Friday 24 July 2015

Poem from the Philippian Sea

We recently enter the Philippian sea. My email regarding my heave to experience was added as a post. Here is a poem about it as well.

We are hove to and now it is time to wait
We don't want to be early and we don't want to be late 
At just the right moment we will decide to depart 
You need to know the end time to pick the start

We will sit and wait until the time is right
It is the big waves we don't want to fight 
The wind it blows at an incredible rate
With it blowing this hard we won't be late 

We need the sunlight to go through the pass
It's got to be done right or then alas
We will hit the reef or just maybe a rock
Then we won't make it safely to the dock

The dock or the harbour where it is safe and sound 
With your anchor planted firmly in the ground 
To hold you tight to the bottom until
Your ready to go on another sailing thrill

Sailing is not for all that is to be sure
But my love of sailing is very pure
The wind, the waves and a boat built to survive 
What the ocean throws at you and keep you alive 

Thursday 23 July 2015

Meeting the Prime Minister of Tuvalu

Doina, Zeke & I arrived at the dock at 8:30 AM. We were met by a fellow asking if we were Micheal on Drina. We told him were not but that Doina was from Drina. We were informed that the Prime Minister would like us to attend a workshop in the building beside the airport terminal at 9 AM. We were to meet with another gentleman Flyodd so off I went to find Flyodd to let him know we had been summoned by the prime minister and ask him if we could meet with him in the afternoon. I located Flyodd and made arrangements to meet him in the afternoon. Upon arriving at the workshop we were informed that the Prime Minister would be signing the UN Coalition Against Corruption. At 9:00 the Prime Minister arrived. Then the Minister of Finance arrived. The attorney general arrived.  A few other dignitaries arrived a few minutes later and the MC started. Unfortunately the majority of the workshop was in Tuvalian. After the MC's opening comments & welcome to everyone a religious leader spoke and I think he ended in a prayer. Next the Prime Minister addressed the audience and told us Do the right thing & do things in the right way.  Other countries should commit to the agreement in their own country. There is lots of corruption in these other countries In many cases National & commercial interests take precedence. He ended with a plea to Save our homes.  The Prime Minister then signed coalition 
A lady from the Attorney Generals office explained the agreement. Then it was time for tea. The person Doina knew in the finance department came and spoke to us and indicated he would introduce us to the Honorable prime minister Enele S Sopoaga. Once the prime minister got his food we were introduced. He encouraged us to get something to eat and he would meet with us later. What a spread. There was crispy chicken, Tuvalu's version of donuts. All sorts of fruits and vegetables. Pancakes and sandwiches and grilled sandwiches. A type of lasagna made with corn beef I think. Several desserts including lemon cake, chocolate cake, bunt cake. They also had crepes rolled up and hot chocolate to drink. Once we finished eating the Prime Minister came and chatted with us. He was very interested to hear Doina had been here for the independent in 1979 and the prime minister told us his brother had been involved in the acquisition of independence as had one of the other dignitaries. He was very disappointed that Jimmy Cornell was not with us. He told us he would have loved to meet him. He told us his big focus was Save Tuvalu Save the world from climate change. Zeke piped up to say we should all get T-shirts made and he loved that idea. He felt in his position that maybe he couldn't wear one in Parliament or when he was meeting dignitaries. He was tickled that Jimmy had made the focus of the BPO climate change and that we were visiting Tuvalu to bring attention to climate change. He encouraged us to raise awareness of Tuvalu's dilemma in any way we could and to spread the word
Here we are sitting with the Prime Minister . I have decided that I will write a personal letter to the Right Honourable Prime Minister Steven Harper informing him of my meeting with Prime Minister
Enele S Sopoaga, the need for the Canadian Government to take climate change seriously and the seriousness of the issue particularly for this nation who are about to loose their homes due to the rise in sea level. 

