of Jesus. We both felt that we were walking through a movie set.
Most people seemed not to notice us or were very friendly and spoke English – I am beginning to think we are the only country that speaks one language. We are often surprised how open and honest people are towards us. We are the strangers who have so much more than they do, yet they don't want anything from us, they are just being nice. A picture of me was taken by an old man (who is in another picture) with his donkey. He was very excited to use and understand my camera. At another point on our stroll a fellow flagged us in to his dirt floored shop to explain how to make coffee and store it in a wicker and clay gadget, using his grandfather's proven vessel as an example, while another fellow who earlier had taken my watch off my wrist because the time was wrong returned with my watch correctly set. (Of course we bought a coffee/basket thing and no I don't really don't know what to do with it)
April 13, 2008
We arrived in Suakin about 12:30 pm. It is now 5:45 pm and Greg is out of the shower, I'm relaxing with a glass of wine while talking to you. We have checked in, received our shore passes in exchange for our passports, checked out and received our passports back. Three trips to the shore in the dinghy and the help of locals and their jerry cans and all three of our fuel tanks are full. Oh, we washed the boat down and with the clean water in this bay were able to put the water maker on full blast
and the water tanks are bulging too. This beats any previous check in/out refuel stop we have experienced.
From where we are anchored we can clearly see the old ruins of Suakin. This was the last slave trading post in the world - it was in use until the end of the Second World War! I was shocked to learn that too. Tomorrow morning we are hoping to get a quick tour before we leave I'll tell you what I find out.
Saturday April 12th
It must have been close to 7am when we pulled anchor in Khor Narwarat. I know the anchor was not yet on board when the fishing boat came speeding towards us. Greg secured the anchor at the bow and I put Greetings in neutral. The fishing boat came along side and at their insistences Greg grabs two lobsters from their outstretched arms. We forgot, they didn't.
It's my second day in Africa and what am I doing? Varnishing! Don't ask us to discuss how well the varnish job in Thailand held up. Our language might not be acceptable for the faint of heart. It's probably good we have a task, if we were not varnishing we would just be staring off into the vastness.
Here comes a fishing boat, we were surprised they had not come by earlier. We could see in their boat a large lobster on display, they have come to trade and we were ready. They were even more ready and quite agile, before we knew what was happening two of the fellows were on board. Our two large self invited guest were a little unsettling at first but proved to be very proper and well mannered. I brought out various things I thought they would like to have; they graciously accepted some and refused
others. Apparently we offered more than one lobster was worth, they pledged to return with two more. A couple of photos and smiles later they were gone. Yes Michael, the "bug" was good.
Wednesday April 9
Khor Nawarat, Sudan
When you think of Africa, even if you haven't been, what words come to mind? Chances are "vast" is one of them. Heading towards an anchorage, following the coordinates and descriptions given in our pilot guide exchanging their word island for sandbar, over and over we see and feel "vast". In the hazy distance we can make out the outline of a mountain range. Around us are large sandbars with little shrub. We can see a gathering of what must be fisherman on a beach, surrounded with minimal items useful
as shelter. In behind the sandbars and reefs the Red Sea waters have been calmed, even as the wind continues to howl. The sun is setting; I wish you all could experience this.
We made it and couldn't be any happier if Moses was here to greet us.
That lasted about 4 hours, and then the seas started building and building, some from the north, some from somewhere else. The second night was worse; the days seemed a little better because you could see what was coming. We are getting weary.
Not sure what date - April 4th
One of the boats in our small convoy heard calls on the radio to/from the Coalition Military guarding these waters. There seems to have been a pirate attack. We listened as the Coalition vessel gave the coordinates of the attack, it was tens miles from us. No other details were provided. It is possible that the two whaler type black speed boats crossing our path to the west/in front and a number of hours later passing right behind us were involved in the attack. We'd like to think that because we were a convoy of four boats they passed us by. If that's the case it is a tragedy the attacked boat was not with us.
April 2, 2008
9:00 am - Departing Salalah for passage through the Gulf of Aden
We are off for the Red Sea in our little convoy of four boats: us, Free Spirit and Impulsive, both from Australia and La Novia from the UK. La Novia will have to work at slowing down to stay with the rest of us.
I haven't told you about Salalah. It's barren, dusty and camels have the right of way. People pull over and insist on giving you a lift to your destination. Walking down the street you are frequently greeted with "Welcome to Oman, where are you from?" When they hear we are from the US they pause and tell us they like the American people, not our government - so who does? (Half around the world and we have yet to run into one person that likes America.)
After following the US Naval ship in we dropped anchored in the designated anchorage area inside the busy commercial port. Greg blew up the dinghy and I went to put on long pants and sleeves. Cruising back and forth along the wharf wall we choose what appeared to be the lest rusted out ladder over the truck tire and rusted chain bumpers to use to make our assent. So now what? I ask a fellow stopped in what appears to be a port issued pick up truck for directions to immigration; he gruffly motions
off into the distance and says something about a gate. We have barely gone fifty feet in the hot dry wind when he pulls along side of us and motions for us to get in, Greg hasn't understood what is going on but since I got in the back of the truck he did too. Apparently he can't take us through the port gate, there is some lively discussion between our escort and the armed guards, we are instructed to get out of the truck. Our helpful driver and the guards are all yelling and motioning to us to go
different directions. We head through the gate and into the nearest, only, building. From the looks on the faces of the men behind the counter I know instantly we are in the wrong spot. We manage to get them to understand, we think, that we have arrived by yacht and must find immigration. More excited Arabic and arm waving, we think we must go around a wall. Once out side we stand in the blowing dust taking in the two walls with the guards at the gate frantically motioning at us. From the building
we just left runs an official yelling something and heading towards the road. He flags down a passer-by, they have a lively discussion and with a smile we are instructed to get in. Our new escort cheerfully takes us directly to immigration.
When we return to the wharf we find Mohammed Saad standing at the edge in the blowing dust in a blinding white robe and cap flashing a brilliant smile. He is the agent here, meaning he is the man to arrange fuel, cars, repairs and immigration/customs procedures. You need a car, take this one. How much? Today for you, nothing. Greg is equipped with the simple map Mohammed gave him and we are now heading in the general direction of town. There is basically one main road through town, the paved one.
Most of the side roads are gravel. The freeway going to and from town is a very nice four lanes, it also extends along the outside perimeter of Shalalah. It seems they are preparing their infrastructure for growth.
Greg is like a homing pigeon for fast food establishments, he spies a Kentucky Fried Chicken. The promise of cool still air conditioning and the prospects of a coke with ice are enough to coax me inside. We are laughing as the navy and white gingham pre-school class of curious little faces with big black eyes tries to cautiously steal a look at us. Their teachers are fully covered in their black robes, even their faces. Greg and I can hardly hear each other over the volume from the multiple TV's
blasting with English speaking cartoon characters.
We need to exchange some money. For the first time on our journey I acquiesce to being the submissive woman, taking a seat in the bank - I should probably be in the car - as Greg stands in line wearing a polo shirt and long shorts with the twenty other robe and scarf clad men. This combined with the roaming camels along and on the freeways and roads makes me feel so very far from home.
March 13 Uligan, Maldives
It's always such a relief to drop anchor after an arduous voyage. It better than the feeling of getting off a 15 plus hour flight, it's right there with seeing the porch light flick off signaling the kids are in from their night out. In Uligan this was just the beginning of peacefulness, in spite of the weather.
As we pulled up to an area our charts suggested would make a good place to anchor the Uligan Port Authorities contacted us via the radio requesting we stay on the boat until immigration, customs and health could come out to us, in about an hour. An hour later five young men looking sharp in spotless, crisp uniforms came out to us in a red ski boat with CUSTOMS on the side. I was told on the radio to have along with our passports, copies of our crew lists and Clearance papers from last port which I handed to them as they sat down. Immediately they went to work filling out the numerous forms I normally fill out as the officials sit patiently waiting for 30 minutes or so. Within minutes I was signing and giving various documents kisses with the red ink of the Greetings ship stamp; we were done. They were all quite young yet very professional. This was with a doubt the quickest, easiest, most friendly check in we have ever experienced.
We all had cold coke with ice, it was barely 9:30 am but getting warm, the fellows took a friendly tour of the boat, took pictures of each other and us in the boat. They say Americans have the nicest boats. We talked about the Maldives and things to do in the area. They wanted to take us on a two hour boat ride (one way) to see some historical buildings and sights with them on their day off. We would love to spend the day with them, more than seeing the sights but honestly to go on another boat ride right now - we declined. Other cruising boats had arrived so reluctantly our friendly officials left and we were now free to go ashore.
Greg is getting pretty good at running the dinghy ashore, letting me out and getting it back out so the prop on the outboard isn't grinding in the sand. Often I'm in a long dress or pants and a long sleeve shirt, carrying a tote with passports, money and camera. If I had know how much time I would have spent on this trip covered up from neck to ankle I would have taken greater care to select clothing that is light weight, breathable, non-shear, non-clingy or form fitting, quick drying, easy to climb in and out of moving boats and up and down barnacle covered wharf walls - think Nordstorm has something?
Anyway back to landing at Uligan. We have the two propane tanks and a bag of trash in the dinghy which I have to get out while Greg tries to steady the dinghy in the small shore break. Not a big deal if you could grab them one in each hand and walk through the water. Remember I have only one hand to use because the other is trying to keep my black linen dress out of the water while not showing any leg.
Coming towards us are two young men with two large smiles, are they laughing at us? The dinghy is unloaded and anchored, the two smiles, Hussein and Hassan, pick up our stuff and we follow them. They tell Greg they can get propane but it will take at least two weeks as the tanks must be sent to Male, 150 miles south. We enter a courtyard where Hussein and Hassan deposit our trash and set our tanks on a porch. Oh well, I ask where the restaurant is, they smile as they say "No restaurant". Okay, walking on I ask where is the market? They point inside the 10 x 10 foot room we were now standing next to. Alright then, I go in and take 6 cans of soda from the cooler, 4 cucumbers from the cardboard box on the floor, and a few oranges from the box next to it - the produce section. The total is $2.50 US, our smallest is a five, they don't have change, I insist they keep the change. The two smiles have already given us each a complimentary soda from the cooler but they won't keep the change, we get more sodas.
We all got laughing at the story of the empty propane tanks and how we have lots of food just no way to cook it. Hussein and Hassan started off walking again and we followed. They gave us a tour of the village, 457 people live here, making the professionalism of the customs and immigration team even more outstanding. At one end of the island are the beginnings of a resort which brings mixed feelings to the locals. The resort will mean jobs and extra income but a drastic change in the way of life here.
A number of other young men joined our walking tour. In fact, it appears that this is a very young population, the men are all handsome and the tiny women shy under their headscarves.
I asked one fellow what people did for work, he replied that people didn't really work, they didn't need to, everyone shared. The immigration fellow now dressed in a t-shirt and causal pants, until the next yacht came in, also joined us. In Uligan there are no cars, no scooters and we didn't even recall seeing a bicycle. The yards, the sand streets, the buildings, the homes and even the coral walls are perfect. Almost everyone had a mobile phone - it was strange hearing the familiar Nokia ring. You must have been to a walk though an "Old Town" or "Indigenous Persons Village" in your local Museum of Natural History. This is what our walk through Uligan seemed like - this was life as it should be, you never wanted to leave.
I had asked if they had papayas and bananas. They did, just not in the store for sale. Before our stay in Uligan was over Hussein and Hassan obtained for us from neighbors the best bananas and papayas we ever tasted.
Greg went down for his morning sleep. I was just sitting there watching for stuff to watch when I heard a blow. Right behind me were two whales. They were so close to the transom I think I could have almost stepped from the swim step to their backs! I'm not sure what kind of whales, markings similar to a killer but they were much smaller. Maybe they were pilot or pygmy whales. The whales weren't really swimming; they were bobbing around next to each other. I continued to watch them as the boat pulled away. The stern (back end) of the boat began to slap the water as it does sometimes; it reminds me of how whales will sometimes slap the water with their tales. Out from under the boat floats Greg's lime green wash cloth. He had clipped it to the stern pulpit to dry but it was lost a day and a half ago. I watch as it floated away towards the whales. I don't think Greg believes me.
This is a day that will haunt Greg for some time to come. We ran out of propane. So what you say - no propane, no hot water for coffee, hot chocolate, oatmeal, ramen noodles. No way to BBQ the chicken, fish and veggies. This boat has been provisioned well because that's a pink job; the propane is a blue job. Cooking is a pink job too but it looks like I'm on vacation. I'm making such a big deal of this for two reasons first Greg rarely messes up on such a large scale so I have to make the most of it. Second and most importantly, I requested he fill them in Thailand and again in Malaysia, he insisted we had one and a half full tanks. The second reason actually adds to the first, ha-ha!
Six days ago we left Malaysia; we will be across the Bay of Bengal and rounding the southern tip of Sri Lanka by this time tomorrow. It's been an interesting week. We both caught a Mahi Mahi, at the same time! Those guys can put up quite a fight. My arms and hands were feeling "the burn"; even Greg was struggling, though his fish had a few pounds on mine.
We don't have any weather data to confirm this but we think the ITCZ zone (remember back to our first leg to the Marquesas from Mexico) must have moved north and we were again in it. The ITCZ is a moving band of wacky weather, from violent to the doldrums, that circles the earth usually near the equator. There are general parameters of its location at different times of the year but the thickness of the zone and its north south movement can vary by hundreds of miles.
The rain is like fire hoses from the heavens. The sound on our new non-leaking beautiful canvas bimini is deafing, you can't see where you are going, the radar shows a dense blob, but it's fun!
We often watched the wind coming briskly from one direction and a squall move in from the opposite. This phenomenon produces a terrific show! The lightening is almost beyond description, with multiple bolts and blinding flashes all around. Greg had read about lightening balls but one particularly wild night he was astonished to see them - I was sleeping. These lightning shows were nightly and there is not a bad seat in the house. We have heard many different thoughts on dealing with a lightening strike. We have seen boats that have been struck, the results is always varied. It's a matter of luck. We do always heed the advice of Greg's friend Matt and put computers and handhelds (radio and GPS) in the oven.
Oh! I should mention, often the skies were clear and FULL of stars, with clouds off on the horizon while some of these lightening shows were going on. How does that work? Greg was sure that much of this week was spent in the Nebula.
Friday, February 29, 2008
We checked out of Malaysia this afternoon. We will leave for the Maldives Saturday or Sunday. The survey has not been done; no surveyor was available in Langkawi or Phuket. The underwriters have given us an extension until Turkey and June 1. Our extra time with Fawn, Righetto and Nala in Phuket, the detour to Malaysia and the crumby weather ahead have us pressing on to Egypt and the Suez Canal. We will be skipping the Similian Islands of Thailand and much to my great disappointment, Sri Lanka. I've been uncertain about Sri Lanka for sometime now anyway. The port of Galle is reportedly hard on yachts and very filthy. The little country has also been experiencing a bit of civil conflict making travel to some of my desired locations unwise. Greg and I have promised each other it will be one of our future fly in destinations.
It will take us about 2 weeks to sail to the Maldives. We will rest and refuel there for only two or three days. Another two weeks from the Maldives gets us to the mouth of the Red Sea. The miles up the Red Sea should take only another two weeks but we've been told it could be at least a month. Langkawi to Egypt, about two months with very few brief stops, is definitely our most challenging leg yet. I am absolutely certain I do not have enough chips!
Those of you that have driven with me will appreciate this. I'm in a foreign country, really don't know where I'm going, my naviguesser is armed with a cartoon tourist map and no reading glasses. Most of the drivers are on the wrong side of the road and even though there are quite a few cars and motorcycles that do drive on the right side I know I'm suppose to try and stay on the wrong side. The steering wheel is on the wrong side of the car, I have to shift with my left hand – the last time I drove a stick shift might have been 1985. When it starts to rain my right hand ends up turning on the blinkers so I guess it makes sense that I turn corners with my windshield wipers going.
February 23 – Ko Rok Nok Island, Thailand
Made a stop here on our way back to Malaysia to go for a snorkel and spend the night. We stopped here for a couple of nights on our way north to Thailand in October even though it was during the SW monsoon season and rained much of the time. Only a couple of boats were here then and we were able to anchor right in front of the Penis Temple where for years fishermen have carved large wooden penises and stacked them around the temple – did I tell you about this before?
Anyway, since then many new moorings have been installed, after a few tries we were able to find one that was deep enough for us to avoid the coral heads. The parks systems in more countries are installing moorings to avoid the need to anchor in and damage the coral. We often have anchored out far and in deep water to avoid our chain hitting coral heads as the wind moves the boat around.
The mooring we finally picked up was quite far from the beach and in 87 feet of water. Greg and I get the creepies swimming in such deep water so we got in my kayak to paddle in towards the beach to snorkel. Ha! The plug was out of the back, half way to the beach Greg bailed out with his swim fins and I paddled a very heavy kayak to shore.
I'm getting so side tracked; I started writing to tell you about the "officials" that we saw going from boat to boat. As they sped towards us in their orange inflatable I panicked. Crawling around in our kitchen sink were the three little hermit crabs in their beautiful shells I just picked up from the beach. "Mom", I can hear Sierra scream, "how could you!?". Then there's my Dad, "Teri, if everyone picked up a crab in a shell there would be no more to enjoy". Guilt consumed me, along with the fear of getting caught. I threw all three into the trash – carefully – and pop up on deck.
Greg was saying the three young people in camouflage needed 500 baht for the mooring fee. I explained we only had 150 baht and some change. Could they take another currency? The one girl of perhaps 21 asked if we had beer. Sure! How about 150 baht and three cold beers? Great, all agreed. We only had two cold beers so the final settlement was 150 baht ($4.50 US), 2 cold beers, 1 warm beer and a cold green tea. Good deal for them and a great laugh for us; these are the interactions that make this trip so fun.
The crabs have been retrieved from the trash.
We checked out of Thailand this morning and being that we stated 3 pm for our time of departure, had time for a bite to eat and a stop in an internet café to check our email. There was a frantic message from our yacht insurance agent; the underwriters wanted a new survey on Greetings! Timing is everything. I ran back to the immigration office praying that the kindly and helpful officer could do something miraculous. I hadn't even thought about my plea to customs and the Port Captain. Apologetically he shook his head no, we had to leave. Our visas were due to expire in 3 days anyway. Our best option now is to sail back to Langkawi, Malaysia, 130 miles south, while we figure out where to get a survey.
Timing is EVERYTHING! Just as we are stepping into the dinghy we hear excited voices yelling to us from the sea wall! We couldn't believe it! There was smiling Righetto and Fawn with Nala on her back. They were taking the scooter to Nala's doctor in Phuket Town for some shots. Knowing we were checking out today they took a chance swing by the harbor at Ao Chalong to see if they could see Greetings. Greetings was anchored out about ¼ mile in a crowded harbor, one minute earlier or later and we would have missed a hug. (Nala is their kitty – crazy little thing)
KATA BEACH, THAILAND anchored off Club Med
Our entire time here anchored off Kata seems to blend together. (There are various flying things crashing into me and the computer screen – I don't know if I can continue. I think they are crawling down into my keyboard; really this is getting to be too much… I've got to go) WOW! That was an evasion! I don't even know what they all were!! Honestly I must tell you that I'm actually typing you this entry from Ko Rok Nok Island – much more remote than Kata, hence the bug attack when the Claude was turned on. Now Greg has the turtle going, I've sprayed myself and the area with anti bug and I have the Jane-G ready! The typing inspiration is gone.
I'm back; its morning, my notes and Greetings are underway. The keyboard seems to be working in spite of the shot of anti bug it received in my panic.
As I was trying to tell you, the week we spent anchored in front of Club Med is a blur of endless quantities and varieties of beautiful delicious food. Greg even took pictures of some of the food presentations they were so unique. My favorite cuisine station besides the made to order pasta, fresh baked breads and sushi was the one with the individual artistically arranged delights - every perfect little serving was my favorite. Greg loved the roast beef, lamb chops and bacon. The wine at all dinners was endless too.
The poolside games and shows were lots of fun but the night time shows were fantastic! Yes, we may be influenced by Fawn's participation in the shows. It's hard to not be impressed when your daughter is twirling around 10 meters (30 feet) above your head from a rope of cloth – they call it the Spanish Web. The music, the costumes, the stage settings, all those talented kids! They have circus trapeze acts too, though I wish they had more safety nets.
We were very lucky several days when the circus team was able to spend their break on Greetings flinging themselves off our halyard swing into the sea.
Adam, leader of the circus team, had his parents, John and Jeanette, visiting from Australia and they joined us as well. Jeanette and I made our splashes, most missed the true artistry in our form.
As the week went by Jeanette and I realized our daughters, her Claudia and my Brook, were cut from the same cloth. We also laughed at each having kids in the circus and though not what most parents plan for their kid, ours are very well and very happy – what more can a mom hope for.
Every G.O. (Club Med employee) we met was an outstanding person in their own right. The articulate charismatic Karim, the "chief of village", has been with Club Med for 20 years. When speaking with him, as with every other G.O. we met, you have the distinct impression with their dynamic personalities they would succeed in anything they did.
This was my second experience with a Club Med, the first being one geared towards teens in Mexico that Jack and I took Fawn and Brook to many years back. Having not been to a singles Club Med, I can only speak of those for families. If you are looking for a perfect, and I mean perfect, family vacation go to a Club Med!! The kids have so much to do and they are safe. You don't have to worry about food; there are multiple choices for everyone. Because the kids are occupied you can actually enjoy your vacation too. You get the idea, I'm beginning to sound like a Club Med ad, but you know I would not steer you wrong.
It was not completely without effort on our part to enjoy the Club Med facilities. We had to take the dinghy in and out, and as is our luck, though an out of season swell.
A number of Club Med guests and G.O.s started to comment on some of our arrivals and departures. Among the most admired was the grocery cruise. We had the dinghy completely filled with groceries, so heavy in fact we needed the help of a beach goer to drag the dinghy to the water. We miss timed the waves by just a bit, and powered right into the face of a breaking wave. We had to laugh; the beach was packed with spectators many whom have been watching our comings and goings with amusement for days.
Back at the boat we unloaded the dinghy of its completely soaking cargo which included us and my water filled tote. Floating inside were my wallet, our passports, my 4th camera of the trip and the cell phone Righetto just gave to us. After changing clothes I started the process of washing and drying the groceries; coke, juice, apples, canned olives, bags of pasta and chips…
That very evening we were to go to dinner with Fawn and Righetto outside of the Club Med. I curled my hair, put on mascara and a cute dress – this is like the music in a scary movie, you know something is coming. It was kinda like the kayak incident in Sumbawa, all was going well until the last wave. I just know I was under the dinghy trying to find the surface and wondering where the prop was in my cute dress. Once able to stand up and do a quick dress check, it was strapless, I was able to retrieve the bag of Whiskas we got for Nala, the gas tank still attached to the engine by a hose but floating outside the dinghy and one of Greg's flip flops. Greg and Daniel from the circus team were pulling the dinghy up on shore. With all the dignity one can possess with sand matted hair and a clinging formerly cute dress I said, "What the hell are you doing? Turn that dinghy around I want to take another shower!"
Dinner was fantastic that night and the wine was welcomed. As we were getting to the beach to make our dinghy ride home it started to rain. There Greg and I stood in the rain waiting for the right time to make our dash through the surf picturing the rain falling through the open hatches on Greetings, every last one of them. I don't think we said much to each other; we just closed the hatches and lay down on our cool wet bed.
The evenings at Club Med generally call for nicer attire. I venture to say most women have a clothing crisis from time to time when deciding what to wear. The following night I decided the dress I was wearing would be too clingy if it got damp. I realized the second dress was too tight to get in and out of the dingy without hiking it up to my waist. The third outfit was too expensive to wash in saltwater… the dressing effort became greater then the desire to eat.
What we didn't realize was Fawn, Righetto and 16 other people were waiting for us to join them for dinner.
Out here in the wilderness in often think I hear one of my girls calling me – sometimes I call back. This happens frequently in my dozing state of sleep. I thought this was happening again but it wasn't, it was real! Fawn was in the cockpit at 2:30 am calling me. I stumble up to the cockpit half terrified something is seriously wrong and half wondering how she got out there. I hear Righetto's voice, "Terrree, are you and Greg good?" I look down, there is the head of Righetto bobbing in the dark water. Fawn is saying, "Mom, where were you? Where is Greg? I was lying in bed but I felt something was wrong, we came to check" She told me they found a funky little kayak on the beach and paddled out, it wasn't very stable – that explained Righetto bobbing in the water. Once assured we were fine they paddled off in the darkness. I wonder how they got through the surf.
Part of me fell through a hatch today. It was another example of how good things happen to people that don't deserve it. My good fortune allowed me to step into one of the smallest hatches and being that I've known the hatch to be in exactly same place for the last 3 years, I knew immediately that my leg was hanging in the bathroom. Also as luck would have it I prefer to sleep on my right side.
Fawn is currently working at the Club Med here in Phuket. I could write a ten page article on her unbelievably bad travel karma (Buddhist influence) – she has had her luggage lost twice, ramshackled and pilfered once and missed a number of connecting flights, all in the last year and a half. Finally in desperation her boyfriend, Righetto who is currently a big wig at the Phuket Club Med, flew to Singapore to make sure she got to Thailand.
