Travels with Complexity

06 May 2017 | Royal Belau Yacht Club mooring, Malakal Palau
05 May 2017 | Malakal, Palau
05 May 2017 | Malarial, Palau off Sam's Tours
13 April 2017 | Royal Belau Yacht Club, Malakal, Palau
12 April 2017 | Royal Belau Yacht Club, Malakal, Palau
15 March 2017 | Rock Islands, Palau
14 March 2017 | Coffin Anchorage, Rock Islands, Palau
13 March 2017 | Fish Net Anchorage, Rock Islands, Palau
04 February 2017 | Malakal, Palau
21 December 2016 | Malakal Port, Palau
20 December 2016
18 December 2016
17 December 2016
17 December 2016
15 December 2016
14 December 2016
15 November 2016 | Anchored off Nusa Island near Kavieng, PNG
13 November 2016 | Kavieng, Papua New Guinea
06 November 2016 | Rabaul, Papua New Guinea
31 October 2016 | Solomon Islands

Water Tank Is Full

06 May 2017 | Royal Belau Yacht Club mooring, Malakal Palau
By Barbara on a rainy calm morning
Our water tanks are full. We feel rich with all of the fresh water aboard.

It was satisfying to turn on the meters after a night of rain and see a full water tank indicated. We have in the past relied upon marina water from municipal water systems or our onboard water-maker to fill our boat's water tanks.

We have not been at a marina or dockside anywhere since September 3, 2016 when we departed Scarborough Marina in Australia. In remote places, like where we are now in Manakal, Palau, local people rely on harvesting rain from their roofs into big tanks. More than once locals have kindly allowed us to carry rain water in jerry jugs by dingy back to the boat. We did so in Ghizo in the Solomon Islands once and have done so in Palau.

Drought conditions occur in Islands in this part of the world. It did in Ghizo and also Palau. Last year Palau had a severe drought and had to import drinking water. Much of the lush foliage on the rock islands turned brown and some plants died. Koror had tried to draw on water from usually unused municipal wells to see them through the drought only to discover the water from the wells was contaminated. At the present times new municipal water system, a gift from the people of Japan, is being installed in Koror. The streets have been torn up to install the new water mains during our time in Palau. Even municipal water supplies can run low in times of drought as my wise Aussie friends know. It is good to manage and conserve fresh water what ever the source.

Our good friend, Lee Youngblood, noted that it has only rained twice in Seattle this winter, once for 30 days and again for 45 days. Jokes aside, Seattle and other West Coast US communities rely heavily on snow melt from the mountains into lakes for municipal water. Due to warming conditions less precipitation falls as snow in the region and the smaller snowpack melts sooner in the year leading to water supply difficulties later in the year. There is conflict between thirsty cities, farmers who irrigate crops and society's commitment to leave enough water in the streams for the annual spawning salmon runs and other ecosystem needs. Water conservation is important even in regions of temperate rainforests.

Our two 5-gallon water jugs weigh 40 pounds each full. It is a bit of work rowing ashore for water, walking to the sometimes distant water source, carrying the full jugs back to the dingy, hoisting them aboard and pouring them into the opening on the deck. We have a big dedicated funnel for transferring water from the jerry jugs into the water tank fill. Our onboard tanks hold 100 gallons so it would take a bit of time and effort to fill them by jerry jug if we needed to do so.

Water-makers are notoriously fussy and prone to failure, though ours has worked faithfully most of the time since we installed many years ago. We have friends whose water-maker died in a remote location. They had to take their boat to a very rough cement dock that was designed for big ships under adverse wind conditions to fill their onboard water tanks. At times they ran very low on water aboard. Friends here in Palau have been struggling to repair their water-maker for months before leaving on their next passage. They are almost to a decision to buy a new water-maker.

We did not even own jerry jugs for water until cruising in the Solomon Islands. I have always squirreled away emergency drinking water in bottles sowed in obscure spaces on the boat. Because the anticipated need to stretch our fuel and water supplies I wanted to carry extra water on our long passage from Papua New Guinea to Palau. We expected extended light air traveling conditions and an adverse current much of the straight line 1100 miles of the trip. In fact we knew we would not travel in a straight line for lots of reasons. We knew right off the bat we would have to motor north through calm conditions to find winds. The calm squally Intertropical Convergence Zone near the equator is wide in the Western Pacific especially in early winter. We carry enough diesel to motor around 600 nautical miles.

