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Swingin' on a Star
Ship's log for the circumnavigating Saint Francis 50 catamaran, "Swingin on a Star".
Kicked out of the Harbor
06/13/2009, Ngerutable

We are many blogs behind. We have them but just haven't posted them. Hope to in the next few weeks, but rather than exacerbate the problem, here goes.

So we decided to write a cruising guide for Palau. This is eating our lives as we must finish it before we return to California in July. The Internet on Palau has been so bad lately that we have not been able to make postings over the hot spots. We are now out in the lagoon again and decided to get back on track with the SSB.

We are putting in a private mooring for Swingin' on a Star since she will be here for storm season. We have the mooring set and are waiting for chain from Guam. Should be here in a week or so.

The weather has been fairly snotty for the past few weeks. We have a tropical disturbance northwest of us right now. As these lows brew they reinforce the SW Monsoon and bring a good bit of wind and sea from the SW. This is the worst direction for the yacht harbor and plays havoc with the Sam's Tours floating docks.

Most of the moorings used by yachts in the yacht harbor are Sam's Tours moorings. When things get ugly like this, Sam wants them back. All of the dive boats, fishing boats and cruising boats on the docks have to move off. If you are on one of the moorings, you have to move. Of course this is exactly when you would most like to stay.

Oh well, one of the advantages of writing a cruising guide is that you know all of the good places to hang out. We are tucked into a great hurricane hole a couple miles from the harbor. It is a rough dinghy ride to town but we are actually going to move on south and do a second round of surveys in the Rock Islands for the book.

Swingin' on a Star acts as base camp and we move her progressively from test anchorage to test anchorage mid day. In the morning and afternoon we use the dinghy to survey the next patch of lagoon. We have a little Garmin mini chart plotter installed on the AB with a Garmin depth sounder. The plotter records tracks with depth so that we can create safe tracks and identify passes and whatever. It is a nice setup.

Nice to be back up on the blog. Thanks for the notes making sure we didn't go AWOL.

Tricky Dink
05/25/2009, Yacht Harbor

I spent the day tricking out our dinghy for cruising guide survey duty. It has been a key start dinghy for some time, though the battery has been dead since Gizo. We were anchored in the harbor there for a while and the standard dinghy ride to the docks was less than a minute. This constant starting with no time to charge (and maybe leaving the lights on that one time) killed 'er.

The only battery I could find that I really wanted to own was one of those fancy spiral AGM deals sold at NAPA. It was painfully expensive and required a new battery box because it is way bigger than the old one. It cranks like crazy though.

After replacing the bat I had to hook up the new depth sounder (basic Garmin NEMA model) and mount the little GPSMap Chart plotter. There is a short somewhere in our lights and after fooling with them for a bit (and eating through a pack of fuses) I just unwired the lights and wired the GPS power and the Sounder power to the switched side.

It all worked out well and it is particularly nice to be able to go out recording tracks with depth without having to worry about the batterries running out.

Chandalier Cave
04/30/2009, Malakal

Eric, Hideko and I went diving off of our dinghy today. We have been sitting right next to one of the more famous Palau dive sites since we got here but have never dove it. A case of, "oh we can dive that spot anytime, let dive over there instead". I didn't want to miss it in the long run though so we made a point of it today.

The dive site in the anchorage is Chandelier Cave. It is an underwater cave that has three (four depending on how you count) chambers with air pockets and a maximum depth of 60 feet. It is pretty dark in the cave as there is no overhead illumination, just the faint blue glow from the underwater entrance. It is pretty errie.

I took the video rig in while Eric ran the reel. I had two lights on the video and a backup and Eric had a primary and a back up. Hideko was set as well but after the first chamber her mask was giving her problems and she signaled that she was going back out. Eric stayed in chamber one while I buddied out with her.

Eric and I spent about 20 minutes exploring the cave and the various chambers. There is not much to look at in the dark limestone interior but just the strange lightness enclosure is an interesting experience. The structures inside the cave are intriguing and there are some small fish here and there hiding in the black water.

On the way back out my lights shut down. the lithium batteries have an astonishing propensity to die within a minute of each other if turned on at the same time. When the lights went out Eric was at 50 feet coming up from the absolute back bottom of the cave and having troubles reeling in the line, so his light was pointed at his lap. After floating in the dark at 40 feet for a bit my eyes adjusted and I could see the faintest blue glow from the entrance. It was an experience.

Once Eric got the reel under control I turned on my back up light and then after we were in synch I shut it back off and returned to filming. The footage is amateur but interesting. I'll try to post a clip.

After a surface interval we set out to one of the ship wrecks in Malakal harbor. Hideko ran surface support and Eric and I did the dive with the video again. It was a nice wreck but the vis in the harbor was pretty bad, maybe 30 feet. fun dive all the same with a 120 foot bottom. We stayed around the deck level at about 100.

Back at the big boat I loaded the footage into Vegas for some editing so see what I could cut together.

05/07/2009 | Gene Spiegelman
Hi Miki -It looks like you guys are having the time of your life. I bet you did not know that I'm a hard core boater with aspirations of doing what your doing one day (but crusing under power). I read blogs from people crusing all over the world and was delighted when Kazuko shared the website with me.

Safe travels and smooth sailing

06/02/2009 | jack
hi guys! when pablo told me what you are doing i thought he was kidding. this is absolutely amazing! hope you are having a blast and taking a ton of photos.