She made it just in time for my birthday, which is today, two days after Ground Hogs Day and Paul's birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY PAUL!!
Paul I sincerely hope you had a great birthday but I don't think it compared to mine.
Fawn and Righetto insisted that we be at Club Med by 3:30. When we arrived they were there at the entry waiting for us. It was so exciting to see my Fawn. We were promptly sent off to the spa for one of the most enjoyable massages we ever had.
Afterward we joined them in the bar, as instructed. The four of us took a stroll down to the beach to watch the sunset. On the beach were hundreds of pad covered lounge chairs with umbrellas all in a row. I noticed one pair of chairs covered by a canopy of white umbrella and mosquito netting. Fawn said that was for us. As we approached we could see a heart made of orchids on each of the crisp white sheet covered chaises under the gently blowing netting. Between the chairs on a low table was a silver ice bucket chilling a bottle of Moet champagne surrounded by delicacies. Greg and I laughed, fantasizing that paparazzi would be taking our picture even if they didn't know who we were, we must be somebody.
The mossies did not care that it was my birthday; with the sun gone they lifted the netting and began to feast. It was time to get ready to meet Fawn and Righetto for dinner anyway so off we ran…my birthday night just went on and on with fun, I even had a birthday cake.
Thailand - Malaysia - Maldives - Oman - Sudan - Egypt - Turkey - Greece - Italy - Spain - Gibraltar - Morocco - Canary Islands
January 28th 2008 - Phuket, Thailand
I left you mid-July in Lombok, Indonesia; we are now in Phuket, Thailand. Since Lombok we sailed on westwards to my all time favorite place – Bali. I was fortunate to have gone to Bali in 1993 when tourism was just beginning to take off on this truly unique island. People frequently ask what our favorite place is so far. It’s hard to answer because we enjoyed different places for different reasons. Greg and Sierra would absolutely agree that for an experience equal to snorkeling in an aquarium the islands of Riatea and Moorea in French Polynesia are the place. The islands are beautiful, the people are friendly and the French fries are the best we’ve ever had – Sierra claims French Polynesia also has the best hamburgers.
The warmest welcome and kindness from people who have so little in the way of material goods definitely came from the simple villages on the islands in Nusa Tengerra, Indonesia. Here we saw for ourselves how happiness does not come from stuff. Yeah, yeah – we thought we knew that before too but now we’ve really experienced it through the villagers that opened their homes. These will be lifetime memories for all of us.
Usually when people ask about our favorite place they are looking for vacation ideas; without hesitation that place is Bali. Tourism has boomed in Bali, I did not recognize much from before, except the monkeys. Monkeys are everywhere. Even with the numerous luxury resorts, the boutiquing of Kuta Beach and continuous rows of craftsman shops lining the scooter crammed roads Bali’s exotic beauty can’t be missed.
I’ll write more to you about Bali later or at least give Michael some pictures to post. I know I’ve said I’d write more about Tonga and Niue too – another favorite – I don’t know what to peck about that. I also must tell you about taking the African Queen up a river into the jungles of Kalimantan (former Borneo) to be with orang utans. You know how the hair on the baby orang utans sticks up when you see them on the front of greeting cards? They don’t blow dry it that way for the pictures – it’s natural!!
Singapore is an amazing example of how a modern city very crowded with peoples of numerous racial, religious, cultural and economic backgrounds can co-exists. We have all heard of their strict, arguable barbaric, laws and punishments. I’ll leave you with this image until I write on Singapore again. To catch the MRT (subway/train) we walked for what seemed like blocks about six stories underground through spotless gleaming white and stainless corridors. Various types of artwork hung on many of the corridors walls. The only thing separating you from the artwork was a single line on the floor and the words “DO NOT TOUCH ART” – and nobody does.
From Singapore we headed north towards Thailand via the notorious Malacca Strait. The Malacca Strait is bordered by Singapore and Malaysia to the east and Sumatra, Indonesia on the west; it has been referred to as Pirate Alley. We didn’t meet any pirates so I don’t have a juicy terror on the high seas tale for you. We did see three water spouts but again no story, they were to far away for fun. What we did see – this is going to get serious but I want you to hear me out – was PLASTIC! At one point I stood on the bow trying to make a note of what went floating by, too much went by too fast for me to keep track of. Greg was ever fearful we would suck something up in our intake, thankfully we never did. We saw huge hunks of Styrofoam, trash cans, lids, millions of water bottles and trillions of plastic bags... This went on for days. We discussed the possibility that it was leftover from the 2004 Tsunami, caught in the continuous tides and currents of the strait. It rains so much here and we are in the NW monsoon season (the rain here is a story in it’s self – think of the Vietnam rain scene in Forrest Gump). Anyway, maybe it was washing down the rivers which lead to the sea. We have seen trash washed up on too many, what should be pristine, beaches in other parts of the world. This is the bottom line – plastic is forever. It doesn’t break down – never. It can be recycled and turned into another useful never to break down product. I’m too dependent on plastic to even consider eliminating it from my life. Continuously seeing plastic where we don’t want too has us looking hard at first how we dispose of it and second how we buy it.
Most grocers we have encountered out here require you to bring your own totes or buy them. Consider refilling your water bottles multi-times before tossing them. In the produce department I found most of my fruit and veggies get home just fine without that thin plastic bag that takes them from the produce counter to the cart to the check out to the other plastic bag it is put into so I can take it from the cart to the trunk to the kitchen counter where I remove the produce from it’s now double plastic bag and put it in the frig. That’s my plea; these are some suggestions, think about it.OH!! One other thing, if you ever plan to take a beach vacation and do some shell collecting or sun tanning – don’t use plastic tampons, they really kill the scene.
Saturday July 14
Still in Lombok
Here is a different perspective and something to chew on.we have met a couple of expatriates who have been living in Indonesia for some time now, both having married Indonesian women. The one fellow has quite a bit of property in both Lombok and Bali and seems to really have his finger on the pulse of Indonesia, for business reasons no doubt. From both we heard that the Indonesian government along with Australia and the US have 'eyes" all over Indonesia since 9/11 and the Bali bombings - this comes as no surprise. What gets interesting is that they reported there seems to be an information black out for eastern Lombok; not much is known about the area since 1000's of Afghanis had move into the area. As the guy is talking I'm thinking I'd flee Afghanistan any way, any where I could too. What disturbed these guys was that the newly arrived Afghanis have replaced all the teaching positions formerly held by Lomboks and some well known, to them, militant Islamic leader is now there rearranging things and implementing the teachings of Jemaah Islamiah. The bombs used in the Bali bombing are believed to have been built in eastern Lombok, with a much larger bomb uncovered a few barns down the road. Besides the fact that we were just anchored in the area, actually the very villages, days ago passing out pencils and taking pictures; our interest was peaked when he said it was commonly believed that Osama was there. I know I didn't give him a pencil, kids only.
Wednesday July 11
Southwestern Peninsula of Lombok - Gili Gede (Island Gede)
The people here make a living from boat building. The sailing canoes around this peninsula have really captured Greg's attention.
East Lombok - I don't even know the name of the tiny village we are anchored next to today. We have had the typical curious fishermen paddle right next to us, checking out the contraption we are traveling in. I'm sure they must wonder about the sea worthiness of our floating plastic boat. There have been the canoes of kids too. Here besides pens they ask for books. I'm shown the foot of a little fellow whose skin condition is in need of a doctor. The best I can honestly do is giving them some triple anti-biotic ointment while trying to explain without language, he must wash it, apply the ointment etc.
Today we took the dinghy a couple of kilometers to the town of Hu'u where we crashed onto the beach. A large number of villagers, including women, ran to our aid. Laughing they helped us drag the dinghy up the beach and tie it off. A young fellow that spoke some English arranged for two guys with motor scooters to take us to one of the surf camps down the road about 10 kilometers to watch the waves and have lunch. While Sierra enjoyed a delicious pizza lunch we watched Lakey Peak, an amazing wave that breaks into a perfect right and a perfect left. It's a big wave, breaking on reef; Greg was not up to it today.
The people here, as else where, are intrigued with the camera. They absolutely love having their picture taken and then seeing themselves on the LED screen always brings peels of laughter.
Arrived Hu'u, huge waves
Sumbawa is another one of those places I've never heard of until it showed up on our charts. We are planning to anchor in Teluk Cempi (Teluk - Bay) near Hu'u and Lakey Beach, supposed well known surf spots. The bay is huge. We see a fishing boat that has drastically altered its course and is now speeding towards us. Through the binoculars I note something on the bow that makes me think machine gun; it's too far away to be sure. We have heard over and over warnings of Indonesian pirates all of which we have disregarded. Now here is this boat barreling down on us, my mind is flipping between racing unproductive thoughts to calmly trying to think of a plan of action if necessary. The boat has now raced past us and has abruptly turned to follow behind us. The seas are too rough to get a positive fix on the machine gun. Greg confirms they are definitely planning to pull along side of us, they are much faster then we are. Because of all the friendly fishing boats of every description, waving while flashing big smiles and coming close only to satisfy their curiosity it is difficult to believe these fellows might not be as friendly. It's the urgency and speed of their maneuvers along with that machine gun looking thing that is sending us warning signals. I whip out my camera and start smiling and waving - kill them with kindness my dad always said. As they pull closer Greg recognizes the contraption on the bow as a device to crank in fishing nets, about this time they have started waving back and then madly signaling. They want Greg to follow them, he does.safely around the reef we were heading for. We followed them for about an hour when they decided we were safe they waved, altered course and headed for home.
We are a bit north of Hu'u off a long strip of sandy beach with waves. We can't land the dinghy here; Fuzz and I really wanting to go shell shopping without the fear of being attacked. Greg is excited to paddle in to do some surfing. This gives Fuzzy and I the birdbrain idea to paddle the kayak through the surf. It was a good idea; I paddle through the surf very sportingly, until we HIT the beach. I shall refer to this adventure only as the "kayak incident". Note: Greg is not a nurse.
Depart Komodo, 80 miles to Hu'u, Sumbawa
Wonderful anchorage so we decide to hang out in the area a while even though every trip to every white sand shell laden beach within dinghy distance has had pig and dragon tracks. Each morning and evening we watch the pigs and the dragons cruise our beaches. The once leisurely shell shopping now goes more like this; scan the beach before landing, once landed Greg and I go first. I look for tracks, Greg looks for large stick. Sierra must follow close behind or between us. There is no time for admiring your find on the beach, just put it in the bag and move on. Greg can't look for shells at all; his job is to look for dragons and escape routes. We are shell addicts.
July 1 - I think
Komodo National Park
We anchor off and take the dinghy in. We are greeted by helpfuls and guided to the parks tour office. The park fees are shockingly more than expected but we are happy to pay as he explains the conservation and education taking place. While taking care of the formalities Sierra 'Corwin' is outside discovering a poisonous Green Viper.
Usman was to be our guide into the bush. We liked him; he was knowledgeable with a quiet sense of humor. While explaining to us in limited but understandable English the dangers of the Komodo dragon and the wild pigs which will also attack a man, he in good humor agreed with the man eating vicious jungle chickens story - Sierra didn't buy it.
We were repeatedly warned when we started the tour that it was mating season and it would be rare to see a dragon. We are lucky and had already seen several so we still desired to go on the trek through the bush. Lo and behold there was a dragon under a tree! Usman was visibly surprised and pleased. We were able to get amazingly close; my pictures tell the story, many with the blur of my shaking. Was Usman trying to get to close for bravado or tip, was it really possible to hold the dragon off with the thin forked stick he held? I was always worried about Sierra. Greg and I had already agreed on a beach defense tactic, he would grab Sierra (predators always go for the small and young) and hold her up high while running - I could never hold her up - I would fend off the lizard with the stick Greg always carries. Weak plan we realize.
Besides being up close and personal with the dragon on our trek we saw barking deer, wild chickens, geckos and many wild boars - big ones.
During our trek we talked with Usman about Komodo and his village. His pride was evident and we decided he should join us on Greetings to his village.
In Flores we ran into a couple from the US, he was a part time cave explorer. I wish I could remember the details right now but he is the first American to explore this particular major Indonesian cave, one day ahead of some big wig American explorer with filming crews doing a documentary. If you see it on TV the first should be a 30ish Asian guy from San Francisco named Harry. Anyway - big sideways - they said they were taken by the children begging for pens in Komodo. Armed with this info we had our driver in Flores take us to a store with many pens. After some difficulty I was able to explain to the vendor I wanted to buy every pen he had.
PS. I hesitate to tell you about the strand of light peach colored pearls I got today but I must. $30US irregular and lustrous, Beautiful.
It was a big commotion when Usman arrived with us aboard Greetings. He gave us a full tour of his village and to the home of the schoolmaster. We gave the schoolmaster the bag of pens and his jaw dropped, you would think we had given him gold. We, as in Greg, Sierra, Usman, the schoolmaster, me and 50 children - close to 100 live in the village, walked towards the school where the pens were passed out. The school was nothing, nothing! - Smaller than our garages. They really didn't have much in the way of books, no supplies, no desks. The studying and lessons were done outside in the dirt. Special lessons and projects were done inside. They need everything! Looking for a new charity, something with meaning and purpose; send supplies to Komodo School Komodo, Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia
Later that evening a couple of fellows came out to the boat requesting aspirin. Before we left the next morning we brought aspirin and some other odds and ends to Usman. Our offerings are so inadequate.
The next day - we went in search of other sea shell laden beaches. First beach has two dragons strolling along, the next looks clear with a potential surf break for Greg, we anchor. When the tide is right the surf is good and Greg surfs while Sierra and I look for shells as I pray dragons don't jump down cliffs.
Rinca (Rin cha)
We slipped in between the main island of Rinca and a smaller island. Beautiful and remote, we wonder who has been here before. Once anchored we get in the dinghy and dart off for the surrounding white sand beaches in search of exotic sea shells. We find beautiful shells and strange tracks.off to the next beach! Pulling up to the next gorgeous white sand beach and "What is that!?" It's at least 5 feet long, four squat legs, a long tail and bad skin - KOMODO DRAGON! We went on to another beach, strange tracks again; we went back to the boat.
I printed out numerous copies of some of the photos we took, put them in individual ziplock bags and we went ashore. We wanted to hand them out to the kids/adults in the photos. This was as close to being a famous celebrity as we will ever get. The herd of exuberant people was honestly absolutely over whelming. I had the tote with the photos in it, Sierra was the "star", and Greg was our bodyguard behind us. I would pull out a photo, point to the child we wanted to give it to and the crowd would murmur in glee and move as a mass towards the child's home. Sometimes I could see ahead as the almost alarmed family would appear before they could understand that they were being delivered a picture of their child. Sometimes I felt a bit of panic as Sierra and I were momentarily separated, but the local young men and Greg seemed to always rescue us. Exhausted and completely spent but we managed to deliver all the photos.
After this experience the children from town were even more eager to be at our swim step. It became too much especially for Sierra, we pulled anchor, blew kisses and sailed off.
The three colored lakes are set in deep in volcanic craters at an altitude of 1600m. They change color yet no one has managed to fully explain why. The locals say the souls of the young people go to the warmth of the turquoise lake, the old to the cold of the brown lake and souls of the thieves and murders to the black lake.
It was a great drive up the volcano even if we could not see the 3 different colored lakes because of the dense clouds. Greg felt it was a look back into time, a simpler time in Indonesia. We randomly snapped our cameras as we drove along trying to capture what we saw and felt.
Arrrive Ende, Flores
Check in motorbikes
It took the mommy authority card but Fuzzy did go in with me for the check in process. Greg drove us around in the dinghy for a while until we decided the moss covered stairs at the old pier would be our best option to get ashore. Ashore our next quest was to get to the other side of the peninsula where the port captain was located. (Sjarbandar - harbormaster or Bupati - local government official)
We see a fellow in uniform hurrying towards what looks like an official building, I decide he is the one to help us. Before you know it Sierra and I are on the back of motor scooters driven by men in uniform whizzing through town and bush.
At the Sjarbandar's office there was some confusion in regards to my clearance papers and permit to cruise Indonesia, language barrier. One of the office staff placed a number of chairs in a circle in the typical foreign official movie style office where we all sat looking at each other and waited. I apologized again to the head official (Mr Grumpy) for the confusion with my papers; he had seemed quite irritated with me. Sierra experienced a moment of extreme embarrassment when I was trying to determine the snorkeling possibilities around Ende. Nobody understood "snorkeling" so I demonstrated in mime style my best snorkeling imitation, they knew what I meant. In passing I mentioned to Mr Grumpy Sjarbandar that we were interested in going up to Kelimutu, the volcano with three colored lakes.
Our papers were cleared, extra copies were given to me and a driver had been arranged to take us to Kelimutu in the morning by Mr. former Grumpy Sjarbandar.
I'm writing to you after the fact now and the events of Ende are a blur of smiles and laughing people. We loved Ende! Somewhere we walked along the beach and though town taking pictures of locals, the children and canoes. Most of the time we spent on the boat was trying to communicate with the kids that had paddled out and were content to float around next to us or bold enough to crawl up on the swim step. Sierra passed out candy until it was gone, subtly helping the boy who put the candy, wrapper and all in his mouth.
We showed them charts with Flores, charts of the world, booklets of Indonesia they loved it all, we gave them what we could.
With so many great pictures and all the smiling faces we wanted to give back something. Even after weeks thinking about the appreciation of nothing that these people, and others we would encounter, have makes me understand why missionaries, Peace Corp workers and other aid workers are able to do the work they do.
Depart Kupang, Timor 6am
Today was tidy up the boat day and relax. The most stressful thing we did today was go into town for dinner. There are many Maken Padang (Maken means food) style restaurants, where the food is displayed in bowls on shelves in the front window. You walk along long looking through the windows until you see something appealing. Once inside you point to what you would like, indicate how much of it you want and are charged accordingly. It is a fun way to eat out. The best part of the experience for us is trying to determine what it is we are eating. I always carry a pad of paper and pen for language inhibited conversation. You can imagine how funny it gets trying to draw pictures of cows, pigs and goats while pointing to bowls of food. Being a vegetarian I eat reasonable worry free.
I'm sure you are dying to know about my laundry. Canoe man returned with our two trash bags of laundry and confirmed proudly that his sister did not have a wash machine, she did it all by hand. Greg paid him 70,000 rupiah (about $6.50US) and he paddled away quiet happy. We immediately inspected our laundry; clothes, sheets, towels, everything was there looking and smelling great! Sierra walked around holding laundry to her nose it smelled so good. I could find not a spot and everything was folded nicely. Wow!
The beach sales force was bright and chipper this morning. We had someone take care of our trash, one old feeble fellow offered to watch the dinghy all day for $2 US - a little high but he needs food, 4 or 5 drivers were available if Ama wasn't or even if he was. Offers to take care of our laundry but that task had already been given to a guy in a canoe earlier, Lord help my laundry.
Good morning quiet Ama! We are off to see the monkeys!
On our way to the monkey reserve Ama pulls over and buys a plastic grocery sack full of corn kernels, plopping it on Sierra's lap he says it's for the monkeys. Once at the reserve the monkeys come running as soon as we get out of the car and they love Ama's corn. We throw some about but most of the monkeys take it right from our hands. They are not very dainty or polite though their little hands are quiet soft. Sierra now understands why we say she has monkey hands. Baby monkeys, like most babies, are extremely cute. Some come to us clinging to their mothers, the pre-schoolers make their way cautiously and just as humans kids forget their purpose and get caught up in play before again being distracted to come our way. We stay with the monkeys a long time.
Next Ama takes us to the market, where Sierra becomes the attraction. Everyone is enthralled with Sierra, her light hair and pale skin. The moms and grandmas have to touch her! It's what I now refer to as the puppy syndrome. You've felt it, the compulsion to pet a little puppy you see walking down the street. Sierra held up remarkably well, smiling and enduring. Her greatest distress came when she saw about two dozen live chickens hanging by their feet from a motorbikes handlebars.
When I tell you we went to a market I am always referring to an open air public market. We love the markets! They are usually blocks large. You can absorb so much about a culture amid the vegetables, the fish, the crafts, the flies, the frantic chickens and the people themselves. Most venders stack and arrange their merchandise with extreme care. The selling is a family affair with the women in charge. Michael experienced in Fiji the cooperative spirit of the typical market vendor when he followed a helpful fellow all over a huge market to find five scrawny green onions.
If I could only experience one thing in a foreign place, without hesitation, it would be the market. There you see what they wear, their crafts tell you if they are a simple substance society or do they enjoy art for arts sake. What do they eat, how varied is their diet, often you can learn food preparation. Are they friendly to strangers, have they had much interaction with westerners. Religion, family structure, education; you can learn all this at the market.
Baun, not much of a place but we did see the rumah raja, the last rajah's house. His homes, one of which is still occupied by one of his widows, are extremely simple. At the rajah's place we met an energetic kid of about 15 years that spoke very good English - English is taught in his school and he was eager to try it out with us - he took us all on a little stroll through the jungle to a river. The river was the bathing spot for the locals and there were a number of little kids getting a good scrubbing from mom. I tried to ignore the women doing their laundry in the river; did I really think canoe man had a washing machine?
Our next stop was Oebelo where Pak Pah and his family have set up a workshop producing the 20-stringed Rotenese instrument, the sasando (featured on the 5000Rp note). The grandson sat down to play it for us. Beautiful! After a few songs and admiring the craftsmanship Greg and I agreed we must have one.
The father sat down to complete one for us; the other completed sasando was sold. Then the talented young boy tuned and played ours. We spent a better part of the afternoon with the family who entertained us with music, song and the father and grandfather even danced for us.
Check in start at 9 am - 2 pm
The crossing to Timor from Australia was a near epic event. Okay so that is a bit of an exaggeration, by Australian terms it was a lovely sail with a bit of a mix. But I'm telling you it was the third time this seasick sailor girl turned green since leaving Ensenada, Mexico.
On our way around the west end of Timor towards Kupang we were amused by the unusual fishing boats coming and going with smiles and waves. We all exhaled with relief once the anchor was set, the engine and electronics off and all was still.
There is a boat coming towards us. It's a wooden canoe with three guys in it. They are definitely coming to see us. The fellow in the middle is wearing a big smile and a Harley Davidson jacket, its 90 degrees; he is sitting between two fishing nets. It's a very small canoe. Smiley says he is with Quarantine and Customs, Greg backs away from the transom and says "he's all yours" - oh goodie.
"Hallo, do you have some ID?" As he climbs aboard and bids farewell to the fishermen from whom he hitched a ride - I think, we are stuck with him - he pulls out his government photo ID - I must quickly think outside the box. Fredrick, with excellent English, spends about an hour and a half going through the boat, inquiring as to the crews' health, commenting on the expired dates on much of our medication and frozen steaks. I assure him that I don't mind keeping our expired aspirin, cough syrup and frozen steaks onboard. Finally Fredrick and I have completed our business and Greg rows us ashore where Fredrick says he will arrange my transport to immigration and customs.
On the beach there are no less then 7 guys offering their services: drivers, trash collection, dinghy watching, who knows what they are talking about. I'm getting passed from driver to driver to driver, I tell Fredrick I'm not happy with this situation, he apologizes but seems powerless against the growing chaos and points to a fellow standing off the beach looking shy. I walk up to the street ignoring the flock around me, I ask the quiet one if he can take me to Immigration, he nods yes, I get in his clean SUV, his name is Ama. The beach sales force is crowded around the vehicle with final pitches, I tell Ama to GO!, he pulls away into traffic I see the salesman's lips still moving in the mirror. Caught up in the quiet of the scooters and bemos I lay my head back and start to laugh, Ama senses my predicament and laughs too.
Immigrations is quick and we are off to Customs. On the road to Customs we pass a monkey reserve, there are monkeys all along the sides of the road, Ama slows almost to a stop to allow some monkeys to cross the road. We agree we must bring Sierra back here tomorrow. Ama has already agreed to be our driver all day tomorrow though he is worried about his very limited English, I assure him if my limited Indonesian doesn't bother him we will do great.
Islam is big in Indonesia, when I got to Customs the man I needed to speak with had just been called to prayer. Another Customs official lead me to a simple chair in front of an empty desk, he pulled up another chair about 2 feet from me to wait for the head official to return from prayer. So there we sat for at least a half an hour looking at each other, the occasional smile, he chained smoked, I felt like I was in some movie. The large, sparse office with high ceilings was hot and stuffy, thick with the smoke of clove cigarettes. The only light was through the dirty windows and the ceiling fans weren't on and I was just waiting.
Ama, bless him, was still there when I was finally done. He drove me the 25 minutes back to the beach followed by two customs officials on motorbikes who were planning on boarding our boat - I wasn't sure why. Once at the beach I was able to radio Greg from the handheld I carried in my bag that I was ready to come home and I had guests with me. These two fellows went through drawers and cupboards but seem to have an interest in the rum we carried. Greg offered a couple bottles and I said no way. My position I told them was if we have too much rum I shall open it up and pour it over board. Greg was offering two bottles a piece. I was asked no questions regarding the quantity of alcohol aboard in the office interview and knew we were being scammed. I don't drink rum and they didn't want wine so Greg's deal went. He rowed the two officials back to shore with two bottles each of rum.
