Date: November 1, 2007
Location: 9 deg 21 min S, 143 deg 48 min E at 1200
Woo hoo, less than 100 nm miles to go! Okay, we're at 99.29.nm, still, that's less than 100nm. We made it around the top of the reef and the big rollers are gone. It's weird to be going 6-7 kts and only pitching and rolling a little. We came in this channel via Bligh Entrance. Yes, named for THAT Bligh. After seeing the movie Bounty, we're picturing Anthony Hopkins in his longboat with the demoralized crew. We think that they stumbled into this channel when they were about ready to chuck Pollyana Bligh overboard. At least he was being hearty and encouraging in the film. Anthony Hopkins did not have to do without, so his Bligh could afford to be Mr. Sunshine, in a manly way of course. We hadn't been in the channel for very long when a plane flew overhead at about 150 ft. The kids were very excited. They also saw dolphins. The little guys. And then Alex heard our VHF crackle into life, "Sailing vessel Safner, sailing vessel Safner this is blah-blah-blah customs aircraft that just flew over you." The kids were impressed. I want a pair of whatever binocs they had to read our name, however incorrectly, from their moving airplane. Because they said it wrong says to me that they read it off our transom and didn't get our name from the paperwork we've submitted. Alex had a lovely chat with the lady who called us, and the lady said she'd let Thursday Island know we are on our way. And we were reminded not to get off the boat. Of course we won't get off the boat. We won't be able to move because we've stuffed ourselves full of all the food we think they'll take in the name of the Australian greater good.
Date: October 31, 2007
Location: 9 deg 57 min S, 146 deg 20 min E at 1200
Trick or Treat! All my talk of sending the kids around to all the hatches to collect goodies came to naught. I even had a package of gummie fruit to offer instead of my threatened crispy flying fish. The only ones trick-or-treating on the boat today were the bears. We've been rescuing the flying fish that make it onto the deck lately, so I didn't actually have any sun-dried goodies for the bears. We palmed them off with a can of sardines. I wonder if the quarantine guys in Australia will take my canned tuna. I've spent too much time being a Catholic. You can't have meat on Fridays during Lent but you can have fish. So I've decided that means fish isn't meat. I'll let you know what the officials on Thursday Island think.
We're still making good time. Today we went past the Eastern Fields. I kept humming Strawberry Fields Forever... And we are close to the top of the Great Barrier Reef. Again, I'm reminded of something else, in this case I've been running Captain Ron dialogue in my head.Ron = Crashed on a reef once, off Australia. Huge Sucker ran the whole coast. Kitty = You mean the Great Barrier Reef? Ron = Hey, you've heard of it. Smart lady. Maybe we should pop a huge bowl of popcorn (I heard the officials take that too) and watch Captain Ron.
And a Ha-Ha anniversary note, it's been a year. Wonder what the next group is doing. Heck, look where we've all made it. I think in honor of the Ha-Ha we need to run a variety of our lights tonight. Popcorn, movie, light pastiche and gummies, it's a party. Boooooooooo.
Date: October 30, 2007
Location: 11 deg 16 min S, 148 deg 41 min E at 1200
Today we found some wind. And we have a new Geoff-ism, "Life is better at 6 knots." We've actually been going into the mid to low 7 knot range. Get out the brushes and paint me happy. Almost. Our collective joy would know no bounds if only the rolling would stop. The kids just let themselves roll from one side of their bunk to the other. My sleeping strategy is to lay across the width of the bed. While that does stop me from rolling side to side, sometimes I feel like I am standing on my head. At 6 or 7 knots we'll get in sooner, even if it is DDW.
Date: October 29, 2007
Location: 12 deg 17 min S, 151 deg 07 min E at 1200
Geoff is working on a theory. The Indian Ocean is actually higher than the Pacific Ocean and empties into the Pacific Ocean right above Australia. All that water then spills out along and away from the coast. His theory explains the counter-current we are experiencing. I like it. I think after spotting our one ship yesterday we are becoming more attuned to their presence. We went wild last night and ran the radar. Geoff found 5 ships. I was so excited by the entire radar experience that I MARPAed a squall. At least I think it was a squall. It appeared out of nowhere on the chart plotter. I targetted it. RayMarine said it was going at 55.7 kts. What??! After a while it just disappeared. I never saw the thing. Either it was a squall and Ray was messing with my mind, or it was an air-craft carrier and some Navy was messing with my mind. This afternoon I watched a ship (it was grey, could be military) appear to change course to come over and check us out. I don't think it was going 55.7 kts. It only came so close, turned around, and then sat. We moved on. It could be sitting there still. Maybe it was an advance scout for tonight's bit of weirdness. I'm getting nostalgic for boobys.
Date: October 28, 2007
Location: 13 deg 00 min S, 153 deg 07 min E at 1200
Today we were passed by a large, car carrier/ship. We have the whole ocean to play with and we came within a mile of each other. We watched him steaming along and getting closer and steaming along and getting closer and finally couldn't take the suspense a minute longer. We called him on the VHF. At least he answered pretty quick. Someone was awake on board. Yes, he saw us and he would alter his course to avoid us. And that was all. I need to work on chatting up these tanker guys. I understand we are getting close to a major shipping area and there will be more of them in my near future. I could enjoy new conversations and making new tanker guy friends. I need to get over being intimidated by how large the tankers are, they have crew on them who put on their foul weather gear the same way I do, one leg at a time.
