Sailing Faith: The Long Way Home

Vessel Name: Faith
Vessel Make/Model: Taswell 56
Hailing Port: Holland, Michigan
Crew: www.sailingfaith.com
Home Page: http://www.faithofholland.com
13 November 2010
11 November 2010
09 November 2010
08 November 2010
07 November 2010
06 November 2010
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04 March 2009 | Galapagos
Recent Blog Posts
13 November 2010

Sydney

Excerpt: Greggii and I sit with baby octopus heads in our mouths, smiling at each other with all these legs arranged in a poorly groomed handlebar mustache sticking out of our mouths, and wonder why the girls don't want to be around us.

11 November 2010

Going Down Under

I hope you enjoy this eighteenth chapter from my book, Sailing Faith: The Long Way Home. Please visit www.faithofholland.com to purchase the complete book with 15 maps, and a 24 page color insert of 85 photographs. You will not be disappointed. I guarantee it.

09 November 2010

Fire in the Sky

Excerpt: Tanna is a land of subsistence living, where fruits and vegetables are gathered for each day's consumption. Most of the living part is handled by the men, who spend inordinate time goofing off and drinking kava, and the subsistence part is performed by the women, who do the work.

08 November 2010

A Tearful Goodbye

Excerpt: We celebrate together at a pig-on-a-spit, luau kind of thing. They go vegetarian when they learn the menu isn't available, saying they aren't completely kosher but do draw the line at pig. To me, it's just another adventure, going to a pig roast with practicing Jews and having our blond six-year-old [...]

07 November 2010

On Passage with Friends

If you don't like fart jokes, you can skip this chapter.

06 November 2010

Sailing Into Tomorrow

Excerpt: Once in the lee, we use the motor and headsail to calmly motor toward the village of Neiafu. There's something in the water, a change in the wave pattern or an eddying wind a quarter-mile away. Then they surface. I holler, "Whales! Come up here and look at this!" Three humpback whales, nearly [...]

Sydney

13 November 2010
Gregg A Granger
Excerpt: Greggii and I sit with baby octopus heads in our mouths, smiling at each other with all these legs arranged in a poorly groomed handlebar mustache sticking out of our mouths, and wonder why the girls don't want to be around us.


I hope you enjoy this nineteenth chapter from my book, Sailing Faith: The Long Way Home. Please visit www.faithofholland.com to purchase the complete book with 15 maps, and a 24 page color insert of 85 photographs. You will not be disappointed. I guarantee it.



Sydney

We learn it was the appropriately named Southerly Buster that sent us to Coffs Harbour- a front that turns the weather upside down for a couple days at a time. When the weather returns to normal, we begin our move to Sydney. Because we choose not to sail overnight, the first night finds us at Port Stephens. The wind acts a little funny again, so we spend two nights here.

The sailing is work as we make our way down the coast. We're again in the mid-latitudes, where weather patterns are different and continually changing. With Christmas and the southern summer approaching, the weather is as unsettled as springtime in Michigan.

We leave Port Stephens and sail to Newcastle, where we're surprised by Maggie and Maddie, whom we last saw in Panama. They're living here on Geneva after their engine failure forced a non-stop crossing of the Pacific. Carl works across the river as an electrician for Australian Defense Industries.

Before their troubles, they were looking forward to sailing into Sydney Harbour; we invite them to sail there with us.

We leave early for the ten-hour sail, and make it between the heads--promontories marking the harbour entrance--by mid-afternoon. In many miles and many different sailing conditions since leaving Hampton, Virginia, nothing prepared us for Sydney. New York doesn't come close in the amount of on-the-water traffic. We were in New York in the fall, when other things are more important. We're now in Sydney in the spring, In Sydney Harbour with Carl, Maggie, and Maddieand everybody is flocking to the water: a cruise ship, a number of ferries, tour boats, sailboats, powerboats, fishing boats, canoes, kayaks, tugs with barges, airplanes with banners, and helicopters--all in an aura of celebratory confusion. As we round Bradley's Head, the Sydney skyline unfolds. Modern skyscrapers, glass and steel, and now the Opera House, and the Harbour Bridge. Many experiences in life are made better when shared with other people--it's good to share the excitement of Sydney Harbour with Carl, Maggie and Maddie.

We pass the Opera House and sail under the Harbour Bridge toward Darling Harbour. There aren't many anchorages in Sydney, but we find one in Blackwattle Bay, just out from the Sydney Fishmarket. Blackwattle Bay, separated from the main harbour by the Anzac Bridge, becomes our home for the next three months.

Carl, Maggie, and Maddie take the train back to Newcastle. We settle in.
An officer from Waterways knocks on Faith's hull our first morning in the anchorage. Waterways is New South Wales's on-the-water regulating, enforcing, and maintenance organization. He asks if we have a holding tank. Lorrie says yes. Are we using it? Again, yes. He then tells Lorrie that the fine for not using a holding tank is AU$750.00. Lorrie doesn't think it's the right time to say how we've been using it since the valve was turned the wrong way somewhere on the far side of Panama and the tank got filled up. The macerator pump--to dump the contents overboard--has been broken as long. We aren't using the holding tank for anything new, but since we can't empty it, it is in use.

This begins a new routine on Faith, as Waterways sneaks up behind boats in the anchorage to monitor them. We begin hollering to each other, "Can I flush?" or, "Can I pump out the shower?" as the need arises, and someone pokes their head out of the companionway to make sure a Waterways boat isn't around.

We're anchored in a small pool in the middle of this magnificent city. We walk in the park where a sign says "No Swimming," with a sketch of a big shark on it.

***

Sydney bustles with the excitement of the approaching holiday. Lorrie, Emily, and Amanda find Christmas-type things they can do only without Greggii and me--which is fine with us. Greggii and I have important things to do ourselves.

