Thursday, September 29, 2011

That warm gooey karma center

Just this morning I was bombing up to work and saw a grizzled older looking guy standing on the corner decked out in super high-vis neon yellow sweatshirt and orange reflective vest... holding a huge "Lost Dog" sign. Having just seen a lost-looking retriever yesterday leaving work, I pulled a u-turn and stopped to check... unfortunately he was looking for a husky cross.

Almost late for work, and facing the wrong direction I waffled back and forth on hitting up Timmies... My pre-caffeine indecision chose for me with the failed execution of a mid-u-turn-mind-change spanning both lanes that was definitely ticket worthy.

Just as I was grabbing my coffee I received a "Don't get a coffee text" from a wonderful co-worker of mine, and it occurred to me that coffee tastes way better when someone else has given it to you. With that thought in mind, and knowing it was only two degrees out, I stopped and gave the one I'd just bought to the guy looking for his dog.

When I got to work and told her my story of the morning she said "Aw that's so cool, I feel like I even had a part in it" which of course she totally did. *smiles* I'm not sure where all the floating karma is going to settle this morning, but of all the places it could... well, I really hope he finds his dog.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

From the Captain

I checked out of Neiafu today and I'm now at anchor in a cove just south.  The anchor chain talks.  When the boat drifts about, occasionally the chain drags over coral and the rumble is transmitted up the chain right to the boat.  It's weird because I always thought that the grumble / rumble was associated only with dragging but with solid chain rode, it's every time the boat swings you hear this noise.

It's calm.  Some tuna were sort of jumping near the boat in the dark.  There are no mammals like seals and otters.  I suppose there might have been a thousand years ago or so, but with people moving in they got hunted out pretty quick.  I never realized just how many people these islands supported pre-Europeans.  The populations were 100 or more times what they are today.  That's a lot of people on small land base, being fed and supported by the local resources.  Not only just surviving, but living well with time and energy and resources for comfort, art and war.  The implications are really somewhat staggering when you think about it.

Such is life.  I broke the oar I made - the local hardwood turned out to be trash.  Waste of money and a day.  So, I am oar challenged.  I hesitate cutting down my long good oar to match the short oar I bought but it may come to that.  In the meantime, I have got the electric outboard to behave reliably.  I modified it a bit.  I cut off the battery connectors, automotive post style of lead that in the salt water formed a non-conductive oxide quickly, and installed some ring connectors  - the deep cycle batteries have studs as well as lead posts.  These are easy to clean, and being tinned copper aren't affected by the salt water as much.  Also they are easier and faster to put on and take off.  So, all round, works better.  I just need to add a fuse to the circuit - the one was incorporated into the battery post and that's gone now.  The fuse supplied was a bad choice anyway because it's fusible link is corroding fast because it's exposed.  I'll get a blade type in a water proof holder.  Irony is that I had one in the spares box but I used it already.  The other thing is the use of lots of silicone non-conductive anti-corrision grease on all the connectors, especially the control / instrument sockets.  This has helped a lot and something to file away in your head.  You can use it in all kinds of places where an electrical connection is made in a wet environment.  Works great on your car battery terminals, use it for bulbs on trailers (eg boat trailer tail lights that get wet, ham radio equipment etc. etc.  Most things don't really need it but if you have an electrical contact in a challenging environment, it helps.

I think I mentioned I had a great couple of scuba dives here.  I'm told the diving is good in Fiji too, so that might be inducement to go that way next year if I sail again.  Mom is making some noises about wanting to dive again, but remember the hassle and pain diving at home with the cold,  weight and gear - and how nice it was snorkeling in Tahiti.  I suggested that maybe moving the boat to Mexico or the Caribbean might be a thought.  I can see pros and cons, but we'll see what she thinks / says.  I'm not sure quite how I'd want to route the boat there - it's awkward and "up hill" all the way.  It might almost be worth while to keep going east round S. Africa and then across the Atlantic.  I'm not thrilled about the distances and I'm seriously thinking there's a lot of nice places I'd like to look at on the BC  and perhaps Alaskan coasts.  Lets just see what Mom comes up with.

Anyway, time to try and see if I can get out on Winlink.  Hope you had / have fun with your friends that are visiting.

Take care - love you.
At 25/09/2011 7:23 AM (utc) our position was 18°39.83'S 173°58.88'W

From the Captain...

It's been a quiet day today.  It's evening and despite the fact that I got the mosy screen up on the door there's at least one little bugger in the boat.  For the most part bugs has not been a problem at all, but I guess it's not surprising tonight given how calm it is and being near shore.  The great debate in my mind is when to move south etc. - seem like it might as well be sooner as later since my enthusiasm for exploration is low.

There are a variety of anchorages, all duly numbered by the local boat charter company who kindly distribute their guide and charter map to yachts.  It's a good idea since the local names are essentially impossible for western minds and tongues.  So, the VHF chatter is "meet you at 16 because we really liked the snorkelling there" refers to anchorage 16.  Each anchorage has a write up etc., they are all quite beautiful and somewhat unique.  There's typically some form of small village or cluster of houses etc. nearby because there are only so many places to bring a boat in and that's where both the locals and tourists will be.  It generally works out fine.  Each is unique but there is a sameness as well.  Deep green vegetation to the shore, snorkelling in the coral etc. with the fish - different places are a bit different and some unique features but consistent is many ways.  From a yacht point of view, some places are better protected than others or easier to get secure.  I'm getting jaded.

I've got in some excellent diving here with some spectacular coral.  Not a lot of  big fish (sharks, dolphins, rays etc.) excluding swimming briefly with whales again.  The big draw, I think, for diving is the coral - extensive live reef systems with hard and soft coral, huge fans and other structures.  They also have limestone caves, a swim through etc. for a bit of variety.