Depart for Indonesia
June 15 FUZZY DAY!
10am I catch a cab to the Darwin airport. Resisting the urge to tell anyone that remotely makes eye contact that Fuzzy Squid, my littlest daughter, is coming I board the 4 ½ hour on time flight to Sydney. Jack is going to meet me in the Qantas ticket area at 6 pm with her.
Sierra and her dad had a great time in Sydney. Even though the worst storm to hit the Sydney area in thirty years arrived the week they did. They still managed to have sunshine for their walk over on top of the Sydney Harbor Bridge and their tour to the Blue Mountains and a wild animal park where Sierra pet a wombat, a wallaby and a koala. Jack said they have seen every aquarium and museum in town! Sydney is by far my favorite big city. Jack had to admit it rivaled his beloved San Francisco.
Sierra seemed to have grown in the last 2 ½ months. Words cannot express how good the sight of a little face with perfectly placed freckles can make you feel. We waved good-by and floated off towards our gate for our flight to Darwin.
We got back to the boat about 1am where Greg was anxiously waiting for Sierra to come home. He got creative with his excitement; the entire interior of the boat was a kelp forest of multicolored streamers, from the ceiling of every room hung 3 to 4 foot lengths of streamers. Fuzzy of course loved it!
We quickly unpacked the box of "stuff" I had pre-packed to come along with Sierra. There they were thanks to Ardee! Two full boxes, carefully 'Seal a Mealed' of Peeps!!
We turn into Cullen Bay, the friendly voice on radio has told us to tie up at the Customs pontoon. We see two ferries and "Look, are those Custom Officials?" "They don't appear to have uniforms on" "IT'S BILLY AND JOEY!!!!"! They are amazing! Our friends from Melbourne, Australia are waving and directing us from the Customs dock. Our welcome seems just as crazy as our trip here from Auckland. Joey is crying and I'm stunned; at least the guys are getting the boat tied up.
We had wonderful days wandering around Darwin with Billy and Joey Rawson. We strolled the market with its unique crafts and music. Greg enjoyed some kangaroo but I think Joey's face tells that story best. We did have some wonderful meals and enjoyed much conversation over lemon squashes - Sierra is going to love them. The only task we had was coaching Billy on retirement and relaxation techniques.
Oh! There was the day of the "Inflatable Warriors". I didn't want to do it but you can't say no to a girlfriend on her birthday. Once we got going with our inflatable helmets and inflatable weapons on the inflatable platform I was into it. I beat Jo to an inflatable pulp! In her defense I must say she was laughing too hard to have much balance or strength and I was in a dress and NOT going down!
It was sad to have our friends leave so quickly but now we turn our attention to preparing for Sierra, she will be here soon.
Later on inside the Great Barrier Reef
Passing through the Great Barrier Reef was anti climatic. It was late in the day with pouring rain making visibility poor. If there was a beautiful coral reef teeming with fish of every description we missed it. The pass we came through was 3 miles wide so we did not witness waves breaking against the reef either - under the circumstances that is not a complaint. The calm waters inside the reef that we yearning for were not to be found. The swells were smaller but the seas just as wacky.
Greg determined from looking at the charts/plotter that Cape Bedford would be a calm safe place to tuck into, get a bit of sleep and repair the steering. We were grateful to get into dry clothes and even though the swell still found us, rocking us more then gently with the wind funneling off the land, roaring through our rigging, we slept. Daylight found us still bouncing around at the end of our anchor chain so we decided to head for Lizard Island and hopefully a more sheltered anchorage for Greg to work.
In order for Greg to repair the steering gizmo he has to crawl into the lazzarette (cubbie) under the cockpit seat. To appreciate the desire for a calm anchorage to work in picture the following; taking the seat cushions off your sofa, crawling in head first, face/belly up and then twisting slightly so you can get your head and both hands into the armrest. The part you need to work on is in the center of the armrest. The piece you are trying to replace is an inch long and thinner than a shoestring potato. You have to slide this into slot you can't clearly see. It must be synchronized to the other wheel as well as the steering position. If the steering wheel turns unexpectedly you will lose the end digit of a finger
Our steering via wheel has been out since I don't know, a day, two days. Our rough trip just got rougher and wetter. I don't know where to begin - We are completely reliant on the auto pilot and the throttle for steering. The waves are increasing and breaking. Some good size ones are beginning to slam the side and aft quarter of the boat. They are beautiful as they break in the sun; turquoise and brilliant white foam. Braced in the cockpit I was hoping for inspiration that would express this scene to you. The power you can feel as the boat is lifted and the roar as another breaks against and under you.
I filmed some wonderful moments of a pod of dolphins for you the other day; I'll try to capture these tremendous waves too.
Braced on the port side again, shoot I missed a good one. Greg cheers me on with, "here comes a good one" - I feel the boat lifting, a glance over my shoulder and I sense the wave is too high, instinct says hold on to the camera. The boat is rising and tipping further, I try to hold on to the bimini frame behind me, lose my grip. The cockpit is filled with the turquoise water, I don't think I'm underwater, where is Greg? In an instant I realize I'm on the cockpit floor looking down on the starboard seat completely awash, the wave(s) are going over me, where is Greg; the water is warm, how bad is this?
The boat is beginning to flatten out; Greg is coming towards me yelling something about my ribs. I try to tell him my ribs seem fine it's my arm that is tweaked but nothing comes out, so I nod, smile and he goes to check on the boat.
Greg - "I was standing in my usual spot behind the port wheel. I saw the wave coming, thought it would be a good one for your picture. When it hit my grip was knocked loose, as I was being thrown down behind the starboard wheel I saw you heading directly for the table. I was positive you would have broken ribs."
This time our durable and faithful isinglass enclosure took a beating. Most of the snaps on the starboard and aft sides were ripped away, zippers too. Thankfully the center starboard "window" was rolled up allowing much of the water to escape with out too much damage.
You know the saying laugh or you'll cry? We were cracking up. It actually was pretty funny, surreal experience. One minute Greg was standing the next he was squashed behind the wheel. The whole time I held my camera up so it wouldn't get wet - ha! The water was so pretty and warm, perhaps if it had been cold water the episode - "the deluge" as we have come to call it - would not have been so pleasant. You'll be cheered to know that even though I am now going on my third camera of the voyage I did get a picture of the deluge.
Unfortunately this wasn't a rouge wave, more just kept on coming. Greg was forced to stand and "drive" with the throttle. The autopilot was currently holding course, Greg would either speed up or slow down between the waves. 7 hours to the opening in the Great Barrier Reef we planned to pass through. 7 hours until calm, the thought kept us chipper even though we and everything around us was soaking with salty water.
This has been our toughest passage for me. I don't know if it's because we had such a stop/go departure from New Caledonia. It takes a bit of psyching your self up before sailing off on a long passage. We always try to be calm, well rested and completely mentally and preparedly ready to go. Maybe it's just the strong winds and more messed up seas day after day. Maybe the current sailing conditions are why the Cruising Guides say not to attempt this passage until after the middle of June. Maybe I'm just homesick. It's good I'm out here with my best friend.
Greg's watch - I'm all of a sudden against the strings - not the cloth - of the lee cloth. Things are flying. Greg comes down to check on me, mumbles something about a big wave and goes back on deck. I go back to sleep, it's great to have complete confidence in the person on watch.
Bam! What the heck was that?! Greg knew right away that car jib car had exploded from the track. Both the edges on the 5 lb metal car which grip the track (this set up allows you to adjust the lead for the jib forward or back) were completely blown off clean. Thank goodness the track did not rip out of the deck. Thank goodness no one was near it. It hit the port light in the side of the cabin knocking out a chunk of the 1/4 inch thick window and severely bending the frame both inside and out. This is an example of what is referred to as "load". These are other parts to order.
We are discussing this latest incident when it occurs to Greg to tell me about the "Big Wave". After he checked on me he went back on deck to check things out and resume his watch. "I heard this unusual splashing and tapping from the back of the boat. It was your fishing rod dragging along behind the boat still attached to the lanyard. It looked pretty funny." Apparently one wave knocked us down and another pushed the transom down into a swirl that must have forced the rod up and out of the holder. Amazing! Another thing to stow, it's not like we can fish in these conditions anyway.
Excitement on my watch this morning! A FON (foon) - Freighter Out of Nowhere, came over the starboard horizon. They are fast, one minute the horizon is empty and the next there's a FON traveling at full speed. I was once told that for a freighter traveling 8kts to come to a stop takes about 1 ½ miles. Another note, from the moment a FON is sighted on the horizon to you is about 15 - 20 minutes. This is one of the reasons we keep a constant watch. This morning the FON came within about 3 miles of us, I didn't have the radar on so that's just a visual guess. Then he continued his angle off towards.could be the Torres Strait?
I had the dog watch of 1 - 4 again last night; no complaint though, Greg does over all longer night watches than me. For some reason I was extra tired so I spent most of my watch standing in the companion way, watching for a falling star, thinking about things you think about in the middle of the night. I stand there so if I fall asleep I'll fall down the stairs and probably wake up.
It happened today, we've joked and made off handed comments, many of you expressed the same concerns, today however it happened. Hundreds, seemingly thousands of miles from anywhere, between sunrise watch change, the brushing of teeth and the making of coffee we looked at each and simultaneously stated, "we are crazy", and meant it. We have a lovely home at the beach sitting empty. We have family and friends that love and miss us. We are spending another day bobbing around with nothing in sight but the sea, the sun and a few clouds. In about 1000 more miles we will be ¼ of the way around the world. ¼ of the way towards a crazy personal goal that once completed will be just that, completed.
Tuesday May 22
Left the barrier reef of New Caledonia, we are officially on our way. New Caledonia is nice. I wouldn't go to great expense to get there, but if you're in the neighborhood it is definitely a nice visit.
Monday May 21
We have been trying to check out of New Caledonia since Thursday. But due to a variety of holidays and language aided misunderstandings we weren't able to be cleared until today. The process has become to confusing to write to you about. I think we will go to a northern islet within the reef to be illegal, sleep and regroup.
Noumea, New Caledonia
New Caledonia is a French Territory. The population seems to be a split between European/French and the indigenous Kanaks with a sprinkling of others. The main industry is mining, particularly nickel mining. Greg was told that the French would easily give up Tahiti before New Caledonia due to the nickel mines.
The wealth the mines bring in is seen in the roads, large number of late model cars, shops, lots of home interior shops, fine quality clothing stores and numerous restaurants serving excellent food. The hills are filled with lovely homes and charming neighborhoods. Of course there are the neighborhoods of the miners, not so charming. It appears that the less than charming neighborhoods are primarily populated by the Kanaks.
Repairing the main and replacing the all the clamps on the exhaust were a top priority now that we are in port. We will refuel when we get our clearance papers making us eligible for duty free fuel.
Wednesday May 9, 2007
Well, we arrived in New Caledonia at 10:30 am this morning, 6 days since we left New Zealand. The breeze is warm, there is humidity in the air and the water temperature is 83 degrees. Two marina dock hands catch our lines and tell us something about the marina office and immigration coming to our boat. I think my French needs more work because 4 guys from Immigration showed up, Greg saw two had guns, and I didn't have the required paperwork. They pleasantly explained - in English - I should go to the marina office for the papers to fill out, they will come back in awhile. We wobble off to the marine office to get forms, I feel for legible penmanship I should find a moving surface to write on.
Quarantine gal came next. She was very nice but took all my produce, except the cabbage. She took my popcorn and all of Greg's steaks. We generally have info or an idea of what will be confiscated upon entry into a new country. This stop completely caught us off guard. We had provisioned not just for the one week trip here but for the additional three weeks to Darwin! That's a lot of popcorn, oranges, apples, peppers, cucs, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, etc, etc. Greg's steaks, about a dozen rib-eyes, didn't bother me a bit. The bag was so heavy I had to help her off the boat with it; it just doesn't seem right does it?
The three Customs fellows were really entertaining, one spoke Spanish. On the customs forms I declared 30 bottles of wine and 20 bottles of rum. Truth be told I really have no idea how many bottles I have of either. I absolutely feel honesty is the best policy when dealing with foreign officials except when it comes to seashells and butter. I have several spots where I can stash rum and wine, so I stash until they are full - how many bottles is that? Everyone asks do you have weapons, tobacco products and alcohol. We carry no weapons or tobacco, just wine and rum and the random bottle of beer left from guests. This was the first time anyone ever wanted to see our bottles.
So I start pulling bottles from the depths of my secret cubbies praying this does not turn into a case of loaves and fishes. The settee is starting to get full of bottles; I'm both impressed and anxious by my stashing abilities. Think Teri think! Even for me it's hard to think creatively with four men intently watching; more so when one is your nervous husband and the other three are wearing short shorts and guns.
The problem I come to realize is not an imposed fee or confiscation or jail. The problem is simply we can only bring into the country approximately two bottles person, this is very common restriction. They understand we are provisioning for a long trip; all we need to do with the extra is lock it up. I'm still conscious of what I declared verses what I'm beginning to think we have. But I have an idea! What if we lay all the bottles on Fuzzy's bed, they can put their official seal on her bedroom door until we leave. Great, everyone is in agreement. At this moment I'm thinking about quantity still to go - I need another option - and the smiling old one opens Sierra's bathroom door which has a second door opening into her room.oops! Everyone thankfully enjoyed a good laugh.
I have a plan which will hopefully also avoid pulling more bottles out. "What if we seal up both of these holes and apply the official seals?" Much conversation and gesturing later the rum and wine is being stashed back into the cubbies and both my cutting boards are being duct taped to cover the openings. The official customs seals go on and are initialed. We are all satisfied and laughing.
Immigration returns, only two this time, pleasant but anti-climatic. We are done! Q flag comes down, rum and wine are poured.
Tuesday the 8th
It's really amazing what a person can get use to; I'm in the cockpit on watch while typing to you, there's a 32kt breeze. My wireless mouse had to be tucked away; he kept trying to leap from the table. Another amazing thing is how well the sticky little feet on the bottom of my laptop can hold on. Better than me, I have to find a different position.oh oh, a wave just broke on the transom that means water on the cockpit floor, slippers up!
I was kidding us both, barely able to hold on while reading a book, typing while bobbing to and fro was a ridiculous expense of energy.
Later in the day
Wobbling boat life got very intense following my morning note to you. I'd like to give a picture of the conditions we have been sailing in before continuing today's story. Since our first day out of Auckland we have been baffled by the sea state. We turned on the motor at 10:30 am on Thursday when we departed Auckland and hoisted the main, we ran like this until 2 pm Saturday. During this time we had less than 10 kts of breeze, most of the time less than 5 kts. We would have expected smooth glassy seas not swells and chop from seemingly every direction. The question of the day, each day, was where are these swells and chop coming from? The Tasman Sea, Southern Ocean and the south Pacific all converge in this area, is this reason for the confusion?
By Saturday afternoon the wind had increased to average 12 knots so the engine was turned off. Early that evening the breeze had picked up to 25 kts, the decision was made to reef the main before dark. Reefing means to shorten sail, this is done by partially lowering the sail down and lashing the now excess sail along the foot/bottom to the boom before re-hoisting the now much smaller sail. Different boats have a variety of set ups to ease the process of reefing. If done before you really need to, reefing is not excessively difficult. The main sail is the boats engine, bigger engine more power hence bigger sail more power.
25 -35 knots of breeze itself is not a worry for Greetings. It's always the combo of wind, wind direction and sea state that defines whether or not you have something to talk about. Greg was driving, I was lowering the main and Greetings was wobbling to and fro. In all Greg's sailing he said he has never seen the mast swing back and forth over centerline so frequently in one leg. The biggest concern was catching the main on the spreaders (arms that stick out the side of the mast) which is very unfortunately exactly what happened. The main ripped between the top batten (horizontal stiffener/stay) and next seam down, at least three feet. (Greetings has swept back spreaders - angle back) Greg, considering the current conditions and location of the rip, determined we would be safe in reefing as planned, leaving the sail up. A sail also steadies a boat, we needed steadying.
Sunday we sailed with our ripped main and added our favorite 'jib on a stick' as the wind was almost directly behind us. This is usually one of the most stable easy ways to sail. The wind was between 18 - 24 kts and the seas were a good 2 meters. On Monday the breeze picked up to 25 - 40 kts, the seas had grown to over 3 meters and were so wobbly that we had to reduce sail further. We took down the jib. Tuesday brought more 25 - 40 knot breezes but now the seas had gotten bigger. The main was brought down and the jib alone was put up, we felt this would give us more control and help keep us on course. We blew through the pass in the coral reef of New Caledonia Wednesday morning with 25 knots.
Let me now describe for you what we mean when we describe the sea state as 'wobbling' - Weeble my friend, you can skip this part as you already know what it means. Greg and I each have our own description so I'll give you both versions.
Greg - The waves were so steep the bow was plowing into the back of one wave while our transom was in the top of the following wave. In addition to this motion we had we what we referred to as the "Swirl" caused by ground swells rolling in from the South and the East in two to three wave sets. The auto pilot is given a course and works to stay on that course moment to moment, it can not look forward to see what is coming up next and set itself up for it. (Teri -The auto pilot can not drive with the finesse Greg can) The Swirl starts from a swell coming from the opposite direction than that of the wind. The swell lifts the boat off its intended path and most times it brings you into an untrimmed state. There is a time delay before the auto pilot can correct the position; meanwhile you are sideways to the swell. As the auto pilot catches up and corrects its position the boat has been grabbed by the wave and is being pushed sideways. At that time the rudder via the auto pilot directs itself hard to the proper course. (Teri -There is a distinct roar at this point as the boat and waves work against each other, I love it, sounds like power)
Me - A little boy of about 5 or 6 years in new sharp hockey skates is attempting to keep up with his much older brother on hard smooth ice. His little ankles bend in, and then out. He pushes off with a burst of speed, looking good - oh! oh! he is losing control. He starts to lean too far back, counters by whipping himself forward; he is out of control and twirls to the right in a moment of panic. The twirl has slowed his momentum, he's okay. He pushes forward, little ankles bending in then out. We are his skates.
Again, we feel Kiwis are such intrepid sailors because "dirty" weather is the norm for them.
I would like to add that though our sailing conditions these past few days were a bit tiring the skies were usually always clear, day and night. The sun made the tops of the breaking waves glow bright white against the dark blue seas, it was quite spectacular.
Continuing our story for today I'll mention that yesterday a light came up on the engine panel indicating the water temperature was too hot. Greg figured this meant the impeller was bad; it had not yet been replaced. First thing this morning he planned to do the repair. The morning winds were light at 20 -30 kts but don't forget the wobbling swirling seas. Greg swore, he never swears.
The repair should have taken only 20 minutes, pretty straight forward and the impeller housing thingy is on the outside of the engine with access from the Sea Cave. Because, the spare impeller is in the plastic spare parts box that is forward under our bed, the tools and parts he set down didn't stay where he put them, the plate on the outside of the thingy was not square so lining up the mini screws was difficult and by the last screw he couldn't see where the screw went in because his dainty fingers were in the way and he then dropped the mini screw down in the bilge under the engine, he swore and it had taken 40 minutes.
He cleaned up and got settled for his turn at watch. I went down to brush my teeth and end mine. Battery operated toothbrush in mouth I noticed water spilled over the floor broads in our forward cabin. Cleaning it up I hope it was just a bit from one of the nose dives Greetings had recently taken. Walking aft to see if Greg wants anything before I have a rest I notice water washed over the floor boards in the Sea Cave/Fuzzy's cabin. I reluctantly lift the floor boards; the bilge is filled with water, covering the scuba gear we stowed there the day before we left Auckland because it's such a dry spot. Umm Greg, we have a bit of a problem.
Greg pulled up the boards under Fuzzy's bed, an exhaust hose clamp had given way and quiet a bit of water was squirting in. He goes to our emergency gear cupboard gets the bag of large clamps for himself and a pump for me - oh joy. I get my red bucket which is only supposed to be for cleaning clean things with clean water or puking, not bilge water and commence to bail. I can't complain because Greg is now contorted across the boards of Sierras bed trying to fit a new clamp. Are you remembering the sea state I described to you and the impeller repair of 20 minutes ago? At one point while bailing the compartment under the engine I wanted to rest my forehead against the engine for balance but it was too hot. That's not the most absurd moment though, it got really strange when I realized I was becoming my mother; in the midst of my bailing I notice dirt stuck in the corners of the engine room hatch. Yes, I got some paper towels and cleaned them. Greg must have made at least 5 attempts to get that new clamp on without it leaking. We actually had to laugh out loud at our situation because we choose to be out here enjoying this!
Saturday 7:10 am
He's back, the pudgy one. We are well over one hundred and eighty miles from any land. How do these little sea birds spend the night? Doesn't seem anxious to try the day old popcorn I tossed out to him, can't blame him, it has no butter.
A pair of seabirds has joined us. One has the sleek compact body of a finch; the other has a featherly body of twice the girth, or in a constant state of being puffed up. They are both lime green accented with wee little beaks of yellow, yellow streaks on their wing tips and soft yellow bellies. They have tried out various seats on the deck seeming to prefer the lifelines alongside the cockpit peering in at us through the isinglass.
BIRD IN MY HAIR! BIRD IN MY HAIR!
So light I could barely feel him it could have been a puff of breeze coming in through the open forward isinglass panel. Reading my book with my back leaning against the cockpit bulkhead I didn't see the little guy come in. Concerned with poop ending up in my hair, I gently brushed him from the top of my head while calling for Greg. Now the little green bird is flying around the cockpit hitting against the isinglass frantically searching for a way out. Greg extends his hand towards the little fellow. Taking a chance, the pudgy one alights on Greg's hand and is guided to the freedom of the open panel.
MAY 3, 2007 Thursday
DEPART NEW ZEALAND
Greetings arrived in Opua, New Zealand on October 23, 2006. 10:30 am today the motor went on, we waved good-bye to Roy who accompanied us from slip S77 at Westhaven Marina, Greetings home for the past 6 months, to fuel and then on to the Customs dock. Good thing we had Roy, it took the three of us to watch, drive and talk to officials on the handy cell phone while weaving in and out of the piers of the Auckland ferry and shipping port looking for the new Customs pontoon with the yellow Quarantine sign. We finally located the 10 ft/3m by 60 ft/20m pontoon with the 3ft/1m by 3ft/1m green shack with a pale yellow sign affixed to the side with 6in/15cm letters spelling out Quarantine Dock. So obvious.
Like all the officials we have dealt with upon checking in and out of the various countries these four fellows sitting in our cockpit inspecting our paperwork were of very good humor. I really enjoy the check-in/check-out process even with the challenges. Paperwork complete we said our finally good-byes to Roy. We will be forever grateful of our time he spent with us. His experience and talents are legendry in the sailing world; we had the opportunity to race with Roy and have him onboard Greetings - yes fellow sailors we are fortunate. For me it will be his sincerity, humility, and above all his wisdom. It's a wisdom that comes from having an extremely full productive life and appreciating it. Roy, if you happen to read this I'd like you to know that you have changed the way I think about a number of things in life - thank you. To be a success you must leave your comfort zone.
The officials were happy to drive Roy out of the port; we headed out across the Waitemata Harbour towards the open ocean and somewhere.
Undulating diamonds - that phrase sounds like something from a romance novel; if you could witness the ocean right now you would be of the same opinion, a rolling sparkling sea would not be accurate.
Sierra will be thrilled to hear Stafford Guest joined us for dinner tonight. Stafford enjoys returning to the civilization of New Zealand only on occasion and we were quite fortunate to hook up. We met Stafford on the little island country of Niue. He and his wife Salome own the motel we stayed in while there. If you recall the pictures of Niue, Salome is the woman that patiently taught me to weave a basket from a coconut palm while telling me of life on the island when she was young. She also cooked us Taro among other yummies for dinner one evening. Sierra declared without question the little cabins of the Coral Gardens Motel made it her favorite place to stay. Stafford, who took Sierra baiting and hunting for Coconut Crabs in the bush at night, taught her about the three different stages of coconut, how to open them and how they taste, is also one of her favorite people. She felt this way about him even before he helped her to plant her own coconut tree - she has every intention of returning to note its growth.
Coral Gardens Motel
Salome & Stafford Guest
Makapu, Niue, SW Pacific
Ph: (683) 4235 or (649) 817-9002
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.coralgardens.nu
Speaking of running into people, we had dinner with our friend Harley who we first met in Papette, Tahiti. He is working on a boat which he will deliver to Alaska and then on to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. He is currently staying on another boat on our dock in this marina of over a 1000 boats, small world.
April 23 - 26
Absolutely a superb 4 days. The winds were very light so we motored but none of us cared. The days were sunny and warm, the evenings cool and clear and the seas always flat. Roy was our guide around Kawau Island, across the gulf to Tekouma Harbour in the Coromandels and on to Waiheke Island. He guided us on hikes to an abandoned copper mine past dozens of Wallabies, through fabulous smelling forests with a thick carpet of pine needles. He had us climbing among grazing cows to hilltops offering spectacular views. We motored along side bobbing penguins, fished with fancy lures and white strips of cloth and caught nothing. We shared stories and laughs and good food. It really was perfect.