October 27, 2007
Location: 13 deg 45 min S, 155 deg 14 min E at 1200
Today is Geoff's birthday. I decided that taking night watches for birthday celebrants is an excellent tradition to continue, so we let Geoff sleep. The kids woke up early to help cover his sunrise watch. Alex baked cinnamon bread. The three of them gathered around the computer, all set to watch our 4-movie disc of "Aliens" films. I decided I would stay out in the cockpit and watch for ships and play with the cross-track error. How noble of me. What a pity that the disc turned out to be bad. That's the only one that was not good from the bunch we bought in Fiji. They watched "Starship Troopers" instead. In English today, maybe next time in French. The girls are planning to make ham and pineapple and mashed potatoes for dinner. Alex is baking a strawberry cake. And maybe we'll break out some chocolate too.
Here's a good thought from John Masefield for Geoff's day, and hopefully yours too.
I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by...
Date: October 26, 2007
Location: 14 deg 25 min S, 157 deg 12 min E at 1200
Today was sunny but we spent the afternoon doggedly heading straight for a cloud. Now we are under it. Hhmmm. I don't think it has ill intent. I can't detect any obvious rain. I'll wait and reserve judgment until night watch.
We turned on our MP3 player and we are listening to Bill Cosby routines. Either the humor holds up well or we all need more sleep because we are laughing out loud. I'm especially fond of his God/Noah conversations. Riiiiiight.
Date: October 25, 2007
Location: 15 deg 12 min S, 159 deg 34 min E at 1200
Hhmmm, how did I neglect to mention where we are going? Right now we are heading to Thursday Island (northern Australia) via the Torres Straight. After Thursday Island we plan to stop in East Timor and then on to Bali. If everything stays calm, we plan to go the traditional route up the east side of Indonesia from Singapore to Thailand. We are anxious to put some distance between us and the cyclone season's preferred breeding grounds. Today was another sunny day. The wind is back to coming from directly behind us, but if it's sunny I can deal with the rolling better. And, get your hands poised to knock wood as I commit this next event to writing, the current has turned to work for us instead of against us. The kids decided it would be fun to watch their movies in French. They claim this practice will help them with their pronunciation. Today the featured film was "Sahara." They learned that Al Giordino's phrase "Hi, how are ya" translated to "Salut, comment ca va." Um, it sounds kind of polite in French. They also learned the French translation for "African War Zone, ship of death." I'd like to see them work that one into casual conversation.
Date: October 24, 2007
Location: 15 deg 50 min S, 161 deg 35 min E at 1200
Another day of sun. Yippee. The wind is dying though. I have mixed feelings about that one. I want to move, but I don't like hanging on to something with every step. Half a yip then. Last night we acquired a passenger. Somewhere before midnight on Geoff's watch a bird landed on the solar panels. This guy was a grey something that was not a booby. Geoff made a couple of half-hearted attempts to dislodge him. The bird just stared back at him. Geoff let him be. Geoff was a little tired when we changed watches and he neglected to mention our guest to me. I was a little tired when I came on watch and it took me an hour to notice the bird. I've had been trying all day to hunt down the source of a noise. I would hear the noise and start looking for what was making it and then the noise would stop. I had just finished another unsuccessful noise hunt and sat down on the driver's seat. As I was examining the instruments a loud squawk erupted from the solar panels. My first thought was that I had a new noise to investigate. I slowly turned around. I wasn't in any hurry to discover what could make solar panels sound like that. I stood up and inched my way over to the closer edge of the solar panel. I stood on tiptoe and looked into the baleful eye of our feathered free-loader. Apparently I had disturbed him. I kept an eye on him. At one point he was making all sorts of gyrations and I was sure he was preparing to expire right there and then. My heart was wrung. No one should die alone in the dark. I was going to be there for him. I crept back to the solar panel. The bird was preening. So much for compassion. The bird finished his toilet and stuck his head under his wing and spent the rest of my watch asleep, tail bobbing for balance in time with the waves.
Date: October 23, 2007
Location: 16 deg 38 min S, 163 deg 49 min E at 1200
Yesterday was a bad day all around. There were grey clouds as far as the eye could see in any direction. A 360 degree panorama of impending rain. Then one thing after another went wrong. Little things, big things, some day I'll enummerate them all, but not today, the experience is still too close to relive. Most of the crew had meltdowns. Okay, I'll share a few of the things. Alex wanted to make muffins but added an extra cup of water to the batter. As no one was in the mood to figure out a way to salvage the batter, we dumped it. Geoff had to deal with cranky gear (and crew). It rained all day. Claire ended up helping change sails in the dark and rain. The boat rolled constantly but not consistently. I stayed outside all day because going below wasn't good. The wind started to change direction, so we ended up heading west last night and ended up 10 miles off our desired course. And there's a mean counter-current out here too. As I said, overall yuck.
Ah, but today the sun came out and things have been looking up. Geoff got the engine to spit water properly and the refrigerator to behave. We tacked and can now lay our course to the waypoint. Having the wind so we could sail close hauled (and now beam reach as it shifts) meant the rolling was waaaaay down. I am below typing this e-mail. Claire got a shower. Both kids are reading novels for school. Alex is going to make mashed potatoes with hamburger gravy for dinner. And we broke out some chocolate. I hate to be greedy and ask for more, but I could wish for the positive to continue. Like, maybe the current could come around and work for us. Oh, I should stop, that's just crazy talk. Right now I'll settle for sun, moderate wind and no rain.
Date: October 22, 2007
Location: 17 deg 02 min S, 165 deg 33 min E at 1200
We are still here and having as much fun as ever. According to me (Claire), and my limited experience with waves, these ones are BIG. We are going dead down wind, what a surprise, so you can see these waves coming up behind you. I don't like to look behind us any more. The wind has died down a bit, so we have ten to fifteen knots, gusting to seventeen. I hope that the waves die with the wind.
