Rodrigues to Mauritius (day 2)
20/08/2008, 20 09.5'S:58 43.6'E, Indian Ocean
Its 5.45am local time and our position is : 20.09.5S 58 43.6E. The wind has been inconsiderate all night by changing direction due to a few rain squalls. Bill has had to go on the foredeck already in the middle of the night to switch the jib pole over the other side. We have gybed a few times which is a nuisance. Hopefully the predicted SE 15 knot wind will kick in. We caught a weird fish last night. It was long and black like an eel with a nasty big sharp mouth and big sharp teeth. Bill threw it back in. The first time we catch a fish in 8 months and has to be a weird inedible thing! Looking forward to a full nights sleep. We only see the moon occasionally due to the overcast conditions. No stars either... Mauritius coast guard called us up on the radio when we were 150 miles out. They must have a powerful receiver. They wanted to know our position, yacht and crew details. Good to know they are expecting us!
Rodrigues to Mauritius
19/08/2008, 20 05.8'S:61 15.8'E, Indian Ocean
Rodrigues to Mauritius Indian Ocean Position: 20 05.8S 61 15.8E 19 August 2008 7am local time
This passage is so different to the last one! We are sailing steadily downwind with 18 knots of wind being steered by Mona Lisa the autopilot. (Windvane doesn't work well with the wind straight behind) Captain Bill has rigged the boat with the jib furled out to port and the main with one reef to starboard. This seems to lessen the rolling and give us an average speed of 7.5 knots. We enjoyed watching dolphins play in Valiam's waves before sunset and the full moon made things easier to see during the night. A few rain squalls cause the wind to change direction a few times which means we sail slightly off course at times.
We left Port Mathurin, Rodrigues yesterday just before midday. It took several hours to visit immigration, customs and coastguard. We also had to wait for the coast guard to check us before leaving. Initially they wanted the 2 yachts (with 3 people) to tie up to the wharf but we asked if they could visit us in their inflatable instead. Much easier for us - so only 2 people in a little rubber boat came and did the final clearance. We will always remember Rodrigues with fondness for the friends we made there. It was sad to leave.
The day before on Sunday afternoon we went dancing again to the Le Cocotiers 'nite club'. During our previous visit we met a lovely young woman called Danny who showed us how to 'Sega' dance. It's a bit like a mix between African and eastern European polka steps. Danny and Linda exchanged phone numbers and arranged to meet again on the Sunday. We got to know Danny better that afternoon and learned she is 44 with 2 teenage daughters. (She looks much younger) Her family life is unusual as she is married to a 'Rasta man like Bob Marley' (Rastafarian) and they each have separate houses. She said her husband "doesn't dance, doesn't eat meat or drink alcohol has long knotty hair, is a musician- artist and meditates a lot" Danny is quite independent and works as a nurse in gynaecology and with babies at the local hospital. She confirmed that most women in Rodrigues own property and pass it on to their children. She has already built a separate house 'upstairs' for her daughters. Da nny's English is excellent as she said she had to study in English and often has to communicate with doctors in English. We felt we were just starting to get to know each other and felt sad that this friendship couldn't continue except by email. We really enjoyed dancing and it was good to see Bill get right into it and have fun too.
Just before we left yesterday Birgit was at the jetty with a weather report and taking photos of us. James phoned to say 'he would remember us for a long time'. The day before he presented us with a new French inner tube for my bicycle and beautiful hand crocheted table runner made by Madame Fifi. These generous people touched our hearts. James has asked Bill to find the right type of inner tube for his 1968 bicycle in Reunion or South Africa. This will be an errand Bill will enjoy as he likes poking around in bicycle shops. It is quite cool and Linda is wearing 3 layers of clothing and even knitted slippers in the cabin! All is going well out here and we hope to reach Port Louis, Mauritius tomorrow afternoon. (However the winds are predicted to lighten so it may take long
Last days in Rodrigues
Last days in Rodrigues
Saturday 16th August 2008
It seems 2-3 weeks is a good amount of time for us to stay in a place to get a feel for it as well as recuperate from a passage. It was our third visit to the market this morning (it's only open on Saturdays) and we confidently knew our way around - where the best tomatoes were, the baguettes and today Linda ventured into the 'poulet' hut. There is no refrigeration and in here were fresh chickens whole with feet or dismembered as well as big brown eggs. The other two huts were labeled 'boef' and 'porc'. The animals are slaughtered here too and last night we were woken by pigs squealing. (We are anchored directly opposite the market)
Yesterday was a special day in Rodrigues because it was the 'Feast of Mary' as well as the first Rodriguan priest was inaugurated. The hill where the statue of Mary is (see one of previous blogs) was covered in people for most of the morning. We were ensconced comfortably at Chez Ram enjoying lunch after a bicycle ride and could hear the music and singing. Later as the people walked down the hill in their finery we rode out to Bay L'herbe to visit James. He was pleased to see us but unfortunately Madame Fifi was out. We made arrangements to meet one more time before we left. James has been welcoming yachties for many years and we are very happy to have met him.
When we rode back into town there were many 'happy' people about as it was a holiday and some seemed to have been enjoying the local rum. Several 'bonjours' later we found ourselves at Le Cocotier the local 'nightclub/disco'. A friendly lady Danny encouraged us to go in and made sure we had a good time dancing the afternoon away. Linda danced the 'sega' twice and got quite puffed! Bill even shuffled around the floor in twirls with Linda trying to copy the locals! As we left we promised to bring 'our American friend Jim' on Sunday. These dances are fun as people of all ages go from grannies to kids. The band plays traditional Rodriguan music which Bill says is like 'pirate' music.
Today Birgit our German friend who has been living in Rodrigues for 11 years came for lunch on board Valiam as well as Jim. It was quite a long lunch with several lively discussions but we didn't solve the problems of the world even though it was dark when our guests left. Tomorrow we will check the weather and see if it is suitable to leave Monday for Port Luis, Mauritius. We will also need to clear customs and immigration on Monday even though Rodrigues is part of Mauritius. The moon is full so hopefully it will be a nice sail.
We leave Rodrigues with many happy memories. It is a special island with friendly people and a beautiful landscape that we have explored by foot, bicycle, motorbike and bus. We hope Rodrigues remains unspoilt for many years to come. It would be lovely to come back and visit one day.
Au revoir Rodrigues and merci beaucoup!
Tres beau visage a la Rodrigues
Photo: enjoying the warm hospitality at Chez Jeanette's
13 August 2008
The nicest part about cruising is being able to stay in places for long periods of time to really get to see things at a leisurely pace and get to know the locals. Whilst waiting for our transport to Mourouk Ebony Hotel we met Dirk (Birgit, our German friend's partner) on board their motor vessel Sea Line tied up at the jetty. Birgit and Dirk have lived here in Rodrigues for 11 years after looking for a less stressful life from cold Germany. We can see why 'foreigners' would like to live here - it is so full of natural beauty, the locals are friendly and even though it is small and untouristy it has everything one could need. It is difficult for foreigners to live here permanently unless permission is granted for a suitable business which brings in money or if married to a Rodriguan. As we explore this delightful island we imagine living here ourselves. There isn't anywhere to keep a yacht safely during the cyclone safely unless perhaps lifted out of the water.
Valiam looked forlorn as we left her for the other side of the island for 2 days. Its amazing how attached we are to her now we have shared so much adventure and she's kept us safe. As we wound our way up and down the mountains we again enjoyed the windswept natural beauty towards the coast. Mourouk Ebony Hotel consists of several semidetached cottages along the hillside. Our room had a wonderful view across the old natural harbour Port Sud Est (South East) where sailing ships (including pirates) in the past used to come in. Perhaps the treasure that is missing is buried nearby! We enjoyed the view, the hot showers and pleasant walks along the coast. Bill had a go at windsurfing after a 20 year absence. He didn't do too badly. (see photo)
We are so used to everyone speaking French around us we don't even notice it any more except when someone starts a conversation and we have difficulty understanding and responding!! We always end up saying "Parlez vous Anglais?" Most younger people can speak English as they learn it at school. It's interesting that the official language for Mauritius is English yet everything is in French! (even the recorded voice on our mobile phones) We buy local sim cards for our mobile phones wherever we are as this is always the cheapest way to phone home. (once you work out the instructions!!)
Half and hour before we were due to check out of the hotel and Bill was still out windsurfing, Birgit and Jim showed up on the beach. Birgit had arranged a local driver to take Jim on a tour of the island. They invited us to join them at Chez Jeanette's for lunch. Again we enjoyed a leisurely 3 hour lunch at Chez Jeanette's and because this was our second visit we were greeted like old friends (French kisses on both cheeks and lots of joking). The food again was fantastic and all cooked on an open fire on a traditional stove in an outdoor kitchen. We took more photos of Jeanette and her delightful staff in the garden wearing Rodriguan straw hats. (see photos) Each eating establishment in Rodrigues have their own recipe for rum punch. Jeanette's is made with lemon juice and white rum - delicious!! We are inspired to make some of our own!!
As Birgit had planned to take Jim to the Tortoise park where we've already been Muslin the driver took us to the bus stop in the town of Mont Lubin to get back to Port Mathurin. It's cold up there! I was glad to have my friend Robyn's handwoven shawl to keep warm. We waited for a bus with 100's of school children. They thoughtfully kept the seat vacant at the front for us elderly tourists!! The bus ride down the mountain involved a lot of screeching of brakes around hairpin bends but didn't take long too to get back. We were pleased to be back on board Valiam again and missed her even after just one night. We especially missed our soft comfy bed. (the beds in the hotel were hard)
There is nothing nicer than being at anchor in a peaceful place gazing out to sea at any time of the day but especially nice when the sun dips down. Valiam's interior is familiar and comforting with all our souveniers, photos and object d'art we have collected wince we left Australia. The wind has picked up as we can hear it howling and whistling through the rigging. It's a good 20 knots - ideal for sailing to Port Louis. (pronounced almost like 'wiss' with the 'L' being swallowed.... The 's' is not pronounced in Rodrigues.....) There are still no other yachts here. We wonder how many will be crossing to South Africa next month.
Today is internet day. We will take 2 computers to the library as the website takes a long time to download!
Enjoy the photos! (click on the little camera then Rodrigues, Mauritius)
When the Ship came in - Rodrigues
When the ship came in - Port Mathurin
9 August 2008
"Crackle crackle .....Port Mathurin.......cinq heure....." went the radio at 4.45am this morning. Sure enough out in the darkness a ship's lights could be seen rounding the small island just off Port Mathurin. Jim had to move his yacht Alii Kai Too yesterday close to the reef and to us to make room for the ship. The ship "Mauritius Pride" causes great excitement in this town. The little fishing boats full of fisherman were hovering around talking excitedly. The two tug boats were moving to the harbour entrance all spic and span after a month of polishing by 4 full time men. People were on the shore waving, cheering and clapping. The usually empty quiet wharf is a hive of activity today. It is very early Sunday morning. A small group of passengers waved to us and took photos. We could see several containers, cars and a new fire engine on board the ship. Further up form the wharf we could hear cows mooing and pigs squealing along the shore being moved off trucks ready to be slaughtered. The Mauritius Pride's captain maneuvered her into the tiny harbour passing the two of us yachts within metres. Perhaps the two yacht captains should partake in petite dejeuner with the ship's captain?!!
For a whole 24 hours the wharf was a hive of activity. Many people are gainfully employed from this town 'when the ship comes'. Many don't have much employment the rest of the month. Actually the Mauritius Pride had been in 'dry dock' for 8 weeks this time so the employment and produce arriving was most welcome. Containers, vehicles etc were unloaded then more containers , crates of fresh vegetables and cages of animals (cows, pigs, goats, chickens) were loaded. We witnessed the pigs waiting to be loaded in on the grassy land nearby fighting, biting and snorting. One of the workers kicked and picked one up by the tail that had strayed. They wont enjoy their ride in the ship's dark hold.... At 7am on Monday morning the ship moved from the wharf with the two tug boats hovering on standby. Again it passed us by within metres with a couple of loud 'toots'.
Later we met one of the tug employees - (there are about 8 employed full time on the 2 tugs.) who was keen for us to move back tied up to them. Perhaps they get a bit bored polishing, reading the paper etc every day waiting another month for 'the ship to come'.
Still the only 2 yachts at Rodrigues
7th August 2008
This photo was taken on the way back from one of our motorbike rides. The statue of Mary is on the side of a hill to the south of Port Mathurin and it looks like she is looking after us!! Valiam and Alii Kai Too are still the only 2 yachts here in this small protected harbour. Most Rodriguans are Catholic and in some way this photo reminds us of the town of Maasin in the Philippines where a large statue of Mary looked over the town.
We expect we will get ready to leave for Port Luis some time next week. It will take a couple of days to get there. We hope to spend some time at La Reunion after Mauritius as we have heard the landscape is spectacular. There we will wait for the right weather to head for South Africa.
In the meantime we will make the most of Rodrigues. Today we may cycle down to the next bay where we saw a little pizza place (Bay L'Anglais) and Linda wants to look at some local embroidery there.
Tortoises and caves - Rodrigues
6 August 2008
Tortoises and caves
Taking the motorbike out again today we found ourselves near Petite Butt (small derriere - we made lots of jokes about this... as there are mostly grande butts around here!). Linda was keen to see the Tortoise sanctuary so we did the tourist thing and went on a tour once we got there. We had to put on hard hats to explore the caves first. Our tour guide spoke mostly in French but for the '2 Australians' he translated in English. Everyone else was from La Reunion of Mauritius. They don't get many Aussies in these parts! The caves were magical but the Tortoise sanctuary was of even more interest to Linda.
In 1691 there were 280,000 giant tortoises roaming the island of Rodrigues. Within 40 years there were none. They were easy to transport as fresh meat by male sailors. It's difficult to believe these beautiful slow trusting creatures were treated like this. The same thing happened to the Solitaire (very similar to the Dodo) a large bird that couldn't fly. In an attempt to have tortoises on Rodrigues again tortoises from the Seychelles and Madagascar have been introduced. At present 160 giant tortoises are roaming the small valley near the caves on the south coast. They are of different ages and sizes with numbers painted on their backs. The first babies born in the wild are being carefully looked after in the 'tortoise nursery'. One can adopt one and give it a name. A painting in the little Museum near the sanctuary depicts what Rodrigues would have looked like 300 years ago with dark shelled tortoises dotted in the landscape amongst the volcanic rocks and small round bushes. The Rodriguans are also replanting bushes native to the island and trying to eradicate introduced species such as lantana. (Also a pest in Oz)
After having a lovely time with the tortoises we took the coast road towards Merouk. The scenery was stunning (see photos). Little houses dotted on the edge of cliffs with fabulous views with cows and goats munching grass nearby. Houses aren't expensive here. A house like Chez Jeanette's is worth about $40,000. We could live like kings here! What a shame it's so far from Oz!!!
We saw lots of octopuses 'ourite' (octopi?) drying on sticks as well as many little wooden fishing boats anchored in the bay. People here live as they have done for 100 years. Hopefully tourism wont impact on this amazing island. We did however succumb to the luxury of a tourist establishment and have booked a night in the Marouk Ebony Hotel for one day next week. It has cottages with HOT SHOWERS perched on a cliff overlooking the turquoise waters of a bay called Port de Sud with its fringing reef.