One of our first important things is to eat at the Fishmarket. It's filled with stalls, take-away joints, sit-down fast-food places, and at least one fancy-linen tablecloth place that we see only from the outside. We're partial to the take-away joints. Today, we order a fisherman's platter for two. Greggii and I sit with baby octopus heads in our mouths, smiling at each other with all these legs arranged in a poorly groomed handlebar mustache sticking out of our mouths, and wonder why the girls don't want to be around us.

Then we cross the Pyrmont Bridge. This swing bridge is the first in the world to be powered by electricity. The center balances and rotates ninety degrees on a support structure to let boats in and out. Its age doesn't show because this section of town was all polished up between the time they were awarded the Olympics and the time the 2000 Games played. I don't remember the Sydney games because I gave up on them earlier. Between the pro basketbawlers, Salt Lake City bribing their way in, and television's control of information flow, I don't pay much attention anymore. But in Sydney, they're proud of having hosted them, and that seems a good thing.After crossing the bridge, we go to the Australian Maritime Museum, mainly because it's free. We ask a security guard what time it is and he says 4:47. Then we ask when the museum closes and he says 5:00. We spend our thirteen minutes fascinated by a whale boat, the first display. Instead of regular school, we plan to return tomorrow on a field trip.

After two days in Blackwattle Bay, we're greeted by another Southerly Buster. We make sure our anchor is holding and notice that one of the untended boats lets go and blows across the bay. Emily and I and a Swiss man from a neighboring boat retrieve it before it blows into the pylons of the Anzac Bridge, our gateway to the main harbour. We tow it back and meet David Maxwell, the owner, later in the day. His apartment overlooks the bay and he notices his boat isn't where he left it. We become friends with David and his girlfriend, Virginia, during the months that follow.

One morning we motor-sail eight miles through the main harbour, go under a drawbridge, and into another river. The harbour is a zoo. The Big Boat Challenge is a race of ten of the corporate-sponsored boats in the Sydney to Hobart Race. We come under the Harbour Bridge and are in front of the Opera House when all these boats head our way, along with several hundred spectator boats, ferries, tour boats, and helicopters. We're against the grain for a while, and then they all turn around and overtake us as they head back. We generally like more blue between us and anything that can significantly change the shape of our boat. The boats from Nokia, AAPT, and Skandia pass in front of us, each less than a couple boat lengths away, along with their respective photographer boats, fans, and others.

We anchor in a pool surrounded by vegetation-covered cliffs. Echoes of screaming cockatiels create an eerie aura. Faith is alone here. You wouldn't know the city of North Sydney dwells outside the encroaching horizon.

***

Returning to Blackwattle Bay, we walk to the Domain--a large grassy park. The event is Carols in the Domain with celebrities singing Christmas Carols for live television. Tonight's event is larger than last year's, which was attended by 100,000 people. They sing real Christmas Carols--as opposed to wintertime-happy-songs masquerading as Christmas Carols--accompanied by a fireworks and laser show. The finale is "Joy to the World;" singing it with 100,000 others and fireworks is a rush. Some entertainers use the stage to give personal testimonies of Jesus in their lives.

The best way to see the Sydney Opera House is during a performance; we go see Carnival of the Animals as the Australian Chamber Orchestra accompanies a cartoonist who reads poems and draws animals. The show begins with the orchestra playing centuries-old music. After the second song, Greggii asks, "When's it going to be over?" He then starts sketching and shows me his drawing of all the instruments: the violins, the ivories, and the oboe. Since he's trying to be quiet, he explains what each is by mimicking somebody playing it. He and I have serious ants in the pants until the intermission, but once the cartoonist takes the stage, we enjoy it. Michael Leunig is a poet, philosopher, cartoonist, and observational commentator--an Australian fixture the likes of the late Jeff MacNelly at the Chicago Tribune.

***

Boxing Day, December 26, is a legal holiday. The holiday is celebrated with movie premieres, after-Christmas sales, and a day off. In Sydney, Boxing Day marks the start of the annual Sydney to Hobart Sailboat Race. This race began when a bunch of sailing mates were in a pub with plans of sailing to Hobart and decided to make a race of it. Today is the race's 60th start.

We walk a kilometer to the bus stop for the forty-five-minute ride to Watsons Bay, then hike to the top of the South Head and stake out our vantage point for the start. We arrive at 9:30, unpack our blankets and picnic stuff, and watch the harbour fill with thousands of boats jockeying for position. Only last night, Lorrie helped me decide not to take Faith out. Good call.

The race countdown begins at 1:00 PM for the 1:10 start. What a spectacle: the sails, the boats, the ferries, the crowd! Out of 110 entrants, 109 start. There are two starting lines, one for the big boats, called super-maxis in the reredundant flair of corporate and journalistic English, sponsored by Nicorette, Konica-Minolta, Skandia, Targé, AAPT, and others, and one for the cruising class, the mom-and-pop boats that made the race the event it is and have as much fun as ever in spite of all the media attention cast toward the corporate hijackers of the race.The racers sail north into the wind to exit the harbour. When they come out of the heads, about two-thirds of the fleet hoist their spinnakers in winds too strong for them; the super-maxis must, as they are under contract to display the billboards designed on them. The super-maxis lead a large number of boats not too different from Faith, who are not under such contractual obligations. In fact, Faith, in her past life as Antipodes of Sydney, entered the race twice.

One spinnaker shreds and several boats broach--turn to windward out of control because of too much sail. One of the super-maxis must be towed back because her swing-keel breaks.

