Wednesday 26 August 2015

On Our way to Australia

As the other boats were departing our anchorage at Oyster Bay Resort I was at the top of the mast in the bosun's chair attaching the screecher halyard that Bill had spliced earlier that day. It was my first time ever up a mast in a bosun's chair. You get a great view from up there. We got away around 3 PM and we had to go part way down the island of Santo and then through a channel to get to the west side of the island. By the time we got to open water it was 8:30 PM. We were well behind all the other boats at this point. Chapter 2 had some problems with their depth finder so they had stopped in the channel and we were not far behind them. By the time I woke up at 3 AM, Chapter 2 was behind us. The winds had picked up to 23 to 28 knots and we had a double reef in the main. We were slowly gaining on Tahawus and BlueWind. Sometime around noon the winds died to 18 to 22 knots and we shook out a reef in the main. We slowly crept up on Tahawus and as we got close they seemed to speed up. Around 5:30 PM we finally got by them. We had been averaging 9.2 knots for the day. Sometimes our speed over ground was 6.5 and other times it was 15 knots. I was soon in bed in preparation for my 3 AM shift at the helm. Upon awaking I'm told we are 1 mile behind Bluewind. At 3:35 AM we finally passed Bluewind. At noon today No Regrets had it's first ever over 200 mile day at 225 nautical miles made good. Our average speed for the 24 hours was 9.5 knots or perhaps a bit faster. We have beautiful blue skies at the moment and the winds are starting to decrease to 15 to 20 knots. Spirits are high and we are hoping to arrive in MacKay by Sept. 1. Click on the tracker link to the right and you can check our position. -------------------------------------------------