Wednesday 22 July 2015

Thar she blows

We spent a day getting the hydraulic pump on our auto pilot replaced by Trouble in Paradise. Great name for a mechanic wouldn't you say. I may have told you about Ian in an earlier blog. He is from Britain and lived in Canada for a good part of his life. Most recently in Vancouver fixing boats. He never complains and nothing seems to phase him. The next day we were off to Kentunu Island on the east side of Vava'u. On route what to our glorious eyes do appear but a Humpback whale. Zeke's keen eye sight picked out the whales right away and he got some great photos. 
Here you can see the whale glistening in the sun. I've just learned that these are humpback whales not Beluga whales as I previously thought. I stand corrected. After seeing the whales we proceeded through the pass where we saw the Manta Rays but didn't see anymore Manta Rays. We proceeded through a 2nd set of passes that led us to Kenutu Island. Upon arrival we could hear the surf crashing on the other side of the island. 
While there we walked the beach and took a walk to the far side of the island. Upon arrival we discovered a tree house which we of course had to explore. 

We watched the crashing surf from the top of the cliffs.  We walked as far as we could and then headed back to the beach.  When we got there we could hear the waves exploding out of blow holes. We looked for another path to the blow holes but were unable to find one. The tide was out so we walked to the north end of the island and watched the surf crashing there. 

On route we saw some great sea creatures. 

Zeke headed offshore and got some great pictures of fish and saw an eel. 

The next morning I was rewarded with a spectacular sight

With the rainbow is a promise of a great day ahead.  We had a great sail back to Neiafu. Sailing in Vava'u is tremendous as we had great winds and flat seas because it is surrounded by protective reefs.  We tested our new auto pilot hydraulic pump to insure it was working properly. The next few days we spent provisioning for the next 2 months of sailing. 

Helping the locals

We spent part of 2 days and a night back at my favourite anchorage in Vava'u at Vaka'eitu Island. While there I finally got to use my training in testing children's eyes as we tested 7 kids eyes and one 25 year old. All but one where children of one family that lived in what appeared to be a one room house. I was in charge of testing the near vision of the kids. We had 6 stations set up. 2 to test near vision. 2 to test distance vision,  one for a machine that tests for anisometropia and one data entry station. Janet from Chapter 2 set everything up and once we got underway we had all 8 tested in less than an hour I think. Following the eye testing we were invited to a feast with roast pig, fish, salad, breadfruit and some deserts. The next day the guys on No Regrets helped the same fellow with repairs to his boat. He explained the problem and we went back to No Regrets to determine if we had what he needed to make his repairs. We came up with a solution and took it to him explaining the steps he needed to follow for a successful patch to the hole in his boat. Apparently a previous patch he had put on his boat had given way. 

Quite a night

At a little before 9 PM I was woken up by Bill shouting my name. Those that know me know I don't wake up easily. I answered and was told that I was needed on deck. I arrived in the pilot house to find Zeke struggling with the wheel. I'm informed that it is blowing 30 knots and we need to take down the para sail( a spinnaker). I'm asked if I'm awake enough to proceed and answer yes so my next question is do we need our life jackets. The answer is yes bring them all. I grab all 3 put mine on and head for the trampoline at the front of the boat.   Bill gets the lines used to pull the fibreglass sock down over the para sail untangled. Once we are ready we check with Zeke at the helm to make sure he is ready. He is so he releases the sheet and down haul on one side & Bill starts to pull the sock down dousing the para sail. I notice he is being pulled forward so I grabbed the down haul above where Bill is holding and using all my body weight pull down. The sock continues to come down over the chute at the front of the para sail. As we got the sock to the bottom I tried to gather in the rest of the sail and the sheets and down hauls. I'm unable to hold them as they are flapping too much. Bill hollers. "We need to drop the halyard ". Zeke says he's got it & Bill and I gather in the para sail in its sock as it comes down the best we can. We then put out a small part of the jibe. Bill and I gather up the para sail and tie it to the trampoline after coiling up the sock down haul lines. Bill announces that we will leave the down haul line and sheets attached as he hopes we will put the para sail up again in the morning. He then thanks me for coming to his rescue when he was being pulled forward. We tied the para sail to the trampoline.  I asked if we are done and if I can head back to bed. 
At 2:45 I'm awake and get ready for my shift. On deck I notice there is lightning in front of us and to the starboard side. After checking the radar I determine there is no rain in a 48 mile radius around us so we shouldn't be in for any squalls for a while. The stars are brilliant with no moon. In the distance I notice a flashing light. I determine as it goes behind clouds and then appears that it's an airplane. Then I notice a 2nd one just in front of it. A half hour later I notice a 3rd plane on the same flight path. Through the night I observed 5 shooting stars. Someone will have to check to determine if the South Pacific has meteor showers or had a meteor shower in the early morning on July 21. All in all a very exciting night. Didn't spot any boats though

Tuesday 21 July 2015

Incredibly Cool!

