Sailing with Susan has meant a lifetime of wonderful memories in just a few short years.

You meet someone and little do you know how much your life could change because of it.

A simple phone call asking if we wanted to go sailing has turned into a lifelong friendship and many fun encounters on the sea.

Susan has written a book about her sailing adventures. Find out more at Call Me Captain

Scott’s Sailing Aventures

This blog was originally posted back in 2006 & 2007. Long ago I moved hosting service and have moved once again. So, I’ve taken some time to recreate the blog here. I’ve corrected some typos here, but otherwise it’s as I originally wrote it.

Additional pictures from these adventures can be found at: Photos from 2006

 

Welcome

Welcome to Scott’s Coconut Milk Run blogsite. I will post occasional emails to this site to let you know what’s happening on my travels across the South Pacific.

Below our approximate route and dates are shown.

FROM

TO

APPROXIMATE MILES

DEPARTURE DATE

DEPARTURE DATE

OFFSHORE DAYS/TOTAL DAYS

BORA BORA

RAROTONGA, COOK ISLANDS

533

MAY 14

MAY 27

5/14

RAROTONGA

TONGA

818

MAY 27

JUNE 10

8/14

TONGA

SUVA, FIJI

434

JUNE 10

JUNE 24

4/14

SUVA

VANUATU

588

JUNE 24

JULY 8

6/14

VANUATU

NOUMEA, NEW CALEDONIA

300?

JULY 8

JULY 22

3/14

NOUMEA

BUNDABERG, AUSTRALIA

785

JULY 22

AUGUST 5

8/14

Gerard Returns with CD of photos and boat parts

Well, it’s Sunday morning and I’ve been to the Ala Wai boat harbor to pick up the autopilot that has to be FedExed overnight to New Hampshire to get fixed. Gerard was in good spirits for having flown all night with no sleep. One of the jewels he brought back is a CD of pictures of the adventure so far. Here’s a few starting with her going away cake.

The crack where the boat is leaking

Hey what’s that boat look like?

Well, Gerard called today saying several things are already fixed and ready to go back down. Now all we have to do is make room in our luggage.

I realized today that some of the folks that will be reading this have never seen a picture of the boat I’ll be on for next several weeks. Here she is:

Down to the wire

In a few short hours I’ll be off to the Hawaiian Airlines flight that will take me to Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia. Steve and I will spend tonight at the Sheraton, see some friends of his tomorrow and then at 3:00 p.m. take our flight to Raiatea where Susan awaits us.  It’s a short hop with incredible views out the window of the islands  of FP. Moorea, Huahine, Tahaa and Raiatea should delight us with  their beauty from the air.

My bags are right at the limit of 70 lbs. each. My clothes take up a  small corner of my carry-on duffle. The only thing left to pack are  my toiletries. I’m still debating about the electric toothbrush. Power is a precious commodity on the boat, as is space. It will take up a little of each.

The autopilot brain that I sent overnight to New Hampshire arrived back yesterday all fixed. It’s a relief. It’s only our backup system, but it’s wonderful to have. I love to man the helm, but it’s quite a  job 24 hours a day.

Steve is still waiting to see if the wind indicator shows up.  Apparently there were a couple of shipping mixups. If it comes, it may be at the last minute today.

The adventure begins.

In Raiatea

After leaving Honolulu yesterday we’re finally in Raiatea and on the
sweet Honu. On the drive to the airport my mom called and said she sold
the house. Whew, she found a condo last week and sold her house this
week. I’m so relieved to be on this long trip and not have to worry
about that.

Check-in at the airport was easy for me. I was worried, but it went very
smoothly. The bags were 67 and 70.35 pounds. Just under my limit. Steve
showed up about 30 minutes behind me and waited about an hour in line.
Then he had some mixup about his inter-island ticket. This mixup will
come back to haunt him again today.

The flight was easy, but Hawaiian Airlines was having all kinds of
technical problems with the video system and the film was only available
in French. C’est la vie!

Immigration was a breeze too. The bags came out quickly and customs
never stopped us. Just outside the doors Steve is suddenly surrounded by
three people, leis flying. Then it was my turn. Steve has some friends
that are here for a few months and they came to the airport to greet us
and whisk us away. Jacques, Jane and Titaua let us change some money and
loaded us in their vechicles for the short ride to the Sheraton.

The room was nice, with an ocean view and a king sized bed, but not the
two beds we requested. C’est la vie!

Around 9 this morning Jacques picked us up for brunch. Off we went the
Intercontinental where there was a lavish buffet set out. I tasted many
new delicious things today. What they were I still don’t know. After
lunch we had a nice walk around the property. There were fish to see in
a lagoon they had stocked. We were very leisurly, because our flight
wasn’t until 3:00.

Titaua had said that we should go to the airport and drop our baggage at
the freight office and it might be cheaper than taking excess baggage.
It’s a good thing she made this suggestion too. We arrived at the
airport around 12:45 and got the big heavy bags checked in. Jane was
exceptionally helpful speaking French for us. In the process we found
out that there is no flight at 3:00. So, we finally went over to the
ticket counter to find that we are acutally on the 1:15 flight which
leaves in 15 minutes! Plus, Steve still didn’t have ticket.

At the gate in Honolulu Steve’s travel agent handed him and envelope and
said “here’s your ticket.” We looked at it later on the plane only to
find a check in French Polynesian Francs made out to travel company.
Jane again translating we find out that he was supposed to exchange the
check last night for a ticket. Apparently, someone was waiting at the
airport for him. Oops. So, off to the other counter he had to go and buy
another ticket. We were the last to get on the plane. Luckily it was
late. However, we were on a very small plane and our luggage was on a
later flight that takes freight.

Captain Susan was quite surprised to see us show up hours earlier than
anticpated. Hugs and pictures ensued. A couple hours later we walked to
the Airport, retrieved our bags from a 30+ minute late plane and got a
ride back to the harbor.

Susan cooked us a three course dinner that consisted of pupus, which
included the most fabulous pate’, soft cammenbert and dry French
sausage. Then came the raw salad of many vegetable chopped. Following
the salad were crepes of ham, cheese and tomato. Ooh, la, la. What a
treat. It was terrific. Life is good. Very good.

Boat fixin’

Even though Gerard did tons of work during his two weeks here, there was
more to do once we got here. Steve worked on getting the fresh water
leak fixed by replacing the hose on the starboard(left) fresh water
tank. I worked on get the prop generator(Oscar) back on. Oscar generates
electricity for us when we’re sailing. I reattached the wires and
mounted it back in it’s place. We think we have to adjust tomorrow. Oh
well.

After our hours of work we took a break for lunch and Susan bought us
poisson cru at a local restuarant. It was very tasty. It’s like ahi tuna
ceviche or poke’ but with coconut milk mixed in and veggies like
cucumber mixed in. It’s the main dish Tahiti is known for. Today’s was
probably the best I’ve had here. It was a lunch in the local style, very
leisurely. And just like in France the check only appears after you ask
for it.

Lunch over, we were hot and decided to go for a snorkel right here off
the boat harbor. Susan wanted to visit her favorite anenome. It has a
beautiful bright pink underbelly. Quite astonishing. I will certainly
run out of adjectives and superlatives to describe what I see. The
anenome is filled with blue dot damsel fish that dart in and out as we
snorkel. Also in our half hour swim we saw a big moray eel, and lots of
little keiki fish of all sorts. One of our favorites are the pennant
bannerfish. They’re a bit shy, but very cool.

Back at the boat we did a bit more work. I put the new belt on one of
the other juice generating altenators. This is the big efficient guy
that really cranks out electricity when the engine is running. Which it
currently is to charge the batteries for then night. We had a good
amount of wind today and the wind generator did a good job keeping us
charged.

It’s been fairly hot and humid since we got here. During dinner tonight
we had a pretty good squall go through dumping a heavy rain. It has
cooled down a bit, but cooler air has yet to make it below where I
write.

We’re still waiting to hear from the boat yard about the stantions and
we may go without them, jury rigging what we have. We’re excited to go,
but may well stay here in French Polynesia for a little more time in the
water. It’s hard to leave these beautiful fish. But alas there a plenty
of fish in the sea. OK, stop groaing.

A new day, more fixes, some unexepected.

This morning Steve and Susan were up a while before me. So, when I got
up they were rarin’ to go. It took me a few cups of coffee and some
toast to catch up.

Steve got started on the cockpit lockers that were suspects in the leaks
we have in the cabin. Susan started in on the mizen mast leak. I finally
jumped in and got going on a stantion that looked suspicious for leaks
too. We took off more ceiling panels in the aft cabin and started
playing with the hose to find the leaks. Finally we found a leak near
one of the main traveller block and around the cockpit coaming cap.
That’s the nice varnished teak on top of the cockpit lockers. The water
flowed fast into the aft cabin as she sprayed the hose.

As Steve progressed we filled the holes with a magic compound called
5200. It’s an adhesive and a wonder of the marine world. Steve dug out
all the grunge in the corner of the cockpit lockers, finding a hole in
the bottom near the drain in the aft port locker. It leads directly into
the head. It looks like should have had a drain hose on it, but it
doesn’t. The deep corners of the lockers actually looked good and Steve
filled them with 5200. We don’t think that the forward locker has been
leaking into the cabin.

At some time during all this I decided to cook lunch. I made an omlette
with salad and fried potatoes. However, as I cooked my fire got lower
and lower. So, I said to Susan that something was wrong. She looked
around and wandered into the aft cabin to a strong smell of propane.
Apparently when we took the cabin ceiling off we pushed the propane hose
up into a screw that was sticking down. This caused a big hissing noise.
Fortunately lunch was about ready. I finished it up in the microwave,
using tons of precious electricity in the 45 seconds I used it. We
turned off the propane and ate.

After lunch Susan and I wandered into Uturoa to look for a solution. We
ended up at 4 stores and came back probably an hour and a half later
with a few parts. Threading the hose back in took the longest. Finally,
we had propane again. Whew. I had let Susan know that I wouldn’t go on
without propane. Steve too said he couldn’t do without morning coffee.
Good thing we got it working again. We’re proud of ourselves.

Steve finished up the lockers and took care of some adjustments to
Oscar, the prop generator. I also installed a breaker on the house
electric system that Gerard sent down.

We’re off soon to the roulattes (lunch wagons) to have pizza. The sunset
is glorious. Red and lovely.

Under way

We left Raiatea! We didn’t go far, just to Tahaa, the island next door
in the same lagoon. But it feels great to leave Uturoa. We checked out
with at very handsome Gendarme at the local station, got fuel, baguettes
and sailed for a while. Then we had to motor the rest of the way. We’re
currently anchored off motu Atara on the north east side of Tahaa.

Steve and I tried his air hookah and found we needed weights. After
donning weights it was much easier. The skies were cloudy so the colors
weren’t bright, but there are lots of baby fish around the boat in the
coral. There are plenty of adults too.

All three of us are relieved to be on our way. Tomorrow we head on. We
may try to stop in Maupiti or Mopelia, the later of which is a turtle
sancutary. Both have difficult entrances to their lagoons with strong
currents in them. South West winds continued today, which is where we
want to go, so until that changes much is up in the air. Bora Bora is
still possible too. It’s where the wind takes us.

Food

O.K. you’re probably sick of hearing about the boat systems by now. So,
I’ll talk about grocery stores instead. With one note about the boat:
we’re almost ready. We may take off in the morning for a shakedown tour
of French Polnesia. Tahaa or Bora Bora.

The three grocery stores in Uturoa are an amazement to me. They’re
pretty small, but the variety and French influence make me want to spend
hours in them. Plus they’re cool inside.

Try to find in Honolulu any of the following items: cassoulet(French
bean stew) in a can, lentils and sausages in a can (French franks and
beans), butter in a can, shelf stable fricasee of duck with green peas,
or shelf stable milk and cheese. I haven’t really looked carefully at
every shelf yet either.

There are fresh baguettes everywhere. Also, madeleines individually
wrapped and sold in a big bag. (Not mandolines Howard) Pate’ and fresh
cheese. And then there’s the freezer section. There are three kinds of
puff pastry, big sheets, smaller sheets and then there’s the block. Duck
breast, New Zealand lamb and meats of all sort are available frozen.

The people here couldn’t be nicer. Strangers wave and say bonjour or
iorana(Tahitia hello). When they do, it’s with a small smile, no teeth
but a very warm greeting. They also look you right in the eye when they
do it.

Tomorrow we’re going to pull over to the public dock, which is very
close to all three grocery stores. It will be joy to stock up the boat
with all the goodies Uturoa has to offer.

We’re off.

Finally, we’re in shape to get going tomorrow. We’re stocked up on food
and have new batteries.

The old batteries wouldn’t hold a charge all night with very little on.
We also got a battery for Steve’s scuba hookah. So, we have a spare and
we saved one of the old ones, just in case. Changing the batteries
turned into a bigger project than we thought, but now it’s done we’re
happy.

I did find some new things I hadn’t seen before in the stores: shelf
stable boxed sauces, like hollandaise. I had to buy one of them.
Shopping was a joy. We’re nicely loaded up with Tahitian/French
food. We’ll get some baguettes in the morning, fill up the fuel tank and
at least leave Uturoa.

Where we go for our shakedown cruise isn’t decided, but it’s either
Tahaa or Bora Bora. I can’t say one is better than the other, but the
diving we did last year off Tahaa was amazing.

I’m going to also try and upload a picture that I’ve made small in size.
Look in the photos section and someone email me back that it’s there.
It’s a picture of Susan’s anenome with a blue spot damselfish.

I hope I’m not boring you all to death with all these details, but I
think I’ll enjoy having this record to read again later. I want to
remember as much as possible of this gigantic adventure.

well maybe

Apparently French Polynesia isn’t done with us yet. Last night it rained
hard and the morning finds us with mixed weather. Rain on and off and
westerly winds. Unfortunately, west is where we want to go. As Steve
says “Murphy’s Law.” So, it’s still up in the air where we head today.

There are way worse places to be waiting. Uturoa is cute and has
everything we need and most of what we want. And then there’s the
grocery stores. But, I already went on too long about that. So, beware
abrupt subject change coming.

Dogs abound here. They run around and don’t apparently have owners. They
all look at you with sad doe eyes hoping for a handout. I haven’t found
one yet freindly enough to pet. Yesterday, a beautiful border collie was
sitting on the dock not far from the boat. The moment I took one step in
his/her direction the dog took off like a bullet and didn’t stop running
for quite a ways. Oh well for so much for doggy diplomacy.

Time to dial in and get some weather reports.

What a difference 24 hours makes.

We left Raiatea yesterday around 12:30 and headed out to sea toward an
atoll called Maupihaa or Mopelia or Lord Howe Island. It’s still part of
French Polynesia. The sailing went well, but not without a few hiccups.
Nothing major though.

The single entrance to this lagoon is always flowing out at a very fast
rate. Consequently, it’s difficult driving to get in. Susan did a superb
job of it. Still my heart raced as we came in. The water was rushing by
the boat so fast and one wrong turn and we’d crash on the reef. The boat
kept trying to turn sideways and head back out. With her deft driving
skill we were inside in no time.

Birds of all sorts buzzed by the boat to check us out. We wandered
around the lagoon for a while and choose an anchorage. It is the picture
of what you imagine a deserted island to be. However, it isn’t quite
deserted. Ten people live here and one came out in a boat to greet us.
He did his best to communicate and from the combination of his English
and French I got some of what he said. His family has lived on this
atoll for 50 years. He was born off the atoll. More than one family
comprises the 10. Another boat left yesterday. The floating balls we see
are from a no more black pearl operation. He wanted to trade lobsters
for rum. Are we sure we didn’t have rum? It’s not for him, but for
someone else at the other end of the island. We gave him some fruit and
he departed.

This is a extremely special place that very, very few get to visit. It
is already an immense treat and we haven’t even explored yet. I did take
a quick dunk in the water to see huge coral head that is fairly close to
the boat. It is teeming with fish. There are quite a few varieties I
don’t know. I’ll have to go again and then come back to look them up in
the books Susan has on board.

We’re having some trouble getting weather reports from our
buoyweather.com provider. So, if anyone would like to look up the
weather for us, we’d be geatfull. It’s difficult to find, but somewhere
on the internet it exists. We’re at 16.46S, 153.56W.

Happy at anchorage

Last night after our dinner of duck breast, yellow wax beans, fried
green tomatoes and hockey puck corn muffins the sky started to light up
with lightening. It was far off and pretty sight. The stars above were
amazing. I could even see the Magellenic Cloud. It’s just a round whisp
of light in the sky even in the binoculars. However it is two galaxies
each the size of the Milk Way superimposed on each other. Of course, the
Milky Way was in view. Not the candy bar. Although we did have a bit of
chocolate for dessert.

A few hours later the storm had moved over us and the boat was rocking
and rolling. We had anchored in sand which is a pretty good place to
anchor. Still, we were worried about dragging the anchor and ending up
grounded or hitting coral heads damaging the boat. The winds really
picked up along witht he waves. The bow of the boat where I was sleeping
in the v-berth groaned with the sound of the chain bouncing. I got up
twice to adjust it to try and lower the noise. Apparently though, I
slept through the worst of it when Susan and Steve were up contemplating
our circumstances.

This morning finds us in party cloudy weather with a bit of wind
blowing. Still this little atoll is gorgeous. We’re planning on staying
here at least for one more day. We will explore the beach and the ocean
nearby and visit the gaggle of birds around.

We have been sucessful at getting some weather and I’m about to dial in
to get more and send this missive.

Our love to all. We’re really grateful for your words of encouragment.

I got my wish.

In all my snorkeling and diving in Hawaii I have never seen a shark. One
of my big wishes was to see sharks. I got my wish today.