Our onboard reverse-osmosis water-maker depends on electricity and diesel fuel to generate the electricity to force sea water through a very fine filter or membrane with a high pressure pump to make fresh water. We don't run it if there is much in the way of particles in the water around the boat which would prematurely clog the prefilters and the membrane. Water-maker membranes have to be changed from time to time and are expensive, They would cost in the neighborhood of $800 if we bought them from the manufacturer of our water-maker. In remote places the membranes simply are not available. Shipping is slow and expensive. Storing lots of 40-inch-long membranes aboard a 36-foot sailboat is also difficult due to limited space.

The water-maker is an electricity hog. We usually run the engine while we make water which in areas with abundant cheap diesel fuel is not a problem. Our water-maker produces around 15 gallons an hour. We are often cruising in areas where diesel fuel is not available and others where it is expensive, contaminated and has to be transported to the boat by dingy in jerry jugs.

We though long and hard about modifying our big sunshade to harvest drinking water. Many cruising sailboats do so. In fact it is not unusual for boats to also harvest water from their decks. They simply make a dam around their water tank fill and let it run off the decks directly into their water tanks. I don't even want to think about drinking water from a walking surface. We and others walk ashore on surfaces that are sometimes appallingly filthy with substances that I will kindly leave to the reader's imagination. We catch rain water from the sunshade for laundry and other non-potable uses. The trouble with the sunshade is that it is always up and usually has splotches of bird poo on it. The sunshade is big and hard to clean as it is made of Sunbrella fabric. Also the sunshade also serves As a big umbrella to allow us to use the cockpit and coachroof as a cooler living space. The shape needs to be a bowl to harvest water not the current tent shape.

So, after too much waffling about why we made a rain harvester here is how it works.

We bought a 10-foot length of snowy white vinyl that will be easy to inspect and clean. We cut it to fit onthe foredeck and hemmed the edges. Grommets were installed along the hemmed edges and a slot was sewn into each end for a pvc pipe to be used for support if necessary. Lengths of shock cord were threaded through the grommets on the long sides to make it more of a bowl shape. A drain fitting was installed in the middle to a 15-foot length of hose that runs to the water tank. The fitting from the hose to the water tank fill prevents dirty deck water from entering our drinking water tanks. Another shock cord holds the drain down even if there is wind along with the rain as is often the case. There is room
to walk on the foredeck beside the water catcher. I often use that space to rig a clothesline. The rain catcher clips on so is easy to put up and take down. It folds up for easy stowage when not in use.

A side benefit is that the rain catcher shelters the hatch over our berth so we can leave it open in the rain unless there is also a lot wind. We have not done so yet but the rain catcher is designed to be deployed high enough to shade a hammock hung between the mast and forestay.

Even though our boat has a lot of high tech systems we like having low tech very simple backup methods for those that are essential. When visiting ashore at home, we are enchanted by the wonderful water systems. It is magic to simply turn a handle to get all the clean drinking water you want! Life is different on a cruising sailboat in more than the obvious ways.

Hurrah! It is raining again, just in time to replace the wee bit of water we used to wash breakfast dishes.

Note to readers who imagine cruising on a sailboat in remote places is a glamorous full-time holiday, it is often a lot of hard mundane work. The other times make the extra work worth it.