We are currently hove to.  That means we are sitting in one spot in the ocean and not moving. The sail is back winded(means it is such a manner that it gives no forward motion to the boat) the rudder is full the opposite direction so the boat just sits in the water.  We do have a bit of a course over ground of about 1 knot due to the wind pushing us along.
This configuration allows you to sit and wait. (maybe wait out a storm) or in our case we would arrive at our destination at midnight so we will sit here and leave when we figure we will arrive in the daylight tomorrow.
This is apparently the first time the guys have tried it on this boat.
We plan to arrive in Funafuti, Tuvalu tomorrow where we will join another BPO boat Drina which has Doina (Jimmy Cornell's daughter (Jimmy is the planner of the Blue Planet Odyssey BPO))and Doina's son Dan on board.

Tap Tap Tap go the sticks on the stone floor

Sunday morning I awoke early as normal 5:30 AM and decided to get ready for church (which on Sunday is at 7 AM, every other day it is at 5 AM).  I quickly had some granola and shaved.  I got Bill to drop me off at the boat ramp and was on my way to town at 6 AM.  I walked up over the hill and down to the main road (about a quarter or half mile).  I likely walked another quarter mile or longer before hitching a ride into town.  The couple had 7 children, a young girl and baby in the front seat with the parents, an older girl in the back seat with me and 2 boys in the box of the truck. 2 children were not in the vehicle.  I got to the main church in town at 6:28. At 6:30 the bells began to peel. There were already a few people inside so in I went.  at 6:40 a fellow arrived and sat 1 row up from me and across the aisle.  He had a 12 string guitar which he proceeded to tune.  He then started to play (practising his songs for he morning) and singing along with the most melodious voice. A real treat to listen to him quietly singing.  In Jimmy Cornell's guide it tells that the people of Wallis are some of the best singers around.  I knew I was in for a treat once I heard this fellow warming up.  At 6:45 the bells rang again.  The seats around this fellow were starting to fill up and he was busy passing sheets of words out to the choir. The seats of the church were starting to fill as were the ones around and next to me. A middle aged lady arrived and sat 1 row in front of the fellow with the guitar and also started to warm up her voice.  What an incredible sound.  The church is made of bricks cut out of lava and there are some bricks cut out of coral as well.  Stayed tuned and I will post a picture of the church and the bricks in a later blog when I have an internet connection. The floor under the pews is concrete but the hall ways and the area around raised area at the front (perhaps it is called the dais.  The alter boys and men of clergy all came out - 15 perhaps more of them -dressed in white robes.  6 or 8 fellows came in carrying long staffs with a carved cross on top and carving the first foot or 2 from the top.  The staffs were 7 or 8 feet long with a spiral groove carved into the rest of the staff. They surrounded the raised area at the front and 2 were in the corners of the church at the front.  Suddenly the fellow at the front of the church banged his staff on the stone floor 3 or 4 times.  The bells started to ring and the priest entered.  There was a short prayer or welcome in Wallisian and the choir began to sing. The most glorious sound burst forth from the mainly female choir with 3 men.  A real treat to the ears.  As the service progressed I would watch the lips of the fellow with the guitar and was able to add a bit of bass to the most melodious sound as the choir and a few of the congregation sang.  At some point the priest would sing a phrase and the congregation would repeat it.  During the 14 minute sermon or address from the priest I was able to understand 3 words that he repeated several times Papua New Guinea...  Once the offering was taken once again TAP TAP TAP goes the staff on the stone floor.  Several of the others with staffs had obviously moved to the back of the church (which had 250 to 300 people in it) and suddenly they all started tapping their staffs on the stone floor.  The fellow in front of me had tapped the floor several times during the service.  Following the offering communion was served.  At the end of the 1 hour 20 minute service I went and went over to the fellow with the guitar and said "Excuse-Moi". I then asked if he understood English.  He replied no so I told him the music was very nice and thanked him very much in French.  I turned to go and he extended his hand and I shook it.
I quickly walked the quarter mile to the highway where I would need to try catch a ride so as to arrive before all the church goers had left.  I was picked up by 3 ladies and one had lived in Australia for 6 months and could speak pretty decent English.  I asked her why they tapped the sticks on the floor and after asking and going saying tap tap tap she finally got what I was asking and said "It's to let people know to stand up".