Meanwhile life in Port Mathurin has its charms. We look forward to the Saturday market with its fresh produce and lively colour of people from the whole island. The ship that visits bi monthly the 'Mauritius Pride will be here in a couple of days. More excitement! We are wondering if we have to move our yachts to make room as it is such a tiny harbour. Alii Kai Too and Valiam are still the only yachts here. We received an email from Bea and Di from Cocos saying they have been alone for several weeks with no yachts coming in. It may be a quiet year in the Indian Ocean this year with not many yachts traveling through. Some do however choose to go north via Chagos, Seychelles and Madagascar before heading to South Africa (as Natalie and Rob on Wilhelm are - they say there is only 3 yachts at Chagos presently)
Sometime next week we will start preparing for the short hop to Port Luis, Mauritius - about a 2 day sail from here. Port Luis will be busy and noisy in comparison to here with the city's population at 180,000 whilst the whole of Rodrigues is only 36,000. Rodrigues is certainly unique and we feel privileged to be here. It is wonderful to be able to enjoy such places 'off the beaten track' by being able to visit in our own yacht.
Exploring Rodrigues by Motorbike
07/08/2008, Mauritius Indian Ocean
5 August 2008
Exploring Rodrigues by Motorbike
Rodrigues is a beautiful unspoilt island which we were able to appreciate even more by touring around on a motorbike. We hired a trail bike suitable for carrying both of us. It was quite funny as half an hour into our journey enjoying the scenery the bike spluttered and stopped. Bill couldn't get it going again. Parked beside the road opposite Bay L'herbe we attracted a lot of attention by passers by, all eager to give advice. Eventually Linda phoned the motorbike place and managed to communicate with the help of French speaking spectators what the problem was. Twice the mechanic came out after diagnosing a faulty spark plug. After an hour we got going again.
The roads are winding - sometimes following the coastline, sometimes following the contours of the mountains. The landscape near the coast is windswept and in some ways reminded us of Tasmania. The houses are of course very different built from concrete and often painted bright colours such as pink or orange with decorative columns. Cows and goats are tethered amongst tussock grass and bushes. Occasionally we would see a pig roaming the grass as well. Dark volcanic rocks are scattered throughout the island amongst the grass.
As we climbed higher into the hills the air became quite cold and the vegetation more lush and tropical. Although we did see pockets of eucalypts!! (Introduced) We had heard about a guest house called 'Chez Jeanette' which has great views and offered lunch. We saw a tiny sign beside the road and went up a bumpy dirt road to a beautiful farm house covered in bougainvillea and surrounded by a beautiful garden. A vivacious lady with long braids and a straw hat greeted us. We asked about lunch and she said 'Just I minute' and rushed off. We could see a verandah covered in vines with a couple of long tables and reclining bamboo chairs. One of the tables was already set for 6. Jeanette came back and said 'ok' and ushered us to the reclining chairs. Thinking we were invading a family lunch we at first weren't sure but soon the other guests arrived and were greeted with much laughter and kisses by Jeanette. Soon we were talking with twin young men from La Reunion and two gorgeous Rodriguan sisters with a couple of small infants. Grandma Mary was also amongst the group. We had the loveliest couple of hours conversing mostly in broken English and a little French with these lovely people. The babies Dimitri (4months) and Lowanna (18 months) were cute and Linda got to cuddle Dimitri for a while until he wanted his mum. Chris-Henri who looked about 8 was keen to show off his English and even sang us a song. When we were all asked to sit at the table we felt we were dining at a family lunch in a gorgeous French yet tropical setting. (See photos in photo gallery) The lunch was superb - Rodriguan cuisine of spicy octopus, fish, red beans, maize, pawpaw salad and rice accompanied by French wine. After about 3 hours we finally left after a tiny espresso coffee winding our way down the mountain road.
We'll never forget our lunch at Chez Jeanette's and may try to visit again before we leave Rodrigues.
Local scenery Port Mathurin
04/08/2008, Rodrigues Mauritius
4 August 2008
Yesterday we collected our bicycles from the port security office where they are carefully guarded 24 hours a day by very nice local police officers. Eddie (right in photo) is also in the coastguard. We found our way to the 'Sega' dancing which was near the fire station. Many motor bikes were parked outside and we could hear catchy music coming from within a concrete and corrugated iron building. After paying the small entrance fee we found ourselves in a large dark room with people of all ages dancing , drinking and enjoying themselves. Its nice to see families, grannies and children dancing in this 'night club' which is open on Sunday afternoons until 8pm. The music was provided by a live band including an accordian, drums etc. A lovely lady named Maurette introduced herself and asked the band to play 'Sega' for us. Everyone got into it. Its a mix of African and bellydance type moves so Linda was in her element! The locals though she was very experienced!! Next Sunday we will go again and hopefully Bill will take an action shot.
After dancing the afternoon away we found Linda's bike had another flat tyre! After walking back to the port with the bikes Bill found the glue in the puncture kit wasn't very good. This morning Bill purchased new glue in the motorbike/bicycle shop and repaired it once again. Today we plan to go on another ride on the other side of town (probably to a restaurant for lunch).
Au revoir !
Cycling around Port Mathurin
04/08/2008, Rodrigues Mauritius
3 August 2008
How lucky we are to be in this welcoming little town! Rodrigues is sometimes mentioned in sailing journeys in the past. It feels good to be in a place in which sailing boats in the past have visited after also crossing the Indian ocean. Rodrigues has an interesting history where pirates used to stay and there are rumours that treasure is still hidden in the hills here.
The locals are a mixture of races but all speak Creole and /or French. The younger people speak English but the older ones forget it after learning it in school due to lack of practice. In the restaurant Du Quai last night one would need a wide range of skin colours for a paint palette to paint the clientele. We were 2 of 3 white skinned people. The rest were various blends of Indian, African and European coloured skins. There are a small number of Chinese about who seem to own several stores that sell absolutely everything crammed on dusty shelves.
We are so glad we brought our bicycles. It is very pleasant riding around here. Rodrigues is only about 10 miles long so we should be able to get to most places. Yesterday we went for a ride with James, a 69 year old local who welcomes yachties and keeps books of all the yachts who visit. James invited us to his home where we met his wife Madame Fifi. We enjoyed tea and cake made from manioc. We had never eaten manioc before and Madame Fifi pounds it to make a flour. (It's a root vegetable) After looking at the previous yacht entries in the books (since 1990) we decided to ride to the next bay. Unfortunately Linda's tyre was flat. Linda went back to chat with Madame Fifi in 'French' whilst Bill and James rode around . They went to the prison which never has inmates but has 2 staff members on duty!! We are glad there is no crime here in Rodrigues!! Madame Fifi gave us some of her preserves made from olives, chillie and limes to take back with us. We really enjoy eating green chillies ground with limes in a preserve with our meals here.
We have almost forgotten our passage here. I remember reading a log written by some New Zealanders who described their 25-35 knot (with 45knot gusts) passage as 'routine'. Perhaps we were just used to the tropics! NZ and WA sailors think nothing of a brisk 40 knot breeze! Apparently the weather in September is less windy. Sounds like a good time to get around the bottom of Madagascar to South Africa. We are very glad we have come this way rather than the Red Sea which would have been 30 knot head winds. At least our winds were with us! The cooler weather agrees with the captain and we are both glad to be out of the tropics now. (Linda can wear outfits not worn since September in Oz!) The captain has repaired the dodger using his 'sailors palm'. As it seems to shower rain periodically throughout the day it means we can keep the hatch open without everything getting wet.
The local radio station is an interesting mix. At first we were listening to French Creole music but now it is India's latest hits! A local dance form called 'Sega' is supposed to involve hip shaking and has its roots in Africa. Linda would like to see this and perhaps participate! We have heard cds of Sega music and it sounds like a mix of Reggae/African/Spanish etc. Purchasing of Sega music is on Linda's shopping list.
Village life - Rodrigues, Mauritius
02/08/2008, Celebrating Jim's safe arrival
2nd August 2008
We visited the market this morning and bought coconut and pawpaw tarts as well as local preserves of olives and chillies. The library allows us to bring our own laptop for free internet which is nice. Bill is putting our bicycles together for a cycling tour with local James later today. The weather is cool but pleasant - its nice to wear long pants and a t shirt for a change.
PHOTOS: Rather than lots of words there are lots of photos for you to view in the photo gallery. Just click on the camera icon.
For previous entries click on contents (right). Entires are also recorded via the map accross the Indian ocean
By the way the highest gust recorded on our wind instrument during our Indian ocean crossing was 59knots!!! Go Valiam!
1 August 2008
Early this morning we were woken by the radio 'Port Mathurin this is Alii Kai Too'. "Jim's here." Says Linda rushing outside and sure enough we could see a mast bobbing in the distance. After a brief conversation on the radio to Jim we decided to untie ourselves from the tug boat and anchor in the harbour. As Jim came in we threw him a fresh baguette wishing him 'Bonjour'. Later we went to lunch at Paille en Queu debriefing both our Indian ocean crossings over several beers. The staff dropped subtle hints re the closing time by closing the curtains!
This morning Bill phoned Coursemaster in Australia and spoke with a very helpful fellow named Paul. Consequently the autopilot appears to be fixed. Hopefully Mona Lisa will be under control on the next leg.
James the local yachtie 'tour guide' greeted us on his 1968 bicycle bearing citrus fruit and pawpaw as a gift. He wants to take us on either a walk or bicycle ride around the next bay tomorrow. We put our picture and yacht details in his book and will pass it on to Jim.
It is time to get ready for dinner at Du Quai. They even serve local beef there. We thought Jim would enjoy that.
Tres jolies Rodrigues!
31 July 2008
It is so lovely here. Port Mathurin is really a charming little town. Being tied up here next to the jetty and the only yacht here at the moment we are the town's curiosity. We have been visited by a couple of residents who traditionally welcome yachts. Birgit a German lady who has been living here for 11 years with her partner Dirk own a fishing boat and are very involved in the community and promoting Rodrigues. Birgit gave us some handy hints on what interested us eg car hire, art galleries etc. She took pictures of us for her website. This morning we welcomed James Waterstone on board. He is a Rodriguan of Irish descent (hence the name) and said his wife Fifi is Italian. James wants us to go to his place to meet his family. He introduces himself to all yachts who enter here and we are invited to write and put photos in his book. The book is very interesting as it documents all the yachts that have come here. We are the 7th Yacht this year and last year 12 yachts visited Rodrigues. Most seem to originate from Europe. There are few Aussies, Kiwis and Americans but mostly British and European boats have visited Rodrigues. The wonderful thing about cruising is that we go to these lovely out of the way places that we normally wouldn't come to by plane.
Yesterday we ate at two restaurants - Paille en Queu and Du Quai which were both just lovely. The atmosphere is casual, friendly and distinctly Rodriguan with artificial flowers, faded maps, painted murals and both had a bar in the corner surrounded by wood and mirrors - a bit 60s retro look. We enjoyed the local dishes of octopus and fish in spicy sauces accompanied by South African or French wine. At Paille en Queu we observed one of the staff greet her boyfriend and sat with him for a while whilst he enjoyed a cigar. (see photo at bar with Bill) Du Quai restaurant is only a few metres from the boat so is very convenient. The friendly handsome waiter originally from the main island of Mauritius is of Indian descent. He insisted we try the local rum mixture which had peach and spices mixed with it. Quite nice. We met 2 attractive young women university students from North Wales who are doing their marine biology masters degree. What a great way to travel the world to do research snorkeling in exotic tropical places! Very smart! They have told us where the best snorkeling is.
Today we will investigate hiring a car to have a look around. Birgit said we can go to the Jenna store and arrange one for 1000Rp a day ($40). It is 10.15 and we are still lingering over our 2nd cup of coffee. One mustn't rush these things! Jim (Alli Kai Too) should arrive tomorrow so we may have to give him the tie up space next to the tug boat so all the officials can board his yacht.
Bientot - au revoir!
30 July 2008
Fresh baguettes and milky coffee every morning is the way we start the day here. Bill found the boulangerie (sorry sp no French dictionary) and came back with 2 crisp baguettes for less than 6 rupees each. (Less than 25c). Its cool here and the captain loves it. He is energetically putting the sails away and is very cheerful. It's around 25degrees during the day and 18 degrees at night. It was absolutely heaven to sleep in clean sheets in our normal bed with a light doona. We still feel a bit 'ocean lagged' and I'm sure it will be a few days before we feel normal.
Yesterday we found a little local restaurant with an outdoor tropical feel - thatched verandah, gaily painted woodwork and again a very handsome waiter. The men seem to have a gentle nature here and we don't feel threatened at all. Wandering past a dark hole in the wall full of noisy men (local pub) a man came staggering out zigzagging in front of us down a small lane with a cheery 'Bonzour!'
Bill found another dark hole in a wall with a sign 'Coiffeur' and went in to have a haircut. Across the road upstairs was a much nicer place - coiffeur for ladies. The petite attractive shy hairdresser greeted me with 'Bonjour Madame' but was worried about her total lack of English. Linda managed to communicate that she would like her hair washed and dried and was told it would be 150 Rupees ($6). It was so nice to lean back and have someone wash the nasty salty hair! It was relaxing not having to speak due to the language barrier and it was nice listening to the French Creole prattle around me. Nearly falling asleep whilst the hair was expertly blow dried it was pampering at its best. Linda emerged looking a lot more glamourous to find a distinguished gentleman sitting on a seat outside. Bill's barber had carefully trimmed everything - hair, eyebrows, beard and moustache. (See photo)
Port Mathurin is a small village with everything we need within walking distance to the boat. Alas we can only have a bucket and flannel wash on the boat. But Valiam is stationary and level which is lovely and we are all enjoying a good rest. Valiam is even dearer to our hearts since she got us safely through the Indian Ocean. We were dry and comfortable inside at all times. We are going to investigate hiring a car for a day to look around and perhaps stay a night in a hotel on the beach somewhere. Bill wants to climb the local mountain - a baby by Kinabalu standards but should be a nice walk for him. Linda will browse amongst the little shops full of curios and perhaps do some sketching.
The people here are the friendliest we've met and so far we haven't been charged a cent.
To appreciate the conditions we sailed under to get here the following emails were received 2 days ago:
From fellow yachties on the way to Chagos, Indian Ocean:
We are very sorry to hear about problems with your gear, and the loss of your bimini. Especially hope the autopilot does not give up the ghost in those difficult conditions. Last night Rob hailed a large bulk carrier on its way from So Africa to China, he was astounded to hear a small sailboat way out here and spoke about how bad the weather had been as he came south of and outside of Madagascar three days ago - so even the big guys have found it rough going where you are sailing. Wed. 30. Rob & Nat. sv Wilhelm
Linda and Bill,
Glad to hear you are almost there. It is painful to watch some of these conditions in the S Indian Ocean. We'll wait to hear from you on your next legs.
PLEASE NOTE: AS OF JANUARY 1, 2008, OUR NEW EMAIL ADDRESS IS : email@example.com
Commanders Weather Corp.
29 July 2008
Position : tied up nest to tug boat, Port Mathurin
(when 1st anchored : 19 40.72S 63 25.17E)
We first sighted Rodrigues at 5pm yesterday as a dark shaped hill on the horizon. As we got closer and nearer it became darker and we could see all the lights sprinkled over the island. Accompanied by the bright stars it was like fairyland compared to the last 2 weeks. Although we arrived at Rodrigues last night it was too dark to enter the harbour so we had to spend the night 'hove-to'. As it was blowing 30 knots all night Valiam thought she was sailing at 2.5 knots and we ended up 16 miles out to sea. In the early hours of this morning (it was still dark) we prepared to sail back against the wind. Surprisingly Valiam kicked up her heels and sped off bumping through the waves heeling to starboard at 8 knots. "We'll get there too early at this rate!" says the captain. We watched the sky very slowly become lighter and we were just in time to try and differentiate the waves crashing on the reef and the markers for the channel.