Cinco de Mayo Video

05 May 2017 | Malakal, Palau

Too Much Tequila Last Night

05 May 2017 | Malarial, Palau off Sam's Tours
by Barbara on a glorious sunny morning
We won a bottle of nice tequila, Tres Generations Anejo, at the Royal Belau Yacht Club annual Cinco de Mayo Celebration last night. We won second best for food. Everyone brought a Mexican dish to share. We brought Chicken Enchiladas and roughly used Karen Nelson's recipe and Mexican Corn. We used fresh local hot chilies. I always have Jim handle them since they burn my skin to a fair the well. He did a beautiful job roasting the chilies on the BBQ grill, peeling and chopping them for me. Baking the enchiladas turned out to be a bit of a chore because the oven on the boat kept going out for reasons not known. I had to watch it like a hawk. Yes, that is a rather hot task mid afternoon aboard a boat in the tropics. The corn was cooked on the grill so did not contribute to the interior inferno! People from international cruising boats, locals and Sam's Tours staff joined in the Cinco de Mayo celebration. A good time was had by all. We ate too much delicious Mexican food and drank WAY too many margaritas with friends. We were happy to wake up to a beautiful rainbow and no hangovers!

Footnote to the lessons learned from experience file: The skipper really must wash his hands before taking a piss after cutting hot chilies. Yes, someone learned a valuable but painful lesson from experience! Don't ask.

Rainy Day Projects

13 April 2017 | Royal Belau Yacht Club, Malakal, Palau
By Barbara on a rainy day
One of the sweetest moments on any sailboat is when you turn off the engine. So, it is annoying when we have to turn on the engine to top off our batteries at anchor or on passage when sailing. We enjoyed plugging into the "mother ship" when our friend's big fly bridge cruiser was rafted alongside and running two generators or having shore power in marinas, but otherwise prefer to be at anchor or on a mooring. Running the engine for an hour and sometimes MUCH LONGER also adds heat to the already unbearably hot boat, is noisy, burns diesel fuel which is often hard to come by and pollutes the air.

Our boat to date has been equipped with a Eclectic Energy D400 wind generator and two 75-watt solar panels which Jim installed years ago while we were living in Australia. My engineer is never happier than when adding or upgrading systems on our boat which was ostensibly ready to go when we bought her almost twenty years ago. His major project during our time in Palau has been to add new and more efficient solar panels and to service our wind generator.

The first major step was to research the best options for our boat. He needed to identify and source the most efficient solar panels that could be made to fit on our targa. After deciding which solar panels he wanted the next step proved to be the most difficulty, getting them shipped to Palau. Our four new 160-watt solar panels finally arrived from China along with two more included in the order for a friend on another boat. Jim did the wiring and as much of the structural design work as he could ahead of time.

The next difficult step was procuring the materials to build the support structures for the sides of our stainless steel targa which was custom built in Port Stephens, Australia. We wanted to be able to fold down and secure the two side panels if needed and to remove all four solar panels to stow below in case we ever need to prepare to weather a typhoon, cyclone or hurricane. Jim was able to source most of the materials to build the structures he designed from local hardware stores and the parts stashes aboard our boat and of a generous friend on other boat. He did however have to order from Sailrite in the USA four Bimini fittings for the larger tube sizes in his design. We hope to receive them in a week or two.

Meanwhile Jim has been sawing, building and installing most of the new structures. Yesterday was hot and sunny, but today is rainy and cool (relatively speaking for tropical weather). Hopefully he is capturing all the wee bits of slivered metal and they will not get walked into the teak deck and elsewhere on the boat. Yes, this has happened in the past causing strife among the crew aboard.

When the solar panel project is finished we hope we will only need to turn on our engine when propulsion is required for maneuvering the boat or traveling in light air conditions. Meanwhile, unsurprisingly, Complexity's engineer, of course, needs a few more parts from the local Ace Hardware store.

P.S. I am designing and getting ready to make a white vinyl rain catcher for our foredeck. The white vinyl will be relatively easy to keep clean. A key design feature I desire is that it will also double as a shade over the hammock which we used to rig between the mast and forestay. It has been too bloody hot in the tropics to use the hammock! If successful, the shaded hammock will be a great place to read during the hottest part of the day. A third feature is to shelter our forward hatch so we can leave it open for cooler sleeping on rainy nights. I have also ordered some small UV-resistant coils to capture rain off of our big sunshade which we built while in Australia. We are not so keen to put that water into our tanks and drinking water because the sunshade is almost always deployed and collects bird droppings. The usually, but not always, quite clean water, water would be great in buckets for doing laundry aboard. Stay tuned.

