Brrr, Getting Colder

We’re on our way to Kushiro, departed from mainland Ofunato port this morning. The winds are light from the east forcing us too far north of our rhumb line. So far we’ve been fortunate and were able to sail on course with very little tweaking of sails. We may be motoring by tonight as the fickle winds swirl all around. Hoping to make this a “quick” 2-3 day passage as the cargo ship, fishing fleet, opposing currents and dense fog make sailing around Japan a little stressful, especially at night.

The days are forecasted to be sunny but cold. The water temp is down to 55 degrees, the interior of the boat is cool. We’re wearing our base layers with lite foulies for now.

It’s John’s birthday but no cake or wine for a few days. We’re saving our propane for the long trek across the Aleutians.

Back to the sails, wind just died. All is good aboard Konami.

Onward Again

We waited out two blows, one from the South that lasted four days, turned 180 degrees for two days from the North. The unanticipated stop brought the Japanese coast Guard to the port inquiring about our destinations. As usual very polite but overly suspicious of our intents. So now we’re on our way to Oaraii port, about 110 miles, an overnight trip.
The seas are calm with a long easterly swell with 1.5 knots of adverse current and no wind to help fill in the boat speed. Crew are doing well, happy to be underway once again.
We’re leaving behind new sailing friends who were so helpful and a real pleasure to be with. We will think of them often as they freely sail around Japan’s coastline in their Flicka 20′ sailboat.
Thanks for all the yummy food and safe wishes for our safe journey Mr. and Mrs. Yagi. !!

Haulout and Maintenance Completed!

Our quick trip down the inner coastline was easy and gave us a chance to get our sea legs back and get our sailing skills back.  The boat maintentance was a little more than we had anticipated. The Japanese paint we used last year didn’t adhere very well to the old Trinidad paint so we did a quick and dirty wash and sand, recoat of the waterline and other flaking areas. The propellor was scraped of barnacles, zincs changed and polished. We’re back in the water ready for a departure northbound to Kushiro, Hokkaido.

We finished the painting in 20 kts of wind, completed the cleanup process just as the rain started to pound onto the ramp. Big mess to clean up the interior and restow all the tools and gear.

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We are heavily loaded with over two years of South Pacific souvenirs, Japanese food, clothing and dishes. Our waterline – thats the light blue stripe in the picture – is suppose to sit well above the water. Ahem, according to John – I have too much stuff on board.

imageThe fueling is so easy here, they pull up next to the travel lift and they complete the fueling. All fine except of the cost of fuel is about $5.00/gal.

We are ready when the weather turns in the next couple of days. John has been wonerful as I cry when I say another goodbye to family and friends. Its so difficult to leave but we are focused on our passage.

Stay with us as we head out!

Saipan, Very Dear to our Hearts!

Just a quick statement about the  26 hour passage events. It was WET, bouncy, 2 drawers jumped out of their places, two anchors on the bow, 200′ of our anchor chain was still in the chain locker- forgot to pull it down into the bilge and the remaining 50′ slid forward to the forepeak within the bilge. In our hasty departure out of Guam we forgot to batten down the V- berth hatch and hadn’t discovered it until everything was sitting in a large puddle of salt water! We were fully loaded with fuel and water, bikes, SUPs, and lots of provisions. The heavy bow combined with short period 6-8′ very steep waves, close hauled and we were diving with full bowsprit into the water. As we pitched upward the green water gushed down the leeward side where we sat. Sue hailed us about 20 miles into the passage and asked if we wanted to turn back as they also pitched downward and also had water running down into their cockpit. Gushers filled the cockpit, there wasn’t a dry spot left, the port lazarette filled up a couple of times. John hand pumped the water out. We were soaked beyond comfort, Only good thing it was still warm outside. 26 hours later, we entered the calm harbor and tied to the large ferry dock with SV Ouistitis and SV Dionne.
Non potable clean city water and 110 30 amp electricity were free on the dock but no showers or toilets available. $8/ day dock fee, no Harbor or Customs fees. We immediately hosed ourselves, removed the entire contents of the V berth and stacked it on deck. It took nearly 8 days to dry the hosed out cushions, we looked like traveling vagabonds as we slowly repacked the boat.
We left our 45# CQR on the dock, our new friend Moon, took it home. Good riddance to a broken, worthless anchor – email us if you want to know more about that mess.

So onto the part of our wonderful Saipan adventure. We met absolutely, incredibly generous and beautiful friends from all over the world.
Saipan isn’t a cruising destination as most boats heading to Japan stop in Guam to provision and boogie on. For those cruisers who take the time to travel the additional 120 miles northward, the rewards of the people, culture, history and geography is beyond imagination!

The dock is located in the channel so all the tourists from China, Korea and a few Japanese board the ferries outbound to the luscious islands around Saipan where the water is beautiful aqua blue, turquoise green, the diving and snorkeling are pristine and the very fine white coral sand is like powdered sugar.IMG_2114 It was on the dock where we met all our new friends. At the lower left corner you can see two masts, Konami and Dione. Ouistitis is in the middle of the lower half of the picture.

The first set of friends – Mike an American, and his gorgeous Indonesian wife, Nora stopped by and we began talking about boats. Mike has a 40′ TaShing sailboat in Maryland currently undergoing a refit for near future cruising. Nora sailed as crew so has a good background and knowledge. They immediately offered us rides around the island, sites of WWII war and peace memorials, took us to a great breakfast shack. BBQ at their condo poolside, and spent time just hanging out together. Nora drove us where-ever we needed to go, to process our check out papers and last minute fresh food provisioning.

Our next set of friends – Dave, an American Tugboat Captain working between Marshall Isl and who also owns a sailboat in the Saipan harbor, and his lovely Thailand wife Kwaye Pronounced Gale, brought us dinner and offered anything we could possibly need during our stay.

