Tuesday, December 26, 2017

90 degrees F in the shade: Christmas Weather!

Decorating gingerbread

Back on land, I was always sick of Christmas music by the time Christmas rolled around. I think that's because you start hearing it earlier and earlier each year.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Mother's Day with the President

Our plan was to stop in Waisai for a day, buy diesel, and then head over to Sorong. When we got to town, it seemed overrun by various uniformed military personnel.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Mantas--they're like pigeons around here

We are definitely getting spoiled by the diving in Raja Ampat. Matt has joked that we should just sell all our dive equipment when we leave here.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Waisai musings

Anchorage near Kabui Pass on the way to Waisi
We stopped at Waisai for a couple days to get some provisions. While there, we enjoyed some tasty, cheap eats and took advantage of the availability of Internet and ice-cream. As in Sorong, we (mostly Matt) attracted a lot of attention everywhere, with calls of 'Mista! Mista!'

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Raja Ampat Pictures

Bluefin Trevally
We're currently in Waisai for a couple days, getting some fresh produce and enjoying a bit of 'civilization'. Here are some pictures from our time so far in Raja Ampat.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Raja Ampat

Raja Ampat is renowned for diving. It's also a huge area with relatively few people. So far, we have been to a couple of spots in Wayag and an isolated anchorage called Uranie. Any one of these anchorages could be used as a base for weeks upon weeks of diving. The other day, we were with our friends on Field Trip, talking about our cruising experiences (they have been out six years to our five). We all marveled at how many more cruising boats there were in the U.S. and Caribbean than in this neck of the woods. Here, there are live aboard dive boats, fishing boats, and tourist speed boats. We even met some of the crew from the jaw-dropper Octopus, owned by Paul Allen of Microsoft fame. But, besides each other, we have seen only three other cruising boats in the month or so that we have been in Raja Ampat.

True to its reputation, the diving has not disappointed. The variety and number of coral and fish is impressive. In many cases, it seems the best diving corresponds with strong currents. It is good to have two boats of certified divers and two dinghies so that we can coordinate the best way to approach various dives, including having someone sit in the dinghy during some dives (thanks Mary Ellen and E!).

On one recent dive, Matt and Mark on Field Trip got a good long look at a wobbegong shark who patiently sat still like a well behaved dog while Matt clicked off photo after photo from just inches away. Unfortunately, Matt's footage was lost when the Faux Pro (an Akaso--a less expensive Go Pro-like camera) went missing somewhere between when Matt hooked it onto his BCD and when he got back to the boat. The camera wasn't expensive but finding a replacement in these parts isn't going to happen. I'll save the story about the expensive Ikelite camera housing and strobe debacle for another time. Let's just say that Ikelite is a bad word around here lately.

Since Sorong, we have celebrated Thanksgiving and Mark's tenth birthday. We're waiting to hear from a haul-out facility in Indonesia before we decide if and when we go to Darwin. Something as simple as a price quote gets to be very complicated without a cell phone signal and not speaking the local language.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Idiot Tax

The first replacement Automatic Voltage Regulator
Our friend Matt Myren refers to The Lottery as the 'Idiot tax.' We apparently have our own version of the 'Idiot Tax' on Perry. Basically, it's the extra money (and time) we spend because we are too optimistic about how well any given boat project will go (and consequently how long it will take and cost). But moreso, we really need to learn that if it ain't (completely) broke, don't try to fix it.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Around Sorong

Sorong is not a picturesque city, but it has a lot of energy. It is our first stop in 'Asia' and the differences with the Pacific Islands we have frequented in the last couple years are a shock to our systems. There is much more of everything: supplies, cars, roads, people, pollution, garbage.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Tricks for Treats

Conrad is Napolean (I think the others are self-explanatory).

Halloween this year was in the middle of our long haul from Papua New Guinea to Sorong. We had been sailing during the day and stopping at night to avoid the logs that had wreaked havoc on our propeller and engine. We were with our friends on Field Trip again and had hoped to have another beach party like we had the previous year. The beach we found had a great surf but was all but nonexistent at high tide.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

How much does it cost to swim with whale sharks?