Home is where the anchor drops!

12 April 2017 | Royal Belau Yacht Club, Malakal, Palau
By Barbara on a rainy delightfully cool day
Thank you Yuing and Dan for the great tea towel that arrived in yesterday's mail. It says a lot and we appreciate the gift. We are grateful you came for a visit aboard in Palau and hope you will join us again somewhere out there.

We are often asked where we live. That is an easy question with a complicated answer.

Seattle doesn't feel like home now even though I lived in Seattle longer than any where else in my entire life. We own a house in Seattle, but has been rented since 2008 when we sailed away bound for Australia. Our house suits us well. We have many wonderful and beloved friends in Seattle and our kids live just down the road in Eugene, Oregon. The upstairs in our house is a big open space that doubles as a sail loft when needed. It has built in bookcases for a generous library and a big kitchen in which countless meals have been prepared for big gatherings of family and friends. Huge windows on the south side let in beautiful light that is most welcome in cool northerly Seattle and we get refreshing cross breezes through the living spaces in the hot though short summer time.

Our house is in the Magnolia neighborhood of Seattle which we love because of its small town quiet feel yet it is located four miles from the Central Business District of Seattle. Almost everything we need on a day-to-day basis is right in Magnolia and easy walk or bike ride from our home. Magnolia has three grocery stores, a hardware store, pubs, high quality restaurants, a delightful small bookstore, a medical clinic, a library branch, gas stations, a drug store, a marina with million dollar views of the city, boutique clothing and gift shops, a great plant nursery and much more. There are even more options in other neighborhoods that are less than a ten-minute drive away. Magnolia has the biggest park in Seattle plus many smaller ones right in the neighborhood. The opportunities for wooded, beach and urban walks are bountiful. It is a 15- minute bike ride on dedicated bike paths to downtown. The views of Puget Sound, the Cascade Mountains, the Olympic Mountains and downtown Seattle in our neighborhood are so gorgeous that tour buses bring visitors to Magnolia. Big city shopping, the main library, opera, ballet, museums, theaters, symphony are a 10-minute drive or 15-minute bus ride away in downtown Seattle. We have at least three excellent hospitals and almost any specialty health care provider one can imagine within 15 minutes of our house. All this and close access to wonderful hiking, sailing, skiing and other outdoor activities in a lush and gorgeous green setting with many state and national forests and parks.

Seattle is truly a seafaring town. Vessels of all sorts ply Puget Sound which is the home of the nation's largest ferry fleet. The US Coast Guard's ice breakers that carry goods and people to the Arctic and Antarctic are based on the shores of downtown Seattle. Two busy cruise ship terminals including one right next to our neighborhood are on the Seattle waterfront. Seattle is one of the nation's major cargo hubs with container and bulk cargo ships coming and going every day. There are float planes, super yachts, dinner cruise ships, paddle boards, sailboats large and small, high speed racing boats, dragon boats, nuclear submarines, warships, rowing skiffs, research vessels, fuel lighters, fire boats, water taxis, jet skis and fishing vessels of all sizes, many that fish in and off Alaska every year. Consequently, Puget Sound is a paradise of sorts for boaters. There are many excellent chandleries and specialty marine businesses and tradesmen. You can buy almost anything you need for a boat right off the shelf without waiting weeks or months to have it expensively shipped in. Excellent classes abound for almost any imaginable maritime skill and the many experienced mariners that call Seattle home are always happy to share their knowledge and stories. In almost any country of the the world with a seashore one will meet people on small sailboats that have once called Seattle home.

We have many friends in Seattle and the people who work in many of our favorite businesses remember us when we walk through their door every now and then. When in Seattle we stay with friends or in a holiday rental so it is not really "home". The culture and political attitudes in Seattle are mostly comfortable for both of us. We love that people from all over the world live in Seattle and differences are celebrated rather than feared. The community tries to provide for the must vulnerable people. Seattle has an amazing library system, especially the main library downtown which is an architectural marvel in and of itself. Book stores and art galleries flourish in almost every neighborhood. You can get almost any kind of high quality fresh fruits, vegetables, seafood, meats and dairy products any time of the day or night, including organic foods in almost any store. Yummy restaurants of all sorts abound. Our Aussie friends would mourn the lack of surf beaches and sunshine year round in Seattle. Our large and beloved family is scattered across the USA, but an international airport is a 20-minute drive from our house. We love almost everything about Seattle and intend to live there again when our roaming days are done.