Rodrigues looks a little barren and windswept with little buildings scattered about. We noticed a yacht tied up in the jetty and recoginsed Dieter on LenyLy. He was just leaving as we arrived! He had stayed 5 days here and was off to Port Luis, Mauritius. We think he took longer than us to get here from Cocos as he left a good 2 weeks before us. Poor Jim on Alli Kai Too. We received an email from him yesterday and he is still 500 miles away and doesn't expect to arrive until Friday. We took just over 12 days to sail 2000nm in mostly 35-45 knot winds (force7)
We were told by a couple of fellows in an inflatable to tie up next to the tug boat where Dieter just left. We are the only yacht in the harbour so we are attracting a lot of attention. It seemed that within minutes a parade of handsome black men came on board to do all our paperwork. What a feast for sore eyes! As we had just opened a bottle of champagne Linda stayed in the galley observing making jokes trying to speak French etc so she could sip it unnoticed(?). Each gentleman or group of gentlemen represented different departments - Health Officer, Coast guard, customs and immigration, prohibited good declaration.... With Linda's pitiful attempts at French (I figure Aussie French is a bit like Creole) the gentlemen responded in Creole or French in such a rapid manner she must have fooled them! "Petite peu" she cried. "My French is bad!!"
The men in the tug boat next door were having their breakfast of fresh baguettes. Linda couldn't help eyeing them off. When asked about where to get them one fellow said "I will get them for you for your breakfast" and raced off. I had no rupees so gave him a little stuffed koala in exchange. What a wonderful way to be greeted in this lovely place. As we pulled in we also heard reggae/African style music. We thought a school or church choir was practicing but we were later told by one of the handsome gentlemen that it was the radio 'a welcome song'.
Its been a rough trip but so far so good here and we expect to have a really nice time. The immigration man gave us a hand drawn mud map of the town. We are going to find an ATM, hairdressers and restaurant in that order probably. I can hear the men on the tug boat next door speaking Creole. It has a lovely lilting quality with many French words that we can understand occasionally. We will probably anchor later if the every day noises here at the wharf become too intrusive. At the moment we dont mind. Its a welcome change - colour movement and different sounds to what we've been used to the last couple of weeks.
Day 13 - Cocos to Mauritius. 97 miles to go
28/07/2008, 19 32.9'S:65 08.1'E, Indian Ocean
Day 13 Indian Ocean 28 July 2008 Position: 7.30am Cocos time :
The wind stayed at around 30-38knots yesterday morning dropping a bit to 25-35knots in the afternoon yesterday. It's amazing how slow 25knots feels when we are used to 40 knots! The airfoil on Fred cracked and broke where it is bolted on so Bill immediately replaced it with a smaller one we had spare. He cut the broken one down to a ? size and later put this one on as the small one wasn't steering us as well down the waves.
Bill cooked Spanish omelette again with the last eggs and Linda made a big pot of Minestrone with fresh cabbage, capsicum and tinned beans and tomatoes, stock, garlic and spices. With vintage cheese and crackers this was delicious.
Last night we saw the stars for the first time in quite a while. We are feeling happy but very tired. We are not sure if we'll make Rodrigues before dark today as the wind died down a bit this morning and we were only doing 5 knots for a while. We would have to maintain a speed of 7 knots to get there before 8pm Cocos time (and when it gets dark) When it gets light and the captain has rested we will put more sail up and try and go faster. We've had just the staysail (small sail attached to an inner forestay) up for most of the passage and not used the mainsail except leaving Cocos on the first day.
Next entry will be from Port Mathurin, Rodrigues Island Mauritius!
Day 12 - Cocos to Mauritius. Nearly there
27/07/2008, 18 59.6'S:67 22.6'E, Indian Ocean
Day 12 Indian Ocean 27 July 2008 Position: (8.30am Cocos time) 19 00.00S 67 38.9E
What an endurance test this passage is turning out to be! A graduation certificate would be in order! The winds and sea didn't let up (again) with wind speeds 35-40 knots and gusts a bit higher. To have persistent strong winds in this range for the entire voyage is unusual for tradewinds. (usually 15-25 knots).We were getting used to waves banging and splashing over the cabin. It seems to have moderated a little this morning and it's a lot quieter but I may speak too soon. It could be a trick or a short lull before the next bang and lurch.
The self steering systems decided to cause us problems. Yesterday Bill went out on the stern to replace the rope on Fred the wind vane. When it was time to switch off Mona Lisa she wouldn't and the tiller remained locked, seems the solenoid which locks and unlocks the hydraulics is not working. What a nuisance @%$^*(*&%%$#! So were stuck with Mona Lisa only strangely now she decided she didn't want to stick to our course any more. Every time a wave came she couldn't get us back on course and when she is off course she makes a horrible electronic cheeeeeping sound. We tried to put up with this nonsense for several hours until Bill couldn't stand it any longer. He again donned wet weather gear and harness taking tools with him and unbolted the tiller from Mona Lisa. Now this doesn't mean divorce just temporary separation. Once Fred was working again we enjoined the peace and quiet and Bill was able to sleep... UNTIL a wave came and something snapped and we went completely of f course. #@^%$*&(%#! It was dark and nearly midnight and cold and wet. We both put on the wet weather gear and harnesses this time with new rope for Fred. For some reason the previous new rope had got tangled around something and chafed through. We started the engine as we were now going back to Cocos and swung her around with the sea heaving and spitting at us. Linda held on to the tiller (this was not easy) whilst Bill went back to the stern to replace the rope. All went well and we've been sailing beautifully ever since. We don't know what is wrong with the autopilot but will be phoning Coursemaster as soon as we can for advice.
Yesterday was just one of those days.. Cooking is such hard work and you don't know when a wave will hit and you find yourself with hot spaghetti all over you , the floor and everywhere. Linda was very cranky and upset. So the remaining spaghetti bowl and all went overboard!! We are both very tired and we have our limits..
We hope to make Rodrigues before dark on Monday. (Hey that's tomorrow!!) We are not sure we'll make it. There's a reef just outside the entrance to Port Mathurin which makes it foolhardy to attempt entering in the dark. We hope we don't have to sail up and down waiting for daylight..
We contacted a couple on a Norwegian yacht ahead of us. L'attitude gave us their details saying they had left for Rodrigues before we got to Cocos. We heard back from Mike and Charmain (Vire Nord) which was great as they gave us information re anchorages etc for Rodrigues, Mauritius and La Reunion. They are presently in La Reunion but they will be in South Africa by the time we get there. The yachty grapevine is excellent.
We heard from Jim (Alli Kai Too) and he's still northeast of us and says he expects to get to Rodrigues Thurs or Friday. Nat and Rob (Wilhelm ) have had a lot less wind than us on their way to Chagos. Claude and Ollie (L'attitude) are enjoying the food and social life in Phuket, Thailand. Claude who is French sent us some French greetings to practice! Its great keeping in touch with everyone. We haven't heard from our French friends on Peerliane for a while but they are visiting France and have left their boat in Kota Kinabalu Malaysia.
We are tired aching and need of a shower. I haven't washed my hair for 2 weeks and my scalp itches. We have enough water but it is just too difficult in these conditions. Any domestic task takes ages moving slowly around the boat hanging on with one hand and preparing for lurches balancing our bodies. It will be wonderful to be finally anchored and stop moving for a while.
The Indian ocean is a mighty one that's for sure. 243nm to go but we will be a lot closer by the time you read this.
Day 11 - Cocos to Mauritius. "Are we there yet?"
26/07/2008, 18 36.2'S:70 20.8'E, Indian Ocean
Day 11 Indian Ocean 26 July 2008 Position: (7.30am Cocos time) 18 36.2E 70 20.8E
Its cold. The captain says "Its not cold. Its just not hot." We are wearing long sleeved jumpers for the first time in 12 months and they have a distinctive musty smell! The wind is still blowing in the 30-40knot range and we are quite used to it . (well almost until I left my half cup of tea on the grippy mat behind me and it ended up down the back of my legs and on the floor..grrrrrrr.)
Nothing exciting to report apart from the persistent strong winds and waves splashing into the cockpit. Another repair for the captain today : The rope on Fred the wind vane broke. We have been using Mona Lisa (autopilot) all night. Bill had to get used to the moose 'braying' in his cave again.
Just in case you think we are eating tinned baked beans here is our menu from yesterday: Our menu for Friday 25th July Breakfast: Fresh perculated coffee / latte with uht milk Spanish omlette (cooked by Bill) with salami, onion, red capsicum, chillie,garlic and cheese fresh orange wedges
Lunch 3 types of cheese with Carrs water crackers, Italian pesto, fresh tomato, cucumber and olives small cup of red wine
Afternoon tea Cup of tea fruitcake
Dinner Chicken pieces in Italian scallopini white sauce & button mushrooms white rice water or juice
Snacks : almonds, cashews, fruit cake cups of herb and black leaf tea
So we are doing well in the galley despite the strong winds. Our stomachs never suffer as you can see.
It would be nice to have fresh fish but its foolhardy trying to fish in these conditions. 397 nm to go! (2 more nights......)
Our arms and stomach muscles are getting a workout from haning on and balancing!
All well on board
Day 10 - Cocos to Mauritius.
25/07/2008, 17 59.3'S:73 10.8'E, Windy windy Indian Ocean
Day 10 Windy windy Indian Ocean 25 July 2008 Position 7am Cocos time : 17 59.3S 73 10.8E
The last 24 hours have been incredible. We still can't believe our eyes when we see the wind instrument continually showing figures in the 40s. Valiam has had her cabin and side decks continually washed by waves. The waterfalls running down the windows look very trendy just like in modern buildings. The staysail is doing an amazing job keeping us fairly steady. It's only when a large wave hits us along the port side that Valiam veers off course with much shuddering and flapping. However Fred the windvane corrects her every time. The photo above was taken yesterday when there was 2 minutes of sunshine when we ventured 'outdoors' mainly so Bill could adjust the rigging. I tried to take a movie and photos of the impressive conditions but of course the waves never look as big in photos. It's still grey out there.
Our weather forecast predicted winds like this (but lower figures) for the weekend. However the last 24 hours we have had persistent wind speeds around 40 knots. The highest figure recorded yesterday for one of the gusts was 57 knots!
Valiam has proven to be amazing in these conditions. As I type this looking out the window at the heaving hissing grey sea I can only think it is beautiful. This passage across the Indian Ocean is our longest in miles, windiest and shortest (we hope) in time. When the Indian Ocean was created why weren't there more islands?!!
More boat repairs : (remember the definition of Cruising boat repairs in exotic locations). At 2.30 am I was woken by Bill crouched on the floor next to me. He said one of the water bladders is broken and we need to pump the water out of the bilge. After wiring up the electric bilge pump directly to the battery Linda held the hose out into the cockpit and out the water gushed. This felt just like holding a firehose. I always liked doing that when the firemen came to visit my kindergarten! However the stream of water was no comparison to the waves that splashed down the decks of Valiam. The second repair that needs to be done is sewing back together the canvas awning. It has ripped all along the seam next to the dodger frame. Bill tied the end with a piece of string but it flapped all night just above his sleeping 'cave'. We will remove the whole thing today. We don't need to worry about sunburn at the moment.
After being woken after our short naps we often still have vivid memories of our dreams. The latest one I had was riding on the back of a motorcycle holding on to Bill over rough roads going through lovely green countryside a bit like Tasmania. I guess the holding on part is what we are doing out here as Valiam charges over the waves and we would like to see green grass and trees again.
Apparently it takes a while for sailblogs to post this on the website so by the time you read this it's probably a day old.
All is well and we are very happy with our ship.
At 7am 563 nautical miles to go. We should be anchored in Port Mathurin Rodrigues Island, Mauritius on Monday. (the champagne is waiting nice and cold in the fridge)
Day 9 - Cocos to Mauritius.
24/07/2008, 17 11.4'S:76 03.0'E, Indian Ocean
Day 9 Indian Ocean 24 July 2008 Position:
It would be good if sound effects could be attached to this log but I will do my best to describe the conditions at the moment. The wind is howling as if it is blowing through a massive tunnel. The sea is going swoooshskwaish and sometimes SLAP or BANG against the hull. Then the sounds of a powerful fire hose of water over the portside of the cabin and occasionally into the cockpit makes me wonder if I'll get wet next time I look for ships. There are vibrating noises of the rigging and the saucepans rattle in the galley. (I stuff towels in things when it gets too annoying.) The ropes on the windvane are creaking and the canvas awning is flapping. Its 7am Cocos time and it's still dark.
Most of yesterday and last night the conditions weren't too bad. (25 knots SE) The waves weren't as big or confused and we both managed to get some genuine sleep. However a couple of hours ago it seems the fun and games have begun already with the predicted strong winds. Now we are now at around 33 knots with 40 knot gusts. Bill has furled the jib to half its size but will put the staysail up when it gets light.
We received a sail mail email from Jim (Alli Kai Too) yesterday. (We left Cocos on the same day). He is a fair way north east of us and expects to be a couple of days behind us getting to Rodrigues. Its good to keep in touch with each other out here on this wild powerful Indian Ocean. Trade winds huh? I've asked Hughie to tone it down a bit but he isn't taking any notice. Maybe I should sacrifice something to him in the sea. After motoring most of the time in the tropics wishing for a nice windy sail we now have it I guess. Valiam designed by Gary Lidgard and originally named Rough Rider was designed to sail from New Zealand to Australia to cope with rough seas. She's doing well. The best thing is we are dry and comfy inside and only have to go out in the cockpit and occasionally the deck to adjust the rigging. Most of the time we are inside keeping an eye on the instruments. The wind vane Fred has needed very little adjustment and when we use Mona Lisa (autopilot) the controls are just inside the hatch.
At 6am we had 734 nautical miles to go
Day 8 - Cocos to Mauritius.
23/07/2008, 16 32.8'S:78 48.7'E, Indian Ocean
Day 8 Indian Ocean 23 July 2008 Position: 16 32.8S 78 48.7E (7am Cocos time but its still dark..)
This passage is very demanding physically and emotionally due to the persistent strong winds and uncomfortable motion of the boat due to big seas and a swell from the south. We received our weather forecast for the rest of the leg to Rodrigues and we were dismayed to see that even stronger winds are forecast. Over the next few days the winds will increase to 30-40 knots with possible gusts to 50 knots. The seas will build to 20feet and become more rough and choppy. We are sitting on 30 knots now. All we have is the jib partly furled and we are still doing over 7 knots. The last 48 hours we have averaged 180 miles a day. We will probably slow down a bit as the seas increase and we put the small staysail up. Sleeping is reduced to short naps due to the motion of the boat. To move around the cabin one hand must be used to hold on at all times as well as balancing with the rest of the body. Making hot drinks and preparing/serving hot food often requires both of us to accompli sh this without it ending up on the floor. Linda has 'monkey hands' ie calluses on the palms from constantly balancing and hanging on! (very attractive - will need to go to beauty salon in South Africa to rectify this as well as the state of the hair...)