The town and indeed the people are third world.  I've also heard it said time and again that things are going downhill economically and you can see it.  I went to a talk by a Tongan man, roughly my age, who left here 30 years ago as a young man and has returned.  He stated that back then, growing up, people had more money freedom relatively though they didn't have cars, electricity, roads, TV's etc.  The islands had a positive import balance and were not reliant on 'remittances' - money sent home by Tongans working away.  Coincidentally, the owner of the dive operation said much the same thing - he's away part of every year and comes back and "things are little worse" with businesses going under or changing hands, infrastructure a little worse etc.

Wandering around town the houses are fairly dilapidated, indeed some of the sheds and shacks are deplorable that people are in but they seem healthy and happy.  The cost of almost anything is silly and given the annal average income is only $2500 to $4000 (and I thing that's Tongan, which is 60% of CAN$) I don't really see how locals manage.  Granted the housing need is minimal and there's not much need for heating etc., and with a garden and someone in the family doing some fishing combined with the pigs and chickens wandering around loose everywhere, I suppose needs are met.

If you were to rely heavily on what grocery stores there are, and what little is stocked, feeding would be very costly.  The locals do shop, and there is an extensive local market with fruit and veg etc., but the prices are high.  How does it all work?  I don't know.  Apparently the problem is the cost of freight - everything is shipped in - combined with a very high import duty ranging between 100% and 200%.  The latter is a sting but I can see it given it's probably the only realistic tax target the government has.  I also suspect there's a certain amount of inefficiency / corruption involved combined with what amounts to userism by the freight handlers (both marine and air).

I've talked to yachties who needed a part flown in and a small box has cost in the order of $1000 to get here.  So, it's interesting and again makes me appreciate how well off we are at home.  I used to think that our relatively low costs for food and 'stuff' was on the backs of the third world - not so certain that's the case.  It seems to me that both classes of items are, in themselves, not expensive anywhere but get expensive by the chicanery of the local system.  If the system is reasonably well run by a reasonably straight and financially solid administration, then there is some efficiency gained and costs are controlled.  Here, there is no efficiency, and costs are silly.

Another example, this is a small town of perhaps 5000 - within 2 blocks there must be 20 small places all stocking and trying to sell the same basic tinned food stuff, fishing stuff, a few items of clothing and hardware and paper products etc.  None of them are well stocked, none do anything well.  All of them move too little product to get decent pricing from any supplier.  And if someone needs something the least bit off "basic, basic" they're SOL.  I need an oar - despite hundreds of yachts and hundreds of local boats, there is one to be had.  A short (6') oar that they want T$187.50 (about C$115).  I didn't buy it.  There is no chandlery.  The local sailboat charter company imports all there own stock from NZ because they get only what they need - the duty on excess kills them)  It's seems like a no win situation which will gradually wind down the population to the point of no return.  The place has some promise but how to make it work with the current set up, people and of course the church is beyond me.  It will stagger along for another bunch of years and go broke in several different ways.  It's sad.

Never the less, it is beautiful to visit if you don't look to hard at the people questions.  The environment is beautiful, the weather is pleasant at this time of year.  The people are friendly if a bit standoffish.

So, what's next?  I'm checking out of here tomorrow and then working south through the next island groups down to Nuku'alofa the capital of Tonga.  There I'll do my final checks, take on some groceries and wait for the weather window for NZ.  It's about a 10 day trip and there's a high probability of getting clobbered by at least one blow along the way.  I chose not to go to Fiji simply because I was trying to avoid a passage.  The time from there to NZ is the same as from Nuka'alofa though arguably the trip is a little easier because you're already further west.

Take care
At 25/09/2011 5:30 AM (utc) our position was 18°39.83'S 173°58.88'W

From the Captain...

Had a couple of great dives here - the coral structures are incredible.  Swam with whales again but not so well as at Nuie.  Broke an oar, my dive computer packed it - hope it's a battery but it is under warranty.  It's been pouring rain and windy - and I'm snug and warm on a mooring!  I assume mom will forward the missive I sent her with details - I'm tired and need to sleep.  BTW apparently Mom made the front page of the newspaper regarding our use of ham radio to keep in touch.  I wonder now what impact that will have both the ham club and on people who I sort of know who might be added to the trip watchers out there.  I really am not doing this to gain attention, hopefully mom didn't put the blog address out there.

At 23/09/2011 7:21 AM (utc) our position was 18°39.83'S 173°58.88'W

No Dad, it's okay Mom didn't put the blog address out there, in the local paper... it's just on the internets ;)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

From the Captain

An update - it's raining.  I spent a couple of days on the hook off a small island and generally poking around.  I think I got the fuel system working properly now and some fixes in mind.  I moved back to the harbour to catch a talk Tuesday night and tonite, Thursday there's a film on regarding the impact of intense US culture invasion on one island they set up works on.  Should be interesting.  I've lined up a couple of dives with a local dive charter operator for Saturday.

It was funny in that I couldn't get any info on where they dive and what they see from the front office people but I wandered down the dock at the end of the day with a tank that needed a new O ring and filling and spent an hour or so chatting with the owner / operator while giving him a hand fixing and outboard.  So, Saturday's dive is set up, the tank is fixed and filled and a lot of info exchanged.

The talk on Tuesday by the Tongan man basically said people were better off 30 years ago before "development" took a major hold.  Part of that stems from the fact that there was some local industry and export agriculture that is largely been killed by over production in the developed world. So 30 years ago, Tonga paid it's way with a positive trade balance.  Today, "remittances" keep it afloat - Tongans that have moved away but send money to family here.