Randy, an American who is First Mate on the Tugboat and his Thailand wife Cindy, ran John and Glenn around town getting fuel, looking for boat parts, had potable water delivered to our boat, brought us Mickey bullet beers, dinner, fresh fruit and all around great conversations.

Nida, our new Phillipina friend is Operations Manager at the Hard Rock Cafe in Saipan brought out the best Nachos for us since Mexico! We enjoyed Nida so much, I hope we meet again in San Francisco where her mother lives. I think we melted our credit card buying T shirts for the grandchildren, and of course a few items for ourselves. Can’t wait to wear my Saipan shirt in the Tokyo cafe!

Ron, an American who owns his software consulting company and his delightful, totally non-stop moving Thailand wife Moon, a former restaurant chef, brought us home cooked meals beyond words. Lemon grass chicken, lime leaf curry with chicken, I wish I could have some now. I have a bag full of dried kefir lime leaves from her tree and a gallon bag full of lemongrass from Gale’s garden. IMG_2128Ron took John and Glenn out to the Forbidden island where they enjoyed cave swimming and around the reef.

Most of our new friends either spend time together or are acquainted.

There were so many other people, mostly strangers that touched our lives and made us feel so at home and generous with fresh fruit and home cooked meals. We had people stopping by the boat at 8:30 a.m. until late afternoon. Between touring around the island, spending time with our new friends, Glenn and Sue, and the French cruisers Eric and Marielle, we were never on the boat long enough to cook anything other than breakfast.

By far, Saipan is the most beautiful island we have visited. The coastline is stunning with shear line cliffs, pristine water, limestone and coral mountains, coconut lined white sand beaches where you can wade out nearly 200′ and still be waist deep in clear warm water. The highways are well maintained, better than the Portland area.
The streets and roadsides are clean despite the abundance of tour buses and thousands of tourists similar to Hawaii. Surprisingly, we didn’t see many American or European tourists, aka Howlies. Perhaps the airline tickets are cost prohibitive? As an American citizen we can sign up for a PO box and become a permanent resident. A 2 bedroom fully furnished condo is roughly $750/month! Food is relatively cheap, and locally grown. Beef is a little expensive as its imported, but beef raised on Rota, a nearby island is high quality and delicious.
We didn’t see a fish market but we weren’t cooking dinners either.

The Carolinians, the original inhabitants and Chomorro natives no longer maintain their national heritage cultures with festivals or community awareness like Guam. Its very unfortunate to lose a culture after the last generation has moved on. We asked about any possibilities of viewing or meeting someone who could give us background information. We did attend first Thursday celebration in the city park. A group of young Carolinian men performed their traditional voyage dance with native costumes. After a few dances volunteers within the audience were asked to come up on stage and give it a try. John and Glenn and a few other men were pulled up and gave their best 20 minute performance. Having danced well in front of a hundred people they were rewarded with a palm frond headpiece that symbolized God’s power and protection for their voyage. We saved John’s headpiece for our boat.
Moon brought her signature lemongrass rice, we purchased a yummy roasted chicken from the Asian food vendor and we all sat on the lawn with our dinner and drinks. A terrific fun and warm evening. Sorry, I don’t have the pictures yet.

The night life comes alive with tourists, great restaurants, clubs, and numerous massage parlors where young Chinese women stand outside their glass front windows with the visible massage chairs inside. Ahem, gotta wonder about some of them. John and Glenn didn’t appear to be too interested with Sue and I standing nearby giving them the stink-eye.

Nora took us snorkeling at the grotto cave. There is no place to leave your shoes or belongings so don’t take anything, you must walk barefoot. The blue water is so clear and colorful – you can see the giant coral bed nearly 30′ below. the ocean water comes in from the cave openings at the oceanside but you can only see intense blue light as you snorkel around the edges of the cave. The stalagmites hang down from the cave ceiling about 15 -25′ above the waterline. The incoming current and waves around the 7′ jump off rock is very intimidating. A lifeguard stands on the giant rock across from the cliffside and gives the signal to jump across the gap. The rope going across the gap is your only lifeline of making it safely across if you jump at the wrong moment. The lifeguard in the water below the rock signals when to jump into the sea. Glenn went first, I nearly slid off the rock rather than jump, I was so afraid but felt compelled to be brave. Nora went in after me, she’s a scuba diver so no fear, John was last. The water surges with such force it pulls you outward from the rock towards the back of the cave where the water comes in 30′ below. Getting out was easy, kick hard back to the giant rock platform and the natural large steps on the side are manageable even with flippers. Getting back to the cliffside rocks are the same current and crashing waves and need to be negotiated carefully. Its free and worth the effort of climbing barefoot back up the long concrete staircase in the cliffside.

Mike and Nora drove us to The Bonzai Cliff over the ocean and Suicide cliff, the memorials were quite moving.IMG_2075IMG_2072 A tremendous amount of lives lost on both sides, civilian women and children were told to jump rather than submit to the “ferocious treatment” by the American Army. Large caves in the face of the limestone mountains and where the large gun shells struck the cliff, the limestone turned white, are still visible. The natural erosion has created a grotesque mask- like face on the mountainside, almost a natural memorial of war horrors.
From the top of Mt. Tapochau, the 360 degree view of Saipan and nearby islands are excellent. The various blue and turquoise colored water, white sand, and cool breeze are beautiful, one could sit for hours and stare out beyond the fields below. There are war remnants left there also, a juxtaposition to all the beauty.

The day before we departed a young Chinese woman asked if we would take her and her mother out to the island for a snorkeling adventure. I explained that our boat was too big and there wasn’t enough water under the keel to get close. I invited them aboard and gave a tour of Konami. They were stunned that we had sailed from the US. And even more stunned that they had the opportunity to see our boat. They were impressed with our gimbaling stove, refrigertor, the amount of food and water,the engine, and the fact that we sailed it with just the two of us aboard. She took lots of pictures with us to prove to her friends that she actually spent time on a sailboat. A “rare experience” as she put it for a Chinese person. They hugged me goodbye and couldn’t thank us enough.

