Shopping for Fresh
09/17/2010, Ternater, Indonesia
Being back on board after my European Tour, work had piled up and there was no easing back into it, full throttle was the only way...
We left the next day of my return crossing the equator to the North East coast of Sulawesi. An even more remote area where the last white people seen were Dutch with knee pants, long white socks and some funny triangle looking hat. After a good two weeks of the only thing I saw from Indonesia was the 6 walls of the engine room, cabin fever started to overwhelm my thought process putting in question the why's and what for's and the what the hell am I breaking my back over's??? But then there is always a moment where you get a "Clin D'oeil" a winky from whatever is out there...
This time it was in the shape of an emergency grocery shopping trip, location, the city of Ternate, Ternate Island. This place is actually one big volcano (you guessed it right, called Ternate 1707m high) and has a city at the foot of the dormant one. The main reason for the size of this concrete jungle is that this was the heart of Nutmeg Empire in the days of the East Indian Company. Ruled back then by the Lords of the Lowlands, an herb metropolis build by the Dutchies. All this is still part of a Sultana. (You have to excuse me but I do not know the word in English, I do not mean the crunchy cookie filled with sweet raisons but the area ruled by a Sultan). Ok that gives you maybe a visual setting, for those that have a little more problems with filling in the colors, check the pictures.
That morning I went on watch at about 6. The Sun was already well warmed up and chafing the horizon. As far as the eye could reach along the Ring of Fire, one volcano after another connected like magical dots by some luscious flat greenery. As a good watch keeper I looked around the whole rose and the thing that caught my eye was the spout of a whale (the watery air blown out of this large mammals snorkel) right in line with a massive column of ash and sulfer smoke puffed out of this earths' pimple. Niiiice.
All this to get to my story of grocery shopping. It is not easy to get a big variety of fresh produce so the chef, while the guests were ashore, asked someone to go into this vibrant city and find him a whole list of fresh colorful ingredients. You do not have to ask me twice. Although grocery shopping is not my finest talent, bullshitting with the locals, sign language and having a good time in general is something I am proud off. So off I went, loaded with money, a good sized list, lots of carry bags and my good friend Lumix.
I was dropped off by our tender on a wooden pier and the first contact was already very friendly, white teeth all around. No taxies here, the only way around was on the back of a scooter. One girl that spoke a couple of words of English, one of them being supermarket, helped translating, having my scooter man drive in the right direction, towards the mall. Very ironically the massive new mall is located just next to the even more massive mosque. One side for the Soul and the other the make that Soul look pretty sweet.
Going inside is like entering the Disneyland of shopping with a massive arcade on the top floor. I went to the food court just to sit down for a minute and check my email.
After buying a drink and looking around to find a spot to not attract too much attention, which is very hard in a place where every time I cross eyes with someone I get this big smile and friendly greeting, they are all happy to see me... Suddenly my eyes crossed an older lady having her meal, waving at me and inviting me to sit at her table, how can I refuse? So I met Yeanne, she was lovely, spoke a little English and wanted to share her meal with me. Apparently the tradition here is when you meet someone new you exchange addresses, so Dad if you have a nice elderly lady knocking on your door and she tells you that she traveled from far, please let her in and give her a nice cup of tea, I know her, she is very nice, thanks.
So the supermarket at ground floor did not have that much veggies, so I bought mainly milk cartons, eggs, a little cake as a surprise for the chefs birthday (yep it was your idea Monsky, I admit it publicly) and couple of other things but no tomatoes, lettuce etc... so walking out I had a choice... carry my heavy load back to the boat without the good stuff ending a normal day or have one more try at the local market a bit further down the road and go for the adventure. Don't forget all this on the back of a moped. Of course I chose the latter, life's too short!!!
After I met Ibrahim, my new moped driver and tried to explain that I wanted t-o-m-a-t-o-e-s, I get a blank stare and an innocent smile. He shook his head and started driving. I had both of my hands full of bags so I could only squeeze my legs to hold on through this total chaos of traffic, the mopeds drive on both sides of the road here. Before I knew it we were making our way through the back streets where I had to pull my eggs and cake filled bags sometimes above my head to avoid smashing them on little bicycle driven stands on the sides of the road. Zigzagging between cars, avoiding their mirrors like a well trained toreador with my bag of eggs as my red towel, OLEEEE. I could not stop laughing this was crazy.
He stopped at a little supermarket, pointing for me to go inside and do my thing. So I did and started using my well known catch phrase, t-o-m-a-t-o-e-s??? I even pointed at a pepper I bought before to make myself understood that I was looking for veggies. People gathered around me, they laughed at my facial expressions and arm waving, some trying to help, some just stood there and smiled, until one guy came up and said he understood and spoke a little English. After a little back and forwards with some basic English, he understood I was looking for veggies and even tomatoes and explained to Ibrahim to take me to the market. So I had to ask, what is Indonesian for tomatoes,......tomaat (as in Dutch!!!!!) @#$$%*&& !!
The market looked quite cute, all the fruit and vegetables were proudly displayed by their owners sitting behind their little piles under an umbrella or a big plastic tarp, an explosion of colors on a carpet of dirt.
The first stand I stopped at had limes. So we started moving our hands to agree on a price. Once the price was set for one cup I told him I wanted 2 Kg. He could not believe his luck, laughing out loud and saying some funny things in Indonesian. He roared when I told him I wanted 3 Kg of tomatoes, "is this guy for real?" He must have said. The excitement made the group of onlookers grow larger and they all had a good time, I could tell. This was not at my expense I think, I was always treated with the utmost respect and courtesy, this was more everybody enjoying this new experience, breaking the mundane, you can not believe when I tell you that I was the only westerner in a very large area, this is not a tourist destination, so it was all kept quite real.
Now I went around the market, buying fresh stuff here and there with always a unique experience as a result and they all knew that the price for selling me something was their picture taken. Great I had at least half of my list accomplished. This is it, now I had to get it all on the motorbike and get it back to the boat...On our way out; overloaded with stuff the guards made me throw a drive by high five, lucky I did not get thrown off the bike or brake any eggs.
Waiting for the tender to pick me up, the pier was filled with people waiting for one thing or another. Once I took my camera out they would come up to me to introduce them selves and to have their picture taken. While in the back ground I could here the local imam inspire the followers of Mohamed giving this whole day an even more oriental magic touch.
Back on the boat I thanked the chef for giving me the chance to experience a part of Indonesia the way I did. My batteries are fully charged again. Back to work.
Off to the South...
09/01/2010, Bruges, Belgium
Usually leaving Belgium is just the next step of my journey, moving on. But why, this time, do I feel like I leave something more then a couple of old roots and some long lived memories behind? This is the beautiful side of improvising and facebook. A spontaneous thought of making me wanting to look up my first girl friend Valerie has put in motion the gears of dormant friendships. Facebook with its social tentacles has reached beyond Bruges walls of time and touched people I once knew but were stored in a dusty cellar of my brain for all these years.
Maybe all the reasons why I left in the first place have faded, no need to run anymore, looking around me I can see beauty in all directions. I am definitely convinced now that I want to sail Babalu to Bruges. Almost bringing my home, home. Last night was the cherry on top. A couple of days ago I put an advert on facebook inviting all people that knew me and wanted to come and have a drink in the Estaminet, a lovely cafe in the heart of Bruges. I got some great responses, even from some guys that reminded me that I sold some of their records before my great disappearing act 15 years ago. Lucky beer is an easy bribe for these guys... There was just one friend that I could not reach, he is not the facebook kind of guy, all I knew is that he teaches at the school we use to go to. Being the last day of the school holidays he must be there, I got whispered in my ear that morning. So I called the school office. At first the administration lady was quite adamant that phone numbers of teachers could not be handed out, but after explaining my situation that I had not seen my friend for almost 20 years and I was leaving the next day, she took my number and promised me she was going to find him and make him call me back. The phone rang Â½ hour later and the rest is history. We had a great evening, lots of laughter with old stories, how big and bold some of us got, who had a crush on who (Chris leave my sister alone!) and much more, when all left I drank one more beer enjoying the left over vibes and walked home a happy man.
So the goals I have set out flying to Europe have been fulfilled and so much more....