This paired up with the Dutch chap who operates the dive business.  Basically, it runs 3 to 4 months which is just enough to pay the bills but doesn't get ahead so he work "at home (Europe)" for part of the year.  He's been doing this for nearly 20 years and his comment is basically that every year he comes back and things are more run down.  Businesses change hands as "palangi" (foreigners) come to make their fortune and leave discouraged and broke.

It's a tough place to work, despite being very beautiful.  The local people are caught in a cycle of change they are trying to manage, while the industry and life styles change. Similarly to Nuie where the population has gone from 20 or 30 000 to the current 1700 and dropping.  Beautiful place, but doesn't fit the western capitalistic model that is sweeping the planet.  Until we take into account values in the eoconmic model that aren't and can't be evaluated in dollars we are doomed both at a personal and national level.  Indeed, the international level.

To some exent, we, the family have done that.  For example you're in Vernon because it has values (not big city, good access to lakes and hills etc, and ski facilities) that balance for you the fact that you could make more $ in Calgary or Vancouver.  Granted your living costs would be higher.  So, you're taking into account a 'happiness index' as well as the cash values - which is good.  Mom and I did the same to live in Nanaimo, and here I am "wasting" my most lucrative working years bobbing around in a boat!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Way to go Mom! (where some of my nerdy comes from)

Woman becomes radio expert to stay in touch with seafaring hubby
Tamara Cunningham, Daily News
Published: Wednesday, September 21, 2011

An antique radio is the only link Donna Sweeney has to her seafaring husband as he sails across the Pacific. David Vincent left Nanaimo more than a year ago to island-hop across the South Pacific. He is living his dream - and Sweeney is keeping track of every detail through her home radio. She searches frequencies each morning for news he's OK. Sailing the open sea can be dangerous when you're travelling it alone.

"This is VA7DSW," she says Tuesday morning, listing her call name to an operator at the Nanaimo Amateur Radio Association. "Did you hear from David last night? Go ahead."

A voice crackles over the radio: "All is well. He couldn't talk for long, but he's making his way through the islands and will reach his destination within a couple hours. Go ahead."

Donna Sweeney earned her ham radio operator licence so she could track her husband during his high seas adventure.

Donna Sweeney earned her ham radio
operator licence so she could track her
husband during his high seas adventure.

Tamara Cunningham/Daily News
Sweeney smiles and turns the radio off, relieved. If she doesn't hear from her husband, she can count on one of the local ham radio operators to make contact. She joined the network two years ago when her husband announced the trip, becoming one of the handful of women trained in amateur radio. It's the only link to people travelling by sea. Even e-mail has to be sent through ham radio operators.

"Talking over radio is a huge peace of mind," she said. "I look forward to hearing about his adventures and knowing he is OK."

Sweeney and Vincent met 35 years ago at the University of British Columbia as teenage science students. His imagination had been captured then by sailing tales of people like Sir Francis Chichester, who travelled the globe in nine months. He had the fever, Sweeney said, "but we got married and had children and he never talked about it again. I didn't think it was ever on his mind."

Two years ago when her husband retired, he announced he was going on an adventure. He'd head to San Diego with one of their daughters and then go solo towards Fiji and New Zealand.
"It was the first time in 35 years he mentioned it. I was shocked," Sweeney said.

She wasn't sure she understood the need to go, but realized he wouldn't be happy until he did.

He invited her to on the trip, but she has never sailed well on the open sea. She prefers staying close to shore. She spent eight weeks earning her radio licence, so they could talk throughout the trip. She also joined the NARA, a local network of 88 radio operators.

Her husband left Sept. 11, 2010, touching base nearly every night to update her about his travels.

The couple has a communications room in their garage, where Sweeney tracks the voyage.

"He is going wherever the wind takes him and having the time of his life," she said, He swam with a pod of humpback whales, snorkelled with sharks and explored "third-world like" communities on remote islands. His adventure is being blogged by his daughter.

Vincent is on the Tonga Islands and expects to be in New Zealand within the next two weeks.

The trip has no end date, but Sweeney expects it will be soon. He's starting to sound homesick, she said. 250-729-4230


I see this nearly every morning on my way to my office, and it always makes me smile...

Some days you just start out with your up arrow going down. At least I can fix my day, that poor box has to sit there until someone takes pity on it and flips the right way up!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Its all a matter of perspective

It's funny reading back through your notes...  I remember grinning for weeks after getting back from tree planting because I was "warm dry and fed". When you get right down to it, you find out what your essentials are.

I should really try to keep this in mind

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Only Tuesday...

Someone just pointed out to me that Tuesdays suck. Now I already knew this but their reasoning its their reasoning that I love...

Because Mondays, well you expect Mondays to be bad, so it's okay. Wednesday you're at least at the half way point, but Tuesdays... well it's "Only Tuesday" you're about as far away from the weekend as you can get.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Riding rampant in your neighbourhood

I just went biking on Cindy-Lou who was no more than 6'2's bike. It has bald tires, basically no brakes, leans to the right with a bit of a wobble, and you can click the gear shifter all you want but only the one gear works.

Wearing my flip flops, and no helmet (I felt like such a rebel!).

...and nothing bad happened.

I'm not quite sure what to think.

From the Captain...

Currently sitting in Tonga, it's Sunday (see dateline) and the world is shut down.  I spent a couple of hours snorkeling this morning and then I needed a nap.  Try a couple of hours.  The coral here is quite amazing really.  Some of it looks like dense seaweed or masses of fine branches of wood underwater - except that it's rigid.  In between the little sticks of coral little fishes swim.  Then there are bigger stag horn formations with the branches ranging from thumb to fore arm thickness, well spread out like eerie trees - you can see where the artist from Eureka got the inspiration for the "Artifact" - like that.  Then there are the small little blistering white formations the size and shape of ice crystal Christmas tree ornaments - some with purple and orange highlights.  The most impressive are the "Toadstools" that I described before - I found one that is all of 3m across in a twisted disk - huge - and another that looks like one of those multilevel plate things they have at banquets for small sweets and canapes etc.