Date: October 21, 2007
Location: 17 deg 45 min S, 168 deg 03 min E at 1200
We left Vanuatu today. The weather has been rainy for the last few days and today isn't any different. The wind is supposed to be lightening up over the next few days so we are hoping to get a couple of days of wind before it all dies. The choice is lots of wind or no wind. Today started 20 to 25 kts and has slowed down a little. Like all good wind it is from dead astern and we are running a reefed jib poled out making 6+ kts.
The kids are asleep having taken seasickness medicine and Karen and I are doing the first couple of watches.
Date: October 9 - October 21, 2007
Location: Port Vila, Efate, Vanuatu, 17 deg 44 min S, 168 deg 18 min E
Tuesday, Oct. 9 - Arrived in Port Vila, checked in and ound friends on Coconut. Had drinks on shore to celebrate arrival. Slept soundly on mooring.
Wednesday, Oct. 10 - Claire and Camilla (from Coconut) took a riding lesson at the SeaHorse Ranch.
Thursday, Oct. 11 - Went to Cultural Museum with Coconut. We learned about sand drawings from our guide, Eddie. He told us what the drawings meant and explained the legends that are the underlying meanings. For example the drawing for war comes from the symbols for thunder and lightning and refers back to a legend about two of the gods. The kid's favorite part of the musuem was watching the land-diving video. Eddie told us he was from Pentecost Island where the land -divers do their thing,but Eddie said he was too afraid to try it. I agree with Eddie.
Friday, Oct. 12 - All-day tour around Efate Island. Trond had arranged for a van, complete with driver and guide to take us around for the day. We stopped at a beach to admire the view and drove through some traditional villages. Then we stopped and got in a dugout canoe for a river ride to another village. At the village we were surprised by warriors wo jumped out of the bushes. They danced and then we tried some traditional foods and smples Kava. The Kava made my lips numb. I guess it's an acquired taste. We had a buffet lunch at a small place that almost ran out of food. After lunch we went to Port Havannah and looked at some WWII artifacts, mostly glass coke bottles. The kids played with some baby sea turtles. We went snorkeling and found a large moray and yards of bright blue coral. That night we had hamburgers at SeaHorse Ranch. Every Friday night the ranch puts on a Fire Show. Local kids twirl flaming balls and batons. Even the horses get into the act. Eloise took one horse close to the flame twirlers and the horse didn't mind the swirling fireballs as they circled near its head. What control. I could see Claire mentally taking notes as she watched. Alex made friends with one of the flame-twirlers. He asked if she would be back the next Friday. Is it beginning already?
Monday, Oct. 15 - World Cup Rugby semi-final match. We got up and got ashore in time to watch the 0600 broadcast of the South Africa vs. Argentina semi-final match of the World Rugby Cup. We cheered for South Africa because Leslie on Coconut is from South africa. We were all happy when they won. Later in the day we went to the pool at the resort near the moorings and the kids played their own brand of water rugby with Trond and Jorn.
Tuesday, Oct. 16 - Hideaway Island Resort. We went out to the Hideaway Island Resort with Coconut. We went snorkled to the underwater post office and mailed post cards. Geoff and Claire found a school of barracuda and chased them.
Sunday, Oct. 21 - World Cup Rugby Final match. We got up and got ashore again for the 0600 final rugby match. South Africa won!! We were all very excited. We've decided rugby is a lot of fun to watch and think maybe it would be fun to play too. Geoff reminds us about his rugby injury, but we think we'd play kinder, gentler rugby.
Date: October 9, 2007
Location: Port Vila, Efate, Vanuatu, 17 deg 44 min S, 168 deg 18 min E.
This morning we arrived just outside Mele Bay around 0800. We got in and anchored and then had to wait for the Quarantine official to come on board. He arrived well after lunch. I think my modest collection of fresh produce wasn't enough for him to get exercised about, he let me keep it and told us to eat it in the next couple of days. What he didn't see was us eating up the big salad I made for lunch when I thought he was going to take my goodies. I'm sure we'd be much healthier people if we ate like that more regularly. Fruits and vegetables are good, ice cream, however, is much better.
I've been favorably impressed with the Yachting World operators here so far. They seem to be in charge of most that is yachtie. It's their mooring field that we're in. We had to cross two reef/sand bars to get in. They provided an escort. We just followed our man in the bright yellow shirt to a mooring and he handed me the line. We're now moored in 72 feet of water, but the shallow places we crossed to get here were 14 feet. This would be a time when crystal clear water is not necessarily a boon. I had my nervous self on the bow ready to pick up the mooring. I was watching as we slowly glided across the shallow spots. I looked down and saw the bottom. I could have counted the rocks. I could have counted the coral polyps on the rocks. I hissed for Claire to look down. All she said was, "Oh Mom, look at all the fishies." Little chip off the Arnold block. But we're secure and not rolling. I was suggesting that we could all randomly fling ourselves from one side of the salon to the other to relive those fun-filled passage moments, but I was shot down by three pairs of disapproving eyes. We're all happy to be here.
Date: October 8, 2007
Location: 17 deg 55 min S, 170 deg 25 min E at 1200.