We put the fishing line out briefly yesterday when the wind was at 20 knots but now it would be extremely difficult to pull in a fish let alone deal with the gutting etc. Our weather people said 'Blustery conditions ahead'. At least the wind is going in the right direction to move us along. It would be horrible to be going into it.
We had a brief respite where we could sit in the cockpit 2 days ago but now we are cabin bound once again. We have the washboards in the hatchway and the hatch closed due to waves coming over the top of the boat. We wear harnesses any time we enter the cockpit and thankfully Bill hasn't had to go on the foredeck very often. Our self steering systems are working well. Fred the wind vane worked all last night. This is good because Mona Lisa the autopilot needs power. As there has been no sun since day 1 the solar panels haven't done much and we have to run the engine every day to keep the batteries charged.
The good thing is we passed the half way mark yesterday and hope to be at Rodrigues on Monday. I wonder if we will be able to a walk without looking ridiculous! We are 1/5 the way around the world and by the time we get to Durban we will be 1/3 the way the way.
All well on board.
Day 7 - Cocos to Mauritius.
22/07/2008, 15 58.3'S:81 41.9'E, Indian Ocean
Day 7 Indian Ocean 22 July 2008 Position: 8am Cocos time 15 58.3S 81 41.9E
The days are blurring into one another now. I write this log each morning and put a tick on the calendar so we know what days it is. There is nothing exciting to report. The sea has been mostly grey and the skies still overcast with intermittent showers of rain. The swell is more pronounced from the south causing Valiam to roll more. Consequently it was uncomfortable sleeping in the fore cabin again so Linda dragged her pillow into the main saloon. The captain still likes his 'cave'.
We had the last of the lamb chops last night and we can honestly say we are tired of them. (That's the only meat available at Cocos apart from mince when we left) There is one packet of mince left then we'll be FISHING! Hopefully that will provide some excitement to the logs and our life here on the Indian Ocean.
We have averaged 7.6 knots the last 10 hours so we are going well. Rodrigues here we come! We're half way there. Maybe I will bake chocolate muffins to celebrate. We are thinking of our granddaughter Caylan today on her 6th birthday having a marvelous time. Wish we were there. Never mind..We have missed and will continue to miss important family events and milestones whilst we continue our journey to endeavour to fulfill our dream of sailing around the world.
Day 6 - Cocos to Mauritius. Happy Birthday 6th Caylan!
21/07/2008, 15 22.9'S:84 32.1'E, Indian Ocean
Day 6 Indian Ocean 21 July 2008 Position: 9am Cocos time : 15 22.9'S 84 32.1'E
The sea is gentle this morning and a sea bird is circling us once again. So far from any where it must have to sit on the ocean for a rest if it doesn't choose us. We should be able to sit in the cockpit to enjoy a cuppa - the first time since Day 1. We've been sleeping a lot better and I was able to sleep in the main cabin without being bounced and thrown off. Bill likes his 'cave' - the quarter berth. I can't sleep in there - it feels claustaphobic and like being in a cupboard. It has a lot of junk in there (our 'spare room') I cant imagine what it would be like to have crew on board you didn't know very well. Especially when the weather is unsuitable to go outside as it has been these last 6 days. I guess you could always play scrabble..
Yesterday we slowed down a lot - average 5 knots. This was because the jib wasn't poled out, kept flapping and the winds changed every time there was a rain squall. Although the sea wasn't as big as in previous days the conditions were still not suitable to sit outside. By 4.30pm the wind had made ups its mind and seemed to be blowing a steady 20 knots from the East. Once again Bill poled out the jib to port with the stay sail to starboard. What a nice night with no exciting events to report!
Yesterday we made pizza for lunch. We couldn't face lamb chops again so had soup for dinner. When the last lot of chops is gone we'll try our hand at fishing. It's no good fishing if we have to eat the meat that is in the fridge. Besides we will need room in there to store the big fish we will catch!!!!
All well on board.
PS HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO OUR BEAUTIFUL GRAND DAUGHTER CAYLAN WHO IS 6 YEARS OLD ON 22ND JULY. We miss you sweetheart. Have a great day with Mum, Dad, Joe, Nanna, Pop and all your friends! We are so proud of you and can't wait to see you in a few months after we get to Africa! All our love Nanny and Pa SV Valiam
Day 5 - Cocos to Mauritius
20/07/2008, 14 34.8'S:87 11.2'E, Indian Ocean
Day 5 Indian Ocean 20 July 2008 Position 6am Cocos time: 14 34.8S 87 11.2E
Another grey squally day with winds moderating slightly to 25 knots with 30+knot gusts. We haven't been able to sit out in the cockpit as it is uncomfortable and a bit dangerous unless the harness is on. We haven't got cabin fever yet! We'll lose our tans at this rate! However every half an hour we put our heads out in the cool wet breeze to check for ships. None so far.
The windvane is working well but we still need to run the engine every day for a couple of hours to charge the batteries. There's been not much sun so the solar panels aren't doing much. We're thinking of installing a wind generator in South Africa.
We sailed with the same rig all day - jib partly furled on pole to port and staysail on the starboard side. Murphy decided our day was too boring so at 2am we had a bit of excitement. BANG! FLAP FLAP FLAP. "Bill - get up! Quick!" (Linda was on watch) Peering through the dark clouds and rain the captain said. "One of the jib sheets is broken. I'll have to furl the jib" Making sure he was awake Linda got his harness and torch. After that Linda watched anxiously as the captain crawled on to the foredeck in the rain and wind to remove the broken jib sheet. The pole was swinging around so he tied that down too. We sailed the rest of the night with just the staysail at 4.5 - 5.5 knots. This morning the captain unfurled the jib on the starboard side. We are trying to maintain an average of 6 knots+ but sometimes we go below this when the wind dips down to 20 knots. Its funny how 20 knots seems like not much wind to us now!
Linda is on light duties now in the galley after burning her 2 fingers on her right hand making coffee this morning. We've got some good burn cream and it's not too bad. The blisters will be a nuisance.
Apart from resting/sleeping, eating, reading and trying to watch movies (the pirated Philippino ones stall and refuse to keep playing just when we get to the good bit and can't see the ending - very frustrating.
It's now 9am Cocos time (3.5 hrs behind Brisbane) and the wind has died down a bit. Valiam is rolling so the captain is contemplating putting the main back up (if the wind doesn't increase again). It's a pretty yucky wet grey old day. At least it's not cold.
Keep those sms messages/emails rolling in. We would love to hear from you!
All well on board
Day 4- Cocos to Mauritius
19/07/2008, 14 02.29'S:89 24.75'E, Indian Ocean
Day 4 Indian Ocean 19 July 2008 Position: (7.45 am Cocos time) 14 02.29S 89 24.75E
The sea is a steely grey this morning and a lonely white bird is circling behind us before it heads off to wherever it goes. 30 knots blew consistently with gusts up to 44 knots (Force 7) yesterday. However the seas seem less confused perhaps due to some current going with us. We have experienced these sorts of winds before on ocean passages but not consistently for such long time. Southeast trades are normally less in the Indian Ocean - around 20 knots . We are pleased with the rig - the small poled out furled jib and staysail spread out like wings at the front of the boat pulling her along at a steady 6 to 6.5 knots. We are now using Fred the wind vane which is steering us nicely and is saving us power.
We are managing the rolling movement of the boat inside most of the time. However, occasionally an extra big wave will push us sideways which can send things flying in the cabin. The worst thing was when the glass lid of our big pan flew across the galley hitting the wooden pole and smashed to smithereens throughout the galley and the cabin floor. We had to pick up many long shards of glass in this heaving sea. Not fun. Another item that emptied itself in the bilge was anew bottle of toilet cleaner. Bill mopped up this foaming solution from the bilge under the chart table. I suggested we pour this down the toilet. Bad mistake... When Bill flushed it the electric pump stopped working. More expletives.... As the ocean heaved around us Bill pulled apart the toilet. Of course a rain squall came by at that moment and it was blowing 44 knots. I had to close the hatchway completely and have all 3 washboards in so we wouldn't get wet. Crawling around on the toilet floor, trying to do repairs isn't fun at the best of times. Poor Bill. After pulling apart the pump he discovered a small piece of glass... "Never put anything in the toilet unless you know what it is." will be a rule strictly adhered to from now on. After reassembling the toilet and cleaning up we enjoyed chilli con carne for dinner.
Now for the next exciting event.. At 8.45pm when Linda was on watch and the captain was enjoying a well earned rest and was just drifting off to lala land, there was repeated banging noise like a rope hitting something. Linda looked at the instruments and it was saying we were only doing 3 knots. Thinking we had accidentally turned into the wind she went out to investigate. The sails were behaving normally but we weren't moving much. After waking the captain the noise became louder and sounded like something banging and vibrating against the starboard hull. The captain donned his harness, grabbed the torch and went to investigate. Even though the moon was shining there were many dark clouds about and it was difficult to see. Conclusion - something had attached itself to Valiam's keel and was slowing us down. Bill turned the boat to the wind and we drifted for a while. Thinking we would have to 'hove to' until morning when it was light enough to see and perhaps Bill would have to swim in this sea to find o ut what it was. Not a pleasant thought. Bill switched on the depth sounder and it said '1 metre'. This did indeed confirm that there was something under the keel. Linda was imagining something with nasty bits of wood and nails and rope and checked there was no water coming in the bilge. After a nerve wracking 15 minutes whatever it was detached itself! Phew! Bill saw a dark shape float off in the distance and the depth sounder went back to normal. He thinks it was a fishing net with a float which could have been banging against the hull. Whatever it was sure slowed the boat down and now we were back doing our usual 6.5 knots. We expected to become tangled in a fishing net in the Philippines or Indonesia. Not out here in the middle of the Indian ocean more than 300 miles from anywhere! We had a discussion about the merits of different shaped keels. Valiam's is quite good and just has a round bulb at the front with the pointy bit at the back. The captain didn't want to turn t oo much incase it wrapped itself around the keel and we can't start the engine or it would foul the prop..
We had a small port to calm our nerves before getting back to our night routine. 9 days until we get to the friendly island of Rodrigues, fresh baguettes and a calm anchorage!
All well on board
Day 3 - Cocos to Mauritius
18/07/2008, 13 22.42'S:91 57.87'E, Indian Ocean
Day 3 Cocos to Mauritius Indian Ocean Position; 7.45am Cocos time: 13 22.42S 91 57.87E 18 July 2008
The wind continued to increase yesterday to an average of 35 knots with gusts up to 44 knots. The waves were big and we would watch fascinated as they would build up and peak up behind us with the crests sometimes breaking. The colour of the waves at the very top were a transparent bottle green where I could see the sky shining through. The captain explained that Valiam is the type of boat that just floats over these waves like a surfboard. After reading several logs of this crossing about water in the cockpit and sometimes in the boat we are very happy that we are safe and dry inside.
We took down the mainsail and Bill poled out the furling jib with half of it unfurled. He put up the staysail(small jib) on the other side to balance the boat. This is working very well in combination with Mona Lisa the autopilot. As the winds and seas increased further last night we furled the jib so that there is just a small triangle. We are sailing at an average of 6.5-7 knots with this rig and it is more comfortable. Occasionally a wave splashes over the boat with a hiss and very occasionally we skew sideways down a wave.
Sleeping is still difficult. Although we prepared the quarter berth for sleeping it is hot and stuffy in there as well as noisy with Mona Lisa moaning. (It sounds like a moose braying) I tried to sleep in the main cabin again but felt sick with all the bouncing around. This left the bunks in the main cabin. They are ok but a bit narrow. I am sure we will develop muscles on this trip constantly bracing and hanging on to things to balance. At present I am balancing the computer on my lap with my feet jammed up against the opposite bunk.
After the meat and fridge episode we cooked the lamb chops in a tin of curry sauce. Bill added a tin of peas and it was quite delicious. It's too hard to chop up onions etc at the moment. Cups of tea are easier to make than coffee so we are enjoying those at the moment occasionally with big sister fruit cake. I have watched a number of movies on the small DVD player to pass the time including 'Spy Game', 'Kalifornia' and 'Vanilla Sky'. They are all quite good. In the Philippines we purchased up to 32 movies on one cd of the same actor e.g. Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie, and Julia Roberts. We also have Nicholas Cage and a heap of James Bond movies we haven't seen yet. Occasionally the subtitles are annoying as the English words are often completely different to what they are saying. (Translators don't always know what they are saying and just make it up). Chinese Subtitles are better as they just look like patterns at the bottom of the screen.
Anyway that's our life on board Valiam at the moment - a bit uncomfortable and tiring but we'll get used to it. There will be more of this weather and wont ease until Monday. The weather people said 'Rough conditions possible for much of the voyage to Rodrigues Island'. Looks like they are right.
All well on board
PS My standards in the galley are slipping. I heated up my tinned spaghetti in last nights dirty curry saucepan. The sink has cups etc in it and it's a rigmarole in these conditions to wash large items. I guess I am saving water
Day 1 and 2 Cocos to Mauritius
17/07/2008, 12 42.79'S:94 27.64'E, Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean Cocos to Mauritius 16 July 2008
It was sad to see Cocos retreat into the distance knowing we wouldn't see land again for a couple of weeks. Jim on Alli Kai Too left at the same time so we kept each other company for a few hours talking on the radio a few times. At 6.30pm he was around 8 miles behind us. The weather forecast was for strong winds 20-30 knots but for most of the day it was quite a bit less than that.
We enjoyed our precooked dinner of Irish stew at sunset which was obscured by a large dark cloud.
Since 6.30pm its been 25 - 30 knots. Bill poled the jib out and by 11pm he half furled it to try and slow the boat down. She's been averaging 8 knots with 2 reefs in the main. This is the Indian Ocean. I guess we're in for a bit of a rough ride. Bill jokingly said 'Well the original name for Valiam on her plans was Rough Rider or Ruffy!!'
Indian Ocean 17 July 2008 Position (8.30am Cocos time) :
I wasn't quite prepared for a theme park ride last night but that's what it felt like everytime I tried to lie down - gripping on to the bookshelves or the mast so I didn't end up on the floor. Bill did lose all the bedclothes at one stage and landed on his back on the floor. We now will 'sleep' in the main cabin or the quarter berth. The quarter berth has junk in it and is noisy due to Mona Lisa the autopilot moaning away. She did a terrific job steering her lat night but she does use a bit of power. Bill ran the engine for a few hours to charge the batteries.
Anyway its bumpy and rolly as I type this leaning against the chart table. I can see sea mountains outside the window with white caps.
We both haven't had any sleep really as its just been too uncomfortable but as we get our sea legs and get ourselves into a good resting position we will sleep even if only for short periods. I was pretty cranky earlier this morning because the meat had defrosted and leaked blood all through the fridge. I had already cleaned it all out yesterday and rebagged everything in those sealed plastic bags but they didn't work. Saying some naughty words and trying to balance in the galley pulling everything out again I also bumped into the hot coffee on the stove. @#$%^&*()(&^%! No harm done just a big mess to clean up in a heaving rolling sea.... The meat is all now in Tupperware containers and we have to cook what didn't fit. The sea sick medication sturgeron is working quite well and should assist me in feeling fine during this trip.
We've lost contact with Jim but he is probably a long way behind us now. We have been going 8-9 knots. Bill is going to put the 3rd reef in the main but that involves harnessing and going to the mast.
Thanks everyone for you SMS messages on the sat phone. Sometimes the endings aren't there because of the 160 character cut off.
The winds will remain strong for some days so hopefully we wont suffer too many bruises getting around the boat but will achieve strong muscles instead.