Being there for my mothers wedding and enjoying her well deserved happiness; eating the foods I craved for all these years (from Flemish Beef stew to chocolate mouse turds); received a clean bill of health from my lovely doctor (well except the fact that she told me I should eat less fries!!!!! Can you imagine that, me, less fries? What a sacrifice, I'll start once I leave here, what can I say it is on my wish list a couple of times); seeing the love in my grandma's eyes; looking up at my little brother, seeing that he is doing well; kiss and made up with my baby sister; buy some speedo's to annoy the crap out of all the non Europeans, found a whole bunch of very old pictures of my childhood that I scanned and that you can laugh at on the blog, received an 8mm film of our time in "Zaire" when I was 9, amazing!!!, and so many many more....
As a good friend of mine says, Jeeee Wizzzz, this was a vacation to remember.
So I would like to say thank you to all you out there for giving me one of the most amazing 2 weeks. I know that this was not just a little flair up, this will last. I was just at the right place at the right time....
Love you all.
A Day to Remember!!!
the Son of Elena
After performing my morning yoga ritual in a cramped little kitchen where arms sometimes have to go under cupboards and fridges to reach full stretch, we all got ready in our fancy dress, the "Big Day" is upon us. After driving about 1 Â½ hour to the Mairie of Rognonas, a little typical French village about 5 K's from Avignon, we finally met the three children of Jean Marc, husband to be, and their life partners.
On one of the photo's taken inside the building you will recognize the lady from our previous story that obviously made if from village idiot to assistant maire riding on the special bus. In all fairness she turned out to be quite funny in the ceremony, one thing she said was that witnessing these beautiful people here in front of her tying their little knot, was an experience she was not likely to forget soon, sshhhhure neither would we.
We left the building within ten minutes and were off to the old city of Avignon for our meal. Hotel Saint Louis tucked away in the heart of this old fortress. This was an old hospital turned into a pretty fancy travelers creche, well restored in its old glory with a slight whiff of arty modernness inside. A swimming pool on the roof, which we did not have access to, but tried to get in anyway and failed sadly. Tables were set for 18 but we turned up with 14, a small but very lively group. After a four course meal, good wine and lots of silliness and laughter we left around 5 pm in good spirits and not ready to call it quits just yet. Unfortunately one of Jean Marc 's sons, Loic and his lovely Spanish girl friend Loli, had to leave us to drive back to Alicante, which is about a 10 hour drive. But the rest of us came up with this brilliant plan . Based on the fact that it was still boiling hot at this time of the day, a dip in the sea would be very welcome. So we all went to get our beach stuff, wine, beer, candles, toys,... drive again another 1 Â½ hour back to La Grande Motte. I warned Jean Marc that the water will be quite cold and that shrinkage might jeopardize his amazing performance on his wedding night. That obviously shook him up because he needed quite some convincing that the water was not that cold before he would strip and make the big jump, we swore we would not laugh....suckerrrrrrr!!!!
We ended up getting a whole bunch of pizza's, dancing on the beats, engulfed in the flashy green laser beams of a nightclub located a bit further on the beach.
While the kids fell asleep in the car, we all said goodnight slightly tired and still buzzing from this wonderful day. Jean Marc has great children and I am so exited to call them family. Sounds very promising for the future holidays!!!!
Witnessing your mother finally finding a good man, seeing that she is truly happy, there are no words to describe this feeling. As you all know I can use some lift and build some new trust in the loving department and my mom 's story has done more then that, there is still hope.....
Preparing the Bells for my Moms'wedding
08/20/2010, Lunel, France
Well tomorrow is the big day but today started with not just a hair but a whole wig in the butter. This morning a lady from city hall called to say that the paperwork was not to the satisfactory of the French Establishment. My mom in a flaming panic like only Spanish women can, swinging her arms with eyes ready to pop out of their sockets, calling left and right, me trying to make sense of her dictating incoherent sentences so to type up faxes to the embassy, swearing my ass off on this bloody French keyboard, totally backwards, hubby-to-be trying to calm his beloved down and my sister and nephew rolling in bed, laughing their asses off and getting on every bodies nerves. You see my mom was born in Marocco, being Spanish until she married my dad taking the Belgian nationality, now living in France. Apparently as Marocco use to belong to France all people born in this North African Oasis could apply for French citizenship, which my grandfather did but nobody knew for how many kids he actually applied for, as my mom has 5 more siblings, two from a different wife and one that the new step mom carried on her arm walking into this new household!!! It is a huge cacophony of national anthems and a carpet with so many patches it would make the head spin of a flamboyant gay Rajastani. And all this in August on a Friday afternoon, can you imagine the heat!!!! The lady at the Belgian Embassy started swearing and insulting the Maire's Assistant for her incompetence, especially waiting until the day before to contact us. Because of the French lady at the Maire's offices' obsession with my moms name being Elena (Spanish) and not spelled Helene (Proper French way of spelling) and many inquiries and silly questioning on the fact that she has two last names, which for Spanish people is completely normal, she forgot to do her job and request the proper paperwork from the B-Embassy. Can you imagine the party tomorrow when there is no marriage? Well of course we would still have the party!!! And the food and the gifts etc...What do you think I flew 11000 Km from Bali to just have it up the behind from some French bureaucrat and not enjoy a party afterwards!!!
So after lots of running back and forward, phone calls, faxes, nail biting, nervous smiles, swearing in multicultural ways we received a phone call from "Messieur Le Mair" himself to say that all was well and that we had the blessing of the French People... Ooooophhh. I can't wait to see what happens tomorrow....
Back to the Roots.
After 40 days and 40 nights of hard work and little or no play we finally arrived in Bali, bombing capital of Indonesia. We sailed all the way up from Darwin and almost stopped at every single island. Bali is the first "civilized" place on our route. Loud and noisy, cheap, dirty and full of tourists. What a shame. Indonesia is an amazing place though, very serious dramatic looking volcano's looking down on the greens and blues like old grandpa's in their rocking chairs. Observing all of us little people from their verandas, making sure we all play well together. Now and then a roar or a puff of bad smelling pipe smoke, reminds us of our place in all this.
That being said, it has been quite full on with a couple of highlights. Komodo dragons staring me in the face, well they were half asleep but still one bite and their you go. There is an anti dote but you need to be pretty quick with the white coats or you become some dragons next meal. It has just been discovered that it is not a bacteria in their saliva that kills you but a proper slow acting poison in a gland. After a short but painful bite it can follow its pray for many days until it drops dead. Ding Ding Ding, dinner is served...
Also one of the nights we were anchored out in one of the bays. The guest had a couple of glasses of alcoholic beverages, dancing and chit chatting in the cockpit. The captain and I were trying to deal with a leak in one of the fresh water pipes underneath the floor of one of the guest cabins. Suddenly we heard the owners wife call out at the top of her voice, "Snake Snake!!!!" The captains' and my head both shot out of the whole in the floor and looked at eachother, "Snake, Snake????" They had a few too many but that sounded serious. So we ran up. The women gathered on the opposite side of the room in a slight panic. The men all over the place and of course there always has to be one that needs to show that he is not afraid of, in this case, one of the most dangerous sea snakes alive. The white and black striped reptile was in a frenzy. He was shit scared, trying to get away in the air conditioning duct as a drunk guest was trying to poke it, facing it on his hands and knees. After telling the guest to calm down and step away from the snake we went straight down the engine room to get some thick rubber gloves and a long crowbar to handle this in a proper matter. The snake was not very long, a bit more then 1 meter so it was easy to lift him with the crowbar and throw him in the water, all that under the loud screams of a guest: "kill it kill it". What an idiot. Well the sea creature came in by one of the scuppers that leads from the water line to underneath one of the benches on deck for proper drainage. Another memorable moment was waking up in the morning for an early departure and seeing dolphins hunting and fishing in the patched of our underwater lights, we could almost touch them.
Now I did mention it in one of my previous blogs that in a couple of hours I am flying out from Bali to Montpellier France for my moms' wedding. And then of to Belgium. Two weeks of pure pleasure....Take care y'all, hope to hear from some of you in the near future....
Tram 4 has just picked me up.
07/25/2010, Darwin Australia
Isn't 40 the age life starts at? I feel like a new born I guess, almost bold, drooling when I see breasts, in need of a nap after lunch,...