Steve too Susan and I on the dinghy over to the “bird island” and we
said we’d make our way back to shore near the boat and call him on the
portable VHF radio to come get us. We didn’t walk far before seeing a
very small black tip reef shark in the shallows. He swam off. We
explored the island, seeing lots of birds with them checking us out in
return. They don’t have much human contact so they’re curious and swoop
down to see what we are. The juvenile boobies are probably the most
daring, although the noddys came pretty close too. Fairy turns, lesser
Frigate birds and red tail tropic birds were also around.We made our way
back to the main island of this atoll by a combination of hiking over
lava rock and wading. I’ve not waded in the ocean much and it was great
fun.

As we neared the shore of the main island Susan announced that there was
a shark ahead. She was wrong. There were six. All swiming with their
dorsal fins out of the water and that distinctive black tip showing. I
was a little unnerved as I was leading and once they heard me coming,
they turned to swim over and find out what I was. Susan told me to put
our snorkel bag in the water and that would scare them away. On this
point she was exactly right. She’s had experience with these guys at
Palmyra. In all honesty it was silly to get worked up about these
sharks, the biggest was probably 18 inches long. I’ve seen bigger fish
when snorkeling and they never bothered me. I also know that black tips
don’t usually attack humans. But then they are sharks. They have a bad
reputation.

We got out of the water and over the next hour or so we saw many more
sharks. None more than two feet. I got brave and started wading into the
water to get them to come over. And they did. We’ve got a few of
pictures of them. In the pictures of them alone we could claim they were
huge, but then the next shot has my foot in it ruining their fearsome
appearance.

The island is also covered with stawberry hermit crabs in all sizes.
They take what shells they can find to live in and as they grow they
have to find bigger shells. They even climb trees. We saw one today up a
tree with the most beautiful shell. We told him he was very lucky to
live in such a beautiful house. All down the beach we stopped to see
what these little crabs were living in. Some were living decidedly
downscale while others were more upper crusty in their choice of abodes.

Steve picked us up on the beach and we had a pleasant dinghy ride back.
After lunch and a short rest Steve went off with his dive hookah and I
went off snorkeling. We regrouped at the boat and had dinner of Hunter’s
chicken, rice and garlic bread. Thats the end of our fresh meat, so it’s
time to start opening cans and boxes. We have plenty of them from the
French inspired grocery stores of Uturoa. Needless to say, we won’t go
hungry.

Wow

What a day. We awoke to very calm waters around the boat and visibility
25 feet to the bottom. There are dead trees all over the sea floor under
the boat. Remnants of some storm. We were visited again by Kalami
the local guy and he came bearing coconuts. He insisted on giving
us 2 each even though we said 1 was enough. Soon after, Susan and Steve
went off on his dive hookah and I went snorkeling. It was excellent. Not
exactly crystal clear, but pretty wonderful. I saw lots of fish I didn’t
know and back on the boat I couldn’t remember them all to lookup in the
books. A bright yellow pufferfish was a highlight as was the lined
surgeonfish. The water was teeming.

I came back to the boat and soon Susan traded positions with me and I
got to use the dive hookah. It’s like diving but without the tank on
your back. A compressor is up at the surface in the dinghy and two
people can dive to a depth of about 25 feet. A line comes down and into
a regulator just like a dive regulator. We stayed down most of an hour
and by then I was completely a prune. We saw many neat things and it’s
fun to get up close to things that you can’t when snorkeling. Cleaner
wrasses normally clean other fish but kept checking us out, especially
Steve’s calves. One actually tugged on his rear pocket a little.

The day after the storm a catamaran showed up as we were going off to
walk in the water with the sharks. Today, Michelline, an Aussie woman
from the boat came over for a chat and invited us over for drinks. I
baked some lemon bars to take over and put some fresh coconut in,
courtesy of Kalami. Susan and lazed around under the
Bimini (canvas cockpit cover) putting together our new drogue. It’s a
device that slows down the boat in big storms. We have to attach a
series of cones to the long line (rope to non sailors). They have to
weaved into the line and then tied off. It’s tedious, but gives us
something to do while we talk. We can’t get into too deep of
conversations or some of us (Susan) starts putting them on wrong.

Susan shuttled Steve ashore so he could explore. We promised to pick him
up for our date with Michelline & David. All afternoon loud singing and
laughte were coming from their boat. We we arived we found out why. Two
more of the locals had come aboard for some rum. Victor & Hina were
there and Kalami arrived just before us. Karaoke was being sung, mostly
to rock bands like Bon Jovi. In the pot on the stove was (Alex stop
reading. No really, turn your head) a coconut crab fully cooked. These
guys are the giants of the crab world and love to eat coconuts. They
take many, many years to mature and grow really large. This one was
probably 3 to 4 pounds, maybe 15 – 20 years old? They get upward
of 25 pounds. They’re land crabs but start their lives in the ocean.
They have one very strong claw and in a day’s time can get a coconut
open. The party was a little too wild for our tastes, but we had no easy
escape. Steve negotiated with Kalami through David to go out
lobstering tonight. Finally, the locals were drunk enough and Kalami
usered them out.

I helped David get the meat out of the crab, we added a little mayo and
salt and pepper. My hands are still oily. I guess all the coconut oil
they ingest stays in them. It made them incredibly rich, and very tasty.
(Sorry, Alex, but it was dead already.) David also had traded a bottle
of rum for a basket of spiny lobsters. I talked him into throwing some
of the very small ones back. They really were too small to bother with.
Better to let them reproduce.

So, Susan is polishing the coconut crab carapice to keep as a Mopelia
souvenir and Steve is off lobstering.

We’re all set with the weather stuff and looking to move on tomorrow if
everything looks good. It’s way more difficult to do this at sea, so, it
may be a couple of days before the next entry.

Good night and good luck.

On our way

We left Mopelia the day before yesterday and headed out for Roratonga.
We started out very nice and easy, but that didn’t last long enough.
After our dinner of lobster that Steve caught the winds picked up and
shifted directly to where we’re going. So, change of plans. We’re still
headed to the Cook Islands, but Aitutaki instead of Roratonga. After a
day and half plus of winds in the wrong direction, things are looking
up.

I’m experiencing a little seasickness, but nothing too dramatic. I just
feel a little dizzy and a little nauseous. Not bad enough to stop me
from eating. Although, I must admit that this typing is getting to me a
little, so I’ll cut this short.

We’re safe and slowly slogging our way to Aitutaki. The skies are clear
and the boat is pretty steady on a starboard tack. Susan is about to
start up the Iron Gennie (the engine). The front sail is called a Genoa
or Jib. So, the engine is the iron gennie.

We hope you’re all doing well.

Going nowhere, slowly at great expense.

A tongue in cheek book that Andrew gave me and Susan has already on the
boat defines sailing as “the fine art of getting wet and becoming ill
while slowly going nowhere at great expense.” This is proving very true
since our departure from lovely Mopelia. Also, from the book is the
definition of course: the direction in which a skipper wishes to steer
his boat and from which the wind is blowing. This is also proving true.

Since you cannot sail directly into the wind we cannot go to Roratonga,
nor to Aitutaki both in the Cooks. So we are going along as close to the
wind as we can, beating. The popularity of this Coconut Milk Run is the
easy downwind passages. Ha. Beating is difficult and makes everything
you do on the boat hard. Just getting to the head and taking care of
things in there is a 15 minute deal.

Cooking becomes quite fun when you’re bouncing around the galley.
Luckily, the stove is gimballed. This means that it sways and stays
mostly level side to side. It’s very odd to watch. Still, we had
mushroom and pepperoni pizza for lunch yesterday and chili with corn
muffins for dinner. I have to keep us fed. The pizza dough came as a box
mix from Uturoa and was nice. It certainly was more of a flaky French
dough than the traditional Italian.

I’ve pretty much got my sea legs, although too much time reading or here
on the computer makes me a little dizzy. Nausea has passed completely. I
just noticed that on starboard (right) side out the forward port I can
see below the water when we crash through certain waves. It’s not there
all the time, but occasionally. It’s cool, but it means we’re beating.

We should make it to Aitutaki sometime tomorrow morning, motoring the
last way to get the course we need, unless the wind shifts. Our weather
reports say it will, but they’re not very accurate.

We’ve been putting together our drogue and it’s almost done. It’s
tedious, but keeps your hands busy while up in the cockpit with nothing
to do. We’re not quite repeating stories yet, but I’m sure we will
before this is all over. I told Susan I think she got me here on false
pretenses. Easy light tradewind sailing downwind. Right!

Aitutaki, Cooks Islands

We made it this morning to Aitutaki, in the Cook Islands. We had
originally set out for Roratonga, but the winds brought us here instead.
The passage into the “anchorage” is a bit shallow and we kissed the sand
once. Still, Susan expertly brought us here and we’ve put down two
anchors. I still feel like we’re moving. This anchorage is very small,
dragging anchor is a problem and there’s no room to swing. However, it’s
gorgeous. We have our “Q” flag up awaiting customs. Since it’s Sunday,
we’re not sure anyone will come out. We’re not supposed to leave the
boat until we’ve cleared customs. Church is going on and the sound of
hundreds of voices singing together wafts our way.

Aitutaki is called the Bora Bora of the Cook Islands. One can see why.
The water in the lagoon is crystal clear and all shades of blue
turqoise. Coral heads show up as dark patches and are numerous. We’re
ready to explore, but happy to sit and relax after our passage. The
water is very calm and Susan is making lunch. She cooked dinner last
night too. I’d say two meals in a row, but I made scones this morning.

We’re here and very glad to be. More to come after we’re allowed off the
boat.

Survivor Aitutaki

Today we went into the town to Arutanga to check in with the
authorities. All our guides said that they would come to us, but they
don’t. Paperwork had to be filled in and our passports got stamped. We
changed money at the bank next door and sat down to wait for the Health
inspector Mataiti to come. He was a jolly guy and told us about how
abuzz Arutanga was about all the Americans already here and more due to
come in two weeks. The next version of the T.V. show “Survivor” is going
to start filming in two weeks.

After check-in Susan and I went shopping for groceries and Steve went
off to find out about diving. If we thought supplies were expensive in
French Polynesia, we were wrong. We decided several of the things on our
list could wait until Roratonga, which is supposedly much cheaper.

Steve ended up renting a car and we toured about every inch of the
island, including driving through the Survivor Base Camp. Lots of work
is being done in preparation for the show. We finally found the Marae,
or ancient holy site, The tourist maps they hand out have roads on them
that are no longer used and it was down one of these we went. Adventure
ensued. We got thoroughly stuck in the mud. A very nice local many
pulled us out and refused all attempts to compensate him

One of the highlights of our day was the Aitutaki Marine Research
Center. In large tanks, they had thousands of giant clams in various
stages. The center is trying to re-populate the lagoon. The clams have
been decimated by humans picking them for food. In another tank were
several small honu (green sea turtles). They were so cute. I’ve never
seen them so small. They probably weighed in at less than a pound. The
ones I baby-sit up at the North Shore of Oahu are from 150 to 300+
pounds.

Tonight we’re having dinner at Tauono’s a place where much of what’s on
the plate was grown in the gardens surrounding the restaurant. The fish
is local too. It should be a treat. The seating is outdoors and very
charming.

We also made reservations for tomorrow night to see the Island Nights
show. It moves around from place to place each night of the week. We
will see it at the Samade on the Beach “resort”. It’s a little place
with bungalows and the tables are in the sand right on the beach. We
stopped at several of the hotel/bungalow places and many are very
charming. We ate a nice fish and chips lunch at one call Te Vaka. The
British are the main influence here. They have crumpets in the grocery,
raisins are called sultanas and many other thing from the U.K. are on
the shelves of the store.

Tomorrow we hope to get in some marine adventures. Susan and Steve are
diving. The dive is a “wall” dive and deep, which I’m not quite ready
for. I’ll run off in the dinghy to find some snorkeling.

Thanks for all the well wishes coming our way. Howard has been keeping
us up-to-date with headlines. Just headlines. They ‘re very funny and we
enjoy them tremendously. Steve bought a paper today only to find out
later that it’s a week old. Oh well, we didn’t read the news from then
either. In reality, it’s been a very nice thing to not hear about all
the messed up places in the world.

Roratonga

We left Aitutaki yesterday at high tide, kissing the bottom several
times on the way out. Still, it wasn’t bad. We motor sailed all the way
and got to Avatiu Harbor, Avarua, Roratonga around 12:30 p.m. The seas
were mild and wind very light on the passage. It was easy going.

We’re in a very odd spot in the harbor too. Basically, we’re med-moored
(Tahiti style) to a corner of the wharf. It about the only place we
could go. Our stern faces the corner and we have two anchors off the
front and all our fenders off the back. It took us an hour to anchor,
but finally we’re dug in.

We toured the town and it’s quite charming. There is a bit of traffic
compared to Aitutaki, but the town is much more appealing than Papette.
As we toured, the shops were closing. Tomorrow they’re only open until
noon and everything is closed on Sunday. Monday is a holiday. The day
off in celebration of the Queen’s Birthday. However, the actual
celebration is Saturday, June 17. Go figure.

We’ll see what we can get done tomorrow. We need diesel. We found out
yesterday that our two jerry cans of fuel are gasoline not diesel. So,
we have to get rid of the gas and fill the cans with diesel. Ferry them
to the boat, fill the tank and repeat. We have taken care of our port
and immigration paperwork so we can leave on Sunday or Monday. We didn’t
want to wait for the holiday to be over for us to go on to Niue. We’re a
bit behind our original schedule and are anxious to get going.

All day refueling?

Today we woke up fairly early to get everything done before the shops
close at noon. Susan and I went off to the farmers market, which is
right next door to the wharf. We bought lots of fruit and veggies at
very good prices. The market also had shops set up selling all kinds of
souvenirs. Steve stayed behind and worked on renting a car. We needed it
to ferry diesel back and forth from the gas station. Luckily we had help
from fellow cruisers and they lent us some jerry cans and an electric
pump. We topped off the main tank, filled one of our auxiliary tanks and
our jerry cans. This was all going on while the two boats next to us
were doing the same with all the same equipment. Lots of sharing going
on. Very nice yachties helping all three boats out.

Both boats next door are cute little 28 footers from Poland. The crew on
each is 2 women. So, there are 3 female skippers in a row here. Very
unusual. I can’t imagine sailing here from Poland. I thought I was far
from home.

During all this activity, I wasn’t really doing anything, so I went off
to the groceries and Steve retrieved me when I was done. I loaded us up
with more canned goods. We were very low on canned veggies. I also
picked up some New Zealand lamb shanks and a chicken, both frozen. The
fridge is about 1/2 full of Diet Coke. The store wasn’t as fun as in
French Polynesia, but still had many interesting items. I also had time
for a little souvenir shopping too. I got nice black pearl necklace. I
bought one last year in Tahiti, but I wanted a bigger one.

By 2 p.m. most of the shops were closed and we were fueled up. I went
off for a shower at the harbor office. To my great surprise the water
was hot! When I got back Susan and Steve greeted me with the bad new
that our main diesel tank is leaking. Fairly fast. We knew we had a leak
and had tried a fix. Apparently, it didn’t quite work. Susan had picked
up some baby diapers for just such a sopping up occasion. However, they
were soon depleted. I ran off to the one remaining store that was open
until 4 p.m. When I got back they were pumping some of the diesel out of
the main tank and re-seating the seal that was leaking. It seems O.K.
for now. Who knows once were underway and sloshing around more.

Warning, technical boat stuff to follow. You can skip to the next
paragraph if you’re not familiar with the boat. Our main bilge has a bit
of diesel in it now and the primary bilge pump isn’t working. We noticed
that yesterday. Which is actually quite a good thing. We don’t want to
pump out the bilge in harbor with this much fuel in it. Once were out of
here tomorrow we’ll pump it out, by the hand pump if necessary. Then
we’ll get the bilge pump working again. The bilge has had a bit of a
workout running every half hour or so when motoring. It took a while to
diagnose, but we found that the engine anti-siphon is spitting out water
that is running back down the bilge output hose. Both are in the same
cockpit drain. We hope we solved that by raising the bilge output hose
higher.

With all this time running around we haven’t really seen Roratonga.
We’ll drive around tomorrow and maybe even snorkel. Tomorrow is Sunday
and the locals really frown on doing anything. We’ve already been asked
“don’t you go to church on Sunday?” We pretended we didn’t hear them
ask. From what we understand it’s even stricter in Tonga. We’re making
Sundays sailing days from now on.

Niue here we come

On Sunday we got up and Steve went off to church. He wanted to hear the
legendary Cook Island singing, which happens in church. Susan and I were
heathens and worked hard on cleaning up the boat, doing laundry, etc.
Laundry is a chore, especially at sea with limited fresh water. Our
water maker is doing great, but we still like to be a bit conservative
with the water. So, when in port with a hose and fresh water it’s
laundry time. The whole boat was strewn with clothes and sheets from our
bunks.

The wind picked up and Honu was drifting towards the Polish boat next
door. Susan and I worked on the anchors and stern lines to pull us away
a little. It worked, but the wind was strong enough that Susan said she
didn’t want to leave the boat. Steve and I took the car and did a
roundtrip of the island. We stopped for an art gallery, a couple of
hotels, a souvenir shop and for lunch. I had fish and chips for lunch.
The fish was parrotfish. It was most delicious. The batter was crispy
and the fish mild, flaky and with a distinct wonderful flavor. I see
these big fish swimming around in Hawaii. They are very colorful and fun
to watch eating the coral. They chew at the reef taking hunks off. Out
of their gills comes some new sand. Later at the other end, other new
sand is produced. This fact always gets a giggle out of the tikes that
visit Hanauma Bay where I volunteer. These fish also change sex. If
there aren’t enough females they change. If then there are too many
females they change back. Pretty amazing.

Back at the boat we finished stowing away everything, pulled up our two
anchors with relative ease and headed out of Avatiu Harbor. We sailed
smoothly all night last night with good winds and the moon showing the
way for most of it. It’s quite a difference sailing with no moon and
with moonlight. It’s certainly a bit scarier without the moon. Early
this morning the winds died and we’re now currently motoring. The wind
that there is comes directly from where we want to go once again.