All well on board
Linda and the Captain
Au revoir Cocos
15/07/2008, 12 05.45'S:96 52.93'E, Indian Ocean
Tuesday 14th July "Au revoir Cocos" Position :12 05.45S 96 52.93E
It was 'cocktail hour' on Valiam yesterday as the sun went down. The ladies sipped cosmopolitans and the men martinis in martini glasses we purchased in Singapore. We still have lots of gin we bought in the Philippines for $1 a litre. We drank a little of it with class against one of the most beautiful backdrops in the world. We will miss the most aquamarine turquoise water we've ever seen, the coconuts trees, white sand, hermit crabs and most of all the company of our yachtie friends. Bea and Diane of Sortilege who have been coming to Cocos for 8 years have given us invaluable advice particularly for our coming voyage to Rodrigues. We know where the best bakery and pub is as well as fresh spices. Rob and Natalie (Wilhelm) will be in South Africa by November so we hope to see them again . Jim (Allii Kai Too) is leaving tomorrow as well for Rodrigues. We'll definitely see him again.
Bill is taking our passports to the police station this morning to get stamped. It will be a wet dinghy ride to Home Island as the wind picked up last night. We will receive weather information today but unless there is anything adverse out there we will be leaving tomorrow. Our shopping expedition yesterday was mostly successful except for eggs, onions, bread and butter. The ship has just come in so I guess the shop will be stocked up again in a few days. It surprises me with so many chooks running around that the only eggs available to buy are flown in from Perth! Diane kindly gave us 4 eggs as a parting gift and Rob and Nat are going to see if there's any for us on West Island today.
Today we will try and rest, tidy the boat in readiness for the trip and check the weather forecast.
It has certainly been a special time here at Cocos one we will always remember. I wonder if the sharks will miss us?
Monday 14th July 2008
Cocos Keeling Islands
It is exactly one month ago since we departed Singapore with its busyness, heat and calm waters of the Java Sea. After 3 weeks here at Cocos, so much part of the Indian Ocean and its strong south east winds we feel ready to move on. We have been reading up on Rodrigues, Mauritius and La Reunion and they all sound fantastic and we can't wait to try the cuisine and experience the different cultures. Rodrigues sounds small and friendly (only 36000 people) and should be a good rest point after 2 weeks at sea. It's only a couple of days sail to Mauritius. Mauritius is much more populated (1.5 mil) and heavily geared towards tourism. This will be fun for a while but the captain fears it may be expensive if Linda is let loose in the shops! La Reunion may be another nice rest point to enjoy French culture and the one week's free accommodation at the marina.
To alleviate Linda's slight anxiety about crossing the Indian Ocean (more than 2000 nm and our biggest passage to date) we will be using a weather routing service called Commanders Weather. We will receive detailed weather forecasts pertinent to our position and boat speed. Although it seems the trip should be fairly straight forward with mostly southeast trade winds it will be good to test this service for the more difficult passage from Mauritius (or La Reunion) to South Africa.
It's all very exciting! We spent a fabulous afternoon with Rob and Natalie yesterday on their beautiful yacht 'Wilhelm'. They are also sailing to South Africa but will be going via Chagos, Seychelles, Madagascar and Tanzania. We shared much information about the coming voyage (and past voyages) and it wouldn't surprise us if we see them in Durban and other ports on the way to Cape Town. Some yachts also call in to Namibia on the way to St Helena and Brazil. Wilhelm and Valiam may also do this. This would certainly be a fantastic place to stop and have a look around. Rob started building Wilhelm in 1979. It is a beautiful boat and took him (with the help of Natalie in the latter years) 22 years to complete. It is made of steel and as you can imagine he spent many years of weekends welding. What a labour of love! They have been living on their boat for the last 7 years and have enjoyed cruising the Pacific. They spent quite a bit of time in Australia especially Tasmania and Lord Howe Island. Rob and Natalie (like us) like to explore 'path less traveled' rather than the 'milk run' of circumnavigating the world. The route we are taking now is a traditional sailing route around South Africa and places like Rodrigues and Mauritius are steeped in history. It will be completely different to the quiet island paradise of Cocos.
Yesterday we snorkeled 'The Rip' 2 more times with Natalie and Rob. It's such a gorgeous experience floating past all the fish. We managed to hang on to a piece of coral to have a really good look at the different fish peeking out of their coral caves. The sharks were asleep this time under a coral ledge.
We will miss our 'pets' here - the black tipped sharks, hermit crabs and the remaining chooks. Perhaps a bird will visit us when we are out at sea. The one we had visit on our last trip we have now identified as the 'Red legged Booby'.
Today we will be provisioning for the journey ahead using the internet for the last time. We will be able to update the website at sea as we did from Singapore using our sat phone system and I may send a small photo or 2 but there will just be us and the sea and sky for a couple of weeks! We love reading the comments on our web page and promise to write back when we get to Rodrigues.
SV Valiam and crew
The Wind is back
13/07/2008, Direction Island COCOS
Friday 11th July 2008
'The Wind is back' drawing of Sortilege, Diane and Bea
After a few days of perfect weather with light breezes the wind came back last night gusting at 30 knots. That familiar howl in the rigging is back! It is now a steady 20 knots - perfect for sailing! Fellow yachties Steve and Ally on Freo Doctor left yesterday morning for Christmas Island. They didn't have much wind to start with and Steve contacted us by radio telling us they wished they'd stayed another day or so! They will be sailing to windward now. It was sad for us to see them go. Even after such a short acquaintance there is closeness we often experience with other yachties in these remote places. Ally and Steve have to be back in Western Australia in November to work - that dreaded 'w' word. They plan to move to SE QLD in a year or two so we hope to see them again. There have been a number of single-handed men here - not always by choice. We have heard several tales of wives leaving half way around the world when things got a bit rough. Jim on Allii Kai Too from California, USA sailed here alone from Brisbane after his wife decided to go home. He says he doesn't cook and lives on tinned food. He thought there would be a hamburger shop here on Direction Island! He had the option of sending his boat home on a ship but decided he wanted to complete his dream of sailing around the world. He will be going to Mauritius around the same time as us.
We briefly met another English yachtsman who was here a couple of days on his ketch with his crew - a Frenchman Guy he met in Darwin. Geoffrey had an amazing tale to tell about when he began his voyage on a different boat 'Luck Dragon'. From the UK he sailed to Iceland, Greenland and the notoriously difficult passage through the North West passage of the Arctic Circle north of Canada. He said the 'ice opened up' for him. Sadly he lost his boat in Alaska during a storm. He abandoned ship due to broken rigging and his 2 Alaskan crew jumping ship when a large fishing boat came past. To this day he still wonders if he made the right decision. Luck Dragon was found on a beach unsalvageable. His story is on a website: www.luckdragonontour.com
He purchased a new boat 'Eshamy' in Mexico and sailed across the Pacific to here. He is now on his way to Mauritius and South Africa. We will probably see him again too. He also says he can't cook and lives on tinned food. Linda keeps telling Captain Bill how lucky he is to have such talented crew. (Chef, morale booster, communications, general hand and keeping watch, entertainment facilitator,cleaner,provisioner, information gatherer etc etc...will think of some more....)
Captain Bill has tried his hand at fishing. He has tried with his spear gun and a fishing line. Although there are plenty of fish here he has been unsuccessful. The fish stay out of range when he has the spear gun (clever fish) and don't eat the bait when it's on a hook (clever fish). The other consideration is the sharks. They just eat the bait, hook and all cutting the line cleanly with their teeth. They must have a lot of hooks in their bellies! Steve gave Bill a 'shark line' which consisted of a metal trace and a big hook. Bill half heartedly tried this system but we decided that the black tipped sharks that we have been feeding and watching with pleasure weren't going to be dinner. The thought of cutting up one of these beautiful creatures didn't appeal. Anyway we have plenty of fresh food at the moment so we aren't desperate. Trolling when we are at sea for weeks will be better.
The latest on the chooks: We think the police may also be fond of the chickens as Bill found a coke can full of bullet holes. Ally asked one of them how the eradication was going and he sheepishly said they caught a couple of roosters. We can still hear plenty of roosters crowing at all hours from the boat. The little hens have a hard time fending them off. The little brown hen when we saw her last was still limping and now only has 3 chicks. (She used to have 7).
The other excitement here in our little anchorage was when the police towed the abandoned hulk Kitmoor away after it had been here for 10 years. It is now anchored far from here where it is hoped it will eventually sink. If anyone is interested Bill saw a Perkins diesel engine on board which is probably salvageable. This is the same yacht a man went to jail for stealing items from but it's now ok for the public to salvage whatever they want. (It was in the local newspaper apparently.)
There are now 4 yachts here: us, Sortilege (long term visitors Diane and Bea catamaran-Oz), Wilhelm (Rob and Natalie from Maine USA), Allii Kai Too (Jim - California USA) We wonder if another yacht will appear around the corner of the headland.
Another perfect day in Paradise
Another Perfect Day in Paradise
08/07/2008, Cocos Islands
Another perfect day in Paradise
Direction Island, Cocos
8th July 2008
Yesterday was perfect - a gentle breeze, beautiful temperature and we engaged ourselves in our favourite pastimes - fishing (trying to), snorkeling, drinking a cold glass of bubbly, drawing and painting. Yes you read correctly Linda finally got her art gear out. (See results in Photos Gallery under Linda's sketches - lots of coconut palms and water).
Two more yachts have entered our haven - all men. An American single hander and 2 Englishmen. We hope to meet them today as a barbeque has been planned on the beach. Dieter on 'Lena Ly' our German friend left half an hour ago into the morning sun. The sea is unusually calm so he will have an easy start. We said 'See you in Mauritius!'. We enjoyed our brief time with him and sincerely hope we see him again. He's going the same way as us so there is a good chance. (His yacht is named after his two little granddaughters Lena and Lily.)
Snorkeling the Rip again yesterday we again saw an amazing number of different fish. A couple of black sharks with several fins were swimming beneath us - not like the sleeping sharks of last time! They were a different species too and I held my breath as I floated over them. The current was very fast so the 'show' was over very quickly. We were glad there is a rope with buoys to hang on to near the end as the current was very strong. Snorkeling a few metres from the beach was relaxing and we saw lots of beautiful fish with time to look and take photos. (Again see Photo gallery!) After a refreshing shower using the water tank tap at the yachtie shelter shed we used 'the most exotic phone box in the world' to phone home.
The moon is now a sliver in the sky at night so we will be going soon to take advantage of its light at night. Hopefully we can time our visit to Home and West islands when some fresh food has come in by plane! We were lucky last time to buy the last 2 zucchini and capsicum! Rob of Wilhelm gave us some pumpkin yesterday he found growing on Christmas Island when he was there. We enjoyed that with curried sausages last night and there's still some more left. Pumpkin scones? Perhaps I will make some to take to the bbq as a QLD delicacy!
Sunday 6th July 2008
Direction Island, Cocos
"More yachts arrived.'
Early this morning a 4th yacht arrived in the last couple of days. The anchorage is starting to get crowded! After Wilhelm arrived, Jim a solo sailor from USA arrived after sailing non stop from Darwin. He was exhausted so we haven't met him yet. This morning a ketch arrived with an English couple we think. Linda has been dobbed in as social co-coordinator for beach parties so she will have some more introducing to do!!! Yesterday afternoon we had a very pleasant couple of hours chatting with most of the yachties in the Nudey Beach picnic area. The ferry arrived late yesterday to pick up all the campers and day trippers so it looks like the island may be more peaceful again today. It was great to chat to the others about where they've been and where they are going. Dieter is off to Mauritius on Monday. He had some interesting tales to tell especially his visit to Peru. No yachts visit there but he promised to visit a friend so he was welcomed and had to give speeches at the local town hall etc. Dieter isn't confident with his English and as Rob (from Wilhelm) speaks German he translated for him. It was wonderful sitting there in such a beautiful setting listening to tales from yachties from around the globe. We didn't want to be anywhere else in that moment. I observed 3 skippers including Bill from 3 different countries talking about sailing rigs drawing pictures in the sand and thought how brave and clever they all were. It feels great to be here on this little speck in the Indian Ocean now a traditional stop over for sailing boats crossing the Indian Ocean.
The wind has been relentless blowing at 25- 30 knots again after only 1-2 days respite. It's noisy at night with the wind in the rigging and rigging making sounds. We've put the wooden dinghy over the front hatch of our bed so we get some air without the rain at night in our cabin. It rains every night.
Last Friday when we took the inflatable over to Home Island to get fuel we had time to wander around. Bill went to have a closer look at local wooden sailing boats - "jukungs" whilst Linda wandered off looking for the original Clunies Ross house built in the 1800s. There was a long crumbling brick wall surrounded by huge gnarled old trees. I felt I had stepped into an enchanted forest! A lone grave stone with a cross stood in the middle. Written on 4 sides of the bottom of the cross were the names and dates of several Clunie Ross people who had died. Most of them died in their 50s. There was also a child who had died aged 8. Interestingly one of the couples died in the same year even though they weren't very old by our standards. (50s) One wonders whether it was illness, an accident or just the usual age people died in those days. Further along an old wooden door was swinging open in the brick wall. Thinking an old house would be behind the brick wall I felt very excited. Alas it was just a big empty grassy area in a big square shape bordered by the brick wall. Stepping outside the other side of the wall the original Clunies Ross house could be seen. It was nothing special - just a narrow 2 storey fibro building with wooden stairs. It looked like it had been added/renovated and may not look much like the original house(?) I looked for the overgrown lemon trees (with free lemons!) one of the yachties told me about but couldn't find them. The grass and trees are very green and lush. Apparently soil was brought in, in those days to create this very healthy garden. The trees look like introduced species and are very old, similar to ones seen in old English estates.
The local wildlife continues to amuse us. The black tipped sharks love to eat anything carnivorous we throw overboard. They are like dogs when it comes to bones. One will swim off with it in its mouth with the others following. Steve caught a shark the other day and marinated it in chillie and lemon. Delicious! He said the secret of making sure a shark tastes good is to catch a small one and cut off its tail as soon as it's caught. Steve has many stories to tell about fishing and hunting. He used to shoot camels, roos etc as a professional shooter in Western Australia. He's also shot other animals deemed to be a nuisance such as horses and cats. Many of the animals end up as mince meant for the dogs but he's told of stories where someone has taken the wrong mince out of the fridge to make burgers!! Indonesians and Chinese reputably eat cats and apparently they don't taste too bad. Bill has tried to catch the chickens but they are too fast for him especially the roosters. There are several types of crabs on the island. The small red hermit crabs are everywhere and sometimes we see big purple ones. They look so funny crawling along with an old shell dragging along over half their body.
Captain Bill is making noises about going in a week or so. He says it will be good to go when we have the moon shining at night. We would like to stop at Rodrigues (you don't say the 's") before Mauritius. Its part of Mauritius and 300 nm closer than Mauritius. The people are reputably very friendly, the food cheap and wonderful and the locals like to 'adopt' a yachtie to take home for dinner etc. It will be our longest trip so far - over 2000 nautical miles and will take 2 weeks. Hopefully all our self steering systems will continue to work properly. If it's still blowing 25-30 knots we won't need the mainsail!! We will let you know our departure date.... Don't forget to click on the little camera to see our photo gallery under the Cocos album.