Stewart 34 Harbour Course - Canon Cup
One week later and it's an entirely different day of racing. It was suppose to be a very long course however it was shortened due to lack of wind. Greg volunteered to be the dog in the house - down below - his toughest job of the day was handing up the anchor at the bottom mark.
Tonight at the Stewart 34 Class end of the year dinner Roy Dickson, his crew and boat, Playbuoy, took first place honors.
It's sunny, not too cold but it's going to be fresh. Roy Dickson, our captain for this Stewart 34 Regatta later told me it was the freshest regatta of the season. Already the flags on the Harbour Bridge are sticking straight out; it's just before 10 am. We see the crews on boats heading out are with out exception in their foulies. Okay, I go back in and grab my bibs. Greg will be in the cockpit and figures he'll be fine with sailing shorts and spray top. I'll probably be in the middle of the boat. Greg suggests I bring the camera; I give him the "I understand you are temporarily insane" look and let the suggestion pass. The regatta is to consist of 5 windward/leeward races. Roy and his boat Playbouy are consistently in the top three of this very competitive Stewart 34 class; though anxious I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to sail with him.
We ran the gambit of New Zealand weather during the course of the day, warm sun, pouring rain, waves of refreshing saltwater in your face and wind and more wind. A good portion of the day was sailed with the number 3 jib (the smallest), the date on the sail was 11/03 - it had never been used. Did I mention it was fresh? Part way through the day I was relieved of my job to go below to pull the spinnaker through the hatch into the cabin during take downs. The reason being it was difficult for me to get out of the cabin and back on the rail due to the severe angle of heel. We tacked quite a bit so the two bow guys, Dwayne and Buzz, and I were given the opportunity to demonstrate numerous cabin top crossing positions. Head first, feet first, the just get across and stay on the boat position. Did I mention the boat has no lifelines?
Roy's driving is legendary; frequently we came within what seemed a frog's hair of another boat. On one downwind leg with spinnakers flying another competitor did not heed our starboard (right of way) call. Wham! Dwayne kept saying, "Hold on Teri", concerned for my somewhat upside down position unaware I had my right foot conveniently tucked under the topping lift. Playbouy sustained negligible damage, regrouped in a flash and kept on racing.
It was 3 - 4 days before I could climb on my knees up to our bed without holding my breath - what a great day of racing.
The western side of the Great Barrier Island is rugged, with steep wooded shoreline reaching down to the waters edge. The eastern side reportedly has long stretches of white sand beaches conjuring up long walks and sea shells for me and surf for Greg. Seldom is the east side of the Great Barrier Island free of the persistent easterly winds and southern ocean swells keeping it elusive to most yachties.
The prediction of more sunshine and extremely light winds gave us the opportunity to power around the top of the island to the east side. We anchored in a bit of a cove, got the dinghy in the water and headed to the 2 ½ miles of white sand. Shelling was a little disappointing. I have decided the unique shells must live in warmer water. Greg found a fun break to surf with just 4 other guys. We were repeatedly advised of the "Bronze Whalers", a number of 10 foot sharks that like to cruise the surf line along this beach, supposedly they are non aggressive. I was very eager to add it to my wildlife sightings, Greg was not.
We spent just a night here before the forecast suggested we move on.
We motor sailed south around the bottom of the island up to a pretty and protected (from wind and swell) anchorage. It became more and more popular as the evening went on. Boats were coming in until well after dark, anchoring quiet close to one another and even rafting up three at a time on one anchor. We were close to shore so there wasn't anyone behind us but there was a fellow directly in front and possibly over our anchor. It is Easter Sunday so we had a couple of hard boiled eggs, holidays just aren't the same without friends and family. In the morning with Greg on the bow, guiding me while watching our anchor come up, I was able to drive Greetings just about onto our neighbors swim step before we were free and clear.
Coming back into Auckland early Monday afternoon is a pretty wild time. There are every imaginable and some unimaginable, type of boats here and there and everywhere. Dozens and dozens and dozens of boats, some are anchored, some are drifting, some are full throttle. It's a scene from Dr. Seuss. Aucklander's love boating!
Greetings Log Two
New Zealand - New Caldonia - Darwin, Australia - Indonesia - Singapore - Malaysia - Thailand
Thursday the 5th of April
We have been anchored at the Great Barrier Island, roughly 57 miles east of Auckland, since Tuesday. The green canopy of eucalyptus, pines and shrub reaching down to the waters edge is lovely, the silence is remarkable. Repeatedly we have commented on the quiet. "Does it seem quiet because we have been immersed in so much noise recently or is it really quieter than other anchorages?
I've been back in New Zealand since Friday, March 30th. Greg returned on the 7th of March. Fawn was promised a visit home to Huntington Beach, before heading off to Turkey, sometime in March. Hoping to see her I extended my ticket back to New Zealand until the end of the month. As life would have it she comes home today. Hi Fawn! Hi Mom!
Rarely am I affected by jet lag. The first few days back "home" (boy, Greetings sure does feel like home!) I rarely slept, the last 24 hours I can't stay awake. Weird!
Big Headline News!!!
My favorite and most beloved brother had another birthday on the 3rd!!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOUUU! HAPPY BIRTHDAY DEAR CREEPY, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!
Now for some even bigger news! PATRICIA AND COLIN ARE GETTING MARRIED!!! YAHOOOOOOOEEEEE! No date yet. "Alright then pet."
It is very cold in New Zealand now, very cold.
I'm saddened to inform you all that Max Holmes III did not survive the trip. He was warm, ever helpful, always a pleasure to have around and will be sorely missed. Max is survived by Greg and Teri Weeger. A brief and respectful service will be held in the Westhaven Marina parking lot in Auckland. Max shall be laid to rest in the local dumpster.
Please no flowers, however, blankets would be appreciated.
Monday October 23, 2006 Opua, New Zealand
Day was beginning to break; it seemed to be an actual race with the storm as we turned into the great bay heading towards Opua. It was raining sheep, the wind coming from the west and rapidly increasing as we powered through the bay towards the customs dock.
Greg was aggressively working to bring Greetings along side the quarantine dock while the wind and current were trying to push her away. I managed to jump to the dock but could not hang on to her myself. Greg made a long leap for the dock but decide to go for a swim instead. I was so mad. Here I am desperately trying to tie up the boat; I can barely see it is raining so hard. There is water running down inside my jacket because the wind is blowing my hood off and he is playing in the water!
Fresh westerlies. The Kiwis kill me with their minimalizing ways. Our weather update warned us of an approaching gale. Our friend Roy Dickson sends an email mentioning “fresh westerlies”. Call it what you will, Greetings was full throttle racing for the protection of Opua.
The water temperature is now only 71. It is getting cold. The wind has completely died and the engine is back on.
Something is wrong with the forward head and it’s not good. We can use the aft one now, deal with it later.
The waves increased to 3 meters, for comfort sake we altered our course slightly to ride the swells at 45 degrees off the bow. The seas were very irregular, with a cross swell. A few random waves even broke coming up our transom flooding the wheel wells. The winds picked up to a steady 35 knots from the south. We had a reef in the main and had taken in much of the head sail yet we still were laying over pretty good.
Papillion, a catamaran we originally met in Tahiti and had recently been sharing weather info with, radioed that they had altered course. Their crew of four was now heading west in this mess hoping for things to settle down and give them a better angle to New Zealand. They could not ride through the seas like we could. A cat would get to much speed and fall off the increasing waves. A later radio contact reported they hove to for awhile just to rest and regroup.
This was the first leg where we were in radio contact with other boats. It was somewhat reassuring to know that others knew what you were going through.
As mentioned we were heeled over pretty good. Random waves would hit us so hard they seemed to knock us sideways with a jolt. Our little isinging glass cockpit enclosure proved remarkably sturdy. The force of the waves against the enclosure would force water through the zippers and any openings like a spray nozzle on a garden hose.
Greg was having a hard time staying at his nav table where he was trying to get weather info and make radio contact. He was actually thrown from his seat to the floor once. In fact, it was about this time while desperately trying to get weather info that we received a joke from a girlfriend of mine that will remain unnamed. For an hour and half Greg tried to hang on waiting for the joke to come through clearing the radio to receive a weather update.
We have two bathrooms/heads, the one on the port/left side was currently out of the water, I would be unable to flush. So I hand over handed my way along the grab rail making my way forward to the other head. Almost there I realized my feet are not on the floor, I’m dangling from the grab rail. I think to myself, “self, how are you going to do what you need to do once you get there?” I started back to the cockpit and tried to think of something else.
The crazy motion is tough in the dark; I made a few offerings to the sea that evening. It was, as you would expect, a long night for both of us.
6:00 am, the wind dropped to about 10 knots, turned on the motor.
Depart for New Zealand 7:40 am sunny, very light wind, water temp is 85F. We motored until about 11:00 am, 10 miles south, off the coast of Fiji the wind started to pick up to about 15 knots we were on a nice reach and remained so through the night.
Musket Cove, yet again, this time as illegals.
We had been watching the weather, comparing information with others preparing to make the run south to New Zealand. We were told by those familiar with this route you could expect three good days and three bad days. (Now that’s helpful.)
Two of the three boats that left yesterday came back to Musket, the seas were too crazy. A 65 foot Oyster lost her bimini - the canvas and stainless framework covering the cockpit - it was apparently ripped off by a large wave. Thankfully we received no info that indicated anyone was hurt. (Was that one of the bad days?)
Left Vuda Point Marina for Musket Cove after filling our water, diesel and gas tanks. Michelle brought us a huge bucket of mangos! THANK YOU!!
Friday the thirteenth
Checked out of Fiji – very sad.
Friday October 6
We are still at friendly Vuda Point Marina; it looks like we will be leaving for New Zealand from here. It's not that we like it here so much as it's a calm and easy place to prepare for the arduous 9 day trip to New Zealand; also the weather has been lousy making a one more trip to the Yasawas not very enticing.
Shalvin just finished the fifth coat of varnish two days ago. We have been polishing everything, put up all the isinglass and polished that too. I've been cooking meals to freeze for our voyage, I'll be lucky if I can heat them up. Greg has been constantly watching weather looking for the window that will get us to New Zealand with the least amount of trauma. We have been talking to folks, mainly kiwis, to get some insight into the trip. The answer is always the same, hope for three to four decent days (what is decent to a sturdy kiwi sailor?), expect 35 - 40 knots and at least one good storm. I might add we'll be sailing against the swell. Yikes.
It's an interesting set up in this marina, different than anything we have seen before.
Instead of linear docks the marina is one giant circle with a big mooring ball in the center; off this mooring ball are numerous smaller mooring balls and lines. You pull in bow first tossing bow lines to who is ever there to catch them. They slip them though iron rings in the concrete seawall and toss them back. A local guy in a skiff takes your stern lines and slips them through loops in the mooring lines and hands them back to you to tie off on your boat cleats. Getting off the boat is worth a video.
There is a 4 foot by 5 foot attached 'dock' jutting out from the top of sea wall with a electrical hook up and a water spigot spaced every two boats apart. This is also where you disembark or board your boat. Remember we are bow in, the free board - distance from the water line to the deck - on our boat is about six feet. When the tide is between high and low it's not to bad for someone with average leg length to crawl over the bow pulpit and stretching your legs to reach the 'dock'. Actually at mid tide it's just an awkward step, except for maybe my mom and Weeble. At high tide you have to hang from the bow pulpit and fling yourself backward onto the dock. In fear of clipping my chin on the port running light and missing the dock all together I usually remain on the boat during this phase. Low tide is the opposite exercise; you climb on top of the bow pulpit pull yourself on to the dock. The other night when we returned from dinner at super high tide, Greg temporarily stole a dinghy so we could take it around to our transom and get onboard.
Monday September Something
We've wanted to send this past update for the past couple of weeks but have been unable to get anything in or out on my ham/winlink email frequency. We took the bus with the school kids into town this morning but forgot to bring the Gizmo with the Log on it so I'll just keep pecking away until we can get this out to Michael. At New Horizon computer school, which is in the US too, we were able to check our gmail account and the Greetings website. This is the third time we've seen the website I think, good job Michael! Bad job on our part for the screwy position reports, since Tonga the longitude on the position reports should have been East not West because we have crossed the international dateline. I don't know if I can go back and change them but from here on out we should be going in the right direction.
While in town we went to the popular Jolly Good take away restaurant. It's cheap, the portions large, varied menu and the foods not bad. In fact this morning there were two cockroaches in line on the counter before us, and numerous people behind us.
Back in the water! On time I might add. We have been very happy with the work here. Brain a South African who retired at a young age, married Michelle, a Fijian girl, moved to Fiji, works indefatigably at his new business Baobab Marine.
We had anticipated touch up to the keel, but that was worse than expected, the rudder was loose so that was pulled and the bushings repaired.
There is a new environmental law in Australia (expect to be there April 2007) which requires small vessels to have had anti-fouling/bottom paint applied to the bottom of the hull within the last year. So even though barely 8 months ago we had an excellent bottom job done in Mexico (expected to last three years), three coats instead of just two, that hasn't even needed to be cleaned yet, we were required to have it done again. We figure we have so much bottom paint on there now we won't need it redone until we get home.
On the edge of our transom Beneteau in a moment of design flaw place a rubber strip. That rubber strip combined with the other design flaw of a transom scoop that dips three inches below water line makes a fine habitat for various marine life; one day Sierra even had a little fish friend in the transom habitat. We decided to have the rubber strip removed, the edges finished and the entire boat polished. She is dazzling!
In keeping with every other boat yard we have dealt with the bill was twice what was expected but we are very happy with the work and the workers.
Vuda Point Marina, Fiji
Greetings was hauled out at 8 am sharp this morning. The haul out process if you have never seen it is very interesting. One method is to drive the boat onto a submerged rail car. The boat yard guys communicate continuously amongst themselves, while bracing up your boat as the rail car is drawn out of the water using huge cables. Then the boat on the rail car is towed along tracks in the boatyard to an open bay. The boats keel is set on a hunk of old wood and then 'chocked up' so the support of the rail car can be pulled away. Another method, which has always been used with Greetings but never with Scuttlebutt, is the 'Travel Lift'. The travel lift is simple in concept and appearance, having an open box frame construction approximately 25-30 feet high on four huge wheels. The inside has two individually operating slings. You guide your boat into a specially designed slip which has on either side a head high concrete pathway just wide enough for the wheels of the travel lift which is hovering above you. The slings which have been lowered into the water before your arrival are carefully place at a location deemed safe before and aft the keel. The weight distribution, bulks head and electronic equipment on the bottom of the hull are taken into consideration when deciding what a safe lifting location is. A bulk head is a lateral supporting wall inside the hull. When everything is properly aligned the slings are tighten up and the boat is lifted a couple feet out of the water; everything is then checked again before the boat is lifted completely out of the water. The travel lift then drives over to an open work bay with your investment hanging by two strings.
If there isn't much wind or current it can be a very smooth process taking just two people. However, if there is wind, current or heavy surge, as was the case in Mexico, it can easily require at least six hard working guys to get the boat safely out of the water.
September 25 Monday
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO JACK - Who has too many years accumulated to mention! He-he
Didn't get out of the water today, scheduled again for tomorrow.
Instead we went into Lautoka to start provisioning with some non-perishable items.
Left Denarau marina and moved to Vuda Point marina early this morning at high tide.
HAPPY 51st BIRTHDAY GREG!!!
Today was just another wonderful day lounging by the pool with lunch by the sea. We are getting use to this luxurious lifestyle.
September 12 - 23
Since Michael left we have been cleaning, doing minor repairs, ordering parts for bigger repairs, laundry, arranging for the cushions down below to be recovered, dealing with the water maker and it's low productivity, waterproofing for the bimini, having spreader patches sewn on to the main sail and a few new rips repaired etc. Just because our current home is floating doesn't mean we don't have our share of household projects.
One of the benefits to being here at this marina is the free Bula bus that picks you up from the marina and drops you off at one of the four luxury resorts. Our favorite is the new Hilton where rooms are $600 a night. The huge simple yet elegant pool which over looks the water is surrounded by padded chaise lounges and the waterfront restaurant is very good. Hanging out here makes you feel like you're on vacation. I know that sounds silly to you because you think we currently are on vacation, the more I say right now the harder you'll laugh so suffice to say it's sometimes nice to get away from the boat.
Dear family and friends,
I have written, but not sent, a little on the beautiful Society Islands, a little on wonderful Niue, a little on unique Tonga and now we're in Fiji. Before I get further behind I'll write to you about some of the time we have so far spent in Fiji. I'll catch up on the past sometime in the future.
Love, me - Teri
FIJI with Michael Sept 2 - 11
Sept 11 - Monday
Good Morning from Musket Cove! Tonight Michael flies back to the "other world" so this morning we are heading back to Denarau Marina. Michael wants to say good bye to Harry and make a trip into Nadi for some trinkets.
9:30 pm we send Michael off in a cab, the boat is quiet - now what do we do?
Michael saw another shark today. He said it was HUGE! Not really, it was only a four foot white tip reef shark. We took Greetings outside the barrier reef where the big fish are suppose to be; bull and tiger sharks, mantas, even a whale shark is said to frequent the area. Greg and Michael dove and I hovered in Greetings keeping her off the reef. Most of the coral was dead along this portion of the reef due to either tropical storms or the effects of global warming. They weren't diving here for the coral which they have seen in other places in abundance, they were looking for the BIG fish. I have been given a new comfort while snorkeling regarding sharks. In all of our countless snorkels, often in unfrequented waters and Michaels futile searches in supposed shark infested waters we have seen less then a handful of benign sharks.
We were a bit of a hit with our freshly caught Spanish Mackerel at the Musket Cove BBQ tonight. (Yes, that would be another Spanish Mackerel) Michael provided the after BBQ entertainment when he took a swim with the schooling anchovy type fish along side the dinghy dock. Greg and I were a bit further down the dock than Michael when we heard SPLASH!; since I was still on the dock, there was not a doubt in my mind my brother wasn't. Another man reached Michael before I did, together we hauled the safe though confused brother on to the dock. Within seconds he was on his feet and laughing and that's when the applause and hoots of appreciation were released from numerous BBQ spectators. We're not sure how many people we have personally witnessed randomly fall in the water, it happened to me in Tonga - that's another story for another country.
I really don't like snorkeling when all I can see is blue water and flotsam, I feel better when I can at least make out the bottom. The guys figured we needed to go out further beyond the ends of the pass into the deeper water; we're trying to think like a manta. As the pass narrows the current really gets moving, actually causing turbulence on the surface, you just have to relax and float through this fantastic under water show. The schools of fish part just enough to let you pass then close in around you. The fish come within inches of you - though I've never been able to touch any.
Two more drifts through the pass, we are now on a first name basis with some of the fish, still no manta. We are moving on to a little nameless island we saw on our way to Naviti.
We are underway as I write this and the guys are fishing. Greg had a hook up he was sure was at least a hundred pounder - it got off. Michael landed a 30 lb Spanish Mackerel - dinner tonight. The lines are still out and it's only 11:30am.
Mystery Island was cool. Surrounded by coral reef and being low tide left us no choice but to swim to the island and tip toe through the surf and coral. You could walk around the island across white sand and black lava rock in about 20 minutes. We found a number of beautiful shells. Michael found a bathtub amongst the exposed coral reef, which he shared with a little blue fish friend. Greg climbed to the top of the lava rock/hill, the islands highest point, right past the "Private Property - Do Not Pass" sign to take a postcard picture of Greetings and Michael snorkeling
Naviti Island, Yasawa Group, Fiji
Snorkel with the Giant Manta Rays, that's what we came here to do. We drifted through the pass the mantas are supposed to frequent 3 times today, no manta. It wasn't completely disappointing as the quantity of colorful fish swimming all around us in large schools was amazing.
At his own suggestion we dragged Michael back and forth across the opening of the pass, wide sweeps at various speeds (it was fun trolling with him) but he sited not a single manta.
Desperate to see the 10 foot wing span creatures glide through the water Michael comes up with a plan; "tonight take me out to the middle of the pass with every light we have, I'll sit on the bottom (50-60 ft) lit up like a Christmas tree, I'm bound to attract all kinds of things" Sounds good to us so after dark we are back in the dinghy with our gear, Michael is fully decorated and we are all hopeful. Greg and I paddled around trying to follow the not sitting glow beneath the surface. Occasionally we can see the flash from his camera but no signal that we should get in the water because he has sighted manta. Michael ended up with another interesting night dive and Greg and I enjoyed a paddle under the full moon. We agree to go again first thing in the morning.
Tonight we BBQ the "Milk Fish", it was delicious. Greg and Michael did a bit of after dinner fishing; it reminded me of childhood days fishing at Random Lake. Catching 4 inch fish and having a great time!
It's almost a full moon and with its light and our great binoculars I can see the dive lights of Michael and Nesco along the far reef. I can't see the dinghy that Greg is driving while being guided by another local Fijian fellow. What are they doing you ask? What Michael does so well, looking for lobsters. I've got the breadfruit boiling on the stove and the butter is ready to be melted. First we'll have a small kava ceremony here on the boat; the mere thought of kava is beginning to make me shudder.
This morning we left Namara, motoring north along the west coast of Waya to the Octopus Resort, seeking air fills for the dive tanks. They guy at the resort dive shop suggested some great dives and a good anchorage at the top of Waya island, so we are now anchored in Rurugu Bay off the village of Nalauwaki. Michael and Greg went ashore with the yaqona (kava) to be presented to the 'turaga ni koro'. I don't know if they presented it with the proper greeting, "Noqu sevusevu gor", but they must have done alright as Nesco, the chiefs grandson followed them out to Greetings.
He was paddling with his hands, no paddle or oar, a canoe type thing constructed of a folded sheet of corrugated sheet metal. It had wood trim somewhat secured around the edges. He'd paddle a few strokes and bail and paddle a few more strokes and bail until he reached us. He joins us in the cockpit and is very happy to answer our questions. He brought a basket of paw paw (papaya) and a breadfruit. He said he made the basket, so of course I showed him the one I made. Nesco was noticeably amused and impressed with my basket, as I am too. We begin to talk of his canoe, which he also made, and noticed it was sinking! The guys manage to tip, drain, pull and heave his vessel on top of our dinghy which is also tied up out back. He didn't seem the least bit flustered by the near loss. It must be well insured.
More conversation and another plate of food lead to rugby. Apparently he has won some championship or other; I wasn't real clear on that conversation. Michael gives Nesco the rugby ball the Kiwis had given to him and he was thrilled!
Then Michael asked about Lobster. Yes, many lobster in the reef, says Nesco, he will show us where after dark.
We offered to tow Nesco back to shore as we planned to do some shelling, but he declined. Off he went, paddle, paddle, bail, paddle, bail.
This brings me to where I started this evening.
Michael later told me he was shocked at one point when he remembered Nesco was free diving; Michael of course had a tank and wet suit for the night dive, Nesco seemed to always be right near him. Greg was maneuvering the dinghy between the two divers and the reef; it was important to stay near Nesco and keep track of Mike, as Nesco's dive light grew dimmer and dimmer this became more difficult. The friend of Nesco was busy pulling the fish from the spear as Nesco handed it up. Michael spied a huge cuttlefish, he pointed it out Nesco who promptly speared it and plopped it into the dinghy. Michael managed only 3 slipper lobsters, the only kind he saw.
This is the image I see when this foursome return to Greetings; four grinning men in a 10 foot dinghy, wet, numerous bleeding fish flopping at their feet, someone's holding up this enormous cuttlefish (looks like a squid or octopus), the cuttlefish has inked all over everything, Nesco is shivering uncontrollably. Was it mean to be praying they would not come aboard?
Anchored between Waya & Wayasewa, Yasawa Group
Namara Village, Wayasewa
This morning before we could snorkel, dive or mess around on shore we had to present our sevusevu of kava to the village chief. We had scoped out the village with binocs yesterday afternoon from the boat and determined it to be a simple tidy village deserving all the school supplies Brook brought along intended for Tonga. We got Chief Albert out of bed; with rumpled shirt and bed head he joined us on the tattered linoleum floor of a bure, accepting our kava and openly pleased with the school supplies. We were relieved Chief Albert wasn't eager to have an 8 am kava ceremony. Being granted full access to the village and surrounding reef, as well as permission to take photos we said "Vinaka" to our hostess and Chief Albert. This village of 100 was charming and the villagers Bula'd us with big warm smiles. Abraham answered our questions as he showed us around.
On the south end of Wayasewa Island the boys discovered their own wall dive. Though slightly overcast they had a good dive. Michael I'm sure has an inventory of what they saw.
On the north side of the island at low tide you can walk along a sand spit between the two islands without getting your feet wet. The snorkeling here was very good, incredible coral.
We visited Namara again in the afternoon as promised. The kids were getting out of school and ran to Michael with his camera. They loved looking at themselves on the LCD screen. He could have stayed there all afternoon taking pictures of eager smiling faces. This is how we met 13 year old Bill, who climbed a small coconut tree cutting down a young green coconut. Then with experience and a sharp machete he whacked open the top of the coconut so we could drink the cool sweet milk.