Steve is puttering with the starboard running light. They’re new and the
one isn’t working. Susan is listening to a book on tape. These are a
great way to pass the time. I’ve been through one already and started on
a second. It’s much easier than reading and doesn’t make you seasick,
which reading can. The thing about getting your sea legs is that you
have to do it every time we head back out to the open ocean. We have
very mild seas and from a good direction today, so our adjustment is
quicker.

We hope to be in Niue by Friday. We’re all excited to see this tiny
island nation. Captain Cook never landed here in his three trips around
the Pacific Ocean. He named it Savage Island because the natives ran off
his boarding parties. Cook reported that they came running out throwing
things and had blood red teeth. He assumed it was from cannibalism. It
wasn’t. There was a red colored banana that the natives ate. They were
very wary of outsiders though and did try to keep them away. Even the
missionaries took way longer to infiltrate Niue compared to the rest of
Polynesia. More Niueans live in New Zealand than in Niue. In 2001 there
were 1,700 in Niue and 12,000 in New Zealand. There aren’t a lot of
economic opportunities in Niue. The cruising guides tell us that this
little nation is filled with the most friendly people we will encounter
in the Pacific. We’ll let you know.

Night watch

It’s 3:30 A.M. and I’ve just come on for my three hour watch. We rotate
through three different shifts on our passages. I think the hardest is
the 9 P.M. to Midnight. Often the other two go off to bed after dinner
and so that shift really is 7 P.M. to Midnight. We try to stay up with
whomever has that shift, but it’s hard when you know you need some sleep
before your shift. However, after that shift you’ve got a good night to
sleep, so it has it’s advantages over the Midnight to 3 A.M. shift.

What are we watching for? Ships. Out here in this part of the Pacific
there isn’t much traffic and I have yet to see anything on any of my
watches. Those large container ships that haul cargo to the islands
we’re visiting are out there somewhere. They move really fast and can go
from a blip on the horizon to bearing down on you in fifteen minutes or
so. We have what’s called a hand bearing compass to help us determine if
the ship we see is on a collision course. The one we have now is new and
is built into a very nice pair of binoculars. If over time the compass
heading you see while looking at the ship doesn’t change, then you’re on
a collision course. If it changes you’re not. Luckily, in all my sailing
the ships I’ve spotted were never headed towards us.

We also keep an eye on the sails if we’re sailing or the engine if we’re
motoring. The later of which we are currently. This passage has been
slow and the wind only co-operates for short intervals. We watch the
wind to see if it’s time to change from motoring to sailing and visa
versa. It’s a great time to listen to audio books. We have quite a
selection on board, with most of them nautically themed. “The Revenge of
the Whale: The True Story of the Whale Ship Essex” is the book I just
listened too. It was a great story, but the writing was just average. It
is a bit spooky though sitting here hearing about guys in a life raft
having to resort to cannibalism to survive. This was the 1820s though
and we’re way better equipted if anything drastic forced us to leave
Honu.

We have an emergency life raft that is filled with supplies. We have
extra water set aside to take with us. The most important item though is
the EPIRB. I’m not sure what all those letters mean, but I’m pretty sure
the last two are Rescue Beacon. This device, when activated, will send a
distress signal up to satellites as they pass over us. After several
passes our location can be determined.

The moon just set and now it’s dramitically darker. The stars are
brighter, the sky glorious. I can see the milky way and if I don’t look
right at it, the Magellenic cloud. Your eyes and brain trick you if you
try to look right at it. Somehow, if you look at it and away and at it
again you can trick your brain back into seeing it.

Night watches can be, get this, cold. Yes, even here in the South Pacific
the nights can be cold. I don’t mean cool. Tonight is warmer than the last
couple, but still I have on sweat pants and a light jacket. Last night I
had all this on plus I was sitting under a blanket. The main sail is
flapping around and I’ve got to do something about it…….

It’s now 5:00 A.M. I played with the main sail for a while, gave up and then
gave it another go. Finally, I got it to stop flapping and making thundering
“thwaps”. Of course, what worked was one of the first things I tried. I
don’t know why it didn’t work the first time. During all this our wind has
shifted to the south. This is great. Maybe we can sail, I thought. So, I
tried. I idled the engine and pulled out the jib. Yeah, we could have
sailed, but our speed was less than 2 knots. At that rate we’d get to Niue
in two weeks. I pulled the jib back in and pushed the throttle back up and
away we go, back up to 5 knots. If you want to know how fast we’re going, go
get in your car and drive to the grocery store at about 5 m.p.h. Then slow
down to 2 m.p.h.

Our fuel will only last so long and they we’ll have to sail the rest of the
way. I’m voting to save at least enough to motor from Niue to Tonga, but we
do have to get to Niue first, so that may not be practical. We don’t know if
Niue will have diesel for sale or not. If they do, I imagine it will be the
most expensive diesel we encounter.

We’re about to cross into a new timezone. We will be GMT -11 soon. That
means we’re one hour eariler than Hawaii and 7 hours early than the East
Coast and 11 hours earlier than London. In a couple of weeks we’ll cross the
International Date Line and then we’ll be in a different day from y’all.
Cool.

Our trip odometer will hit the 1,000 nautical mile mark in the next couple
of hours. I can’t believe we’ve traveled that far already. This zig-zag
course to Niue has certainly added a good number to the total. So much for
“as the crow flies”.

Our best to everyone and let us know what you’re up to. We’re not getting
much email with news from family and friends. Howard is still sending us the
headlines, which is a big hit. Susan says “that’s all you need. Just the
headlines”.

Fish are jumping

At 8:00 a.m. yesterday Susan spotted fish jumping behind the boat.
Steve’s fishing rig had caught a Mahi-Mahi. We hauled it in, Steve
killed it, filleted it while I kep the deck wahed off and we had it for
lunch. It was most delicious. You can’t beat that for fresh fish.

Also yesterday we got our wind. It came on good and from the right
direction. We were sailing at above 6 knots for most the day and night.
We got back on course for Niue.

Today finds us again a bit off course because of the winds. We weave our
way there jibing as needed. (O.K. stupid sailing term rant: why do
we need two names for the same thing depending on which way the
wind is blowing? Jibing and tacking are the same thing!) We’re not sure
when we’ll arrive.

This passage has been harder for me as my seasickness has abated and
then returned. Susan also was a bit sick last night, so we’re wondering
if it was a food thing. Steve feels fine though and we’ve all eaten
about the same thing.

This morning’s excitement is meeting other vessels. A container ship
appeared on the horizon. We turned on the VHF radio and started calling.
Then confusion ensued. We heard back from two vessels. Here we are out
in thousands of miles of ocean, having not seen anything in days and
we’ve got two ships on the radio. Come to find out, the small container
ship, which is plenty big, was called the Foriegn Pacific. The second
was a sailboat called Summer Breeze. All three of us were converging in
this little part of the ocean at the same time.

After we sorted it all out and got everyone avoiding each other Susan
had a chat with the crew of the Summer Breeze. It’s a 38 foot Down
Easter being delivered to Brisbane, Australia by a hired crew. They had
been terribly becalmed and had a day where they only made 5 miles.
They’re low on diesel and can’t motor. Poor them. We’ve still got fuel
and they guy asked if we could spare a jerry can full. Susan said, “sure
we’ll drop one in the ocean and send it your way.”

Flying Wing & Wing

The wind came up yesterday, directly from the east. We’re going directly
west. Sailing directly downwind can be a challenge. Until just a few
minutes ago we were sailing wing and wing. That means the jib is out on
one side and main sail out on the other. Usually, they’re on the same
side. This really got our speed up and we’re now only about 70 miles
from Niue. Unfortunately, that means arriving around dusk or after dark.
There is a full moon and this is an “open roadstead” anchorage with
mooring balls; Susan is confident that we can handle it. The ride for
the last couple of days has been easy too. We won’t arrive on Sunday,
which is very good, and the passage is soon to be over.

As Robert Lewis Stevenson said in a letter to a friend, “And yet the sea
is a horrible place, stupefying to the mind and poisonous to the temper;
the sea, the motion, the lack of space, the cruel publicity, the
villainous tinned foods, the sailors the captain, the passengers—but
your are amply repaid when you sight an island, and drop anchor in a new
world.” This quote is quoted in “The Happy Isles of Oceania” by Oahu
resident Paul Theroux. Theroux goes on to add “Sailing the sea was a
monotony of doldrums interrupted by windy periods of nightmarish
terror.” Well these two gentlemen got it right.

The one thing they forgot to mention was the bumping into stuff. I’ve
hit my head and arms over and over as the boat suddenly throws me
sideways. This morning the boat hit me. We had and accidental jib of the
main sail. We had a “preventer” on to prevent this from happening, but
it didn’t hold. I was sitting in the cockpit with Steve when this
violent action happened. The main sheet block slammed into my left upper
arm. There is sure to be a healthy bruise there in a couple of days. I’m
glad it wasn’t my head.

Niue, not

Well we got to Niue last evening and made the tough decision to keep
going. We didn’t have a chart, the GPS chart was usless and confusing,
our cruising books weren’t greatly helpful and we saw waves crashing on
a fringing reef that we didn’t think was there. We’re also a quite a bit
behind our original schedule and we want to leave time for all the
places with amazing diving and snorkeling. So, Tonga here we come.

We have nice winds and the ride is pretty good. However, we’re running
into the same problem: we’ll be arriving in Tonga after dark tomorrow.
So, this time we’ll slow down so we don’t encounter the same problems.
The winds may do the slowing down for us. For now, we’re sailing at
about 4-5 knots on a beam reach. Big seas are bouncing us around a bit.

Our trip today we’ve been accompanied by a school of what we think are
small tuna. They stayed beside the boat for a couple of hours. They
might be Aku or bonito, we’re not sure. They glow red and blue in the
water and are silver when they jump out. They’re fishing for something
next to the boat.

All these days at sea and I still get seasick dizzyness. Not much
nausea, but I just don’t feel good. Passages suck. I can’t believe I was
reading and baking bread just a few days ago. I am able to read a
little, but too much makes me sick.

The cruising guides to Tonga (pronounced ‘tong-uh’ not ‘tong-ga’) make
it sound a paradise of easy achorages, with lots of snorkeling and dive
spots. We’ll be visiting the Vava’u group of islands. That’s the
northern group and is well outfitted for cruisers. There’s several
internet cafes and I hope to be able to send some pictures from there.

Two more night watches, ug.

Tonga!

Whoo Hoo! We made to Neiafu, Vava’u, Tonga this morning. We crossed the
International Date Line. It’s Tuesday here. We had no Monday. Weird.

When I last left you were were having nice seas and winds. Boy did
things change. The night before last we saw a squall coming at us and
got ready by reefing the main sail. Well, it wasn’t just a squall. It
was about 20 hours of wind. Big wind. We eventually lowered the main
sail completely and put out what’s called a handkerchief jib. It’s just
a teen bit of sail, maybe about the size of a twin bed sheet. We were
still going 5 knots. We tried for a while to go “bare poles”, with no
sails out, but we weren’t able to steer. The seas were big from a south
swell and then the east winds created their own waves. It wasn’t a very
pleasant ride. The winds did die down last evening, but the seas kept up
until we got into the lee of Uta Vava’u. It was a relief to start into
this island group this morning. It was gloriously beautiful. A manta ray
jumped out of the water to greet us. I missed it the first time, so he
did it again. Very cool.

We moored here in the harbor, only to find out that we had dock at the
wharf to get checked in. We went over there and got checked in fairly
easily, one “dock kiss” marring the side of the boat. The officials were
very nice. Sam talked about family in Aiea. The immigration guy showed
up in the traditional skirt like garmet with a woven matt waist piece.

Back at the mooring we quickly got a shower and went ashore. We went to
the bank to change money. One of the patrons came up to Steve and said
“I think you look familiar. Aren’t you a doctor in Wahiawa?” George was
his name and Steve had treated him. Small world.

Then we went to a Mexican restaurant for lunch. Very tasty. Our
“waitress” chatted with us and come to find out she had been in San
Francisco and Hawaii recently. She had won first prize in a regional
drag queen competition. The prize was a trip to L.A., S.F. and Honolulu.
We toured Neiafu, peeking into shops and looking at menus. It’s a cute
hillside town and obviously caters to yachties. There are 75 mooring
balls here and a good number of them are occupied. The Moorings charter
company has a bunch of boats here.

We’ll spend a couple of days here, then move to take adavantage of the
spectacular anchorages around this group of islands.

We’re here, we’re safe, and we’re REALLY glad to not be moving.

P.S. I hope mom’s move into here condo went well.

Singing; jellies

In the water surrounding the boat are hundreds, if not thousands of moon
jellies. They don’t sting; although I think it tickles a little. I
picked up one yesterday and Susan got a nice photo of the moment. Their
topsides are a little like sandpaper. In the morning they’re deeper in
the water and during the day they’re pretty close to the surface.

This morning I woke up early and sat in the cockpit for a while.
Competing with the dogs and roosters was the sound of a church choir.
Steve went to a mass last night, which was a children’s mass. They
sounded great even from the boat. This morning’s choir was less
boisterous, but created an equally beautiful sound. Church singing has
been heard everywhere we’ve been.

Today we’ll get some provisions and head off for some anchorages. We’re
excited to get to snorkel, swim and dive again. It’s been over two weeks
since we’ve had the opportunity. The visibility is supposed to be
excellent here; 90 feet! We met a guy who told us to buy frozen peas and
go snorkeling by his place at night. You can get sea horses to loop
around your fingers while they eat the peas. He said turtles are also
around.

Susan’s bleeding the fuel line right now. She looked at the fuel filter
yesterday and forgot to bleed the fuel line. So, when we started the
engine to charge the batteries last night it only ran for a minute or so
and then died. Luckily, she has a lot of experience with this procedure.
The smell of diesel really bothers me. The fuel tank is open and my
stomach is churning. So, I’ll go…

Still in Tonga

Yesterday, we went out in search of the Japanese Gardens snorkeling
site. We heard we were anchored close to it but had a little trouble
finding it. The night before, we had dinner at the resort on Mala
Island. It’s called Hard Rock Island and is currently “owned” by David
Parrish, self professed former member of the band The Cure. David told
us where to go and finally we found it. The waves were a little rough
and the current a little strong, but the snorkeling was excellent. Well
worth the effort.

After we got back to the boat we let go of the mooring ball and motored
to anchorage #7. It’s just around the corner and took less than 30
minutes. It’s a deep bay with a dozen boats anchored in it. It took us
three tries to get anchored in a spot we liked and felt comfortably far
away from neighbors. Of course, what we call deck jackals were watching
and shouting out advice.

We jumped in the water to check out the snorkeling here. It’s pretty
cool, but not as clear as it was at Japanese Gardens. There’s a very
large coral head right at the cliff shoreline near the boat that has a
little of everything. I saw this rose like thing that swayed in the
current. I couldn’t imagine what it was. My description to Susan made
her think it was the eggs of a Spanish Dancer. A very cool marine
animal. Look them up. We found it in the book and Susan was exactly
right. Many times over the last few days I was sad that my underwater
camera is dead. I can’t find even a disposable one here.

After our long snorkel around the bay we came back to the boat for a
rest. One of our neighbors came over and introduced himself inviting us
to a bonfire on the beach later. We went in just about dark and several
boats of people had come in for the party. They were cooking over the
open fire and having a good time. As the newcomers we were quizzed about
where we’re from, where we’re going and all the details of the boat.
These cruisers get stuck on talking about boats and I steered them away
from the subject a few times, which was nice. The group was mostly Kiwis
and a couple of Aussies, who have quite a rivalry going. The evening
came to an end when sprinkles started. It never materialized into much
of a rain.

Flies and diving

Everywhere we go on our coconut milk run we encounter flies. Usually,
within a day of getting somewhere they’ve found us and start harassing
us. They don’t bite, but they’re annoying when they land on you. Once we
head off to the next place the wind blows them away. Today, I’m happy
we’re moving as they’re here in great numbers this morning.

We also have other on-board residents. Shssh, don’t tell the agriculture
inspectors! Two geckos are on board. What they’re living on we can’t
fathom. Maybe they can catch some of these flies. We put out small pools
of jam for them to eat, trying to keep them going. The first one hadn’t
been seen in a week until the night before last. Then yesterday, I found
a second one; he jumped on my leg as I stood in the galley. Why do they
always jump on you and scare the life out of you? Geeze. I took him up
to the cockpit to join the other gecko. He’s much smaller, so I’m
certain it’s a second one.

Yesterday we went on a long, long dinghy expedition. The dinghy was
filled to the brim with equipment. Our dive stuff for Susan and I.
Steve’s hookah and the three of us. We entered and explored Swallows
Cave. It’s a pretty cave marred with lots of graffiti. Some of it dates
back to whaling times. I’m certain most of it doesn’t though. The “blue
grotto” effect of the water was pretty. Outside the cave we did our
first dive. It’s a steep wall dive and once you’re down to about 40 feet
everything dies out and all color disappears. We only dove for about 20
minutes and decided to move on.

We dinghyed over to Mariner’s Cave and couldn’t realy find it. So, we
headed back over to A’a island. The diving there was even better and
there were lots of new corals to see. Many of the fish we’ve seen
snorkeling, but there were a few new ones.

Today’s my birthday here, but not there. So, am I 47 or not, since I was
born on that side of the dateline? I opened my presents anyway. Howard
made a little bag of things, including a flower lei. Susan and I decided
we’d celebrate twice each. Her birthday is the 21st.

Best wishes to Donald and Katie as their big day approaches. I hope the
weather cools a little before the big day. Val said it’s hot. It is here
too, the humidity has come up the last couple of days.

Formalities, and goodbye Tonga

Susan is off with the officials checking out of customs, immigration,
etc. In each country we have to bow to the powerful officials and be
very nice to them, following all their procedures. This usually means
Susan filling out esentially the same form several times with all the
same information on each: our names, our birth dates, our passport
numbers, country, where the passport was issued, etc. She gets writers
cramp by the time it’s all over. The official here when we arrived were
thirsty. We didn’t have much to share as we had just opened the last of
diet cokes to celebrate arriving in Tonga.