03/07/2008, Direction island , Cocos
3rd July 2008
Direction Island , Cocos
'The Rip' is a famous place where people snorkel here. We walked up to the end of the beach and over a small coral headland to experience this amazing reef. I was worried about drifting too fast and injuring myself but it was easy. We went at low tide which meant there was less water rushing through. Whenever I go beneath the water it feels magical like fairyland. There were so many different types of fish swimming slowly beneath us, hiding in huge groups amongst the coral or just 'hanging out' in the one spot. To stop drifting by I grabbed a coral ledge looking at all the coloured fish poking their heads out. As I drifted further I saw 3 black sharks about 1.5 metres long lying still on the bottom of the sea bed. As I floated over them I felt it was not a good idea to kick or thrash to attract their attention. We've been told they are harmless. I swam back towards the beach and continued to snorkel around other smaller coral reefs. The fish were beautiful and I felt I saw just as much as when I've been diving. It started to rain and I did think of my book and sarong left in the hammock tied between 2 coconut trees but I was having such a good time I didn't care. The rain feels nice when swimming. I took lots of photos with my underwater camera.
On our way back to Valiam we popped in to say 'au revoir' to Claude and Ollie on L'attitude who were just about to leave for Thailand. Everyone here waved and wished them well as they left feeling very excited. (They have been here for 7 months). This little farewell was a big contrast to when we left the marina in Singapore. No yachties there waving us off! Last night we met Dieter who arrived yesterday. He joined our little party on the beach apologizing for his lack of English. He did well and we always find ways to communicate especially after a couple of drinks. Dieter left his wife in Germany as she didn't want to come with him. Dieter is already going on Monday aiming for Mauritius. Another yacht arrived last night - SV Wilhelm - a German/American couple we believe but we haven't met them yet. There are people camping here on 'our' island as it is school holidays so it feels less isolated.
We can only buy fuel for 1 hour (8.30-9.30am) on Fridays so we'll be doing that as well as check the internet etc on Home Island. We'll also see if any more fresh veges have arrived. We managed to get some broccoli last time.
Latest on the chickens : After the most recent shooting the mother hen with 7 babies was wounded in the wing. She's still able to get around with her family. There still seem to be plenty of roosters. Today when we were using the phone in the yacht shelter a young boy picked up some small bullet shells and asked his mum what they were. I told them the Federal police had been here attempting to shoot chickens. The mother hurriedly changed the subject. Most children collect shells on the beach. This lucky fellow found shiny brass bullet cartridges.....
PS We met Rob and Natalie of SV Wilhelm briefly - Americans who reminded us it was July 4th Independence day. I suggested a little celebration on the beach this afternoon (Linda likes to party....)
01/07/2008, Cocos Indian ocean
Wednesday 2nd July
8.10am local time (3.5 hours behind east coast Oz)
It's so exciting - another yacht has arrived! All we know is that it is a white monohull. Im sure we'll meet them very soon! The wind has died down to 10 knots - can't believe it!!! Now we have too much chain out and it was rattling a bit across the bottom last night. Our trip to West Island by ferry from Home island was fun on Monday. It left the jetty at Home island at 10.45 and only cost $2 to go to West island. We knew that most places shut at 1pm including the one café and one restaurant next to the motel so we had a quick look around before settling at Dory's café on the beachfront for lunch. It's very quiet here with no-one about really. There is only 90 people on West island and they were all at work except for the school teachers. West island feels a bit like a really laid back coastal town in Oz a bit like north Durras (NSW) in the 70s when Bill and I first met. The lunch was nice - local fish and we bought a bottle of wine from the 'supermarket' to have with it. To keep it cold Bill went to the ice machine at the club (which wasn't open but the ice machine was with an honesty box). After lunch we went to the only supermarket which had a bit more than on Home island in the way of different cheese, salami, bread, beer and wine. Linda was able to buy some Wolfblass bubbly for $12 which made her very happy! We were served by a Malay girl in Muslim attire that said 'Seeyas' when we left. The Aussies have really taught the locals how to speak English properly.
After a wet bouncy ride in the inflatable we arrived back with all our goodies. After another windy night we decided to do our washing ashore. This was a big task as we hadn't done any since Singapore! We used the water tank on the island and Bill put extra string between the coconut palms. Our washing looked rather colourful flapping in the breeze. I'm sure in another year or so it will look more faded! We enjoyed home made hamburgers for lunch and cold beer. Ally was on the beach with her sailing dinghy and invited us for a sail. As Linda had already prepared the hammock with her book she suggested Bill go. They looked very pretty sailing across the bay. Linda didn't even have to move from her hammock to take photos. (see photo gallery)
As we waited for the washing to dry it was getting late in the afternoon. We thought wine on the beach with the other yachties might be nice so we took the dinghy over and Claude and Ollie thought it was a wonderful idea. So back at the beach watching the sun go down we enjoyed swapping yarns with the other yachties. We are finding the yachties much more sociable in tiny places like this. L'attitude is leaving for Thailand on Thursday so a final farewell is planned on the beach this afternoon. Freo Doctor is off to Christmas Island in a week so that leaves us, Sortilege and the new yacht that has just come in. Bill has spotted a stripey flag on the back so they must be 'foreign'. Oh goody new people to talk to!
We are going across to Home island today to do the internet and buy a few things like engine oil and perhaps a machete to open the coconuts. Oh and the police coming over again this morning to shoot the chickens......I hope the hens can run fast and they just get the roosters. I cant bear the thought of more orphan chicks being eaten by rats. We were watching them yesterday cheeping and following mummy around pecking at the split coconuts. (Bea and Diane from Sortilege open the coconuts for them)
Once we've had a good rest in a week or two we'll start thinking about going to Rodrigues and Mauritius.
Thanks everyone who have added comments and sent us messages. Its great to hear from you out here.
A message for all my girlfriends (including Vashti and Yolanda): You can see I have continued my tradition of drinking champagne in real glass flutes with friends wherever I go! Linda xxxx
Bill and Linda
Still windy at Cocos
29/06/2008, Indian Ocean
Monday 30th June 2008
8.30am local time
We've just been listening to our neighbours talk on the radio about a yachtie who has got himself in the news. Apparently he was here at Cocos for a while and was not very popular. He had set his epirb off near here when he wasn't really in dire straits and when he was here spent some time in jail for thieving from another yacht. Now he is off the West Australian coast wanting to be rescued as he is taking on board water etc. Several planes and helicopters have been out to him (he's 80 miles off shore) but he wont leave his boat. (I think he wants to be towed?) Apparently a policeman was interviewed more or less branding yachties with the same brush - saying we sail the world and set the epirbs off etc costing tax payers money. It's a shame people like that give yachties a bad name.
We had an enjoyable day and evening yesterday even if it was still blowing 25-30knots. (It's calmed down now to about 20 knots and we have a wet dinghy ride to Home Island ahead of us!) After a restless night we lazed about reading books then decided to go ashore for a picnic lunch. Bill has inflated the big dinghy and put on the bigger outboard. Its much better than the little wooden dinghy in these conditions. The beach on the island is more sheltered than on the boat so we had a lovely couple of hours picnicking, swimming, walking and lazing on the beach. On the way back we decided to drop in to see Freo Doctor. Ollie and Claude were also there. The 6 of us had a jolly time having a few drinks and eating the lobsters Steve caught with the delicious hand made mayonnaise Claude whisked for hours. (she is originally from France) It was dark and blowy by the time we went back to Valiam and there was no moon. In the pitch black bobbing about in the waves we managed to find our way home. After a cool shower on deck we slept a lot better than the previous nights.
The latest on the feral chickens : There are still a couple of families left. There are 2 hens with baby chicks but still too many roosters. Sadly the orphaned chicks are no longer. Apparently the rats on the island eat them. This does not surprise me as a huge rat ran across in front of me when we were walking along the tracks. I even shrieked! On this same walk around the island we discovered bits of huts and buildings scattered throughout the 'jungle' and the far surf beach. There used to be a settlement here and a telegraph station during the war. As well as bits of red brick walls on the coral beach there were more rubber thongs of every size, design and colour washed up. If you had gone barefoot you could find a mismatching pair to walk back!
We are making a sojourn to Home Island today, leaving the dinghy there and catching the ferry to West Island. West Island is where the Aussies live and there are a couple of tourist shops and a café. (It shuts at 1pm) The supermarket is supposed to have a bit more than at Home Island so hopefully we may be able to buy some fresh vegetables, cheese and salami, wine etc. I have added a few photos to the photo gallery (just click on the little camera then on the album marked Cocos.)
28/06/2008, 12 05.45'S:96 52.93'E, Indian Ocean
Saturday 28th June 2008 Direction Island Cocos Islands 1.00pm local time (3.5 hours behind Brisbane)
It's blowing around 30 knots as I write this as it has done most of the night. The day we arrived it was a nice 15 knot breeze but the first night it blew up to 37 knots and our sleep deprived bodies continued to be sleep deprived. Bill has checked the anchor a couple of times by snorkeling down to have a look and it hasn't moved. We are quite confident with our anchor but there are big shallow bommies (coral heads) just behind us.. Our anchor is a 60lb Manson Supreme. It is a spade like shape. Bill had read some tests on anchors and this one came up one of the best for holding power. But still its hard to sleep when the wind is howling and the rigging is rattling and the waves are swishing against the hull. Valiam hasn't bounced much as the water is relatively flat but now there are small wind waves. Going for dinghy rides to the beach is a bit wet and bouncy. At the beach it is a lot calmer.
I enjoy lying in the hammock watching the chooks peck at the coconuts. Two nights ago we enjoyed a barbeque with the 3 other yachts - all Aussie couples mainly from Darwin and Western Australia. Next to us L'attitude is anchored (Ollie and Claude) and on the other side of us close to the beach is Solitege a catamaran (Bee and Diane) and in front of us is Freo Doctor (Ally and Steve). L'attitude were originally going to sail to Chagos but have changed their mind and are going to Thailand soon. They have been here since December. Freo Doctor arrived a week ago from Fremantle and may go to Chagos in a while. They have until November before they have to go back to work. Sortilege have been here 8 times as mentioned in a previous blog and have also been here since December. They went to Mauritius a few years ago so we will have a chat to them about that. The captain says he wants to up anchor and move away from the bommies so we have more room to let chain out if we need to. We will probably do that soon so we can watch the anchor during the day to make sure its well stuck in. We wonder if these 30 knot winds are normal for here. Bill says if we went to Mauritius in this it wouldn't take long with just the jib up!! If this wind keeps up we'll either just get used to it or we may be tempted to head off to Rodirigues or Mauritius for a more protected anchorage.
We went over to Home island the other day in the little dinghy when the wind wasn't so fierce to do some shopping and go to the internet facilities. We saw a couple of turtles along the way. We tied up at the jetty and couldn't help thinking it was very much like Samarai island PNG but much more well maintained and modern. This is because it's funded and administered by the Australian Government. We found the supermarket. It had a lot of tinned and frozen stuff but no meat. There were a few oranges, apples, potatoes, tomatoes and onions. (No green veges) We asked the Malay lady at the checkout about the availability of meat but she said there wasn't any. When pressed further she said 'When the ship comes'. We continued to wander around the neat corrugated iron buildings and found another small shop. Inside there was a big freezer with frozen chicken and sausages. Later we wondered why the lady in the first shop didn't tell us there was meat here. Our yachtie friends explaine d that one must ask specific questions to get the right answers e.g. 'Is there meat in an another shop?'. Because I asked 'Do YOU have any meat?' she of course said 'No'. No extra information is given unless specific questions are asked. We'll remember that next time. The internet place was air-conditioned with modern Dell computers available for $12.50 an hour. As it was 45 mins until they closed at 12.00 we had to work fast! We hope you all enjoyed the last blog and photos on the website. A very modern Post Office was next door to the internet place so I asked for a phone card to use on the phone on Direction Island. The young man assured me the $20 phone card would work . Wrong! There was nowhere to put the phone card in the phone here. I was cross about this and Bill said the post office fellow had probably never been here so didn't know. It seemed odd to me that a local would never have gone to a neighbouring island 1 mile away! We respected the dress code on Home Isla nd and covered our shoulders and thighs. All the women were dressed in traditional Muslim gear and a couple of the men were wearing sarongs. The funny thing was talking to the younger Malay ladies and hearing an Australian accent! We've been in Malaysia for a while so it just seemed incongruous to be amongst Malay people but with all the obvious Australian conveniences - Aussie$, familiar express post packets at the PO, Telstra on the phones, government houses and roads tidy and well maintained. Everything is written in English as well as Malay. We walked over to house number 36 for the frozen filleted fish recommended by the other yachties. We remembered not to go to the front door and started heading down the side dirt driveway. A man dressed in a checked pleated sarong called out "Ally?" I turned around. "Oh Hello! No I'm not Ally I'm Linda and this is Bill" (the only similarity between Ally and me is perhaps the colour of our hair - I guess we middle-aged Aussie women mu st look the same!!) We shook hands and he introduced himself as PJ. He took us down the side to the back of his house chatting in a relaxed fashion about his grandkids being sick and the 'wedding' only being 3 weeks away. His place had a huge covered area out the back where one part was an outdoor kitchen. It reminded me of some of the old plantation houses in PNG where the kitchen was always separate outside. We bought a kilo of frozen fish for $10 and headed back to our dinghy for another wet ride back to Valiam.
We tuned into the local radio station but our tolerance levels were tested. After hearing late 60s pop and country music for a while we changed back to our cds even though we've heard them a few times!! We have a private channel on the vhf radio to talk to the other yachties here. We've just told them we're shifting anchor and Ollie said the grib files indicate the winds are easing to 15 knots by Monday. Bea said this weather is a bit more blowy than they've had for a while so hopefully in a few days we'll have a more restful sleep.
We plan to do some recreational snorkeling around here. There's lots of coral about and there's a famous place at the end of the island called 'The Rip' where you just float by and see all the fish. We will take some underwater photos to put on the website.
The public phone here on Direction Island is in the yachtie shelter and we did manage to make a couple of calls using the credit card. This phone is in the most exotic location we've ever been able to talk to family. The roosters were crowing in the background as they pecked at coconut husks and the hermit crabs scurried about. As I talked on the phone I could see the wind whipping the water up around the bay with Valiam and her neighbours bobbing about. It's really beautiful just a bit windy at the moment that's all.
A little later: We have now moved a little further away from the bommies. Re-anchoring in 30knots was not without its drama however. Linda was on the foredeck in charge of the anchor winch. Of course it stopped half way through the manoever! (Tripped - not enough voltage to pull it up) A couple of goes later all is good. The captain is happy as there's more chain out and we're further from the bommies. We'll be right now for a few weeks!!! Will add more pictures to Photo Gallery on Monday at the internet place. Cheers from Cocos! Linda and Bill PS I feel better now. The seasick drugs are out of my system!!
Paradise at Cocos
25/06/2008, Direction Island
Thursday 26th June 2008
Cocos (Keeling) Islands
Position: 12 05.45S 96 52.91E
As we entered the lagoon (on Tuesday 24th) the water went from deep blue to bright turquoise. We anchored near a yellow buoy and waited for the immigration people to come. There were 3 other yachts anchored in the bay plus two abandoned yachts without masts. We drank a bottle of cold champagne and soaked in the surroundings. A couple of friendly sharks came to say hello - little ones playing with each other like puppies. To match the champagne we got stuck into our stocks of smoked salmon and camembert. After a couple of hours the Australian Federal police arrived. Two friendly young men came aboard and gave us a list of rules and regulations and ferry timetables etc. They stamped our passports and left within half an hour. The one who did the stamping and talking (the other one looked around the boat to make sure there were no refugees and contraband) looked younger than Liam. He said he has been here for 6 months and comes from Canberra. We of course talked about us living in Canberra and getting married there as a common topic. We are now back in Australia and can remain here in paradise indefinitely. Perhaps we will stay here until we get the pension!