I was born in Kansas, but that isn't home. My parents named me well. Barbara means "stranger in a strange land" and Joyce means "joyful". When I was a preschooler my family moved to Casablanca, Morocco. I have been moving every since and have enjoyed temporarily calling many wonderful places home through the years. We will always love the deserts and mountains of Utah and learned to sail on Great Salt Lake. Beautiful Oregon with her lush green forests and valleys, rugged spectacular coast, abundant rainbows and waterfalls, rich farmlands and people who value protecting the environment and each other will always have a special place in our hearts. We have also enjoyed living in California, Florida, Texas, Ohio, Louisiana, Illinois and Arkansas during our lives. We have family and have spent much time in Colorado, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky and South Carolina though we have never lived in those states. We will always call Australia home and love our Aussie friends and the nation's spectacular landscapes, birds and wildlife. We have traveled to many other beautiful countries on our boat and by air. We could be happy living in any of these places. We have beloved friends all over the world.

Back to the original question, "Where do you live?" The simple answer is we live on our boat. For now we "live" in Palau. Our "home" is presently surrounded by picturesque rock islands, coral reefs, tropic birds, terns, one crocodile and a small fleet of local boats and sailboats that are cruising the world. Home is where the anchor drops.


15 March 2017 | Rock Islands, Palau
Barbara - weather glorious
We transited a narrow pass in the Southern Lagoon Rock Islands of Palau on our way to Baby Shark Anchorage without incident. Later in the day we were heading back through the same pass in the dingy on our way to snorkel at Soft Coral Arch. I saw three dark spots in the water on the south side of the pass that looked at first like ugly rocks under the surface. I immediately asked Jim to stop for a closer look since we would be transiting that pass again when on our way back to Malakal. I had been on bow watch looking for rocks and coral when we brought the boat through and had not seen any rocks in the pass.

We were gobsmacked when we saw that the spots were actually three large manta rays. We enjoyed watching them before continuing on to Soft Coral Arch.

On the way back we circled and went through beautiful iconic Natural Arch before exploring the edge of the island south of the pass. Upon approaching the pass I saw a white object below the water just before a Palauan dive boat blasted through the narrow pass at top speed. We think they might have run us down had we been entering the pass a just few moments earlier. I don't think they even realized we were nearby!

Within the pass we saw that the white object was actually the belly of a large manta ray. There was a school of them barrel rolling in the tidal current that was flowing through the pass. We were mesmerized and lingered to watch what the people on the dive boat had missed. We hope the boat did not hit one of the manta rays. In Palau, boat strikes are a major source of injury for these amazing creatures. I put the GoPro underwater from the dingy and took some videos and stills. We feel very lucky to have had such a close encounter with these beautiful creatures!
Vessel Name: Complexity
Vessel Make/Model: Halberg Rassy 36
Hailing Port: Seattle, WA, USA
Crew: Jim, Barbara and Abi Cole
We sailed from Seattle, USA to Port Stephens, Australia in 2008. Jim has since worked for Boeing at Williamtown Royal Australian Air Force Base on the Wedgetail airplane before retiring at the end of 2015. [...]
Complexity's Photos - Main
September 2016
3 Photos
Created 16 September 2016
We spent months getting the boat and ourselves ready to go cruising again after living on the beach for seven years.
79 Photos
Created 7 May 2016
We took the summer of 2005 off from work and sailed to Glacier Bay, Alaska and back to Seattle. Jim and I made the whole trip. Meps and Barry cruised with us from Seattle to Juneau. Carol, Alex and Abby joined us for a week in Glacier Bay. Abby sailed the rest of the trip with us from Glacier Bay back to Seattle.
1 Photo | 2 Sub-Albums
Created 16 August 2005