Wednesday 12 August 2015


I'm going to do a little bit of a different blog post. I'm going to start with the present and work backward in time. When I get tired I will quit, mail this off and then continue hopefully tomorrow. I was just outside star gazing with Zeke. We saw several meteors (shooting stars). One in particular was very bright and went a long way across the sky. A real treat to see. We were using our Star Guide app to identify different stars in the sky. The southern sky is a lot different than what we are used to in the north. We were both bundled up in our fleece jackets and I had on long pants. As we travel further south into winter it is getting noticeably colder. We had a great meal prepared by Bill tonight and the salad was made by Zeke. We ate like kings, the salad was a real treat. We arrived about 3:30 or 4 o'clock today at Malua Bay. I was once again allowed to bring the boat into the bay and set the anchor. Excellent experience. Shortly after our arrival I donned my snorkelling gear a headed for Drina. I was hoping to get Dan (Doina's 13 year old son) and take him to a neat inlet I spotted on the way in. I was informed that Drina had arrived about noon just as another boat was lifting anchor. Upon their arrival they were met by a dugout canoe. Drina requested the canoe return in an hour as they were not ready to head to shore. It was the chief's son who was welcoming them and took them to shore. After chatting with Michael (captain on Drina) for some time I was going to swim back to No Regrets to inform them I was headed for shore to see if I could catch up with Dan and Doina. Michael said they were headed to the blue pool. I then figured I would just have Michael call No Regrets on the radio and then I could head directly to shore. Michael was able to get them on the radio so off I went. As I approached shore heading for the mouth of the river I could feel the cold fresh water and could see the poor visibility caused by the mixing of the fresh and salt water as I described when we were in Nuie. I climbed up the beach where there were 2 small naked kids about 2 or 3 years old and a lady who may have been digging for crabs. I asked her if she spoke English and she said no and waved her hands. As I walked over the rise in the beach and up to the river I saw the figure of a boy that looked about Dan's size. I called his name several times and I heard a lot of talking and laughing in a different language. They were on the same side of the river as me. They disappeared and soon were on the opposite side of the river from me. I asked if they spoke English and they said YES. I asked if they knew where the people from the boat were and they said at the bool up that way. I figured it couldn't be far so with my goggles snorkel and fins in hand I headed up the beach to see if there was a path I could follow. I found one and was headed inland and looked back to see 4 boys who had crossed the river once again and were headed toward me. Two were chopping open coconuts with machetes. They came up and I asked their names and the oldest one Smitty introduced them all. Following our greeting I asked if the people from the other boat were up that way and they assured me they were. I turned and headed toward a large open area that I determined was a soccer field. They pointed to the building just above the soccer field and told me it was the school. I headed up a path across the field and Smitty turned toward the corner of the field and said this way. We will take you there. We headed a few steps up the road. The road headed across the river a ways up and at the river it was concrete and you just drove through the river. After our few steps we headed up this path that ran parallel to the river. A short way up we crossed the river. There were a few spots I had to watch my step. I had bare feet and did not have my glasses with me having swam to shore. I clamoured up the rocky slope on the other side of the river with only one hand to steady myself as I had my snorkel, goggles and fins in the other hand. I was wishing at this point that I had left them on the beach. I had figured Dan and Doina would only be few 100 feet inland. I was having to pick my way carefully through the rocks and twigs and shrubbery to insure I didn't trip or cut my feet. All the kids but one were wearing flip flops and were ahead on me. The one behind me was barefoot and was up and down the hill beside the trail hacking with his machete and looking for coconuts I think. We came to a place were 3 cows were tied up and I asked how many cows the town had. I had found out earlier there were about 100 people living in the town. l more thing to dodge, cow patties! I was told there were 3 cows. The third one was tied near the path and they warned me to go slow but too late the cow was headed very quickly to the other end of his rope so that he was behind me rather than in front of me. We continued on and had to climb over rocks. At one point one of the young fellows offered me his flip flops. I declined, telling him I was doing fine. I was doing my best to keep up with these 4 kids. We crossed the river 2 more times and they warned me it was slippery. I could see the rocks were all covered with green grass growing on them. They assure me it was not far so on we went. At one point where we had to climb up over a few big boulders one of the young fellows offered to carry my mask snorkel and fins. I gladly let him have them so I could make better time and possibly keep up these guys. We finally arrive at the bool (as they called it ( Michael had called it the blue pool)) and there was no Dan or Doina in sight. Smitty and the other 2 boys had gone on ahead perhaps to more pools up the way or to a spot they thought the chiefs son may have taken Dan and Doina. I asked if they swam there and they told me yes but that it was too cold right now. Smitty said lets head back so we crossed the stream at the lower end of the pool where I splashed water over my face arms and legs to try get some of the salt off from swimming to shore from the boat. At one point I had told the fellow with me that I didn't have my glasses and that I was not wearing shoes so I had to be careful. While we were standing by the pool I'm sure this young fellow told Smitty all this information in their native tong. Smitty was constantly having to interpret to tell me what they said as all of them know how to speak English but spoke to me in their language. Smitty announced we would take a different route back. One that would be easier as I had no shoes. On route I asked how old they were. Smitty was 19. There were 2- 14 year olds and a 15 year old. Smitty announced his mother was 34 and his dad was 37. I said to him. Your mother was 15 when you were born. He was shocked. I said that is the same age as Kevin here. I asked Kevin how he would feel about having a son at his age. We were walking through what looked like banana trees so I asked if that was what they were and I was assured they were bananas. We passed a tree that had fallen over the path. I asked what kind of tree it was and was informed it was the white tree. It was the tree used to make dug out canoes. I told Smitty he needed to come and make his dugout canoe out of this fallen tree. Soon we were at the toilet and then we passed by a few houses and then the school. I saw the sign that said Malua Adventist. I confirmed the school was run by the 7 day adventist. We headed for the beach where there were another 6 guys lying in the sand. I was quickly introduced to them all and found out there ages. They asked where I was from and I told them Canada. One of the younger ones said oh yah. One of the 19 year olds said "Do you know where that is" the younger one answered yes. I asked him to show us all by drawing it. He said he could not. I offered to show them and they all were very interested. I drew a rough North America Central America and South America. I then drew in the approximate position of Vanuatu, Australia and New Zealand. I went back to North America and told them there was a line called the 49th parallel and it was the dividing line between Canada and the United States and I drew it in. I circled Canada and said this is Canada where I live. Then I pointed out the United Sates. I drew in the Caribbean and told them that was where I started in January and pointed to all the places we had stopped in the Pacific on our way to Vanuatu. Later some girls showed up and I went and spoke to them. I asked them why they were not with the boys "Were they afraid of the boys" Yes was the answer. There were 3 of them Annie is the only one of those 3 that I recall. Soon 3 more girls arrived and in chatting they wanted to know where I was from. I said. "Let's go down to the map I drew for the boys. Then I caught myself and said "I'll draw another one right here. I went through the whole spiel again and this time I used a small stick I picked up to put in the 49th parallel. The church bell rang for the 2nd time and I asked if they were going to go to church. The answer was No. I then told them I would love to go to church could I go in what I had on and they said yes. I looked out at No Regrets and the sun that was very close to setting and asked. Will it be dark when church is over. The answer was yes so I said I need to go and swim back to the boat. As I walked onto the beach Smitty asked. Are you going to swim out to the boat. I assured him I was. He said something 2 or 3 times that I could not understand. Then he said canoe. We will take you out in the canoe. I said that would be great. As we walked down the beach I said I'll race you all to the canoe. Smitty heard me and said OK. Off I went hoping to get a good head start. Smitty was there stride for stride. As we approached I said look out I'm going to beat you. David, where were you when I needed you with your incredible speed. I picked up my pace but alas Smitty was there beside me the whole way. Playing with the old man I am sure. Rubin came up shortly and lifted the canoe sending one of the younger boys off, I assumed to get a paddle. In lifting the canoe the outrigger came off so he sent another younger one to get a rock. As he pounded the small sticks back into the outrigger it was obvious he knew exactly what he was doing. 2 young boys returned with paddles and Smitty and Rubin got in the dugout canoe. They motioned for me to get in the front and I said I would like to paddle. They told me to sit on the 2 cross pieces that came over from the outrigger that sort of made a seat. As I was about to sit down they all said. Can I shake your hand. I turned and shook the first boys hand then made a fist and lifted it. He made a fist and tapped it. I did this with all 12 or 15 of them standing on the beach. Finally with Smitty and Rubin in the canoe I went to sit in what I felt was the seat of honour in the stern of the canoe. As I sat the canoe almost went under water. Smitty decided he needed to get off so I thanked him for everything and we were off. As we approached No Regrets I hailed them and got them to get a photo of me. Stay tuned and we will get the best one posted on the blog when we have an internet connection again. Once I was safely on No Regrets I walked into the pilot house and asked if I could show Rubin the boat. The answer was "Yes Of Course" I asked Rubin if he wanted to come aboard and I'm sure he was thrilled. I showed him around and pointed out all the sails. Zeke asked me what you called those things. I flunked the test forgetting that they were called dagger boards. I'm excused right Ann, I was brought up on a mono hull without a dagger board... We invited Rubin inside but to his credit he likely did not feel comfortable as he had just met me as we were getting in the canoe and I'm sure he didn't feel comfortable going into an enclosed area with 3 strange men. He asked about the solar panels and how much the produced. I showed him the wind generator and the hydro generator and he was very impressed. I bid Rubin good bye. What a thrilling day meeting all those kids. The school has 55 kids. There are grades 1 to 10. For grades 11 and 12 they need to go to the main island. Smitty and the 4 boys I first met as well as about 30 other children come from south of here by truck. Smitty has been here a year and will remain here for a 2nd year. If I understood correctly a lot of the kids that don't live in the village of 100 people all come from the same place. I actually hope to swim in again in the morning prior to our 8 AM departure and get a few more of my questions answered. Stay tuned.