There was no cake but I was surrounded by my friends and colleagues, a couple of nice presents, just a day out of Darwin. To make a long story short. We set sail from Vanuatu with the intention of sailing to Darwin, about 2300 Nm. After a beautiful day of sailing, with everything up and making 14.5 Kts, we got confronted with one of the worst problems. The clew came loose with the main sail completely up. This is a hydraulically driven boom furled main sail. 375 m2 of solid sail flapping like crazy. Very dangerous, can clear your head off your shoulders with one swooosh. There was still a piece of samson rope attached at the back and with every flap, hurt your ears. A giant whip demanding attention.
We had to sail close to the wind to try to control the flapping. Heading of course for the only piece of rock in the whole area and night was about to fall. The more we tried the worse it got, battons were flying around after ripping half the pockets open. (these were carbon fibre poles inside the sail, to maintain a better shape, the longest one 14m). Like I said to make a long story short, we ended up dropping the sail and were very lucky not to damage the paint or anybody doing so.
Now all this can happen but in our case it is the context that makes it worse. We were suppose to be in Darwin 10 days earlier to prepare in a more relaxing way the next boss trip. Like I said in my previous blog, we had a charter thrown upon us at the last minute. So now we have only two days to get ready (for whom that works on boats and particular on yachts, that is cutting it really really short). So when your mainsail gets damaged that way, it becomes mission impossible 4.
We changed our course to Cairns. Dropped the sail off. Had it trucked to the nearest loft (8 hours away) Two crew members witnessed the repair and drove the sail from Cairns to Darwin through the outback, 2600Km off roughness and lots of kangaroos. The battons were ordered from New Zealand that same day, flown to Sidney and trucked up to Darwin. We only stayed 24 hours in Cairns, doing as much work as we could (including replacing injector pumps and turbo on genies, taking on 26,000Lts of fuel, small repairs here and there). We sailed to Darwin as fast as we could on the inside passage of the Great Barrier reef, all eyes on deck, almost had a fire, doing 8 hours of watch a day and work for at least 5 sometimes 8 more in between. On my birthday I ended up working 18 hours straight. So you can imagine I am megamongusly looking forward to my trip to see my mom in France and my dad in Bruges mid August.
For the time being all is well. We managed last night to hoist up the repaired sail and the boat looks acceptable. The owner walked on this morning and all has calmed down now. We made it. This has been a very crazy almost 2 months.
Thanks to all the people who have send me their wishes, I appreciate the love. All I need to do now is get myself a bowflex and get in the best shape of my life....
What if Vanuatu was in the World Cup!!!
07/07/2010, Uliveo Island, Vanuatu
I am sure most of you have never heard of Uliveo Island, just off Malekula Isl. Well I did not either until this afternoon. Our beloved Captain went ashore in the morning with our guests for a local dance and some cultural experience. The funny thing was that the guests are very religious (so it is not hard to figure out which country they are from), so at the breakfast table they asked the stewardesses to make sure the Captain knows and makes sure that the daughters would not be asked to dance, or that there would be no nudity at the dance, .... Yep really!!! I did not go along to see that dance but I would have given an arm and a leg to have seen their faces when the local men came out with just a wooden horn on their ding dong and a small leave covering their buttocks. Jumping up and down, balls all over the place, hilarious, the question is: What would Jesus do? They even took a picture at the end with the whole dance group and the guests in the middle. They could not turn their heads without loosing an eye, if you know what I mean!
Ok all that to get to my story. The chief had asked the Captain if the engineer, yours truly, could come and have a look at the satellite TV on his island. Sounds pretty simple but here it goes. We had about a good hour left before diving a wreck, on which I had to participate as a divemaster. Kent and I took our crew dingy and first picked up the chief and some of his family on another island before heading to Uliveo Isl. This island is about 2.5 Nm away from where we are anchored. When we got ashore the chief, whose name was Tom, told me it was only a two minute walk (first mistake for believing him). So Kent was going to stay with the dingy until my return. Kent, by the way, had the only VHF radio with him (second mistake). So I followed Tom through the village, and little by little I started to realize how important the job I was about to perform was to the locals of Uliveo Isl. Everybody came outside or yelled from their huts, "Is this the white man who is going to fix the TV?" They were desperate to watch the world cup. Germany-Spain tonight. So we walked for about 10 minutes before we turned and went through some jungle for another 10. Tom still telling me that it was at the next tree or turn....(third mistake for still believing him). Coming out of the bush on the other side of the island we arrived at the local school which was the only place with stone buildings, about 10 good sized class rooms and about 150 students. On our walk Tom also asked me if I was married, as you all know, I was until recent, so I just said that I was single. He looked at me and told me if I wanted a wife? Which I thanked him for but I told him that I was going to take a rain check on that one...We stopped at the entrance of the school waiting for the headmaster. As you can imagine all the students looked at me, smiling, some waving but it all happened in a relatively calm matter, until I took out my camera. I felt like I was on a Trash Metal concert where everybody was stage diving in front of the camera to get into the picture. This was great. Tom said: "The kids love the white man" They shuuuure did.
The headmaster took me to the sat dish that was sitting on a 55 Gal. oil drum. I checked the wire and it came loose in my hand, I thought great, quick job, done, walking back, happy captain, diving, everybody yiipppiiee. Nope, that is not the way it went. So I asked for the TV. One guy came out with a TV under his arm and pointed to the other side of the compound telling me that that was where the electricity was. So we started walking over the field, one carrying the dish, one the TV, one the oil drum and one the stones to hold the dish in place and behind all that half the village with about a hundred students. They got me a table outside the class room to install the TV on and the Sat receiver that could only be touched by the head master, this was gold to them. He told me outside was better; there were too many mozzies inside. Well I can tell you I have never tried to fix a tv dancing around to avoid to get completely eaten by miniature vampires before, imagine the limbs I would have lost inside. The drum was installed with the sat dish on top of it, held by a guy moving around trying to find the invisible signal. The peer pressure was on, I had a whole audience, observing and studying every move I made (and I made some really groovy ones), astonished by the wonderful tools I took out of my magic bag. It was great, I reprogrammed the receiver, fixed the wire but still no image. We did not know the coordinates of the satellite. So I had to leave them in suspension until I got back to the boat and give them the azimuth and elevation for the Sat. When I got back to the beach I landed on, no Kent, no dingy, I was stranded, they left me behind. I was gone for almost an hour instead of the 15 minutes that I was suppose to be gone for and I had no way to communicate. I sat down with Tom on a tree trunk, next to his friend and grand son, watching the local boat builder, chopping away on his new creation, chatting about me getting married with a local girl, and other trivial things. I told him that it would be hard to explain to the Captain how I went out to fix your TV so you could all watch the world cup and I came back married to your daughter, carrying a canoe and a couple of pigs as a dowry onto his super yacht. I did not go diving but I had a great afternoon. Vanuatu is definitely a place full of surprises....
4th Of July, Fireworks all around!!
07/04/2010, Efate Island, Vanuatu
Sailing North, up the chain of beautiful islands with our guests has given me a couple of good subjects. First of all, to all our American friends a happy 4th of July. We spend it in front of an island shooting off our own fireworks. One of the deckhands bought some fireworks in town on his way to the doctor. We actually had a nice variety of rockets and fireworks considered illegal in most "civilized" countries, so that promised to be a lot of fun. The Engineering department took it upon itself to put on a great show. Me, as the chief and Nino as the second engineer were determent to entertain all the guests, the crew, the other two boats in the bay and the local village. We had a couple of hours to get this all organized. First of all we had to check who owned the beach and who else to get permission from. Arriving on the corally beach we encountered a whole bunch of youngsters sitting around a fire, roasting and eating chicken. I introduced myself and popped the question. They all looked at eachother, started a 5 minute conversation in pigeon while I just stood there and smiled. Then the owner of the land looked at me and said, ok but you need to ask the chief of the village, who was on the other side of the bay, still in church for another hour. After steaming to the other side, meeting one person after another gradually getting closer to the chiefs family, I received his phone number. We headed back to the boat to prepare just incase the chief would give his blessing. I gave him a call an hour later, had a little chat, he was ok with it but wanted to know the exact time of firing so he and the villagers could get ready for the show. I could just imagine them all sitting in lawn chairs with cocktails, checkered blankets covering their legs, staring at the sky going "ooohh" and "aaaahhh" while roasting shmores on a wood fire, or maybe not. Now Nino and I had put the right firing order together on a list. We cut some pvc pipes to the right length, took our fire fighting gear out, it looked promising and crazy. In the eyes of most of the people on the boat more crazy then promising but then again, what could go wrong? As all good fire works coming from China they all carried an original and slightly intimidating name. There was the Pyromania package consisting of Meteoro, Snake, Rocket Cracker and the Black Fire Balls. We also had two Colorful Dragons, something called Double Action being a mortar firing high power grenades and for the finale some Bengal Fire looking like a bazooka, that was going to be our grand finale, "Ze Bouquet".