The fish are neat.  Herds of them - not cohesive like schools.  There are schools of little guys.  Then some buried deep in the coral.  I found one little "Nemo" - a clown fish - but then I looked harder to see the anemone he was in.  There are some weird shaped fish, the odd sea snake and starfish including the destructive "Crown of thorns".  Colors everywhere.  The visibility here is not nearly as nice as at Nuie, and the water is cooler.  I wish I'd spent more time in the water there.  I'm wearing my shorty wetsuit, with weight here - I can stay in the water longer.

Went to a "Tonga Feast" last night in the hope of a cultural hit.  Bit of a bust but it was a nice supper that I didn't cook, with some fresh vegetables, pork etc.  Really a social night with the yachties - the locals were few and far between, certainly overwhelmed by the yachties.  It was a fund raiser to replace their pier. Not much else, the yachtie community is taking me in, which is nice but I miss you guys and I'm looking forward to getting home for some time and perhaps some skiing though I'm woefully out of shape - not really much endurance type exercise on the boat.

On the positive side I don't have to haul as much dead weight around so I stand a chance of surviving a day or two on the slopes.  We'll see.  Still plotting what the options are for the next moves and further along.  Immediately, the toss up is whether to head south down the Tonga chain and launch to NZ from Tonga, or sail west to Fiji, and leave from there.  Either way, the final passage is about 10 or 11 days but getting to Fiji needs 4 to 6 days passage with some things along the way to bump into - not well or uncharted apparently.  Working south is short day sails.  Once at the south end, I'd have to sail west before heading south to NZ because the wind patterns change.  It's a coin toss.

That's it.  Take care and enjoy the fishing etc.

Love Dad
At 18/09/2011 3:41 AM (utc) our position was 18°42.95'S 174°05.13'W

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Autopilot: Command not recognized...

When Mom was up visiting she totally threw my autopilot for a loop one morning when she got up with me before work... It was a pleasant surprised, but my morning autopilot is not calibrated for social interaction.

Picture this: I'm doing the fireman (running around the house and getting dressed in less than 5 minutes) while trying my very best to dredge up the proper response to "It looks like it's going to be a nice day out."  Normal people don't have a problem with this, in fact I've seen Mom talk on the phone, make lunch, and keep a kid on schedule to get them out the door. Me, I experience an array index out of bound exception, that has to be caught, re-initialized and tried again.

Needless to say I got all the way to work before I realized I'd forgotten my keys at home *sigh* the rest of the day turned was fantastic though.

Little kid anatomy

When my middle brother was little, we'd always ask him if he had to pee before we left to go anywhere... and he'd always say no.

If you'd asked me then I would have sworn his bladder was in his feet. Every time he laced up his shoes there'd be an almost audible *boik* as his thought bubble popped... and he had to pee. Right. Now.

Friday, September 16, 2011

From the Captain...

I moved away from "town" and I'm currently tucked behind a small (300m) island all by myself.  When I arrived there was a Vega in the anchorage (same couple as in Raitrea) but they hauled up and left before I finished my swim and said hello.  The water here is reasonably clear but not nearly as clear as Nuie.  Saw a couple of whales on the way over from last nights spot.

I spent a couple of hours snorkelling around the boat.  The coral here is really different than elsewhere.  There are these "mushrooms" - a stock perhaps 300 to 400 mm high on which visulaize a dinner plate made by a somewhat drunk or made potter, upside down of coral the plate perhaps a meter or so in diameter and at most 75 mm thick near the stock and generlly about half that.  It is of course distorted in shape, with cracks and colored with bright purple or light blue, some are yellow or orange or white.

Tropical fish swim around and feed on the coral and underneath you find the bigger fish hiding.  Saw some flute fish, about 500  mm long and 30 to 50 mm through the body - they have long snouts - I first took them to be gars- and fine fins and tails along their bodies.  Almost like eels - and they change color.  I saw a bright yellow one over some coral and thought "gee, haven't seen one that color before' - and swam along and saw some light grey ones - over sand.  Then the light grey ones moved over some dark green/brown and they immediatly seemed to be in camo - then one was over the light colored coral and 'pouff" it was bright yellow.  It's really quite amazing.

Saw one of the little sea snakes - apparently these are very venomous but their teeth are set so far back as to be essentially harmless - just don't touch. They're small, perhaps 400 mm long, very thin and stripped - black white - very distinctive.   Other shapes and types of coral - lots of spiney / stag horn types. Some is so dense it looks like miseltoe twigs or birdsnests you see in fir trees.  Other is quite large and open in structure.

The islands are all uplifted coral atolls, so everything is rock and limestone.  Some interesting caves to swim into - I haven't because you need a boat keeper since it's deep water then vertical island - but the most famous are Swallows and Mariners Caves.  Basically limestone karst type formations at the water edge.

Haven't had much contact with the locals.  Third world conditions but they seem friendly if a bit standoffish.  Religion is taken very seriously, and modesty is important.  The locals even swim fully dressed, and there is no swimming, working or playing on Sundays (yachties / tourists may, discreetly and out of sight indulge!)  They don't allow aircraft to fly on Sunday.

Never did hear if the camera case showed up - hope so, just wish I had it here.  Anyway, take care.