Thursday 6 August 2015

The Fun Continues

Since my last post we have been traveling toward Vanuatu. We had the winds from behind as I described in my last blog and it was quite comfortable. We did 191 nautical miles in the 24 hours after we turned Southwest at 4 PM. As the wind started to come more from behind we put up the small spinnaker which is able to handle winds up to 25 knots. The next day the winds decreased and we put up the big spinnaker (the para sail) and we were getting good speed. Bill noticed that one of our shrouds (a metal wire that holds up the mast) was starting to unravel meaning some of the strands were no longer holding. After closer inspection and thought we decided we needed to put a line around the spreader behind the mast and down to where the shroud attached to the deck in case the shroud decided to give way. Down came the para sail for a smoother ride and up the mast went Zeke to attach the line around the mast 23 feet up. Once we got the line in place and attached up went the para sail again. Soon after the wind died and Zeke decided we should motor, charge the batteries and see if we could still make a hope for arrival time before customs closed on Friday. The wind al=most completely died so down came the para sail. I think we were in the eye of the storm at this point because it was clear skies and very little or no wind. Following a great dinner(according to the crew) which I prepared it was off to bed with the engine still chugging along. We had received an email indicating if we did not arrive by customs closing time we could still come ashore for the weekend and deal with customs on Monday. There was a great sigh of relief on board. Off to bed for the 2 of us not on shift. I awoke to the boat violently bouncing up and down in my berth at the front of one of the hulls in the catamaran. After attempting to sleep for about an hour I decided to move to the pilot house to see if I could get any sleep. Both Bill and Zeke were in there. I asked Zeke "How come you are not in bed?" His reply was "I was too worried about the shroud we just broke." Good thing we put the line up just in case it broke!! The wind was 25 to 30 knots and we were banging into them. At 3 AM I started my shift after a little bit more sleep. Part way through Zeke came up. Guess he wasn't getting much sleep and I think he was looking for something to eat. I went out for my regular check to insure there were no boats close by and got a shock. The wind generator was tilted back at a 45 degree angle rather the straight up and down. I told Zeke. We got on our bathing suits because there was a fair amount of spray flying and grabbed a line to try to bring the wind generator back to vertical. After several attempts and a second line and a half hour or more of work we finally got the wind generator more or less secured and close to vertical. As we entered the pilot house I turned to Zeke and said "Are we having fun yet". We are now about 75 miles from our destination and 18 miles from Lolvavavana Passage. Winds are 18 to 23 knots and we are headed into the waves.

Tuesday 4 August 2015

Does it get any better than this?