Some of the ladies gathered in Solate's bure - the home we met the chief at - bringing with them some not so handcrafted crafts. Rarely do the villagers have any type of furniture; you always sit on the floor.
Malolo Lailai Island, Mamanuca Group, Fiji
In markets throughout the south pacific, opening the door of one of the multiple unlabeled top loading freezers can be great fun. Hmm what's in here? WHAT is this??? People eat that??? The combo of items in one freezer is interesting too; frozen taro, ice cream and fish. Not packaged fish, fresh off the boat throw it in the freezer fish. Often I have no idea what I'm even looking at. If it does have a label it's in the local tongue so I still don't know what it is.
I asked the girl at the market what type of fish is used in fish sandwiches and fish and chips, because it's always been delicious - fish and chips is a very popular dish throughout the south pacific -. She knows instantly, Milk fish, very good she tells me. There isn't any in the freezers but to follow her to the back room. She goes into a walk in deep freeze and comes out with a stick of fish. A good size filet, looks like cod, it has no wrapper, it's just a stick of fish. Great, vinaka, off I go into the tropic sun with my stick o fish.
Before Michael arrived Greg spoke with the dive shop manager at Musket Cove. He had given us a sheet with the locations of some of the best dive spots in the area - every dive shop we have encountered has been very open with their dive spots. Because Greg was booking so early he was able to schedule his choice in dives - weather permitting - they would hit the best of the best.
The first dive was an advance dive at Namotu Wall and then Wilkes Passage. Fantastic soft and hard corals, sea turtles, schools of fish, several 6 ft zebra sharks and clear warm water. Above the surface they watched the famous surf breaks Cloud break, Wilkes Pass, Restaurants and Swimming Pools. It was a particular good morning for the boys.
Yesterday was a long very intense day. Today I have to keep moving and doing stuff or I'll fall apart. I dragged the boys out of bed; we pulled ourselves and Greetings together and headed over to Musket Cove.
Once we were secured on the mooring Michael immediately donned his mask and was over the side. After a while he came back for his camera and fins, he was very excited, new fish, no wet suit, everything was great. As he splashed off Greg and I looked at each other at the same time and laughed,"wait until he dives the reef"
September 2, Saturday
Michael arrived "today" at 3 am. It was cold outside and freezing in the airport. While we were waiting for Michael's flight to arrive I had the good fortune to speak with a woman from California that is building a house here in Fiji. She is working with a recently organized movement to fight domestic violence in Fiji. There are currently no enforceable laws or penalties against domestic violence here or thought the south pacific islands. Unfortunately it is a hidden crisis throughout the islands we have traveled through. It shocking to think these family and faith based islanders have this ugliness going in their lives.
It's great to see the smiling face of my favorite little brother. He slept throughout most of the 11 hour flight and was ready to see Fiji. When Greg, Michael and I got back to the boat the girls were still snoozing away. Of course Uncle Mike had to jump on them, this brought life and a few giggles briefly. Greg went back to bed so Michael and I plotted some options for the coming week, discussed the fine job he was doing on the Greetings website and how irritating it is when I don't write. With sun coming up we cruised around the marina looking at the "grown up" yachts, Greetings is just a wee one around here.
At 7:00 am as expected the old Indian woman comes by selling her roti. We each get one for breakfast, weird food, Michael's happy.
We all pile into our little right-hand steered rental car and laugh, criticize, and scream as Greg attempts to drive on the left side of the road. Our first stop was the open market in downtown Nadi; here we got produce, clams and Kava. Most of the produce is balanced in little piles on a table or the floor." You want tomatoes? $4F, which pile do you want?" Same with the clams, they were arranged in 1 kilo (about 2 pounds) piles on the floor. "Which pile do you want, $3F?"
Michael is lead all over the market looking for green onions. He finally finds a scrawny little bunch for $1.50F. Before he calls the seller a crook, we remind him we just paid only $3F dollars for a pile of clams that may or may not make us sick. The price of items in the markets is a constant source of wonder. Some things are so cheap and others like the 3 red peppers Brook and Sierra got that were $14 or the watermelon I finally got, small but a deal at $8.
I don't remember how we got started talking to Ali. Brook, Sierra and I liked him, he gave us good info about the kava. When we found Greg and Michael, they had decided to buy some kava for our personal use, we steered them over to friendly faced Ali.
Brookie asked him how to make it. He went to dump the bowl he had already brewed in his little booth, invited us in and taught us to make kava. He insisted we have some, except for Sierra. Ali was adamant that it was not good for children, Sierra was relived. Ali's kava was definitely stronger than kava we had at Nakavika Village. On top of the table are many piles of slightly different colored kava, we ask Ali which we should get. None of those he says, and then pulls out a container from under his counter. We buy several kava cups, a kava bag and some of the 'good stuff'. When you drink the 'good stuff' your mouth and tongue get a little numb, it is suppose to relax you. It tastes like dirt in water. It's not real bad; remember making mud soup as a kid?
At the end of Main St in Nadi is the Sri Siva Subramaniya Swami Temple, which from the outside is beautiful. We were all looking forward to our visit there. When we entered the gate onto the temple grounds we were met by a very unkempt looking man. Actually he appeared down right filthy, nothing like the other Indian people we had met. He so caught us off guard that his request for an admission fee didn't get very far and we never toured the Temple.
We are off north to Lautoka, the second largest city in Fiji, population 43,270. The local economy currently relies strongly on the sugar industry as it has since the early 1900's.
The sugar festival was going on when we arrived; typical small fair rides, two long blocks of booths with smoking BBQ's, and women in saris. The Indian women are beautiful in their saris; they wear them so effortlessly in the heat of the day.
Brook, Greg and Michael all tried the dish of the day, BBQ goat. Greg said it was a good tasting meat. To my surprise, at a Hindu party, I could find only a couple of little fried items that were vegetarian. Sierra ate fried chicken, no matter where she is, who's cooking, she loves fried chicken.
The sugar cane trains that seem to run continuously are cute. The storybook shiny yellow and red engines pull dozens of flat cars piled high with bundles of sugar cane. Sierra and Brook are always watching for fresh cane that has fallen from the passing trains. On the turn off towards Vuda Point we come across a handful of cane workers and a flat car of cane. Greg had to stop, they were right off the road and the girls were getting crazy. Brook bounds out of the car with her blond hair flowing and a dollar coin in her hand. Next thing you know the toothless old fellow on top of the cane stacked flat car is praising God, his faced turned towards the heavens and arms uplifted! The workers select several nice stalks of cane, whack them with their machete into convenient travel size chunks and carry them to our car.
Made a stop back in Nadi to eat curry, Yummy!
Back at the boat, Brook brings out the kava bowl she got in Tonga. It's kava hour, Michael and Brook are going native! The Whales Tail, a day tour boat that docks across from us, comes in with Harry aboard. Bula! Come have kava Harry! I'll be driving, no kava for me. It's getting painfully close to the time I must take the girls to the airport.
Harry has brought his guitar and plays a few songs for the girls and then plays 'Leaving On A Jet Plane' for us all to sing - I'm holding my Fuzzy Squid as big alligator tears fall. He plays a few others then plays a Fijian love song about leaving your mother - I'm a mess. No more music, it's time to leave for the airport.
Michael is making good progress towards relaxing and enjoying his vacation. Harry is on kava and plans to hang with Michael, good grief. I can't worry about either of them right now, Greg and I should be back from the airport in less than two hours.
We're back and they've been busy. Michael has met and been aboard the 160 foot former NOAA research vessel at the end of our dock. Apparently the US donated it to Samoa; they in turn sold it to a guy from New Zealand who has converted it into a private yacht. Both Michael and Harry had big smiles and rugby balls to show for their evening.
Pacific Harbor, Fiji
River rafting day! Greg stayed on the boat to do some repairs and enjoy some peace and quiet without the three of us girls jabbering on about one thing or another. Brook, Sierra and I were on shore in the Rivers Fiji office by 8 am. www.riversfiji.com We had read about this river trip in Tonga and had been looking forward to it since. Eagerly we boarded the open sided, canvas topped carrier sliding close together with our feet propped up on the rolled deflated kayaks lining the bed of the carrier. For two and a half hours we clung to anything we could inside the carrier as we bounced up the steep mountain side through the rainforest of the Namosi Highlands. The intense grunt provoking jarring of the carrier making its way over holes and through the mud was dulled by the mountain scenery of dense lush foliage, trees blooming with glowing red orange flowers and shouts of Bula from passing villages. There was not a frown to be had in the hot packed carrier.
Occasionally we would be flagged down by a villager from the side of the road, the carrier would slow enabling our new passenger to grab hold and catch a ride. When he reached his destination he would holler a Vinaka - thank you - and hop off. Once we stopped so one of our guides could pick up a pile of food and supplies from a barefoot man next to a corrugated tin hut, about an hour later we stop again to drop the pile of food and supplies in the mud on the side of the road where presumably someone else would come pick it up.
Our carrier comes to a stop in the highland village of Nakavika, here we must present the chief with a sevusevu and join in a kava ceremony to ask permission to go down the Luva River. * No sunglasses are to be worn in the village. Backpacks, purses and cameras are to be carried in your hand not slung over your shoulder or around your neck. We, men and women, are all given sarongs to wear before entering the village as well. We are instructed to remove our shoes before entering the bure (traditional thatched dwelling) and sit in a circle around the perimeter of the room. The chiefs' home has no furniture, so we sit on the mats scattered about the floor.
"There are certain protocols to be followed at a kava ceremony. Sit cross-legged, facing the chief and the tanoa, or large wooden bowl. Women usually sit behind the men. Never walk across the circle of participants, turn your back to or point your feet at the tanoa, or step over the cord - if there is one - that leads from the tanoa to a white cowrie shell (it represents a link with spirits)."
"The dried and powdered root, wrapped in a piece of cloth, is mixed with water in the tanoa and squeezed out; you will be offered a drink of the resulting concoction from a bilo (half a coconut shell). Clap once, accept the bilo, say 'bula' (meaning 'cheers' or literally, 'life'), and drink it down in one go. Clap three times in gratification. The drink will be shared until the tanoa is empty." Thanks to the Lonely Planet guide to Fiji for the above protocols.
From past travels with Brookie I knew she would not show hesitation and would graciously accept the kava. I must tell you that even Sierra showed her respect to the chief and tradition and drank her bilo dry.
* At first I thought this was more of a touristy treat but after spending a couple months here now I realize it is true tradition. In fact, the ownership permission question is a hot topic here. There is a push by the local Fijians to take back complete control of all Fijian waters. Meaning hotels would have to pay to use beaches, cruisers would have to pay to anchor, pay to surf.So the kava ceremony has been for centuries and is currently an interesting bargain.
After our "enjoying" our kava and chatting with the chief we were given permission to kayak down the river, walk around the village and most importantly take pictures. The village was extremely simple but very tidy. Brook was enamored with a little boy about 3 years of age who was engaged in pulling a three sided box by a string. There was also the two year old girl with the Santa coffee cup run here and there.
We could have all stay in the village longer but it was time to get back in the carrier and make our way to the river.
When we reach the section in the river where we were to put in the guides handed us each a life vest, a helmet and a paddle and directed us to a very steep muddy path that lead down to the river. We all commented on our slip and struggle down the narrow muddy path agreeing the helmet and life vest were probably for this portion of the trek and not the river. We all made it down and waded across the river where our inflated kayaks waited - I don't know how they got down before us. The water was pleasantly cool and clear. The safety talk we were given was a bit intimating, up until this point I thought the safety gear was a little over kill. Sierra decided she would go in a double with Moses, one of the guides, this proved to be a good call.
Brook and I had expected a calm scenic paddle. The scenic was correct, but within ten minutes of setting off we were going backwards down a set of rapids screaming and laughing the whole way. It was impossible to stay together, though we did meet up at some of the calm spots. Actually I saw Sierra for a flash a number of times. She and Moses would post themselves at some of the more difficult rocks to help people through. Actually I think Moses did the helping and Sierra did the laughing. She said people were in all states of panic as they floated, twirled and bounced past. I was of they group that preferred going down the rapids backwards. At one point I was sideways to a large boulder and the force of the river was threatening to turn me over. Crawling out on to the side, almost the bottom and pushing off the rock sent me bouncing along once again. The carrier ride, the kava and now the river turmoil really bond a group of total strangers. Couples and families are split up; we all helped each other and laughed at each other like we were long time friends. Is this what they mean by survival mode?
We stopped after a couple of hours and enjoyed a wonderful picnic lunch along side the river. After a short paddle further we again drug our kayaks ashore for a short hike to a fabulous waterfall. Sierra of course ran way ahead and was one of the first swimming under the falls. There where many waterfalls the entire length of the river. The plant life was truly amazing; it was like being in a giant's greenhouse, nuclear house plants. Brook's favorite spot was a calm bend with cliffs of black lava dripping in ferns and vines. Water ran off the cliffs creating a gentle falling curtain of water you could paddle behind. The water was crystal clear and the bottom was small colored round flat stones. It was hard to get her to leave her new found paradise.
Sierra decided she would have a go commandeering her own kayak. So floating along down stream she climbed into my kayak and I climbed in with Moses. She is so light she was off bobbing out of sight in no time. She tried the backwards approach many of us had perfected; she also mastered the twirl and bob. I believe Brook utilized the laugh and just go for it technique.
The kayak portion of the trip ended at a sand bar in the middle of the river. We all helped put kayaks, paddles and gear in order. Enjoyed a few cookies and climbed into a brightly painted wooden boat about 3 feet wide and maybe 16 - 20 feet long with a big outboard on the back. This crazy boat flew; a mean flew, down the river. It went over areas no more than a foot deep and never slowed for curves. When we went past villages the kids would run their little legs off to watch us go by. This boat ride in itself was an adventure.
We are all soaked to the skin and starting to get cold. The thought of riding in the open carrier is teeth chattering, but 'no worries' there is an enclosed coach waiting for us. What a day!
August 23, 2006
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO GREG AND ME!!!
August 21, 2006
The port of Suva is big and appears to be well charted; we hope so as we're coming in at night. It's a challenge coming into most big city ports you are unfamiliar with at night. The range markers and the red and green navigational lights are often barely distinguishable from the city lights.
Suva is the capital of Fiji and with a population of 358,500 it's the largest city in the South Pacific. The harbor reflects the large population with more floating debris than we've ever imagined even in the ports of LA or Long Beach which are among the worlds largest. By the light of the overcast morning Brook and Sierra are taking in their first looks at Fiji. Sierra, the examiner of all marine life, is creeped out, "what is that?" My mind couldn't work fast enough to cover the truth about the "thing" floating by the side of the boat but I did manage to tell her that it was a partially decayed large rat instead of the cat it appeared to be. Moments later, Brook aghast, calls to Greg, "is that a snorkeler next to that boat?" The thought of someone snorkeling in this water was grosser than the dead "thing". Brook gets out the binoculars, is it a dead goat, no it's a dog! It's a bloated dead dog floating along with all four feet in the air. Sierra of course wants to know what they are talking about; somehow they manage to distract her.
The girls are going to accompany me into town for the check in with customs and immigration, Greg will stay with the boat. It is overcast but not raining, the heat and humidity turned our vote against carrying raincoats. It should go without saying that it rained on us most of the day. We were anchored at least a half mile off shore so we had a long dinghy ride dodging floating plastic trash cans, plastic bags, plastic this and plastic that - we all may want to consider how much plastic we discard. Oh no! Brook saw it at the same time I did. Then I did the dumb mommy thing, "Sierra, look at blah blah over there". Of course she whips her head around in the opposite direction, "what is it you don't want me to see?" There it was, grotesquely drifting from around another anchored boat and heading right for us. I couldn't go much faster and avoid the filthy water from splashing up on us; gratefully we managed to out run the 'floating dog'.
The cab driver took us right to the Customs building unfortunately it was not the office we needed. Very cheerfully they described the direction we needed to go. We actually had to go several blocks down through the big security gates of the Port Shipping Terminal, and then weave our way through containers and forklifts all while it's pouring. We are having a great time though as everyone is "Bula-ing" us. I mean everyone, from security guards to forklift drivers. Bula means hello, but it is used with much more enthusiasm. It's common to yell BULA! at a passerby. Yep! we were on an adventure, being guided through warehouses, up stairs, down stairs, around corners, through narrow passages - we never would have found the appropriate offices without all the help. Wet, muddy from our flip flops splashing mud up on the backs of our legs, somewhat lost we realized the Fijian people had already won us over.
Several hours, a number of cab rides, multiple buildings and countless forms we are legal and hungry. We want curry. The curry house we found was all spicy dishes, Brook and I were thrilled but Sierra's lips were burning off.
The open air public markets are always great fun. We bought all the fresh produce we could carry and then were directed upstairs for kava. To the chief of each little village we anchor near or want to tour a sevusevu, or gift, of kava should be presented. At the top of the ramp we were amazed to find an entire level of the market devoted to kava. Stall after stall piled high with kava roots, kava powder, and men drinking kava. I believe we were the only females on that floor. We wandered around trying to appear nonchalant and made a direct course to the first Bula we heard. We explained to the fellow we needed bags with the appropriate amount for a sevusevu. He set us up with five little paper bags with approximately a cup and a half in each worth $5 a piece.
That night at the Royal Suva Yacht Club we all played pool. Greg and Sierra against Brook and I, a couple of pitchers of the local beer and we were feeling pretty good about our pathetic shots. I must admit Greg did clean up a few times. I don't remember who won, ask Sierra.
Parts of the following accounts of our travels in Tonga are being brought to you by Brook. The details of events before her arrival have been outlined for her creative use.
August 12, 2006
We have been in Tonga since July 24th. We sailed against the wind from Niue to Tonga. 35 knot winds, 10 foot seas…… pretty rough! We were technically supposed to check into the southern group of Tongtapu, at Nuku’alofa, however; we had had enough of beating against the wind and confused seas, we decided to duck into the middle island chain, Fonoifua. Exhausted, dogging coral heads and reefs, we finally anchored at 9:00 pm. In the morning we realized how close we actually came to the reef. Too close!
We went ashore where we met “Fred”. He was an octopus fisherman, fishing from what looked like an 18th century dugout canoe. Sierra describes it as a tree with a hole in it. So, here we are in this beautiful, tropical, secluded place and run across Fred! I guess we can no longer underestimate the possibilities…… Right off the bat, Sierra finds an exquisite shell. It looks like someone went to the store, purchased it and dropped it on the beach. Walking around the island, in hopes of more store bought shells, we come across what looks like a small fishing village. Several little boats, all painted with once bright but worn and faded colors, surrounded the village. When walking around, we had a sort of obstacle course to pass through, sending us wading through water, climbing on moss covered cliffs, where Sierra actually fell on her butt, and finally to beautiful white sandy beaches. To add to the ambiance of the island, flying overhead were tropical fruit bats the size of large guinea pigs with wings.
While on the way to Tongatapu, we stopped at Malinoa Island for the night.
So now we are in Tongatapu, it is July 28th. We finally checked into immigration and customs, we are no longer illegal aliens. Harbor patrol would not let us anchor in the harbor, so we had to anchor at a near by island, Pangaimotu. We thought we would take a cab to the Black Pearl Resort, to see when Jack/Dad would be arriving the next day. The Black Pearl was written up to be one of the most “luxurious” resorts in Tonga. Greg, Sierra, and I were looking forward to lying by the pool and I was hoping they would have laundry facilities. The cab dropped us off in front of a two story, motel style, building. No pool was anywhere to be found and my hopes of laundry facilities were diminishing quickly. The receptionist informed us that there was no record of a Jack Behlmer checking in today, tomorrow, or anytime soon. So, we took the dingy back to the boat and sent an all points bulletin to the family; titled: “Where’s Jack? “
Hi mom! It's your Happy Happy Day! duh. I love you mom and I will even as you continue to get old and sassy. Enjoy your day, go to lunch downtown with Blue.
July 24, 2006 9:00 pm one hour away from Tonga
The trade winds failed to materialize and once again we were sailing upwind. Since we have been south of the equator the normal southeast or northeast trades have eluded us. We have been sailing upwind to our western and southern destinations. The winds aren’t the only confused ones; the seas are a mess of contradicting swells and waves.
July 22, 2006 On the way to Tonga from Niue
I realize I’m way behind on tales from the Society Islands and I promise I’ll try to get to them. Isn’t it amazing how I can be late and I’m not even there? Now I must tell you the story of Niue, the smallest independent nation in the world.
We left Bora Bora on the 4th of July to sail to Palmerston Atoll, one of the tiny Cook Islands. The winds were not as expected, instead we found ourselves beating up wind in 20 – 25 knots of breeze in bumpy seas. This went on for three solid days. Then the wind changed slightly to just off our beam, but the seas were a mess. If we were to get to Palmerston we would have to take more upwind abuse and there was no guarantee that the winds would switch back to the typical easterly required to safely anchor there. We had to pass Palmerston by and try for Beveridge Reef. After a couple more days of pounding along we faced the same situation with Beveridge Reef, so we headed for Niue. Four hours away from Niue the winds kicked up to 35 knots and stayed there. I scooped Sierra from her spot in the cockpit propped against “Fender Friend” and tied her into a bunk in the salon, for extra measure I threw in her life vest, laid down on the dinette seats and we both went back to sleep. Greg fought the winds for four straight hours; rest didn’t come until we rounded the island.
TO BE CONTINUED! I promise.
Sailing, sailing over the bouncy seas. Fresh mahi mahi for dinner tonight
Another birthday Greeting goes to the ever calm and peaceful cousin, Johnny Roehre. I know a lot of old people.
Greetings and Salutations to Ardee Borger! Happy Birthday too! We love you Auntie Ardee enjoy your day.
Thursday June 29, 2006
After a very windy bumpy night anchored off our favorite island of Raiatea, for this last time, we are on our way to Bora Bora. In fact, we were anchored in the exact spot behind the little islet of ---------- where Greetings made her morning run for the beach. The wind isn’t quite like last nights steady 23 knots gusting to 30 but we are cruising along at 6.5 kt under main only. The suns out, there are clouds in the distance and from here we can see the islands of Raiatea, Tahaa, Huahine and Bora Bora.
I’m a little sad leaving Raiatea, I felt quite comfortable here. It has a little of almost everything I need. Who knows, if I really want to I can come back again someday, for a much longer stay.
We aren’t expecting much from Bora Bora, we have seen pictures and hear it is stunning but we have also heard it has many hotels. Civilization is not what we are seeking from French Polynesia.
Saturday June 10, 2006 Moorea
This morning I write to you from my usual spot in the cockpit on calm water with seemingly gale force gusts. The new white tarp that covers the cockpit shielding us from some of the tropical sun and rain is madly flapping but holding well. The chickens are making their chicken noises and rays—not the strange and grumpy kind—glide effortlessly under the boat. I’m glad we have decided to stay another day here. The noise from the cars and motorcycles doesn’t really bother me, there are not that many and they add to the surrealistic feel of the place.
Floating things! My morning in paradise was momentarily shattered. As I was scanning the water to the reef I noticed a white bulky object floating. Then I caught sight of an emergency orange plastic object flap up in the distance, out come the binoculars--just one more time we thank Glenn’s spot on advice, we got really good binocs. Three white cushions are floating between us and the reef, one white cushion has already passed me and the bright orange float—are you thinking what I’m thinking? All hands up, we are in the dinghy and off towards the orange float and what we hope is not trouble.
The “emergency orange” float turns out to be a blow up pool type raft—why not pink? The cushions are from lounge chairs and we conclude they have blown away from the resort up wind. Skip the coffee for your morning jolt and try floating objects.
It is 7am on the dot here; Sierra has her mask in hand.-
Yes I know-about time! A little known fact concerning the Greetings Log is that it is created, with few exceptions, between the hours of 12am and 7am. I write when I can't sleep, like you, I don't write when I'm sleeping - profound logic I'm sure Weeble understands. Why have I been sleeping so much you ask? It's marina life next to the dinghy dock in a boat named GREETINGS, everyone finds and greets you. After a full day of boating related activities interspersed with socializing I'm rather pooped.
The times I have attempted to write in the evening hours have often resulted in wonderful encounters with folks walking by. Take Graham for example, a retired radiologist that had joined his son on a passage from the Galapagos Islands. While sharing a bottle of what he graciously referred to as "fresh" Bordeaux we discussed politics, travel, children-life. After some time he remembered his son who would be expecting him; cautiously he climbed from our cockpit to swerve down the dock. He was the type of intelligent open person you could stay up all night talking with. (The next day he came by with a gift of an "old" bottle of Bordeaux)
I was not at all eager to meet other "cruisers" when we started out. Talking to more Americans or others with the same idea we have was actually something I hoped to avoid. In my old age I've lost my ability and desire for small talk.
We have been noticing a difference in the people who have actually taken the leap to live a cruising life style; in most cases the cruisers we have met have sold everything they own to make their dreams a reality. As Greg says, we are wimps, we still have our properties to go home to. Our commitment level is minimal, we have a home which sits waiting for us to turn on the utilities and stock the frig, the bed even has clean sheets on it.