Each day I found myself becoming sadder as time with our new friends came to a close. Saipan is definitely a place to live for a few years. Perhaps the tourists and congestion would get old but there are places to live where its peaceful and beautiful. Stay out of downtown and its perfect.
We hope to meet all of our friends again in Saipan. These experiences of meeting total strangers and sharing a few precious days or just a few moments with the Chinese mother and daughter are so heart warming and fulfilling. We’re so lucky and Grateful for our adventure, for each other, and our supportive families and friends. AND our really awesome Konami!

Wish we could upload all of our really cool pictures, the wifi at McDonalds just isn’t fast enough.

Roundtrip airfare from Japan is reasonable -$418 and even cheaper from China and Korea, about $200, so if you have the opportunity to travel anywhere in Asia, try to include Saipan. You won’t regret it.

Me on my fun folding bike at Suicide Cliff.IMG_2086 The concrete pad in the background was the latrine left over from the Japanese WWII post. Pretty cool to have that left over.

Okinawa, Japan

We jumped to Japan and will get back with Guam and Saipan. If you go anywhere, go to Saipan, especially by sailboat!

We had a decent passage from Saipan. 1250 miles, we calculated 10 days minimum, 12 at most. We literally skipped the boat across the waves, sometimes sailing fast over 7.4 knots with all 3 sails, the main and yankee partially reefed. 150 miles, 130, 120, our daily counts were going down along with the waves.
The first 3 days were incredible sailing, a little bouncy, a few waves broke over the top sending water to the radar height – 15 feet up the mast, over the dodger, and only one cockpit gusher, but it was gloriously dry compared to the Saipan and Guam passages. Quistiti, the French 43′ steel boat passed us the first night out but we maintained email contact with them, about one day ahead of us.
At one point we made 15 miles in 8 hours going horizontally rather than towards Japan, it looked like we were heading to Taiwan on the chart. We motored quite a bit as we headed into opposing 2 knot current and lught wind. Our forward boat speed dropped to 1.5 kts with 2000 rpm. At this rate we began to calculate our fuel burn as the wind continued to wane and the next two day wind forecast was diminishing even more.
We couldn’t maintain our rhumb line, the wind was clocking around so quickly and lightly, the sail changes and tacking became exhausting. Recalculate the fuel burn. The temperature dropped dramatically, No more minimal clothing sailing. Jackets, wet pants, socks, coats all a mess down below as we changed each time to avoid sleeping in a salty bed. Salt was layered over the boat, lines, and cockpit. Konami appeared to be covered in diamonds.
The wind forecast became unpredictable. A small High front which we were in, sandwiched between two passing low fronts, then a massive high with fast wind. And when we finally got through it after heaving to 135 miles out from Okinawa, we were ready for the passage to end. A hangup in email, lack of satelitte phone, and “proper” entry clearance into Japan had us hove to for another 24 hours, 15 miles off the coast of Okinawa as we waited for our information to be processed by the Japanese coast guard. All was good, we cleaned the boat, cold showered in the cockpit in 60 degrees, and rested up for our grand entrance into Japan. Here we are in full dress, make up with earrings, and clean shaven.
Our dream come true realized 21 months after leaving our hometown Portland, how could anything mess that up?

And during our passage, our twin  grandsons were born. All went well, Mom and babies were doing well, not sure about the Dad, perhaps in a daze?

Jittery, excited, nervous about communicating, eating great food, and most of all- seeing our families coming from home in just a few short 3 months. The Yonabaru marina is world class with every amenity possible, we have everything here, except wifi and money.
We spent the first 3 days with Eric and Mariella, the French couple and their girls traveling to Naha via bus to finish off Customs, immigration and permit processes. My Japanese speaking ability is slowing starting to revive itself. I can ask the bus driver if the bus is going to where we want to get off. My reading skills are also starting to focus,  So many squiggly lines!
The first morning after we arrived I was just too excited to sleep so at 5:30 a.m. I went walking. And in the park near the marina was a group of people my age, performing the “radio exercise” routine. Well I just walked right up, stood and watched until one member noticed me and invited me to join them. 18 new friends, all excited to meet me, hear that we came by a sailboat, and very curious about my heritage.
Needless to say, the last two weeks have been spent with them every morning exercising at 6:00 a.m., taking them out for a ride on the boat – a very rare experience for the average Japanese, eating delicious home cooked Okinawan food that included pig’s innards and feet. We loved the flavor, but something I probably won’t include in my future cooking repertoire due to the texture of the softened cartilage.
We have been surrounded with incredibly heart warming people who are not just ordinary kind Okinawans. Our new friends include famous masters of Okinawan dance, opera singer, composer, Japanese calligraphy teacher, hand craft designers, Chef, and Shamisen teacher.IMG_2225
IMG_2205The French people have been included in our gatherings and the Japanese people just don’t stop with gifts and parties.
Yukiko, a woman in the group from Osaka speaks English very well. She has become a very close friend has been our lifeline. She drove us to the airport at the far end of Naha to get a sim card for our phone so we finally have expensive wifi. $55 for 3.2 gb with a 30 day expiration date.
And between my sister managing our legal affairs and good friend in Tokyo who wired us enough money to last for a couple of months, we no longer need the $45 cab ride – one way- to withdraw cash from the only 7-11 ATM machine in Okinawa. Amazing!

So here we are, we hugged our dear friends with tearful goodbyes with hope of meeting again, riding our terrific folding bikes all over town, we’ve finished our paperwork, caught up on making google earth charts for the fishing ports between here and Kyushu, and waiting for this small low front to move off. We and LeOuistiti are headed for the Kerama islands about 35 miles off the west coast of Okinawa, a World heritage park also known as the “blue water” islands.