We’ve spent the last two days getting everything together for our
departure for Fiji. I bought baguettes, fresh veggies and meat today.
The store for meat is called “Pete the Meat.” What a name. The grocery
stores are filled with tins of corned beef and not a whole lot else. The
boat is still filled with pasta and rice, so we’ll be fine.

We used two dive tanks and took them in to be filled. The have to be
inspected every two years and they were expired. So were the two still
on the boat, full of air. We had to have them certified and that’s the
last thing we need to pick up. It’ll cost 200 Tongan Pa’anga, about $100
USD.

When we got diesel today we were pleasantly surprised by how little we
used. We’re estimating we used 30 gallons or so. We ran the motor a bit
over our 8 day passage. I was certain we’d used more. We’re full up
again, which give us about 110 gallons total.

Tonight we’ll go anchor away from town and be on our way tomorrow. The
fridge is full, the fruit and veggie hanging hammock is full and Steve
is off buying coffee. Good coffee is difficult to find. Royal Tongan
Coffee is available though, and not bad. It’s not the French roast we
prefer, but it’s tasty.

The day started with coffee and presents. It’s Susan’s birthday here and
several people sent along gifts. She loved them all. I baked a cake this
afternoon that ever since it came out of the oven she has been begging
to eat it. I just frosted it and it’s falling apart a bit, but hey,
we’re in Tonga, not my kitchen.

We were going to try to leave today, but the weather isn’t good. Big
seas and strong winds are out there. I just over-heard on the radio from
someone who turned around, that it was rough and not comfortable.

The VHF radio is just like a big party line phone of the old days. You
can listen to everything. People meet on channel 16 and then say they’re
going to channel 6. So, you can change and listen in, if you’re
inclined. It’s fun, because you can make restaurant “bookings”
(reservations here) and inquire about just about anything. There is a
daily morning show at 8:30 that gives the weather and local
advertisements for cruisers. That’s how we knew to take our garbage
into town today at 8:30 a.m.

Susan’s been gone 45 minutes. Formalities! Update she’s back. We’re good
to go.

Suva, Fiji

We made it to Suva, Fiji yesterday around 2:45 pm. We were told we
needed to check in by 3:00. Pandemonium ensued. The dinghy got quickly
inflated, the motor on and all three of us going off to the wharf, where
we were turned away and told to go to the yacht club and come around to
the wharf. We dinghyed back to the yacht club and took a taxi. It was
about 3:15 when we got to the wharf. Security held us for a while and we
were in Customs by 3:30. By 4:30 we had gotten through all paperwork and
completely checked in.

Susan and I walked through Suva and Steve took a taxi back to the Royal
Suva Yacht Club to inquire about getting slip. During our walk we saw
many people just getting off work. Almost all were men. We were walking
through a mainly industrial area. The Fijians are Melanesian in origin
and look much different from the Polynesians we’ve been seeing. Their
skin is much darker; hair more curly. They make up less than half of the
poplulation. The other big group are the Indio-Fijians. Their ancestors
came here as indentured workers 3 or 4 generations ago from India. They
too are dark skined with jet black hair.

Back at the boat we got cleaned up and went into town for Inidian food.
We asked at the yacht club where to go and they suggested “Singh’s Curry
House.” I was expecting cloth napkins and table cloths. It was a steamer
tray kind of place. They even had curried goat. Steve tried that. Susan
and I both had curried chicken. We also ordered several side dishes.
Everything was very tasty. The whole thing cost about $15 US. Very
cheap for the amount of food we had.

We came back to the boat and went right to bed. I awoke this morning to
the sound of a hurricane/tsunami/air raid/civil defense warning siren.
It didn’t last long, so I suspect it was just a test.

Suva is a big smoggy city and promises to have true high speed internet. So, once
again I’ll promise to upload some photos. Well, I promise to try
anyway.

We’ll move the boat today to our slip at the Yacht Club. They’ve got to
move a boat out of the way first. It’ll be nice to have shore water to
waste. Even with the water maker we’re conservative with water. With a
hose hooked up we’ll feel free to wash all the considerable salt off
Honu.

The weather is lovely. Actually cool. We went out last night with long
pants and jackets. The cab drivers were all complaining about how cold
it is. It was probably in the upper 60s. Yes, I know, we’re wimps.

Hello from Suva

Well, I’m in an internet cafe that actually has real high speed internet. However, it’s still taken me over an hour to upload the photos. Maybe I’ll be patient enough to come back later in the week to upload more.

Hope you enjoy them. Click on the PHOTOS link above to view them. There are several pages, so, click NEXT and Previous to navigate.

It’s really cheap internet access too. $1.75 per hour USD

Suva

Yesterday we explored the city, each on our own, finding different things. High speed internet is still my favorite! Susan went to see “Cars” at the movies. She and I are going later to a Bollywood movie playing here “Krrish.” The first McDonald’s of our trip has shown up. There’s also a KFC.

Suva sure is inexpensive. The cab ride from the Yacht Club is about $1 USD. Dinner last night cost me about $8 for a delicious steak sandwich and a mug of beer. Everywhere we go we’re amazed at the good prices. Starting out in Tahiti, we had the most expensive prices of our trip. This is a real treat.

Today Susan and I worked on getting some new leaks fixed. Or at least plugging holes we suspect as being the culprits. Only time will tell if we did any good. Steve went off to try and get us set up with a 220V battery charger. The one he got works, but doesn’t properly turn off when the battery is charged. It’s a pain to have to watch it all the time, so we’re taking it back to get a better one that’s more expensive. At the Yacht Club we have electrical hookup and we will in future ports, so, it would be nice to be able to use electricity as much as we want. A phone call to Gerard verified that the solution we’re working on is fine.

We got cleaned up (the hot showers at the yacht club are just a dribble) and came into town. We hit “The Republic of Cappucino” for some coffee. Then we split up to go shopping on our own. I looked at underwater cameras, which are all 35MM and a bit expensive for what they are. Not everything here is inexpensive. So, I don’t think I’ll buy anything. It’s too bad the other one died, it took some great pictures.

The number of Indian restaurants is lower than expected and all of them are steam table curry houses. I tried the one sit down Indian restaurant yesterday for lunch. It was very good, but the kitchen was terribly slow to make my food.

The Indian-Fijian conflict is very much on people’s minds here. Most of the cab drivers I’ve had were Indian. However, the one Fijian driver complained about all the Indians and gave me hints about how to spot all of them. As if I couldn’t tell the difference. He wants rid of them. It’s not that simple. The economy would collapse without them.

I didn’t bring the CD with photos on it with me, so, sorry, no new photos today. 🙁

It’s after school and the internet cafe is filled with children playing online games against each other as loud rap music is playing in the background. The place is packed. Every computer in use. Most of the kids are Asian. Nobody is wearing the local sulu. Many Fijians wear this traditional skirt. The men in black ones and women in dark blue. The kids wear a light blue one. They wore a very similar skirt in Tonga too, but added an additional layer of woven mat at the top around the waist. This form of dress raises the “kilt question”, but I’ve not been brave enough to ask. Maybe the next Fijian cab driver will know.

Rainy Suva

Suva is on the windward side of the island and today it’s showing us the rain it’s known for. It’s a light rain, but pretty constant. Still there aren’t that many umbrellas in use.

The last couple of days have been sunny and bright. Almost no one wears sunglasses. I’ve seen a few Indio-Fijians with them, but that’s about it. The guidebook says that it’s rude to meet someone with sunglasses on.

After writing about the sulus I got to looking around and I was wrong about their colors. They come in many colors, but mostly all dark plain colors. In a shop today though, I saw many other choices. I’ve yet to see one of these on the street, so I suspect they’re just for us tourist to buy.

The bookstores here are filled with books and supplies for school children and little else. We’re looking for a guidebook to Vanuatu and New Caledonia, but nothing can be found. The Government bookstore did have the Lonely Planet Guide to Fiji.

Today I wandered into a part of town I didn’t know existed. Almost all the shops catered to the Indio-Fijian poplulation. The Big Bear store was a K-Mart kind of store with a little of everything. The high end clothing section upstairs was interesting. The men’s Neru collar embroidered suits started at about $125 USD and went way up from there.

The Hawaii-5-0 group is gathering in Honolulu. I really wish I could be there for what will be a long weekend of fun memories. Remember gentlemen: no bickering like the last time in Tahoe!

OK. I’m going to upload a few more photos now. So, check them out a bit later.

Pardon me?

With the exception of Aitutaki, almost everywhere we go we encounter
very soft spoken service people. The waitresses (not very many waiters)
all are impossible to hear. Added to their cute accents it makes
ordering food a challenge. I don’t know if they’re shy or something
else, but I just want to scream “Sing out Louise.” (“Gypsy” reference,
not Howard’s mom reference.)

Yesterday I went into town and found a whole other section; a major
street I had missed. It was filled with shops that catered to the
Indio-Fijians. Wait, did I already write about it? I think I did. I have
too much time on my hands.

At 5:00 pm I paid my $3.00 US to go see “The Breakup” with Jennifer
Aniston and Vince Vaughan. It wasn’t the best movie, but it certainly
was a lot more serious than I thought it would be. It was a bit of a
retread of “The War of the Roses.” It was a good way to pass a couple of
hours. Susan and I are going to see Superman Returns” today.

I went out for Chinese food last night. I had beef with choy sum. I was
just fair, but the experience of watching some Fijians have their first
Chinese was fun. It was obvious that one table near me had no idea what
to order. The rest of the restaurant was filled with mostly Fijians and
a few Indio-Fijians thrown in.

Back at the Royal Suva Yacht Club I stopped at the bar for a beer. One
Aussie I spoke to gave me a shocking statistic that I can’t quite
believe. He said that the unemployment rate here is 84%. I really can’t
believe that. No wonder there are so many cabs with drivers that are
anxious to know when you’re going back out, so they can come back and
pick you up again.

We’re hoping to leave tomorrow, but he weather doesn’t look good, so we
may be here until Sunday or Monday. Susan is dealing with fuel by taking
our jerry cans back and forth from the fuel dock. She rightfully doesn’t
want to leave our slip in this weather and try to get back in. She
expertly parallel parked the boat in here, but the wind was much lighter
and blowing from the opposite direction. We did just glide in so easily
before. The dock jackals even heaped praise on her.

Steve is dealing with securing our new 220v charger system so it doesn’t
go flying around when we’re under way. Many marinas and yacht clubs
provide electricity as part of the fee. Unfortunately, the boat can
only plug into 110v. So, Susan and Steve went and bought a 220v battery
charger that we’ve rigged up and plugged into the outlet that the yacht
club provides. So, we’ve got unlimited power. That’s a real treat. The
hose is connected too, so we have unlimited fresh water too. Life is
good, except the weather. Which will change

missing emails

It seems that some of my emails have gone awry and some have been
delivered multiple times. I see some of my blog entries were duplicated.
I fixed them from the internet cafe early this week. So, sorry if some
of my replies have gone missing. If you sent an email directly to me, I
replied. I guess some of them are lost in the ethers.

We’re still in Suva. We thought we’d leave today, but the weather isn’t
co-operating. The winds are blowing from right where we want to go and
blowing hard. This seems to happen in every port.

Oh well, we still have Fiji dollars to spend. We’ll go out to dinner to
a nice place to try and get rid of them.

Susan really loved Superman Returns. I had a good time too, but she’s
way more enthusiastic than me. We both loved Kevin Spacey as the new Lex
Luther. The new Superman was good too.

The formalities here have been trying, but we’re through them. We’re
planning on heading directly to New Caledonia, skipping Vanuatu due to
time constraints. However, if the winds blow us there instead, we’ll
take it.

Breads of the South Pacific

Although I can’t make any conclusions, there must be some insight into
the cultures of the south pacific by their breads.

In French Polynesia the predominate bread was he baguette. They were
cheap, very cheap and in every store and gas station. They were,
however, more like the Safeway style of baguette than a true French
version. The crust was lighter than the ones I had in France and they
turned soft quickly in the humidity. The crumb was very light and fluffy
without a lot of substance to it.

In Aitutaki we were told to go to a bakery up on the hill above town for
freshly baked bread. The bread was baked in loaves that were made of
fingers. You ordered by the number of fingers you wanted. A whole loaf
was 5 fingers. They were baking it right in front of us in a clay oven
with a wood fire. The loaves were given to us still warm. The crumb was
light and fluffy without much of a yeast taste. The wood fire gave them
a distinct taste.

In Tonga the predominant bread was a light fluffy square loaf. It was
sold everywhere un-sliced. The special brown bread had perhaps 10% whole
wheat flour. These didn’t keep well and turned moldy after just a couple
of days. However, there was another bakery in town run by an Austrian.
His baguettes were the real thing: yeasty, with a very crunchy crust;
perfectly baked, not quite as dark as the French make them. They kept
for days on the boat and kept their crust well. The crumb was denser
than the ones in French Polynesia. My favorite bread so far.

Fiji had several outlets of “Hot Bread Kitchen” in town. The smell of
baking bread wafted through the air as you walked by them. Their version
of bread is a shorter, white, fluffy bread with a sweeter taste. Not
quite as sweet as the Hawaiian bread, but still sweet. The crumb is
denser than other white fluffy breads we’ve sampled, but not dense
enough to make good sandwich bread.

We’re making good time out of Fiji. The wind is good and the seas a
little rough. If the winds keep up we’ll be in New Caledonia in four
days. That would be great.

Fiji tidbits

Here’s some unrelated stuff about Fiji I haven’t yet written about:

Fiji got their independance from Brittain in 1970. Betty, HRH Queen
Elizabeth II is still on the back of all demoninations of Fijian
dollars.

Greeting us outside of Suva as we arrived last week was a pod of pygmy
killer whales. Bigger than dolphins, they romped in the surf a ways off
the boat. We hoped that they would come over and bow ride, but they
didn’t.

Where’s the beef? It’s very scarce in the grocery stores I’ve been in
all across the South Pacific. I was able to buy some frozen steaks at
one place, but most didn’t have beef.

Fiji’s grocery stores were much of what we’ve seen elsewhere. There were
tons of tins of corned beef, corned mutton, and mackerel. Where the
stores differed was the selection of Indian food and spices. The produce
in Fiji was also several grades better than elsewhere. The farmer’s
market was immense. It had just about anything you could want and it all
looked fresh.

Our last night in Suva, we went out to eat at Tikos. It’s a floating
restaurant and very nice. We started out with Fiji’s version of
marinated fish. It was walu in coconut milk with some sliced veggies.
Very good. It was the first time, this dish that has been everywhere
we’ve been, that the fish wasn’t tuna. Our waitress said, “oh no, we use
tuna for sushi.” I had surf and turf which was good. Susan had a filet
mignon and Steve some fresh whole fish. We splurged and had dessert too.
One each. We were trying to use up our Fijian dollars; we were
successful.

Leaving Viti Levu (Suva’s island) took us more than all day. It’s
something about sailing that I never knew until I started doing it. You
leave a place and still you go by it all day and into the night if it’s
of any size. Viti Levu seems bigger than Oahu and we spent all day
and then some watching it go by.

We’re now having our coconut milk run winds and waves. The winds are
perfect and the waves have died down. This is the ride we had expected,
but so far have rarely seen. The weather reports some shifting winds
over the next day and then back to trade winds. So, our run to New
Caledonia should be quick one. Famous last words.

Yucky weather

Like I said last time: famous last words.

About 3:00 A.M. today the winds started to shift around to the west,
which is where we want to go. Last night’s watches weren’t fun for any
of us. Steve got soaked in a downpour and Susan had some pretty rough
waves. I guess mine was the best with just some wind shifts at the end
of my time. Today we’ve spent tacking back and forth slowing making some
forward progress. The winds are starting to shift again and we’re
slowly being able to turn back on course.

It’s been cool and cloudy with short squalls of rain. So, we’re dressed
up in the bright yellow foul weather gear that reminds me of what I
walked to school in on rainy days when I was in the first grade. Down
below the temperature is even a tad cool. It’s the kind of day that
you’d rent a movie and stay home all day.

So, we’ve got at least a couple of more days until we reach Noumea,
depending on what happens next.

Still passaging

We’re still on our way to New Caledonia. Today the winds have shifted
again and we’re beating our way along. It’s not too bad, but the
occasional brick wall sound, as waves hit the boat, are quite loud.

We’ve spent the day listening and reading. Steve is the reader. Susan
and I spent time with our iPods. I finished up “Brave New World.” It’s
quite good and read by Michael York. He did a fine job. It’s a
disturbing book and I’ve read it before.

Not much to tell. We’ll most likely be pulling into Noumea on Sunday.

Motoring to New Caledonia

During my watch last night the winds died and I cranked up the engine.
It’s been going ever since. We’re making better time with it and at the
current rate will get there tomorrow.

New Caledonia is held firmly in the grip of the French government. It’s
very sad how the native Kanaks have been treated over the years. They’ve
been having repeated non-violent uprisings, striving for independance
only to have the rug pulled out from under them time and time again. The
story of this in our guidebook is really awful. The French have been
terribly underhanded, sneaky and downright mean about the whole thing.
New Caledonia has a big stock of minerals, high grade nickel being the
primary one. Nickel accounts for 89% of exports. It’s a great resource
for France and they won’t let it go. Colonialism at it’s worst. It’s as
bad as Tibet and Taiwan.

New Caledonia looks like it should be a snorkel and dive paradise,
although as cool as it is we’re having trouble imagining donning our
bathing suits. We don’t have much information on the marine life. We
hope to find a guidebook when we get there.

I spoke by phone the other day with the boys in Kauai for the Hawaii-50
weekend. It sounds like a great time was being had by all. Happy 50th
Birthday to those guys.