Love Dad
At 15/09/2011 3:26 AM (utc) our position was 18°41.20'S 174°01.39'W

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Stabalize this image

This morning a very serious coffee break conversation about binocular optics and how incredible the Canon image stabilization was on boats...  elicited the comment "Yeah they're also great for bird watcher's with Parkinson's"

I of course, pictured an old man attempting to be a peeping-tom from his nursing home.

I very nearly snorted tea out of my nose

From the Captain

Sept 10 was the day last year we finished packing up and got away from NYC.  Now I think it's Sept 9 at home but since I crossed the date line, today is the anniversary of the trip start for me.

Thinking about it, we certainly learned a lot on the trip to San Diego.  Since then I've added some miles to the trip and some experiences.  It'll be another couple of months before the boat is tucked up for a bit and I get home for a visit but I thought a bit about reviewing things tonight, having another muffin and beer and just thinking.

I wanted to say :thank you" so much for taking the time last fall and coming with me on that first learning leg of the trip.  It certainly didn't go as planned but it was an adventure and we learned a lot about boats, each other, the US, people, places and sailing.

You're a great kid - love you lots and really proud of you- and again thanks.


At 10/09/2011 4:37 AM (utc) our position was 18°39.35'S 173°59.53'W

Reflections on swimming with whales

The whale swim was neat but a lot of work.  The scary part is the fact that you're swimming along in open ocean that is very deep (several hundred to a thousand feet) focused on trying to place yourself where the whales are or will be but there is the niggling fear of other things in the water like sharks etc.

The next day a large grey was reported in the area and the gal in the water was convinced it was eyeing her as lunch as it made a couple of passes - she got out of the water!  Anyway, I obviously wasn't bothered but it was a risk.

The whales themselves are awesome.  It was getting dark so the conditions weren't ideal and I guess I was focused on the macro conditions rather than on details.  The whale eyes are neat but I really didn't have time to to focus there.  Just trying to keep track of 6 big critters as they glide around and appear from the gloom and disappear.

Truly awesome.

Scary as far as the whales go - after the intial contact and the realization of how big they are and how easy it would be to be hurt - and immediatly realizing that they know where you are and more importantly where they themselves and all their parts are and they simply don't allow a problem.  They are  very much in control.  Neat.

So - yes it's cool, yes it is scary in some ways.  On one hand I was nuts to go for it, but I'm glad I did and I'm still here not having been Whirlpooled or given any parts to sharks.  All is well.  Try it!

At 10/09/2011 3:54 AM (utc) our position was 18°39.33'S 173°59.56'W

From the Captain

Arrived in Neiafu, Vava'u Tonga in the early hours of the morning - fortunately it's an easy entrance, and the conditions were calm with a full moon.  It is never the less spooky picking your way into an unknown place, relying on the e-chart and having reports that some of the echarts are more than a mile displaced!  This with vertical sided islands and cliffs about.  Anyway got in fine, and got the anchor down in dead calm - and got some sleep.  This anchorage is in huge contrast to Nuie - the boat is STILL, and there's high ground all around.  Woke up this morning to a grey day, so I motored across to the village to look for Customs and found out it's Saturday (date line crossed)- and motored back and re-anchored where I was.

It's a grey rainy west coast day.  It's Saturday here and I missed Customs and Immigration, do that Monday but mostly slept today.  Fortunately got the tarp up before it rained hard.  Snoozed most of the day.  I actually had my fuzz on the other day and last night coming in - it was distinctly cool.  In want of some comfort food, something bread like, I made muffins in the silicone "pan".  They came out fine, crust a bit thicker than usual - would have preferred some raisins over choc chips but can't find the former either on board or ashore.  Food and eating is becoming an issue - not much variety left and not much enthusiasm to prepare much.  My prepared chillis etc are just about all gone and the commercial stuff is not very good.  While cans of fish are healthy, I really don't like it much, ditto brown beans.  Have lots though!  Won't starve, might lose weight = lost a fair bit already.

Quite a few Canadian boats around.  Couple near me now and at least a couple more across the harbour.  I wonder what we are all running away from.  The cruising community is very first world cosmopolitan.  There are boats from Europe, east coast US and Canada (eg: TO, Montreal etc.) as well as NZ and Auz.  The Swiss and Scandinavians are well represented.

Not sure what's next.  I was planning on spending time in Tonga and then making the crossing to Fiji but I may just stay in Tonga and hang out at the south end of the group to make the final crossing to NZ.  Ideally with crew.  I really need to spend some time cleaning the boat.  It's so damp and warm there's mildew growing in places - the forepeak is not well ventilated and so is a problem.  I hesitate to open the lockers or something nasty may crawl out.

Take care
At 10/09/2011 3:49 AM (utc) our position was 18°39.34'S 173°59.53'W

I've got a feeling

Sometimes it feels like I forgot to meet someone somewhere and now I'm just wandering around looking for them... hoping they grabbed a coffee and sat down with a novel to wait.

The ball is rolling

I'm standing on the edge of the starting block, looking down the race course... everyone awaiting the starting signal with bated breath. Nerve ends waving aimlessly looking for something, anything to cling onto.

The training is over, the theory an important building block is behind you now... but none of that matters, except the finish line. It matters not how you do it, and whether or not it's graceful, all that matters is that you cross the finish line.

The other racers, let them race amongst themselves for they too have their own battles to face this day.

It comes down to this moment. The final breath before the dive, when for a blink of eternity everything stands still...

With a final word of encouragement, all I can do now is watch, and hope for the best.

The rest is up to you Mom, I know you can do it!