I'm having a very Happy Birthday. The excellence started at midnight, although I didn't notice until 0200. My watch should start at 0000. I woke up at 0200 feeling faintly refreshed. I crawled out of my nice, cozy bunk to scold Geoff for letting me sleep too long and thus depriving himself of his much-needed sleep. I called him a rat and the voice that answered me was not Geoff, but Claire. Claire was up and Geoff was dozing in the cockpit. They colluded on covering my night watch. So I went back to my nice, cozy bunk. I noticed that they were both in full foul weather gear, and I should have argued about staying. But I'm not such a good person, and I went back to sleep and left them to get rained on. After an entire night's sleep for me, this morning Alex baked muffins for breakfast. Then around noon Claire made popcorn and they gave me more presents. I received Coke and chocolate. Ahhhh bliss. And Claire had crocheted me a lap blanket. Alex helped Claire sew the squares together. And they took my afternoon watch. So we ate popcorn and chocolate, drank cokes and played Hearts. I think we'll go wild and have showers today too. Such hedonism! Heck, it's my birthday.
Date: October 7, 2007
Location: 17 deg 57 min S, 172 deg 57 min E at 1200.
Not much to report today. Apparently we dodged a ship last night. I was looking at remarks from the watches and one said "dodged ship." I asked Claire about it and she said "Oh, yeah everyone was awake except you." I guess I can sleep through almost anything. Well, nothing very interesting has happened since then. We turned on the engine this morning. Our wind wasn't very nice and decided to die down a little. So on went the chug-chugger and it's been chugging away since. It's squally right now. I think it's because we did math today.
Date: October 6, 2007
Location: 17 deg 57 min S, 175 deg 17 min E at 1200.
Last night we tried something new, we went out a pass after dark. It was a nice wide open pass that was blasted for tankers to enter. It was the same pass that we entered in strong daylight with lots of watchers so we had our old track to follow - which we knew was good. I watched the range lights, Alex watched the depth, Geoff drove and watched the old track, and Claire watched for anything that moved. The range lights were both present and functioning, the depth never dropped below 60 feet, the old track proved as good going out as it was going in and nothing moved that shouldn't, although Claire found an airplane. All these positive things aside, it still felt good to be through it. And to top off a good experience, we found favorable wind on the other side and we've been moving along ever since.
Oh, one wildlife note, it involves a booby being a booby. Here we are, out in the middle of fairly empty ocean and along flies a booby. We're the only thing taller than the waves out here. The booby was flying straight at us, apparently unaware of his surroundings. Maybe he was deep in booby thought. The kids watched him pull up short just before he hit our jib. He stopped, backed up, and then flew around the front of the sails. Gotta love boobies.
Date: October 5, 2007
Location: We left Lautoka, Fiji at 1547 and head out for the pass.
Date: September 22 - October 5, 2007
Location: in and around Lautoka area, Viti Levu, Fiji
Saturday Sept. 22 - Wednesday Sept. 26, Queens Wharf, Lautoka, Viti Levu, Fiji, 17 deg 36 min S, 177 deg 27 min E - We arrived in Lautoka. Geoff & Claire went ashore to check in while Alex & I tidied up the boat. G & C came back with a man from the port captain's office. The good news was that we were tidying. The bad news was that we hadn't reached the put-things-back-where-they-belong stage. Stuff was everywhere. At least he could see clearly that we weren't trying to hide anything. We spent the next couple days doing boat chores and school work, getting rained on and exploring town. Our friends Tory & Piet Han from Double Dutch arrived in time to help celebrate our One Year of Sailing Anniversary. We made cake and made a party. We also managed to get our dinghy stuck under the bridge to the wharf. We hadn't planned on being away so long and caught the high tide. We came back from town to see our dinghy motor tied to the bridge railing. We thought our dinghy was gone and then wondered why someone would take the dinghy and leave the outboard. Upon investigation we could see the dinghy firmly wedged under the bridge supports. We found some sympathetic port officials and started a dinghy rescue. The officials commandeered a boat and took Geoff over to the motor. He stripped to his skivvies and dove under the bridge to let air out of the dinghy's pontoons. Meanwhile, another dinghy came over. It turns out that they were the good samaritans responsible for tying up our motor. They saw a couple of dinghies in danger from the rising tide. They worked as quickly as they could, but by the time they got to our dinghy it was too late to coax it out from under the bridge. So they disconnectd the motor as best they could and tied it up. One of the young guys on the boat got in the water with Geoff and they managed to get our dinghy out. Our knights in shining board shorts were young guys sailing with a Christian outreach group. Alex made some cookies and we took them over later to say thanks.
Wednesday Sept. 26 - Saturday Sept. 29, Vuda Point Marina, Viti Levu, Fiji, 17 deg 40 min S, 177 deg 23 min E - We moved to Vuda Point Marina in search of a diesel mechanic, laundry and showers. We found all three. We also found Coconut and Kosmos and talked to them on the VHF. They were at another marina only a 40 minute taxi ride away. We went to visit them at the Point Denerau Marina and got to see some of the countryside as well. On Friday we watched Miss Potter on an outdoor screen with other yachties and ate pizza.
Saturday Sept. 29 - Tuesday Oct. 2, Musket Cove, Malolo Lailai, Fiji, 17 deg 46 min S, 177 deg 11 min E - We followed Coconut out to Musket Cove and we are so glad we did. Our first night in there was a barbeque organized by the yachties on the dock.. The resort provided the barbeque pit, dishes and silverware, we provided our own food and could purchase drinks at the bar. If you were feeling particularly lazy you could purchase a ready-made barbeque pack from the little store. There were about 8 boats worth of families with kids at the barbeque. Everyone had a good time. The adults could eat and drink and talk while the kids could eat and drink and run around. We found an excellent place to snorkel off a sand bar near the resort. At low tide there is sand to beach a dinghy. We saw clown fish in their anemones, sea horses and bright blue star fish. they fish were extremely friendly. Claire and Alex decided that this was an aquatic petting zoo because they could stroke the fish. A swarm of fish surrounded Claire and a few of them decided to sample her rash guard. Perhaps the tourists feed these fish? Geoff also got in a little kiteboarding, but the conditions were not ideal. There was a stiff breeze and a pile of snorkeling tourists acting as obstacles. Perhaps our almost favorite part of th resort involved ice cream. because we were on one of the moorings, we sort of counted as resort guests. We could watch rugby on their big screen TV, we could swim in the pool, we could shop in the stores AND we could put our purchases on an account. Ice cream on account! The kids thought that was the best thing ever. Now I know why parents get nervous when their kids get credit cards. I'm happy to report that no one ate over their limit.