Side note: "Drop and Pic" has a new twist. All moms are familiar with the drop off and pick up cycle, routine, game.Now try it in a dinghy or better yet a kayak.
There are some people we have had the good fortune to meet that I'd like to mention to you.
Like Harley from Queensland, Australia. Beyond an Australian version of a Brooklyn accent and his barely 30 years he is an articulate man of great skills and experience. We have sought advice from this confident level headed kid that speaks multi languages--perhaps not all fluently but more than adequate-regarding boat issues and travel destinations. He has traveled extensively, including a circumnavigation plus. As an avid surfer and diver he has been a wealth of info and a joy to pass the evening with.
Speaking of languages, our friend Robert speaks 7 or 8 different languages-Tahitian/Polynesian, English, French, Japanese, Chinese, I forget.
Greg went to a lifeguard meeting with him the other evening and was appalled to see how the limited Tahitian Water Patrol must fight the French government for the basic equipment to save lives. Many of the rescue victims are surfers; Robert feels the French government doesn't view them as a valuable life worth saving. He feels he will need to draw more attention to the number of tourists which drown in order to strengthen his case for additional jet skis and lifesaving equipment. The jet ski is absolutely vital here as a life saving tool as the surf zone is far from shore.
Anyone reading this that has connections with a lifeguard/lifesaving organization that has information or advice for Robert (he is the head of the Tahitian Water Patrol) please contact him at: 689 72 40 30 or email@example.com
We go back to Papeete to check out with the Port Captain, only open certain days of the week and get diesel. While at the fuel dock we hear," Sierra!, Teri!". Good grief! It's grandma! Across the fairway from the fuel dock stands grandma and grandpa waving; motioning they are coming around.
Dear friends, you know me, how anxious I must have been for Sierras arrival, the lack of sleep, the relief at finally seeing and holding her and the shock of seeing my parents, the devastation at the chaos the rain created, and now it hits me. I'm standing on a boat with Greg, in Tahiti, on my way to fulfilling a dream to sail around the world, my youngest daughter is with me and there is my MOM waving to me. I feel I'm in the Twilight Zone.
Baie De Vaiare, Moorea French Polynesia
Today is Laura Roehre's birthday! This is another case of me not remembering my cousin newly married name! HAPPY BIRTHDAY anyway Laura! Does this make you 32?
Mom and Paul sailed, well motored, to Moorea with us. It is beautiful. The water is so clear; I'm not sure what you would call this color blue, Ardee would know. We took the dinghy over to a little motu that mom thought looked so beautiful. Good call, we were able to swim and snorkel with sea turtles and rays.
My folks are flying back home tomorrow night so they had to catch the ferry back to Papeete. We decide to stop at what Greg, Sierra and I are referring to as "nono Pizza", for quick bite (literally). Right in the middle of pizza they have to leave - very odd to say good-bye to your unexpected parents, which you won't see until December, in the middle of pizza.
Paul rented a car and drove mom, Sierra and I around the island of Tahiti. Greg was happy to stay home and replace the windlass motor. As it turned out their hotel was a five minute dinghy ride from the marina. We scooped them up and went out snorkeling and then desalinated in their pool.
Today we all met at 6:30 am on "Le Truck" to go into town to the public market. I love going on 'le truck', you can always meet someone, even if you don't speak each others language. Each Truck has its own choice of linoleum and interior colors. The fare is $1.30 USD, for the half hour ride into town. Just don't try to stand up, you must enter and exit bent in half.
There is a posted rule as to no smoking or drinking on board. It took all of my limited self control not to take a picture of the old woman from the fish market in her green knee high rubber boots with a halo of tropical flowers on top her head smoking a cigarette while scrambling for a bottle of Hinano that fell due to a quick stop. Confirmation of the lacks rule came when the driver remained stopped as she wandered into a market near the corner of a stop for a few more Hinanos.
The market is the place to go for fresh produce and fish cheap. Marlene, you are going to love this - Fresh, never frozen, Thon Rouge otherwise known as Ahi is only $5 USD per pound. And Weeble, they have bunnies! I picked out the cutest light grey one.
At 1:30 am I decide it's silly to just lie in bed so I get up and get ready to go to the airport. The weather has been wonderful the last couple of days, sunny with gentle trade winds blowing away the tropical heat. I put up the banner and wander around the docks. IT'S TIME!! The cab is on time, she drives us in her own personal car the 7 minutes to the airport and Greg gives her the $25 fare.
We know where to go as we have already been here a week ago to check everything out. About 5:15 am the various tour companies start showing up with their welcome boards and leis. I wander off to buy a lei for Sierra and myself. When I come back Greg says, "Look that board says "Warg". Wow! I've never seen my Mom and Paul's name anywhere before, it's a very unusual name. That was the end of it, never gave it another thought.
Ten minutes before her plane has even landed I'm crying happy, anxious tears. I compose myself and people from her flight and a flight from Paris start streaming out from customs. The tears start again but now I'm laughing. She is traveling as an unaccompanied minor so we expected her off and through first or last. It appears she will be coming through last. Then there she is OH! Tears - and there's Grandpa OH! More tears and then grandma OH OH! I'm a wreck. My parents didn't want Sierra to fly alone and as they had not yet seen the boat they came along! For those of you that know them this comes as no surprise. Those of you that don't, I think I get some of my impulsiveness from my mom.
Yes, what Sierra said about ALL the hatches being open and running down the dock and the entire boat, mattresses, pillows, floors and counters with an inch of standing water and MESS is all true. But! The flowers looked great and amazingly the banner held up. BUT! My mother was on her way...
Along with Sierra also came three boxes of boat stuff. It was like Christmas and Jim and Joe at West Marine played Santa. We sent a wish list and got everything we asked for. If you need any boat stuff contact the crew at the Huntington Harbor West Marine they are terrific! Thank you so much guys, I know it must have been a task to get everything together before Sierra left. I owe you big time come December!
The eve of Sierra's arrival I'm using plastic pull ties to fasten palms and flowers to the frame of the cockpit cover. I have the construction paper WELCOME HOME banner already to attach to the canvas before we leave for the airport at 4:45 am. The boat is spotless, I'm an emotional M80 and Greg is waiting for the kid to get here so life can go on as normal.
Our excitement has been contagious, all passing by ask about Sierra's arrival. I'm in my final stages of arranging and decorating when Robert pulls up, puts some cold Hinanos in the frig and goes to park the car.don't know how many days it will be before we see him again.
May 31, 2006
We have been in the marina now for 2 weeks. I can't believe it's been so long. Sierra finally arrives at 5:40 am on Saturday, I'm beyond excited. She is the main topic of 80% of our conversation these days. Her room has been ready for a week except for the mysterious leaking closet which has been solved just a couple of days ago. You think finding a leak in a roof on a house can be frustrating, try a boat where many spaces are just big enough for leaks not hands and tubes of silicone.
Since I see that I'm two weeks behind in the log I'll just give you a summary with a few highlights. Our time here at the marina has been consumed with chores, re-provisioning and meeting people.
Do you remember Carl, the Swede alone in a small boat? We found him here in Papeete in more of a quandary the ever. As the days passed he decided he must sell his little boat for the price of an airline ticket and go home where his loving wife and their comfortable home were waiting for him.
Robert the life guard from Teahupoo-pronouced "chau poo" by the locals-found us. He came to visit the guys on the Billabong boat across the dock from us and greeted us as old friends. He has taken us surfing, to his house, out to dinner; he even found us at the grocery store and saved us from having to push an over-filled cart all the way back to the marina. It seems everybody knows and likes Robert and according to him they are all "good friends". Robert is the head lifeguard on the island and organizes many of the numerous water events-including the jet ski race which runs today from here to Moorea and back. He tows surfers into the waves too big to paddle into, which is as much of a talent as surfing the wave on a board-he does that well too. His cell phone is always on and we don't know how he can be so generous with his time. We never know when he'll show up or how long he'll be able to stay-twice he has gone to park the 11 year old Mercedes he chauffeurs us around in and didn't return for days. He will drink a few Hinano-local beer, taste like MGD-and has turned me on to some very nice French wine, but basically he's a health nut. He has taught me to make Poisson Cru, a marinated raw fish dish similar to Cerviche. He speaks very good English though his heavy Polynesian accent makes careful listening imperative. Robert has relatives on the surrounding islands and insists we look them up while there. Yep, like everyone else, we have come to like Robert and hope he will consider us a "good friend".
Laundry squall night-
The wind instruments indicated 27 knots. I was already up on deck soaking wet in my underwear by the time Greg put together the sounds of the wind, driving rain and the empty spot in the bed next to him. Half asleep he comes up on deck to find me tangled in wet laundry, holding on to what ever I could, trying to determine what was going to fly off and what was valuable. Apparently he stood there for sometime trying to decide how to help in what was a hilarious situation.
We hang our dinghy up because the other yachts do, don't know why-
Here on big boat row the boats are looking rather bristol with their full time crews swabbing every inch of their topsides everyday and after every rain-lately that can easily mean 5 times per day. We try to keep up on Greetings too-she may be small but she's sharp. We noticed that the other "yachts" were keeping their dinghies hoisted up out of the water with a halyard. (The 100 plus footers have an entirely different system) Theft is not a problem here, perhaps bottom growth is the concern, what ever the reason we felt our little dinghy should have the same treatment. It took Greg a couple of days to get the proper yacht dinghy hanging angle, one day it was hanging nose down and the next the nose was up and the butt in the water, not a good look. Another day after a heavy rain with the drain plug in, the poor little dinghy was hanging there, bent in half-very embarrassing. The little dinghy is now hanging smartly and we are feeling a tinge smug.
I think I have tried to describe the winds and rain here to you. I've mentioned how we have learned that leaving the boat or going to sleep with hatches opened is asking for a heavy squall. There are countless variations on the blowing water dramas, the latest occurred the evening after cleaning and preparing Sierra's room. This was the same night as the blowing laundry adventure, with the torrents of rain and the 27 knots of breeze blowing at the perfect angle for entry into Sierras open window above her closet. That would be the closet of many leaks with the main component of the SSB in it. It honestly looked like someone put a hose in the window and turned it on full blast, for an hour. The SSB had water pooled on top; the screen at the Nav table was reading ERROR. We are thinking big dollars and will Joe come here and put everything together again. Greg had read or heard that drying it out may help and decided this is a job for Max Holmes the III. Max spent the next two days in the closet and the SSB is working again.
There was a women's fishing tournament out of the marina the other day. They had their sportfishers, owned/chartered, deck out with flowers and palms. At the end of the day they returned with a bunch of Bonita, a few small Skippys and a 600 pound Black Marlin.
We met some folks, Charlie and Sunny, from Hermosa Beach that have cruised from the Caribbean through the Panama Canal, spent some time in Costa Rica and Ecuador and are now in French Polynesia-all this in 17 years. Still haven't made it to Bora Bora but it's definitely in their future plans. They have been a fun source of living aboard tips. In fact, I have them to thank for my new wash machine! You read right, I have a new Haier washer! It stands 36 inches tall, is 20 x 20 wide. It has 5 water levels and multiple washing options. It does a great job! We keep it in the garage and on wash day just lift it up through the cockpit hatch/seat, plug it in, connect the water hose (a feed off the transom shower), the drain hose goes over the side and Whaala!
Oh! I have other big news to share. Downtown Papeete has dozens of pearl stores and a pearl museum. After going through the museum we stopped in at a few shops and asked some questions about the beautiful black pearls. We have found out that the black pearls we bought in Manihi are worth about $500, except for the golden one, that is extremely rare and worth much more-just because we gave the kids some juice?
HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY DANNY! YOU ARE ALMOST AS OLD AND WISE AS I AM NOW.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY FAVORITE BLOND HAIRED DAUGHTER! I LOVE YOU BROOK BUT YOU MUST COME TO TONGA TO GET YOUR PRESENTS.
Marina Taina, Papeete, Tahiti
Sitting in the cockpit, on a lovely dock in the luxury yacht section (feeling small) looking across the channel at Moorea, the sun is rising behind me and the chickens are making chicken noises. It's a very pleasant change to be in a marina and will work out well for re-provisioning, laundry and repairs. A huge supermarket is a short walk and they have laundry facilities a shorter walk. At 7000 F a load, roughly $7 US, my case still is remaining strong for installing a washer/dryer upon reaching New Zealand.
Greetings Log 11
May 14, 2006
I sit here pecking away in the cockpit, glancing up too frequently to get much pecking done at the lush hillsides, a gentle breeze blowing the sound of island music in my direction, and I realize I don't have to cook, clean or get ready for anything today. I'm homesick. I guess I'll put my mask on and go look at fish.
In anticipation of some heavy winds coming from the west on the 15th we changed anchorages. We were lucky we faired so well in calm weather at the last one, no room for error. This is a nice bay with a black sand bottom, the holding is excellent. The black sand bottom doesn't reflect the sunlight and so though the water is clear we cannot see the bottom. The inner edge of the reef, and its white sand, is barely ¼ of a mile away, so snorkeling is still a breeze.
We took the dinghy over to the Paul Guaguin Museum. It was a nice touch of civilization.
Teahupoo, Tahiti - 8:00 am
We are planning to enter through Passe Havae. The passes here in the Tahitian Islands don't have the dangerous reputation the Tuamotus have; we are not expecting any surprises.
Surprise! There is an International Surfing competition going on at Passe Havae which is home to the world famous (in the surf world) Teapuhoo break. Greg is thrilled; the pass is clogged with spectators floating in boats, on boards, anything that floats. I'll turn the keyboard over to Greg and let him tell you about the infamous Teapuhoo wave.
After seeing this break up close my first thoughts were of a comment my son Kris made, "It's good to see a break that the pro's really have to work at for their prize money", and he is right. Teahupoo is a left hand fast reef break and one bad move and you are drug over 25 meters of coral reef covered by only a ½ meter of water.
I watched Taj Burrow and his only competitor in one of his last heats, and in 40 minutes they only got one wave a piece. We met a Tahitian lifeguard, Robert, who said the waves are getting bigger in the next two days for the finals.
The next day Teri and I decided to paddle over to the next pass 1 kilometer east of Teahupoo to give it a go. Three difficulties I encountered were the current coming out of the pass always kept you paddling, there was only one take off zone about 3 meters diameter and you had to limit your cutbacks to stay in the channel. Teri had fun taking pictures from her kayak until a clean up set came breaking across the pass and she quickly had to put the camera away before surfing the next 2 waves. For me it was a fun day, as it was the first day of surfing on our trip; my board and I only bounced off the reef once with minor scrapes and dings.
The wind died early and changed direction frequently, caught one small skippy which we let go, I slept a lot; it was a rather uneventful sail to Tahiti. 236 miles from the south pass at Fakarava to Havae Pass in Tahiti.
May 9, 2006
Here I am again waiting for the sunrise at some remote tropical island.
Sometimes we have felt a desperate need to re-provision, until we get to the market.
Right now while the sun is rising and I'm pecking away to you I have experimental rice cooking on the stove. It's a combination of rice, pineapple and Creole seasoning. I plan to add butter, what else do you think; onions, coconut milk, just throw it out?
The surf is still a mess and the GRIB says the wind is changing to an unfavorable direction. It looks like we are off to Tahiti, oh bummer. As we are getting the boat ready to sail--stow the dinghy, tie down the kayak, secure things below-we notice a man frantically rowing in a small inflatable dinghy towards our boat, please don't be another Lionel. His name is Carl, from Sweden, when not sailing around in a 30 foot boat he resides with his wife in Northern California. He noticed we were leaving but wanted to ask us about the northern pass into Fakarava. We invite him aboard, gave him a cup of coffee, which he seemed very appreciative to receive, and our cruising guides to look over while we finished up our departure preparations. When finished with our chores Greg described the weather forecast and showed him the computer, the GRIBS, and the Expedition program. He seemed interested yet amused. Thirty five years ago he sailed around the world with only charts and celestial navigation. This trip was a short one; he was just going to New Zealand, in a 30 foot boat with no radar, chart plotter, SSB, EPRIB or life raft, no engine for the dinghy, only paper charts and a VHF radio that worked occasionally. The forecast was for 1 to 2 days of continued 15 -20 knot breeze from the east, then dying to almost nothing and returning at 20 -25 knots from the west, which would put it right on the nose for the sail to Tahiti. He followed out the south pass towards Tahiti.
About the experimental rice, it went overboard.
I had to remind myself today that we were moving to another pretty anchorage. I love this spot because I can sit in the cockpit floating on the clear lagoon while looking across the white coral reef to the crashing waves of the Pacific, this scene is framed by swaying coconut palms. But the surf is supposed to be at the south pass of Fakarava.
We had a great sail south, 7.4 knots with just the jib up!
Lucky me, another great spot on the lagoon looking across the reef to the sea! The water is even clearer here and there are bits of an old village, a reef, it's a better spot than the last.
We took the dinghy over to check out the surf break at the pass/entrance. It's been blowing at least 20 knots all night and day so the waves are blown out. We will check it out in the morning.
Fun with Fish-yesterday when I shared this tale with Jim it had just recently happened and I was a quite excited, today I can calmly relay the moment.
Greg and I are snorkeling along and we're thinking it's very clear but not that many fish. I pointed to a coral head over to our left with a bunch of fish. We swim a kick closer to see a large under bite emerging from a dark hole at the base of the head. I'm thinking grouper because of the size and shape except for a frightening mouth full of teeth. Looking beyond the coral head in front of us we see a black tip reef shark doing its slow zig-zag swim towards us. We are floating there trying to remain calm and remind ourselves that this type of shark is not aggressive, while looking for a way out of the water. I've now lost track of Mr. Big Mouth but the shark is still coming. I turn to scope out the coral head behind us for use as an emergency exit-no more calm, I know I'm yelling underwater! There is the biggest eel I have ever seen in all my aquarium going days; mouth open, looking mean, ugly and mad. I could not encircle his neck, or any part of the two feet stretching out towards us, with my hands. As soon as I got Greg's attention from Mr. Big Mouth and the sharks* to the eel, he instantly agreed the eel was the one to get away from. We turned our fins to the sharks and started kicking.
*Back at the dinghy Greg informed me there were two sharks.
May 7, 2006 - just a beautiful day.
May 6 - Saturday
Today was just a plain day of snorkeling, kayaking, reading and pecking away to get caught up with the Log--pressure from my editor/webmaster. There was one humorous point worth mentioning. If you recall we are currently anchored in front of the hotel so we could go out to dinner. We decided today to test the food out on lunch, we are there between 12 & 2 like we are suppose to be, placed our order and are very much looking forward to eating something other than BBQ "Uncle Skippy" and beans & rice. When the waitress discovers we have no room number she is immediately flustered. I need to learn French! We try to tell her we have a credit card. She leaves, the hostess comes over, "I am sorry but this restaurant is only for hotel guests". We are laughing but I'm not giving up. The manager comes out, he recognized us from the other day, he kindly explains there is only enough room/food-not quiet sure what there wasn't enough of even though his Frenglish was very good-but if we would eat quickly we could stay. Next time we must make a reservation 1 day in advance. Oh! I had a fish sandwich, it was good and Greg had a terrific cheese burger. The French fries were very good. Note: A bottle of Moet Chandon is $123 US.
This morning Greg went to the two sisters market to see if they could cash a travelers check or tell him where the bank is. One of the sisters speaks pretty good English; she has been very helpful and suggested the post office. Like the other Tuamotu islands we have visited Fakarava doesn't have a bank, so Greg goes off to the post office. There was a very long line and he was grateful it was air conditioned, especially when he was told they don't cash travelers checks.
Then he went in search of gas for the outboard. None of the Tuamotus that we have been to or, I believe with rare exceptions, the majority of South Seas islands have gas stations. The locals here order 200 litre/55 gallon drums of gas which they keep in their yards. They siphon the gas out of the drums for the outboards on their pahi/boat. When we need gas Greg walks around with our little red gas tank and looks for someone near their drum, holds out some money and whoola we have gas. If you only have a 5000 francs bill, $50 bill US , it doesn't work because nobody has change. It also doesn't work if it's in-between fuel shipments and everybody is running low themselves.
I made up a CD of some pictures to share with you of our travels so far, they will be posted by our beloved webmaster, who happens to be my favorite brother. Greg cruises back to the post office to mail the CD to Michael-he was just there 2 hours ago but now post office is closed until Tuesday.
Fakarava is the second largest Tuamotu atoll and is 32 miles long by 15 miles wide. We learned from the pizza man the surf is at the southern pass into the lagoon. There is a buoyed channel running along the east side of the lagoon which will take the stress out of traveling through the inside of the atoll. This afternoon we'll begin a cruise south, we plan to stop and anchor at some different spots, such as the hotel so we can try again for a date out to dinner. I'd also like to stop at a couple of pearl farms and basically see what we can see.
It must have been a monsoon. What is the definition of a monsoon anyway? I was reminded of the blizzards in Wisconsin , sans the freezing temperature. The swells, smoothed by the rain appeared as snowdrifts. There was a heavy mist rising 4-5 feet above the water, it was created by the rain bouncing off the surface of the water. We had seen this phenomenon once from our dinghy, from 150 yards (50 meters) the hull of Greetings completely disappeared. The shoreline also disappeared and we were left in the wet grey, laughing and wondering how long this would last. One minute, I'm going to go put a handheld compass in the dinghy right now. Anyway, this mist was blowing across the smooth swells like snow. Unlike the other day when we were in the dinghy, today this went on for hours. It was a good thing I needed to write to you and Greg had to work on the generator.
May 3, 2006
SIERRA ANN BEHLMER--also known as Beanie, Fuzzy, Squid and the littlest sister--JUST MADE THE HONOR ROLL! YAHOO! THIS SCHOOL YEAR HAS BEEN A TOUGH ONE FOR HER-WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH THE TOUGH GET GOING (old family saying) AND SHE DID. SIERRA HAS BEEN WORKING EXTREMELY HARD, I AM SO VERY PROUD OF HER. I LOVE YOU MY FUZZY CHILD. Congratulations may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
Fakarava is home to one of the worlds largest displays of coral in the world, this morning Greg went to check it out. The dive master, the driver and the other divers on the large inflatable spoke French or Chinese, he was pretty much on his own. They all gave his tech looking DIR dive gear the once over but with the language barrier questions weren't going to be productive. The drift dive was to be at the pass into Fakarava, approximately 21 meters down, over rolling hills of beautiful healthy coral in a dazzling variety and a rainbow of colors. The hills of coral rolled on until they dramatically fell off into the abyss of the sea. (He thought it sounded too dorky to print but it reminded him of the hills in Sound of Music) He told me the quantity of fish was amazing, all around him were fish we had not yet seen anywhere, not even Belize . Huge puffer fish perhaps 5 lbs, a 3 ½ ft parrot fish and a shark! He couldn't identify the type, it had black on the tail but not the dorsal; Greg was absolute on the size, much bigger than him-easily 8 feet.
While he is off swimming around finding Nemo-whom he did not find-I'm at the boat getting Tsunami warnings. Apparently there was an 8.1 earthquake off the coast of Tonga . They issued a warning as conditions were good for a Tsunami but four hours later it was canceled. We receive severe weather warnings and other matters of extreme urgency via SSB. I've heard a safe place to be during a Tsunami is on a boat. Cruisers aboard their boats in the 2004 Tsunami remained physically unscathed during the ordeal.
I wanted a break of cooking something from nothing today. We heard there was a nice hotel with a restaurant, the MiaTai Dream, about 5 km from here. I'm excited, I put on my best shorts, Greg shaves and off we go-OUT! It's a lovely ride along the coast, dodging coral heads has become a sport, I'm only a little wet by the time we arrive. It's a lovely hotel, teak framed bungalows with French windows. The lobby, bar and restaurant are attached by charming bridges. They all have teak floors and French windows with bamboo lined walls and vaulted ceilings with whirling fans. We decide to sit in the bar, play the tourist that we are, have a MiaTia and enjoy the view. In the lobby they have a little print-out of headline news for France and the US . Front and center we read Bush's ratings are at an all time low-we worry at each port if we should display our flag, any suggestions? We are glad we don't have a full paper and let our minds lapse back to where we are. Greg finishes my drink, I again decide I don't like rum, and off we go to lunch/dinner = linner. You know where I'm going with this don't you? Yes, they are closed, won't be open for 4 hours.
Back in the dinghy, we'll go to the boulangerie to get some bread and fromage (cheese). They are open! Greg feels he is watching a Monty Python Cheese Shop sketch as I fumble with my very limited French to find out they have no pain (bread) of any kind, no long, round, sliced.
"Il n'y a pas de pain"!
I gesture I want some.
"Il n'y a pas de fromage".
I point to my watch-still set to California pre-daylight savings-ouvrir, open?
Demain? I hold up fingers.
He holds up 6, we laugh.
Tomorrow at sunrise when you are making your morning coffee we will be dodging coral heads to get a loaf of bread.
I must tell you that everyone we have encountered here in the Tuamotus is extremely kind, they appear quite sorry when they tell us they are closed, ferme.
May 2 - Tuesday
Keeping track of the day of the week and the date has become challenging, even looking at a calendar is confusing.