Hobart, Tasmania, is 650 miles south. To get there, the race crosses the Bass Straits. The weather, beautiful today, may change tomorrow morning in a system that's predicted to be the worst since 1998, where six people were killed, five vessels out of the seven that were abandoned sank, and forty-four contestants out of ninety starts finished the race in eighty-knot winds and twenty-meter seas. Faith, as Antipodes, retired early that year.

Thousands of people line this ridge overlooking the Tasman Sea and the Sydney Harbour in the sunshine of an eighty-five-degree day.

While on the South Head, at 10:00 AM, we hear about a tsunami in the Indian Ocean. It's feared as many as ten thousand people have been killed. Later we learn the impact of what happened this morning: nearly a quarter-million people dead, in areas we find ourselves in the coming years.

***

With the sunrise over the Sydney skyline, we leave Blackwattle Bay on New Year's Eve to come under the Harbour Bridge and anchor two hundred meters from the Opera House. There are already a hundred boats in this little bay. The New Year's Eve fireworks show from the Sydney Harbour Bridge and from barges towed into the main channel is the first big New Year's celebration in the world. Tonga is actually first, but Sydney has the resources for a major celebration, and sees midnight sixteen hours before Eastern Standard Time.

Carl, Maggie, and Maddie join us for the fireworks, and we tour some of Sydney's other attractions with them including the aquarium and the zoo in the days that follow.

Since leaving Fiji, we've remained in contact with Thomas and Helén from Smilla. They left Fiji to visit their families in Sweden, and determined that they no longer feel at home there. They are considering a move to Australia. As part of the process of making such a move, they plan a month in Australia, two weeks of which are here in Sydney, to weigh their options. They arrive in late January, in time to celebrate Nicole's birthday with Emily and Amanda at a live production of Dirty Dancing. We sail on Faith together for several days in the harbour, visit Bondi Beach, and relive the good times we shared in the Pacific.

***

In early February, we revisit Carl and Maggie in Newcastle. Faith gets hauled out for a coat of antifoul and repairs where her hull was sacrificed to the reef in Tahiti.

Valentine's Day coincides with Faith's haul, and the first job at any shipyard is power-washing the hull to remove the barnacles and other maritime attorneys racking up billable hours on her. The shipyard is next to a small strip mall. One of the fine restaurants in this waterfront strip-mall has all the tables out, covered with white linen, fancy folded napkins, and lit candles in the center, just waiting for those special dates to arrive. A brief phone call from the restaurant to the shipyard puts an end to work on Faith until the morning. The restaurant doesn't see the romantic side of barnacle fragments on their Valentine's tables.

Our fresh paint gains us a knot of speed, and after launching and hugging goodbyes to Carl and Maggie, we're on our way north to the Great Barrier Reef.

Going Down Under

11 November 2010
Gregg A Granger
I hope you enjoy this eighteenth chapter from my book, Sailing Faith: The Long Way Home. Please visit www.faithofholland.com to purchase the complete book with 15 maps, and a 24 page color insert of 85 photographs. You will not be disappointed. I guarantee it.



Going Down Under

New Caledonia brings us farther from the ozone's protection, and we decide to worry about malaria later, rather than to crisp up like French fries in this wonderful French territory. We quit taking doxycycline, and quit worrying.

Several months ago, while in the Marquesas, we met a German man who was hitchhiking across the Pacific on boats. He worked as crew, and joined Scott and Stacy on Willy Flippit for the run from Nuka Hiva to the Tuamotus. They enjoyed Bernie's help and presence. He stood watches, did the dishes, and cleaned their propeller, among other things. He's been walking the docks in New Caledonia and finds Faith when we arrive. We agree for him to join us for the passage to Australia. He's from Munich, speaks French and English well, and is a great asset and friend on our passage to Sydney.

Greggii and Bernie hit it off, with Greggii doing his best to wear him out. Bernie is a physicist for Osram, the world's leading light bulb manufacturer. He banks his time off for several years to accumulate a year of leave for the adventure of hitchhiking on boats. This time, he ends in Australia to fly to Thailand for three weeks before going home.

Bernie is an ideal crewmember, eating breakfast on Faith, then going somewhere during the day and returning for dinner. He saves us from feeling we need to entertain him. On our first day in Ile des Pins, he hitchhikes around the island, the next, he sits on the beach all day, and the third, he combines the beach with a hitchhike to the village.

He's a lot like me in the stubbornness department, which I use to break the monotony of our passage, Matrimonial spats aside, I generally enjoy a good argument no matter how distasteful the position I defend. It seems I take an almost perverse pleasure in the most evil posture for entertainment's sake.

To get things going, I say, "It seems like things are going pretty well for us in Iraq."

He says, "Do most people in the United States really support President Bush?"

"What do you mean?"

"Don't Americans understand? He unilaterally invades a sovereign nation and kills innocent people, because of nuclear weapons he knew didn't exist."

"Look Bernie, I think you're a little confused. Nuclear weapons aren't the issue. The issue was to enforce a peace treaty that Iraq agreed to, limiting their military buildup, and allowing inspections."

To needle his sensitivities, I continue, "Just think, Bernie, if the Versailles Treaty was enforced by Britain and France, East Prussia would still be part of your country."

The entertainment value of this conversation increases dramatically, and Faith picks up an extra knot from the wind originating in the cockpit.

We end the conversation and agree to disagree, an easier task for me because I never disagreed in the first place.

***

Emily and Amanda begin to show an interest in sailing. They take watches, each staying on for a couple hours at a time. It's too rough to fish, but the water is as blue as any we've sailed, and the sun shines. We haven't seen any other boats in the four days since leaving Ile des Pins. We have sunshine, blue and following seas, blue skies, and fair winds.