06/11/2009 | David Oppermann
You have gone quiet for quite a while, and I was just hoping all was well with Swingin' & her crew? Looking forward to your news. regards Dave
07/25/2009 | Randy Abernethy
Hey all, thanks for the comments. Sorry for the slow blogging of late, the crusing guide has been all consuming. Working on back posts now though.
Fuel and Sushi
04/29/2009, Koror

We had planned to go diving with Sam's today but we discovered that Hideko was on her last day of visa validity, and though it was a close call, we decided that extending her immigration credentials took precedence over scuba.

Parker, the local cruiser cabbie, dropped us off at the Immigration office above the police station. We had to fill out a form and run across the street to pay a $50 extension tab. On return with the recipt we were issued a 30 day extension. Hideko gets one more 30 day extension and then if we want to stay longer we have to fly her to yap or tokyo or something for a day. then she can come back in for another 90 (at $50 per 30 days).

US citizens get a year before having to depart. Hideko has a green card but that didn't make any difference. Other than USA, RMI and FSM, all nationals of other countries get 30 days in Palau and can extend twice for a total of 90.

After getting Hideko extended, which was pretty easy, we brought the big boat in to Sam's for fueling. We came in on a half tide and parked on the north side of the dock near the fuel pump. The dive boats are out during the day and most of the dock is available. You have to watch out for some shallow rocks just north of the dock at any tide. We came in close to the double raft of power cats at the end of the dock and settled in with no problem.

Ramil helped us top up the gas jugs for the dink, the diesel tanks and the starboard water tank. At $3 a gallon we were pretty happy with the tab after paying some pretty radical prices in the hinterlands from whence we came.

The Whistler crew, hideko, Miki and I as well as Zack from another boat in the anchorage made way to the sushi place below Taj for dinner. That's a long name, "The Sushi Place Below Taj", but it is all anyone has been calling the place and we can't come up with the name. I'll post the proper name asap.

It was the best sushi we have had on Palau, which only rate ok to good depending on what you ordered. Some things were very good butt the toro was severely lacking and not doing the toro right is a sushi sin in my book. The tab was sushi like (large). We had fun and the staff were great so I would rate it a neutral.

Kramer's Spagetti Night
04/28/2009, Malakal

We spent most of the day today getting caught up on Internet tasks. It is possible to totally unplug (I've seen folks out here who have done it) but if you have any possessions, property or interests back home you will need to keep tabs. If you don't the banks, storage facilities, tenants and other suspects will decide you are abandoning your possessions and take action to claim them for themselves. Perhaps slowly over time, but never the less.

Credit Cards are famous for giving you a balance, which you dutifully pay, and then charging you interest on your next bill (which you don't check for 6 months because you "paid the whole balance"). Then they charge you interest on the interest, late fees, damage your credit and when you finally discover what is going on you owe them a thousand bucks on an 18 dollar balance and they have canceled your card. The world does not understand an individual who doesn't check mail daily and wants to do things over the internet with a once a quarter check in rate. Pessimist or realist, you decide.

End soap box.

The internet here on Palau is painfully slow much of the time. It often takes an entire afternoon to update your computer or book a single airline ticket or pay a couple of bills online. We have recently realized that we have been simply trying to use the limited pipes into and out of Palau at the same time as everyone else. After school things get tough, after work they get unbearable. A rainy Saturday, just forget it. Mornings are by far the fastest time of day if you want to be productive.

End second soap box

It is Tuesday and that means Kramer's spaghetti night here on Palau. Kramer's is always happening and is a big expat hang out. Spaghetti Night is a great deal at $4.50 for a plate piled high with Spaghetti Bolognese and yummy garlic bread.

The restaurant is named after the 1800s Kramer, who was a German researcher. He produced the definitive early works on Palau natural and cultural history. The owners of the restaurant are Jane, a lovely Palauan lady, and Rene, a German guy who is a popular character around Palau. Unfortunately for us Rene is off to Peleliu for a month soon to feed the Philippine Survivor film crew that has taken up residence there. Too bad the contestants won't be enjoying Rene's great cooking.

Palau Royal Resort
04/27/2009, Malakal

We spent a lot of the day working on the Internet after a nice breakfast at the Palau Royal Resort. The PRR is close to Sam's and has a nice spot with a little man made beach and dive shop with dock on the property.

Cake and Coffee
04/26/2009, Omekang

It was a threatening morning. A low was passing north of us and building, bringing the wind north and the clouds dark. We planned to head back to Sam's in the afternoon.

Our first order of business was to have the cake Hideko had made for breakfast. Chocolate cake and espresso, the breakfast of champions. We had discovered that Jeanette has almost as vicious a sweet tooth as I do so we invited Dancer and Whistler over to join us.

It was a fun morning but it cost us a knot or two on the trip to Sam's. While we dawdled things got nastier out. Not terrible and we missed most of the rain, but there was a swell coming down the lagoon from the north, and of course that's where we were heading.

We did our best to duck behind the rock islands as we went but not having te local knowledge or the draft of the dive boats, we could only follow them through the more obvious deep water bits. We did make one fairly nerve wracking pass in 9 feet of water with the big chop rolling on the bow.

Once we cleared the pincers guarding the west entrance to Malakal harbor things settled down. Whistler was not far behind as we motored into the yacht anchorage and picked up a free Sam's mooring. It was nice to be back in port though we missed the Rock Islands already as well.


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