Noumea, New Caledonia

We made it to Noumea yesterday around 2 p.m. We love it. I’m in an internet cafe, but the keyboard has a slightly different layout; so it’s difficult to type. I’ll write more from the boat. I’m uploading some photos…..

Noumea

I’m back on the boat with a keyboard I know. It’s so confusing when
several keys have been moved. It wasn’t just the punctuation, some of
the letters too.

Noumea is wonderful. It’s closed down, because it’s Sunday. The Chinese
stores are open, but that’s about it. McDonalds is very busy too. The
city is very pretty and modern. It’s about 1/3 the size of Suva, but
much more developed.

We got here about 2pm yesterday and were checked in about 5pm. The
marina is gorgeous. It comes with hot showers!!!!!! Can you tell I’m
excited about that. I took a very long one this morning. As a welcome
the marina also gives you a round of drinks at the restaurant/bar. That
was really nice. After our free drinks we went in search of someplace to
eat. The guidebook says there are 130 places. None were open. We found a
couple of unattractive places after walking for an hour. We decided to
go back to the marina and eat there. We were seated and later told that
the chef doesn’t come on until 7:00 pm. It was 6:30 and we’d been there
a while already. We knew that other than McDonalds we wouldn’t find
anything else open, so we ordered and waited.

Steve and I had the 3 meat plate. It had venison, kangaroo and ostrich
on it, with your choice of sauce and sides. It was wonderful. All three
meats were grilled to perfection and very tasty. Susan had soup and
salad and was very satisfied.

This morning Steve went to mass and Susan and I went off shopping. We
needed some warmer clothes. It’s very cool here: 66 degrees and lower.
We went into about 2 dozen shops in Chinatown and found some things. I
got a pair of long pants and Susan got two pairs. I still need another
long sleeve shirt, but I’ll wait until tomorrow when all the shops are
open. I didn’t find anything today.

We shopped at the market too. It’s right next to the marina and has a
fresh fish market, fresh veggie market, prepared foods, handicrafts and
souvenirs. We bought a bunch of stuff and brought it back to the boat
for lunch. We had smoked salmon tarte, tuna brioche gratin (tuna melt),
spring and summer rolls, and some very excellent poisson cru. We love
the food here!

We love Noumea. We’re probably rent the slip for two weeks and go out
for marine adventures on day trips. Then it’s off to Australia.

Lovely Noumea

Noumea is lovely, if a bit cool. Well, it’s cool too, but also the temperature is low. We’ve gone off and bought new clothes. I tried to find stuff that I could wear in Honolulu too. I got two pairs of long pants that are very light, but certainly help. I’m wearing a new long sleeve t-shirt.Now that the city is open, it’s easy to see why they call it the Paris of the Pacific. Most everyone is very friendly. You don’t get the smiles and “Bula” greeting like we did in Suva, but the shop keepers are very gracious. They do their best to understand my French and switch into English if they know it. I can generally make myself understood if in horrible French.

Susan went off this morning and got stuff for the boat, including a cruising guide for New Caledonia and a book about sea snakes. We see them going in and out of a patch of coral in the marina. They’re fantastic and venomous. They have a venom that is worse than a cobra’s. Luckily, they don’t bite without provocation. Well, rarely anyway.

We’re planning a day trip, in Honu, out tomorrow to an island that is 3 miles away for some snorkeling. We’ll come back to the slip afterward. On Wednesday we’ll go on a dive boat for an all day adventure. I’ll be renting a wetsuit as my shortie probably won’t be enough. All the pictures of people diving here have them in full suits with hoods on. So, the water isn’t very warm. All the books show such wonderful sea life though. I’m excited to get in the water.

That’s about it, as this computer is being weird and I can’t see what I’m typing……

Snorkeling and Diving

We took Honu out to the small island just three miles away, Ilot Maitre. It’s a lovely little island with a reef mostly all around it. We had some trouble getting the anchor to set, but when we did it really dug in. I jumped in first as Susan and Steve blew up the dinghy. It was a BIG SHOCK. Freezing water. I mean cold. I had my shortie wet suit on and the water was cold. I snorkeled for 10 minutes or less and then went back to the boat to put on more stuff. I ended up trying Susan’s newly purchased hood and two layers of wet suits, using Craig’s and mine. It was tolerable as long as I kept moving and generating heat. The snorkeling was amazing and I saw way too many new fish to describe. The coral is nice, but absent are the fan and soft corals I expected. The water is too cold.

Back at Port Moselle we docked and I ran off to the dive shop to buy a full wet suit. I need it just to snorkel. They had them for only $115 or so. I bought a hood and a disposible underwater camera too. I thought I was all ready for our dive yesterday. Ha.

We arose very early yesterday and got ourselves to the dive boat at 7:15. Luckily, it leaves right from the marina. The boat made another stop and the dock of the defunct Club Med to pick up more passengers. There were about 10 of us that went out to Amedee Lighthouse for the dive. The boat docked out there, then we went to the dive shop there, got equipment and headed out. The dive guys were great and told Susan and I that we needed more, so the lent us (free!) another layer for our toros. This worked out well for the most part.

The first dive was outside the reef and there was a strong surge and later in the dive a strong current. We saw many new things, but it was difficult to linger with the current pulling at you. However, we did see several sharks, some very up-close as they slept under ledges and in holes. The HUGE Napoleon fish was a highlight.

We went back to the island and had 2+ hours to relax and eat our picnic lunch that Susan and I had picked up from an Algerian deli.

The second dive was inside the reef and there were a lot more fish. We were able to slow down and look at things better. We saw many, many new fish. Big schools. The highlight of this dive was when the dive master picked up a sea snake and handed it to me. These snakes are deadly venimous, but I took it anyway. This wasn’t the first one I’d seen handled and none of them even ever turned around to strike. I handed it to Susan, who swore she’d never, ever touch one. She took it. I really hope that picture turns out. Apparently, bites are extremely rare, with one species more aggressive and deadly. This was one of the “good guys.”

We went back to the island to get rid of the gear and relax a little while before returning. On the way out we saw several different sea snakes sleeping under the dock. They’re very pretty and you should read Susan’s column this week for all the dirt.

Snorkeling and Diving

We took Honu out to the small island just three miles away, Ilot Maitre. It’s a lovely little island with a reef mostly all around it. We had some trouble getting the anchor to set, but when we did it really dug in. I jumped in first as Susan and Steve blew up the dinghy. It was a BIG SHOCK. Freezing water. I mean cold. I had my shortie wet suit on and the water was cold. I snorkeled for 10 minutes or less and then went back to the boat to put on more stuff. I ended up trying Susan’s newly purchased hood and two layers of wet suits, using Craig’s and mine. It was tolerable as long as I kept moving and generating heat. The snorkeling was amazing and I saw way too many new fish to describe. The coral is nice, but absent are the fan and soft corals I expected. The water is too cold.

Back at Port Moselle we docked and I ran off to the dive shop to buy a full wet suit. I need it just to snorkel. They had them for only $115 or so. I bought a hood and a disposible underwater camera too. I thought I was all ready for our dive yesterday. Ha.

We arose very early yesterday and got ourselves to the dive boat at 7:15. Luckily, it leaves right from the marina. The boat made another stop and the dock of the defunct Club Med to pick up more passengers. There were about 10 of us that went out to Amedee Lighthouse for the dive. The boat docked out there, then we went to the dive shop there, got equipment and headed out. The dive guys were great and told Susan and I that we needed more, so the lent us (free!) another layer for our toros. This worked out well for the most part.

The first dive was outside the reef and there was a strong surge and later in the dive a strong current. We saw many new things, but it was difficult to linger with the current pulling at you. However, we did see several sharks, some very up-close as they slept under ledges and in holes. The HUGE Napoleon fish was a highlight.

We went back to the island and had 2+ hours to relax and eat our picnic lunch that Susan and I had picked up from an Algerian deli.

The second dive was inside the reef and there were a lot more fish. We were able to slow down and look at things better. We saw many, many new fish. Big schools. The highlight of this dive was when the dive master picked up a sea snake and handed it to me. These snakes are deadly venimous, but I took it anyway. This wasn’t the first one I’d seen handled and none of them even ever turned around to strike. I handed it to Susan, who swore she’d never, ever touch one. She took it. I really hope that picture turns out. Apparently, bites are extremely rare, with one species more aggressive and deadly. This was one of the “good guys.”

We went back to the island to get rid of the gear and relax a little while before returning. On the way out we saw several different sea snakes sleeping under the dock. They’re very pretty and you should read Susan’s column this week for all the dirt.

Bastille Day and beyond

The parade yesterday was completely comprised of the military, police
and fire department. The formalities to start the parade lasted longer
than the parade itself. The town we pretty much shut down for the day.
The buses were running though and I took one out to the beach. It was a
pretty ride. I walked the beach and came across a spot close to the bus
stop, but I couldn’t go inland. There were walls and barbed wire fences
and I couldn’t figure our why these people didn’t want access to the
beach. It was a coral rubble beach, but still it was nice. When there
was finally a gap that I could walk through I found myself in the
medical center for “special” people. People not right in the head.
Luckily, I just walked out past the guard without any problem.

My return trip was free thanks to a Kanak guy who gave me a ticket at
the returning bus stop. He insisted. He wouldn’t take payment. He did
let me refuse the rum he offered though. We chatted as best we could
with our different languages until the bus came. He explained on the bus
that the tickets were 30 cents cheaper in town than paying on the bus. I
still couldn’t understand why he would just give me one. He was just
being nice I guess.

We have exhausted the restaurants here in the center of town, so I
visited the rolling trucks for dinner. There are five or so right across
the street. The food is much the same from one to the other. I had
mussels with mushrooms in cream sauce.

Today we awoke to sunny skies and warmer weather. That didn’t last long.
I visited the market and bought stuff for lunch: marinated brochettes of
salmon and stuff for a salad. It was delicious.

Susan worked on painting a name on the dinghy. It’s now named “Bato.” We
got that off an placemat from the brasserie here at the marina. The mat
is illustrated with a lot of funny things. If you don’t know French you
might miss this little joke; bateau is French for boat. We really
cracked up when we saw it on the placemat.

After lunch I went out shopping and got a siphon for the boat. Getting
the diesel out of the jerry cans and into the fuel tank has been a messy
proposition. This self starting siphon should help. I then went on to a
shop that I love which has an outlet in San Francisco and used to have
one in Honolulu: L’Occitane en Provence. It’s a fancy toiletries place
and they make a lavender soap I love. Susan and I visited it yesterday
and she liked one of what she calls “French toilet water.” She didn’t
buy it, so I got it for her today.

Off to the grocery stores. I went to both to compare. The better, by
far, is Casino Supermarket. I picked up some gourmet items and ran into
Susan. She was there for a baguette and potato chips. I already had both
in my arms. The baguette was still warm. She had an empty basket, so I
filled it with my stuff.

Tonight we’re off to dinner at a nice place as a send off for Steve. His
bus comes at 9:15 to take him to the airport. Gerard arrives on Tuesday.

We’re still bundled up from the cold and one local I spoke with
yesterday said this was the first time it’s been so cold. I can’t
imagine he meant first time ever. I’ve got 4 long sleeve shirts now and
three long pants, so I’m pretty comfortable. Susan and I split a package
of six socks too.

Tomorrow will be museum/zoo day. We’ve also got a rental car reserved
for Monday for a week so we can explore a little more.

More of Noumea

Saturday a very wide catamaran became our neighbor. It was a tight fit
to say the least. Our fenders were squished and our Canadian neighbor on
the other side, Larry lent us a couple of his, which are fatter. Susan
was gone when the cat came in and I was sure she’d want to move, but she
was happy since their captain said they’d only stay overnight. They
changed their mind late in the day and we agreed to move first thing in
the morning. This only after the cat’s captain said he had a very thin
hull and was afraid our rubber fenders would puncture his boat. That’s
absolutely preposterous. Hysterical. If his boat is that thin he
shouldn’t be sailing it. Still, we moved yesterday morning. It’s a
pretty good slip, but the pier is much smaller and way more wobbly.
Susan backed the boat in so we can board from the stern ladder and avoid
the pier.

Saturday night Steve took us out to our favorite French restaurant for
dinner. This was our second time and just as good as the first. It’s
about $33 per person for a three course fixed price dinner. We’ve now
sampled 18 dishes there in our two visits and everything is excellent.
We came back to the boat and got Steve to his shuttle for the airport.
We assume he made all his connections….

Yesterday, Susan and I did a museum day. We started out at the Zoo where
the emphasis is birds. We both enjoyed them but were most impressed with
the flying foxes, i.e. bats. Big bats. They’re nocturnal but were moving
around in their cage jockeying for a better place. There were also
smaller bat that huddled all together in one tight ball in their cage.
The endemic and endangered bird is the Cagou. They’re very pretty and
have a nice headdress.

From zoo, it was on to the Tijbaou Center. It’s a Kanak cultural center
that the French made a big deal about building. It’s a big political
move to satisfy the Kanak. The structure is an amazing piece of
architecture that reminds me of the Museum of Modern Art in San
Francisco. It’s a series of huge half finished, local traditional,
thatch roofed house like structures rising 3 or 4 stories tall. The
center has some things on Kanak Culture, including modern art. We both
loved the traveling exhibit of photos of Vanuatu. It made us sorry we
missed it. It made me wish that we’d taken more trips off to the
countryside and met the locals more. Next time. I’d love to come back
here and explore more.

Today we picked up our rental car and went exploring. We trekked off to
the mining town of Thio. There isn’t much there, but it’s on the
north/east shore and we wanted to see life outside of Noumea. The land
is beautiful and during our day we thought its similarities to Hawaii,
Marin County, Scotland and the Australian Outback. The latter wasn’t a
comparison of geography, but of large stretches of uninhabited land.
Outside of Noumea the population drops and suddenly there isn’t anybody
for mile after mile. It’s about 240 miles up the coast to the tip and we
only went a short way in that direction before heading east. It drove
home the point of how big New Caledonia is.

The mines have stripped the tops off of tall mountains and left red
dirt/rock outcroppings that look like they come from Monument Valley
Utah. We learned that the mine owners now have to re-forest, but the old
ones stick out badly. Below these outcroppings are rich green forests.

We’’e now back at the boat and pooped from two days as tourists. Susan
just had her dinner: a piece of cake from a local patisserie. I probably
do something simple: open a can.

Gerard arrives tomorrow and I’ve only got a couple of weeks left on the
trip. It’s been just amazing, but I miss home and will be glad to have a
hot shower and sleep in my be everyday.

Gerard is busy

This didn’t show up on the blog, so I’ll send now and add to it.

Gerard got busy yesterday and we assisted.

The annomometer(wind speed indicator) is back up and calibrated.

We got hatch parts at great expense and I fixed two hatches.

The 220v battery charger is now in a much better place(the basement for
those of you who know the boat) and out of the way.

The diesel fuel port has been replaced!!!(The smell makes me sick to my
stomach and it’s been leaking the whole time.)

And already this morning things are happening.

We went out to dinner at a place that Susan and I wanted to go to, just
because of it’s sign. It’s called Mr. Bouef. Mr. Beef. The sign is a
rotating world that has a cow in a Superman costume flying around it as
the whole thing spins. I think I have a picture to post. The food was
great.

We’re planning at this stage to check out on Friday, and head off to
Australia over the weekend. It’ll be sad to leave here, it’s so
charming. We hope to anchor the last day off an island and get on last
water adventure in.

We found a snorkel spot the other day and used our full wetsuits to
snorkel. It was comfortable enough, but I should have had my hood on
too. We saw a bunch of neat things, including the fattest sea snake yet.
I got back my pictures from the disposable underwater camera, but most
of them aren’t very good.

Today finds us busy with the boat again. Gerard did lots of electrical
stuff with the batteries and rewired the 12volt socket next to this
computer that’s been giving us some trouble. Susan worked on fixing the
leaks in our hatches. I baked cookies, went grocery shopping and picked up
some parts Gerard needed.

The grocery store is big and wonderful. It’s full of French things and
Australian things. One thing I found that’s really cool is whipping cream
that is shelf stable in a waxy box. You can keep it on the shelf until you
open it. Today I saw it in the can already to squirt out, also shelf
stable. In fact in this area the rest of the world is way ahead of the
U.S. There are many products available this way. The deli had at least a
dozen kinds of pate’s and terrines. The meat counter is very extensive.
The canned goods section is better in some ways and not in others. In
French Polynesia there were way more selection of cassoulet. Here only a
couple of brands and no big expensive jar. However, the canned veggie
section is great.

I’m glad we’re leaving, as this food will expand my waist line.

Bye Bye New Cal

We left New Caledonia around 2:30 pm yesterday. We intended to spend the
night anchored at Amedee Island at the lighthouse. However, when we got
there the conditions weren’t favorable and we headed out the pass. That
was about 24 hours ago and we’ve gone about 130 miles. So, we’ve had a
really good day. The winds are from the perfect direction and somewhat
strong. We’ve got a triple reef in the main and a reefed jib and we’re
hitting 7 knots frequently. The seas are from the south though so we get
thrown around a little. At this rate we’ll be at the entrance to the
Great Barrier Reef in 4 days from now. But as we’ve seen you can’t count
on the winds for days on end.

The seasick clock is reset and Susan and I are back at square one. Even
Gerard has had a little and he doesn’t usually. I’m doing much better
today, but I certainly can’t type too much more. It’s still cold and
we’re all bundled up on our warm clothes. The tropical South Pacific,
HAH!

Flying along

We’re flying along towards Australia. The winds are still directly
behind us, pushing our wing and wing sails. At this rate the GPS tells
us we’ll be at the entrance to Bundaberg(Bundy)in just 2 more days. Our
weather reports are very favorable too. Wow, we’re finally getting our
downwind Coconut Milk Run.