Fly fishing for the 165lb sucker

My Uncle and I tried fly fishing last weekend, and whoever says its a relaxing sport obviously hasn't tried it with us... I mean it's all fun and games until someone loses an eye... then it's a sport, so I can see where it's sport status comes from. But we were yellin' back and forth... at each other, at our lines, but mostly at the flying errant hooks.

I was momentarily disgusted when I thought he hollered "Betcha didn't catch a perch on your first cast!"... it was all okay though, because he'd said "birch". It started out well, at least I thought it did, I was getting my line at *least* 15 feet out in front of me... Then I caught the bush behind me. Four times. Followed by the cedar tree. Grampa Max chuckled, shook his head, made a couple suggestions then cast out his bobber, and leaned back against a tree to enjoy the entertainment.

That Cedar tree, over on the right there.
 I finally turned myself parallel to the shore, covering twice as much area right (fishing in front *and* behind myself) but who are we kidding, it was mostly to avoid stripping the trees. An added bonus was Don directly in my line of sight... especially when I saw him wading in, removing his soaking wet t-shirt?

Yep, that's right he fell in the lake, and because I'm sensitive like that I laughed... really hard! Immediately it subsided to nervous chuckles, as it occurred to me that karma was going to get  me. I mean I had already slipped a couple times...

You know that thought that as soon as you think it you'd better act on it? Like one of your guardian angels is yelling at you and it finally pierces your self-assured consciousness with a wedge of doubt. This was one of those thoughts. I reeled in, waded in and took off my shirt "just in case", waded back out and promptly fell in the lake.

Its a good thing our karmic balance was restored, I think it's the only reason we managed not to fall in the lake while trolling and fly fishing from the canoe... Even when we got the trout up to the side of the boat, *almost* in and it flipped off. We didn't have a net. That would have been more than a little bit interesting.

A sensible not-fly-fisherman (Little Cindy-Lou Who, who was no more than 6'2)

Friday, September 09, 2011

Duh nuh nah NAH!

With Mom visiting last week, and our subsequent roadtrip to the Island so that I could go surfing, I was really lucky when they said it wouldn't be a problem to reschedule my belt test.
I wandered in Tuesday after work to square up my paperwork... and found myself slightly frazzled when they said "Oh we should be able to do that tonight"  Tonight? Oh, yeah, I can come tonight... Really it wasn't a problem, I just hadn't been expecting it. I had also forgotten that the new schedule was in effect...

On that note I got my poop in a group and attended class. It was much larger than usual, with everyone returning from summer vacation... and before I knew it class was over.
My instructor looked at me with a flash of memory and said "Right! Beltest! We'll do it right now."
No big deal right?

Well the thing is that each belt level has a physical portion to it as well as the form and self defense techniques... and we'd just finished a class that lived up to it's place in "fitness week".
Despite this, I still had to do the fitness portion. The technique portion went really well, then she says "I think you have to do 35 pushups but I'm not sure, how about you start them and I'll go check."

The last five were so hard, all I could think about was Zorro doing his training over lit candles...
I finished up before she got back, and get this... She says "Oh you only had to do thirty, I guess you did five more than you needed to" *panting*

The final portion of the physical was 20 burpies, the demon spawn of a pushup and a jumping starfish. By this point my neurons had overheated and entered a higher orbit, hijacking all trains of thought and tossing them off the bridge into a gigantic chasm...

So when she said to do minus 10 of them, my brain seg faulted and I looked at her like she'd just asked me to suspend the laws of physics and demonstrate the theoretical. What she meant was do ten less burpies than the number of pushups you were *supposed* to do.  My energy reserves depleted exponentially from 12 up, and you would probably have needed to be looking *very* closely to see any space under my feet for that final jump...

But I did it!

This happened to someone I know...

A friend of mine had a loaner car while his was in the shop, and he told us over lunch that it was lower than the base model...

How could it be lower than the base model you ask? Well, he classified it as such because it's got a faux rear wiper. It's mounted,and the tubes are all there, they just aren't connected to anything!

Isn't that about the most ridiculous thing you've ever heard? I mean really, who does that?!?! It's like when they were buying it they said "Hey, we don't *really* need ALL of these buttons and dials do you? So um, can we get like $50 off if we don't get the rear wiper option?"

Idle thought

It occurs to me that the dental assistant gave me the berry flavored floss because I asked for the grape flouride spa treatment for my pearly whites...
The thing is, I happen to really like mint. Especially when it's associated with chocolate... Okay, well that and I keep hoping that they've secretly discovered a great flavor, something that only the kids have been brave enough to try. Don't worry, I will test all the revolting sounding flavors for you, and let you know if I find anything more palatable.
I'll suck it up and take one for the team, because I'm swell like that ;)

Thursday, September 08, 2011


I'm sorry for the inundation of Captains' log reports... I haven't forgotten about you internet, in fact I think of you often... it just happens to be when I'm working, or driving, or running around like a hockey Mom with 3 kids.

I got a little behind.

Okay, I got a lot behind. There are only hints at the awesomeness I've been up to, and I promise I still have a couple funny posts in the works, there are a couple from recently and a couple from wayback... oooh and I have some more pictures!

See, the thing is, when I'm not working I've been jealously hoarding my time in the sunshine.  Because despite our 30 degree days the morning chill is feeling more and more like 5am tree planting up north...

Summer daylight is slipping away faster than the end of the roll of toilet paper, and you only get a couple shakes before it's winter again... Winter is coming.

From the Captain

Anyway, got underway for Tonga finally.  Currently sailing well at about 5 k in 2 to 3 m swell so the motion is not bad.  Nice day but I'll be glad when I get there.  Should be in Tonga Wednesday, but Thursday there = dateline crossing. 