Before heading for the beach we went around to the other boats, warning them. One of them was an English family with kids, so they were exited.
We started with setting off some Chinese lanterns, like hot air balloons they were suppose to hang above the bay colored in Blue, White and Red. After the first one we realized that it was much more dangerous then we expected. The bloody lantern went up and backwards towards the bush. After a couple of swearwords and some height, the wind took them under her wing and blew it towards the bay, "Let's just leave it to two lanterns, shall we" was our common thought. This was followed by a chaotic firing of everything we could, as fast as we could. We were engulfed in smoke, deafened by the mortar grenades exploding way, way too close, some of the smaller rockets went for a short flight straight in the water but most of it went up in a graceful ballistic dance and made apparently a great show. We did not see anything to be honest, like headless chickens with a torch in our hands, swearing, screaming and laughing very hard running back and forward, keeping those tubes filled with explosives, avoiding getting 3rd degree burns or our pants blown off was our contribution to the whole. I don't know what made people laugh more, the fire works or our fire-work-chicken-dance show... but it all ended in cheering and applause which is the best reward for any artist, right?
The next day we anchored in front of Ambrym Island which is actually an active volcano. Beautiful how in the darkness of the night, cadzillion stars in the sky and the horizon engulfed in a red glare with spewing fire balls now and then. The real deal....a true artist at work....
Off we go!!!
07/01/2010, Port Vila, Vanuatu
Port Vila, 2/7/10
Still writing from Port Vila, Vanuatu. We are staying a little longer. We are suppose to head for Darwin (2500Nm) to have some work done and getting ready for our next leg around Indonesia. But two days before departure we received a request for a 10 day charter in less then a week. So today we have some guests coming for ten days. We will drop them back off in Port Vila after the Tour de Vanuatu and as soon as they turn their heads on the way to the Taxi we will push the throttle down off to Oz. Then we have only two days to pick up the next trip, so for the next month and a half work work work, and you know what they say, "all work and no play makes Hansy a dull boy ...".
I also finally managed to watch a world cup game. We got up at 12.30 at night to watch England-Germany on the top floor of the nicest hotel in town. The lounge was pretty much divided in two, the German side and the English (lucky nobody had the crazy thought of digging trenches this time). I was sitting at the German side. Yep for those who know me, I am not a big fan of the English Team (big understatement) and as my Austrian friend Martin from Anima III was in town with his German crew we enjoyed cheering for the Germans for a change. I did make a massive booboo though. I was quite excited at the start of the game, so when my German friends started singing along with their anthem, I was convinced I knew the words I stood up and started singing along with all the air I had in my lungs. I was so happy to be part of a nationalistic group song. Only after my first line, everybody else stopped singing, staring at me with their jaw dropped and their eyes saying "Oh no, he did-'nt!!!" (But then with a strong German accent)
I remembered the words to the German anthem from watching some movies and of course they must have been war movies as I sang the lyrics to the anthem pre 1945.
Lucky for me Germany trashed England so they forgave me....
And finally we did a good dive yesterday. Vanuatu and the Solomon islands are one of the greatest dive spots when it comes to wreck diving. Last month we dove in the Solomon's on an old Japanese Auxiliary vessel that was sank by American airplanes and that sank to about 40m. You could still see tanks in the holds, bottles of sake and ammunition everywhere,... Yesterday we went to dive on the Konanda, an island trader that was sank for people to dive on. Good visibility, lots of fishies and it was great to go through the bridge window down below. I did not go to the engine room, there was nothing to fix anyway....
Off we go...
Spiderman with a soar bum...
06/19/2010, Port Vila, Vanuatu
Sometimes a problem becomes an opportunity. I have a bit of a problem with an injection pump on one of the generators on Drumbeat. So we had to order a new pump. Now to get this part in from the States is not that easy so the Captain has decided to sit and wait here in Port Vila until the part shows up. Sounds like a problem, not really, he gave us a bit more time off so some of the crew decided to go horse riding in the hills and the beach.
As soon as we got there we met Owen, our guide, a local that spoke better French then English, very nice man. As soon as I saw her, I fell for her luscious eye brows and long white hair. Her name was Paella and I wanted to ride her so badly. I think she chose me too at the way she licked her nostrils and shook her head, like saying, "come here cowboy, mama is going to take you for a little ride..." It is possible that I misread the signs but there you go, we all believe what we want to believe....
Off we went the five of us following or knowledgeable and constantly texting-guide Owen. We went pretty much all the way up the mountain following a little path, went through fields of fruit trees and enjoyed a stroll along the beautiful beach. Now when we went through the fields filled with mandarin, lemon, oranges, papaya, mango and a lot of other wonderful fruit trees we noticed a very high amount of mega spiders hanging innocently in a web the size of a football (soccer) goal net. One of the ladies with us was freaking at the size of them. At a certain moment Owen decided to have a little cigarette while we continue strolling a long the track. He then falls back to the rear of the group so not to annoy the non-smokers. I was the next inline so he told everybody that they should follow me, I was the new guide. I know you are all thinking, what a mistake!!!. Not even 2 minutes in my new role I hear Nino, that is just a little behind me, shouting: "Watch out!!!", the next thing I know, I have a face full of very sticky spiderweb and I am looking into the 8 eyes of a megamongues multi legger. I can not remember which eye I stared at first but I do know the surprise of my new friend. I started waving my arms wildly and took my helmet off in a rather rapid motion, I felt the spider in my hand as I was trying to flick it off. Laughter is what I got from my fellow horse riders. Inside of me I was pretty proud that I did not scream like a girl and ran as fast as I could. Paella did not even notice it, I did not loose face.
Until next adventure, ciao....Lucky Luke
06/14/2010, Port Vila, Vanuatu
First of all many thanks for the thoughts and words of support, it is in the tough moments of life that you know who your friends are. And we both have many good friends.
Well I have finally got 2 days off after quite an intense 4 weeks full on busting butt. I met up with Tyronne from Gillaroo and his new crew and wondered about ending up in a lovely little place called Tamanu. Rented a bungalow for the night, made out of wood and old coral located not further then a good throw of my flipflop from the breaking waves on the beach. Lovely place, very peace full.
It was great to meet my Irish friend and we had a lovely dinner. It was Kathryns' first try at compiling Pizza and she did pretty well actually. The funny part was getting back on Drumbeat after wards. The crew had brought the side ladder up to deck height. So I ended up climbing on Tyronnes' shoulders in a wobbly dingy laughing our asses off trying to get back on.... all ended well and nobody got wet....
Now that I got some time off and finally have a bit of an internet connection, as you can see, I was able to update the site and have some pics uploaded. But one of the main things is that I have time to figure out what flag I am going to fly on Babalu. You see as a non-American citizen I can not own an American flagged vessel, so right now high on the list is Vanuatu and the Cook Islands. If any of you have any ideas please feel free to leave a little comment, I am definitely open to suggestions. The trick is not having to start a corporation in that particular country of registry.
Well Drumbeat will be chilling out for a couple of days and then we will make our way back up the way we came down with the guests so we can enjoy the beautiful islands at a more relaxing pace.
Just a quick thank you to James our first mate for his contribution to some amazing pictures, including the shots of the dolphins in mid air and on top of this page which is Queen Charlotte Sound... enjoy.
Sleep, little vulcano, sleep...
06/07/2010, Uraparapara, Vanuatu
Although I spent most of my time inside the engine room, I came outside today after three days. We approached an island in the shape of packman. Ureparapara island is in the Northern part of Vanuatu and is a dormant volcano with about an 8Km diameter. The mouth of packman is the only way into the crater lake. I went ashore with the guests. The local chief David invited them for a dance, he warned us that the dance was not completely ready, they are still practicing for the festival on Friday. This island is amazingly beautiful. There are about three villages with close to 300 people on the whole island.
