02 October 2010 | Rebak Marina, Langkawi, Malaysia
06 June 2009 | Mackay, Australia
26 December 2008 | Gulf Harbour Marina near Auckland
06 April 2008 | Shelter Bay Marina
23 February 2008 | Bocas del Toro, Panama
15 January 2008 | Shelter Bay Marina
11 June 2007 | Prickly Bay, Grenada
30 May 2007 | Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou
13 October 2006 | Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela
08 December 2005 | Houston, TX
09 October 2005 | Houston, TX
27 July 2005 | Houston, TX
21 July 2005 | Houston, TX
21 July 2005 | St. Martin
Visited most of SE Asia
02 October 2010 | Rebak Marina, Langkawi, Malaysia
It has been 16 months since I last updated this blog. Our primary website is at http://svbebe.blogspot.com/ and that site is updated frequently. Since last posting here, we have visited Australia (from Mackay on the Queensland coast to Darwin), Ashmore Reef, Bali, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand and China. The long train rides through China and seeing Beijing and Shanghai were especially interesting. Oh, so much history!!
Our 9-yr-old grandson Zachary and our 8-yr-old granddaughter BeBe flew to Singapore and spent the summer with us. We took them to Bangkok and to Chaing Mai in northern Thailand. Rode the elephants, petted live tigers, took river raft trips and saw all the temples. This was a trip they should never forget. We enjoyed having them for the summer. They are cousins and spat like siblings, but they are very good kids and we enjoyed spending the time with them. We also enjoyed visiting with our son Aaron when he flew to Singapore to collect his daughter in August.
After they left, we went into major provisioning mode. Singapore is the last place where one can buy good meats and western-style foods. We won't see these type foods again until we reach the Mediterranean next May.
Then we day-hopped up the Malacca Strait, stopping in Port Dickson and Penang. We arrived in Langkawi and anchored off Kuah town to clear in (one must clear in and out of each port in Malaysia), where we purchased 15 cases of beer and several cases of wine. Again, we won't see alcohol after this until we reach either Egypt or the Med.
We will by flying home to Houston in late October. Our USCG captains licenses expire in May 2011 and the advice is to apply for renewal 6 months prior to expiration. This involves physicals and drug testing at USCG approved facilities, so we must make a trip home now. After returning to the boat in early December, we will sail up to Phuket -- where we will wait until the NE monsoon winds kick in before sailing to Cochin, India.
After refueling in Cochin, then we must face the BIG DECISION of which route to take through the pirate infested Gulf of Aden. Do we risk the Yemeni coast where Al-Queda fights are now occurring? Or do we risk the patrolled corridor where most of the pirate attacks occur? Do we go in a convoy and sail slower than normal, thus spending 40% more time in a dangerous area? Or do we go it alone at our normal speed and get through the dangerous area faster?
No photos with this posting because of limited bandwidth.
Visited Vanuatu & New Caledonia; now in Australia
06 June 2009 | Mackay, Australia
On May 4, 2009, we departed Opua, New Zealand on a 7 day passage to Tanna Island, Vanuatu. Winds were from the SW or W for the entire week, which is extremely rare since the normal trade winds are from the SE. We seemed to be in our own little weather capsule because the 52 other boats that departed Opua to Fiji or Tonga all experienced very low winds and we had 25 to 35 knots for most of the passage. Our final 2 days were in light winds with a huge swell from the SW that caused our boat to roll a bit, but we were still able to sail without motoring. Finally turned on the motor for the last 8 hours into Port Resolution on the SSE side of Tanna Island.
Port Resolution has nothing but a tiny jungle village nearby. It is not actually a port of entry for Vanuatu, but is normally used by boats clearing in or out on Tanna Island because the official port of entry is Lenakel and that port is untenable most of the time. The sea crashes into Lenakel and it is not safe to anchor there. The only down side is that it is a 5-hour round-trip ride from Port Resolution to Lenakel for clearance; and it is a hard bouncing trip over the mountain ridge while sitting on a wooden bench in the back of a small pick-up truck. Really tough on the butt and back!!!