Faith is making good progress toward Sydney when a blow develops from the south. It's mostly forty knots, but peaks at fifty-four. We alter course and point downwind toward Coffs Harbour, 240 miles north of Sydney, to wait for better weather. Bernie, Emily, and I are in the cockpit, and Lorrie, Amanda, and Greggii are below for the blow. We bury the toe-rail and Faith heels several times to where the upper cabin windows get a good rinse.

Greggii hollers out, "Hey Dad, watch this!" He and Amanda sprayed their socks with furniture wax and are climbing up the floor and skiing from one side of our living room to the other.

I don't see Lorrie and ask later, "Where were you?"

"I was right there," she points, "under the table, praying."

***

Customs boards us on arrival at Coffs Harbour and confiscates all of our fresh food. Ever since Captain Cook's first contact, and his gift of rabbits, Australia has had problems with exotics in the fragile, isolated environment, and makes every effort to control them, including the confiscation of fresh food from visitors. We knew this and planned accordingly to minimize our stores.

Much of the landscaping at Musket Cove is old, dead, giant clam shells. They don't harvest live clams. Greggii found one that wasn't part of the landscaping (we think) and brought it on board. We know about endangered species treaties and that, even though this clam has been dead for a long time, we aren't supposed to have it. Greggii spent more time than he should have on our passage, finding a good hiding place for it. Proceeding into the final questions, the Customs woman asks about a whole list of endangered species including ivory, tortoise shells, and whale bones. Greggii asks, "What about giant clam shells?" The woman knows our six-year-old Greggii poses a minimal threat to the world's wildlife, but rules are rules, and he loses his shell after he shows her a hidden hatch in the aft cabin.

Bernie leaves us from here to continue his adventure before returning to work.

Fire in the Sky

09 November 2010
Gregg A Granger
Excerpt: Tanna is a land of subsistence living, where fruits and vegetables are gathered for each day's consumption. Most of the living part is handled by the men, who spend inordinate time goofing off and drinking kava, and the subsistence part is performed by the women, who do the work.

I hope you enjoy this seventeenth chapter from my book, Sailing Faith: The Long Way Home. Please visit www.faithofholland.com to purchase the complete book with 15 maps, and a 24 page color insert of 85 photographs. You will not be disappointed. I guarantee it.





Fire in the Sky

Fiji is ringed with reefs, and we travel fifteen miles before going out the pass. After we're out, a boat from Musket Cove radios to ask if we know something about the weather that they don't. We checked the weather beforehand, but never heard of the front they tell us about. Soon, the winds rise to thirty knots to continue for the duration. The seas are bumpy and confused. Some come from behind, some from ahead, and some waves hit us square on the beam with a whump, spraying water over the decks. Lorrie and I are in our second change of clothes because we didn't duck quickly enough.

During this miserable passage, it blows like stink all the way to Tanna, Vanuatu.

At night, from eighty miles, the sky glows from Mt. Yasur like a big orange beacon. Mt. Yasur is Tanna's active volcano.

We approach the mouth of the bay at Port Resolution, named after Captian Cook's second barque, and Faith's engine battery is dead. We heave-to--adjust the sails to hold us nearly dead in the water--and let the generator charge the engine battery for two hours. At three, we motor into the bay and anchor five miles from Mt. Yasur.

Faith rocks uncomfortably from a swell entering the bay, but we're too tired to reanchor. In the morning, we motor farther into the bay and drop both a bow and stern anchor to orient Faith's bow to the swell. That eliminates most of the rocking.

We go to the village near the beach and meet Rani, the chief, who visited Faith earlier this morning and talked to Lorrie while I still slept. Vanuatu's culture is more removed from, or less conditioned to, our own than any place we've visited. The inhabitants live in palm frond homes, with palm mats for walls and thatched roofs. The floors are dirt and the cooking area is in a separate hut; in a third hut is the toilet. They live in family groups of ten or so homes per group. We see neither men nor children over five years old. The children are in school, and the men are out doing important men-type things. Tanna is a land of subsistence living, where fruits and vegetables are gathered for each day's consumption. Most of the living part is handled by the men, who spend inordinate time goofing off and drinking kava, and the subsistence part is performed by the women, who do the work.

Our arrival in Vanuatu marks the crossing of two other borders as well. We are now in an area where the World Health Organization cautions about malaria, and we are sailing into areas less protected from the sun because of depleted ozone. Faith's anti-malarial prophylactic is doxycycline, which does not sit well in our stomachs and causes additional sensitivity to the sun. For it to be effective, we must continue taking it for two weeks after we depart Tanna.

Rani's son runs the shuttle service to Customs and Immigration because he has the pickup truck. He's available on Mondays to make the run. The village of Lenakal is a two-hour ride each way. With some restaurants, shops, and a bank, it's Tanna's commercial center. We're instructed to bring our cockpit cushions for the uncomfortable ride. The path we walked on from the beach, where we left the dinghy, to the village, is about as good as roads get on Tanna.

We board the pickup at 7:00 AM for the two-hour journey with five other yachties and several Tannans. At one time, there are three in the front seat, and thirteen of us piled in the back. We stop to pick up anyone walking along the road, going the same direction. It's easiest to stand up and wrap your arms around the naked frame of the canopy they attach when it rains. We ride through the ash field of the volcano, up a mountain, across a plain, and down the other side to the port. Fun and excitement and bruises are shared by all.

On the way back, we visit Mt. Yasur. One thing we don't miss about the U. S. is all the concrete walkways, barricades, and signs to control our access to cool things. We drive to the base and are left free to roam. We hike a short distance to the volcano's rim to witness the best fireworks we've ever seen. In the States, they'd have a sign saying, "Danger, big hot flying rocks can cause serious injury or death." In Vanuatu, they assume you know it.