Shopping day! The first store is about 30 ft x 30 ft, narrow aisles, very hot but don't let this or the small size or lack of fresh fruit or vegetables (except onions & garlic) or eggs or cheese fool you this store has stuff! Crammed together are cleaning products, canned mushrooms, canned wieners, canned mixed veggies, shampoo, black pearls, watches, gas cans, French wine, Tahitian rum, toys, flip flops, popsicles, Flytox, noodles, laughing cow cheese, cookies, motor oil, hardware, Pringles, peanut butter-all this stuff and more are randomly stacked on shelves besides each other. The peanut butter or a few jars of it may be next to the motor oil, one more may be next to the noodles. Wine and shampoo are side by side on one row and next to something else in another row. The sisters that work there are very nice and we have enjoyed going in there even though I'm hard pressed to find something I want.
The second store on the other hand is huge, perhaps three times the size of the first store. The ceilings are high, multiple whirling ceiling fans and large opened doors keep the entire store cool. The electronic checkout scans and computer screen seem out of place on this remote island. They have three apples (I buy them), on a 6 ft shelf they have a single jar of peanut butter (I buy it), an entire section devoted to Lays potato chips at what amounts to $6.50 US for a single 6 ½ oz bag (I don't care, I buy several), 10 one pound bags of rice (we need this too), 20 dozen eggs (now I'm really excited)-don't you think a merger should be discussed.
Each night here just after sundown in the house next to the dive shop local folks gather to practice and play the Polynesian drums. Sound travels exceedingly well over water and with the added benefit of the wind we have enjoyed the music of a luau. One night the choir at the little Catholic Church was practicing at the same time as the drummers. The combo of the sweet female voices and the rapid beating of the drums was a definite treat.
NOTE: Directions on the side of our dive mask anti-fog "Absolutely Clear". "For best results: apply small amount to dry lens, let dry, buff clear. Caution: Do not apply directly to eyes."
This is beautiful here but we want to get to Fakarava, to get some food and hopefully find surf. This means we now face Victory at Sea Part II. I want to tell you that I was on deck for this departure with my camera to try and capture a couple of snaps of this craziness for you. (I made a CD of photos for Michael to post but of course the Post Office is not opened until Tuesday.) Again I will let Greg describe the adventure: "This time we were not surfing or at least having the waves behind us, now we were pounding into them with the current propelling us out. I tried to keep the rpm to 800-1000 (4 - 5 kts) but was constantly having to adjust depending on the waves. The boat was being pitched fore and aft, green water over the bow (expected), water up the transom into the cockpit, the prop was cavitating from being out of the water. The boat was also rolling dramatically from side to side. A glance to the depth gauge showed only 12 under the keel; remember this is a 47 foot boat. I fought against the waves for over a mile outside the pass." Greg's thoughts on me taking pictures through all this, "I told her not to go up there."
Again the sun is setting and we are trying to anchor, we have to get to places earlier. The problem with dropping anchor without good visibility is coral.
Fakarava is one of the more populated of the Tuamotus, I not sure how many that is - 200? It is suppose to be a good place to provision, when one of the two stores is open, or the bakery is open. We met a lady walking down the beautifully paved road, you can tell there is coral in the concrete; I gestured we were hungry and wanted something to eat. She made an arms length circle in the sky, pointed down the road and said, "Faka Pizza". Off we go, we have been going for awhile, when we see a little house with a red door, colored Christmas lights strung about, matching curtains and an open window. Through the window we see a pizza oven, it's Faka Pizza! The owner was a young family man; the kitchen of his home is the kitchen for his business. The window is where you placed and received your order; because the owner spoke a little English we were able to have bits of conversation as he prepared our pizza. It was pretty good pizza too.
April 30, 2006
Depart Apataki, Tuamotu at 10:10 for Fakarava
At 2 pm we are at 15 02' .719 S - 146 18'.829 W, we will not make not make Fakarava before dark, so we alter course to Toau. Get out the cruising books to see what they say about Toau, though we have decided that the cruising guides we have must be taken with a grain of salt, we still refer to them for general information. The entrance we must use is the Passe Otugi--this is an excerpt from one of the recently published cruising guides;"this pass, which is six meters deep and five meters wide, is easy to approach even though the currents are rather strong (3 - 4 knots), and provoke a disagreeable tidal range when the wind blows a moderate gale from the eastern sector. This phenomenon is limited when you approach the sides of the pass in an outgoing current, which is safer." (The 5 meters wide we believe to be a typo, actually the pass was about 50 meters wide) Another very popular cruising guide had this to say, "The entrance is wide and clear of danger with depths of at least 4 fathoms (24 ft). Vessels should keep a little south of the range line to avoid the strongest part of an out-going current. The out-going currents are so strong that eddies can be felt up to 2 miles outside the pass."
Now is there anything in these descriptions that would give cause to worry? Once we got to the pass we encountered Victory at Sea, this is how Greg describes it: "At 2700 rpm Greetings does about 8 knots; coming into the pass she was making 4 knots with 6 foot breaking waves chasing behind us. It was like motoring upstream in a rapidly flowing river but add the days wind swell of 20 plus knots right behind you. The currents wanted to move the boat from side to side; it was work keeping the boat going straight. This is all happening and I see the depth go from 180 feet to 80 to 60 to 50 to 30 feet in a matter of seconds. It felt like I was going to run the boat aground, waves were breaking all around me. It was a relief to see the depth drop to 80, the average inside the lagoons."
I did not take my post at the bow once we could see what we were in for, nor could I pay any attention to the dozens of dolphin that came to greet us. In a sideways glance I did notice just as we entered the pass the dolphin were gone.
This place is absolutely perfect, we are the only boat here, the water is crystal clear, coconut palms, sandy beaches, no flying bugs-the pass must be what keeps people out.
There is one other boat anchored here, a couple from Los Angeles , the only other Americans we have seen yet. Nice couple, they had a dead windlass remote. How frustrating, their windlass works but is useless without the remote--bad design. They were also out of propane and didn't have the correct attachment/adapter to refill their tanks - ours wouldn't work for them either. Repairs, breakdowns and bugs are part of the price in cruising to far and distant shores. They invited us to come over for cocktail hour. We couldn't go empty handed -- we have no rum, no wine, no beer, no soda, nothing remotely related to an appetizer-we didn't go.
7:00 am two divers, both French, show up in their aluminum boat and immediately get to work. One will dive; the other will stay at the helm of the skiff. The diver wearing a spring suit takes down a second tank and the yellow balloon which is tightly wrapped. From the surface we can only watch his bubbles rising from 55 feet travel this way, that way and back again. After some time a second set of bubbles appears; they are from the balloon he has attached to the anchor and begun to inflate with the second tank. The balloon will lift the anchor out and up enough that Greetings should be able to go forward and pull it out. On the signal I put it in forward with a little gas, Greg hauls like crazy on the 140 ft of chain remaining on the bottom with the freed anchor. The balloon rises to the surface and we are free. Greg continues to pull and pull the increasingly heavy anchor. We both agreed that was a $200 dollars well spent, even before the diver came aboard and drew the picture of our chain he untangled winding through the coral heads. We won't be putting down so much chain in coral again; unless the wind is up and there is a possibility of dragging. Note: We try for many reasons not to anchor near coral but sometimes it is unavoidable. Suggested anchorages are good so boaters are wiping out the same group of heads.
Leaving Manihi - about 9 am
Now we are heading for the pass good time or not. It's not, Greetings is caught in the current and is rushing forward too fast for the narrow pass. We hit, not a smash just a scuff on the keel, my stomach is in my throat. I can't see a thing through the churning water but I dare not take my eyes off in case. Ahhhh - we are through to the safety of the open ocean. Greg said when the keel hit he too felt sick and afraid but it took his complete focus to maintain some control of Greetings.
We were coming up to our approach to the entrance of Apataki. It should have been a relatively easy entry into the lagoon from the sea. There is a 4 kt incoming current so it was going to be a fast one; but the pass is wide (200ft) and supposedly deep (35ft). I'm again on the bow watching for coral when Greg yells up, "the charts no good!" As we neared the angle the chart told Greg to begin his approach into the lagoon; he realized it would put us 300 feet on land! We are already caught in the current pulling us into the lagoon. Greg now is driving Greetings by gut. He doesn't know how deep or how far the shoals extend on either side of the entrance. Watching the color of the water, trying to make sense of the turbulence and some prayers we are inside the lagoon of Apataki atoll.
We were getting very close to the coral head and I still did not feel the anchor grab, "sorry Greg, pull it up we've got to go out a little more". Greg was hoping to drop in 35 ft of water but I don't think we can. I ease forward away from the beach; the depth is now 45 ft, we drop again. Perfect, I'm sure we're hooked and I can sit in the cockpit and watch the fish swim around the coral head. Greg says no, we don't have enough chain out, bummer-anchor up-bigger bummer; we did have enough chain out. Now we are at 48 ft, drop, reverse, we're hooked-too soon I'm not as close to the coral head as I want to be, Greg says we have 120 ft out. He has been a human windlass all day, he has just pull up another 250 ft of 3/8 inch galvanized chain in about 20 minutes, the sun has set and we are running out of light.
Greg took the kayak out to survey our swing radius for coral heads. 15 meters from the boat he notices what he thought to be the dorsal fins of two sharks playing. He paddles over slowly to check it out, it's not sharks, it's a mantra ray. The manta with her 10 foot wing span played with Greg and the kayak for a surrealistic ten minutes before disappearing into the glassy lagoon.
It's been a long day.
Still in Manihi
Greg has checked the voltage on the circuit breaker, the solenoid, the motor and things I don't know. He has disconnected, cleaned, oiled, polished and massaged every connection. The windlass is dead. It seems we must have burned out the motor trying to break free of the coral.
Greg takes a break from the non-working windlass to work on the non-working generator. He spends so much time working on that generator one would think he was training to work with Thor when we get back.
There is a handle you can attach to manually work the windlass but yesterday superman broke the pawl in that too. If we weren't so stuck Greg could pull the anchor and the remaining 150 feet of chain by hand, I could watch. I was more useful than that however, I had an idea-a diver or two! There was a dive shop at the luxury hotel, the type with the cabanas over the water, 8 miles on the other side of the lagoon. Off into the setting sun Greg goes in search of some badly needed help.
Greetings Log 9 - April 21-26
Today was Greg's last date with the kids for a dinghy ride. When we landed at the quay I could see the heads pop up in the school class room across the field. Unfortunately Vamiti, the organizer and my favorite could not come. I spoke with her mom but her dad had already made the decision she could not miss Bible class.
Promised rides delivered we are off to Fakarava.
The anchor does not want to leave, it is attached to the boat, we need it later. In hind sight I can make fun of this very frustrating experience. At the time we were in hyper-calm because we were locked in a cruisers nightmare. The anchor was hooked on one or more of the many coral heads of concrete below us. We had watched the cruisers leave before us struggle for hours with their anchor. We had been at the anchorage longer than anyone; we went through more wind shifts and were probably securely wrapped around "things". We tried for hours, I was at the wheel, Greg forward with the windlass remote, patiently guiding me; reverse, forward, left.the windlass stopped. Greg flipped breakers until they resembled a seal. Okay, I'll get out the manual while he fiddles around with the obvious things to check. Note: I'm not concerned, he fixes everything. Take a break-we have now missed the departure window for good current. Tomorrow we can go through each possibility.
Gypsy Moth IV left today, she was here about 4 days. Those of you that read stories of intrepid ocean voyagers do recognize the name Gypsy Moth IV, as the 53 foot ketch sailed by Francis Chichester. In 1967 at the age of 65 Chichester completed the first solo circumnavigation. Starting and finishing in England, alone he sailed 29,630 miles in 226 days with a single stop.
Gypsy Moth IV is original with the exception of updated electronics and safety gear; now she carries underprivileged kids from greater London. The kids are chosen based on an essay they have written stating why they should sail on her for one of the approximate 2 week legs. The crew consists of the captain, two other adults - one was a journalist-and three kids, average age of 15. Great to see the famous old boat put to such positive use, what a wonderful experience for any kid.
The handheld GPS and VHF went back in the oven tonight. We were the only boat left in the anchorage and taller than the coconut palms. Greg and I both sat in the cockpit holding hands; we were going to get toasted together. Looking to the west the bolts and bright clouds of light came one after another. The south portion of the storm seemed a little farther off, still offering a noteworthy display. The lighting directly above us was magnificent; the beach was golden, the trees green and the water aqua blue in repeated flashes of blinding light. I am not using the term blinding lightly here, it was impossible to keep your eyes open to the flashes from the west and above. No rain and not as much thunder as you would think, but when it clapped you could feel it! An overwhelming display of nature we were not afraid, just in awe.
April 21 - 24
Tuamotu Archipelago - until we decided to make this voyage I had never heard of the 76 islands spanning a distance of a 1,000 miles, in a line southeast to northwest. Less than half the atolls are permanently inhabited. The sea provides the bulk of their diet and rainwater is the only source of fresh water. Black pearl farming seems to be the primary source of income. The books say tourism is second, I don't see many tourists. However, just today we were an attraction. A boat very similar to the Jungle Cruise boat at Disneyland, filled with guests from the resort on the other side of the lagoon, cruised by our little anchorage area on what I'm assuming is a narrated tour of the atoll. There are three other cruising sailboats in this popular spot-cruising guides will often suggest anchorages based on bottom holding, protection from wind and swells, no coral heads to swing into, etc. I tried to see through tourist eyes - all four of the boats here are very nice, at 47 ft we are the smallest, we all have laundry hanging out, 1 Australian flag, 2 British and a US - I imagine it was as varied as there were people onboard.
The boy that took me out of the rain the other day,Vaiarii, showed up at our boat. He brought a friend and his Uncle Jean-Paul. Jean-Paul had black pearls to sell. He really wanted to trade for whiskey, rum or designer sunglasses. Greg and I made the decision when stocking the boat; we would not bring alcohol, cigarettes or counterfeit items to trade with. He had a pair of very nice matching pearls I wouldn't mind having but we weren't willing to trade a dive light for them either. After walking through the boat looking for something to trade for he reluctantly agrees to take cash. $50 US for the pair, I have $15 US. He is visibly bummed, I consider offering him Mexican Pesos - didn't think he would find it funny. It is sweltering on the boat, we all want to get in the water, the kids are board, he will take my $15 US and 1000fp (about $9 US)-super! The boys are parched I let them have our last 2 cans of juice. The uncle is pleased with this, he gives me an additional golden brown pearl-it's beautiful, I like it better than the black. We all part happy - will maybe not Jean-Paul, I know he was hoping for whiskey.
We have pets! This and That, This is very active but That is boring. We always check the shells we pick up, pretty or not, owner occupied must go back. I was admiring the shells we had picked up from the day before when one, This, got up and walked across the tray. That afternoon, we accidentally picked up That.
I still miss Ole though.
On the way back from shelling we drove past the entrance/pass to the lagoon. We could see the water churning away at the surface up a head closer to the fish enclosures. Looking into the water was a wowser, all types fish flowing past and spectacular coral canyons but even with our little 9.9 hp Merc Greg was having a difficult time staying away from the fish enclosures.
The fans--I have wanted a number of fans installed throughout the boat for months before we left Ensenada. I probably should have had a go at them myself but I was always busy with other chores. Greg, I sometimes felt found other chores to avoid my fans. Even when we had our friend Joe aboard, with electrical engineering as one of his degrees, I couldn't get fans installed; he informed me he didn't do irons or other like items.
So now we are in paradise, Greg promised me he would install them, it is by far the hottest stillest day to date. Good day to turn on a fan. At the end of the day we have fans up throughout the boat EXCEPT in the galley, go figure. The first installed was at the nav station, where Greg hangs out. Evening comes; there he sits at his nav table commenting, on this hottest eve, how wonderful the fan feels. I'm cooking in the galley, on this hottest eve, fanless. I know you know what Greg is doing tomorrow.
April 20, 2006
We woke up and are still in paradise.
If there is a mosquito in the forest or a flea in the house it will find me-I'm an experienced hostess, but I've never experienced anything like the bite of a nono. Dr. Greg felt it was time for drastic action-this is the guy that cauterizes his own skin cancer with a red hot screwdriver at his workbench-I'm more desperate then ever to think of something. The amount of medical supplies we have on board is staggering-insurance against ever having to use it. Antihistamine, perfect! Dr. Greg insists we still try to drain the bites, open wounds in the tropics, I reluctantly agree to a small test area. Hopefully relief will come, rather than 8 abscesses on the top of my right thigh.
Greg was cleaning the old wax off his surfboard and I was doing whatever it is I do. There is a guy beckoning to us from the beach. Greg's excited,"let's go see what he wants". I wanted to go shelling on the backside of the atoll anyway so I paddle over in my kayak; Greg is on his long board, which would be easier to clean on the beach. The fellow looks to be in his late twenties, is missing a tooth, tells me I'm beautiful and asks if I have any whiskey-I should have paddle back to the boat. (I can hear my girlfriend's laughing-how do they find me?) He hands me a freshly opened coconut to drink from-very tasty. Greg is finally ashore so I hand him the coconut, introduce him to Lionel and make tracks for the other side. Just when I'm feeling like I made a clean get away he calls, "STOP!" The next two hours were spent in a feeble attempt to look for shells. Lionel was always under foot, like a shadow that moved 360 degrees at will. The 27 yr old toothless guy that was in love with me spoke French, Tahitian and some English and lived in a corrugated metal lean-to. I felt stupid; I speak English and some Spanish and bob around the ocean in a boat. I told him he talks too much, I don't want to talk, I just want to look for shells. We got to an understanding, I gave him 'the look' he was quiet for 5 minutes, and then he would think of something else to ask me for-no whiskey, no I don't want to buy a pearl, no wine, no he can not come sailing with us, no kiss, no he can not have one of my daughters and move to California, no my husband won't beat him up, no I don't want him to beat up my husband, no Ray Bans.
I believe in past log entries I failed to give you the sleep program aboard Greetings while underway. The two cockpit seats are each 6 ft long and 2 ft wide. There is always a high side and a low side. The low side being the desirable side as it rolls you nicely against the 10 inch back support. When off watch we always sleep in the cockpit. This allows us to be readily available in a situation - it is also difficult to sleep when in the back of your mind is the concern you'll come up for watch and the helm will be empty.
When we left Ensenada we were in full foulies at night, so when you were relieved from your watch you gratefully ducked below were it was warm, shed the yellow heavy duty foul jacket, the mid-layer jacket, the boots, the bibs, now you were down to your fleece, just hang everything up and you could go to the head. We usually made the person "on" some instant Caffe D,Vita French Vanilla Cappuccino (unquestionably the best instant) or hot chocolate. Since our friend Joe Buck spent time aboard with us we are hot chocolate addicts, we have it now in the tropics. Then you hang on to the counter, prop and brush your teeth, wow, you could do another hou r- no &$%^ way. Now you grab your one piece, prop yourself somewhere so you can take one foot off the floor without slamming across the cabin. Okay grab your mid-layer jacket as you bounce by, good you got your outer layer too. Re-prop so you can put your boots back on. Find your hat because now you don't need your head to be cold. I'm a woose so I grab my gloves too. Perfect, you're ready for bed. Grab a fleece roll up (thanks Michael) and a cockpit throw pillow - I put in ear plugs, Greg doesn't hear thing - lights out.
You could almost calculate the reduction in latitudes by the removal of clothing layers. By the time we were in the ITCZ, which I spoke of earlier, we were in shorts, bathing suits and raincoats. At night a sarong was my blanket. If it was raining when you were trying to sleep you definitely would want your hood up.
Our cockpit is fully enclosed with a canvas cover and isinglass "windows"; however, the canvas top is a few years old and has some drainage points.
Two days before we reached Nuku Hiva I was already dreaming about the clean, soft, white, fine cotton sheets packed away for safe keeping during our voyage. Let me tell you putting those sheets on was a pleasure, I smoothed out every wrinkle. Laying down on them together after three weeks of watching each other sleep was wonderful. We were exhausted; it was such a very nice feeling.
We've arrived, now we have to get in. Greg was driving; I was on the bow straining to watch for the coral heads. The entrance had wind chop and a mix of currents I could not decipher, all of which were disturbing the water making visibility very limited. A panga of fisherman passed us going out of the atoll as we were attempting to go in. They turned around motioning for us to follow them. They made it very clear without speaking to stay directly in their wake. They guided us through the channel, into the relative safety of the lagoon, pointed to a good anchorage and left-poof!
The color of the water, the coconut palms, the coral beach.we are going to stay awhile. Anchor tight, dinghy in the water, we were off to look for chips and gasoline. Crossing the lagoon to the village we enjoy a mild cooling squall. We arrive at the village damp, but refreshed with trash and gas can in hand. We find the market right away - it's closed-the owner takes our trash. Wandering now with just the dinghy's gas can we stop everyone asking where to find gas. We are sent to the mayor, seems a little odd but hey, it is a very small village. Get to the mayors office, its closed. There is an office next door over with ladies inside. As I'm knocking on the door I notice a sign that I'm hoping doesn't say do not bother, I open the door, "Hi! Do you know where we can get some gas?" They speak among themselves; I hope they are not saying I'm rude. Greg is right behind me, nonchalantly holding up the red can. One of they women speaks pretty good English, she went to New Zealand to study-I didn't realize they speak English in New Zealand. They put Greg on the phone with someone to get directions to his house; he has some fuel to spare. A cute girl, 11 years of age, is sent as our escort. Shortly, her 10 year old cousin joins us. We are going to her uncles' house. Greg and the uncle (mid 20's) strike up conversations right away - surfing. The girls and I are toying with a pig sleeping at his doorstep. It's her uncles' pet pig, it guards the house. Right, the mischievous came out in the three of us - "you poke him, I don't want to poke him, he dangerous". They look at me, fine, I'm the mother here, I'll poke the pig. RUN! Screaming we flew back off the porch, the pig lay back down. We poked him again - RUN! He's charging! Greg and his new friend are now in on our laugh. There is no doubt that pig would not hesitate to take a chunk out of you. The uncle would accept no money for the gas.
On the walk back to the dinghy a little boy on a bike, also 11, joins us. Great kids, very polite and fun-sure wish Sierra was with us now. Once at the dinghy Greg asks if they would like to go for a boat ride - in a blink the boy is in the dinghy. The girls and I run back to ask their mom-approval given off they go. I'm standing at the wharf watching; about 12 kids have joined me. Another squall comes, a little boy takes me quickly to stand behind a container on the wharf, the squall passes and we didn't get wet. This is where it got tough, Greg's back with the first three, there are now a dozen more that want a turn. We tried to explain through the kids that spoke a little English; we would stay for a week and take a few each day. Reluctantly, they shoved us off.
Here we are again, out in the middle of nowhere. We get to anchorages where we see other boats; Mark, Greg's brother, has told us that there are other boats around us according to the position reports, where are they? Greg caught Uncle Skippy, I made him throw him back - we still have some of grandpa in the freezer.
There was a time not so long ago that 20kts of breeze was quite the fresh day of sailing; now anything under 20 is light. We should make landfall by tomorrow mid - day. The Tumotus have a reputation for being boat eaters due to the abundance of huge coral heads. It is wise to arrive in daylight hours, calm seas are also preferable.
April 17, 2006
Pulling up the anchor and moving on. Just in the knick of time too. Last night the wind shifted to offshore, bringing those nasty little nono's with it. We left the anchorage by 10 am, but I already look like I spent a summer evening on the patio in Wisconsin. The Marquesas are beautiful with their lush rugged peaks, I'm sure we will hear "You missed the best part", however, Greg and I both want clear blue water so 217 will be our course direct to Manihi, Tumotu.
April 16, 2006
Brook has organized today's events for our family and friends. First church and then gather at Jacks place for yummy things to eat and of course the egg coloring extravaganza - will they be having silly string at dad's house? We may color with markers some brown tropical chicken eggs. I can clearly picture the girls running around searching for their baskets while keeping one eye on each other - the big girls still run for their baskets. There are no bunnies in the Marquesas but from here at the cockpit table I can see little wild goats stroll along the rocky beach. All day they cry and the chickens make their chicken noises, its may be isolated here but it sounds like we are next to a daycare. I sure hope Sierra remembers to bring me some peeps!
This morning some locals went by in an outrigger, not sure where they came from. We always take our dinghy for a cruise of our new anchorage, to see what there is around us-nothing here but goats. Oh! That's not true; we found this little river that emptied into the far side of our bay. We tried to navigate up the river but didn't get far before the rocks won. On the shore under a grove of coconut palms were dozens and dozens of coconut crabs. They are about 4-5 inches across the shell with very substantial claws. Skirting along sideways with them were hundreds of little crabs, the size of a quarter and bright red.
Cruising along the lava rocks I'm noticing all these holes. I have an idea! "Greg, how about if I tie a line on to you as you dive along these rocks looking for lobster. If there is a strong current down there you can follow the line back or I'll drag you in"-I know Ray and Michael are groaning at this suggestion. We are cruising along, watching the swell up against the rocks, I'm thinking seriously about a plan when I see in the rising swell, a shark! I point out to Greg that we don't know what type it is, it's only about 4 feet - no further discussion of my plan.