Two of the other yachts have been here for 6 months. They are both from Darwin. The Catarmaran Sortilege is on it 8th visit. It seems they stay here for months at a time. They have even created their own bbq area at Nudey beach with a pathway lined with coral and shells, hammock, table, chairs, candles, bbq, homemade broom, pet hermit crabs etc. The view looks over the bay, the yachts and Home island beyond.
So far we have done nothing much. We've tidied the boat, made the bed, launched the wooden dinghy with the new little outboard. Linda had a driving lesson and had to know the difference between the pictures of the tortoise and hare on the throttle control knob. We've been ashore twice . We have inspected the shelter shed with all the yacht plaques in it, the toilet facilities, the main picnic area with the more comfortable hammock etc. This place is as different as it could possibly be to Singapore.
Yesterday we were woken from our afternoon nap by the sounds of gunshots. On our way to investigate we popped over to say hello to Sortilege. (the ones who have been here 8 times). Bea and Diane said apparently the chooks on this island are feral and not welcome so have to be eradicated. Bea said he caught a few roosters with snares but they were very tough and basically inedible. Anyway the Australian Federal police came to do some shooting practice. There are still plenty of chooks left so its lucky we are not being invaded by real baddies. There seems to be lots of motherless chicks cheeping and a dozen squabbling roosters. The remaining hens don't want anything to do with the orphans. This little chook community is quite upset and so is Linda. Bill refuses to let her adopt a chicken so has compromised and let her have hermit crabs instead. The hermit crabs have been busy climbing all over Valiam. Of the 3 only one is left on board. The others have jumped ship. Linda will take her remaining pet back ashore this morning so it doesn't starve. Bill tried to feed it a cockroach but it wasn't interested.
As you can see you can see we have begun to get into island life. This morning we will get to experience the shops. We have been warned there isn't much as the supply ship hasn't been for a while. The yachties have told us about house 36 that sells filleted fish by the kilo. We have to go down the side entrance as going to the front door is considered rude. Home island is where the local Malays live. They are Muslim so we have to wear more clothes than we are used to when we go over. (cover shoulders and thighs)
Linda has been feeling poorly - probably withdrawal symptoms from the foreign sea sick pill concoctions she has been taking for the last 10 days. This blog has been dictated to Linda by Bill as Linda's brain isn't working very well. Hope you enjoyed it. Don't forget to read the bit about the chooks to the kids! There is a public phone at the yachtie shelter shed so we will investigate a phone card so we can use it to phone our nearest and dearest!
If any of you feel like visiting us we'll be here for a while. You have to fly to Perth first to get here. Don't forget to look at the Photo Gallery on this website under both 'Cocos islands' and 'Singapore to Cocos'.
Bill and Linda
Send message via iridium.com please
Cocos (Keeling) Islands
25/06/2008, 12 05.56'S:96 52.83'E,
Wednesday 25th June 2008 Direction island
Cocos Keeling Islands looked like a smudge on the horizon at mid morning yesterday. We radioed Cocos Customs 11 miles out and did a quarantine interview over the radio with another person who contacted us before we even got to the anchorage. We were told to boil our Singapore eggs and put our fruit in the freezer! It is incredibly beautiful here. The water is the pure tuquoise colour one sees in postcards and matches Valiam's hull perfetcly. We've had a quick look at the beach here on Direction island. It looks a perfect relaxing place for yachtie bums like us!! Hammocks, picnic tables and chairs and barbeques with coconut husks ready to burn. If we were really hungry we could catch one of the feral chooks that are hanging around. (There do seem to be quite a few roosters) This is short and I do apologise for that but feel a bit 'jetlagged' or the equivalent after our 10 nights at sea. We will go to Home island soon to put some stunning photos on the website when we find the internet place. (and a more detailed blog) All well on board
One more day Until Cocos Islands
23/06/2008, 11 23.73'S:98 20.02'E, Indian Ocean
Monday 23rd June 2008 Indian Ocean
8pm: Position : 11 23.73S 98 21.03E 96 nm to go till Cocos. We are averaging 170nm per 24 hours but this last leg will probably be slower. We are motorsailing now and rolling side to side a bit in the swell. The wind hasn't lived up to its trade wind reputation today. This afternoon we had 2 rain squalls - one with half an hour of 20 knots the 2nd one with no wind. The 2nd one did introduce itself with two beautiful rainbows which looked stunning against the inky grey sea. So we've only averaged 5knots today. We watched a movie together 'True Romance' which is a crazy action movie believe it or not. I t was made before Brad Pitt was famous and he has about 3 lines in it as a druggie. It killed the time and we broke open one of our 2 chocolate bars. 10 days at sea so far. That s not too bad from Singapore to Cocos Keeling. We are not sure when we will arrive tomorrow - in the afternoon sometime most likely. A full nights sleep.....
Position at midday (I think we have the same time as Perth :) 11 06.5S 98 59.4E
We've slowed down a bit to around 5knots so looks like it will be afternoon champagne tomorrow rather than champagne breakfast when we arrive. Bill has poled the jib out so we look like a butterfly floating and darting over the waves. Our bird visited again briefly last night but flew away when Bill started the engine. Mona Lisa and the chart plotter chew up a bit of battery power so we run the engine a couple of hours each day. I just went out to record our position from the chart plotter and there was a huge group of white birds sitting in a group on the water. They had grey tipped wings and curved grey beaks. I should get the bird book out and identify them ....
We have 133 nm to go
I washed my hair for the first time since we left 10 days ago - feels so good! (Getting the knots out was another matter)
A perfect sail to Cocos Islands
22/06/2008, 9 42'S:100 43'E, Indian Ocean
Sunday 22nd June Indian Ocean
Its been a fairly comfortable and smooth trip since the first day. We have averaged around 7 knots sometimes 8knots and have been doing approximately 170 nm per 24 hours which the captain is quite happy with. The wind has been mostly around a 15 knot SE which has been perfect. We've used the autopilot Mona Lisa mostly when sailing and she has held us on course steadily. Our track from Sunda Strait looks like a straight bee line for Cocos. The days and nights are beginning to blur and we have been sleeping in 2-3 hour shifts throughout the day and night. We've had a visitor - a bird which is white with mottly grey/beige flecks and the size of a chook. He/she sat on the mast just before sunset last night and looked very pretty with the red and green masthead light reflected on it. This morning Bill heard a 'thump' and there he was sitting on our deck. He flew away when Bill's head appeared out of the hatch. I don't blame it! Never probably having seen human life before an unsh aven bleary eyed species staring at him would be scary! Anyway the same bird has been circling near us most of the day and definitely thinks Valiam is a good roost. At sunset this evening the bird came back circling Valiam and jokingly we made 'raaagh' noises and now he's flown off. Aren't we mean? Even if the wind did blow his droppings away and he didn't damage the aerials or lights he might have done..sorry bird..
At 5.30 our position was 9 42 S 100 43 E with 267nm to go to Cocos. We are predicting that our arrival will be on Tuesday.
All well on board.
Indian Ocean to Cocos
21/06/2008, 7 21.14'S:103 46.35'E, Its been a wild ride!
Indian Ocean Position at 9.50am Singapore time 7 21.14'S 103 46.35E: 21 June 2008
What a wild ride! The tranquil waters around Krakatoa were quickly left behind as Valiam aimed straight out to sea for Cocos Keeling Islands. She had full sail up of course as the weather prediction was for 10 knots SE. As usual the weather forecast is wrong. By 9 pm Valiam was sailing at 8.5knots. We do have 1 knot of current with us. The winds continued to get stronger and Valiam was then racing at over 10 knots! (The captain thought it was great!) The crew complained to the captain it was too fast! The captain put 2 reefs in the main and furled the jib a little. We were still going 9.5 knots. By midnight the South Easterly was blowing at 20knots +. To put a 3rd reef in involves the captain going up onto the foredeck. Tied on he crab crawled over the heaving decks being covered in spray several times to get the job done. In the meantime Valiam was having fun spearing through the waves and going for thrill rides sideways on the swell from the Southern ocean. Spray and the tips of waves occasionally swished down the side decks. We put a washboard in the main hatch just in case. Even after all the reefs were in place Valiam continued to race along at 9 knots all night.
Sleep? What's that? This morning I am aching all over from trying to stay in a lying position for a couple of hours. It feels like I've been to the gym for a workout. With the sea sick medication taken at regular intervals Linda can just function.
Of course now that it's the captains turn to try and sleep Valiam 'slows down' to 7.5 knots. "I like going 9 knots!" he says. The crew says "Go to bed!" Anyway here we are in the Indian ocean swaying sideways and forwards in a lumpy sea.. The wind is coming more from behind now. No espresso coffee this morning - just a coffee bag in a cup. Not up to any preparation a bowl of mueslie managed stay down. Mona Lisa(autopilot) has been steering us all night and continues to moan when she has to adjust our course. She has one annoying habit though. When the wind changes a bit and we go slightly off course she sends out this awful screechy beep beep beep until back on course. To stop the racket we push the 'standby' button very lightly and she shuts up.
I guess we will get used to the motion out here and will hopefully reach Cocos in a few days.
All well on board
20/06/2008, 6 11.83'S:105 28.64'E, Indonesia
Friday 20 June 2008 Passing Krakatoa Sunda Strait Indonesia Position at 5.30pm local time: 6 11.83'S 105 28.64E
The sea is oily and as we pass by the famous Krakatoa and baby Krakatoa our eyes are working hard to see any smoke through the glare and haze. Every so often we can see a puff of smoke coming from enak (baby) Krakatoa. Krakatoa itself had a large amount of hazy smoke around it. Several fishing boats are anchored beneath both. The captain said "I just heard rumbling and a sound like a gun shot!" He promptly cut the engine so we could both listen to enak Krakatoa speak to us. Sure enough we heard another rumbling sound (but no 'bang' this time). It's unbelievably hazy out here. It possibly is the combination of volcano smoke, heat haze and pollution. We are drifting and just enjoyed a cold glass of chardonnay with sweet and sour chicken and rice. The sun was a huge flurescent orange ball sliding into the sea. The sea looked like Monet's paintings - a series of pink, mauve, gold and silver brushstrokes. The photo was taken earlier and doesn't do this amazing landscape justice . Now off to Cocos Keeling 624 nautical miles away.. 7.15pm
Java Sea 6.45am local time Position : 5 34.07'S 106 04.75'E
It's amazing to be awake at this time as the sun is coming up and the full moon is still clearly visible high in the sky. Captain Bill says "You've got plenty of photos like that!" Somehow the camera doesn't do it justice. I just had to send a tiny photo of it to the website! Another different sensory experience greeted our nostrils in the pre dawn this morning - clove cigarettes (?) and burning rubbish (plastic). We must be close to Indonesian civilisation! Bill has been up most of the night navigating through the many oil rigs strewn throughout this sea. Unfortunately if the engine is running Mona Lisa (autopilot) gets confused and isn't able to keep the course marked out by the chart plotter. The captain says he installed the autopilot compass too close to the batteries and he will attend to this problem as soon as he can. Speaking of problems we have another one in the galley. The galley slave was inspired to do some baking (chocolate chip cookies) and the crew were already salivating at the thought of such a delicious treat BUT the oven wont stay alight after its lit. #@%*?"! (Only if the galley slave holds the stove knob in for the whole duration of the required baking time.) Fortunately the captain is a kind master and did not insist on the galley slave doing this.
We are currently on a direct course for Sunda Strait - the narrow passage between Java and Sumatra. We should get through today. Looking at the grib files for wind speed and direction for the next 48 hours it looks as if the wind is becoming lighter and more from the south. It may be a bit of a rolly ride out in the Indian Ocean. We'll see how Linda goes with the Sturgeron.
Currently there is a ship on the starboard side and if it wasn't much faster than Valiam we would be on a collision course. The seas are calm and the winds light. There does seem to be a large dark cloud ahead of us. We haven't heard any thunder or seen any lightning so hopefully it will just be rain. It may be a good opportunity to get the soap and shampoo out! (And hope that any ships in the vicinity don't have crew with powerful binoculars!)
19/06/2008, 4 58.02'S:106 44.35'E, Indonesia
19 June 2008 8.30 pm local time
Java Sea Indonesia
Another beautiful morning greeted me this morning with a golden full moon still high in the sky in the west whilst the sun sent orange and pink rays in the east. It was a long night with virtually no sleep. The narrow stretch of water between Belitung and Bangka islands was busy with ships and local boats going in both directions. We managed to keep a respectful distance. Today the wind has been blowing at a nice 10 knots and we've been cruising nicely on a direct course for Sunda Strait. Its been very quiet out here just blue sea and only one or two ships in the distance. Because its been smoother we have both managed to get a couple of hours sleep. Unfortunately it will be busy again tonight with many oil rigs and ships also aiming for Sunda Strait and Jakarta. Bill has put in a route using the chart plotter connected to Mona Lisa (autopilot) avoiding the oil rigs and shallows. So really the chart plotter is directing Valiam at the moment! The Indian ocean beckons - maybe tomorrow later in the day?
The Java Sea is littered with shipwrecks from the war. In tribute we had 'Soldier salad' for dinner. We adapted my mum's "huzaren sla" (soldier salad) recipe for shipboard ingredients: Tinned potatoes chopped Small tin of peas Small tin of beetroot chopped Small tin of spam chopped into small cubes same size as peas Handful of pickled onions sliced 3 dollops of mayonnaise (You can also add chopped gerkin, hardboiled eggs) combine all ingredients
The weather is already less humid and not as hot. So now we are in winter in the Southern hemisphere. Its still sarong weather of course.
Family History - Indonesia
19/06/2008, 2 57.81'S:107 18.418'E, Selat Gelasa 11.30pm local time 18 June 2008
Bills father writes: "You're moving into WW2 history areas now, Bangka Is was where the Japs killed a crowd of Aus Army Hospital nurses in 1942 after the fall of Singapore, Sunda Strait was where the Perth Uss Houston and the Dutch cruiser DE Ruyter were sunk trying to stop the Jap battlefleet support the Jap landings on Java. The site is marked on Google Earth. Just out of Sunda Strait is Krakatoea the huge Volcano which went off in the 1880's. Grandpa Swartz (Bill's Danish Great Grandfather) went past it when he was on a Barque (the Victoria) which went to India and returned back around Cape Horn. They sailed through a sea of floating pumice stone near the volcano which was still erupting. For years we had a piece of the pummice, which was used to ruboff stains on hands. "
Linda's father was born in Indonesia of Dutch parents and spent his first 20 years or so in Java. (including a Japanese concentration camp during the war.) She is under strict instructions to photograph Krakatoa on the way through.
There are several shipwrecks marked on the C map most likely from the war. Several ships are passing us on this passage as well as local boats. A 'banana boat' full of locals hollared and cheered at us as we went past. These small boats aren't very well lit at all. We can smell evidence of human habitation - sewerage, burning rubbish, diesel......