When we arrived and dropped anchor within minutes we were surrounded by about 10 pirogues full of curious people. We were the third boat they saw in 6 months. They have no electricity, no TV, no running water. They collect the rain water from the volcano edge. They get a visit every 3 months from a cargo boat with some items that they can not get. Otherwise they live from what the volcano's luscious forest and very fertile ground and of course the ocean provides. They look content and the children have huge smiles on their faces playing all day in the water, jumping off trees.
The dance was very interesting, only men, with self made head gear representing the main ocean dwellers they admire or simply eat. All to honor the gods. I could not tell which part of the dance they did not master yet. I got to talk with a man standing next to us, his name was Winson. He was the local schoolteacher. He taught 21 kids between the ages of 4 and 8. His little school consisted of a big hut, nice and tidy and a playground. The playground looked like any playground back home, a two story construction with a slide at one end and a couple of swings of the side, all in a well set of sandy area. All of it was made out of local branches and banana leaves, it looked impressive. At the end on my way out, Captain Michel, who was walking in front of me with Chief David, turned around, pointed at me and I could see the chiefs eyes lid up and approaching me really quick. As soon as he was within my hearing distance he asked : "Is it true, you have strings???", at first I did not understand what he meant and then came the universal movement of scratching your belly with one arm and tickling the air with your other outstretched arm, ... playing the instruments of the gods, the guitar. "Do you, Do you???" He told me that the island had a band that was pretty good, there was a big inner island festival coming up and he had too many strings missing on the only guitar in the band. I told him to wait there and went back to the boat to pick him up a complete set of my D'Addario's, I had two sets, so I gave him one and made him promise to kick some inner island ass. He gave me a copy of their CD that they recorded on board of one of the passing cruisers last year. It sounds great, what a great place to live. If I do decide to head West next year, this place is on the list, for sure. A little jam with the boys would be more then welcome...
06/01/2010, Solomon Islands
Hallo to everyone who has not given up on reading this blog. I have hesitated for a while on closing it down but then I thought it gives me joy to write silly things with a picture here and there and I love reading the comments I get.
It has been very quite for a long time that is because as you all know life is full of surprises, some enjoyable some heartbreaking.
The latter was my reason for keeping quiet. I will not go in to too much detail as I am still living in the after shock of the events but Erika has decided to move on and follow her own sun.
Many of you have envied us for our adventurous life style and for living the dream. We did to a certain extend but the higher the mountain the harder and deeper you fall when it all crumbles.
That being said. I have decided to continue the Adventures of Babalu. She is currently out of the water in a lovely family owned marine in Whangarei. Waiting for my return next year in February or March. I am currently writing to you from the Solomon Islands. I took a job on a 53m Ketch called Drumbeat. We sailed all around New Zealand, to Australia where we took her out of the water for a 6 week refit in Newcastle. After visiting Cairns in the Great Barrier Reef we sailed off for the Solomons.
To me it reminds me of Africa. It is very primitive, lots of rain forest and the people travel by "pirogue" or canoe, carved out of a tree trunk. The scenery is spectacular. I am taking pictures and will be updating the blog once I get an internet connection that can handle uploading.
We are about to sail off to Vanuatu for a stay of 2 weeks.
The plan is to make our way to Darwin over the next month passing the Solomons again, Papua New Guinea and so to the North of Australia.
A trip is already planned to Bali for the end of July. AND.... there is some good news out of Europe, my mother, being late 50's is going to get married on August 21st. And I am going HOME!!! I am going to France for one week and then Belgium for the second. My dates are 16th of August until the 1st of September. It has been more then 2 years, and in the light of the current events it is always good to go back to your roots. So I hope to visit some of you in the very short time I have.
That also means that I am currently considering soloing on Babalu, another big challenge, I have already thought about the modifications I am going to have to put her through to make the sail handling easier. And don't forget if you want to have a bit of time off and share some of my travels, you are more then welcome to join me,....
Next time you check this blog things will look a little different and it will have details of my current trip in the South Pacific so stay tuned ....
On the Hard!!!
01/20/2010, Auckland, NZ
Hi Gents and Sheilas,
First of all I would like to apologize to our numerous and loyal fanbase for slacking on my blog duties. Not only a lack of creativity (writers "blog" I guess) but definitely a lack of adventurous happenings except for this week, i.e. todays blog update.
We just got back in the water after spending a week in Orams shipyard. As our door is still standing and in one piece regarding job offers we decided to take the boat out of the water and treat Babalu to a visit to the local spa and beauty parlor. We sanded the hull down and gave her a nice new anti fouling coat. The next project was to have the sail drive treated. Sanding, priming, anti-fouling, new rubber jacket (the one from last year when we fitted the new engine fell off after a month, this time we used 5200, for non-sailors, that is Satan's Glue, once applied and cured it will take a hammer and chisel to remove it with certain collateral damage.) Last but not least, the port water tank. For those not familiar with the Babalu layout, we have in our salon under the sitting area one 25 Gal. or 100 L tank on each side, connected by a crossover with valve. I noticed a while ago that the bilges were filling up with fresh water, although slowly it was a thorn in our behind, it had to be fixed. But taking that tank out promised to be a sweaty operation and filled with outrageous Flemish swearwords. The tank was most likely installed first and the furniture build around it. When I opened the tank I could see a rusty weld seam on the bottom, that's where that hole will most likely be we thought, this tank is 25 years old and made of Stainless. Now here is the challenge, when I redid the electrical wiring I used the same path as the original installation, on top of the tank (oooopsss) and entering the electrical compartment on the aft side, making it incredible hard to lift the tank out. So I had to start cutting wires and probably like a 50 wire ties, taking out one of the batteries, etc... it was a slaughter that made me sick to the stomach remembering all the hours of slave labor that went into the installation in the first place. Once that was done we had a carpenter starting to take out some wooden beams, breaking the screws, with the intention of gluing it all back afterwards. With a lot of hooha Erika and I got the tank out and had it pressure tested and fixed. The guys found 8 pin holes. Putting it all back together was a breeze, only a little time consuming.
So we are back in the water and docked in Westhaven. All back to normal. Babalu will get a proper bath tomorrow, I think she is happy.... and so are we.
The Sunny Side of the World
01/09/2010, Auckland, NZ
Erika and I started our newest year with something we have never done before, a rodeo. We had to come all the way to New Zealand to go and see a rodeo. We were actually there to help out a friend, Andre. He has an Ice-cream truck and needed a bit of help. So Erika jumped in and became an Ice-Cream Lady for a day. It was fun, lot's of people, bulls, horses, hot dogs and lots and lots of Ice Cream.
We are also still in the process of finding work. There are a couple of leads out there and I expect a break through any moment now. Oh by the way, we have decided to park Babalu for a year so we can take a more full time job and fill that kitty to the brim. We have less chance of leaving our boat somewhere safe and go away for work in the next couple of legs, so here we go. It is not going to be easy to leave our little home like that and not have the live we love so much but No Pain No Gain, right?
We hope people are not freezin' too many parts of their body, especially in Europe, it is another hot and sunny day here in Auckland. (I wont be able to enjoy it to the fullest though as I went playing football ((the real thing, ball with foot)) yesterday with the Brazillians (Canela), the French (Qovop) and Canadian (Sedna I) in the full sun for a couple of hours. I realize now that humans have a lot of hidden muscles and when they hurt badly you walk like an 87 year old...
The End of 2009
12/24/2009, Westhaven Auckland NZ
Dear Friends and Family,
Again a Merry Merry Holidays (ex- X-mas) and a Jolly Jolly New Start of 2010. We are still here in Westhaven Marina in Auckland New Zealand. It is a wonderful morning X-mas Day, about 22 degrees C (71F), sun shining through the hatch, haven' a quick breakfast and off we go to visit our friends, the Boltars. We used to work for Andre, Captain of Emerald K and Vicky and their two lovely children Aurora and Phoenix. So you guessed it by now, I did not leave on my tugboat adventure. At the last minute, even after my introduction to the crew and the boat, they could not hire me because of me not having the working permit. (A detail that was overlooked) All you people out there, living a more sedentary live complain about your governments and their never ending and inefficient bureaucracy sometimes...try to be a nomad and deal with a couple of them a year.... So our wish for the New Year is that some smart and intelligent person in the UN (contradiction enterminis) creates an International Passport and Work Permit for people like us. A Nomadic Passport. No more visa's, no more permits, only clear in and out, 6 months of care free living, working, spending money,... wouldn't that be great!!! All in favor...