We are scheduled to haul out in Nagasaki May 15 for 2 weeks for a much needed bottom paint, rebed some leaky through hull valves, wood work and general maintenance to get our lovely Konami back to her grand state. Dione went to Chichi Jima, north of the Marianas. We will meet up with them in the Nagasaki boat yard painting side by side, and continue together from there.
And by the way, the harbor master said he heard from other Japanese sailors that the Westsail boat is the best boat for traveling around the world, it can go anywhere, safely.

Amazing, AMAZING Sail Across the Equator!

It was a hasty departure out of Tuvalu, sooner than we had anticipated but the cyclone season was growing closer and we had already endured a few bouncy, wet, anchor rides. We took turns watching the anchor drag alarm, poking our heads out to watch the lightening and listen to the wind howl through the rigging.

The weather to the north was changing daily. We were watching the weather grib forecasts and the SPCZ was showing up on the forecast with large black blotches of heavy rain headed back our way. As the SPCZ moves northward it also pushes the ITCZ allowing an easier passage across the equator. It’s similar to crossing a 4 lane highway, as the traffic passes by from your left, get ready to run for the median and wait for the opposite traffic to pass by in order to get across the the second half. We realized we had only a day to ready the boat, post a quick blog and check out before the weather rapidly deteriorated and overtake our path to the north. Go when the going is good!

Monday morning we launched the dinghy and headed to immigration and custom to clear out by 9:00 a.m. Mmphm, so much for being early. A tuna trawler had arrived on Sunday evening and got the clearance priority slot so we were forced to wait for an “after lunch” opening. About 11:00 we went back just to see if any of the Immigration officers had come back earlier. Well he was in and rather annoyed that he had to come out of his office and actually perform a task. I believe he gets paid. With departure stamps in our passports we dinghied up to the port office – about a couple miles up the shoreline – to meet with Customs for outbound clearance papers. He was still out on the fishing trawler and not expected back til after lunch. Darn. We happened to be speaking with a Customs import agent and asked her if there was a place we could wait and perhaps get some lunch. Nope, nothing around. Then just as we started to walk away she asked if John knew how to operate a motor scooter. She handed us the keys and offered her personal scooter. We’re foreigners, having met only 10 minutes prior, and here she is very kindly, and happily obliging a foreigner. We were astounded by her generosity and trust! Who and in what other country would offer their personal vehicle to a total stranger? We offered to buy her a lunch, and with many thanks we accepted her scooter. John gave her a liter of gas money and she reluctantly accepted it. We drove 3 miles back into Fongafele. A quick lunch in a “Chinese” restaurant (a dose of Imodium on the side) and drove back just in time as the Customs officer had arrived at the dock and was preparing to leave for his lunch hour. He very graciously completed our clearance. God’s be good, it was our lucky day!

Cleared out, dinghy packed, final boat checks, we made haste. Weighed anchor and headed for the northern 2 mile pass just in time for the slack low tide over a 1/2 mile wide reef with 28′ of chartered water under us. It’s a little gut wrenching to see deep, blue water transition to an emerald green in less than a minute, and see the breaking waves on both sides of the reef. We took turns watching the depth sounder, looked over the side at the passing reef and counted off the distance in 1/4 mile increments according to the chartplotter. Once the depth sounder reached a steady 35′ depth reading and could see the blue water ahead of us we actually breathed a little easier. Looked back and said good bye to Tuvalu.

The first 18 hours was a smooth glassy motor ride. The grib forecast was spot on, a rarity! We welcomed the smooth ride for once but not wanting to burn the diesel since this was a 700 mile leg and the fumes intolerable, we were very pleased to shut down and had full sails up in light winds the following evening nearly 80 miles to the north. We looked back and watched the threatening cumulonimbus (thunder storm cloud streets) build and seemingly chase us. Yes, in fact, they were chasing us. Oh come on winds!

The second day out we were sailing in 15 knots on the beam with 2-3 meter seas, all the sails were up. A great sail despite the side rolling. By late afternoon we were caught in the “squash zone”. This is the air mass between the SPCZ and the ITCZ that gets compressed as the zones push and bump against each other. The wind immediately picked up to 20 knots on the beam. Not too uncomfortable down below but enough that I didn’t attempt to cook. The first couple of days we tend not to eat a lot anyway so no big deal. Sandwiches, fruit, crackers, ginger ale.

It always happens when I’m asleep and John is on watch. For a brief hour, black tendrils dropped out of the quick building cumulonimbus street and pounced on us. 30 knot winds blew, the ocean became a menacing dark blue with white foamy waves all around. I stood up on the lazerette to see farther out to the east. Blackened sky was rapidly approaching with driving rain, the ocean was nearly white with breaking waves. John went forward to put a 3rd reef in the mailsail, having already furled in some of the Yankee. The staysail was fortunately already reefed. We watched our boat speed increase to well over 7 knots, and then we began to surf at 8.5 knots. John still working on the reefing decided to drop the main. Good call. We furled more of the Yankee to a small triangle and we held onto the stainless steel lifelines as the boat heeled well over to port slurping up water. Water repeatedly gushed down the side deck and trickled over the cockpit seating. One good thing about sailing in the South Pacific, it’s hot and we generally sail in our underwear. We learned our lesson coming across from Mexico, don’t bother with clothing unless you want to deal with loads of wet salty clothes down below. And then it passed, over and done with. The front moved off just as quickly as it came on leaving behind 15 knots of good wind on the beam but 2-3 meter waves remained. With that much wind and boat speed dropping to 5.5 knots due to the waves we moved along with full sails once again, just enough that we could walk on the floor, but the pitching and rolling was very annoying.