Mark with a 'small' whale shark
On the journey from Vanimo to Sorong, we visited Cenderawasih Bay, where big fishing platforms/boats called Bagan attract whale sharks. We got to swim with a couple of 'small' ones that were about 12 feet long. The fishermen threw little baitfish on top of us as we swam in the water so that the sharks would come right up to you. It was disconcerting to see a huge mouth headed for your face, even if it wasn't filled with big teeth.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Officially official

Google translate app is a godsend when trying to deal with the officials!

We are all officially checked into Indonesia (for 60 days at least). Indonesia is definitely up there with having some pretty serious bureaucracy. There are lots of officials that want to come onto the boat and lots of paperwork. They really love stamps here (think ink stamps, not postage) and no document is official until you give it a stamp with your boat name on it. Fortunately, our friends on Field Trip did a lot of the heavy lifting for us when they got here a day earlier. So we knew where to go and what we needed to do. Even still, it took a full day starting at 7:30 and going straight through until 5:00 before we were all checked in.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Bump on a log

Not our log, just one floating by at anchor. The
picture doesn't do justice to how big it is but the one
that got us was much bigger.
When I was growing up, we knew a Filipino family with the surname 'Alog'. The running joke was to come up with new names for kids that went with 'Alog' (think 'Sit on', 'Trip on'). Yes it was juvenile, but we were kids.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Crabby Mary, Quite Contrary

More updates via the sat phone!  Sorry, but no pics for now...

As we approach two weeks straight on the boat since leaving Ninigo, with a brief stop in Vanimo and a beach visit, the natives are getting restless. The kids seem to be bickering at the drop of a hat, and Matt and I are--try as we might--not too far behind (do as I say, not as I do?--yup, right here). Although we have had other passages that were almost as long and, in the case of our trip across the Pacific, much longer, this one is different.

On our other long journeys, even the uncomfortable week-long passage to New Zealand, we didn't have the same stress factors. There have been many moving targets (logs), frequent unpredictable squalls popping up willy nilly (usually in the wee hours when we're extra tired) and wreaking havoc, and almost constant wind shifts. On top of all that, we are navigating a new language and culture during our brief rest stops. This is the first place we have visited where the language isn't one we have some familiarity with (Spanish or French) and where almost no one seems to speak English.

Hitting a log and damaging the boat doesn't help things (blog post to follow when we get Internet).

I could just be blocking out the unpleasant parts of our other longer voyages, like the pain of child birth. Anyway, I think we'll all survive this trip without anyone getting thrown overboard (except in our fantasies perhaps). Reading back over this post makes me realize that I have made things sound a lot worse than they really are. We're doing pretty well, though everyone will be happy to stop and relax a bit. Gotta go--it's early to rise tomorrow to start the final 200-mile leg to Sorong. There's no wind predicted, but that's better than a headwind.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Vanimo to Indonesia

Our last stop in Papua New Guinea was Vanimo, on the mainland of Papua. We had mostly avoided the mainland because of its reputation for high crime. We spent most of our time in remote islands. Our friend Sarah on Field Trip likened it to visiting the United States and going to Hilton Head, while avoiding Chicago and New York.

We had to go to Vanimo to get our Indonesia visas. Although Vanimo is considered safe during the day, a cruising boat had been robbed at night earlier in the year. So we (along with Field Trip) resolved to get there and out in one day.

We left Ninigo Friday evening. After the first evening (when we caught a nice wahoo) the wind died down and we mostly made our way slowly at about 2 knots, which was all from the current. We motored the last few hours so that we could get to Vanimo in time to get to the consulate when it opened.

We were successful (despite the Indonesian consulate's leisurely opening time) and were pulling up anchor with time to spare.

Around the second day on our journey to Indonesia, the auto-pilot started having fits. Matt figured out that the rudder transducer was sending wrong signals to the autopilot so that it was not turning when it should. Fortunately, the auto-pilot seems to work without the port rudder transducer, except that it has fits when we are going very slowly (which seems to be a lot of the time lately!).

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Can you canoe?