All of a sudden, kawhummp, and the earth shakes, and big orange blobs fly out by the hundreds, high into the air, and then land all around the inside of the rim, mostly on the far side from where we are. Most of these rocks probably aren't much bigger than a twenty-seven-inch television, and when they land and shatter, it sounds like a hailstorm. The volcano is less than a kilometer across at the rim, and a large number of twenty-seven-inch-television-sized rocks lie outside the rim, even as far as the parking lot. We stay alert. The heat creates a column of rising air that is replaced by a fierce, cool wind on our backs. We're coated with ash and sand. It is in our eyes, our ears, our hair, our cameras (we got some great shots), and our pockets until we get back to Faith.

When we visited Lenokal, we cleared into Vanuatu and got departure clearance at the same time. The morning witnesses Faith's departure for New Caledonia.

A Tearful Goodbye

08 November 2010
Gregg A Granger
Excerpt: We celebrate together at a pig-on-a-spit, luau kind of thing. They go vegetarian when they learn the menu isn't available, saying they aren't completely kosher but do draw the line at pig. To me, it's just another adventure, going to a pig roast with practicing Jews and having our blond six-year-old teach their children about making money.

I hope you enjoy this sixteenth chapter from my book, Sailing Faith: The Long Way Home. Please visit www.faithofholland.com to purchase the complete book with 15 maps, and a 24 page color insert of 85 photographs. You will not be disappointed. I guarantee it.

A Tearful Goodbye

Bula. Say boolah. Fijian for hello. It's the best greeting we've heard yet. It's cool to walk down the street with people saying bula to you, and to return a bula to them; better than hola, bon jour, malo, even hello. Bula.

Savusavu is a city with a downtown about 400 meters long and a bunch of shops with loud music pouring out of them. The shopkeepers and the music are mostly Indian, the music occasionally punctuated with pop or hip-hop.

Greggii makes himself known here. Lorrie and I go for lunch at the Copra Shed Marina restaurant, and the staff asks where Greggii is. People always grab him and hug him, and if he isn't with us, they ask where he is.

This happened in Tonga too. I'd go to the market, and the woman at the back stall would ask where Greggii was. One time she asked me to tell him his order would be there on Saturday, when we never knew about his ordering anything. This woman said the stuff would be ready, and that it was going to cost T$7.00, the exact amount Greggii was due in allowance. When Saturday rolled around, Greggii and Lorrie went to the market for some last-minute things, and when they got home, Lorrie was a little upset with Greggii because she didn't know he had stuff on order from this woman. Then, she was a little upset with me because I did know. Greggii came home with a war club and a god of love carving, which looks just like the god of the sea and all the other gods"a nice haul for a six year old with seven Tongan dollars in his pocket.

On Sunday, we go to the Methodist church. We don't understand anything except what little they say in English for our benefit. What impresses me most is the church bell. Every church we've been to since leaving home has had regular bells. Bing-Bong, Bing-Bong, Bing-Bong. After we sit down in this church, which we think starts at 10:00 but in fact starts at 10:30, we hear a loud Thunk...Tink-Tink...........Thunk...Tink-Tink...........Thunk...Tink-Tink. We go outside to a little gazebo where a woman swings a club against a big old hollowed-out block of wood, emitting a loud, pleasant Thunk...Tink-Tink.

***

During our friendship with Smilla, we knew this time would come. We agree that see you later is better than goodbye, and that seems to help. Their plan is to leave Smilla in Fiji for the cyclone season, ours is to make Australia. They will return to Sweden for several months.

On our last night together, we go to dinner, where we try to discuss our own relationship to Christ with them. Helén has joined us for church several times; not that we've been going a lot, but when we have gone, she's joined us. She tells us Thomas has hard feelings toward religion of any sort, Christianity in particular.

Thomas doesn't let us get too far before he makes it known we are offending him. We want to present them with a Bible, but Thomas refuses to have one on Smilla, or even to accept it to ease the umbrella of discomfort we opened. Thomas says, "That book is responsible for more bloodshed than anything else in the world. Ever."

Long after Fiji, and after hashing it around in the air of different cultures, I begin to understand Thomas's view.

Too often, the Bible is used to justify actions toward others rather than to guide individual lives. Jesus' teachings are personal. If He wanted to, He could have addressed those Big Bad Romans, or justified a Jewish empire based on the evil in Samaria or Egypt or anywhere else, but He didn't. Nowhere did He advocate political involvement.

He speaks to me personally, about my life, my sins, and my relationship with Him. And He speaks to you personally about the same in your life. The only time the Bible instructs me to worry about your sins instead of your salvation, and you to worry about mine, is when those sins interfere with building His Church.

Thomas knows that whole nations, powerful nations, my nation, two millennia after Jesus taught, are using His name to build empires that bow to new Baals with innocuous names like The Economy, Globalization, and Free Trade.

God is 100% in charge of salvation. But I wonder if the profit gained by those contracted to wipe out evil in intentionally misrepresented worlds, with the noisy evangelical support that accompanies it, hasn't condemned millions of people like Thomas to blindness toward God's love and grace, and interfered with the building of His Church. Simply put, Thomas sees the United States' heavy-handed approach to foreign policy as Christianity in practice and, from that perspective, doesn't want much to do with Christ.

Thomas and Helén give us a DVD of photos of our time together and say not to open it until we get to our first anchorage. We return to Faith with both the DVD and the Bible.

***

We planned to be underway by 10:00 AM, but Faith won't start. Our cranking battery is dead. I try jumping from the house batteries, but those are useless for cranking. Then I try jumping from the generator battery, which doesn't work either. Finally, after we monkey-around with our portable charger hooked to the generator, the engine starts.