Last night during my watch all hell broke loose though. Our main and
very quiet autopilot, Alphie, was driving. He’s having a little problem
turning to starboard. He had been doing OK with us catching it before
any real problem happened. Then about 10:00 last night I didn’t correct
the problem quick enough and we decided to switch to the other
autopilot, the Autohelm. In the process we got turned around, the main
got back winded and we had to motor around to get back on course. It was
a very exciting few minutes with me driving, Gerard helping me, Susan
setting the Autohelm and lots of confusion. The Autohelm is now driving
just fine, but it’s a bit loud. So, today Gerard will try to fix Alphie.

Susan’s seasickness has passed. It’s the worst she’s seen on this trip
and she even kept last night’s dinner down. The night before was a
different story. We’re thinking it’s the green beans. The other time she
got sick we had also had green beans with dinner. Needless to say, there
won’t be any more green beans served on this passage.

The haricots verts (green beans) in Noumea were great. The French pick
them small and saute them nicely. They’re on about every menu and very
tasty.

Our last night in Noumea we went, for the third time, to La Chaumiere
for dinner. Once again excellent. Gerard had tripe, I had the calamari,
and Susan had the marlin. Even though there were many items I hadn’t
tried yet, I again had the fish terrine to start. It was excellent.
Gerard was full and didn’t want dessert, but it’s included. So, Susan
and I ate ours and most of his creme brulee too. I was stuffed. It was
the first time I had that “Thanksgiving full” feeling. It was a good
send off for Noumea.

Well it looks like I’ll be to Australia in plenty of time to get to
Sydney for my August 4th flight home. I may have time to stop for a
night in Brisbane on my way too. Maybe a dive from Bundy? Marci and
Steve arrive in Bundy on August 4th, and then Kirsten comes on the 10th.
Susan’s looking forward both visits. She’s hoping to cruise up to the
Whitsunday Islands. One of our neighbors in Noumea gave her a cruising
guide to look at. It got her excited. They look amazing.

Australia

We’re still doing great on our passage to Australia. We’ve slowed down
just a little and should be in Bundy at first light on Friday (Thursday
for you).

Alphie the autopilot is fixed. When Gerard opened up the floorboards
under the bed to look at it we got quite a surprise. The boatyard had
replaced the hand bilge pump hose, but left the old one in. This crammed
everything together and made Alphie very unhappy. In addtion the arm
where the autopilot attaches to the rudder post was completely loose.
Gerard tore out the old hose, put everything back together and then
Alphie was happy.

Night watch for Gerard was pretty wet, as was it for Susan. I got lucky
and only had a few sprinkles at the beginning of my watch. Still,
everything in the cockpit is wet. The Sunbrella fabric that the cockpit
cushions and pillows are covered with dries very quickly. Gerard was
saying it’s about $12 per yard, but boy is it worth it. It’s very tough.

The sun is up and we’re rolling along. We’re eating all the meat and
veggies we can, since the Aussies will take it all. The cruising guides
say they will even take some canned meats. What’s up with that?

Rain and the Iron Genny

Our wonderful winds have died and now we’re motoring our final way to
Australia. We should go through Curtis Channel through the Great Barrier
Reef tonight. Then it’s another 43 miles to the bouys that mark the
entrance to Bundy.

The night before last Susan and Gerard had rainy watches. Last night
it was my turn. It’s been raining since about 4:00, about 5 hours now.
It doesn’t show any sign of stopping. It’s a light rain and the
temperature has warmed significantly, so it’s not so uncomfortable.

The bioluminesence in the water last night was magical. There was a lot
in the waves we create as the bow pushes through the water. With the
engine running there is a long stream behind us too. New to me though
was a kind of bioluminesence that glowed for a few seconds after I
shined a light on them. I sat in the cockpit with my headlamp on,
turning it on and off; on and off. Each time the round circle where my
light hit the ocean lit up and drifted away as moved. One time there was
a red eyeball in the mix. Not too big and for some reason I think it was
a squid. Just a guess.

I baked bread yesterday and we’re doing our very best to eat everything
we think the Aussies will confiscate. Our fruit and veggie net is almost
bare. The meat is almost all gone. Susan says no other cruisers eat this
well, which I find hard to believe. There has to be a few anyway. When
the seas are big it’s a particular challenge to not have everything
flying around the galley, but it can be done. A few nights ago I had a
couple of bowls of salad go flying. I’m still finding dried up pieces of
shredded carrot around. A few weeks ago there was an unfortunate
incident with uncooked rice. I’m sure Susan will find it in nooks and
crannies for years to come.

As it stands now we should be pulling into Bundaberg at first light
tomorrow. Not a bad passage for such a long distance. We had two 135
mile days and one 150 mile day. It certainly makes me envy those
catamarans that can have 200 or even 300 mile days. That certainly would
make passages tolerable. My last night watch is tonight. Yee haw!

Australia

We made it to Bundy about 30 minutes ago. We’re waiting for customs, immigration and quarantine.

Yesterday was sunny and a pod of dolphins visited us. I grabbed Susan’s little camera and got some great shots. I’ll post them.

The rain started again last night and got to it’s worst as we headed in the channel here. It was raining hard enough that we could only see the next channel marker and not the one after.

The Coconut Milk Run is done. We’re here and we’re ready for the hot showers and free lunch. They have a free BBQ on Fridays! Throw another shrimp on the barbie!

Bundy

After getting checked in yesterday, we moved to a slip very close to all the amenities. The showers are HOT and powerful. The best yet on the trip. Lunch was free as the marina does a BBQ every Friday. It was pretty basic, but we got to know some of the other yachties. Gerard did laundry and Susan napped. We had dinner here at the marina’s restaurant which was nice. My dinner was interrupted when a flying cricket hit me in the face and then landed in my food. They’re very beefy crickets and looked a bit like a gecko to me. The waitress scooped him up and took him back outside. After dinner I did a load of laundry and went to bed. It was great to sleep in a motionless boat. Susan and Gerard experienced “sea legs”, but I’ve been very lucky on this trip to have very little or none.

We took the shuttle bus into Bundaberg today and immediately took a taxi back out to the car rental place. The bus from the marina only runs a couple of times a day and only one way. Then you have to take a city bus back, which runs hardly ever. It’ll be good to have a car. Although it’s been an adventure for me driving on the left. I’ve only gone the wrong way once. The round-a-bouts are the worst. That’s where I got confused and turned down the wrong side of the street. A street with a median. Oops. Luckily, there was parking in the median and I pulled in and through to the correct side. The rental car has a big sign on both front doors advertising the rental agency, so everyone knows to look out.

Bundy is very cute. Like elsewhere, it closes down pretty early. Most of the shops were only open until noon today. We saw some signs for places open 7 days a week, but most close Saturday at noon until Monday. We had meat pies for brunch, walked the town We also purchased some essentials at the grocery: diet Coke, beer, potato chips and crumpets. Bananas are horribly expensive. The hurricane they had this year wiped out the crop. The local strawberries are expensive too, but very tasty.

We hung everything up today to dry out. Susan did several loads of wash too. We looked like riff raff with all that stuff hanging from everywhere.

Tonight we’re very excited. We’re going to the movies to see Pirates of the Caribbean II. It was playing in Noumea too, but in French. For dinner we will try the Indian place in town.

I fly out on Monday from Hervey Bay (pronounced here Harvey) It’s an airport about and hour from here, but 1/3 the price to fly. Susan and Gerard have volunteered to take a road trip down there to drop me off. In Sydney I’m having dinner with Marci & Steve. They leave for Melbourne on Tuesday and they arrive here in Bundy on Friday.

Sydney

The morning yesterday started early. We left the Bundaberg marina by 7:30 and made our way to Hervey Bay where my plane left from. The locals said it was “about an hour” drive away. Well, it ended up being an hour and a half. Luckily, we left in plenty of time. Checking in I found that my luggage was overweight. I smiled pretty and got the agent to waive the fee. Well, I really didn’t do anything but look sad.

The flight was uneventful. It was on Quantas” low cost airline, JetStar. They’re coming to Hawaii in November to offer cheap fares to Australia. It should be great. The fare to Sydney was way less than Quantas.

Sydney is glorious. It’s cold, hilly, and pretty. No wonder people compare it to San Francisco. I spent the remainder of my day walking around, mostly lost and unable to figure out the subway system. I got better by the end of the day, but I still find it easiest to just ask someone where to go and what train or bus to take. It’s much easier. I had dinner with Marci and Steve. It was Steve’s birthday on this side of the dateline, but he said it wasn’t really his birthday. Birthday or not they took me out for a most delicious t-bone steak dinner at Prime. It’s the premier steakhouse in Sydney. Located in the Main Post Office building they decor was beautiful and the service excellent. My steak was really great. Steve and Marci were very happy too.

We had started the evening at their hotel in the concierge lounge of their floor. It really brought home to me the dichotomy between our two hotels. Mine is basic. Very basic. Theirs is fancy. Very fancy. I certainly wouldn’t stay where I am again, but it’s cheap. The main street a few paces away is a major thoroughfare with all kinds of things going on. At night it gets a bit seedier with prostitutes hawking their wares. In the daytime there are cute cafes. The next street over is quite swank. It’s just a few paces away too and completely different. At least I now have a good feeling for the city and can find a better place next time.

This morning I started with coffee and buying a 3 day Sydney Pass. It gives me access to a bunch of things including two different premium tour bus routes; all the ferries, including the harbor cruises; all buses and trains; and more. I immediately tried to use it on the subway, but it shut down for a power failure. So, I hopped a bus to Circular Quay(pronounced “key”????). From there I boarded the Sydney Explorer narrated bus tour. It’s a hop on hop off that runs every 20 minutes all day long. I pretty much did the whole 2 hour circuit to get a feel for the city.

Lunch was at the fish market. A huge place filled with fish stores, many of which cook lunch for you. I had 1/2 a lobster(called crayfish here), salad and chips(fries). It was great. I ate it outside. The door you go out leads to steps that go down to the tables. I went down them without any bother. However, many others were swooped down on by the small gulls they have here. We saw them in New Caledonia too. I saw some of them actually get things off of unsuspecting peoples’ plates. The crowd sitting around laughs every time someone heads down the steps.

After lunch I went back to Circular Quay to catch the 2 1/2 hour harbor cruise. If I had to do it again I’d choose the shorter highlight cruise. It was fun, but went a little far afield. The sun was out, but it was a bit cold standing in the wind. The Opera House is most impressive from the boat though. There are boats in every nook and cranny of the harbor too.

After the cruise I toured The Rocks section of Sydney. It’s the oldest part of the city. From there I walked over to the Aquarium. It was a bit expensive and very disappointing at the beginning, but redeemed itself by the end. It was worth the price of admission for just a couple of things. There was a juvenile Emperor Angelfish. It was something Susan and I were dying to see. I shot some video of it. I hope it turns out. The Great Barrier Reef section was also good. Tons of Nemos(clownfish) were evident. Also, especially good was the area where you walked through plexiglass tubes with sharks, rays and a huge loggerhead turtle overhead.

I had a disappointing early bird special dinner of mushroom and artichoke risotto. Bland and boring with the rice being a bit too al dente. At least it wasn’t too expensive.

That brings me to here, typing in an internet cafe. Just a couple of days left and then I’m home. Whoo hoo.

Sydney

Sydney continues to wow me. It’s a great city. Like great cities around the world, it’s also expensive. Understanding what things are is a bit mixed up: chips are fries; kebabs are gyro sandwiches; Hungry Jacks is Burger King; Woolworths is a grocery store; McCafes are Starbucks/McDonalds hybrids; Surgery is just a doctor’s office; a bottle shop is where you buy alcohol; and on top of it all they drive on the wrong side of the street. Coffee is a whole other story. There are long blacks, short blacks, flat whites and the normal assortment of cappuccinos and lattes.

I started out yesterday doing the Bondi Explorer bus. It goes out to the famous Bondi Beach. (pronounced bond-eye, not bon-dee like I always thought) The surfers were out, in big thick wetsuits. It was cloudy and cool all day. The bus gave a good tour of the eastern suburbs and I got in a nice 45 minute coastal walk. I hopped the bus back into the CBD (central business district). There I went to the Maritime Museum, the highlight of which is the Endeavor replica. Endeavor is the boat the James Cook first sailed the Pacific on. It’s amazingly small, with very small headroom through much of it. You practically have to crawl in places to tour the ship.

Late in the afternoon I took a tour of the Sydney Opera House. This structure is as impressive as the photos you’ve seen. It’s also massive. The big disappointment of the tour was that a rehearsal was in progress, so we didn’t go into the opera auditorium. We did go into the concert hall and one of the smaller theaters.

I had dinner at Fu Manchu. I saw the sign the other day and immediately thought of David Diaz and that Mardi Gras costume of, well, many years ago. Gosh, how long ago was that? I had the salted cuttlefish to eat. It was very tasty, deep fried with an herb infused batter. The portion was huge and I could barely eat half.

My iPod has accompanied me during my walks around the city. I thought of Alan H. as I listened to Cher. She’s good to walk to. I find myself keeping a lively pace with her on.

I started today by walking Pitt Street, the main shopping area. The Food Halls at David Jones(the major department store here) is a reason to move to Sydney in itself. The displays are glorious and extensive. The Harrods of Australia. The food is expensive too, but it all looks so good.

Later, I took the ferry to the Zoo to see kangaroos and koala bears. Susan had told me that she got to hold a koala when she visited. That’s no longer available. They do let you have your picture taken near them for $17. I didn’t splurge on that. I wanted to touch. I thought maybe the petting zoo would have kangaroos too. I was disappointed to find only goats and sheep. The zoo is nice, but quite a bit repetitive. I saw several aviaries, and many other animals had multiple places to see them.

After my ferry ride back to the Circular Quay from the zoo I hopped on the ferry to Manly Beach. It was named such because the aborigines that the first western explorer encountered looked so manly. It’s a bit cuter than Bondi and the weather was way better, so I found it much more appealing. Today I actually took off my jacket. It’s not shorts and t-shirt weather yet, but much warmer than the last few days.

It’s my last night in Sydney for this trip, but I’ll be back. My flight is tomorrow night, so I’ll have to entertain myself all day tomorrow too. There’s plenty to do. There is a boat show at Darling Harbour I don’t want to miss. No chance I’ll buy a boat. Ever. Mark my words. Still, I’ll enjoy looking.

Still Friday

It’s still Friday. I spent all day avoiding the downpours in Sydney on Friday and I arrived  in Honolulu on Friday morning. I got back that day we lost when we arrived in Tonga. I think it was a Sunday we lost. I’m happy to have it back as a Friday.

I didn’t do much in Syndey during the rain, but shop. That was indoors. I thought about going to the movies, but I couldn’t find anyting playing I really wanted to see.

I did make it to the boat show during a  lull in the rain. I found Susan’s next boat: a $2millon Catana catamaran. It was sweet. There weren’t many cats at the show. I did go into an equally impressive monohull, a Swan. Actually, it probably cost more.

The airport shuttle was 20 minutes late, but I still got to the airport in plenty of time for my flight. The flight itself was uneventful, I even slept a bit. The plane was pretty empty and I could curl up into the seat next to me too. It took a couple of hours before I got it right and then I did sleep for maybe 3 or 4 hours. Which is practically a miracle for me.

One of my bags has gone missing, along with 12 or so other people’s bags. Hawaiian Airlines is looking for it. Half of the French lion head soup bowls Susan bought me are in there, along with my CD of pictures and other souvenirs. I have hope they’ll find it since so many bags went missing

It’s good to be home, I’ve got laundry going already. Clean, unsalty cotton clothes are a luxury.

The bag

My other piece of luggage showed up yesterday. It came in on a Quantas flight, so that means it never left Sydney with the plane I took. The bad news is that it was handled roughly and two of the three soup bowls were broken. So, the set of 6 is now a set of 4.

I’ve posted the last of the pictures from Sydney. We didn’t take many in Bundy, but I did post one from there.

That about does it for this blog. Thanks for reading.

Just about a week left!

Well, there’s just about a week left until I leave for Tahiti. The
details are stacking up. Susan is in Tahiti with Gerard, her boat
mechanic. He comes home on Sunday and has a few things to get fixed
that I’ll need to take back down May 13th. The backup autopilot is
broken and has to be shipped to New Hampshire for repair. We’re all
crossing our fingers that FedEx can get it there and back with a day
in the middle to get it fixed.

The boat is leaking in the cockpit into the head and aft cabin. Susan
had quite the surprise when she got there and the boat was moldy.
Then she found out that 3 generators were seized up. Luckily, they
had taken two new ones down anyway. We still need the one that prop
spins on the shaft while we’re sailing to generate electricity.
Gerard will get all three repaired and we’ll take them all back, two
as spare parts. You can always use spare parts.

I’m making finishing touches on the kitchen remodel. I really wanted
to finish it before I left for such a long time. We haven’t gotten
the countertops done, but that can wait until I get back. We expanded
the doorway into the kitchen near the front door and cut open the
wall that partially divides the kitchen from the living room. It
makes the kitchen feel bigger being able to see into the living room.
We sold the Indonesian armoire yesterday and now that window is no
longer blocked. That opens up the room even more. I’m very happy with
how it’s all turning out. I have more counter space and more cabinet
space too. I’ll have to do a complete reorganization when I get back.
I’ll post some pictures before I go.

Back to Australia

Susan and I are set to go back to Australia on May 29th for more sailing adventures. So, I’ve renamed and re-activated this blog. I’ll be in Australia until July 19th and Howard is coming down for 10 days in June. The Great Barrier Reef will most likely be the highlight of this trip. We were hoping to get the boat to Darwin, but we’re not sure we’ve planned enough time. We’d like to leave the boat at least part way there, but north eastern Australia isn’t very inhabited north of Cairns. (pronounced “cans”.) We’ll see what we can do.

One week to go.

Well, it’s down to the wire. I haven’t started packing yet! I’ve accumulated some goodies for the boat that I don’t want to forget. I’ve got cake mix for our birthdays in June. And frosting too. I’ve long thought that you had to make cake from scratch until lately. Those box mixes taste pretty darn good. Especially on the boat.