The villagers in Ninigo sail outrigger canoes. When we visited Longan, we (along with our friends on Field Trip) were privileged to be taken out sailing in one of these sailing canoes. It was a welcome change to speed along in a sailboat that rivals Hobie cats for their speed. Our captain and crew were two local boys who expertly raised and trimmed the sails by tying knots and bracing wooden posts against one another. It was  truly impressive what they could do with a wooden canoe and plastic tarps.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Tunung, The Hermits and Ninigo

Our time since leaving Kavieng has been relaxed and full of friendly villages, beautiful corals and abundant fish. We spent a day at Tunung and dove the World War II submarine and ship wrecks there with Clem. Clem runs a laid back surf resort and is about as well-spoken and savvy as any Papua New Guinean that we have met.

We had heard so many rave reviews of welcoming and generous villagers in The Hermits and Ninigo that I thought there was no way that it could live up to the hype. I was wrong, especially about Ninigo. We have been greeted everywhere with friendship and gifts. We have been enjoying the diving and snorkeling as we wait for a wind and weather window to Vanimo, where we need to get our visas for Indonesia.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Life on the Chain Gang

Mark celebrating the availability of locally
grown carrots at the market

After waiting a month for the ship from Lae to bring our new anchor chain, it was finally due to arrive on Monday. Unfortunately, the ship was stuck in another port because two other boats were unloading ahead of it. The ship eventually showed up on Wednesday and by the time it was unloaded and unpacked, it was Thursday morning before we could get our chain.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Around Kavieng

Blow holes on Nusa Island
We have taken advantage of the supplies in Kavieng to stock up for the next couple of months. Kavieng has better than average provisioning for a South Pacific town filled with mostly Chinese-owned shops. The bellwether for us is usually ice-cream, but this town even has such hard-to-find gems as potatoes (yes, the lowly potato becomes something you crave and usually can't have), cream cheese and bacon. We even scored lots of avocados and mangoes, which are apparently out of season. The other day, Mark and Conrad caused much amusement amongst the locals as they lugged a package of 40 rolls of toilet paper down the street.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Boang to Tabar to Kavieng

Canoe race in Takuu

After Boang, we spent a few days in Tabar. The villagers were very welcoming but were somewhat used to yachts coming and bringing lots of goods.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Takuu to Nuguria to Boang

Our friends on Field Trip have a knack for making connections at the villages. Sarah, an elementary teacher in her former life, visits the schools and offers help. Mark on Field Trip usually offers assistance to fix whatever needs fixing. We were lucky to piggyback on their efforts in Takuu and Nuguria. Both of these islands have been extremely welcoming and generous. At Takuu, we were the honored guests during a "Book Week" celebration where the whole village turned out to watch the school children perform modern and traditional dances and stories. In Nuguria, Conrad and Mark enjoyed helping to give a joint presentation about American culture and our boat travels to the whole school. We were inundated with gifts of lap laps (the local version of a sarong), necklaces, food, and other local items. We made new friends and got a deeper connection than we normally do when spending just a few days at a place. Both places are more Polynesian in culture and are part of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

Leaving Nuguria, we used a period of favorable wind to head east to the Tanga Islands. Our short overnight trip to Boang netted us a 50-lb wahoo and 60-lb yellowfin tuna. We broke our streak of Solomons doldrum fishing and actually landed both fish (and without losing a gaff!). Matt struggled a bit to fillet the fish because they were too long to fit on the transom. Boang is a more traditional Papua New Guinea Melanasian village. The villagers have been very welcoming but they don't get many cruisers that visit (only 1 boat in the last 20 years or so), so we have had a lot of canoes that want to just hang out around the boat. With no television and no Internet, we're apparently the most interesting show around for the moment. We chat with them as well as our limited Pigin and their limited English allows, but eventually we leave them to go do other things. This doesn't deter them and they simply continue to hang out around the new 'water cooler' in the area (a place to meet and chat).

Monday, July 31, 2017

Solomons to Takuu

After almost nine months of motoring through the Solomons (the longest we have been in any country while on the boat, by the way), we finally got our parts installed, made the last minute dash to the market to buy as much produce and fruit as we could store, checked out and headed for Takuu. We saw every kind of sailing, from perfect beam reaching through flat seas, to downwind in heavy seas, and upwind into waves and rain galore (to say the forecast was a bit off may be a bit of an understatement). We made some rookie mistakes: Mark's hatch wasn't all the way closed so his mattress was soaked with sea water--first time we have had that happen in 4-1/2 years of sailing. Conrad tossed his cookies inside the cabin and didn't make it to a bucket right away. We also lost a lure to something huge that about ripped the bungee cord in half, let alone snapping the 150 lb test line like it was nothing. Ripe bananas from the humongous stalk that Matt couldn't refuse (less than $3 US) started plopping down as the boat moved from side to side (a la the Pacific crossing), so it's lots of banana bread for the next while.