Staring at the charts - Fiji is another 4 or 5 day passage away, but if I just pick down the Tonga group to the south, I'm the same 9 to 10 days from NZ.  Leaving from Fiji is supposedly a little easier, not a lot.  I'll have to decide if another passage vs. seeing Fiji is worth it. 

Boat seems fine.

Last night was interesting in that the whales were about and I could hear them singing through the hull.  It was eerie.  I tried listening with the stethascope but it didn't help.  This morning while getting ready to go I noticed that I could see little fish clearly about the rocks on the bottom = through 46' of water! 

So, supper now and settle in for the night.  Hopefully the wind holds as it is and doesn't pick up much.
At 07/09/2011 4:20 AM (utc) our position was 18°57.15'S 170°31.73'W

From the Captain...

It was good to hear you on the radio last night, I spoke briefly to Mom and then conditions just shut down and I lost her.

So, yesterday sucked.  The forecast and GRIB charts indicated a front moving through with the wind coming around to the west which is on shore - but the expectation was those winds would be light (<5 k) The timing wasn't bad but the winds blew 20 to 25 all day, with breaking swell.  Could not go ashore and people ashore couldn't get back to their boats because the landing area was unmanageable. 

A couple of boats had mooring lines chafe through but fortunately people got to them in time - owners were trapped ashore.  On one boat a fellow lost the end joint of a finger when a line caught him while adjusting lines.  Marimba was fine, but I was glad that I'd made up a mooring bouy bridle consisting of a big shackle onto which I'd spliced two separate lines that lead to the bow, so I didn't have any chafe. 

I did however get seasick on the mooring - the motion was that bad.  Anyway by 8:30pm the wind shifted enough south that the island started to create a lee, but the heavy swell continued until 9:30 or 10 pm.  By midnight it was reasonably quiet.  My casualty is a lost oar that got flipped out of the dingy when it did a curtsey on the painter, which dropped inboard and just settled at the handle of the oar and when the jerk from the next wave hit, caught the oar and that was that.  I could watch it for quite awhile but couldn't safely go after it.  It got dark and things calmed down.  This morning I checked the shorelines nearby without any luck so now I'm scrounging for an oar or a piece of dowel to make one with.

Nuie is a really interesting place with the limestone caverns and sea caves etc.  The water is spectacularly clear.  No beaches but some fish and of course the whales and sea snakes (which are apparently very venomous but very very timid.  Ignorance is bliss, I've swum with them up very close but since I follow the rule that I can look but mustn't touch all has been well. 

Given the chance I'd come here again but it's not likely.  On the other hand, they could use a resident engineer I'm told, though they can't afford one.  I think one would have to be prepared to stay at least 3 years to be fair and I'm not ready to commit to that.  It's tempting though.

So, hopefully late today I'll get off for Tonga - about 250 nm away when you factor in the loop around the far side of the main island group to get to the capital where you have to check in.  Given the current conditions I should be able to do 110 nm/day so if I leave late today I should be there by Thursday at the latest.  Hopefully I can put the hook down somewhere calm and protected and find a decent grocery store. 

That's about it, I think I'll try and find some crew for the pasage from Fiji to New Zealand - I'm developing a phobia about that one which is known to be difficult from a storm perspective.

Take care

At 02/09/2011 6:13 AM (utc) our position was 19°03.30'S 169°55.43'W

Happy Dance - I have swum with the whales!

This evening just before dusk a pod of humpback whales were feeding on a line about 300 m or so out beyound the boats.  One inflatable was out there, and I tossed into the dinghy my wetsuit jacket, fins etc. and rowed out.  The inflatable came back to the boats but the whales were still there so I rowed out but didn't get in the water - alone and what do I do with the dinghy.

Anyway, Kurt off Discovery came out with his daughter in thier inflatable to watch, and as the whales moved away I decided "what the heck, when do you get any chance at all?" so I got him to take my dinghy and I bailed overboard and started to swim. 

A km or more later, after the whales turned inland and back I was among them - like 'touching distance" (2 m or less at times).  There were 6 - a cow and calf (the latter about the size of Osprey our old 27 foot sailboat) and a couple of really BIG ones, gently rolling around like big gliders underwater.  They come up and blow and gently roll below and sound to feed I guess. 

Each one came by and gave me a very close look - I guess I was a curiosity like some clumsy dolphin sized thing - clearly no threat. Anyway, I was right with them for 15+ minutes but it was getting dark - sky is overcast so I thought it was prudent to swim back to Kurt and the dinghy.

What a wonderful experience.  I will however sleep tonight, I think I covered probably 3+ km, much of it "at speed'.  I don't think I'm as out of shape though as I thought since I'm not wiped out, just pleasantly fatigued.

So - hope the surfing is going well.  Talked to mom on the radio tonight and gather all is well.

Take care.
At 02/09/2011 5:50 AM (utc) our position was 19°03.29'S 169°55.44'W

From the Captain...

A different tech and the wireless problem is solved!  Somehow the machine lost some settings and was totally confused.  Anyway, I'm in business again.

As per note to mom, I'm here waiting on weather for at least 4 days, and trying to spend that on shore rather than rock'n and roll'n on the boat.  Good snorkelling etc at least.

Take care and have fun always.  I've always regretted the things I didn't do -be safe and use your head but don't worry much about what other people (including me) say and think.  Most of us are wusses - especially as we age.

Now that travel plans are set more or less, I need to try and get in some sort of shape - not much lower body exercise on the boat so IF I ski this year it will be at a lower level.  See what happens. 


From the Captain...

I drove around about half the island, and I'll do the other half tomorrow morning - I rented a car after noon for a day figuring on splitting the exercise up this way.  It seems to work.  Really not much to see specifically but I have a sense of the place now.