The plane leaves next Tuesday at 12:30 pm our time. We get in at 7:00 pm the next day in Sydney. We’ve got a hotel room at the airport and leave again the next morning on a 6:30 am flight to Mackay (pronounced “ma-k-eye”). We have two weeks to get the boat to Cairns (pronounce “cans”) to pick up Howard. It’s about 400 miles. That shouldn’t be a problem and we should  be able to stop a few places on the way.

Now, I’m getting excited.

We’re here. We’re off

The flight to Syndey was without much distinction. Time passed more
quickly as Susan rented a Digeplayer. It’s like a little handheld DVD
player, but has several movies and television shows. We shared it back
and forth. I watched Happy Feet & Epic Movie. Both of which did help
pass time. On the airplane’s screen I watched Music & Lyrics with Hugh
Grant and Drew Barrimore. Once again, no great work of art.

Customs & Immigration was a breeze and we took a $14(Austrailian) taxi
ride to the hotel. Our key was waiting for us and we proceeded to room
606. It was a very small room with a double bed and a bunk bed above it.
A very small TV and a clock radio that hovered over small desk rounded
out the room. The bathroom reminded me of one on a cruise ship. It was
that small. The view out the window was of a Krispy Creme. We were in
bed by 8:30.

We awoke the next morning very early. We got ready and headed off to the
domestic terminal which right across the street for our 6:30 flight. We
got checked in and headed off for coffee. I had a large long black and
Susan had a large long white. I think I talked about these terms for
coffee last year. Remember when you come Howard, you want a long black.
We asked as the French man was making them if it was OK to take them
through and he said “Well, yes, it’s just coffee. Wiskey, no. Coffee,
yes. I don’t know why but it’s ‘whiskey, mayday, mayday!'” Or something
close to that. We laughed about he ‘mayday, mayday’ comment.

Indeed they let us through with our coffees and without having to take
our shoes off. We sat at our gate for a while and I realized that there
was hardly anyone there. I looked at the boarding pass and noticed I was
looking at the gate for our connection in Brisbane. Oops. We moved down
to the right gate and boarded fairly soon after that. We got to
Brisbane and got some gooey breakfast items. Mine was pretty good, Susan
wasn’t that happy with hers. Soon after we boarded the plane for Mackay
and noticed it was the same crew as the one that brought us to Brisbane,
even though it was a different gate and plane.

Arriving in Brisbane reminded me of the size the Kauai airport was the
first time I flew into it. It’s small, not Raiatea small, but small. Our
carriage awaited and with our bags we took a 15 minute or so ride to the
marina, which is located out of town.

We ran into the boat’s caretaker on the pier and she told us that it was
opened up and waiting for us. The bottom had been cleaned the day
before. We unpacked and went off for lunch at Ants Cafe. We both had
meat pies. They were tasty if a little soggy. I think they were warmed
in a microwave and the crusts weren’t as crispy as they should be. The
filling was good though. There were beautiful lorikeets by the dozens in
the park across the street. I walked over to see them. I didn’t have my
camera though.

Susan went off to customs and I worked around the boat. I got the old
dead radio out of it’s slot and the new one in. However, the connector
was different, so I left the wiring for later.

We caught the bus into Mackay and got groceries and a fitting for the
hose. Shopping took quite a while, as the boat’s stores were pretty low.
We stocked up a little, but don’t need to prepare for days on end of
offshore sailing. The store was quite fun, but I was a bit tired or it
would have been more fun. One of the cheapest meats is kangaroo, so I
got some. I had to convince Susan a little, but mostly she convinced
herself saying that they have to kill them anyway because of over
population.

Back at the boat we unpacked the groceries and crashed. I was going to
cook, but instead we went for Thai takeaway. There is a nice strip of
restaurants at the marina. The food was pretty good and much more
reasonable since we got it to go.

Bed came fairly early as I couldn’t keep my eyes open much past 8:30. I
had smelled some mold in the v-berth and it started to bother my
allergies. I had to get up, take medicine and move to the center cabin.
I think the culprit was actually the sheets. Today I cleaned the berth
and we ran the sheet and towels through the laundry even though they
were clean when we got here. I think they may have been put away
slightly damp.

Around 10:00 am this morning we decided that we were pretty much ready
to go. So we did the remaining chores of getting water and fuel and left
right around noon. We headed north under motor, but were soon sailing
with just the jib out. The wind was steady which kept us going above 5
knots. Somewhere around 3:15 we arrived here at Brampton Island. We
anchored twice since we didn’t like the first spot we chose. While
wandering around to the second site we saw a nice big sea turtle. It’s
overcast and cool.

Brampton Island is at the lower end of the Whitsunday Islands. It’s
about 20 nautical miles north of Mackay. I’m not sure how long we’ll be
here, but I suspect not long. There are small hikes on the island and a
resort that is exclusive. It is the place Susan saw dugongs, though.
That would be cool! Brampton is also where Susan did her first solo
sail.

It was a good first sail for us. The first time just the two of us too.

Whitehaven not

Aloha all. We didn’t make it quite to Whitehaven, but we did make it to charming Hamilton Island. We were motoring into current created by the big tides here all morning. When afternoon came and the ebb tide came we were flying along. At first we thought we couldn’t make it to Hamilton where there is a marina. The reason we need a marina is the main alternator isn’t working again. Discouraging. We can do without it, but we have to conserve energy and hope for no days without wind and without sun. Those combined and we couldn’t have enough juice.

Afternoon arrived and we started flying along at 7+ knots. Really fast. When we got to the Dent Passage between Dent Island and Hamilton we went along hitting a high of 8.6 knots. Wow. We made a good amount of milage in one day and got here by 3:15. After tying up one of the marina guys came over and gave us the lay of the land. Apparently we’re lucky to have a slip as it is the busiest day of the year. Today was the Hamilton Island Cup, a paddling race. We saw paddlers from Tahiti, speaking French. We walked around town and up to One Tree Hill, with nice views. Cockatoos were everywhere, including hanging out at the fish and chips shop begging food. I got a nice picture of them all on the table after a group of people had left the remains of their meal. After our walk we saw people at the same shop give a fish bone to one. Another stole it and flew up to the top of a light pole. We walked along and stopped to read about the birds in the area on a sign. “Ker-thawp.” The cockatoo above us had dropped the fish bone. It went right between Susan and I. So, then I had a good opportunity to get a close up as he came to retrieve it.
Town is all set up for a party, which may effect our sleep. It’s sure to be raucous, this is Australia after all. They sure know how to party. Often they speak of nothing else.
Tomorrow we hope to have an electrician, and then head on. Whitehaven and Toungue Bay if possible.

Mackay revisited

Our jet lag continues and we’re up every morning very early. Today we
got a very early start out of Brampton Island. Not long after leaving
though, we found that our main alternator wasn’t charging the bateries.
So, after some diagnosis and no solution we decided to head upwind back
to Mackay. About four hours and much seasickness later we pulled into
the marina and back into the same slip. Both of us got green around the
gills as we beat into the wind with side on waves. Even with medication
Susan didn’t feel well. My seasickness ebbed and flowed.

Once tied up we immediately checked in at the office and headed directly
for the electrician’s office here at the marina. As luck would have it,
someone was in. John came over to the boat and played around with some
things, changing nothing and the alternator started working again. Susan
and I had narrowed down the problem to an oil pressure switch that is
used to tell the alternator that the engine is on and it’s O.K. to make
electricity. Apparently he had taken one of the leads off and put it
back on. The were rusty. We’re pretty sure that was the problem. John
further cleaned up the contacts on the switch and everything seems fine.

It was too late to leave, so we went off for a late lunch. It was a
delicious tapas repast. We ordered 8 different things, although I think
they brought us 9. Neither of us remember ordering the pork meat balls.
Everything was great. It was so much food that I didn’t need dinner.

After lunch we got our cameras and headed across the street to see the
lorikeets. We got some nice pictures of these very colorful birds. They
let you get fairly close, but then just suddenly fly away.

Susan went off for a nap and I took a walk down the beach. I very
quickly encountered a sad sight. A dead turtle in the sand. It’s not a
species I’m familiar with. It wasn’t very decomposed, so I don’t think
it was there too many days. The beach is also littered with cuttlebones.
Just like the kind you buy at the pet store for your pet bird. I used to
by them for Toby, my pet canary (well, he lived with Val & Forrest
longer than with me).

Further down the beach is a park and a private beach club of some sort.
There were people in a circle in the park singing and clapping while two
of them did a kind of dance/martial art thing. They were singing in
another language I couldn’t get. It was interesting to watch, but I
really wonder what it was.

At the private beach club there was a wedding ceremony in progress. I
could see the whole thing from the beach walkway. Heading back to the
marina I ran across some raibowlorikeets again sitting on a wall. They
were so cute and colorful. I took more pictures. Then there was the second
wedding going on across the street. Her gown was much prettier.

Two weddings and a turtle funeral.

We will leave early tomorrow and head north and make it to
Tongue Bay/Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island. If we don’t make it
all the way, there are lots of places to pull in and anchor.

Peggy’s Cousin & Fireworks

When Susan was in Mackay before she visited a beach an hour away that
had tame kangaroos and wallabies. They’re orphans and there is a
place that takes care of them. She was shy around them, not know how
tame they were until some lady came up and put an arm around a roo
that Susan had been creeping up to. “This is Peggy.” Soon Susan too
was hugging Peggy.

Tonight at dinner we ate one of Peggy’s cousins. It was quite good. I
dusted the kangroo meat with steak spice from the grocery store and
pan fried it medium rare. Susan like it too. It has a very meaty beef
steak consistency and is very low in fat. It reminds me of a New York
Strip Steak. We will certainly get it again, since it’s very
reasonably priced compared to other meat.

While Susan was washing the dishes there was a huge bang. I bolted up
top to see fireworks going off just a few yards away. It was quite a
show, lasting a long time, with lots of them going off. Now, the
bands are playing and the party is in full swing. It’s far enough
away though not to keep us up. Last night we made it to 9:30 before
crashing. It’s just before 9:00 now and I’m not going to last much
longer.

A Full Day

Today was a very full day. We started out at Hamilton Island and got Mark from Sunsail to look at the alternator. He got us going. It’s not the best solution, but it will work until we get somewhere bigger.

The cockatoos visited the boat with a little coaxing. Crackers were the bait. Then I noticed what they were doing to another boat and decided their presence wasn’t really welcome. They were actively shredding a line(rope) on the boat’s main sail. So, after snapping some pictures I got rid of them.

With our charging system charging again we left Hamilton Island. It was a charming place. We enjoyed our short visit. It was raining on and off all the way to Whitehaven Beach. I drove most of the way, even through the strong
current passage. Today the current wasn’t very strong, but at times it would grab the rudder and try to turn us sideways.

Susan and I switched normal roles and I drove while she set the anchor. It’s good experience to switch. We quickly got the dinghy, now named Bato, blown up and in the water with the outboard motor Betty Davis II mounted on the back. I had named the old outboard after the film star because it was temperamental to say the least, but once it got going great things happened.

Whitehaven Beach is a very long stretch of very white sand. It would be blinding on a sunny day. Our overcast day continued as we walked down the beach. We encountered two dying fireworms, Pied Oystercatchers, sea eagles, some litle sandpiper birds we’re still trying to indentify and the dens of several different kinds of crabs. The sandpiper like birds had chicks that looked like bugs walking on stilts. Our cockroaches in Hawaii are that big, but with shorter legs. The parents both did their best to lure us away, rushing us, running in front of us and playing at being injured. It was cute. One of them stayed with us for a long time luring us down the beach. This beach is
also known for it’s squeaking sand. At just the right spot is does squeak as you walk. The sand cant be too dry or too wet for this to happen. Much of the sand is packed down and wet and is like walking on cement.

After Whitehaven we motored over to Tongue Bay, a short 45 minute ride away. We just missed getting a mooring ball, so again we anchored with Susan operating the windless. We took the dinghy in and hiked to the top of the hill to see Hill Inlet. It’s the third most photographed thing in Australia. It’s beautiful and the camera doesn’t do it justice. Each day the tide comes into this inlet and completly re-arranges the sand. As the tide goes down streams
and pools form. The inlet is etherial and colors are amazing, even on a cloudy day.

Walking on the sands of Hill Inlet we encounter an enormous army of Soldier Crabs. They’re so cute; their color variations are light blue to bright blue to dark blue. They’re everywhere, thousands upon thousands. If you walk
long enough behind them they bury themselves in the sand spiralling in. They also walk forward, which isn’t usual for crabs; most walk sideways. One would think there would be thousand of birds around for this easy feast, but there are only a few. Beach Stone Curlews and Silver Gulls are there but just a few.

Back at the boat we put away the dinghy and had a simple dinner of pasta with sauce from the jar. I was too tired to even doctor it up.

Tomorrow we’re off for Bowen, a town on the mainland 57 miles away. We have some places picked out to stop, if we don’t quite make it that far.

Townsville

We got up this morning and carefully moved to the marina. The engine did fine, but we sailed most of the way into the marina from the anchorage outside.

We’ve had showers and the electrician has been here already. We’re waiting for the diesel mechanic. I got the laundry done too. We haven’t had a chance to see anything but the marina, but we’re happy to be here and snug.

It’s still overcast with scattered sprinkles. It’s not raining at least like it was last night when we were coming in.

Everyone here has been genuinely nice and friendly.

More later after we know something.

Bowen and beyond

Up early this morning we left Tongue Bay on Whitsunday Island and headed
north. We made great time and got to the quaint town of Bowen around
1:30. The radio was silent for the longest time as we tried to find out
what to do once we got here. Luckily another cruiser came to the rescue,
having just left a mooring. She told us where to go. Just not how to tie
up. The operative question.

We had quite a time getting situated, and had a hearty laugh about it
half way through. Most moorings are just one ball at the front. This one
is front and back, on the side sort of. Honu is tall so it’s hard to
reach over and grab the mooring ball, which in this case is a plastic 55
gallon drum. I got it with the boat hook, but had a lot of trouble
getting the line through it. Eventually we previailed and got the boat
tied up. We took the dinghy in showered and then walked right onto a
movie set. Baz Lurhman(sp?) is here shooting a movie with Hugh Jackman
and Nicole Kidman. One end of town is all blocked off, with dirt
covering the streets and 19th Batallion signs and sanbags all around. It
appears to be a WWI movie. No sign of the stars, or even their trailers.
I think the title of the movie is The Lady and the Kilkirin, whatever
that is. I don’t have internet here, or I’d look it up. IMDB.com usually
shows works in progress.

We got a few more groceries, took them back to the boat and had dinner
at the yacht club. It was fine, nothing great. Most items were pretty
expensive, but the special was calimari with chips(fries) and salad. It
was just the right size portion, nothing too big.

Back at the boat we’ve been planning on how we’re going to get to
Cairns. The next two days are about 40 miles each with an anchorage at
night. First is Upstart Bay, then Bowling Green Bay. Townsville is next
after that. From Townsville we’ll go to Orpheus Island, Dunk Island,
Moresby Inlet, Fitzroy Island and then Cairns. That schedule means no
dreaded night passages. However, if we get behind for any reason we can
go far doing two full days and one night.

The bay outside Bowen is a dugong sanctuary. We didn’t see any coming
in, maybe going out tomorrow. My fingers are crossed.

No luck sending this via the sat phone. So, I’ll add to it. We left Bowen
this morning in some big wind and rain. Everything is settled down and
we’re flying along around 6 knots under jib only. The watermaker is going
and I’ve got Sting on the stereo. Susan is up keeping watching on an oil
rig jetty that comes WAY out from the mainland. Our course takes us around
it anyway. It’s still raining on and off. We should be in Upstart Bay by
4:00 or so.

So, our best plans have been waylaid. We’re safe and doing fine, just not
that comfortable. We’re pressing on to Townsville, as we’re still having
some engine/charging problems. The remaining alternator’s belt started
screaming as we started up the engine and we smelled something
hot/electrical. Not good. Then the engine overheated. We shut it down right
away and changed course away from our anchorage at Upstart Bay. Finally, we decided to just go for Townsville where we’ll have a chance to get stuff
fixed. We’ve spoken to the wonderful volunteers on the radio who assure us
it isn’t a problem getting there in the dark. I took the belt off of both
alternators and we added water to the engine, which seems happier now,
although we didn’t run it very long. We did run it longer than it took to
overheat before.

OK this is getting really long, so I’ll stop. I hope it goes out this
time.

We’re safely in Townsville

We did get into an anchorage just outside the harbor of Townsville at
3:00 am last night. It was raining and not fun, but we got the job done
which is the important thing.

I’ll write more when I’ve had more sleep.

Townsville Day 2

The sun is shinning and it’s cool. About 70. That sounds whiny, right? I was expecting tropics. It is winter after all. The first sun of the trip really. I explored Townsville a little more and picked up some meat pies for lunch.

The diesel mechanic has been here and is coming back. We found out why the engine is overheating: when the alternator’s belt was screaming I disconnected the belt. Well that belt also drives the water pump for the engine. Oops. At least we were smart enough to only use the engine a short time. A couple of hoses need to be replaced too. So, the engine should be ready later this afternoon. We’re not so sure about the alternators. It’s noon and we haven’t heard from the electrician.

We hope to get to the aquarium this afternoon, but that will depend on when people show up with repairs.

Billabong Sanctuary, Townsville

Since we’re stuck in Townsville without an engine or charging system, we decided to rent a car and explore. Just outside town is a place called Billabong Sanctuary. It’s a big petting zoo with Australian animals. It was excellent! We were allowed to feed kangaroos, wallabees and hold a koala bear and pet other koalas. I’ve always wanted to do that. The koalas are as soft and adorable as you imagine. The female we held put up with having person after person hold her. She got a little tired of it by the time Susan got her turn, but still she was good natured about it.

The pademelon wallabees were adorable. They held onto your fingers as they ate. They’re small and redish. We could see one had a joey in her pouch that was jumping around in there.