We sail out of Savusavu to Koro Island, in the middle of the Koro Sea, about a third of the way toward Fiji's main island of Viti Levu. We stop for the night without going to shore.

When we open the DVD of photos of our time together that Thomas and Helén gave us, a note tells us they don't understand how friends can talk about religion, casting further uneasiness on our first day apart.

We all feel something right now, but can't figure out what. Sure, we're sad, because that's the way with goodbyes, but it's more than that. A flood of emotions engulfs us as we recall the past nine months, from that first baseball game at the Panama Canal Yacht Club. God laid in our path this family, these friends who coached us into this life and stood by us when we were ready to hang it up. The bond we've groomed, and that they've groomed with no less effort, bears a bountiful harvest in a friendship we will cherish forever.

In the morning, we leave for Makongai. Fifteen old buildings and the foundations of a once large village surround the anchorage. The leper colony and hospital used to be here, but the concrete stairs are all that remains. A quarter mile away, following a path cleared in the jungle on what used to be the village's main road, there's a graveyard with a hundred graves marked by concrete crosses and European names. Kara, a Fijian who lives here with her husband and baby, tells us all these people worked at the leper colony. Kara and her husband work in the turtle and giant clam sanctuary that has taken its place in the abandoned buildings.

In Savusavu, we learned of the kava ceremony from a British expatriate who had lived on his own boat there for several years. Kava is the root of a pepper tree, and it plays large in Melanesian culture. We left the Polynesians in our wake at Tonga and are now in a part of the world populated by Melanesians and Indians. This latter group was imported as slaves to work the cane fields in colonial Fiji.

We learn to carry kava on board, a collection of woody roots that bundles easily in a page of newspaper, so that when we get to a new anchorage, we can go to the village chief and present this bundle while asking permission to anchor. It's all cloaked in ceremony, most of which we probably get wrong, but people everywhere seem to appreciate an honest attempt.

Following Makongai, we anchor in the lee of a small island, and with our kava in hand, we dinghy to shore and ask for the chief. Since he's away, we're escorted to a substitute chief. We present our kava to the substitute chief's assistant, who looks it over and hands it to the substitute chief. After inspecting it, he nods to the assistant, who in turn gives us permission to anchor and invites us back for the kava ceremony at 7:00 PM.

The kava ceremony includes all the men in the village and us. The kava is ground with a large mortar and pestle, and placed in something like an oversized sock as a filter. Then, over a large bowl, water is poured through it. After that, the sock is tied on the end to simulate a large tea bag, and stirred around in the bowl to get all the good stuff out.

Then, half a coconut shell is filled with a ladleful of this concoction and drunk by the most important guy in the room, the substitute chief. There are twelve men, plus our family, and this filling and drinking goes around several times with the guy managing the kava bowl asking, "High tide or low tide?" with every cup. It tastes like mud and has a slightly narcotic effect, but we don't get much more than a good night's sleep from it.

In the morning, we motor-sail to the town of Levuka on the island of Ovalau, Fiji's oldest colonial era settlement as well as the colonial capital.

We spend the next several days moving and the nights at anchor, as we move west along the north shore of Viti Levu, Fiji's main island.

Our last stop on Viti Levu is Lautoka, where we anchor near the port terminal and clear out at Fiji's Customs and immigration. We walk into town to run errands and stay long enough for the tide to come in. Our dinghy is tied to the main pier, where semi-trucks load on or off the cargo vessels and where cars ferry officials, dock-workers, and crew to and from the city. The pier is built on concrete pylons, allowing water below. When we return from town, our dinghy is wedged under the pier from the rising tide. I must work from somebody else's dinghy to let all the air out of ours so it will float low enough to be freed from under the pier. I go to Faith to re-inflate it before retrieving everybody.

***

Musket Cove, a fine resort, is our last stop in Fiji. The beach is lined with bures"say BURR-ray, or bungalows"and a store, a laundermat, a couple of restaurants, and three pools; all manner of water sports are available. We're tied to their dock to clean Faith inside and out. Across the dock from us, on a sandy spit, is a bar where we eat several meals. To eat there, you bring your own food, light a fire in the grill with their firewood, cook using their bar-b-cue tools, eat it on their plates at their tables, and buy your drinks from them. Cokes all around cost about $7US, and it's the nicest dining-out we've had in a while. It's hard to blame them for the service though.

We're at a nice resort in Fiji, but it could be Florida, Hawaii, The Caribbean, or anywhere else with sunny beaches and white guys being served by people who aren't white guys.

At Musket Cove, we meet a great couple from Melbourne, Australia. Again, it's Greggii who makes the introduction after meeting their two boys first.

In the sand near Faith and the self-cook restaurant, Greggii sets up a booth to sell headbands and crafts he weaves from palm fronds. He meets Brendan and Andrew there and teaches them how to do it. The boys end up selling a few pieces to some passersby, and each of them makes a couple of dollars for his efforts.

After Greggii introduces us to Craig and Toni, the boys' parents, we're talking about how we stay busy on Faith. I tell Craig I just finished reading a fascinating book about Jewish immigrants in America and how they started selling pots and pans from pushcarts in Pennsylvania to adapt to change, and become some of the leading business-people in the world.

Toni says she understands. They're Jewish, which I don't know until they tell me, and her grandpa started his business the same way in Australia. On their last night of vacation, it's Craig's birthday. We celebrate together at a pig-on-a-spit, luau kind of thing. They go vegetarian when they learn the menu isn't available, saying they aren't completely kosher but do draw the line at pig. To me, it's just another adventure, going to a pig roast with practicing Jews and having our blond six-year-old teach their children about making money.

