Leaving New Zealand

 

Log Entry #65 – May 12, 2009

Return to Life at Sea

No matter what you hear, even from me, life at sea is not easy.  Now if you’ve ever had the opportunity to socialize with sailors just after they have completed a passage, you may be saying, “Wait a minute.  That’s not what they said,” but I need to let you in on a little secret; sailors are serious, stinkin’ liars.  They don’t mean to be; they just can’t help themselves.  It’s like childbirth; they forget the pain.  Ok moms, you don’t completely forget, but most of you forget enough to have more, and maybe that’s why sailors do it.  Otherwise they may never return to the sea.  Sailors are so excited about being back on terra firma, so proud of themselves for having accomplished such are a rare goal in this age of jumbo jets or fulfilling a life-long dream, that they just can’t be trusted to be telling the whole truth.  Because as I’ve already said; it’s truly not easy.  To begin, you can pretty much count on not feeling so great the first two, three, or four days, and for some people even longer.  True, it is a good way to start a weight-loss program and to make your ship’s food stores last longer, but it is still a yucky feeling.  Even the biggest “I don’t get seasick” braggers don’t feel so great if there is any kind of sea movement.  Of course, for most people, you do eventually get your “sea legs,” but that doesn’t stop the continuous motion of the boat.  Your muscles are continuously working to maintain stability, and while this is quite fatiguing, it is also often funny as you make your way from one end of the boat to the other, handhold-to-handhold, feeling like a Mexican jumping bean as you’re becoming airborne for fractions of seconds and your feet are doing a little Scottish jig.  If walking is funny, then you should see cooking!  To begin, you must first find the food, which is always at the bottom of the cabinet or refrigerator or freezer.  Previously I wrote about the “sifting” factor, that whatever you’re looking for on a boat, whether it is food, tools, new toothpaste, anything, it doesn’t matter; it always sifts to the bottom.  The same goes for pots and pans and plastic containers for storing leftovers and the next book you planned read.  Speaking of food, at some point you actually do want to eat what you’ve cooked.  You must be careful though because neither those plates or bowls with the high sides and nonskid bottoms, nor the fiddles (rails) around the counter or table keep food from becoming airborne.  Have I mentioned showering?  Oh I know the old-timers just didn’t do it or simply poured buckets of salt water over themselves on deck, but when you have a proper shower and a water maker, you shower.  You may be leaning against a wall trying to keep the shower curtain from sliding open with each rock of the boat and your shower water from splashing all over the floor, shampooing with one hand because the other is trying to hold on, and praying you don’t drop the soap because you’ll never retrieve it, but still you shower.  And always there is ship tracking and storm watching and squall dodging, and sail changing and adjusting and adjusting and changing.  Did I mention reconfiguring the sail combination?  And salt water!  No mater how hard you try and no matter what you do, you will get it down below and on your clothes and in your hair.  They may seem dry, but you can’t be fooled; you know salt is still there.  Oooo, can’t forget night-watches and trying to stay awake when your partner is snoring gently and everyone else in the world is sleeping except you!  You’re awake and trying to read but it makes you sleepy, and writing, but it makes you sleepy, and maybe doing Sudoku or needlework, but they make you sleepy, and finally a little exercising, but even it makes you sleepy.  You try to avoid snacking because even though it does keep you awake for a while, it wipes out all your progress on that fabulous weight-loss program you’re on.  But you do have the most magnificent view of the stars and their constellations and moonrises unparalleled in beauty anywhere else in the world, and eventually the sun does rise and it’s usually spectacular.  Then later that day a sperm whale may cruise by, you hope heading the opposite direction, or dolphins or pilot whales may summons you with their whistles to peak out and look at them playing next to your boat, or high above a giant albatross soars by, or the most dazzling and colorful rainbow you’ve ever seen appears after a squall, and you realize why.  You realize why sailors are liars.  They don’t mean to be.  It’s just that magnificent, powerful ocean and all above it and under it and on it that makes them forget.