Takuu (Mortlock) is an atoll that is technically part of the Bougainville Independent government (which is itself nominally part of Papua New Guinea), though they get almost zero and are basically left to themselves. The inhabited islands are only a meter above the sea, so rising sea levels are a real concern facing the 200-300 residents and during very high tides some of the houses get inundated. The government wants the islanders to relocate, but many are reluctant to leave their home to move to a place with a different culture (Takuu is Polynesian in origin, while the rest of Papua New Guinea is Melanesian) and way of life. Our friends on Field Trip have been here for over a week and have making friends and fixing boats. We are enjoying the nice calm anchorage while we dry out Mark's bedding. Conrad turned 11 today (Matt made donuts to celebrate) and is itching to try out the new camera his grandparents got him.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Chillin' in the heat yo

Rescuing gobi fish

We had a fully sunny day for the first time in almost a week and we spent it exploring Rokana Nomana Island, near Lola Island.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Adventures in wildlife

Grainy footage of black-tip reef shark
Zipolo Habu Resort's sweet spot is fishing and their skilled guides know where to find them. Most days end with the clients' catch being cleaned and the scraps being tossed to the abundant black-tip reef sharks that frequent the beach. The following shots show some of the action. The pictures are a bit grainy because the sharks and fish kick up a lot of silt, plus they are just screen captures from an older Go Pro unit.  Oh, you want 4k clarity?  Go watch the National Geographic channel.  We also don't have David Attenborough on retainer, in case you were wondering.  

Sunday, July 9, 2017

More of the waiting-in-paradise game

Tuna in the can...
The good news is that our roller furler finally arrived at the rigger in Australia. Woohoo!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Offerings of the Solomons, good and bad

Stuart was nice enough to let Matt tag along on one of
his fishing trips. Blue fin trevally.
We have now been in the Solomon Islands for over seven months. For most of our stay, we have barely seen any other cruising boats except for the one (and sometimes two) we travelled with. As the season comes to an end, more boats have been popping up for short stays in the islands here but we are still mostly on our own. That's why yesterday was unusual.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

And we're waiting, we're waiting...

Conrad and Mark surfing and boogie boarding
When we mailed our roller furler to Australia to get the seals and bearings replaced, the friendly and helpful Munda Post Office worker, Riko, couldn't find the receipt book. Apparently our package was the first one of the year sent from this branch (yes, it was almost June; yes, they operate on a calendar year). This gave us pause. We'll be on the edge of our seat waiting to see if/when the package gets there.

Friday, June 2, 2017

So we were all set to leave the Solomons...

Mark chilling at Lola with his pals Pepi and Culi
We went to Noro and Munda to get our final diesel and other provisions so that we could check out by June 1. Before we stocked up on frozen meat from the fabulous Muzi Boko (a store made up exclusively of shipping containers and packed with reasonably priced goodies shipped from Australia), we decided to defrost the nearly-empty freezer. The thing hadn't been defrosted since leaving New Zealand over a year ago and had built up a good coating of ice.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

A Bug's Life

Close-up of a dragonfly.
Conrad has been a bit obsessed with bugs lately. His backup pet is a tarantula if he can't get a dog when we go back to living on land.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Send in the clowns

We are at a remote anchorage northeast of Gizo. It has a nice white sand beaches (digging never gets old). The diving and snorkeling are great--we have never seen so many clownfish. Even out here, our friend Samson has sailed/canoed out to offer us water coconuts and fresh produce from his garden.

The generator has gotten a lot of use due to the cloudiness and dive compressor. Matt has also been replacing a lot of pumps (refrigeration and bilge) lately. He loses about a quart of sweat every time he does one of these projects.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Easter in Gizo

When we were in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific, there were so many white sand beaches that we really became really blasé about them. I felt I would be just fine if I never saw another white sand beach.