On Passage with Friends

07 November 2010
Gregg A Granger
If you don't like fart jokes, you can skip this chapter.

I hope you enjoy this fifteenth chapter from my book, Sailing Faith: The Long Way Home. Please visit www.faithofholland.com to purchase the complete book with 15 maps, and a 24 page color insert of 85 photographs. You will not be disappointed. I guarantee it.

On Passage with Friends

A major factor of boat speed is the length of the hull at the waterline. Faith is longer than Smilla, so we are the faster boat. That means we must slow Faith down to stay together. On passage, we do many things, but trimming the sails to slow down is new.

For entertainment, we perform a radio show for Smilla. Real sailors talk about proper radio protocol; to hail another boat, you say that boat's name three times, and then give your own as the hailing vessel"something like, "Smilla, Smilla, Smilla, [this is] Faith," rarely saying this is. At some anchorages where there are many boats, conversations happen, and a lot of airwave molecules are killed with such issues as whether everybody can hear each other or not. Call it a silly ritual of bored boats at anchor. Another curious element of these conversations is that they are gender specific; just think of who dominates the phone in most households. A relay is a third boat that connects two boats out of range of each other.

During our passage, when no other boats are within range, we perform on channel sixteen, normally reserved for hailing and emergency use. The cast is five different boats, giving each of us our own part: Breaking Wind, Relief, Silent Passage, Squeeze, and Fresh Air, trying to establish radio contact with each other. Our show goes like this:

Breaking Wind, Breaking Wind, Breaking Wind"Silent Passage.

Silent Passage, we are Breaking Wind. We're looking for Fresh Air.... Fresh Air, Fresh Air, Fresh Air, we are Breaking Wind.

Breaking Wind, Squeeze. Fresh Airs trying to reach you. I'll relay if you'd like.

Squeeze, Squeeze, Squeeze ...Silent Passage. Breaking Wind is coming through a little scratchy, but I know they're looking for Fresh Air and Relief.

Relief here. I heard Breaking Wind was scratchy.

Relief, Silent Passage. But I thought I heard Breaking Wind coming through with Squeeze.

Silent Passage, Breaking Wind, can you hear me?

Breaking Wind, loud and clear. How about Relief and Fresh Air?

Breaking Wind is getting through to Fresh Air now.

Breaking Wind is getting Relief.

Smilla pretends to enjoy our performance.

***

Three hours later, we enter the eastern hemisphere.

We reel in a big mahi-mahi, five feet long and fifty pounds or so, but don't land him. After we get him close enough for these guesstimates, he sees us and decides to stay where he is. He takes off on a 300-yard run and breaks off that much line with our favorite plug.

We enter the reefs surrounding Fiji at dawn, but it takes until afternoon to reach Savusavu. A huge piece of ocean makes up Fiji and it includes hundreds of islands.

Sailing Into Tomorrow

06 November 2010
Gregg A Granger
Excerpt: Once in the lee, we use the motor and headsail to calmly motor toward the village of Neiafu. There's something in the water, a change in the wave pattern or an eddying wind a quarter-mile away. Then they surface. I holler, "Whales! Come up here and look at this!" Three humpback whales, nearly the size of Faith, cross our bow and surface within a boat length, then wave their tails and disappear.

I hope you enjoy this fourteenth chapter from my book, Sailing Faith: The Long Way Home. Please visit www.faithofholland.com to purchase the complete book with 15 maps, and a 24 page color insert of 85 photographs. You will not be disappointed. I guarantee it.



Sailing into Tomorrow

Aside from the blahs of the first few days, the passage starts well. The sun shines for added bonus. We lose a fish, a lure, and all of the line on the reel to something that splashes only once. I almost lose the rod when the rod holder breaks while I'm fiddling with the reel. It about yanks me over the top of the dinghy we keep suspended on Faith's transom during passage.

We go to Tonga instead of stopping at any of the atolls along the way. Feeling crummy for the first days of every passage makes us rethink how many passages we want to start.

After we pass Palmerston Atoll, Emily takes a call on the radio and hands the microphone to me. "Hello, this is the sailing vessel two miles northwest of Palmerston. Who's calling please?"

"My name is Simon. I live on the atoll, and want to know if you are to stop here."

"We are going to Tonga. It looks very rough with many breakers in your anchorage."

"Ok, I just want to say hi. If you like, I will help you anchor. I'm just checking."

Lorrie is touched. She just finished reading about Palmerston, and wonders if we made the right choice. Looking at the breakers in the anchorage, I know we did.

During the comfortable numbness of a late-night watch, the weather turns. The wind rapidly shifts from eight knots out of the north to thirty knots out of the south. The world acquires clarity when this happens. After trimming the sails for the new breeze, we sail at nine knots for the next seven hours, with Faith pointing toward Vava'u.

Several hours after sunrise, land emerges, and I look forward to the lee of the island, where the seas lie down.

Once in the lee, we use the motor and headsail to calmly motor toward the village of Neiafu. There's something in the water, a change in the wave pattern or an eddying wind a quarter-mile away. Then they surface. I holler, "Whales! Come up here and look at this!" Three humpback whales, nearly the size of Faith, cross our bow and surface within a boat length, then wave their tails and disappear.


***

A look at any map or globe with lines of longitude will show the International Date Line with an odd characteristic: the line jogs to put Tonga's time zone first in the day rather than last, where the islands' physical location would have them otherwise. By sailing into Tonga, we've sailed into tomorrow.

We try more than once to tame Faith at the Customs dock in Neiafu. A swell is entering the bay, and the government dock is taking the brunt of it. We manage, though, and the officials board Faith for a look.

