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Anthem Adrift
Whale of a Night
09/18/2014, Alofi, Niue

Thursday 18 September 2014

In a manner typical of its mischievous nature, weather turned on us about 2200. With aid of a strong sideways current, wind, building to 25 apparent and veering, forced us onto a 50 degree close reach in order to lay destination. Ensuing fun-filled 6 hours until gaining the lee of Niue were enlivened by eyeball rattling motion and great quantities of flying water, a significant portion of which entered the cockpit as well as aft head and cabin sole via a forgotten, open portlight. Noise and shivering in the surprising chill limited sounds of whimpering.

Reference previous entry, arrival hostilities were averted when a mooring was available. Of course, trading broadsides, grappling alongside and leaping across to hack one's way through a bloody pile of bodies to capture the opposing captain is always great fun, but think I'm more in the mood for wenching and carousing this time or, given Jan's understandable lack of enthusiasm for wenching, perhaps we'll just chill out and explore, enlivened by just a smattering of carousing.

Since the entirety of Niue is a giant rock of coral limestone uplifted in two geological episodes so to resemble a layer cake 20 meters and 60 meters above sea level (a 3rd layer is still forming underwater) the only way ashore is at a reef break near Alofi, the capitol and main center, using a crane to raise one's dinghy onto a quay lest it be bashed to splinters against the rocks. Sound enticing? Well actually it is. Besides the adventure of a unique landing, the place is littered with cool caves and grottos including underwater canyons, a chimney and thousands of poisonous sea snakes. The kraits are not really dangerous due itty, bitty mouths and anyway haven't the slightest interest in divers unless you grab them. In this case they often just wiggle through your hand, but may turn around to see what's happening. I've usually considered it an appropriate time to let go as this may be the one with freakishly large teeth. If that doesn't do it for you, surrounding waters are usually lousy with humpback whales this time of year. They're way big as you may have heard and in the evenings sometimes come right into the mooring field. They have bad breath.


Smoke and Oakum
09/17/2014, Day 4 to Niue

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Wind hasn't been as consistent as hoped, but we've made good time and expect to arrive Niue in the morning - one of our better crossings. After 9 of previous 12 nights on passage it will be good to have a week or so to mellow out, catch up on sleep and reacquaint deprived cerebral neurons with tequila.

May have noticed scant mention of gin & tonic for awhile. This due anomalous paucity of appropriate citrus since Raiatea. Not to put too fine an edge on it, but plastic squeezy lime makes juniper berries taste like cat whiz. Oddly, it's OK in margaritas (possibly because agave cauterizes taste buds), so even if Niue is also bereft, life will persevere until a more traditional afternoon buzz can be reinstated. We soldier on in the face of adversity.

Listening to the morning SSB net, have determined that half the Pacific fleet is in Niue on a finite number of moorings. Since tossing out an anchor here is a dubious activity due jagged topography of the bottom we may have to scare someone off with a broadside from our 12 pounders. Hardly anyone can match the weight of metal we can throw and anyway we'll catch them unawares.

"I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they'd never expect it." - Jack Handey, Deep Thoughts


A Positive Spin
09/15/2014, Day 3 to Niue

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Eschewing wise counsel (see below), we were disagreeably surprised around 0230 by wind, thumbing its figurative nose at lastest GRIB (Guaranteed Retch from Intelligible Baboons), easing and backing. This circumstance required propulsion augmentation from noisy iron contraption and furling of now flapping and no longer useful, sheet-like devices which should indeed have been called sheets, but ropes used to control them had dibs. Faint glimmer of hope for Wednesday arrival has been cruelly crushed under the jackboot of reality.

As spiderwebs of sleep slowly dissipated this morning following sufficient caffeination accompanied by 2 of 4 remaining frozen pain au chocolat, we set about to untangle new and heretofore unutilized spinnaker. This entailed surprisingly less drama than one might suppose and a beautiful blue, white and yellow 3/4 oz. sail was soon dragging the operation along at 5 knots with barely more apparent wind. A foul current is slowing progress to 4.5, but our melancholy, as implied in previous paragraph, has been cast aside as we look forward to arrival into Niue, as originally expected, Thursday.

"The nice part about being a pessimist is that you are constantly being either proven right or pleasantly surprised." - George Will


Food For Thought
09/15/2014, Day 2 to Niue

Monday 15 September 2014

Left yesterday 0900 for good sailing in 10 to 13 kt. wind, 130 off port bow and seas just smooth enough to keep sails quiet most of the time. This continued through today. Noon to noon distance was 156 NM with, surprisingly however, a few tenths of negative current vector. With better wind forecast ahead, hoping for arrival Niue Wednesday evening. This is probably like expecting Rabbit one morning to get up and make tea, but hey, anything's possible.

So, with pleasant sailing and a bit of spare time, thought to share a fascinating subject which will no doubt engage you in many delightful hours of contemplation. Nearly everyone has an allowable time during which a dropped bit of food may remain on the floor and still be retrieved and eaten. Thus the typical '4 second rule'. Cruisers tend to be somewhat less fastidious, having guidelines that can run into minutes and even longer. This prolongation at least partly results from a general frugality required by limited storage for resources such as fuel, water and, of course, food. An arbitrary rule, however, is inadequate to create an efficient balance between economy and ickiness (or health), so a more baroque system may be appropriate. For example, despite being the same basic substance, one would not treat equally a peanut, which can potentially enjoy a considerable acceptable recumbence among dust bunnies, and a spoonful of peanut butter. Also, the relative desirability of the fumbled ort has a bearing. One is willing to be considerably more flexible with an Oreo or even a sticky Tim Tam than with, say, a brussels sprout. Obviously this is a vast subject, the surface of which can hardly be scratched in this limited tract (what about washing, for example, or eating just the part that didn't make contact?) so give it some thought and form your own rule. Anyhow I spy a couple of M&Ms under the dinette that look like they can't have been there more than a couple of weeks so gotta go.


Another Day in Paradox
09/14/2014, Day 1 to Niue

Sunday 14 September 2014

After dispensing with chores yesterday, rain stopped and Susan from "Erie Spirit" came by just past noon to suggest snorkeling on the reef at nearby Whale Island. Realizing that, except for a brief period day before, no one had been off the boat for a week we agreed - then it began to rain again. Concluding, after careful deliberation, that in this case getting wet was not a serious concern, we headed off and had a really terrific time. One meter coral shelf comes off the motu, then drops over a ledge to 3 or 4 meters with bommies then farther out to multi-meters (a little electrician joke, please ignore, but anyway you couldn't see the bottom even though water was clear). Wouldn't you know we'd began warming up to Suwarrow just before leaving. Speaking of which, we are underway, making good time and just might arrive Wednesday afternoon, one overnight fewer than strategized.

Did not mean, in previous explanation, to insult anyone by the blatant assertion that there are only 3 dimensions for space plus one for time. A short stint with the abacus determines this makes a total of 4, but just as there are those who believe Earth is round and not the center of everything, some people have come to the opinion that there are several more, maybe near a dozen. This apparently involves the idea that every point in space is actually an itty bitty string... I know, I know, 'point'/'string', definitely not the same and what about points along the string, right? Don't want to disparage these folks as they are probably quite nice and otherwise no danger to themselves or others, but really, don't you suspect they have too much time on their hands? Plus (and here's the real kicker - think about it), one could postulate snagging one of these dangly bits on something and unraveling the whole deal like a cheap T-shirt. That would be really, really bad wouldn't it? Thinking deep thoughts is OK, I suppose, and nobody wants to hurt anybody's feelings, but frankly this just sounds way too dangerous. Jan & I have discussed it and concluded we're both pretty happy with 4 dimensions. Chances are you are too, so lets just agree to keep it that way, OK?


PS Title stolen from singer, Michael McCloud at the Schooner Wharf Bar on the Bight in Key West. Go see him. He's great.

Not This Time
09/13/2014, Suwarrow, Cook Islands

Saturday 13 September 2014

As might have been predicted yesterday, just after we left the reef, a large manta gave those who stayed a show. This morning is overcast and rainy, so the big guy has lost his chance with us as we stay aboard charging batteries, running a load of laundry while making water and frying leg and pit hair with a laser machine. The plaintive cries of little bitty roots being immolated is heartrending, but Jan, having been corrupted by too long association with a crude, rude Yank, has lost her Canadian niceness so turns a deaf ear.

Did you know that the ides of September is the 13th? Seems like one should more 'beware' that unlucky date than the 15th. Probably why Brutus and Cassius chose March, so Caesar would relax after a couple of days and wouldn't 'bewarned'. His mistake. Just a reminder: if your ambitions run to becoming Emperor even if you're not Italian, you really must pay attention to stuff like this.

Another slice of information that, while not life-saving, might at some point save you futile effort is that one may not just skip across undesirable bits of time, say from late morning until late afternoon to avoid that really hot period in between. Apparently there's some sort of rule or something, like the prohibition on moving faster than the speed of light. That Einstein guy came up with the light thing and I'm really put out with him. Oh sure, somebody else figured you could get around that with a wormhole. This would be done with something called space-time (all 4 dimensions lumped together in one big continuum), so if someone can jump through space, he should be able to do the same with time, right? Well guess what? You can't, so relax, sit back in your favorite Lazy Boy recliner with a coldy and don't miss those critical episodes of "The Biggest Loser" trying.


Graveyard Shrift
09/12/2014, Suwarrow, Cook Islands

Friday 12 September 2014

We never tire of watching marine critters, especially the bigger ones like sharks, whales, turtles, porpoises and rays. Arose this morning at the ungodly hour of... well OK, so we're not really early birds, but even so got on the reef at 0730 for a spectacular dance with the big mantas. Pretty sure it would have been great had there been any. Maybe they'll come by tomorrow.. or is this one of those things where it only happens if you're not there to see?

As related to good friends and former close neighbors Fitz & Angela from beautiful Tierra Verde Island near St. Petersburg, Florida (adjectives 'good' and 'close' may be interchanged at will), Suwarrow (originally named Suvarov by a Russian explorer named Lazarev on a ship named Suvarov.. TMI?) has achieved near mythic status from Kiwi Tom Neale's book, "An Island to Oneself", about his life as a hermit here over 26 years, the large number of vessels lost on its reefs (including recently, a 53 foot Amel Super Maramu, "Amiable", on a bommie not far from us when his anchor chain broke in a blow) and for the wonderful experience it's been for cruisers who have stopped by (you may have noticed at least one possible caveat). Jury's still out for us, so may blow (minor snicker) out of here Sunday morning when wind has promised to not only reappear, but from a proper direction. We're feeling lucky.

Despite baking last afternoon, overnight sleepage was pleasant with a smidgen of breeze and comfortable temps. It was even cool this morning, so have decided to skip midday and proceed straight on to evening. Will let you know how that works out.

Apparently the Vava'u Regatta committee has not been very committed (minor snicker) this year. Greg at the Tropicana Bar/Restaurant (SSCA cruising station in Neiafu) is trying to scrape up something in October, so time pressure reduced vis-a-vis September. Glad we didn't short shrift any cool spots in a rush to get there.


Off Grid, On Griddle
09/11/2014, Suwarrow, Cook Islands

Thursday 11 September 2014

Sailing without sails is like bathing without rubber duckies: sometimes necessary, but a sad and dreary affair. Although Suwarrow was relatively close following games with diesels it was insufficiently so for motoring by nightfall and there was literally no wind for primary propulsion, so we slouched our way along on minimum power to arrive at first usable light. This was accomplished after yet another rolly night as distant gales pushed swells up to 3 meters. At least we're not there.

Ranger Harry came out quickly to clear us in. Nice fellow; worked here 3 years in a row with his wife, Vaipe. New rules aren't terribly onerous, but no one is allowed onto any but the main motu. Fishing is OK, although you're likely to catch only a shark where the boats are. Snorkeling with manta rays is a highlight. Pot lucks on the beach are also a regular diversion.

Beautiful anchorage with clear water, but man is it hot. Don't know whether it's the lower latitude, a warm spell or total lack of wind, but though not horribly humid, it's sweltering. Took a nap after arrival and woke up medium rare before jumping in the water with a gang of juvenile black tips and an eagle ray. Don't think we'll take up extended residence.

Have not been connected to the not quite World Wide Web for several days nor likely to until at least Niue, several days hence. The prestigious Niue Yacht Club, which is no doubt proud to rhapsodize my membership (they fortuitously perform no background checks), has internet when it has internet. Consequently it has been and will be unnecessary to dodge the slings and arrows of outraged prose-o-philes (well it ought to be a word) for some considerable stretch of time. Trust that in the intervening period all humankind (note PCness) will have learned to get along and come to love and respect each other as the worthy individuals and valuable citizens of planet earth that we all are.. except, of course, for those despicable, villainous scum who disagree with me.


It's a Wonderful Life
09/10/2014, Day 5 to Suwarrow

Wednesday 10 September 2014

Had one of those wonderful episodes last evening that enhances the adventure, builds character and absolutely insures that the world will never be overrun with blue water sailors. Motoring along with virtually no wind across the deck in a sloppy sea, the engine, running on tank 3 with yet a fair bit of diesel, quit. Assuming sloshing sucked enough air to cause this infelicitous occurrence, full tank 4 was selected, manual bleeding executed (no one was tortured or put to death during this activity) and engine restarted.. it ran for 15 seconds. Further ministrations were unpersuasive and eventually the thing refused to even start. After a few hours, new filters and a regrettable amount of fuel deposited in inappropriate places while tracing flow (and lack thereof), a ceasefire was declared, fuel soaked crew showered and then slept through the night. Balance of complement stood watch and attempted with almost no success to keep boat stable, stay dry in the miserable weather and nap.

This morning, off-watch refreshed and caffeinated, applying last night's troubleshooting intelligence (perhaps a malapropos utilizaton of that word) and using spare generator pump to pound out mischievous air, got the operation back on track with shooting of unreconciled trouble in the offing. We proceed on toward landfall which will now occur tomorrow morning. The romance of cruising seeps slowly back in.

Have customarily attempted reply to every personal contact, but may have missed a few. As an email address is not widely or at least regularly made available, contact is often attempted through blog comments. Given often dubious internet, my haphazard consultation of the site and a rampant, congenital CRAFT condition, your input may evade impacting the relevant synapses (those few that remain functional). While not the fundamental inducement, I truly am pleased if anyone gets a chuckle from this foolishness and, despite what might be construed as a churlish snub, no slight is intended. To quote the Snapple advertisement guys (with appropriate bucolic inflection), "thank you for your support".


Afflatus or Just Flatus?
09/09/2014, Day 4 to Suwarrow

Tuesday 9 September 2014

Suwarrow is an atoll, virtually uninhabited, in Northern Cooks that is a pristine national park where, nonetheless, one could fish, dive, collect coconut crabs and explore. Previous friends who have visited extolled its beauty, clear water and, particularly, interaction with the caretakers who reside half the year. Recent rule changes, however, have apparently restricted those activities and interim stewards annually turn over, so we approach with bated breath and unbaited hooks awaiting enlightenment.

The wind and sea state forecasting model that shall not be praised has been woefully accurate since yesterday. This seemingly brilliant performance, occurring as it typically does only with bad news, shows us wallowing in nearly stagnant air (and that pittance directly aft) for the duration with consequent rumbling exploitation of expensive ancient dinosaur ooze. Disconsolation, however, is somewhat ameliorated by foul current turning, alas, not fair, but at least neutral. Previously up to 1.3 knots against, current current may allow us to arrive tomorrow afternoon before gloaming and thus duck bobbing about in open ocean overnight like a, ummm, duck.

Notice may have been taken of pictures recently appearing on this blog. If so, kindly put it back so others may perceive them as well. Due a 'Muse refuse' (inspiration goddess work action (strike)) and unwillingness to scab (labor union pejorative for those willing to work while they're not) that stimulus out to a less twisted source (have been using Petunia, the little known and institutionalized 10th daughter of Mnemosyne (who doesn't like me) rather than the more conventional Thalia), may have time to add a few more if we ever again get decent internet by which time an agreement may be reached which will probably then negate most effort in that area. You see the quandary, right?


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