Tuesday Oct. 2 - Friday Oct. 5, Vuda Point Marina - We returned to the marina to get the engine work finished. We got to see another outdoor movie, this time we saw "The Bounty" with Anthony Hopkins and Mel Gibson. Another cruiser staying in Vuda Point was in the film too. He was one of the crewmen in the longboat with Captain Bligh after the mutiny. The marina advertized the movie on a sandwich board outside the cafe. In the morning the sign had the movie title and the two actors named. By the afternoon the sign said "The Bounty" starring Anthony Hopkins, Mel Gibson and Gary Greene from Steel heart. We enjoyed not only the film but recognizing the filming locations. What was supposed to be Tahiti was really the bay we anchored in in Moorea. Oh, we are such world travelers.
Friday Oct. 5 - Queens Wharf, Lautoka - We left the marina and went back up to Lautoka to check out. We managed to see the Hammars on Phoenix before we left. They had just arrived and were checking in.
Date: September 22, 2007
Location: 17 deg 37 min S, 177 deg 24 min E at 1200.
I'm back at the computer this evening. So it was like this...
After the exciting afternoon of lots of wind and rain, Geoff got on watch and complained about things being so still that he could watch raindrops make ripples on the surface of the water. Pure hubris. We motored practically all day long in zippo wind. Meanwhile, we have another plot line going. This second thread involves timing our arrival and was related to the wind thing. Chart plotters have this great feature that predicts arrival based on current boat speed. I watched the thing obsessively all day long. At zippo knots of wind we could swim faster than the boat was going, so we charged batteries etc and were making a respectable 5 knots. But 5 knots wasn't going to get us to the pass through the reef during daylight. We either needed to speed way up or slow way down to prevent the dreaded after-dark arrival. Speeding up meant pushing the motor to propel us at over 7 knots and we'd still arrive around 2000, so we chose the slow down option and planned to move like a sea slug and arrive at the pass at day break. The best laid plans of mice and men...
Oh, by now Geoff was off watch and it was my turn. We turned off the engine and I waited for the boat speed to decrease. It didn't. The wind had come up and we were maintaining 5 knots. In fact I watched our speed heat up to 6 knots and then 7 knots. The wind gods were confused about who needed the hubris retribution. We took down the main. We backed off to, drumroll please, 5 knots. Ack. Next we rolled up about half of the jib. We slowed down to about 4.8 knots. I could have cried. We took down everything except a handkerchief-sized piece of jib. We were still going 4 knots. So then Geoff rolled up the last of the jib and we were broad reaching under bare poles with the auto-pilot driving happily and moving at 3 knots. And that's the way it was. Around 2200 on Geoff's watch he started us on a detour out to "out there". On my watch when we reached the edge of a 24 nm ring we turned around and headed back to "in there". Since I had visions of going in circles outside the pass for 8 hours the little jaunt was not so bad. I got to see a tanker. We were close enough that with binocs I swear I could see the night watch outlined through the light of their open door. I waved. The rest of the night was uneventful. We entered the pass at 0800 and made our way inside the reef to Lautoka. We were anchored by 1245. The Queens Wharf is a big commercial wharf. Guess who was tied up there? My tanker friend from last night. I know it was him. I recognized the door.
Date: September 21, 2007
Location: 18 deg 26 min S, 177 deg 49 min E at 1200.
Last night we saw a whale in the distance at dinner time. We were just eating and all of a sudden Dad shouted that there was a whale. It stuck around for about 15 minutes then it just left. Today it rained again. Why yes Claire did do math today. We've been motoring for most of the day. Dad said that it was so calm that when the raindrops hit the water you could see the ripples they formed. Nothing really interesting happened today, but we expect to be in tomorrow.
Date: September 20, 2007
Location: 18 deg 58 min S, 179 deg 47 min E at 1200.
Well not a whole lot happened today. Right now it's squally outside. It's my watch, but Mom said that she'd stay out in with the BBUs(Big Black and Ugly cloud) if Claire and I wrote the daily e-mail and checked in on the net. I think that it's proof that she loves us. My partner in crime and Dad are looking at stuff in the engine hatch. One of the bilge pumps is going off and it still says that its on its first cycle. The dumb thing is running without water. The stupidity of systems will never fail to amaze me. Oh, Claire has climbed out of the engine hatch. Well I guess that is a mystery for another day. Today I made lemonade. Mom said that we had to do something with the lemons. Well to do that I just had to finish the juice we had. A sacrifice I was willing to make. Mom thought that I shouldn't have rinsed the container so we would have had lemonade with a slight raspberry taste. I guess that could have been interesting. Well that's about everything that happened today except schoolwork. We think that we have bad weather because Claire did some math today. Perhaps we should offer our math books up as sacrifices to the wind and rain.
Date: September 19, 2007
Location: 19 deg 30 min S, 178 deg 03 min E at 1200.