The miles ticked away and each passing day it just got better. The sun was out filling the battery banks. The wind steadied from the East, mostly 12 – 15 knots, with full sails hoisted. We came up the leeward side of the Southern Gilbert island chain and the waves disappeared. The glassy ocean allowed us to sail with light winds in the moonless nights with such smoothness that we couldn’t tell that the boat was actually moving. There is no sound of splashing as the boat glides over the top of the water. It’s one of those rare moments in sailing where there is no distinction between your body and the boat. A magical, whispering motion, the boat speed is known by the intensity of sound as water passes by the rudder. You can feel the strength of the sails gently pulling, the feel of the helm, the smell of ocean, cool and refreshing wind on your face, your mind and body at total rest with the power of sails and wind. You lose track of time and only the stars moving across the horizon reminds you that you’re not stationary. Four days of bliss and peace.

Saturday, Nov 5 – 4:03 p.m. we crossed the equator – no longer shell backs.img_1115 Awww, feeling a little saddened that we may not pass this way again. We toasted Neptune with a full bottle of rum. We felt guilty that it was an awful tasting rum that was distilled in Moorea.img_1103 Burnt sugar with a strong taste of turpentine, totally unpalatable. We brought out the bourbon, made another toast to Neptune and enjoyed a shot ourselves. So many more adventures in the North Pacific are coming.

Part of the sailing challenge includes trying to time a passage so that the departure from and entry to a pass is near perfect relative to tide and current, and daylight hours only in a reef atoll. We made new calculations every 3 hours the last 24 hours of the passage. The distance to go divided by average boat speed, factored the wind +/- velocity, crossed our fingers for good measure and hoped for sustained wind to keep us going. Not exactly scientific given the various elements. We calculated a sail vs engine for an arrival time of 3:00 p.m at the latest to the Tarawa pass, anchored and sundowners in hand by 5:00 p.m. Well, so far we haven’t been successful mostly due to uncooperative weather, not due to the lack of sailing skill.

Sunday, Nov 6, sixth day out. A 17 mile span of ocean lies between the islands of southern Tarawa and northern Maiana. The ocean floor depth rises to about 800 feet below the ocean surface and on either side of this 800 feet lies depths of over 12,000 feet. Imagine a giant dam between the two islands and the tremendous amount of water that flows over that dam with tide, eddies and current all influenced by the moon and wind. The wind lightened in the early morning hours as we began the crossing. The adverse current was pushing us west of Tarawa, our distance made good to destination dropped to 1.5 knots. We ghosted along on calm water constantly trimming the sails and tiller windvane. At about 10:30 a.m the wind nearly died, we had another 17 miles to go and the arrival time at the pass was looking to be 8:30 p.m.

Choices: arrive at dark and stand off for 10 exhausting hours.

Second choice: Time to motor.

Let me say, nothing goes to plan, don’t ever expect it and you won’t be disappointed.

John opened the rear lazeratte hatch, reached down and began to turn the engine exhaust valve. He turned the handle once, then it began to spin. It’s an the old gate valve and what came apart in his hand? “Oh, it’s made with an “acme” screw, and it’s stripped” stated matter of factly while holding up a knob attached to a spike of bright twisted bronze.

My interpretation: “Oh, it’s a ‘We’re screwed’ screw” .   The nice way of saying it here. My heart firmly attaching itself to my lower gut.

The Exhaust Thru-Hull Valve: The engine exhaust hose comes off the back of the engine and is connected to a through hull valve embedded in a bronze housing. The entire assembly is in the side of the boat that is suppose to open allowing exhaust to escape while the engine is running. In the closed position it prevents the sea water from flowing in when the engine isn’t running.

Layman’s explanation. You gotta go real bad but there is a needless “out of order” sign indicating on the obliviously plugged toilet.

Examining the options: John got out the screwdriver to pry it open from the outside. No Joy. Next came the hammer and chisel thinking he could possibly force the gate open. Leaning out over the side of the boat he tapped and grunted. Hrumpff.

Next option: Disassemble the entire through hull but that would leave a hole in the side of the boat and the exhaust hose couldn’t be connected to a gaping 2″ hole. I looked at the life raft.

My first option: launch the dinghy with 5 hp motor and have it ready to pull or push us as we try to sail the channel. But with the wind on our nose, a long narrow channel through the maze of reef and coral bommies lurking under the surface I wasn’t sure the dinghy motor would be able to keep up. Maybe we could hail the Tarawa harbor master and have a fishing panga tow us in.  Second option: Continue sailing to the Marshall Islands another 400 miles until John came up with a fix.

John is really smart though, and he’s always calm and nonchalant, “it’s not a worry, I’ll fix it”. With a kiss for reassurance.

He removed the packing, (the handle was already off), drilled and tapped a hole into the bronze valve then screwed the appropriate sized bolt into it. Grabbed the bolt with vise gripes and removed only the special valve leaving the housing in the ‘open’ position and allow the exhaust hose to remain attached. Why the manufacturer used an “Acme” bolt is beyond me. We now have a wooden plug on the outside of the boat to keep water from coming in when the engine is off. (We won’t sink) Very clever, that guy. An hour later he started the engine and we motored up the west coast of Tarawa atoll.

5 full days of perfect sailing; 18 hours of engine time out of Tuvalu;  4 hours getting around Tarawa and to the anchorage

The boat hummed along the 700 miles on the same tack, with only the one exciting hour of sail dousing, and tweaks of sails the remaining days.

We entered the pass at 2:00 p.m, an hour motor through the winding channel and by 3:00 we dropped anchor in 45′ of water amongst large steel skeletons, floating Asian fish canneries and rusty old wrecks on the reef.

Tired but still pumped with adrenaline we tidied the cabin, hung up the sunshades and gave our ritual high five, hugs and kisses for our AMAZING sail across the equator.

And yes, thanks for the emails, we did in fact see the incredible Super Moon.  An incredible view with a clear sky and billions of stars.   And it was on my birthday, perhaps a fortuitous year ahead.

Hello! How are You?!!

Summer is winding down in the states. We hope you had a wonderful summer,  the Fall Equinox  is around the corner. Our favorite time of year!