The trip across the island takes you past many tiny jungle villages and all the locals have smiles and wave to you. You also drive across a very large ash deposit field near the top of Mt. Yasur, the active volcano. There are small boulders strewn all over the ash field that have been spewed out by the volcano. Thankfully "the volcano, he was asleep" on the day we drove across; according to the Stanley, the village chief who accompanied us to clear in. The only reason yachts are allowed to clear in this way is that by their tribal laws the Customs and Immigration officials must take the word of a village chief if he vouches for someone. In other words, Stanley had to be there to confirm where our boat was anchored and what day we arrived. He also is responsible for making us leave on the agreed-upon date or reporting us in violation to the officials in Lenakel. Each village has 2 chiefs -- one to deal internally with the people of the village (called the yemena) and one to speak for his village with outsiders (called the yemen). Stanley is the yemen. His father was the previous yemen until his death earlier this year. His father was named Rodney. Since Stanley has assumed his father's duties as yemen, he also has assumed his father's name. Some of the people in the village still call him Stanley but most villagers now call him Rodney. Within a few years he will simply be known as Rodney.
There were 30 Romanian volunteers in Port Resolution to build a new church. Their building supplies were delayed and they had only brought enough food for the anticipated length of their stay, and they were almost out of food. The butcher in New Zealand had messed up our order and sold us more than we needed or wanted, so we had an excess of meats that would not be allowed into Australia. So we donated a LOT of chicken breasts and steaks and various other provisions to the church volunteers, including pastas, cheese, powdered milk, butter and instant potatoes.
One night we took the pick-up truck ride up to the top of Mt. Yasur. How exciting to walk around the rim of the crater of an active volcano! Not the smartest thing we have ever done because the volcano was belching small boulders and gases and red-hot rocks the entire time. But it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and one that we wouldn't have missed for anything.
Our stay at Tanna Island was only a week and then we sailed to Lifou Island in the Loyalty Islands. Boats are supposed to be able to clear Customs at the port of We on Lifou and then have 3 days to arrive in Port Moselle at Noumea to clear in with Immigration. It was a rough trip to We due to bad weather, and when we arrived they turned us away! Sent us back out to sea in gale conditions! The port captain hailed us on the VHF radio as we were lining up to enter the harbor and said that under no circumstances could we enter the harbor. All arriving boats were being instructed to proceed directly to Port Moselle at Noumea. The other 3 entry ports (including We) were closed to all incoming traffic because of fears of the H1N1 flu.
So back out we went. And the next 24 hours were absolutely the worst passage we have endured to date. Winds were 33 knots directly on the nose. That was bad enough; but the really bad part were the pounding stacked waves. Our boat would sometimes broach up out of the water and then pound down into the next wave. the front third of the boat would be airborne and then slam down into the next wave. Sometimes a few feet of water could come pouring down the deck as the bow was buried into a wave. We could only make 2 - 3 knots boat speed. A truly miserable trip that burned 110 liters of diesel.
Finally we reached the southern tip of New Caledonia and turned west. We felt like we had been physically beaten with bats. Once we were behind the reef and inside the lagoon conditions improved dramatically. It was smooth sailing or motoring from that point on. We entered Port Moselle and tied up in the marina about 3 that afternoon. We used Eva Dumas with Noumea Yacht Services and clearance was a breeze. Heartily recommend this agency if you do not speak French. Cost is not that much and makes life so much easier. The photo with this blog is a Kanuk statue in new Caledonia.
We stayed in Noumea for one week, during which the weather was mostly dreary and rainy. We departed Noumea on Tuesday, May 26, for the roughly 1000 NM passage to Mackay, Australia. That passage was comprised of 5 days of okay sailing conditions and 2 days of pure hell when the SE trade winds kicked in. These trade winds mean very rough seas along the eastern side of Australia. The SE winds blow at 25 knots or higher against and across the strong current that runs north-to-south all along the eastern side of Australia. Within minutes of the winds strengthening the seas stack up and begin to toss from every direction. It was like being inside an agitating washing machine with 15 to 18 foot waves swirling and tossing about our 27-ton boat like a plastic bathtub toy. For 200 miles we endured this crap! We entered the Capricorn Channel and about 80 miles later the seas had finally achieved some pattern and regularity. From that point on into Mackay the sailing was great.
Around midnight during the final night of this passage we were nearly rammed by a catamaran! We were the stand-on vessel and they continued on a collision course toward us. I tried hailing them on the VHF 3 times but received no response. Finally I started the engine and powered down hard while Bill flashed our 2,000,000 candle power spotlight onto their boat. Either the spotlight or the sound of our engine must have finally awakened them because they turned at the last second and missed hitting our stern by only half a boat length! That is the closest we have ever come to a collision during all our years of sailing.