 

Log Entry #66 - June 3, 2009
DodgeSquall
I have written a few emails lately using a term I coined for dealing with one of nature's dirty little tricks played on seafaring folks.  One friend wondered what it meant, and so I composed a definition.  I decided to share it, so in case you hear it elsewhere, you'll know what it means and where it originated.

DodgeSquall. noun. Game played only at sea, usually by small sailing ships.  Play commences when a squall (a sudden, strong wind, often with heavy rain) is spotted by a crew member on a sailing ship, either by sight or as a black ink-blot-like blob on a radar screen.  At that point, the ship's occupants begin evasive action to avoid being sucked into the squall's clutches and to take other proactive measures including reducing sail and changing course, if at all possible.  After the squall has passed, the ship's crew again hoists and set sails, resets the autopilot's track, resumes course or at least tries because wind direction has now probably changed, and gets back to watching for the next one, when play can begin again!

 

Log Entry #67 - June 5, 2009
American Samoa (May 14 - May 24)


When we made our nighttime landfall at American Samoa, we were greeted by glowing, golden arches.  A good sign we would be able to get almost whatever we wanted for reprovisioning, right?  Wrong.  And did you know that Pago Pago Harbor has the highest annual rainfall of any harbor in the world?  Neither did we, but we most definitely can confirm that it's true.  During our ten day visit, it rained every day but one, and not just lightly, but heavy, drenching downpours.  We had heard Pago Pago is less stinky (from fish processing and canning) than it used to be and had conducted a major cleanup of its garbage problem for the Polynesian Festival it hosted last year.  It is true that it is not really that smelly now, but sadly the garbage problem has returned.  I say sadly because Samoans are not dirty people.  Their shops, for the most part, are also tidy and clean; they just have some sort of issue with getting their garbage into a garbage bin.  They do have them and trucks that empty them, so we don't get it.  Trash is on the streets, the walkways, and in the water.  One day a huge rainstorm hit allowing creeks and rivers to temporarily rid themselves of their rubbish accumulation.  Hundreds of paper cups, plastic grocery bags, and a myriad assortment of other items floated across our anchorage as far as your eyes could see.  It was so thick you felt you could walk to shore by stepping from buckets to cabinet doors to laundry soap containers, and other large debris.  Needless to say, there was no running the generator that day.  Regarding provisioning, American Samoa does have an excellent selection of products cruisers have not been able to find in other South Pacific islands, but don't expect to get everything you want.  There is a shortage of low fat, light, sugar free, and whole-wheat products and a very poor selection of fresh vegetables and fruits.  We did get lucky and were able to buy lettuce a day after a container ship came in.  And sadly, yes you guessed it, "spray butter" was not to be found anywhere!  The other item not to be located in any of the villages was additional, on deck, fuel containers.  We did find three small ones, but the few remaining were "California Code" containers and had to have the spouts sticking out.  That just does not work on a small boat being jostled by waves and swell out on the open sea!  But the people, oh how sweet and helpful they tried to be.  If you were looking for a particular product at a store, they would do whatever they could to get it for you.  And I've never had so many women want to help me in a laundromat.  Could it have been they were worried I didn't know what to do?  And what proud people they are.  They all wanted to know how we felt about Samoa and what we liked best.  It's true that American Samoa is a beautiful tropical island with its main harbor nestled inside the crater of an ancient, blown-out volcano.  The steep mountains surrounding the harbor are blanketed with lush, tropical foliage, including our favorite tree ferns and palms.  There are hiking trails providing magnificent and impressive views.  The local bus system is easy to use and provides continuous musical entertainment and an assortment of interesting and unique interior design themes.  And the best part of your journey will be having the opportunity of being up close and personal with the locals.  Don't be surprised when one of these warm and friendly Samoans smiles, offers their hand to you, and proudly asks how you are enjoying their country.