We’ve been asked the same question from our families and friends since we’ve been in American Samoa – “What’s Up?”  We’ve had several passage plans written in the sand, completed the chart downloads and sent off the country applications only to be washed away by the ongoing waves. Fiji timing came and went, Tonga destination is still under consideration, waiting to see what the weather and the timing of the cyclone season brings us.

So what else are we doing? Wellll, it’s pretty boring stuff working on the boat. We’ve gone through the entire boat cleaning sails, lines, polishing the stainless steel, digging through lazarettes. Cleaning the mold growing on the cabin interior, drawers, shoes and clothing; the humidity here is 99%, just shy of dripping off the ceiling. Discarded galley items we deemed useless, moldy books, old ratty and new clothes that are too hot to wear, bits of this and that. It’s truly amazing we filled several boxes and hauled it off the boat. The goal is to be able to sleep in our v-berth while in port, the salon bed is pretty cozy for the two of us on a regular basis. We spent 3 days between cleaning the dinghy bottom covered with algae and fouled with nasty green growth, and re-sewing the chewed up dinghy chaps. We scraped and polished it back to new.

The 3 year old 250’ anchor chain nearly corroded through a couple of links from using a stainless steel snubber hook, fortunately John caught that when we moved to the dock. Really bad news – it was in the middle of the chain. John cut out the rusty links and pounded in a joining link, took him about 2 hours in the hot sun on the dock using a ballpeen hammer and piece of steel. We used some bad advice cutting off 50’ of the new chain before we left Portland to reduce the bow weight. Next time we’ll bring a regular hammer too.

We purchased a lot of boat spares and routine maintenance items from home and had those delivered via USPS. And as always, one small routine maintenance turns out to be an add-on to some other issue that needs attention. The electric bilge pump gave out, the raw waterpump couldn’t be fixed, and the new laptop wouldn’t boot, and 3 of the Renogy flexible solar panels stopped working, along with several other typical maintenance items that are necessary to maintain a great sailing boat. A lot of island time, swearing and ranting, head scratching, and a flattened wallet, all is now taken care of.

So on to the good parts. We’ve done a 9 mile hike across the island ridgetop, hiked up to the refreshing waterfall,img_3392

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and had one day of snorkeling and feasting at a famous place called Tisa’s. We enjoyed the traditional Samoan Umu roast during the August Sturgeon full moon.img_3418

First the fire is built above ground, rocks are added, then layers of green banana leaves are laid on top. The meat and fish are wrapped in banana leaves, layers of taro root, pumpkin squash, and bananas are added;  tuna and octopus roasted in husked coconut shells,img_3425 with more layers of leaves and left to steam for several hours. Great food and fun with other cruisers.

John installed a cockpit table, it is wonderful to sit outside and eat at a table or work on the computers. It swivels 360 degrees on a swing arm and has adjustable height.  img_0875We purchased the same Lagun swivel arm and bracket mount that our friends on SV Sababa has. Thanks Tim and Lindsey for the great idea! The table is removable when underway.

Am Sam is a wonderful relaxing place to hang out, and the term “island time” really originated from this place. The family owned buses are on their own schedule, the food comes out when it is finally ready (and cold), even the airport is laid back. People are in no rush to be anywhere in particular.

There are several unpleasant facets to this island. I’m on my soapbox now. Trash is one of the biggest complaints. They just don’t seem to care enough. Styrofoam containers are used on top of serving plates, plastic utensils and cups are used – there isn’t a water shortage for cleaning, they just like the disposable system. The wind blows it all away.

The portion sizes are mind boggling! I asked for a $3.50 sundae, I got nearly a quart of ice cream topped with chocolate syrup, cherries, and whipped cream all overflowing from the container.img_20160909_125951 Of course it was served in a Styrofoam container on a plate layered with waxed paper. We stopped for a “quick” burger lunch the other day. A giant bun, ½ pound of meat, cheese, no lettuce available, large portion of crispy fires, a large scoop of macaroni salad and a coke. I overstuffed myself with 1/3 of the lunch. “Skinny Pelangy” (pelangy means white person) as John has been called by several people did manage to eat his entire meal but he needs to eat. The lady next to us ate her entire meal and shouldn’t have. It’s no wonder these people have the highest obesity rate in the world as they continue to gorge and enlarge; and they’re on our healthcare system! PUT DOWN THAT DAMN FORK! The poor kids are built like little building blocks with bags of chips and soft drinks glued to their sides. Boycott McDonalds, Carl’s Jr, Coke, Pepsi, and any other junk food producers. Tax the hell out of junk food.

If it wasn’t for the humidity, lousy anchorage and bugs, and expensive commute back to the states, we’d consider calling Am Samoa home 4 months out of the year. We enjoy the beautiful island and friendly community, the bus system, hiking, and limited shopping.

The timing of our projects and washed away sailing plans all worked out though. Our son is getting married in Maui this week so we flew in yesterday. It’s a nice vacation sitting here in the rented air conditioned condo with a comfy couch, king bed that doesn’t roll from side to side, 2 bathrooms with lots of  hot water, a regular oven, full size upright refrigerator with ice cubes pouring out, and neighbors who knocked on our door to hand over 3 bags of food including a large bottle of vodka. We’re taking advantage of the fast-fast wifi to update the new computer, complete more downloads of the North Pacific region for our upcoming journey.

Wonder if we’ll make Tonga, we’ll keep you posted. I promise!

Bora Bora to Suwarrow July 7 – July 15

Our passage was 700 miles, it should have taken us 5-6 days, 7 at most if we had very light winds. The first two days were very boisterous sailing conditions.  The wind was up to 25 kts and the seas kicked up to over 3 meters from the SE, breaking over our port quarter across the stern. At times we saw 10.7 kts on the speed log as we surfed down some of the larger waves. We had a triple reefed mainsail, reefed staysail and reefed Yankee down to 70% and sailed with a nice balance on the helm. We sailed 147 miles the first day despite the breaking waves. By the third day the SE wind lightened up and we cruised along at 130 miles a day, felt much better, our appetites had returned and got into a sleep pattern that gave us enough rest.