Today was a pleasant day only interrupted by bouts of school work and sail changes. We've used an assortment of sails of today, both with and without the pole, and on either and/or both sides of the boat. This passage has more waypoints than our other passages. We are navigating around shoals, reefs and islands as we head for Viti Levu and Lautoka. Right now we have the traditional jib, main and mizzen combo, no pole, no reefs, preventer on main. The sky is blue, the clouds are scattered and the wind is juuuuuust right. I've been working on crossword puzzles today. The girls are entertaining themselves by watching the pineapples ripen. I kid you not. And yes they may be a little bored, but this is not quite like watching corn grow or dryers spin. We had three pineapples. Yesterday we ate the ripe one. Then we started observing the other two. As the day wore on we could see the pineapples turning from green to yellow. I was trying to get Claire to take pictures of it so I could put together one of those stop-action sequences that I remember so well from my youthful science classes. To be a truly perfect trip down memory lane I should make it into a filmstrip or a film that needs to be threaded through a 16mm projector. However, she just asked if I'd taken my vitamins today and went back to her math book.
Date: September 18, 2007
Location: 19 deg 04 min S, 176 deg 00 min E at 1200.
We left Neiafu, Tonga yesterday afternoon and are on our way to Fiji. Our winds are once again coming from behind, so today we put up the gennaker. Two other boats left Neiafu yesterday afternoon also. All of us check in to the same net so we can monitor their positions. You know what that means... Not that being in front matters to us, but we are in front. We could see one of the boats last night. At first he was ahead of us, later we overtook him. Hee hee. So we motor-sailed a little. We needed to make water.
This afternoon we saw some unidentified flotsom. Is it still flotsom if it is particulate matter? Since I found some identified in 1992 shoals on the chart I have been on the look out for more. I spied a color change in the water ahead of us and nearly had a fit. Color changes, in my experience, have occurred near reefs. Ack! The water was definitely a different shade of green instead of the usual pacific blue. As we got closer and could see that there were no breakers we watched the depth and temp. sensors. No change in either. On closer inspection the stuff in the water was brown in color and made up of tiny bits that swirled like silt. Geoff started speculating on tanker discharge. I was happier thinking we had found volcanic activity. Someone in Tonga had been telling us about pumice fields. Pumice would be more fun to see than tanker refuse, unless the refuse was toxic to barnacles.
Date: September 17, 2007
Location: We left Neifu at 1400 after buzzing by Ruby Slippers, Essence and Ragnar. Alex has decided that Tonga was her favorite place we've visited so far.
Date: August 25 - September 17, 2007
Location: Vava'u Group, Tonga
Saturday Aug 25 - Thursday Aug 30, Neiafu Harbor, Vava'u, Tonga, 18 deg 39 min S, 173 deg 59 min W - We spent our first weekend laying low and waiting for Monday to come so we could officially check in. We found Ruby Slippers and learned our way around town. On Wednesday we hiked up Mt. Luafa and had a good view of the harbor and the surrounding area. We also found Tory & Piet Han from Double Dutch, so we had to get ice cream. Claire nd Geoff signed up for kite boarding lessons and we went out to the island where they had lessons on a whale watching boat.
Sunday Augt 31 - Monday Sept 3, Mounu Island, 18 deg 45 min S, 174 deg 04 min W - We moored off Mounu Island allowing Claire and Geoff easier access to their kite boarding instruction. They had a great time figuring out how to work the kite and the board. Alex and I enjoyed hanging out. We saw whales behind the boat one night at dinner time. We watched a bigger one and a smaller one exploring, surfacing and diving. We decided that the pair were a momma and her baby.
Monday Sept 3 - Friday Sept 7, Vaka'eitu Island, 18 deg 43 min S, 174 deg 06 min W - After a morning lesson we moved the boat over to anchorage # 16 to meet Ruby Slippers. Most people are lazy and refer to the anchorages by the numbers given to them on the Moorings charter maps instead of their names. This was Alex's favorite place, not only in Tonga, but on our trip so far. The kids worked on building tree house in a large banyan tree on shore. We hiked out to see a resort that was abandoned only a couple of years ago. The jungle is reclaiming it quickly. But we could still enjoy their remaining fruit trees. We went snorkeling off a place called the coral gardens. We could hear the whales singing through the water. We couldn't see them, but we could certainly hear them. This is the time of year that they humpback whales are calving, so they hang around for a while. I'm glad we had the chance to see some. We also saw a pair of octopusses while snorkeling.
Friday Sept 7 - Tuesday Sept 11, Neiafu Harbor - After snorkeling we took the boat back to town. Geoff and Claire found and bought their own kite boarding rig. They're truly committed to the sport now. We had our Friday Pizza Night in town with Dave from No Regrets. Ruby slipper came back to town too. We spent some time doing school and chores. Claire and Geoff took the dinghy out to their kiteboarding grounds. The trip only took around 40 minutes planing in the dinghy. They are committed. I've enjoyed going to church here. The singing is amazing. It is powerful in volume and message. Now I understand the phrase, make a joyful noise.
Tuesday Sept 11 - Thursday Aug 13, near Tapana, 18 deg 43 min S, 173 deg 05 min W - We went out to anchorage #11 near The Ark Gallery. This was a nice protected anchorage. And, gee, it was a shorter dinghy ride out to the kite boarding place on Mounu Island. Alex and I kayaked around looking at fish. We commissioned an octopus painting from the gallery. One day we walked into town from the anchorage. There are a lot of pigs in Tonga. They roam around properties. The small ones are still cute, but the large ones are not particularly cuddly.
Thursday Sept 13, Vaka'eitu Island - We went back to #16 for the night. The Rard family on Ruby Slippers had organized an umu feast on shore. We cooked fish and squash and taro and sausage and potatoes in a pit in the sand.