We arrived in Mackay, Australia on Tuesday, June 2. Passage from Noumea took one week almost to the hour. Clearance was a breeze. Quarantine took only 3 food items from our boat, so that was no big deal. We took a taxi to a shopping mall and shipped off our failed autopilot linear drive to the manufacturer for repair. This drive had failed a couple of days out of New Zealand, but Amels are build so well that it was not a problem for us. Bill just turned a switch and activated the autopilot rotary chain drive. I think Amel is the only boat manufacturer that puts 2 autopilot drives as standard equipment. This saved us from having to hand-steer for days on end.
We found a bank and exchanged the last of the New Zealand dollars for Australian dollars. Bought a SIM card for the cell phone so now we have an Australian phone. Shopped to refill the freezer and stock up on fresh produce. Then we crashed for a day to recover from the passage.
Early next week our 8-year-old grandson Zachary is flying to Australia from Houston, Texas. Bill will meet him at the airport in Brisbane and they will fly together to Mackay. Zach will sail with us from Mackay to Cairns over the next 2 1/2 months. What an experience for a young boy to sail the Great Barrier Reef with his grandparents during his summer vacation. We are looking forward to spending this time with him.
Across South Pacific to New Zealand
26 December 2008 | Gulf Harbour Marina near Auckland
Can't believe it has been so long since we updated this blog, so this entry will cover a lot of territory. We had an uneventful transit of the Panama Canal on April 12/13. We were the center boat with a smaller monohull rafted to each side. BEBE was considerably larger than the other 2 boats. The controlling lines were run from the bow of BEBE and from the sterns of the adjacent boats. Judy was at the helm and BEBE controlled all 3 boats throughout the entire canal transit. We picked up a mooring at the Balboa Yacht Club for a few days. Picked up our 90-day visas for French Polynesia from the French Consulate and were off to the Galapagos Islands.
Passage to the Galapagos lasted about 9 days and we motored 68% of the roughly 1000 miles. We are now officially shellbacks. The Galapagos were okay but we both were a tiny bit disappointed. Tours were expensive and we did not feel comfortable leaving our boat unattended in the only allowable rough anchorage for 3 days to do any of the other island tours, so we saw only a limited amount of the Galapagos Islands. The tree house was the highlight for both of us; the lava tubes were second.
Then we were off for the long passage to the Marquesas -- roughly 3000 miles in 19 days 23 hours. This was our first really long passage and we had wondered how we would handle it. Turned out just fine. Wasn't too boring; weather was fine; we read lots of books and ate lots of good foods. Funny thing was that during the third week we each began to crave McDonald's sausage biscuits -- something that neither of us has eaten in years. We just wanted something high-fat, but not sweets. On the final day of this long passage the wind died completely during late afternoon, so we motored overnight and arrived at Hiva Oa at 0700 on Friday May 23, 2008. We called the agent and were officially cleared into French Polynesia. Hiva Oa was gorgeous and exactly what we expected to see. We stopped at a VERY casual eatery and enjoyed a junk meal lunch: 2 small hamburgers with fries, 1 beer and 1 Diet Coke cost $47 USD, plus tip!
A few days later we sailed down to Fatu Hiva. The Baie of Phalli (Bay of Penises) was unbelievably gorgeous. This turned out to be the most beautiful place we saw in all of the South Pacific, followed by Cook's Bay on Moorea, and third was Kelefasia just north of Tongatapu in the Kingdom of Tonga. Passage from Marquesas to Tuamotus was the roughest passage we have ever done--even rougher than the dreaded passage to New Zealand. We visited Mahini, Ahe and Rangiroroa in the Tuamotus and learned that atolls are not our favorite places on earth. Other cruisers loved these atolls but for some reason neither of us particularly cared for them, although the atolls are very beautiful. I fell and injured my knee at Ahe and was not able to get into the water to snorkel so maybe that had an effect on our lack of enthusiasm for the Tuamotus.
Spent a week or so in a marina in Papeete and Tahiti was exactly as we had been forewarned. But we liked it more than others seemed to. Then over to Moorea and the gorgeous Cook's Bay. Bill played in the water with the manta rays and that was quite an experience. After a week or so we moved on to Huahine, Raiatea, Taha'a and finally Bora Bora. Bora Bora was a huge disappointment to me. It is billed as being the most beautiful island on earth so probably our expectations were set too high. It is beautiful from an aerial view but not too special from a normal eye-level view. Pretty, but not exceptional. Very, very expensive though.