The Moorings charter boat company has operations in Tonga, and theirs are the best moorings for us. We radio for an assignment after clearing Customs and Immigration. As soon as we tie ourselves to the mooring ball, before getting comfortable, Chris kayaks over for a visit. He and his brother Nick sailed to Tonga with their parents, who are filming a documentary about the whales. They've been in Tonga for over a year. Another Chris and his sister Amanda, who also sailed here, come to visit. They've been here for several months with their parents.

There are many cruising kids in Neiafu. Among them are teenage boys, a new experience for Emily and Amanda and their mother and me since moving onto Faith.

***

We go to a charity beauty pageant one night. We don't go out of charity, that's just how it's billed. The Miss Cosmos Pageant. I wouldn't normally go to a beauty pageant, but this pageant is different, too otherworldly to turn down. It's a beauty pageant for fakaleiti.

Fakaleiti is part of Polynesian culture. The last child, especially in families of all boys, may be raised a girl. Sometimes fakaleiti are considered a third gender, often, but not always, homosexual. All I know is that The Miss Cosmos Pageant is first rate entertainment that we wouldn't find ourselves watching in the United States--you just don't take your family to something like this there. Here, it's good entertainment for Thomas and Helén and their children, and Lorrie and me and ours, and a number of families from Nieafu.

***

Intermittent showers occur every day during our first two weeks in Vava'u. It finally clears enough to cruise the Vava'u group of islands. We tour the islands for six days before returning to Nieafu.

The Neiafu Agriculture and Industry Show is hosting the king of Tonga. He hasn't visited Vava'u in several years. It isn't much different from a county fair at home, except there isn't a midway and a bunch of rides--just produce, livestock, marine products and several booths loaded with crafts and carvings, and the King. The locals are entertained when I ask a vendor about the urchins on display. "Just break it open and eat the eggs," is what I understand them to say. Judging by the amusement of those nearby, I misunderstand. It tastes like the swampy salty smell of low tide at a concrete pier when all the creatures are exposed. Maybe it's an acquired taste and I haven't eaten enough.

The king has a flashy motorcade led by a police car with the lights blinking, then a new SUV followed by a great big Ford van that he rides in. Nobody looks us over on our way into the fairgrounds, which is the soccer field of the high school. Nobody looks us over as we wander toward the tent where the king is sitting, or when we find seats in the grass less than a hundred feet away from him. Next to us is a policeman who does nothing except watch the King and the other speakers. I think about security at home, and how unnatural it is when the more security there is around, the more we fear what will happen without it, so we demand more security to protect us from our imagined fears in an emotional spiral.

Faith sits at The Moorings' mooring with her crew waiting for the right time to go swimming with the whales. Emily and Amanda spend a lot of time with Nicóle at Ana's Cafe, a little restaurant on the water. They make friends with the staff and spend afternoons there, cutting potatoes for French fries. They go for Karaoke nights and entertain themselves as best they can.

Thomas and Helén stop over to discuss plans for Fiji, and we agree to sail together to Savusavu on the island of Vanua Levu.

Before swimming with the whales, we check out of Tonga Customs and immigration, only to be told we must leave the kingdom immediately--most places allow up to twenty-four hours afterward. We anchor out of sight of the government offices and arrange for a whale-watch boat to pick us up here. Thomas and Helén can't go because, an hour before we embark on the watch, Thomas hears from Pacific Pearl, another boat from Sweden, that they're twenty miles out of Vava'u and have lost steering. Thomas and Helén offer to tow them into the anchorage and want to be available to help if they need it.

When we board the whale-watch boat, there's a man who's the pilot, a young Tongan woman who's the guide, and a young American woman with a video camera to document the experience on DVD in the event we want to purchase one at the end of the trip. Also onboard is a group of three Americans for their own whale-watching experience: a mother, her thirty-something son, and a friend of theirs. They're from San Diego.

Nicóle, Lucas, and Nadine go with us. The pilot takes us into open water where we see five adult whales lazing about, surfacing, then diving for several minutes, then surfacing again. While we're all ready to pee our pants with adrenaline, the guide runs through the safety precautions: if they breach, get out of the water, don't go any closer than the guide, and do not swim over the top of them. She then takes three of us at a time, in masks, snorkels, and fins, into the water to swim to a comfortable observation point.

Greggii, Lucas, and I go first. I hold Greggii as we swim to these twenty-meter animals lying motionless in the depths, shadows of greyer blue against an aqua background flickering with bolts of sunlight honed by the gentle roll above. Then slowly, almost imperceptibly at first, one whale builds effortless momentum to float to the surface and spout like Old Faithful to drink the air in a loud, hollow sucking noise, then peacefully descends after the violence of breathing, while another one or two follow the same ritual in a well-choreographed dance of life.

We rotate quickly through our first turns to make sure everybody gets to swim with them. Once everybody has had a chance, Lorrie, Greggii, and I swim out. Lorrie and Greggii tire and return to the boat to let Nicóle, Emily, and Amanda join me. We watch as one descends while a more distant whale rises; our vantage is such that they form a huge X as they pass each other.

Few events cause my world to freeze, but the underwater silence broken only by my breathing, while watching these magnificent shadows dance, is one such event.

Soon and suddenly, while the San Diego folks are in the water, one whale breaches. He comes out of the water at least half his length. That ends our swimming because the guides get nervous about one landing on a customer. Maybe that's why they make us prepay.

The young man from San Diego was the closest of anyone when that whale breached, and once he is back on the whale-watch boat, he sums up the feelings of all of us: "Ma! Did you see that? Did you see that, Ma? Wow! I've never seen anything like that in my life! Did you see that, Ma?" This is about all he is good for until our drop-off at Faith.

We leave Tonga with Smilla and sail within sight of each other for this five-hundred mile passage. Our departure witnesses another pod of whales, including calves, breaching. All we think about is the moments we shared their space.
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