Friday Sept 14 - Saturday Sept 15, Neiafu Harbor - We went back to town to meet the Hammars on Phoenix. Every Friday night the local yacht club organizes a fun race and Phoenix was going to enter their boat (remember the fast one that brought us fish?) and let us crew. We went back to town through rain and more rain. We found teh last mooring in the harbor. it was clear on the opposite side from town. At least we were next to Phoenix. We all donned full foul weather gear for the dinghy ride across the bay to town. We stood dripping in the bar waiting for race info. It turned out that no one else wanted to play. We tried to say that meant we won by default. Since it was Friday, we had Pizza Night with Phoenix back at the same place we went last week.
Saturday Sept 15 - Sunday Sept 16, Vaka'eitu Island - We went back to good old #16 for one last time. We convinced Phoenix that they wanted to go too. It wasn't that hard to do. Ruby Slippers had organized another umu feast. This time there were more boats in the anchorage, so the party was larger. Everyone brought something to cook and to share. Several guitars came out and we had lots of music and singing. The kids had found another kid boat with teens, Skaedermonske, from Belgium, and they had been upgrading the treehouse and its environs. The kids spent time with construction and guitar playing. We took another hike to the resort. The kids decided that having an abandoned resort was too tame, they decided they needed to start stories about a haunted resort. They had a good time creating the stories, I wonder if they'll spread.
Sunday Sept 16 - Monday Sept 17, Neifu Harbor - Back to town. One last morning of running errands and checking out before setting off on our way. We bid sad farewells to our friends.
Date: August 24/August 25, 2007
Location: Neiafu Harbor, Vava'u, Tonga, 18 deg 39 min S, 173 deg 59 min W
We arrived off Vava'u at 0400 and waited until daylight to enter the islands and make our way to Neiafu. We picked up a mooring and were settled in by 1000. We crossed the International Dateline coming to Tonga, so we are a day ahead of ourselves.
Date: August 23, 2007
Location: 18 deg 43 min S, 172 deg 39 min W at 1200
This is shaping up to be another fast passage. We are running with a double reefed main in order to slow down. We are still making over 5 kts.
Date: August 22, 2007
Location: 19 deg 01 min S, 170 deg 17 min W at 1200
We left Niue at 0800 heading for Tonga. As we were finishing dinner three whales came to check us out. The stayed alongside the boat and traveled with us for a while. They would come to the surface, breath and then submerge, but not too far. We could see them under the water as dark shadows. It was impressive.
Date: August 15 - August 22, 2007
Location: Alofi Bay, Niue, 19 deg 03 min S, 169 deg 55 min W
Thursday Aug 16 - The dock provided a surprise, the dighies need to be lifted in and out of the water with a crane. Claire and Alex, especially Alex, had the best time with this thing. It was Sizzle Night at Mamatua's in town. Mamatua's ice cream shop is the unofficial home of the Niue Yacht Club, which we've joined. We're hoping that now that we are members of a yacht club we'll get reciprocal priviledges at other clubs, like The Saint Francis in San Fransisco. There was a crowd of yachties at Sizzle Night and it was fun to be socail. Sizzle night was a barbeque, chicken, beef or sausages. We talked to a local named Matua, he said he was part of the cabinet on Niue for 16 years. Mamatua is his cousin and she volunteered that he had 25 kids. He was quite a character.
Friday Aug 17 - Keith from the yacht club took us on a mini-tour of Alofi. We saw some of the desctruction from the cyclone. We also met Willy who owns the Wash Away Cafe and heard about the sea snakes. Willy said that yes they were poisonous, but they also took a lot of provoking before they would bite. And he said that their mouths were small so you had to work at getting harmed. So we decided to go to the Wash Away Cafe on another day and snorkel to find them.
Saturday Aug 18 - Show Day at Lakepa Village & Rental Van Trip day one - We rente a van with the Hammar family and took off for touring. The Show Day was a chance for the people in Lakepa Village to get together, eat, sell produce, play games and watch the kids dance. We were sorely tempted to buy a bindle of taro once re realized that a live coconut crab came with it. While we were pondering the purchase the kids noticed that some crabs were tethered to the tent poles and were thus able to walk around. We abandoned the tied up crabs and went to pester their free-range relatives. The popular game was the spear throw. The goal was to get your spear to go the farthest, so the guys who made their spears skim the grass were winning. A couple of yachties tried. Their attempts were poor enough to prompt the local guys to come out and offer tips. After Show Day we went to a place called The Oasis. The Oasis was a chasm between the volcanic coastal rock pillars and the limestone island. It was a nice sand beach accessable via a long ladder. Most of the gang climbed under, around and through some lower rock formations to reach the sea. When they had had enough of that we piled back into the van and got temporarily misplaced looking for an abandoned village. Geoff and Gif were determined to find the place. We got a thorough tour of a section of jungle and even a little 4-wheeling. We all had to get out and push the van up a hill. Later, when we made it back to town, Mamatua's amd beer, we found out that the village was wiped out in the cyclone and that no one has redone the tourist maps. Since we had beer and ice cream we didn't care so much.
Sunday Aug 19 - Rental Van Trip day two - We spent this day climbing out to beaches and arches and snorkeling. We walked through a cave to find an arch rock formation over a shallow tide pool. Then we went to a place where fresh water off the land mixed with the salt water from the ocean in a long pool. It was a place where the old Niuean royalty used to bathe. Later we made our way to the Wash Away Cafe. We discovered that the restaurants take turns being open on different days of the week. There aren't enough tourists on the island to make it worth their while for all of the restaurants to be open all of the time. So they've set up a sharing system. They publish a weekly info brochure and you can see who's open on which night and plan accordingly. The Wash Away was the only place open on Sundays, so we saw lots of familiar faces from other nights. We went snorkeling an we did find some sea snakes. All in all, it was a successful day.