We had two glorious days and nights of velvety sailing, 15 kts of SSW steady wind, with mostly flat seas. The days were were spent reading and basking in the shaded cockpit watching the 1 meter seas roll by with full sails pulling us along at an easy 6 kts. By 8:00 p.m. the moon had already set allowing a full sky of stars and the intensely bright southern Milky Way.   The southern cross normally highly visible blended into the backdrop of the star maze. We even had a small meteor shower for a few hours. As tired as we were we couldn’t stop watching the night  sky.

On one of the fine sailing days, John looked out to the port side and jumped up as we watched a large 24″ diameter counter with solar power drift next to the boat. It was that same instant he looked back behind the boat to see that it was tethered to a large 6′ X 6′ floating 2″ tubular steel frame with net and buoy balls. It was a fish attraction shade, the counter sends a GPS coordinate to the fishing boats informing them the quantity of fish in the area. We had sailed directly over the top of it!  All we can say is we are so grateful for our full keel boat and the keel guard cover plate between the rudder and hull. Had we been a fin keel it could have wrapped around the fin,rudder and or propellor. Also we were sailing and the propellor wasn’t in danger of over wrap. Our lucky, lucky day! Later at anchor we were to see that our bottom paint was totally stripped off in a 3″ wide stripe from the cut water fitting (a fitting that holds the bow sprit to the hull of the boat) to the rudder. John barked at me to let go of the fishing hand line I was trying to save. I lost my lucky, favorite fish hand line, it hooked the net and took everything with a huge yanking snap. Better to lose the line than my fingers.

Alas, the weather constantly changes and we saw from our daily weather satellite and wind forecasts that a very large trough was moving on an easterly course,  well to our south, driving 40-45 kts of wind and large, tall seas  from Fiji to the Society Islands, Fr. Polynesia. We listened on the radio net to the group of boats bound for Tonga as they approached the front. We felt concerned for them but they were well seasoned sailors with good sturdy boats, at most they would lose their appetites and have a couple of sleepless nights.  We knew we wouldn’t get the full brunt of its fury as we were headed in a  more NW direction but wind and seas that large in strength have long tentacles. The wind picked up right on our NW  nose, 20-25 kts with short 6′ waves 3-5 seconds apart, looked like a giant washboard as we leapt and crashed over each white, angry wave. We were being pounded. The boat smashed bow down hard into the troughs, jarring every bone in our bodies, clanging dishes, books, and seat cushions were thrashing around down below. Walls of sea water splashed back well over the dodger and Bimini – (the sun cover over the cockpit), water was running down the walkways in a steady stream. We were drenched, there was no sitting down in the pools of water rushing down into our cockpit seating. The only saving grace – it wasn’t too cold and we didn’t need sunglasses.
We were close hauled – boat pointed as close to the wind direction as possible, headed in a  more NW direction. The sails were working as hard as they could, we were making only 1 kt of headway. We tried falling off the wind (point the boat in a different direction) but there were only 2 options: go south into stronger winds and bigger seas or go north away from our destination where the wind and seas weren’t any better. We started the engine and decided to motor to get through the front as quickly as possible. Mm-hmm, plans are wonderful fantasies! The first hour we bashed and crashed into the waves. The bow dipped, the stern rose up, growled as the propeller cavitation beat the water into a white foamy froth.  The second hour we called out “UNCLE”!  With 2000 rpm and sails, we were making only 2 kts of headway! Normally 2000 rpm will push us along at 5-6 kts, but not this day. A quick calculation said we would burn through all of our fuel in the remaining 119 miles of  our trip. Suwarrow Island doesn’t have fuel or provisioning supplies and there was another 450 mile leg to go after Suwarrow. Exhausted, hungry, achey, sticky with sea water, we shut the engine down and hove to -sails on opposite sides of the mast to stop forward motion and keeps the bow pointing toward the the waves.

Immediately the calm settled over us, relieved,  we shed our wet underwear and hid down below for nearly 23 hours. The wind and seas never took a break, the wind howled through the rigging as the wind and waves pushed us backwards nearly 57 miles! At noon the next day we looked at the conditions,  determined to gain back our distance we tried to sail due north. It took us 8 hours as we motor sailed 55 miles back to our original hove to position. Determination and logic dont always produce the desired results when you’re dealing with Mother Nature. We shut down and hove to again for another 12 hours. At 5:00 a.m. The wind had died down, we released the sails and slowly sailed at 3.5 kts towards Suwarrow. By noon the wind gradually picked back up to a steady 15 kts and we had a marvelous 20 hour sail to the welcoming entrance of Suwarrow.

Suwarrow Island : Atoll. Part of the northern Cook Islands, governed by New Zealand. Very remote atoll, only one entrance on the NE side. The wind was still blowing at 15 kts when we furled the headsails. The current wanted to push us closer to the reef so we carried a little extra speed and had the mainsail ready to rehoist should anything happen to the engine.  We monitored  both the Garmin chartplotter and I-Sailor app on the IPad to navigate over the reefs and winding channel, both systems were spot on. Not too bad, just pay attention.
Suwarrow selfie
The largest island known as Anchorage island is less than 1/2 mile across, about 2-3 miles in diameter. A Small anchorage is in front of the island in the atoll, but can hold as many as 20 boats before the anchorage becomes over 100′ deep.  SuwarrowThe finely crushed coral beach entices you to heaven with mature coconut trees overhanging the lagoon, shady areas along the beach have comfortable weather worn benches, a fire pit for bbqs, a large hammock made from fishing net, mountains of fascinating, colorful shells draw your attention to the ground, giant hermit crabs walk along unafraid. Aside from the wind blowing in the trees, ocean waves crashing on the distant reefs, the birds whooping in mid air,  there are no other sounds.
Suwarrow anchorage
There are several other small islands within the lagoon but due to the fragile ecosystem, it is no longer permissible to dinghy out to the other tiny  Motus/islands. Scuba diving has also been disallowed. We arrived amongst the company of 2 other boats, one of which followed us out of Bora Bora but because of the boat size, steel, tall freeboard bow and hull, large engine carrying 1,000 liters of fuel was able to motor the entire way. But despite Morild’s advantages, they were also delayed 24 hours to Suwarrow. We didn’t feel like such wieners after talking to them.