Monday 13 July 2015

Goodbye Vava'u,Farewell Tonga- I'll Be Baaack!

It is with mixed feelings that I leave Tonga and Vava'u Islands.  We left our anchorage about 1 PM on July 12 and had incredible sights to see on our way out.  First we observed Late which is a volcanic island in the distance.  Then I spotted whales dead ahead. These whales seemed to be just on the surface enjoying life.  At one point they were likely 100 metres(maybe more) away and they seemed to be just floating there.  I watched as they slowly disappeared behind us with several whales blowing at the same time.  We then saw some more whales ahead. What an incredible sight.
As I watched Vava'u disappear in the distance I could only think (in the words of Arnold Schwartzeneger) "I'll be baaack"  I need to share this incredible spot with my family.
I will fill in the missing parts of the trip in Vava'u in future blogs so please come back to read and see the pictures of this glorious spot.
We have been underway for over 2 days now. Shortly after leaving we realized that No Regrets as usual was going too fast and we would get there before we wanted to.  We immediately put a reef in the main(reduced the amount of main sail we had up) to slow down. By supper time we put a 2nd reef in the main and reduced the size of the jibe.
We have now decided to change our destination to the Wallis Island group and not go to Tokelau as originally planned.  We have taken down the main sail completely and the jib is partly furled up.  At this moment the wind is 26 to 28 knots and we are going 9 knots.  The waves are getting big and the boat for the most part is level.  I just hopped up and we reduced the jibe a bit more. Now we are going 7 to 8 knots.
Many of you can stop reading now as I think that I am about to start to philosophy.  As I said in my first sentence it is with mixed feelings that I leave Tonga.  Do we know what we want out of life?  Are there dreams - deep down dreams- that you still have unfulfilled?  We need to all ask ourselves these questions and be truly honest with ourselves. As I travel across this vast Pacific ocean one has to wonder about many things, about many places, and about many thoughts.  With all this in mind I will let you get lost in your thoughts, your dreams and your life.

Sunday 5 July 2015

The Humpback whales beckon

We awoke this morning to the sound of whales. The sun was not up yet but there was enough light to see. The whales were about 1/3 of a mile away and were obviously talking to each other. I saw them blow twice and surface 3 times. On one occasion I saw the fluke of a whales tail. It was an incredible sight. Even more exciting  was the fact we were seeing them in the wild without a tour guide taking us to see them. It certainly made my week. It was very tempting to hop in the dingy and follow them as they disappeared behind the island but you are not supposed to approach them.  You are also not to get too close to them.  The humpback whales come here every year to the warmer waters from the polar waters to have their young and because there are lots of krill for them to eat here. As I waited for the whales to appear I watched the rays (about 1 foot across)swim over our anchor and anchor chain. 
As there was very little wind we decided to take the old screecher down and put the new one up. Once we were done we had to try the new sail out. It worked wonderfully. We moved to a new anchorage on Nuku Island that has a great sand beach and the snorkelling was great along the reef. We later went and visited a deep cave
that we could dingy right into. It had a hole in the top.
On our way back to No Regrets we stopped & visited with Chapter 2 and Tahawus and we were invited for happy hour.  We spent a few hours on the beach. I learned a new technique in the art of building sand castles. It is called drizzling the sand
Here with 2 different colours of sand the effect is quite dramatic. 
 Zeke made brownies and we motored over to Port Maurelle for Happy hour. We caught up on all of their adventures since we last saw them and when we were done we moved to Neiafu and took our favourite mooring ball near Kjell's place. 
If you go to
And go to the bottom of the post you will see the faint picture of the whale. 