 


Log Entry #68 - June 17, 2009
Christmas Island (June 11 - 13)

 

Our stop at Christmas Island was brief, just two nights at anchor.  We were not planning on stopping at all, but after reevaluating the remainder of our passage to Hawaii, we decided topping up fuel would be prudent.  Christmas Island has an interesting history and is the largest coral atoll in the world.  It is part of the Republic of Kiribati, which is so widespread from east to west, the International Date Line was relocated so all of the islands of the country would be on the same day.  This also allowed Kiribati's Line Islands to begin each day one hour earlier than any other place in the world.  In the late '50's and early '60's Christmas Island was used for high-altitude hydrogen bomb testing, but now has lower than normal levels of radiation.  In fact, many people living on other over-crowded Kiribati atolls are being relocated to Christmas Island.  It is the home of many species of sea birds and has been a highly prized contact for Ham radio enthusiasts.  Our reasons for not wanting to stop included a reluctance to further slow down our already very slow passage to Hawaii and having to deal with checking in and out of another country for such a brief stop.  Our desire to have full fuel tanks in anticipation of going through the dreaded ITCZ (Intertropical Convergence Zone - the place where all of the squalls in the Pacific Ocean like to hang-out and cause sailors grief) outweighed our other concerns, and we decided to stop. However, our fears about a lengthy check-in process were more than confirmed.  In fact, it was the most unorganized and unprofessional group we have encountered and for sure the most time-consuming.  We were at anchor just 48 hours and one full day was spent dealing with checking in and out.  I could go on and on about it, including telling about the comical "rat inspection" for their required De-Ratting Certificate, but instead will point out that most of the people there were helpful and friendly.  The one ATM on the island wasn't working the day we arrived, but the folks at the bank made sure we were able to get some money.  It took two and a half hours, but they did it.  And while the manager of the fuel company was more than a little creepy, the harbormaster was awesome.  He not only delivered our $5/gallon fuel to the wharf for us, but he also arranged for two fellows to help pump it into our containers, carry them down a steep set of rusted stairs, and load them into our dinghy.  Even the customs official, who had lay down on our settee for a rest during our check-in - she had been drinking wine at an earlier check-in of a large fishing boat - poor thing, loaned us her car to go to another location of the island.  Unfortunately we missed seeing the man who is reputed to be most helpful, but we were able to do a bit of shopping at his store.  I emphasize "bit" because there were very limited supplies anywhere we looked and no fresh produce.  I'm sure this is due to limited transportation to the island, and there is probably not much gardening going on due to a limited water supply.  So, do I recommend a vacation to Christmas Island?  Definitely not.  But am I glad we stopped?  As I'm writing, we are entering the ITCZ with the knowledge we have plenty of fuel to keep motoring through, so that is a definite yes!

 

Log Entry #70 - August 8, 2009
Homeward Bound (July 15 - August 8)


As I write, Talerra has brought us within 200 miles of our waypoint at the entry to the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  It should be a time to reflect on all we've done the past three years and the journey we have been making the past three months.  And it is, but there are so many things to think about doing when we arrive.  Dear friends commented about how brave we've been to make these ocean passages; other friends have been sending congratulatory emails for having accomplished such a huge goal and how proud of ourselves we should be.  And we are.  We know how much work and planning and financial sacrifice and, yes, even bravery it has taken.  But we know the part of this adventure that requires the most bravery is yet to come.  Buying vehicles, returning to the work market during an economic downturn, locating a marina that allows liveaboards, rekindling relationships with people who thought we would be gone forever, these will be the true challenges.  We are ready though, and we're very excited.  We can't wait to spend more time with our son, daughter-in-law, and grandsons, and parents, and brothers, and cousins.  We've missed our friends too.  Of course we've made many new ones, and become very close, especially in New Zealand, and with fellow cruisers who we spent extended time with, and now we miss them.  But with our friends in Puget Sound, we have history, and only time can impart that.  We do look forward to more cruising and exploring.  Puget Sound and northward offers abundant and gorgeous cruising grounds.  And our own U.S.A. provides an unending supply of places to see and adventures to be had by those willing and able to get out there and find them.  We are excited about what lies ahead and yes, we know it will require a lot of bravery, but do we also have a sense of loss?  Yes, a little because it is the end of a grand adventure, but really not that much.  We return having so much more than when we left, more exciting adventures, more friends, more pleasant memories, more of a sense of accomplishment.  It was a gutsy, exciting, pleasurable, and rewarding time.  We fulfilled a life-long dream and will now move on to our next dream.  How many people can say that?