Back at the boat I have another idea-I'm full of ideas, trying to avoid the task of mending the entire length of the leech on the jib - let's take the dinghy to the beach to look for shells and chase the baby goats. Eau de Deet is my shore excursion fragrance-very wild here; Greg says he doesn't want any. We get to shore; Greg pops out of the dinghy to pull it ashore, his white hat, T-shirt and him, are covered in the dreaded black nonos, I'm fine. He pops back in the dinghy and makes a rapid zig-zag course to the boat.
Let me take you back to our first anchorage, Baie de Taiohae. Actually, just outside the bay we hoisted a 12" x 18" French Polynesian flag (under sized, as tradition is ½ inch length for each foot in length of the boat), up to the starboard (right) spreader. It is a customary courtesy for yachts visiting a foreign country upon entering their waters. Below the French Polynesian flag we flew the "Q" flag, a solid yellow, 12" x 18", it is the quarantine flag. The Q flag says to officials we have just arrived, have not yet checked in or been inspected and we intend to. On the stern we flew our national flag (1" in length for each foot in length of boat)
Your vessel is not always boarded by officials upon arrival, very often as in the case here, you-the captain-go to shore to the appropriate office and check in.
In French Poly we reported the gendarmerie (20 min from wharf, or 50 until you find it). We had already acquired our French Visas, which seemed to streamline the process; however, we showed them our passports, vessel documentation, departure papers from Mexico and filled out a moderate form-standing still while filling it out was the most difficult part.
We then went to the bank (20 min from gendarmerie) to post an $1150 US bond each (the cost of an airline ticket home), they don't mind you visiting but don't want you staying. Upon departure from French Polynesia in the Tahiti area, we can go to the bank with our clearance papers and get the bond money returned, less the commission fees. We had no firearms to declare, minimal alcohol-too minimal, and no bunnies or other living creatures-we wouldn't pick up Sierra until Tahiti so he said I didn't need to declare her until then.
The bank was closed until 1:15; it was only 11:00 am. So we walked to the beautiful restaurant, up the hill at the luxury hotel (60 min from gendarmerie), we had a wonderful lunch sitting next to the infinity pool enjoying an amazing view of our boat in the bay. It all seemed so civilized, I said to Greg, "it doesn't seem like we've been at sea for three weeks", "Oh yes it does!"
Lunch was too good, now we had to hi-tail it to the bank, because we must bring proof that we posted the bonds back to the gendarmerie, he closes at 2 pm.
We/I are walking/running as fast as we can through the mud, it rains here a bit, when a jeep pulls up along side and says get in, and we do, and are quickly dropped off at the bank. Next to the tellers window was a beautiful arrangement of local flowers and she also had a lei made with nothing but fragrant tuberoses. I complemented her on them, she gave it to me. I couldn't believe it, just like that, she insisted. I put it on, thanked her and off we dashed back to the gendarmerie.
He now gave us a form we must take to Post Office and mail to Tahiti, which of course wasn't open. Off in search of a market, they are also closed for several hours mid-day. We never did figure out the local business/working hours, it didn't matter, they were open or they weren't. Following Greg for an hour along the water in the direction of the Total fuel station, we find no market where he was sure there was supposed to be one. We were able to make arrangements to get fuel the next day after 2:30 pm, when the supply ship leaves the dock.
Taking the lead to what I assumed to be the main road where there must be a market, we find ourselves high above the water, the village, the houses; I admit there is nothing up here but a view. You must remember we haven't walked in 3 weeks. It is 95 degrees with 95% humidity, we are both dressed in kakis and collared shirts, we have no water, and I'm running out of nature fun facts.
A small pick up truck stops, with a strong local accent he says "do you need help?" I pretend to assume he said do you want a ride, yes! I run around to get in the passenger seat and Greg hops in the back. Fortunately he speaks pretty good English because my Spanish has not been helpful. His name is Jim. His wife is from the island Ua Pou, his grandfather was a sailor from Scotland with blue eyes, who met a local woman on one of his voyages and stayed. His father also has blue eyes. Jim looked Polynesian and worked as an electrician. He drove us to the market, on the opposite end of town, when we were done shopping, took us to our dinghy.
Once back to Greetings we could take down the quarantine flag; we had found a home-for awhile.
Greg has some fun facts for you: Cannibalism has been part of the Marquesas history. It is hard to imagine such giving people came from those with such cruel customs. The people ate all or part of the victims of war as offerings to gods or for simple vengeance. The eyes were reserved for the chiefs or priests.
Fun fact from me: The island of Hiva Oa is known as the last home and burial site of the French artist, Paul Gauguin.
We spent one night in Baie de Hakatea. This was a bay surrounded by cliffs that imitated the Na Pali Coast on the island of Kauai-think Jurassic Park.
April 14, 2006
Comptroller Bay, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas, French Polynesia
I realize I have a bit of pecking before me to catch you up on what has been going on. I should make note here that the further south we have gone the more difficult it has been to get a SSB signal to get our email in or out. Greg has been messing with the SSB and Pactor for 2 days now; we can't seem to get a message out or in. Sometimes an email has gone unanswered because it's all I can do to get the position report up or something for the Log. Things to fix, forever water to mop up, galley wench chores, attempts at sleep, difficulty staying at the nav table; these are a few of the reasons I don't send as many messages as I'd like to-plus only 4 of my fingers, on a good day, know how to type. We sure love getting messages. Now then, let me tell you what has been going on.
On Tuesday April 11th about noon PST, we dropped anchor in Taiohae Bay on the island of Nuku Hive in the Marquesas which is in the country of French Polynesia. Sailing up to the island was an exhilarating feeling, we were somewhere and it was beautiful! The island group has a volcanic birth, black rugged deeply grooved cliffs, sharp irregular peaks, all covered in lush deep green growth and coconut palms. At sunrise I was able to see the outline of an island, it wasn't our island but, it was land! (Actually I saw it on the radar first-not very romantic)
It was about 7 am, sailing along the coast of Nuku Hiva, dolphins on the bow! Greg and I scrambled up to the bow to thank the dolphin for the greeting and thank God for getting us here safely. This beautiful moment quickly turned to pandemonium, as our moments do, hook up! Whoa! By the time Greg could get back to the cockpit, which is fast if you've ever seen Greg in action on a boat, he had almost been spooled-the fish ran with almost all the line on the reel. He fought that fish for at least a half an hour. It was Grandpa Skippy! You may know it as a Blue Fin Tuna. We had been catching the Blue Fin for days but always released them as they were less than 10 pounds. They were so light that as we reeled them in they "skipped" across the water. In the helm well now lies Grandpa Skippy, he weighs at least 30 pounds, he was solid; I covered him with a towel. There may be a scientific explanation for what happened next but I have my own thoughts, Greg thinks I've seen Finding Nemo one to many times. You have seen or heard how dolphins love to swim in the bow wake of a boat. I've watched them nudge each other to be directly front and center of a boat moving 9 knots. In our bow wake now were "skippys".
(6:35 am - 00 41'.777 South, 128 21.790 W - 108 nm. 2 pm been running under chute since morning - wind
(8:40 am - 01 01.256 N, 128 27'.773 W - 120nm - water 86.5 - wind 2.2, 320M - clear skies, glassy sea, small wind swell from SE - Fuel: ½ tank (tank is 56 gals)= 48 hrs running @ 1500 rpm, remaining fuel = 110 gals plus)
(7:04 am - 03 02'.874 N, 128 24.295 W - 127nm - water 90.8. 12 pm - 02 36'.60 N, 128 25'.11 W - It's my little brothers birthday)
Today 8:05 am
Less than 1000nm to Nuku Hiva, 999.9nm direct/bearing at 215M. That's if we could just drive straight there. Our course is set at 175 degrees Magnetic, making allowances for the eastbound current-North Equatorial Counter Current. Our sole focus is to go 180-due south-leaving the ITCZ behind.
ITCZ-(Inter Tropical Convergence Zone)-from Admiralty Sailing Directions, Pacific Islands Pilot Vol. III. (1.243) - is a rather diffused zone located in the equatorial pressure trough between the trade wind systems of the two hemispheres. Its diffuse nature makes it difficult to track daily on some occasions and it undergoes a somewhat erratic N/S movement at times. It is in this zone that "E waves" (1.247) and tropical depressions are situated, very often originating there also.
We have been in the ITCZ since approximately lat. 6N. The squalls here are much different than the squalls we have experienced en-route to Hawaii during the Trans Pac Race in July. They packed a punch of welcomed breeze on the front of the approaching squall, generally with an increase of 10-15 knots of breeze and the wind angle would not vary more than 20 degrees of the average. They came from one direction. If you were good you could jibe several times to stay in front the squall for the most breeze. The confused and unpredictable nature of a squall is accepted but there are some anticipated characteristics, such as I just mentioned.
The squalls of the ITCZ, in our experience, have only one thing in common-rain. No two are similar. We have experienced thunder and lighting to rival the Midwest. It was during the "Wisconsin Squall" we discussed the lighting protection, or lack of, on Greetings. The two extra handheld GPS's and VHF radios went from the Ditch Bag to the oven. Greg's friend and electrician, Matt, had read the oven, being a metal box, was a safe place during a lighting strike.
I just took a moment to clean up the carnage in the cockpit from last night. I have to laugh as I wonder, should I wipe down the little blue spray bottle we were using to mist ourselves in the heat of the morning yesterday, pleading with each passing or dissipating squall to bring us a cooling drop of rain.
(7:07 am - 05 08.207 N, 128 18.772 W - 130nm - 2:55 pm - sighting, blue Styrofoam - in between squalls)
Greg on squalls and the ITCZ (Inter Tropical Convergence Zone)
4/2/06 - We noticed that in the ITCZ, the squalls travel in many directions. As we were waiting for a squall to pass over us, for a boat bath, we had an opportunity to observe a number of squalls coming and going around us throughout the day. We watched one pass below us heading NE running into another moving NW. This left a big hole of light air for us and intense wind ahead between these squalls. We personally experienced the intense wind portion of this scenario later that evening when we sailed into a similar situation.
We were forced to roll up the jib and ease the main in attempt to feather out the 50 knots of wind and intense rain that pounded us for almost two hours. The radar screen, with 24nm range, was consumed with the squall that had taken on the appearance of a cyclone, complete with eye. Later comparing notes, Teri and I both saw this, but choose not to comment on it to each other, deciding the situation was exciting enough.
A couple of hours later, after avoiding several other wayward squalls by passing to the east of them I found one that would not be passed, it turned north heading right towards us. My original heading would have us pass through the center so I slowed way down to 2kts to see if it would move west. When I slowed down it seemed the squall on the radar grew twice its size (32 mile diameter) and stopped ¼ mile ahead. I grew tried of playing the waiting game and put the pedal down to pass through it on my southerly course. Once entering it the wind increased to 30kts, the rain pounded, and then it decided to turn again. It followed us for the next 4 hours, and 25 plus miles, keeping us in dead center, giving me and the boat a thorough bath. As the sun came up there was still remnants on the radar screen of this squall that stayed until it was empty. I can not explain why a squall moving in a NW direction could turn south and stay on top of us until its death.
(8:00 am - 07 17'.754 N, 127 31'.331 W - 190nm - wind 18kts, 23M - seas bumpy, 80% cloud cover - barometer 1011.4 - water 87 - air 80)
(7:00 am - 10 24'.250 N, 127 31'.331 W - 170nm - course 185 - wind 16kts - boat speed 8kts - wind 52M - sea bumpy, 50% overcast - water 87 - air 79)
(13 12'.109 N, 126 42'.05 W - 160nm - course 209 - wind 19kts - boat 6.9kts - Dolphins)
8:00 am on the 29 th
We didn't get to flip the chart. It might be a jib on a stick day.
It's almost 4 am , I'm on watch. The wind is averaging about 16 knots and the boat is doing about 6 knots.
Today, later this morning, we should be able to flip the chart! The paper charts are huge, so they are folded to fit and be usable on the Nav table. The rest of this first leg is on the other side. Little milestones are encouraging.
I've mentioned Greg's software program to you many times, he loves it. Lately, I have found it humourous, better than frustrating. On each of the past four days, except yesterday, it stated we would reach the Marquesas in 16 days, yesterday it stated 17! We have been laughing about everyday out here looking the same. Our position report must look like we dropped anchor.
Oh no! My light fell off during that puff. I have my little red “bite light” clipped and balanced on my blanket so I can see the keys to type.
Our watch schedule is a little off tonight. The typical sched is 8-10, 10-12, 12-2, 2-4(dogwatch-the worse), 4-6(my favorite-sunrise), the rest of the day is random. Sometime during the day we are to take a nap-I often end up reading through my “naptime”. My years as an insomniac have paid off.
I think we have been out here approximately nine days now. In the last eight we have seen only one boat. It's rather freaky, you start questioning your radar.
The lack of wildlife is unexpected; Greg caught a glimmer of a few dolphins days back, the dead flying fish and squid we find on the decks in the morning, a single jumping fish and a lone bird Greg is trying to befriend-that's it.
The wind is picking up, getting harder to balance here.
** 1999 miles to Marquesas, French Polynesia from N19 35'.50 W123 33'.56 –there's nothing but water and numbers out here. **
March 26, 2006
Happy Birthday Holly Nannis, girlfriend of 42 years!!! We are getting old Holly! Speaking of getting old, he-he, Happy Birthday to you too Patricia Roche!!! (March 23)
Last night we had light winds 11kts or less and a number of 30 degree wind shifts, very noisy. Greg re-rigged the preventer on the main, adding a snubber in the tackle; it makes a tremendous difference on the slamming of the main during the numerous wind shifts out here.
The water is now 74 degrees! I can start to feel a little humidity in the air, much warmer too.
Whoa! BIG fishing day!!!! DOUBLE HOOK -UP! At the same time, Greg and I each hooked a #20 Yellow fin tuna. It was very exciting for me, as I've never caught a big ocean fish. I ended up on my butt, braced, in the cockpit reeling that guy in.
Linner today was Fumi Salad—no wonder Marlene was thinking of me today—and seared tuna. Yummy! Tidbit here--did you know that even a half a head of cabbage can roll? Learn more on rolling food in Ramblings.
Around noon today we hoisted the chute (spinnaker). It increased our speed by a knot and a half and we could sail closer to course. It's still up as I peck away in the dark. The wind has picked up this evening, right now we have 18kts of breeze and our boat speed is 8kts. We are hoping this can continue thru the night. Greetings prefers downwind winds between 16 and 25 knots. She gets in her groove and hums along.
Generator is running great. The watermaker sprung a leak in the pressure feed pump. We did figure out how to fill the starboard water tank. It was so obvious, the switch for the port and starboard fill was right there on the panel labeled “fuel transfer pump”.
Less than a TransPac to go! (race from LA to Honolulu-2225 miles)
Slow day. We both slept every moment we could. Greg caught nice size Mahi Mahi just as he was going to bring in our rods. What a beautiful fish. He cleaned and fillet, I skinned—yes, it was creepy. Once it was wrapped in foil with butter and green onions and grilled, it was very good.
Got an email from Fawn, I think she's right, regarding my whale call. I'm going to have to watch Finding Nemo again, pick up some tips from Dori.
Since yesterday we have sailed 150 miles. The clouds look animated, the little puffy oval ones kids draw, all the same size and evenly spaced.
Getting this website together before we left was quite a pain, just ask my brother, he began to answer my phone calls with,” what now?” I couldn't have done it with out him. Now Michael is the webmaster. I just have to babble on about stuff, send it off to him and he takes care of the rest. I won't be able to see the site until I get to a port with a cyber café—those of you who know Michael understand this is a bit worrisome. Luckily, I am his favorite sister.
March 23, 2006
Day 4 – we have sailed a total of 389 to date
The third sunrise of the voyage was a beauty. No wildlife sightings, except squid on the decks. Yes, Sierra, I took a picture of the squid. I thought for sure we would be seeing whales. Even my well practiced whale call has not enticed them to come out to play.
We are approximately 400 miles off the coast of Baja . The seas have calmed a bit. We have been running wing and wing–the jib out to one side and the main out to the other side--since yesterday afternoon. Greg likes to call this jib on a stick, because you use the spinnaker pole to hold the jib out. The wind–average 15kts--is behind pushing us along at a comfortable 7kts.
Yesterday in the position report Greg noted the great fishing out here. I'm laughing because I'm sure some assume that meant the catching too.
12:30 pm -Rip in the main sail! No fret, we have our handy Ullman Sails repair kit. Greg was just saying yesterday that there should be spreader patches on the main, there are now.
We are yet again motor-sailing. Today it's because we needed to make water and the generator is currently inoperable. (See the Man of Leisure page for more details)
March 22, 2006 -- Wednesday
Day 3 at sea. Took showers! For me it's not a problem, but try being 6' 2” and taking a shower in a rocking telephone booth. The generator is still not working. The watermaker isn't doing well either. The fish now owns the cedar plug. Greg thinks he might have picked up the Bill Rawson South Pacific sailing tour brochure.
Happy Birthday Julie!!–Roehre, I forgot your new last name.
The seas were very bumpy last night and throughout the day. The water makers output is very low. Greg will have to tackle that after he repairs the runaway generator.
March 20, 2006
3 pm , we were once again motoring our sailboat. Wind or no wind we were going! Greg was confident that outside the bay and past Todos Santos the wind would fill in – no wind. All night through confused seas we motored with the Main up for stability. It was every bit as cold as anticipated. Our watch schedule was 2 hours on and 2 hours trying to stay on the cockpit seat and get a bit of sleep.
Down below was tricky, at one point I was trying to get out of my multi layers of clothing and take my chances in the head – boat bathrooms are small for a reason, it's all about propping. I had one arm in and one arm out of my salophettes, holding on to the companion way rail, when the boiling water on the stove sloshed to the floor. The basket with our sketch pads and pencils were airborne and also heading to the floor. The Mush/Beef Stroganoff I had prepared for dinner was going to be saved for breakfast.
March 15, 2006
It was my first auto accident in Mexico . I've heard about the cabbies down here but never experienced a driver worse than myself. The incident was the classic the car in front stops, the car behind doesn't. What we found so funny was that our driver, the car behind, simply yelled at the car ahead and off we went. There wasn't the expected exchange of information and damage assessment. Don't stop while driving in Mexico .
Just over a month ago Greg received the Expedition software. This he informed me was the crème de la crème of navigational software. “The round the world racers use it; Vendee Globe racers, Whitbread racers, probably even Ellen McArthur”, I think he was attempting to both sell me on the technical aspects of Expedition as well as justify its' hefty price.
The capabilities of Expedition are truly amazing. Let me attempt to give you the readers digest version of its capabilities. First you enter the polars of your boat into the program. (Polars are the performance of the boat based on wind speeds and wind angles) Then via internet, or more likely, SSB radio you send for a GRIB file, Grid Binary File, for the area you are sailing through. The GRIB provides you with the barometric pressure, wind direction and speed. The program provides the currents and tides. When you open the GRIB in Expedition it utilizes all the above mentioned data to create the optimum route from where you are to where you are going and tells you how long it will take to get there. Now, let me clarify the immediate question; the software is accurate for one to two weeks out only, we must feed it new GRIBs every 5 days.
The reason I'm telling you all this is because approximately 2 weeks ago Greg entered some estimated polars for our boat. That wonderful Expedition calculated that we would reach the Marquesas in 17 days! Whoa! We wouldn't even have time to eat all the food I planned on cooking. We should have left…today when we put in the latest GRIB – 32 days. Tomorrow we are going to sail about and get some more accurate polars.
March 14, 2006
Max Holmes III
Short, stout and robust. The wind may be howling outside, the temperature inside the boat is 49 and that's okay. Max, the delightful little space heater that Paul and Kathy gave us is my new best buddy. Move on over here little Max.
First hair raiser and we are only six miles off the coast!
Thought it would be nice to take Brook over to Todos Santos and anchor for a night. Took her out on a little cruise to see all the seals, lots of baby babies. Todos Santos is known for HUGE waves. It was about a month ago when there was a big swell and the pro surfers flew in to have a go at 40-45 ft waves. Greg took us over to the other side of the island through a narrow pass in the island. No tow-in waves today; however, Brook could see the point where stories are made. Greg was telling Brook of his own adventure there, when all of a sudden we were surfing Todos Santos!! Our 10 ft dinghy is almost vertical, Brook is on her butt at my feet, which are under water. Glancing over to Greg I see the wave breaking right behind us propelling us forward. Greg is trying to gun the almost submersed 9.9 hp outboard and surf off to the right. The silence breaks as we reach the bottom of the wave. I tell Brook there is a fish in the boat, she believes me. We are soaked and laughing our heads off. Not made for day almost one.
March 11, 2006
It was 1 year ago today we took possession of Greetings. It use to be in California if you wanted to avoid the use tax, luxury tax, sales tax, on your vessel you took it to Mexico for 90 days. As of October something 2005, Arnold would like us tax avoiders to stay out of the country for 1 year. And he is very strict on the offshore (3 miles out) part too. Hence, I bobbed along in the dark, in a dinky Vessel Assist boat out 3 miles from Marina Del Rey before stepping foot on Greetings. (More like lunging from one small heaving vessel to a larger heaving vessel) Greetings found her first home at the Coral Marina in Ensenada , Mexico to be fantastic. The marina facilities are much nicer than most in California . The marina staff is unsurpassed. I can't even go into the help and consideration we have been shown. The Coral was more than a pleasant surprise; at this point in time we are expecting to bring Greetings back here.
March 10, 2006
So granted we wanted to leave on Monday, then Tuesday or Wednesday. Big deal if we changed our minds from 9 am Friday to we weren't quite sure, maybe Monday… That girl, Brook, just came over and started throwing stuff in her car. She was closing windows and blinds, leaving plants to die. Thank God Michael came over to give me hugs and take my cute little Hawaiian plant.
It is incredibly difficult to leave home for such an extended period of time. Speaking with my friend Eleanor, we agreed it would almost be easier if I was actually moving somewhere. I not moving anywhere, I'm just not being here. The tax man/woman, wedding, the DMV, changing name, the bank, the insurers, changing addresses, the business, the girlfriends, the family, the investors, the kids, the bunny…
I was explaining to my mom how this last month we had a list that would not go away. Every time you think you have completed a task, you realize that you haven't. This happens to us all, I guess it's because we were trying to do so much at once that it became so comic or macabre. The person you needed to turn info into forgot to tell you that they required additional info. It should not take 4 trips to the auto mechanic to replace breaks on a car that is going to sit in the garage for 3 ½ years. Sometimes it's your own fault, like driving up to LA to get French Visas, and forgetting the passports. Other times it's just incomprehensible; spend an hour looking at frames only to decide on another pair just like the one you already have. Go back to pick up your spare glasses (notice spare, trying to be responsible) only to find they just put new lenses in your old frames – you still only have one pair and your daughter is outside looking like the truck from the Beverly Hillbillies, waiting to go to Mexico.
Then there are all, all - for a procrastinator like me is many, that you want to send a Thank You, a Happy Birthday, a Congratulations, I Love You…I should probably focus on the I'm Sorry.
We have all read the cute little saying that says ‘dance like nobody's watching – love like you won't get hurt' etc. Well forget that, you want to appreciate life??? Live like you are going nowhere for a long time. Get organized – now!
February 26, 2006
Okay, today, or late this evening could most definitely, possibly be the launching of the GREETINGS web site. There have been so many interruptions like global health insurance, boat insurance, a trust - so the kids don't fuss over the pittance we are leaving behind, taxes, banking, mailing addresses, property management, boats to sell, houses to clean, storage to empty, cars to sell, sails to pick up, passports, shots, foreign visas, 1st aid kits, more taxes - that's one page. Then there are important things like making sure Sierra and Jack are squared away - Brook is my hero here. Weeble, Megan and Bret are providing a happy home for Ole, the worlds softest bunny. Brook is actually Greg's hero too, she took his fish. (Don't forget the seatbelt Brook when you take them for a drive)
February 22, 2006
Last night was to be the BIG night - the web site in it's entirety was to be published. The clock ticking, my heart pounding, my eyelids drooping, the main page disappeared. It was no where to be found! Panic took over, then common sense prevailed (Greg), I went to bed. 5 am I'm back at it.
I'm not looking for accolades, however; I must tell you this web site stuff is extremely tricky. Helsal II webmaster - my hats off to you.
February 21, 2006
Greg has been in Mexico the past week working on Greetings. He has changed the oil in both the engine and generator, spliced and ran the last of the new neon rigging (more on that later), installed an additional water filter under the galley sink, put up several bungee "barriers" to keep things like shampoo where you put them and on and on. I've been here laughing with Bernadette and Weeble. We were suppose to spend the weekend cooking, freezing and Seal-A-Meal-ing.
Now it's about 4am on Tuesday, I've been up sealing my freshly ironed clothes into Ziploc bags. The wardrobe looks sufficient; there are T-shirts, sweaters, skirts, dresses, swimsuits, slacks, hats, and 3 pairs of old shorts. Does Bowditch say anything about standing watch in a dress?
French Polynesia - Nuie - Tonga - Fiji - New Zealand