Tapana and Fetoko Islands

Our next stop Tapana Island. We took a mooring ball the belonged to the Ark Gallery
which is a floating art gallery run by an artist from Oregon who has spent 35 years here. The next day I walked into Neiafu for supplies. On my return I trucked up a steep bank where the cliff has abated a bit and across a large tall grass (grass as tall as I was) field to join Zeke and Bill at an archeological site
where the Tongans had cut coral slabs from the beach. The next day we took the dingy into town and brought back this huge box
with our screecher and the box with the hydraulic pump for our auto pilot.  That afternoon we headed off for Fetoko Island. I was at the helm negotiating a tricky pass between the coral and Zeke announced there were
Manta Rays to starboard side. These Rays were about 8 feet across. I was asked to circle back 4 times for great pictures and videos. When we got to Fetoko Island and attempted to anchor we did fine. I got the snorkel and fins out to insure that the anchor was well set & it was sitting on top of the rock. I tried to move it over onto a sandy spot but unfortunately it was 2 inches of sand on top of the rock. We finally got the anchor set & went to shore to visit Ben who told us to check out the tree house and his 9 sided buildings that were just being constructed. The view from the tree house
was spectacular and the balconies on the 9 sided houses
were over the water. The restaurant and kitchen area was built into the side of a hill. 

Thursday 2 July 2015

Visiting the many Islands of the Vava'u group

Our first stop was Hunga Island. We were actually on a mooring ball near Fofoa Island. While stopped here we did a hike up a very steep bank and followed a trail to a better traveled trail that took us to a beach. The next day I met a fellow Canadian who had been born in Winnipeg and spend considerable time in British Columbia prior to going to Belize and then moving to Tonga. 
From here we went to Vaka'eitu island where there is a very protected anchorage. When we landed we discovered a banyan tree that a local had made a place out of 
Can you believe the size of the tree 
From here we visited a very secluded beach by hiking over to it.
While there I found a very interesting discovery. Pumice on the beach. 
It actually floats 
That means that there has to be a volcano spewing pumice and ash at this moment or in the not to distant past. 

Our first few days in Neiafu

Upon arrival we had to go through customs, then immigration, next health and quarantine. We were then given a tour of the town by Kjell our BPO contact who is from Norway and sailed across in a 28 foot boat as far as Indonesia and then came back to Tonga where he now owns a resort called Mystic Sands. He is married and has an almost 2 year old son. We did the shopping we needed to do and had a great tour of town and the market. 
The next day we went into town for that shower with an unlimited amount of water. Unfortunately the water was cold so we have not been back since. We invited Kjell on board for coffee as he wanted to see No Regrets. He brought his son on board and I spent the entire time chasing him around the boat making sure he did not end up in the water. Those who know me know I love kids and had a great time.
He would stick his head into the pilot house window and make some noise then climb on top of the pilot house and stick his head in the hatch & get the attention of the people inside then he climbed over the boom and stuck his head in the other hatch. Then he wanted to slide down the windows into the cockpit which I wouldn't let him do  so we would climb down off the pilot house climb into the cockpit onto the floor and then up the other side ready for the next adventure or to do the same thing all over again. His parents told me the next day that he was exhausted when he got home. I was glad to hear that because I was exhausted chasing him around. A few days later we found a bakery in town. Once we made arrangements to have the screecher and a hydraulic pump for the auto pilot delivered we were ready to leave until they arrived. 

Trip from Niue to Vava'u, Tonga

We checked the weather and also had other boats let us know that the wind was about to change direction and start to blow strong so that the anchorage at Niue would become a rolly one. The decision was made that we would head to our next destination. We left around noon with the hope to arrive in daylight the following day. The first 24 hours was a great sail. It became apparent that we would be spending a 2nd night on the water. The wind began to build and by night fall we were having a pretty bouncy ride. We had slowed down so as not to arrive in the dark and because it made it a lot smoother ride at a slower speed. We came around Vava'u north end at 5 in the morning in the dark. It was blowing 23 to 28 knots and the rough seas continued almost until we were in the channel on the way to Neiafu which is the port of entry for Vava'u. We pulled up to the dock as advised and the officials arrived and suggested we move off the dock and take a mooring ball for our safety due to the high winds and waves. Kjell, our BPO contract was there to meet us & suggested we take a mooring ball at the lee end of the bay up near his house which we did. We were all glad to be out of the wind and were even more tickled to find out we were able to connect to Kjell's internet.