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Swingin' on a Star
Ship's log for the circumnavigating Saint Francis 50 catamaran, "Swingin on a Star".
Northeast wind
06/17/2009, Ngeruktabel

We stayed the night last night in Fish Net anchorage (some locals fish in the back of the bay from time to time). We spent a long sunny day surveying the southwest side of Ngeruktabel. Lots of great spot to anchor, wonderful hurricane holes and the like, the big problem is that many have reef bars across their entrances. Still plenty to choose from. We ran through about 7 gallons of gas today so we are going to have to wrap up tomorrow and head back to civilization for more fuel.

The dinghy sounder is working out great. I almost like the little Garmin GPSMap 276C (about $300) better than our Raymarine E120. The Ram handle bar mount mount (about $39) snapped right onto our Saint Croix Euro Helm console. It was a bit of work fishing the sounder cable and the GPS power/data cable through the helm pipe but it worked out nicely. The Garmin sounder (about $79) is mounted on the transom and we have an on off switch that turns on power to the sounder and the GPS. The GPS will run on battery of course but with the magneto on the Yamaha 25 ESH everything runs as long as we have gasoline.

The Garmin records tracks complete with depth. This has allowed us to run tracks and then download them into the computer day after day. We have a huge amount of bathymetric data in the computer now and is makes putting the satellite charts together much easier. The GPS has never filled up though we've had the track memory up into the 70-80% range after a long day. Once into this stuff I was amazed at how little the E120 could do. We have it etherenetted to the PC with Raytec software running, but I can't even get a track downloaded to the PC and I have not been able to get one to save to a card either. From what I can tell there is no sounding data with the tracks anyway so it doesn't really matter. Now when we go to move the big boat we tie the dinghy on a bridle, jump in, setup the GPS and turn on the dinghy sounder, then drive off with the dinghy recording the track. Silly but fits nicely with our process.

The little motorcycle battery we had in the dink bit it in Gizo. We were starting the outboard, then driving for three seconds to the dock and shutting it down. I didn't really think about it at the time but the battery was never getting enough time to recharge. We tried to get a replacement in Palau but they really didn't have the right thing. No maintenance was a must and I was hoping for an AGM. We ended up with a big $275 monster AGM from Napa that required a new battery box.

Another problem with the old set up was that the battery box is just behind the helm seat and thus takes on water through the vent. The gas tank is under the seat and there's really no room to move the batter back. It rains so much here this time of year that the box was flooding. I figured that since the battery is seals and pretty robust I'd be better off with a drain, so we drilled a hole in the bottom of the new batter box. Works great, now as long as the dinghy itself doesn't flood, which is a risk, we're good.

Northeast wind
06/16/2009, Ngeruktabel

We stayed the night last night in an anchorage we call Tarzan (lots of vines hanging down from the rock islands). We spent most of the day surveying the central part of Ngeruktabel. This particular group of rock islands is fairly large. Perhaps 100 sizable islands. We are hoping to at least finish the group before we run out of gasoline (perhaps two days nigh, three at the most). We moved down to the southwest corner of the group today. It is a very protected area with great holding and plenty of room.

South wind
06/15/2009, Ngeruktabel

We are still surveying Ngeruktabel. This is a crazy batch of rock islands. Secret harbors, winding channels, one rock island after the next, many almost the same profile. Easy to get lost. Lots of caves too. We found one filled with fuel cans from WWII today. Lots of wrecks here to. We snorkeled an unidentifiable shallow wreck while running soundings today. Looked old. We've been seeing lightning for the past two nights but at least we're not hearing it tonight.

Our chain is supposed to arrive next week. We can't wait to setup our own mooring. Much better than getting kicked out of the harbor when the weather turns. That said, some of the hurricane holes we've found are much better than the harbor.

Southwest wind
06/14/2009, Ngeruktabel

Rain and thunderstorms all day. Stayed in and worked on Cruising Guide.

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.

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