There were ENORMOUS crockadiles there. The salt water ones are fierce. We certainly don’t want to see these guys in the wild. They warm yachties not to hang their legs over the sides of their dinghys if they’re in croc areas. Mostly they like river outlets in murky water. So, it’s not someplace we’d be in the water anyway.

The dingos seemed friendly. They came right up to the fence wagging their tails. It was about and hour before their feeding time. Their coats were perfect and beautiful.

How funny is this picture of a turtle?

What a great day! Tomorrow or Monday we’ll take in the Aquarium. Then there are other parks and the Queen’s Birthday Festival to visit.

Cotter’s Market & Aquarium

Yesterday we started the day with the Sunday Townsville Cotter’s Market. I can’t figure why it’s called that, even looking for an explanation on the internet. It’s a mix of farmer’s market and arts & crafts market. The usual mix of glass jewelry and hand made stuff abounds. There are some good finds though and true artists. Susan got Craig a gift that is really cool, but I won’t tell you what it is since he reads this. Just you wait Craig.

Next on the agenda was a visit to a gallery that specializes in Australian & Aboriginal artists. I can’t say I was a fan of the art but it was interesting. Upstairs was an exhibit of woven pieces. Some were made from very interesting materials, even kelp. A pair of woven feet were made from the needles of Ironwood trees, like we have in Hawaii.

Off we went to the boat to deposit our purchases before heading off to the aquarium. We rested up a little too.

The aquarium boasts the largest living coral reef in an aquarium in the world. The main enclosure is huge and has large number of interesting fish. Many you would recognize from Hawaii, although some are very close, but have small differences. Then there are the fish we don’t have in Hawaii. I had envisioned that the water would be crystal clear, but it wasn’t. Not that it was very cloudy, but a little. Perhaps they need to keep nutrients in the water to keep all that reef alive. There was also a conspicuous lack of big parrotfish, which would be a normal part of this reef.  They eat coral though.  Some  small ones were around.  For me the best exhibits were the small ones around the sides that let you get in close.

Today we’re headed north for some nature in a national park or two.

Hiking Queensland

The concept of hiking here is a bit different. We found a park about a hour north of here that we thought we’d visit and get in some hiking. Up a winding two-way, one-lane, road is Paluma National Park. Near the top is the village of Paluma. It’s tiny and we stopped in for lunch at the Heaven’s Kitchen. It’s an odd place, as it’s decorated with all this Native American stuff. There are dozens of laminated poems for purchase. They’re by a Chief Gray Cloud, a local resident. They’re genuinely awful. When we arrived there were four tourists clamouring for t-shirts from the establishment. Why, we couldn’t fathom, as they were kind of tacky. They spent a great deal of time picking out just the right ones and probably bought close to a dozen.

Our hike started right there. The first lookout was a good 500 feet from trailhead. The second probably 1/2 mile. The view was all the way to the ocean.

We moved on to the second hike that was supposed to be 1-2km. We got there and it was 500 meters, about 3 football fields long. Oh well it had a nice cascade waterfall at the end.

Back in town we went for Gyros sandwiches and Greek Salad. Something I learned was that real Greek Salads don’t have any lettuce. I’ve never had one that didn’t. It was delicious.

Later, we went off to the movies to see The Curse of the Golden Flower. Howard and Tim saw it while I was in Ohio last time. It was beautifully shot, with wonderful cinematography. I found the story boring. Susan liked it though. It was very Shakespearian, with everyone dead at the end.

This morning finds us waiting for our mechanics to return. I’m off to the airport to return our car. Fish just “attacked” the boat. There a big silver fish in the water that we only get fleetiing views of as the rapidly burst to the surface near boat hulls. It makes quite a noise. We think they’re some kind of trevally. We never get a good look at them. Also in the water are Archer Fish. They’re so interesting. They shoot water up into the air to knock bugs down to eat. We haven’t seen them do it yet.

The weather has warmed a bit, but the nights are still in the mid to low 60s. The days have been sunny and warm.

Wish us luck getting everything fixed today!

Bye Bye Townsville, Hello Mud

We left Townsville today around 2:15, but didn’t get far before going aground in mud. Our fatal mistake was not checking the tide charts. Luckily the tide was coming up and we only had to sit in the mud for about 45 minutes before we got going again. Townsville just didn’t want to let us go.

We’re now safely anchored in Horsehoe Bay at Magnetic Island, right outside of Townsville. The systems seem to all be working.  We’ll be leaving for Cairns early in the morning, sail all day tomorrow and all night, arriving Friday. Howard flies in on Saturday.

It’s not the easy day by day trip we had planned, but then I wouldn’t have held a Koala Bear if it had been.

It’s weird being in an anchorage with good wireless internet access. We’d paid for two weeks of time and this is the last place we’ll be able to use it.

Time to make some dinner…..

Cairns

We sailed all day yesterday and all last night, pulling into Cairns early this morning. So, we’re here 24+ hours ahead of Howard. I’m sure he’s relieved we’re here. We are.

Last night was the usual sucky night watch. It was cold, sometimes rainy and tiring. It’s cloudy and scattered rain today. The weather doesn’t look so great for the next couple of days either. Good thing I have a rent-a-car reserved. There are more opportunities to hold a koala.

Susan napped this morning while I did laundry and then walked Cairns. It’s got a nice mall that’s walking distance and two movie theaters. Oceans Thirteen is opening today. Maybe we’ll see it. The rest of Cairns is filled with tourist shops and travel/dive/snorkel shops. It’s kind of like Waikiki (more Kuhio than Kalakaua) or Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. Still, everything we need it right here and open on the weekends.

Now it’s my turn to try and nap. Not sure I will after all the caffeine I’ve had.

Howard arrives

About a half an hour late, Howard arrived at the Cairns airport yesterday. His luggage came off very quickly and we headed back to town. The airport is close so we were back at the boat in no time. Howard commented on some of new things on the boat, like the railings around the mast, which are a great help when working on the main sail.

After he unpacked the three of us when walking around town, in and out of tourist shops. Our last stop was at Woolworths. It’s not a dime store, it’s a grocery store. It has Walmart “Rollback” signs too. I’m not sure they are affiliated. Woolworths is a great store with lots of interesting things. I’ve enjoyed going down every aisle looking at all the interesting things. As everywhere else we’ve been, there are many more ready to eat items on the shelf; full meals to milk and cream in boxes. We just picked up a few things, leaving our big shopping for later.

Back at the boat there was lots of relaxing/napping and then we went out to dinner at Pesci’s. It is a fish restaurant right next to the marina in a hotel complex that sports 7 restaurants. Howard had paella, which was delicious. Susan chose the swordfish, which she loved. I ordered the bugs. They’re small slipper lobsters. They were fine, but the texture was a little mushy. Not firm like Maine lobster. I don’t know if that’s the way they are or if it was the preparation. Under the 3 split lobsters was a tasty paw paw (papaya) salsa over baby salad greens.

Back at Honu it was early to bed. Today we’ll go take in some nature and let Howard see some roos and koalas. There’s a town up in the rainforst, Kuranda, that has 3 different nature parks.

Kuranda Village

Up in the mountains an hour north of Cairns, surrounded by rainforest is Kuranda Village. It’s a tourist town, but a lovely one. It’s quite charming. The attractions are deliciously fun too. Three of them are affliated and we bought the all access passes for $39 Australian.

Our first stop was Butterfly World. It’s a large enclosure with 2,000 or so butterflies buzzing around. One variety is bright blue and black. They’re the hardest to photograph, of course. The most amazing thing was that a buttefly landed on this guy’s backpack and started laying eggs. They collected them before he left.

The second stop was Birdworld. Boy was it fun. We bought a small bag of food an quickly had exotic birds all over us. The native Eclectus Parrots were very friendly, landing on us and even stealing Susan’s earring. I got it back out of his mouth. The non native Sun Conures were also agressively friendly. Many other birds also landed on us for a handout. My favorite Rainbow Lorikeets weren’t among the friendly though. They came close, but ignored us. The Red-tailed Balck Cockatoos finally came down for a bite to eat also. The one in the lobby was eager to have his head scratched as he sat on Susan’s shoulder.

Meat pies were on the menu for lunch, Howard’s first.

Large bats called flying foxes are all over Australia. We saw a big group hanging out in the trees at Billabong Sanctuary when we were there. In Kurada there is a rescue organization and they have a free exhibit. This was our next stop. The woman who runs it had just shut the gate, but opened back up as we arrived. She showed us three kinds of bats and to Susan’s disappointment didn’t let us touch them. They’re smarter than dogs and the ones she can’t rehabilitate, that are permenant residents, know their names. One of them was begging to come out of the large enclosure. She got her way.

Kuranda Koala Gardens was our final stop. As we stopped to look at the koalas a handler came in and one was particularly anxious to be choosen to be held. You could tell she was thinking “pick me, pick me.”  Howard was reticent to hold her, as she had just pooped when the handler came to pick her up. Chibby was her name. I talked him into cuddling her for a picture and I’m sure he enjoyed it. Here they let you hold the koala a lot longer than elsewhere and Chibby was quite a bit bigger than the one we held at Billabong. After his offical shot they let us take our own pictures and then join in for a group shot. Chibby was happy as a clam to be held. We were encouraged to pet her after the pictures, the whole time Howard holding her.

We took the long way home through the Tablelands. It’s a high plateau with lots of farmland, with sugarcane, corn and other stuff growing.

It was a terrific day.

Rain, clouds, wind, Sydney

We left Cairns yesterday with the hopes that things would get better away from the mainland. We sailed upwind easily to Fitzroy Island. It’s big compared to most of the islands around and afford us some protection from the wind and waves. We moored at a blue ball and Susan I went in for a snorkel. The water was a bit murky and filled with very small cone jellyfish (they don’t sting) right by the boat. The snorkeling was very interesting even though the conditions weren’t great. The coral heads were amazing and the variety of fish large. On a clear, sunny day it would have been stupendous.

As we sat at our mooring the current and wind couldn’t figure out what to do with the boat and we ended up banging up against the mooring ball. That won’t do for sleeping so we moved to anchor where we thought we’d get a bit more protection from the swell. It was a somewhat rolly night. The boat creaking loudly at times, and the anchor chain grumbling. I didn’t sleep well.

The weather forcast holds out no hope for improvement so we moved on and are currently in Half Moon Bay Marina at Yorky’s Knob, a little north of Cairns. It’s dead quiet here until the planes landing at the airport go over. There’s no hint of the wind and waves going on outside th marina.

Howard and I are abandoning Susan tomorrow and heading to Sydney. I’ve changed my flight to head back to Hawaii early too. We had a flexible schedule and Susan is fine leaving the boat up here. She’s going to hang out for another week waiting for sun and then possibly come back too. She’s confident that she can do more single handing and anxious to try. A trip out to Green Island is certainly something she can handle from here if the weather co-operates. I hope she gets the chance.

They say the same thing to tourists here that we do back in Hawaii when these weather conditions prevail: “This is unusual.” Oh well, another time.

Beautiful Sydney

We arrived in Sydney last night and got to Sheraton On The Park about 10:30. We were lucky to get a room for free with points from our American Express. It’s quite a large, beautiful room. We’re quite happy with it.

This morning we lounged around watching TV and drinking the in room instant coffee. Underway at 9:30 our first stop was Starbucks around the corner for drip coffee. The norm here is a long black, which is expresso with water. Breakfast of quiche for me and a sausage roll for Howard got us going.

Down at Circular Quay (pronounced “key”) we hopped on a two for one special Sydney Harbor cruise on a large sailing catamaran. The day was beautiful and it was warm enough to sit outside until we turned into the wind. We retreated inside for the rest of the one hour tour. It was quite a nice tour, especially for $25 for both of us.

 

 

The Rocks and Pyrmont areas were our next destination. The Rocks was the first area settled in

Sydney. It has small streets and

alleyways. Pyrmont is on the other side of Darling Harbour, which we walked over, on the pedestrian bridge. The Sydney Fish Market was where we headed for lunch. Salt and pepper calamari were delicious and the battered barramundi not quite as good as the barramundi at Yorky’s Knob Sailing Club.

 


We stopped to pick up our tickets to Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical. We’re excited to see this production. Susan had heard that the bus used on stage cost over one million dollars. It should be good tacky fun. 

David Jones’ Foodhall beckoned as we headed back to our hotel. This basement of the expensive department store is foodie heaven. You can easily organize a gourmet meal from their selections and not have to do more than heat up a few things. Upstairs they are having their half yearly clearance sale so we shopped a bit. However, with Hugo Boss bathing suits half priced at $89 we didn’t buy anything. Howard was tired of shopping anyway. 

He’s off at the gym/spa sitting in the hot tub. Tonight dinner and the theatre. Tomorrow we’ll go to museum or two and Oxford Street. 

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical is a 2 1/2 hour romp of
amazing costumes, energetic performances and a big old bus on stage.
It’s a stubby version of the one in the film, as the stage requires.
The side opens up and luckily it’s not the star of the show.

After a short overture, the curtain goes up to reveal a light-bulb
version of the Sydney Harbor Bridge. In a moment of hometown pride,
the audience applauded. From above flies in three what appear to be
drag queens (but probably weren’t) who act as Greek Chorus for the
entire musical. When the stars are supposed to be lip-syncing the
three sing.

The musical maintains all the major plot points from the movie, but
shortens and condenses a few things. All the songs from the movie
seem to have made it into the production too. Consequently, it’s a
cavalcade of pop songs. There are some new numbers written for the
show and it’s here the production falls a little flat. They’re over
quickly and we’re back to Abba, Gloria Gaynor, Pet Shop Boys, Donna
Summer, John Denver and many others.

The singing and dancing throughout are universally good. The cast
does a fine job. The three leads are strong performers at times
channelling the original stars of the movie. I’d mention their names,
but no Playbill is handed out and the program was $20. The strongest
of the three was the guy playing Felicia. He definitely saw Guy Piece
in the movie and modeled his performance on Guy’s. Normally, I would
find fault with that, but most everyone who sees this musical will
have seen the movie and are familiar with the characters. The guy
playing Bernadette didn’t have the best voice, but sang with that old
drag queen gravely sound that was appropriate. The one playing Mitzy
did a good job, but missed some the emotional depth that was reached
in the film.

The costumes were done by the same person who did them for the movie
and were incredible. They caused major laughter throughout the show.
The final number parades out all the costumes from the montage at the
end of the movie. The three leads obviously can’t change into each
one, so surrogates come out in each. It worked quite nicely.

There are a lot of Australian references that American audiences
wouldn’t quite get, so if this is to travel to Broadway the
production will need some tweaking. Some gentle editing of the script
and you might get a hit. It won’t be another Mama Mia runaway hit,
but it could have a respectable run on Broadway.

The whole evening was quite enjoyable. It was light rousing fun,
especially if you didn’t think about it too much and just gave into
it all. The bar even got into the spirit of things serving drinks in
battery operated flashing colored martini glasses. I had to have one.
The t-shirts and souvenirs were a big disappointment. Almost all of
them were pink. The “A Cock on a Rock in a Frock” shirt was a navy
tank top (they call them singlets here). I wish it had been available
as a t-shirt. I’ll just have to live with my memory

Sydney & Home

Saturday was sunny and cool again. We explored the art museum and the Botanical Gardens. Flying foxes hung in the trees squawking and screeching at each other.

Flying Foxes

 

As we walked further I made a new friend. We saw a flock of sulfur crested cockatoos on the ground with people gathered around. A closer inspection was warranted, so we walked over. I had purchased a bottle of water and was holding it in my left hand at my side. For some unknown reason this was very attractive to one chubby cockatoo. He waddled over at a quick pace and stopped right next to my leg looking up at me. I let him explore the bottle with his beak. I thought maybe he wanted a drink, so I opened the bottle and poured some out. He tried to drink, but missed. This got him really excited and he flew up, trying to land on my shoulder. After seeing Susan loose jewelry to a bird a few days earlier, I decided to stick out my arm as an alternative to my shoulder. The plump cockatoo happily landed there. I tried to shew him off my arm, but he was having none of that. I started spinning around, hoping centrifugal force would help. He hung onto my fleece jacket with his beak. Finally, he broke free, everyone around quite amused. Immediately, he flew back up in the air at me. I ran off and he finally broke pursuit.

We walked Oxford St. stopping for lunch at a place called Wok On Inn. A cute noodle bar that was very good. Oxford is much like Castro Street but a bit longer. We didn’t need any rainbow colored objects so we didn’t buy anything. We had dinner at a Nepalese/Indian restaurant also on Oxford. It was delicious: goat curry and palak paneer. I had just read that mutton is often sold as goat. So, I’m not sure which animal it was, but it was excellent. Afterward we had a beer at The Oxford bar and headed back to the hotel, as it was too early for much to be going on.

Sunday we went to the Australia Museum. It’s mix of natural history and human history. The really sad treatment of the Aboriginal people is a significant part of the museum and very well handled.  I also enjoyed the section with all the stuffed birds. The variety and number is amazing.

The weather had turned a bit drizzly and it was still cold, so we opted for going to an advance screening of Brenda Blethyn’s new movie Clubland. It was an enjoyable film with Blethyn as a domineering comedian mother to two coming of age boys. It wasn’t as funny as expected, but certainly worth going to. Look for it in the States as Introducing the Dwights.

We still had hours to kill before our flight so we went off to Paddy’s Markets. It’s a crowded set of stalls with a bit of everything for sale; about half the stalls were selling souvenirs. We filled the rest of the day by checking email at the hotel and having another couple of beers on Oxford St. We headed off to the airport early and feel ripped off by the cab fare. It was $25 from the airport to the hotel and $36 from the hotel to the airport. Plus the driver drove like a maniac.

The flight home was fine. After dinner we both took Ambien and I slept like I’ve never slept on a plane before; at least 5 hours. We came through customs and immigration quickly to find a group waiting with leis for us: Andrew, Justin, John, Ed & Adrian.  We went off for brunch, home for some unpacking, to the beach and to Hula’s for drinks. It was our second Sunday this week and a nice re-introduction to home.