But the good news is Erika and I can spend these celebratory days in eachothers' company.... So lot's of love from Down Under!!!!
A Sunny X-mas and a 2010 with a Smile...
12/18/2009, Auckland, NZ
First of all to all of you out there, Enjoy the X-mas celebrations and a Very Joyful and Happy Start of the New Year. Hopefully some of you will make your new year resolution a visit to Babalu. And share some of the amazing adventures.
We are still in Auckland enjoying the beautiful city and the Kiwi friendliness. The photo shows our new car bought on Trademe.com, New Zealand's most visited website I guess. The good thing is that I made a deal with the seller to take the car back when we are ready to leave again for just a little bit less then what we paid for it. I know it looks a little bit like a "Johnny Car" (it definitely sounds like one with the twin turbo engine, actually it sounds more like an old Harley.) but it was relatively cheap and it is a Subaru Station Wagon, what does one need more....
Funny situations have occurred already driving on the "wrong" side of the road, encountering flashing headlights, "Oink Oink" horning and startled Kiwi faces....
Also I have found work for a couple of weeks. I am going to be a 2nd engineer on a tugboat. First mission is towing a big dredger from Auckland to Newcastle, Australia. We leave on X-mas eve for a 9 day crossing. The down side is that I have to leave my lovely wife Erika here all by herself for the holidays but she had already a couple of offers to join some friends to spend it with their family. Eye on the price, eye on the price.... it is a small sacrifice for what 2010 has in store for us.
Love you all....
From the Space Needle to the Sky Tower,...
12/12/2009, Auckland, NZ
And all that excitement and beauty in between.
We arrived in Auckland NZ yesterday morning. We had a pretty uneventful overnight passage from Whangarei except from some traffic at night. You get complacent sailing the South Pacific where we encountered only 4 boats since leaving San Diego. There was not a lot of wind so we motor sailed for most of it. But when we got into Auckland harbor it started blowing up to 28 Kts and rain. Now we are docked in the biggest marina we have ever been in, it takes us half an hour to walk to the entrance from our slip.
Hope all of you are well and now off to find work!!! ciao
From Opua to Whangarei
12/09/2009, Town Basin Marine, Whangarei
We arrived in Whangarei yesterday. We are located at the Town Basin Marina. This is about a 12 Nm run inland up the river. We did not hit the muddy bottom, which is a quite common occurrence for many boats, we were lucky I guess, and I did my homework regarding the right time with the tides.
But on every low tide here inside the marina we are sitting on our keel.
We left Opua around midday and sailed to a little bay called Whangamumu Harbor. It was a nice stopover for a couple of hours. We got some sleep and weighed the anchor at midnight, all this to time the upriver trip well. We are going to stay here until Saterday I guess and then leave for Auckland. We are still in hot pursuit of work and it has not been easy so far. For me to get a work permit I need a job offer first, but I can not get a job offer without a work permit, dog, tail, 22, catching it, etc....The ferry service just hired engineers but even if there was something available, they want me to transfer my British license to a New Zealand one, which includes on top of all the paperwork (and with X-mas around the corner could take 4 to 6 weeks) an oral examination.... So now I am looking into smaller electrical/electronic companies and see if they need somebody for the summer. There is something hanging in the air I am waiting for, more news next week, so cross your fingers.... Erika is kind of waiting to see what happens with me. We have also gone back to the Yacht Crew Agencies see what comes out of that. That's all folks!!!
The Babalus Discover New Zealand!!!
11/29/2009, Opua, Bay of Islands
After an amazing 7 month campaign of conquest of the South Pacific, following the sun, we can officially announce the annexation of Aotearoa (or New Zealand for the plebes) to the Babalu Nation.
Erika and I finally arrived today in Opua, the Bay of Islands in Northern New Zealand. Once again we were welcomed by some local dolphins. We are sitting here now waiting for Customs, Immigration, Bio security etc... (I wonder if Capt. Cook had to wait that long too?) We ate our last meal in the channel on our approach as all the rest had to be thrown overboard, they are very strict here, no food allowed, well the list is longer and not just all foods but I want to keep it short so I am just going to say, no foods, if that is alright. We have fed the local aquatic population with all Erika's finest. From her own made vanilla yogurt to here already famous pumpkin-cranberry quick bread.
Now it is off to the store I would say. I think the officials have bonds and investments in their local supermarkets. Well we are not cooking tonight I can tell you that, Steak and Fries for All!!!
Well I just found out that the First President of the European Community is none other then a Belgian Comrade, how delightful, well done!!!
Also not to forget on December 1st: Happy Birthday Boris!!!
On December 2nd my sister, Happy Birthday Mieke!!!
A good lesson it was.
11/26/2009, 28 42.240'S:176 13.890'E, North of New Zealand
Dear Ndugu, Well we are still here, still beating our way South. The wind has pretty much been just off the bow since we left Minerva. The first 2 days 25-30 Kts, which was actually not too bad but the going into the seas is tiering. Then a bit more then half a day of no winds and we are back to the beating into it. Not much, about 15 to 20 Kts. So we are sailing along just fine getting closer to the turning-south point hopefully catching some westerlies soon. Nothing much to report here except for my moment during the first night of pole dancing and being stuck on the bow with it in my hand and Erika snoring away. What happened was that our 10' (3m) pole that is attached to the mast, clipped in at the bottom and hooked into a stud (called donkeydick) at the top with the topping lift still attached at about a foot from the bottom. With all the motion and pichin', slamming the boat hard on the surface of the seas, it kind of loosened itself enough to make the annoying sound of a back and forward "click". So at about 3 in the morning I go up the bow to straighten it out. Erika was fast a sleep down below. I thought no problemo, I am attached with my harness to the jack line and the waves were not that high anymore. So I went up, grabbed the halyard and start pulling it up so it would have no more slack at the bottom, thus no more "clicking". Well when I pulled it up, I felt another click but this time above my head and when I looked up I saw the pole moving away from the mast. It is not that heavy but on a moving boat it is rather clumsy handling on your own. So all I could do was embrace the mast with the pole in between us. (This is not a sexy story, but there was a bond there,...) Now what??? I could not go down to manually unclick the bottom, the halyard was too tight to let the pole come down on the deck, which was quite an operation anyway, only one thing left, EEERRRRIIIKKKKAAAAAAA!!!!, It took me at least 10 screams, stamping my feet, whistling to the point of being about to blow my eardrums. After a good 5 minutes of pole dancing on the foredeck there she appears, sticking here pretty little head up with those big brown sleepy eyes, asking me what was going on, man was I happy to see here. What made us think though was that up to that moment we were convinced that if one of us would fall overboard, we would be able to hear the shouts, well I can tell you, NO freakn' WAY... So from now on we are even more careful, a good lesson it was.
Minerva Reef Pitstop
11/23/2009, 23 37.390'S:178 55.200'W, Northern Minerva Reef
We arrived yesterday the 22nd at Northern Minerva Reef after a very enjoyable first part of our trip. What a strange place. Located about 300Nm SW of Tonga and about 850Nm N of New Zealand, in the middle of nowhere, this big round bathtub shaped reef with only one 70m wide entrance. The water around is very deep and the water inside has a depth of about 15 to 20m. It is kind of choppy as there are no land features to stop the wind or the waves (a little at low tide when the reef is slightly exposed) We are the only sailing vessel here. There is another boat but it is a "local" fishing boat. The weird thing too is that for example to anchor we had no reference point to see if we dragged or not, there are other ways of course but usually two points in line is the easiest and most common way. What is great though is that there are no bugs and especially no mozzies, those damn hans' crazy vampires. We are leaving tomorrow morning. The winds are not that great but we are going to have to go with the flow, I guess. It is a lack of wind and the direction that is the stick in the wheel here. If all goes well we should be in New Zealand in about 6 to 7 days. Opua here we come...