Monday, April 10, 2017

A Taste of Civilization

The picture shows tiny Snake Island. At certain times of year, sea snakes go there to breed.

At Lola Island, the proprietors of the resort were kind enough to share their Internet with visiting yachts. This is the first 'unlimited' Internet we have enjoyed since arriving in the Solomons in November. Initially, it was a huge boon to be able to do the things we needed, such as banking and taxes. However, by the end of our weeklong stay, I was feeling vaguely discontent and somewhat anxious. A constant connection to the outside world brought me news (usually bad) and all the trivia of my favorite websites. Yet, being on the Internet sucked me in and I read fewer, played less guitar, and felt I was being pulled away from the real world. I saw the same effect on the kids as well, especially Conrad. He would rush through meals to email and e-chat with his friends. Both he and Mark were disproportionately excited about the arrive of (iPad) game day WITH INTERNET. I'm being overly dramatic but the experience gave me a glimpse of the challenges that going back to the U.S. might bring.

We are currently anchored at Malazeke Island, slowly making our way to Gizo. The village here is Seventh Day Adventist, so the villagers don't have teeth stained red and black by Betel nut. When we arrived, Billy came out to say hello, offer his many services (tour guide, boat bottom cleaner, carver), and see what we had to trade (angle grinder, generator, engine). He asked whether Matt was interested in going fishing and for help writing a thank you letter to the Australian High Commission for the water collection tanks that were sent.

Matt has continued his battle against the misbehaving freezer and refrigerator. Apparently, sealing the leaking pumps stopped the leak but made the water infiltrate the motor. Both pumps have been replaced (and new ones ordered). He has also cleaned the boat's bottom and propellers, which has given us an extra knot of speed.

The weather remains hot but we haven't seen much sun (for the Solomons) in the last week. Our water tanks are full but our solar performance has been dismal. Our generator is getting more use here than anywhere else in four years of cruising.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Lola Island

Pepe the dog loves the kids
Lola Island has everything: a friendly resort, a beach with rope swings and dozens of black tip reef sharks (they are more afraid of us than we are of them), clean water for snorkeling, and an island with skulls.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Back in the land of internet

The kids got to be in the water with these guys.
In honor of our first 3G for over a month--pictures! We have just been hanging out with our friends on Field Trip and Rehua, visiting villages, seeing sights, and snorkeling. The coral is healthy and there is and we are seeing a lot of fish that we haven't seen before. We would love a more consistent breeze and fewer flies but overall we can't complain.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Jubilation--dolphins again!

After a long dry spell from dolphins, we saw a couple large pods on our way to Nggatokae Island, including new-to-us Risso's dolphins. We got to swim with a big local pod of dolphins yesterday and today. Now we just need to get over this fishing dry spell.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Nggatokae Island

This is our first blog post via email so hopefully it works.

We have been enjoying the peace and quiet of the anchorage near Peava village. The village has incredible carvers and make enough money from carving and logging. That might be why we have had very few canoes coming by to trade. The kids have been playing with the Field Trip and village kids on the rope swings. Conrad has gotten to use the carving tools he got for Christmas. A couple of local carvers gave him a piece of wood and some carving tips. Matt's leg has finally healed enough to do some diving and snorkeling. There are lots of turtles, sharks, and coral.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Still bobbing around in the Florida Islands

Four catamarans in Tulagi Bay
The heat has twice caused our windlass motor button to spontaneously start (they are triggered by air pressure instead of an electrical switch). It has been when the cover was lifted and the hot Solomon sun blazed down on it. Both times it was the 'down' button (which is good) and we were on board and stopped it by turning off the breaker. Another sign of the heat. And I think we've learned to keep that cover down!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Temporary crew and normal life

Poor man's drone photo: Matt took this shot from the mast
as he checked our tricolor light.
As we were leaving for Honiara, John (the leader of the village near our anchorage in Roderick Bay) asked whether we and our buddy boats could take some kids with us for a school event. We hemmed and hawed to ourselves and weren't thrilled with a number of considerations, not the least of which was the idea of folks we really didn't know being on the boat, even if only for 5 hours.  We ultimately said we could take 10 (our friends on Field Trip said they could take up to 15). We were on the verge of saying no and even 10 seemed like an awful lot, mostly because of safety.