Enjoyed a spectacular 1100 mile passage from Bora Bora to Niue. Had both headsails poled out on each side and sailed direct downwind the entire passage. For 5 days we did not even so much as touch a jib sheet. Didn't even have to adjust the autopilot. Absolutely perfect downwind sailing. Passage was fast and flat and comfortable. All the other boats we know either went north to Suvarov or south to the southern Cook Islands, but we opted to go straight to Niue. We sailed within eyesight on the north side of Palmerston Atoll and were contacted by one of the Marsters men on the VHF who invited us to stop. But the sailing was so perfect that we decided not to stop. Mr. Marsters sounded very disappointed that we declined his invitation to allow him to host us for a visit to Palmerston. Probably should have because Palmerston is so unique, but we don't regret skipping it.
Niue was special, especially that crane to lift your dinghy up onto the high concrete dock as the sea surges and pounds into the side of that dock. Quite the experience. We rented a car and hiked some of the spectacular limestone areas to pocket beaches and caves. Only 1350 residents now on Niue, which is probably the smallest independent country in the world. Niue is heavily supported by New Zealand to the tune of about 5 million dollars per year. Niue could not exist without financial support from New Zealand. There is no industry of any kind; land is solid limestone so agriculture is extremely limited. Heck; they don't even have a port because there is no harbor and sea is rough and very deep all around the island.
Highlight of our entire South Pacific experience was an enormous whale shark that surfaced next to our boat while moored at Niue. It was more than 35 feet long and about 8-10 feet wide at the mouth. It twice came within feet of the starboard side of our boat and floated almost to the surface and stayed there for about 20 seconds each time. Incredible!
Spent the entire month of September in the islands of Vava'U in the Kingdom of Tonga and loved every minute of it. Connected up with our friends on a catamaran with whom we had buddy-boated in western Caribbean and Galapagos Islands. We had stayed in contact via SSB radio but had not seen each other since Bora Bora in early August. We again sailed as buddy boats south to the Ha'apai Group and down to the Tongatapu Group of the Kingdom of Tonga.
Had a great time in Tongatapu. We both thoroughly enjoyed Tonga. If someone can only visit one place in the South Pacific, that place should be Tonga. The people still wear their traditional attire daily and they live such a serene way of life. They are devoutly Christian and are very nice and friendly people. Food selections are very limited as Tonga is very poor, but it is a great place to visit.
Passage to New Zealand wasn't as bad as anticipated. We experienced one gale of 45 knots but it only lasted a few hours; another gale of 35 knots and lots of lightning but it also lasted only a few hours. Late in the passage there was 36 hours of horribly steep rough seas and 30-35 knot winds. But it only lasted 36 hours and then we had 36 hours of beautiful sailing before arriving in Opua at Custom's Quarantine Dock at 0130 on November 11. Arrival at night is very easy. It was so nice to again be in an area where there are navigational markers that can be relied upon. We tidied up the boat and ourselves and even slept a few hours before the officials arrived at 0800 to clear us into New Zealand.
We had registered for the All Points to Opua Rally and this was a hit!! Everyone sailing to New Zealand should register for this rally when they reach Tonga or Fiji. There was a full week of activities and celebrations and it was wonderful. The merchants and residents of Opua could not be more hospitable. This was the most welcoming reception for cruisers we have every encountered. They really want cruisers to visit and go all out to make your stay a pleasant one. We even won a $500 door prize of mechanical engineer's labor! So we had our generator and main engine serviced and replaced our hot water heater.
Hated to leave Opua but finally managed to leave the dock and headed south towards Auckland. Stopped at Whangaruru for 1 night and at Tutukaka for 1 night. Then sailed out to Great Barrier Island and stayed there 3 or 4 nights. Rented a car and drove all over that island. Very beautiful. It was a short 40-45 mile sail over to Gulf Harbour Marina on the Whangaparoa Penninsula, which is where our boat will be docked for the next several months. This is about 15 miles north of Auckland city proper.
We flew home to Houston on December 10 for the Christmas holidays. Will depart Houston on January 7 and arrive back in Auckland on January 10. Thanks to the International Date Line we moved back a day when flying home and will move forward a day when flying to New Zealand. We hope to buy a car and do land tours of both north and south islands over the next few months.
We love New Zealand. People are friendly; they speak English (sort of); our US dollar has very good value here right now; you can find almost anything you might want; and landscape is spectacular.
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