Sailing experience - that is of the reasons I am on this trip. We started the passage from Tuvalu to Santo, Vanuatu in bright sunshine with great winds. In looking at some of the forecasts there appeared to be a small rotation that would start just about the time we figured we would get to Santo. The rotation was to be to the southwest of Santo so it appeared it would not affect us at all. The first day we had a bit of rain but we had been having rain every day in Tuvalu so it was no big deal. As the sail progressed the wind picked up and on the GRIB files we were receiving, the forecast was for big wind and big seas and the rotation centre had moved to a spot not too far from where we were. We decided to hove to for 12 hours overnight to give us a break from the constant pounding and to check out a new set of GRIB files in the morning to determine if we could proceed. At this point Zeke wanted to head south, Bill wanted to stay put as he had a rough passage and did not want to get feeling any worse. I was asked "If this was your boat what would you do" My response was "Head back to where we came from" But it not being my boat I was willing to do whatever the guys decided. The next morning it was decided to head north to get away from the big winds and to possibly head west and go up and around the storm centre and then come south where the winds were predicted to be much lighter. Off we went north and the wind forced us west. Finally we tacked and headed north east. It was then decided after much debate to hove to for 18 hours and see if we could slip south and then west and miss the big seas that had Bill concerned. We had a glorious sunny afternoon and a nice peaceful night and everyone got a good sleep when they weren't on watch. The next morning well rested and in light wind we decided to head south after reviewing the latest GRIB files we got on Sailmail. The seas began to get bigger as expected. The wind picked up as expected. Heading south we were banging into the waves a bit. At 4 PM we decided to head strait for Santo which was south west and very close to downwind. This made our boat much more comfortable going with the waves rather than banging into them. Soon after we turned SW it started to rain as predicted. Zeke had been out trimming the sails and I said. "You didn't go out for a fresh water shower?" His response "I thought about it for just about a minute, and then decided against it" 20 minutes later I decided I couldn't pass up an opportunity like this. (I fondly remember after arriving in Hiva Hoa in the Marqueses in 2008 with my sister and brother in law. Shortly after we anchored we had a torrential downpour. We had been watching our water for the whole 22 day trip from the Galapagos and here was more fresh water that we had seen for the whole trip. On went the bathing suits out came the shampoo and soap. The water was pouring off the tarp that was used for a sun shade over the cockpit. We were like kids soaking up the fresh water. After traveling around the world 7 years later I'm sure my sister can remember that glorious time. So I got on my suit, got the shampoo, soap and a towel. It took a while to get wet and to rinse my hair a few times in the water dripping off the triple reefed main sail. But it sure feels good to be clean. Then it started to pour. The wind picked up. I'm told we were going 18 knots over the ground as we surfed down one of the big wave. I just stood and marvelled at the waves, how No Regrets was handling them, at the pouring rain, and at the super clean feeling you can only get when the rain is pouring off you after a good soaping down. As the rain continued I got out a bucket and collected rain water pouring off the main. Got out a few dirty clothes and the laundry soap and began to wash. To rinse I just needed to put the clothes on the edge of the cockpit or over a winch. By the time I got around to wringing all the clothes the first one was ready for its next wringing. It doesn't get any better than this. Zipping along downwind on a sailboat, Squeaking clean, with clean clothes. I'm sure my sister would agree.... -------------------------------------------------

Saturday 1 August 2015

Decision Made

We have decided to head north to miss the storm.  There is a definite rotation and I am pleased to say that we chose the safest solution.  We will travel north until we are out of the storm's way and then turn west and eventually south or south-west to our destination Santo, Vanuatu.
Click on the link to the right and follow our progress.

What's Up!

Some  of you may have been following us on the position reporter.  You can find it as a link to the right.  We left Funafuti, Tuvalu headed for Santo, Vanuatu on Thursday at 11:23 AM.  We have had all different kinds of weather from no wind to 28 knots of wind and everything in between.  We have had beautiful sunshine for part of the trip and torrential downpours as well.  So what's up?  We decided to heave to at 7 PM last night to determine what is happening with a low that is developing to the west of us.  To be safe we are staying in a position that will allow us to easily retreat to the north-east should the need arise.  Our original plan was to head directly south and then west to Santo but Bill who has been struggling with sea sickness did not want to enter the 4 or 4.5 metre seas predicted to the south of us.  We currently have 1 to 2 metre seas with 18 to 21 knots of wind.  We will review the GRIB files in a few minutes when all are awake and determine our next step.  Drina the other Blue Planet Odyssey boat that left at the same time as us decided to heave to about 50 miles north-east of us and are now slowly motoring north until the potential low has moved off or has dissipated.  Stay tuned an updated GRIB file will come soon and we will decide our next course of action.