Selat Galasa near Belitung island
18/06/2008, 2 24.1'S:107 24.50'E, Indonesia
Near Belitung island Indonesia South China Sea 18th June
If you think we spend all day lolling about on deck getting tanned well you are completely wrong! Sailing has been hard work since we left Singapore. We are currently speeding along in bumpy water with a 15-18 knot SE wind. I am balancing the computer on my lap on the starboard side which is heeled right over. I even had to pack my Buddha away who usually sits happily among the pillows on the upper port side of the saloon. Bill has just put a second reef in and we're racing along at 7.5 knots. It will be a long night as we negotiate our way between these islands off the coast of Sumatra. All the hatches are closed as spray washes over the decks. There's lots of 'white horses' out there today. Sometimes one of these waves hits the under part at the front of Valiam with a 'bang'! The skies are blue and the clouds are white and fluffy. Tonight will be a full moon which will assist visibility.
The captain had to solve a few problems today. Since we are heeling right over on the starboard side which is the same side as the toilet and when one flushes the water level comes up too high.(and wont go down). This is not very nice after a number 2. This is because Valiam is lower in the water with all the water, fuel and food on board (not my junk!!!) The temporary way to solve this problem is to close off the sea cock to the toilet. This is situated at the front of the engine compartment and involves lifting away the stairs. Okay that was problem number one. There's more.. Whilst running the motor earlier today to charge the batteries the captain noticed steam and the engine appeared to be a bit warm. After turning off the engine to cool down we investigated further and discovered that the water pump impeller was worn out. This was replaced with much sweating and contortion because it's in a very awkward location. After this and with the engine running again we thought we would have our heated up left over chilli con carne for lunch. Just as we were about to eat Linda noticed water on the floor under the chart table. This had leaked out from under the engine which had quite a lot of water sloshing around underneath it. Whilst the lunch got cold we mopped and pumped the water out. Once all that was completed and the engine had cooled it was time to investigate the leaking problem. The captain found the water inlet hose that was a bit loose and that could have leaked air into the pump which caused its premature failure. After starting the engine again water was still coming in. Peering down behind the engine it appeared to be coming from the muffler pipe. Now to attend to this the captain had to get into the rear cubby hole behind the engine which really is only big enough for a child contortionist. After untying the liferaft, the big hatch and crawling in the captain observed that this pipe was also loose. Thank goodness we didn't have t o order a new one from Oz to be flown in to Cocos. Now the captain says to the crew 'Start the engine which she did. 'Stop the engine!" which she tried to do BUT IT WOULDN'T STOP. Visions of burnt out solenoids, voltage regulators etc made for a depressing few minutes. The captain dripping all over with sweat wearing only his undies crawled out and manually stopped the engine. After putting everything back together we started the engine again and ate lunch. No problem. Stopped the engine again. No problem.. So now we think the engine is ok and the electronic bits are ok too.
The other far more serious problem is the frother on our capuccino machine wont work any more. We have tried cleaning the pipe with thin wire etc to no avail. So now we have to have our espresso coffee with cold milk or heated in a saucepan. Now you must feel very sorry for us.
Linda is trying a few different seasick medications as the Australian familiar brand ran out. The Malaysian one is ok but makes me feel a bit odd at times - a bit vague etc but then that may be due to lack of sleep. I gave the chemical name to Liam to look up and he said its fine. Only 500mg can give hallucinations. I take 50mg so I should be ok. We also bought Stugeron which we had heard had a lot of favourable reports from other yachties. (Its not available in Oz) I'm reserving that for the Indian ocean.
If you like a bit of interesting reading you may enjoy the following: When leaving Singapore we were trying to dodge a ship which suddenly changed direction and gave one blast of its horn. I assumed it was to tell us to get out of the way. But apparently there are sound signals. We didn't know them so we asked Bills Dad to look them up for us:
re Shipping Rules I thought that I'd better have a look to see what the 1915 RAN seaman's manual (it belonged to Uncle Bob) said. Sure enough there it is-- "Sound Signals for Vessels in Sight of One Another" A short blast means a blast of about one second's duration. I'll quote the statement. "When vessels are in sight of one another, a steam vessel under way, in taking any course authorized or required by these rules, shall indicate the course by the following signals on her whistle or siren, viz:- One short blast to mean, 'I am directing my course to starboard' Two short blasts to mean, 'I am diercting my course to port' Three short blasts to mean, 'My engines are going full speed astern' I wonder what four short blasts mean?? I note that the first edition of the manual is 1908 this one is 1915, maybe the sound signals haven't changed, did you notice whether the ship changed course to starboard when she blew her whistle ?
Linda :The ship was actually turning to port. My first assumption may have been correct. He wanted us to get out of the way!!! (Assuming we had no idea)
Anyway as Murphy's law would have it no ships were observed for at least 5 hours this morning but when we glanced up from the engine compartment we saw a huge back of a ship passing our stern 50 metres away..
By the time you read this we will have navigated our way through the Selat Gelasa between Belitung island and Bangka island. There are unlit reefs and shipwrecks so we will be keeping a sharp lookout. The chartplotter really makes things easier.
Its time to stop typing. With all the hatches closed its rather warm in here. (Bill received an impromptu shower earlier on deck) Time for some air.
All well on board.
Local time 5.30pm Position: 2 24.2S 107 24.5E
On the way to Sunda Strait
17/06/2008, 1 14.57'S:106 17.50'E, South China Sea
South China Sea on the way to Sunda Strait 17th June 2008 9.50am local time Position : 1 14.57S 106 17.50E
The wind has been blowing consistently from the SE at an average of 15 knots. We have had to tack Valiam several times in the last 24 hours. The new autopilot Mona Lisa is doing a great job. There is a 'tack' button which slowly moves the boat around 90degrees whilst Bill changes the jib to the opposite side. The positive side to sailing and living on the boat is that we have to keep everything tidy and packed away otherwise everything would fall out especially when tacking. The seas were smoother last night so sleeping was a little easier. We observed several storm clouds behind us yesterday afternoon and some lightning. Memories of the last Sumatra storm in the South China Sea in April made us think of some preventative measures. We pointed the boat away from the nasty clouds, cooked dinner early, sent the emails and packed all the computers away. However it came to nothing so we steered Valiam back on course and watched a beautiful sunset. As soon as it was dark we could see the almost full moon shining brightly with golden reflections on the water. It was a beautiful night with not many ships. Bill went to bed early whilst Linda struggled to stay awake until 11pm. (It was the combination of seasick pills and no sleep during the day) Watching movies on the portable dvd player keeps us awake even in the cockpit. Bill then did the 'graveyard shift' - 11pm - 2am. Linda 2-5am and Bill 5 - 8,9ish am . We then have coffee and breakfast together before Bill has a nap.
Indonesia is all around us but we cant stop. We don't have a cruising permit for Indonesia because it is quite expensive ($250) and takes months to organize. We were originally going to go north up the Red Sea but due to the lateness of our departure from Palau and the length of time it took to sail through the Philippines and Malaysia it was too late to go. The southwest monsoon weather had already started when we arrived in Johor Bahru. As we have already spent 7 months motoring more than sailing in the tropics the captain was keen to do some real sailing. To safely go up the Red Sea we would have to wait until next February or at the earliest September October. This would mean motoring up the Malacca Straits and bumming around Langkawi and Thailand for months. Sailing the Indian Ocean began to seem more and more attractive. The hot humid tropical heat is difficult at times when on a boat particularly in marinas. Once we made up our mind we became quite excited about sai ling to Africa! The preparations for this journey in Singapore has been well worth it. We are really looking forward to Cocos Keeling islands - our next 'port'. We will have plenty of time to relax there before heading off for Mauritius. But for now we have to get past Sumatra and all the islands and get through the Sunda Strait - still some days away. Mona Lisa just went off course as we are sailing close to the wind so Fred the windvane is having a turn.
Back in the Southern Hemisphere
16/06/2008, 0 05.86'S:105 38.59'E, South China Sea
Back in the Southern hemisphere 16th June 2008 9.30am local time Position: 00.05.86S 105.38.59E
At 8.15am this morning we crossed the equator for the 2nd time since we left Australia last November. No silly celebrations this time - just spaghetti for breakfast. It looks a bit like winter out there as it is grey and overcast. It's still warm of course. The photo shows our chart plotter just after we crossed the equator. You will also notice our track has been a big 'dogs leg' and that the wind had died down and we were only doing 3 knots. Last night however we were going very well averaging 6knots with wind speeds around 15 knots. Bill even put a reef in the main. The down side was that our bed was extremely uncomfortable - sloping the wrong way (heeling to starboard) and very bouncy as Valiam skipped through the waves. Linda slept an hour or so in the main saloon.
Our new autopilot 'Mona Lisa' is still moaning every so often but apparently that's normal. Another yachtie friend of ours said he was on a yacht once whose autopilot sounded like a moose braying! Anyway she's doing a good job keeping us on course. The motor is currently running to boost the battery power as well as increase our speed from 3 to 5 knots.
During the day when we are not sleeping we eat, read books, navigate and of course watch for ships. At night when on watch we stay near the cockpit watching for the ships. A couple of them have come quite close crossing our bow a few hundred metres away. It's still difficult at times to work out which way they are going until the port or starboard lights can be seen. The new portable DVD player is great for when on night watch. Watching movies during those hours makes the time go quicker and is much easier on the eyes than trying to read.
We still have lots of fresh food in the little fridge including 3 packets of fresh meat, smoked salmon, bacon, packet of prepared burgers, packet of prepared sates, lots of cheese(cheddar, brie, parmesan and yoghurt. We've been using longlife milk since we left Oz and are quite used to the flavour now. Fresh fruit and veges include rocket, cabbage, capsicum, cucumber, tomatoes, onions, garlic, basil, green pawpaw, green bananas,apples, mandarins. We also have 3 loaves of rye bread and 2 dozen eggs. The boat is also full of tins and packets to prepare food for at least 6 months! There is a bit of a shortfall of wine (too expensive in SE Asia) but there is still gin and rum from the Philippines. We did enjoy a glass of red California wine last night at sunset to go with the tomato, garlic and basil pasta. For those of you who are still at 'w..' (that 4 letter word) and dream of doing what we are doing it is not difficult. There are lots of ordinary people like us sailing arou nd the world. It is a sense of freedom to be totally self sufficient when out at sea but then again one must be devoted to one's boat keeping her safe and maintained at all times. All well on board
Singapore to Sunda Strait
15/06/2008, 1 17.73'N:104 44.27'E, South China Sea
14th June 2008 Singapore to Sunda Strait 9.45pm local time Position: 1 17.73N 104 44.27E
Valiam is heeling quite a bit to port as I write this. The seas are smooth and the sea sick pills are trying to do their job almost successfully. We left One15 Marina at around 10.30am this morning for the Sister Islands just outside the harbour to await the customs boat. Even though we had an extra day up our sleeve before our departure we were busy all day with preparations. It was one of those really 'stinking hot' days in Singapore where we had to recover once again in the air-conditioning of the local shopping mall. After our final purchases of fresh food and various other smaller items such as head torch batteries, stove lighter etc we were back at the Marina to pay our bill. Bill had to go back 3 times due to mistakes made by the office staff. Linda wasn't too happy with our clearance certificate stating our next port was 'Australia'. Usually a specific official port should be named. We said Cocos Keeling Islands but the dockmaster said he couldn't find 'any coco isl and 'in his papers. Hopefully they will let us in when we get there!
Our new Aussie friends Di and Bruce kindly invited us out to their Friday regular teacher's dinner at a place called 'Everest' in Little India. The food was delicious and inexpensive. An Indian lady next to me said that at 'Mustafa's' store one could buy curries in sealed plastic bags that just needed heating in hot water. Di took us to Mustafa's which was an experience in itself. This massive shop has evolved over many years being continually added to. It is a huge rabbit warren over several levels and sells EVERYTHING. One huge section was devoted to gold - gold chains, jewelry etc that went on for ages. I hadn't seen so much gold except in pictures of Tutankhamen's tomb! On the way to the supermarket section Linda was distracted by the gorgeous sequined tops and saris in beautiful colours and fabrics. But no retail therapy that evening! Bill chose 8 assorted vegetarian curries and waited in a queue with turbaned men and saried women. Di and Bruce took us to the 'French Sta ll' for desert - a French restaurant in Little India! It was now close to 11pm so we tried to hail a taxi. No luck - all taken. We walked to the MRT station and caught our last underground train to Vivo. It was easy to phone for a taxi from there. We enjoyed our last night in Singapore with all its sights and smells of India.
This morning we struggled out of bed at 7.30 to have our last long shower. As I went into the ladies amenities there were at least 3 cleaning ladies there but they weren't cleaning. One was doing her hair, one was chatting to her and the other one was relaxing in the leather chairs reading a magazine. Another young girl appeared to be filling up several little bottles of her own with the free shampoo dispenser in one of the shower cubicles. I felt I had walked into someone else's home!!
Yesterday Friday 13th was an exciting day for the Anderson family as Bill's brother Peter and his partner Jenny became the proud parents of a little boy. Bill was able to speak to Pete and we received photos of the baby by email just before we had to lose our internet connection. We had a quick Skype call to our granddaughter Caylan and made last minute calls to my sister Yolanda and my father.
As we saw Singapore fade away in the distance we felt glad to be back at sea. One 15 marina was a place with lots of rich people owning huge motor yachts with fulltime staff with boat names such as 'Fantasea' and 'Hye Seas' (there were 2 of those).
We have motored most of the day dodging and passing ships. Our new autopilot seems to work quite well. She moans a bit as she keeps us on course. As we were trying to think of a name for the latest addition to our boat I said 'What about Mona". Then Bill said 'Lisa' so she is tentatively called Mona Lisa. Heath has retired (the little tiller autopilot) and Fred the wind vane will come into his fore when we hit the Indian Ocean. Mona Lisa has one quirk however. Whenever Bill pushes the buttons to change course too quickly she starts doing a U-turn! Mmmmmmmmm. This trick requires the 'standby button' and hand steerage back on course!! It's good to be back out at sea and we are going nicely now. The wind is blowing 12-15 knots from the south. We are losing just over a knot due to the current being against us. It was the same coming here from Kota Kinabalu. It was funny being able to see 3 countries at once - Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. We've seen a couple of Indonesian f ishing boats. Let's hope they have lights on tonight so we can see them. There's a ? moon which is great for night vision. I just counted 9 ships out there surrounding us on the horizon.
Sailing on Saturday
11/06/2008, from Singapore
The next entries will be from out at sea passing Sumatra, Indonesia. There wont be any photos for a little while so hopefully we will look like this. Hopefully the next photos will be of swaying palms on a white pristine beach with the captain barbequing a freshly caught fish. (on one of Cocos Keeling islands)
Getting ready to leave Singapore
Bill with Mimi and Donald
11 June 2008
We are rather glad we have delayed our departure from Singapore after a tropical storm hit us last night. Local tropical storms around here are called 'sumatras' and last night our instruments recorded gusts of up to 46 knots. One 15 Marina, Sentosa island is not particularly protected and we often bounce around when ships go past. However last night Valiam strained, creaked and groaned against the pontoon with the wind screeching through the rigging. The captain said 'Im glad we're not out there tonight'. However the probability of more 'sumatras' between here and Sunda Strait is high. The good thing is they don't last long. It will be challenging if we experience one close to ships. They always come at night. Yesterday was extremely hot - more than usual for Singapore which could have been a contributing factor to last night's 'sumatra'.
It always seems so tiring and stressful just before we depart from a port particularly after a long time and just before a long trip. There are always so many jobs to do. We now have 3 trolley loads of shopping stowed away. It was all delivered to Valiam by the local supermarket 'