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Anthem Adrift
Gulp and Go
10/18/2014, Euakafa Island, Vava'u

Thursday 16 October 2014

Famous Swallows Cave is actually inhabited by starlings or swifts, so we've been informed. Many are devastated by this cruel hoax. Nevertheless, it's interesting to dinghy in and motor about. Would have tied up to an inner wall, taken a swim and climbed into the deeper chamber that has a skylight, but swell inside might have pounded hypalon dink against jagged rocks and it was a long swim back to Port Maurelle. Not to fret, we found an excellent reef just south that terraced from 2 meters crossed by numerous canyons to 35 or so and then down again to blackness (actually it was deep blue, but the darker color sounds cooler).

Crew of Rigel came by in afternoon to introduce and ate half our dinner. Sounds bad, but actually not, as we had interesting company (he's a Yank and she's from Italy - they got together in Papeete 3 months ago) and it ostensibly restricted caloric intake for maintenance of nymph-like figure. Regrettably this was a false expectation as mass quantities of cheese and crackers more than made up the difference. Somebody stop me.

Friday

Continued intemperance in food and drink was forced, forced I say, on entire crew as we celebrated Sandy Best's birthday at La Paella on Tapana Island. Maria makes the most wonderful tapas and, oddly enough, paella (named for the large, shallow pan it's cooked in). A dog and a goat, which wandered around during the meal and listened raptly to terrific live music, provided by 2 rather ancient looking chaps whose appearance belied their euphonious skills, made the evening quite memorable for the 7 of us who were there. Highlight was Sandy's extemporaneous and somewhat naughty song about the evening. There is a tape. Bribes will be expected.

Saturday

Moved this morning to Euakafa (Ay wah KAH fah) Island, farthest south anchorage that blustery weather will allow, for long daysail tomorrow to the Ha'apai Group. Enjoyed better than expected snorkel on isolated nearby reef. Lots of, you know, reef stuff. Chilled rest of day, then happy hour G&T, lamb dinner and early bed to prepare for way early departure for long daysail to Ha'apai Group.

Jack

Divine State
10/14/2014, Mata Maka, Vava'u

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Unaccountably, outboard motor is still acquitting itself with aplomb - or it could just be running OK. Hard to tell the difference sometimes. House batteries, which have a few years on them, are beginning to fade, but a lack of full charging and equalization for several months may be culprit. There are visions of an isolation transformer in the future to allow 240 volt shore power to reverse sulfation deterioration. 120v is uncommon outside of the Americas, so need the option. Water maker and generator intakes, despite therapeutic ministrations, still suck.. ummmm, air. Suspect replacement of geriatric hoses will ameliorate the problem - might even make it better. Refrigeration, after perhaps a year of psychotic behavior until Mazatlan, has been perfect.. well, except for auto function of controller - BFD. Now, if rigging part coming from New Zealand is, for some inscrutable reason, the correct one, boat will be as nearly perfect as it ever gets. Let's agree to ignore the odd leak onto bunks and such.

Sailed out of Neiafu yesterday to Mata Maka where Sandy will reinstate the Giggling Whale and Thirsty Turtle restaurant and bar. Cool place, great anchorage, fun people. Helped drag semi-sunken barge made of bits and pieces piled with sea-soaked logs (to be used for construction) across bay with dink. Counter-intuitively steered left to go right and right... right. Should be in operation by next cruising season. THE place to be in Vava'u. Be there or be square.

Planned alcohol reduced day came a cropper due having too much fun. Departure tomorrow for new anchorage with good snorkeling and few other diversions may reinstate that divine state of temperance. Hey, it could happen.

Jack

Recurrent Recovery
10/11/2014, Neiafu, Vava'u

Tuesday 7 October 2014

After discovering regrettable failure of outboard carburetor repair, we enjoyed promotion assisted brekkie (they paid half) at the Beach House Cafe and listened to fun facts about Northland services. Opua based ICA (Island Cruising Association) poobah, John Martin, also gave out good routing info to help cruisers avoid getting their bumpies handed to them by periodic adverse weather on the 1200 NM passage to New Zealand from Vava'u.

Wednesday

Speaking of good poop (as differentiated from 'a' good poop), learned a couple of cool facts about whales at last night's talk. They're able to stay suspended at, say, 30 meters below surface with neutral buoyancy because of breathing out after surfacing to catch a breath. "Huh?", you may say. Turns out oxygen is stored in their tissues, not lungs, so before going back down, they expel most of the air. Also (and this is where children should be shooed off to play with their Gameboys, X-Boxes or whatever), males have 9 or 10 foot long, 18 inch diameter love commandos.. and we thought Galapagos tortoises were studs! Neither application nor culmination 9 to 12 months later has ever been observed.. except presumably by the actual participants.

Thursday

Finest time "racing" yesterday to Tapana, AKA anchorage 11. Revelry once at anchor on 65' Rewa was over-the-top fun, followed by Tongan feast ashore. Sandy from the Giggling Whale and Thirsty Turtle regaled with songs that your children should never hear and would cause him to be stoned to death in many cultures.

Skipjack tuna that Jan caught on the way back to Refuge Bay won us a bottle of wine and 7 day's berthage in downtown Whangarei. New plan includes delayed arrival into Auckland to take advantage.

Saturday

Last night's pub crawl was another outrageously jolly abuse of brain cells with a flock of great and interesting rabble. Expect to leave here Monday for an extended recuperation period. Although there are a few places to engage in debauchery along the way, Vava'u outside of Neiafu and Ha'apai are generally much less conducive to sclerosis. Should be at Big Mama's near Nuku'alofa to stage for New Zealand passage before end of month where assault on vital organs may again be demanded.

Jack

PS After initial truculence displayed by outboard Tuesday morning following previous day's ministrations and subsequent verbal reproach, it has behaved well.

More Than Some Awe
10/05/2014, Neiafu, Vava'u

Humpback Puppy

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Final run into Vava'u was good with all 5 boats from Niue arriving just as officials woke up. Despite dire predictions of tedious delays, clear-in with 4 different agency representatives toptoeing across the 4 boats rafted side by side to customs wharf was pretty darn painless. Spent balance of day exploring town in insufferable heat due unusual north wind.

Thursday

Swimming with humpback whales is one of those very few occasions where the description "awesome" is entirely appropriate. At one site a male's song was so loud while floating above him that it would vibrate one's entire body. At another a female and calf rested, suspended 30 meters below us. Periodically the 2 month old little guy (this is a relative term) would come up right by us for air with mom (somewhat bigger than our boat) making every 2nd or 3rd trip to the surface. Tonga is apparently about the only place one may do this as the Americas' eco-zealots get acutely choleric about people bothering whales which here generally ignored us. Beluga Dive with whom we went made everyone stow all harpoons and have ordered a lifetime ban on anyone named Quequeg.

Saturday

After signing up for next week's festivities and downloading email at the Tropicana Cafe, crew returned to boat where actual work was accomplished. Due continued incursion of salt water onto sea bunk while underway, another attempt to stanch the flow was made with huge amounts of butyl rubber on a shroud chainplate cover and nearby track endcap. If this is ineffective have decided to consider more comprehensive remediation to include dynamite.

Sunday

Eschewed traditional banana pancakes today for brekkie at Mango Cafe. Rugby on telly was proximate inducement, but departure from boat in process of selling former SSB equipment was contributory. For second day in a row, actual work was accomplished.. possibly. Johnson outboard, having become difficult to start of a morning, but running well subsequently until next day, had its carburetor cleaned. Success will be ascertained in the fullness of time.

Jack

A Day Light
09/28/2014, En Route to Vava'u, Tonga

Monday 29 September 2014

Although the day is shown as Monday, it's not. The label is strictly a technicality as we've decided to skip it and spread return of those 24 hours over the next few years in dribs and drabs as we transition time zones. By carefully doing so on Tuesday through Sunday, we can effectively blow off an entire and ostensibly less desirable day. We'll shoot for Fridays and Saturdays.

Speaking of Saturday, got the last one wrong. Mistakenly labeled that day's prattle as Friday the 26th. If anyone is foolish enough to read this at some time in the not too distant future and go take a look, it will have been corrected (sending these things can be done with HF radio, but fixing them requires internet) and you'll wonder what the idiot is talking about. In that case expunge this paragraph from your computer and your memory and continue on with your life as if nothing happened. It's for your own good.

Two day passage to Neiafu has been all right so far. Wind too far aft and rolly, but we've made good time and haven't beat up the sails very much. Other boats that also left Saturday went more direct, but, no matter utmost confidence in welding, we jibed a bit with reefed genoa to ease stress on forestay screw. Despite the zigzags, made 150 miles last 24 hours. Regrettably, wind is easing, as predicted, but so far declining to back, so progress from this point might be a tad more sedate. Still anticipate arrival early morning followed by at least a month of exclusively daysails.

Jack

Warped
09/28/2014, En Route to Vava'u, Tonga

Sunday 28 or Monday 29 September 2014

We're en route from Niue to Vava'u and don't know what day it is. We left Niue yesterday, Saturday, and will arrive Tonga tomorrow, Tuesday. Huh? Have a reasonably good grasp of the time, but that day thing has us stumped. You see, Tonga is east of the Date Line, but pretend they're not and got everyone to go along. Time starts at Greenwich, England, to go west 11 and east 12 hours to 180 degrees east. For those proficient in math this adds up to 24 hours (does too, you forgot to add in Greenwich Time, hour zero) and, fortuitously, that's exactly the length of one Earth rotation. Pretty sure the Brits did this on purpose so the 3 hours of "prime" time TV would remain convenient to watch between dinner and bedtime. So, everyone else adds or subtracts (normally, but not always) in hour increments from the zero degree, "prime" meridian, up to 12 hours... except Tonga. They add 13. Niue is minus 11 - same time, different day. A very friendly and normally agreeable people, Tongans are apparently willing to spurn world order just to be on the same day as New Zealand and don't seem perturbed that they're 3 hours later (pretend daylight time is just a myth). We've adapted to the situation by pretending today is Sunday so we can have banana pancakes and don't mind losing Monday as it's generally considered a pretty sucky day, anyway.

"A man with a watch knows what time it is. A man with two watches is never sure." - Segal's Law

Jack

Taking a Break
09/27/2014, Alofi, Niue

Saturday 27 September 2014

Have been too busy screwing around to write for the last week, you lucky rascals, but figured at least one message from Niue would be in order despite popular demand. Again it's with a synopsis, but you really don't want to know gory details anyway. Trust me.

Cool diving, cool caves, great coffee at the Crazy Uga Cafe. 3/4" rigging screw broke in big swells, releasing roller furling attached headstay to wander about the deck breaking things until someone ashore saw and secured it. Inner stay held the mast up until we could be found caving to come back and begin remediation activities. Found someone to weld the screw (with regular steel as no stainless available), then reinstalled it while futilely attempting to have replacement shipped in. More cool diving and great coffee.

Heading for Tonga today where part, hopefully, will be shipped before heading down to New Zealand.

Jack

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.

Jack

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

Jack

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

Jack

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S/V Anthem
Who: Jack Warren, Janice Holmes
Port: Weeki Wachee, FL
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