Date: August 15, 2007
Location: 19 deg 19 min S, 169 deg 16 min W at 1200
More wind, reefed jib still doing over 6 kts. Land Ho at 1600! Alex very excited to see a flat island, not a volcanic peak to hike up in sight. We pushed on and made it to the anchorage and were moored by 1900. Our new neighbors on Oasis came over to help. We were tidying up the deck as the sun set.
Date: August 14, 2007
Location: 19 deg 59 min S, 166 deg 34 min W at 1200
Wind is up yippee and rolling has increased boo. Took down main, only using jib and still going 7 kt. Geoff finished the Harry Potter book that arrived for us in Rarotonga. Thank you Helen! Claire has started reading it. Alex and I looked at Claire with big puppy-dog eyes and quivering lower lips, so she is reading it aloud to us. Then later she crawls off into her bunk and keeps going ahead of us.
Date: August 13, 2007
Location: 20 deg 23 min S, 164 deg 17 min W at 1200
Raining off & on, uneventful.
Date: August 12, 2007
Location: 20 deg 48 min S, 162 deg 11 min W at 1200
Mostly steady winds, gybing back and forth all day. Kids started school, and are they excited.
Date: August 11, 2007
Location: 21 deg 08 min S, 160 deg 00 min W at 1200
We left Rarotonga at 0945. We had no problems with the submerged chain that had snagged a few other boats. A rolly sail.
Date: August 2 - August 11, 2007
Location: Avatiu Harbor, Rarotonga, Cook Islands, 21 deg 12 min S, 159 deg 47 min W
Thursday Aug 3 - Cook Islands Trade Day, we found ice cream and waffles for a healthy lunch while running errands.We got tickets to the evening Dance and Chant competition. It was a more homegrown version of the competition we saw in Tahiti. We enjoyed ourselves very much. There were fireworks outside afterwards.
Sunday Aug 5 - Claire and I joined the Hammar family on Phoenix for the Cross Island Trek. Claire, Gif and Andrea climbed up a rock formation called The Needle. I waved at them from below. We only almost lost the trail once, but other hikers saved us from going the wrong way by returning from the wrong way and steering us in the right way. Later we found the directional arrow carved on a tree. We got to the waterfall at the end only to realize that waterfalls are more impressive when they are spilling water. The waterfall should be more spectacular in the rainy season. We returned in time to join a cruiser potluck dinner on the dock.
Wednesday Aug 8 - We rode one of the two bus routes around the island. There are the clockwise bus and the anti-clockwise bus routes. We saw St. Paul's Catholic Church which is run by the Daughters of Charity. I had a moment of nostalgia for home. Our trip around the island provided a mini-tour and got us acquainted witht he bus system. We went to The Rarotongan for Isalnd night for dinner. The Rarotongan was the resort we stayed at on our honeymoon, oh, just yesterday... We played outdoor chess, ate too much at the buffet and saw more dancing.
Thursday Aug 9 - Claire's birthday - The girls went on a trail ride with bruce, our guide. We rode through town back to the same waterfall we saw on the trek. it had water spilling from it this time. It has been raining, so the additional water helped increase the waterfall's scenic value. On the way back to the stable we all got to gallop on the beach. And then the horses swam through a deeper part of the water past The Rarotongan. Claire's horse was ready to go straight out to the next island, but she convinced it otherwise. We found a Japanese restaurant and had sushi for dinner. It was raining pretty hard, so we were the only soggy patrons.
Date: August 2, 2007
Location: Avatiu Harbor, Rarotonga, Cook Islands, 21 deg 12 min S, 159 deg 47 min W
Another light wind morning. We arrived and were side-tied on the main wharf by 1240. Later we got space on the pier with the other yachts and med-moored like the rest. Getting in was something of an event. We had lots of help and lots of opinions. All was appreciated.
Date: August 1, 2007
Location: 20 deg 02 min S, 157 deg 42 min W at 1200
Even less wind, if that's possible. We motor-sailed, made water and charged the batteries. We passed one of the outer islands today. And we have two boats in sight.
Date: July 31, 2007
Location: 18 deg 56 min S, 155 deg 48 min W at 1200
Still little wind. We can see another boat!
Date: July 30, 2007
Location: 17 deg 51 min S, 154 deg 00 min W at 1200
Our wind is decreasing. Sigh. We changed jibs, from the small jib to the medium jib. The spinnaker sheet bit Geoff yesterday so no one is eager to get it out again today. The wind is not coming from a good direction for the spinnaker. And that is the real reason we don't have it up.
Date: July 29, 2007
Location: 16 deg 39 min S, 152 deg 02 min W at 1200
We pulled up our anchor and left Bora Bora at 0855. At the 12 mile limit we took down our French courtesy flag and waved good bye to French Polynesia. And who says Arnolds can't catch fish? We catch fish just fine. AND we can do it without putting out a fishing line! Friends on the boat Phoenix left Bora Bora about an hour behind us. They called on the VHF to say Hi and I was giving them a hard time about their being behind us. They explained that they had to deal with the large wahoo they caught, so that slowed them down. Then they asked if we wanted some. Of course I said yes, and told them to deliver it. Ha ha. They said yes. About 40 minutes later they came up on our lee side and tossed over a water bottle attached to a line. A bag with the fish in it was tied to the line. So, in a way, you can say we "caught" the fish. We were all of us pleased with our ingenuity. And we enjoyed the fish.