There's a fresh food market in the morning, early, so I can get some fresh veg and fruit, do the tourist thing, deal with the computer and have a THIRD HOT SHOWER in as many days. 

I should spend some more time snorkelling, the vis is incredible.  The coral is really interesting and colorful, not as many fish as at Moorea but different and more variety in some respects.  Many the same.  No shallow water though there are these "pools" - really crevasses - in the fringe reef.  These are 5+ m deep, vertical or overhanging corral of incredible aquamarine water in the "plain" of the fringe reef 100 m or so wide which is at or near the surface at medium tide (range is 1. m about) 

Anyway, there are tunnels and small crevices everywhwere with the most colorful corral patches and formations, all small, and then these "pools" with fish etc. that you can swim in like giant aquaria.  There's also caves and arches etc.

I was at one spot, recall that the island is uplifted coral, which is a cave like tunnel that has flow stone, stalagmites and salacites (all solution formaitions) with "ancient" coral showing in the base rock, plus 'old coral" (recently killed) and live coral in the pools. 

Something only a geologist could love I suppose. So that's it.

Take care both of you
At 29/08/2011 7:07 PM (utc) our position was 19°03.28'S 169°55.45'W

From the Captain...

It was a rolly night last night but I slept OK - only problem was that I'd slept a lot yesterday so I was awake early.  I thought some heathen was cruel to another boat, indeed everyone in the harbour (everyone leaves the VHF on) when they called around 6 am - the response from the called boat was very groggy. 

Whales were among the boats.  Before long a couple of dinghys were in the water and people were swimming with the whales.  Humpbacks.  It was neat - maybe tomorrow I'll join them if it happens again - apparently a fairly regular occurrence.  So that started the day. 

I got the cooler cleaned up and working again - I'd shut it down to conserve power, but had left some salmon salad in a bowl in it - intending to eat it in an hour or so - and in that hour my gut went off so it sat there for 5 days.  It was rough so it spilled so the cooler needed cleaning and it was a bit high.

Rowed to shore and tried to get on the inet - and my computer won't work.  Don't know why, hence the "Mayday".  There might be a computer tech here, earliest I could get to him would be Monday or Tuesday - they take Sunday VERY seriously here and today the businesses pretty well all shut down for a fishing competition.  Small town, laid back mentality - which is fine.  All in all it was another slow day but I am now awake and rested more or less.  I only now realize just how tired I was.

High point -they have showers here!

Landing the dinghy here is interesting.  There is no beach, just a big concrete wharf with swell.  What you do is get close to the work and there's an electric crane, and usually someone is around to lower the hook to you that you attach to the lifting bridle and then leap out onto the steps as the dinghy is lifted clear.   Once on the dock it's dropped down on a cart and you park it.  The crane launches everything from dinghys to 30' fish boats from trailers - that's just the way it's done.  Works well.  It's a bit tricky if no one is about but can be managed.

Nice place, better off and better organized than Aitutaki - not as affluent as Fr. Polynesia.
That's about it.  My gut is still not 100% but much better than it was.  At least I'm eating again.

Take Care

At 27/08/2011 5:30 AM (utc) our position was 19°03.28'S 169°55.45'W

From the Captain...

It's good to eat again, more or less having caught up on sleep.  I made a real meal and enjoyed it for the first time in a couple of weeks!  It's been a wet day here in Nuie.  I got checked in with customs, then immigration, then quarantine and the Nuie YC - met customs on the dock and it POURED rain. My foulies have had more use in the last couple of days than in the previous year.  I feel like I should be getting black and purple with mildew and mold - damp all the time. Then I moved off the anchor (which of course jammed in the coral but I was lucky and managed to power off - next move was a dive - and the screwing around meant I got caught by the next downpour picking up the mooring etc.
The long and short is other than dealing with the bureaucracy, moving the boat, putting up the tarp and doing the dishes I've taken the day off.  there's been an hour time change and in my befuddled state I missed my radio check ins - such is life.  There is apparently internet here but I can't get it at the boat.  I'll take my computer to shore in the morning and try giving everyone a call etc.

Nuie looks really nice so I'll be here a bit.  There are no beaches or lagoon - the island is the old corral lagoon that is uplifted.  The diving around here is supposed to be wonderful because of the great vis - no streams etc.  Rain filters straight down and to the ocean though the coral the island is made of so no sediment.  Anyway, my plan is to catch up on sleep etc., deal with the broken bracket and I think my batteries have packed up so I'll swap them with the ones for the dinghy motor, and then I'll tour some etc.

It's been a by and large grey and damp day.  Up until an hour ago the anchorage has been calm, but it's started to roll some, so there must be a major front going through with SE (rather than E) swell, so some is wrapping around the island and affecting the anchorage.  It's not bad but it makes me wonder about rocking babies.  They seem to like it but as we grow up, get us on a rocking boat and it's not all that nice.  Why the change?  Anyway, the boat is slightly more than gently rocking but not bad.  I'll have another look around and then go to bed.  I migh, after another good sleep, get caught up.
Take care and have fun with mom.

At 26/08/2011 5:53 AM (utc) our position was 19°03.10'S 169°55.30'W

Moral support

 Moral support is being happy for someone when they're happy, it's celebrating their successes even if you have no idea what they just succeeded in doing. Like me winning the minor battle over a dynamically populated Joomla drop down box used in the administration section of a module. It's not the end of the war, but this could be the TSN turning point... you just never know.

me: I just got the stupid select box to populate in the bass-ackend with stuff from one of *our* database tables *happy dance*

her: yayayay
her: good work!

me: thanks!

her: that's all samartian language to me pretty much. but i get what your saying
her: and im stoked that you're stoked
her: ha