Harry and Pai, the very friendly Customs and Immigration officers radioed us and gave us a better location for anchoring than we had chosen. We motored to the back of the other 2 boats, dropped anchor in 55 feet, mostly bommie  free, white sand, with the usual welcoming committee of no less than 6 sharks circling us as we shutdown. We barely had time to get the cabin back in presentable order, put on some clothes and throw out the fenders before they arrived in their 20′ aluminum skiff. This was a first for us- not even in formal Mexico, Fr. Poly were we boarded. The inspection, fumigation – an aerosol can of bug killer sprayed through the air for 15 seconds, paperwork, payment of $50 took an hour. The only eyebrow raising was the fact we were carrying 24 cans of beer in addition to the abundant quantity of other spirits. HArry was very excited to receive a six pack to lighten our stores in exchange for 5 pounds of freshly caught yellow fin tuna.

Harry and Pai had gone fishing earlier that morning and caught 7, very beautiful  rainbow runner fish. I believe they may be part of the tuna family. About 26″ in length, weighing nearly 5 pounds each, Harry roasted them over the open BBQ pit. They served rice with coconut curry sauce while the yachties brought the other potluck food. A fabulous way to end a long tough sail, on a remote island with less than a dozen people, sitting under the stars, with a cooling breeze flowing across the lagoon. We carved out trenches in the sand, chose the biggest hermit crabs and had a humorous race watching the silly crabs claw their way forward. It was a truly magical evening on a very mystical island.
That day was worth every muscle ache, salty faced grimace and foul language moment, the sailing days we dream of, the idyllic anchorages and people, and why we continue on through the often times, ill tempered ocean.

The 5 days we spent in Suwarrow were spent paddle boarding and snorkeling across massive coral bommies  teeming with damsel fish, schools of multi colored parrot fish, other unidentifiable colorful  reef fish, strange looking eel creature, and sharks. One day the torrential rain blew in, we showered on deck, captured 25 gallons of rainwater, and hung our swimsuits out for the fresh water rinse. That felt really good as we had to conserve our fresh water for the next leg of the journey.
We lucked out and got to see the manta ray that come in for their 7:00 a.m. early morning cleaning. Small parasitic fish swim on top of the manta ray eating the algae and harmful parasites. We were fortunate, the other boats missed them. Unfortunately the 4′ grey shark took a special interest in my mass despite my growling and waving of limbs to make myself look bigger. Ooh, warm breakfast: rolls and ham hocks on that frame. I confined myself to the dinghy while John bravely continued to film the ray.
One day we had 15 black tip sharks circling the boat, rather a creepy feeling to watch their beady little eyes. They weren’t interested in my swishing fingers to get a close up picture.

The path to the north side of island is dense through the coconut trees, underbrush and mangrove bush. We fed the tuna skin and bone remains to the sharks in ankle deep water. It didn’t take long to have 6-7 sharks snapping and thrashing to catch the tasty morsels.  Hoping to see from where we sailed, we unfortunately were besieged with enormous amounts of trash. Here stretches the human impact on the  planet.  Plastic in every form from our highly civilized existence. John collected 7 toothbrushes within a 10 foot stretch of beach. Bottles, shoes, rope, netting, toys, everything and anything. Such a tragedy to see what we are leaving behind in our wake of free will and reign over the fish and mammals. We hung our heads in shame and silently circumnavigated the reef back to the lagoon.

We took pictures of the famous cabin and Living improvements that Tom Neale built during his stay alone on the island during 1957. Suwarrow RangersThe Rangers currently  live in an open A frame “house” complete with generator, lights and a freezer for their 7 month stay on the island. The kitchen is a separate area with some shelves for stores, dishes and a 2 burner propane camp stove. Their beds are in the open air, the picnic style table and benches share the same space. They catch rain water from the gutters, filing a 500 gallon cistern. When it rains they pull down the tarps that are nailed to the frame. A very simple, often times lonely existence – monitor the boats that are anchored and fish for their food.
Nothing else grows on the island except breadfruit and coconut. The coconut crabs are illegal to eat and fishing in the lagoon is prohibited. A good thing as it attracts the larger gray sharks.

As we checked out we left our departing gifts to our hosts.  A dozen eggs, 2 pampelmousse, and 2 additional beers. We were sad to leave this magnificent place, so pristine and different from south Fakarava.

The sail to American Samoa, a touch of home for the homesick sailors is next.

Some photos from Marqueses

diane on spiriton horses HOHorse riding on Hiva Oa along the mountain top. Overlooking the anchorage. 15 kilometer ride on “Spirit” – Diane’s horse, and “Wallis” – John’s fast horse. Highly spirited horses from Chilean decent. Exhilarating, scary, down muddy jungle canyons and steep ridge tops. Horses were very sure-footed and loved to gallop.

John trying to reign Wallis for the photo almost backed him of the edge.

 

 

 

drum at churchWe rented a 4×4 for a day with buddy boat Athanor. We stopped at a village church and wandered into a vacant classroom. Loved the drum at the head of the class. It had an amazing rich sound.

 

After getting lost and driving all over Hiva Oa, it turned into a quest to find the “Smiling Tiki”. smiling tikiLate in the day after talking to a few different locals, we finally found the right trail. We missed a fork in the trail and walked through ankle deep muck to end up at a pig farm. Backtracked one more time and found it just before dark.