11/18/2009, Pangaimotu, Nuku'alofa, Tonga
There is a flair of hectic busyness on the boat today. Like a well oiled machine, but chaotic to the outsider, Erika and I are in our last preparation for the big push. Engine serviced, all filters and strainers replaced and/or cleaned, storm jib and try sail have flown about in this tranquil bay, all procedures fine tuned, food prepared, stores are full, only for this trip though, the New Zealanders are incredibly strict on what is brought into the country. We are already cleared out and New Zealand knows we are coming. The shroud coming from New Zealand is in town, coming on the next ferry to Big Mama's Yacht Club. (This message will have a part II with a shroud update) Hopefully this time it is going to go up. Tomorrow morning after breakfast, high tide we are going into town for the last time, filling up with water and then off we go. We are going to sail to Minerva Reef first and then wait for a good weather window to proceed to Opua in the Bay of Islands.
We have been sitting around here now for over two weeks kind of waiting for our part, and we can tell you we could not have wished for a better place. This has been by far the friendliest people we have met so far, Nuku'alofa is the place to get ready for the trip to New Zealand. A lot of the cruisers stopping here are very surprised and most of them promise to come back next season on their way North. This island has a bit of a bad rap, the rumors are that it is dirty (wrong, cleaner than any place in Tonga), the people are not friendly (wrong again, see my comments above), the officials are hard to work with (keep getting it wrong, the easiest clear in and out in the whole of our trip, including the US of A.) and I can keep going on,... which I wont.
Also we have met kind of a celebrity here. When Erika and I were shopping for veggies and fruit at the market we passed a stand with a friendly gentleman in his early 60's. He was selling souvenirs as quite a few others but what caught my attention was a book he put together claiming that he was a direct descendant of Captain Bligh. His family came from the island of Tofua, the closest place to the 1789 mutiny on the HMS Bounty. We started talking and it sounded very interesting. I have given him my copy of "The true story of the Mutiny on the Bounty" a well written book with a lot of historical research involved. He gave me his book, which is actually a collection of letters between him and an
Australian Captain of the Bounty replica that came around here in late 80's. They were doing the research together to get to the truth and nothing but the truth of this wonderful claim, I guess Capt. Bligh had a local mistress and did not use any protection.
Ok Part II. The Famous Shroud.
It arrived about 2 hours ago. I unpacked it and the first thing I saw was the right size threaded stud for the turnbuckle. Good! The length looked alright but I had to check that once on the boat. BUT the T-bar was a 10mm instead of a 8mm. I had to go up the mast and file away the sides of the mast piece. Lucky after a good 5 min. filing the piece it entered. So WE ARE READY!!!!
Next update, Miverva Reef...
Ratmistice Part II
11/12/2009, Nuku'Alofa, Tonga
When we got back to the boat in the late afternoon, Erika jumped in the galley and started washing dishes while I put some tunes on. When Erika opened one of the cabinets to put away some dishes she got a little surprise, a flying rat.... Screaming on the top of her lungs, making me jump on my chair. From the corner of my eye I could see it scatter away under the table between all my boxes. Erika had already ran up the stairs to the cockpit and I was trying to see where it was. It showed its little scared snout from behind one of the table legs having a look what was happening. So we decided on not killing it but I was going to direct it out of the boat like a good sheepdog. Erika was on top of the deck with her head through the salon hatch to keep an eye on the little rodent. I moved boxes, cushions and planks around to create a hallway from her location to the stairs. That did not always work that well cause in such a small place there is always a gap somewhere. After a good half an hour it was sitting on the engine box just under the ladder. We could see it had a hard time getting up on it. So Erika lowered our mainsail sheet line down the hatch to where it was hiding. It got the message right away and started climbing up. The little bugger looked a lot cuter then most dirty rats we all grew up hating. She was not too big, maybe 15 cm long and a 20 cm tail behind it. It had a nice and clean fur, probably from the seawater when it swam over. So now that the rat jumped through the companionway unto the deck we closed everything up quickly to prevent a re-entry accident. Now we had to get it off the boat. It was hiding under our life raft. After pocking it a couple of times gently with the boat hook it understood that there was only one way to get off the boat, anchor chain, splash and a quick swim. It started sprinting and it took a dive in the water. The sun was setting by that time, I don't know if it was confused or not but it swam the wrong direction. It started swimming away from land and straight to the next boat, so Erika went down took the mic of the VHF and told the other 6 boats at anchor to be careful, there was a rat in the water and it was coming their way. Erika and myself were quiet happy that we did not have to kill it. We kind of felt sympathy for the little one. It was locked in our cupboard for over 13 hours and it did not do its business anywhere, we only lost some hours of sleep, 2 tomatoes and a bag of flower. A lot of people give us a lot more grief then our little one. Well it luck was starting to run out. It swam to the other boat and tried to get on but the owner and another sailor in his dingy had peddles and were not afraid to use them. So after a struggle of about 5 minutes, our little one gave up and drowned. My sweet little wife was in tears.
We were happy that we got rid of the rat but sad to see our little one not make it back to land. And life goes on.....
11/11/2009, Big Mamma's Yacht Club, Nuku'alofa, Tonga
Hallo world, Erika and myself are still here.... sitting in front of the beautiful Pangaimotu Resort better known as the Big Mama Yacht club. Well we have received our shroud 2 days ago. Unfortunately Murphy is here on a beach vacation with us and brought his law along. The bottom part of the cable has a crimped fitting with a threaded stud at the end that screws into the turnbuckle. Our original is 5/8"-18 and the new one was size 1/2". For some reason Kent from Yachtmaster NW up in Seattle and myself got everything double checked except the thread, just overlooked it.... Poor Kent, I am sure he feels very bad (don't worry man, shit happens). So now I have been calling and emailing back and forward with some New Zealand companies to get a new one made and mailed to here. There is just not enough time to have a new one shipped from Seattle. Today I finally had somebody on the phone that told me "No problem" so we will see....
We are keeping ourselves busy, lounging, little jobs here and there, I just fixed big mama's vhf radio, a matter of getting back in the game. I am also waiting for a job reply, commercial, tugboats and stuff.... it is getting realer with the day,...
Also Erika and I did not sleep very well last night,... reason.... we had a little visitor on the boat, let's just say an uninvited dinner guest. There has been hardly any wind for the last two days and we are only 200m from the beach. around 2 in the morning I hear little feet running over the deck, half asleep I thought about different things from chain rattle to smurphs and fell back asleep instead of leaping into action. I woke up again from plastic bag nibbling noises, and right away I knew... ERIKAAAAA....RRRRAAATTTTT!!!!!! I stuck my head out of our cabin and saw him jump around, shit scared, that made three of us. Don't we all imagine these angry cornered rats jumping in your face going for your eye balls, well we do. He was not too big. So from 3 in the morning till about 5 we removed all the bags, pots, pans, cushions, and much more but could not find it, the little bugger disappeared. This boat will never be the same again, we feel violated. Can you ever be sure she is gone. I say "she" cause she went around tasting a bit of everything, a little tomato here, a little flower there,... a he would have gone for the Nutella and finished it.
You have to give it to her, she swam 200m climbed up 2m of chain, jumped down quiet a couple of high steps and then scared shitless by two humans hunting you down.... well because it is the 11th of November we will not kill it, but tomorrow we are on the hunt again....sorry rat. In Tongan a rat is a Kuma'a.
Well we are going to clear out tomorrow and then sit here waiting for our shroud illegally 'cause that is the way ahuh ahuh we like it ahuh ahuh!!!
Happy BirthDay Erika!!!
11/08/2009, Nuku'Alofa, Tonga
It was Erika's birthday yesterday and we had a good time!!! We did the tour of the island in the morning with our friend Lolo, the man who takes care of everything, if he can not do it no one can, from the Kings Palace to the spot where Captain Cook landed. Then took a little nap and went for dinner. We invited our friends from Blue Dawn, Geoff and Geraldine to join us in our Birthday Celebrating Dinner. The girls and Lolo at Big Mama's took really good care of us. We had a chocolate cake with 4 candles (one for each 7 years). Erika is thanking all the people sending emails, blogs and thoughts wishing her a great birthday. Check the pics....
Well this morning we fueled up in town and came back to our anchorage in front of Big Mamma's. No word so far on our shroud, so we are just doing little jobs here and there. Our visa expires on November 15th.
Talk to you all soon....
Last Stop...Next Stop NZZZZ!!!
11/03/2009, Nuku'Alofa, Tonga
We arrived yesterday in Nuku'alofa, capital of Tonga. A little sooner then we expected but there is an explanation for that anomaly. Since the last blog what happened was we arrived at the island of Uiha. A long story short, we left the next day, the water was dirty, the people were not very welcoming except for one lady that gave us some freshwater, the vibe was not right.... So we left the next morning early for Ha'afeva about another 18 Nm in the Southwesterly direction. That was a different story, beautiful island with the most amazing local community. We met an American couple from Fargo, North Dakota working for the Peace Corps on the island. Great people and they took us to a Kava meeting. Kava is a significant ceremonial and social custom. Kava is a species of pepper tree prevalent in the South Pacific. The pepper is dried and grounded to a fine powder,mixed with water, it is not alcoholic but it gives you a good buzz. It is drank out of a big bowl that sits in the middle of the circle of men. A coconut cup is filled and handed around. Women are usually not allowed. An exception was made for Erika but she did not drink. All important matters are handled this way, a bowl of Kava and a good chat.
We also met up with friends from Gilleroo and Imagine. They were getting ready to leave for New Zealand the next day, direct. Imagine has three children on board and they were all dressed up to celebrate Halowe'en. TrickerTreatin' in their dingy from boat to boat, cruisers life is great!!! We only stayed two more days, the weather was not cooperating, overcast, a little sprinkle,... so we decided to split the difference between Ha'afeva and Nuku'alofa, about 80Nm and have another stop about midway in Kelefesia. Apparently the most picturesque of them all!!! that sounds promising doesn't it? Well there was a little warning in the local guide. When the winds are above 15-20 Kts (for whom wind is not as much of a mystery as others, that is an amazingly wide margin as wind grows exponentially) and the anchorage is only good in NE to SE winds. Ok we thought, the conditions are not great but they will do.... So we sailed down, great sail by the way, we have great pictures that a boat called "Blue Dawn" took of us and even a little video, check the photo gallery. Now you have to understand too that Kelefesia is the last island in the Ha'apai group, beyond it is open sea to the next group Tongatapu with Nuku'alofa as the principle town. To get to Kelefesia we have to cross a bunch of reefs stretching E to W with here and there open patches. Ones crossed the reefs you approach the island from the West in between two reefs, one on each side. So there is a corridor of about a 150m at the entrance, about 1 Nm long and gradually narrows to maybe 60m finishing in a small area where you can anchor. Now as the reefs are very shallow and the water around it is very deep, the water is pushed up and you get big waves. The wind was about 13-15 Kts from the SE, not bad, BUT the swell came from the S, in deep water maybe 2 m, hitting those reefs it went up to 5 m. So we are brave (or stupid, the way you want to look at it) and moved through the large reef lining up to go through the corridor and I can tell you we were impressed by the violence and size of the waves (we actually filmed it, to be seen in theaters near you when Babalu is in town). We passed no problem, overcame the 2 Kts current in between the reefs. Now we line up to go through the corridor, by that time, Erika who is on the bow looking out for shallow patches, gives me a look and I knew exactly what she meant...this is awesomely crazy!!!! Once we were halfway the hallway of surfers paradise the waves in front of us were up to 6m on the starboard side and connecting directly to the waves on our Port side, there was no way we were going to anchor in the Lagoon of Doom that night. Erika turned around again and started saying, "If we anchor here, that would be the stupi ...." before she finished her sentence I was already halfway my180 turn. Let's get the hell out of here!!!!
Now the problem was the following, it is 15.00 in the afternoon and only 30 Nm to the entrance of the harbor to Nuku'alofa. It is too late to make it in daylight time and it is too close to do an overnighter. So we set the sails like it was going to blow 40 Kts, double reef in the main and triple reef in the headsail to go as slow as possible. We went all night at 2 Kts and safely arrived the next morning in Nuku'alofa....Yiipppyyy!!! Ciao
On our way to Ha'afeva
10/29/2009, 19 53.640'S:174 24.810'W, Uiha, Ha'apai Group, Tonga
Hello, Can you smell the pancakes? Erika is cooking pancakes (crepes for me) this morning for breakfast, sweeeeetttt!!!! We arrived yesterday from Uoleva island, simply amazing... a bay about 700m wide with nothing but white sandy beach, palmtrees, the most beautiful colored water and maybe ten people living on the island..... we stayed for 4 days, just chillin' out. Well we did some work, cleaning the hull. What a job, the growth increased exponentially in the last three weeks. We had a relative slow passage from Neiafu and now we know why. There is a whole forest under the boat!!! Scraping it away is not an easy job, holding your breath long enough is the problem here.... everyday a little is our motto.... We also had the privilege of housing a family of fluo-green colored squid, mom and 10 babies. You see when you stop somewhere for more then a couple of hours you become part of nature. You are an object that provides shade and a hide out for smaller fish... Well we are moving today, a 18 Nm sail west to the next island. Ohh Erika is calling the pancakes are ready!!!! Talk to you guys later....
10/22/2009, 19 40.260'S:174 17.390'W, Ha'ano, Ha'apai Group, Tonga
Last Sunday we went to visit the Mariners' Cave. We had a bunch of cruisers all on Martins' boat. Anima 3 is perfect for little excursions like that. She has a wonderful large aft deck. It was about a 1 hour ride to Nuapapu Island. Mariners' cave is located on the North West side, according to the guides right under a lonesome palm tree, easy right? Mariners' cave is a cave that can only be reached by diving. There is a legend to it. "It is the tale of a young Tongan chief who, having fallen in love with a beautiful maiden of a family who was due for extermination in the civic broils of the time, spirited here away from danger and hid her for two weeks in the cave. There he brought food and protestations of love to sustain the girl until he was able to prepare an expedition to Fiji. Then he picked her up en route, married her and when the time of trouble had passed, brought her back to Vava'u and lived happily ever after." The entrance is about 2 m deep and 4 m long. Once braved the deep and dark you enter a beautiful cavern full of cavy things that point up and down. The room itself was about 25m long, 15m wide and about 20m high. One of the nice spectacles inside is the fog that appears every time a wave pushes itself inside, compressing the air. So one moment you see a cave the next thing your ears are popping and you are blinking wondering why you can not see a thing. That was a great experience. We left on Tuesday morning at 3 am!!! That was a little bit of a challenge as it was pitch black, no moon. The water was so flat that you could see the stars reflected in it, even the shooting ones. Now we are anchored in front of Ha'ano island in the Ha'apai group of Tonga. This is suppose to be a less traveled area, WRONG... the first night we arrived we were in a race for the anchorage with 6 other boats. There is only room for a couple of boats and when we got here there were already 7 other boats parked. A little crowded. There was the Brazilian armada, 9 of them, the Quebecoises, 3 of them, some swedes, Americans and us, Belgo-American. Lucky for us most of them left the next day. We just hang out here and snorkel. For me this is the nicest snorkeling grounds I have ever seen.... Today Erika, myself and Tyrone, and Irish friend from the boat Gilleroo went snorkeling on the entrance reef. Waauuuuw, we saw at least 7 different fish we had never seen before and other fish that had totally different colors then the ones previously observed, also amazing coral, untouched, flashy colors,... We are making our way South very slowely. We are in no rush, it is still way too cold in New Zealand... Hope all of you are well, talk to you soon....
PS we are right accross the vulcanic island of Tofua where the Mutiny on the Bounty took place, nooo not the movie the real deal....
Time To Move
10/15/2009, Neiafu, Kingdom Of Tonga
All is well with us, kind of lounging around waiting for that break to go down south to New Zealand. NZ is holding on to their winter, and spring can have a few surprises, but as long as the hurricanes do not get generated around here we are good and can take our time....
We have been spending some time going around the islands and then head back for the weekend to the main place here in the Vava'u group, Neiafu. Yachts are still coming in, all gathering here to get ready to go to NZ. It is great to see some of our friends and make new ones.
We cleared out today and will start going down South in Tonga to the next Island group. We probably will take about 2 weeks to slowly head down to the capital Nuku'alofa. We have just updated the pictures so enjoy, I know we did!!!
Take care all, we should be leaving tomorrow. Tonight we are going to race in the local yacht race, just for fun. Will let you know how it goes,....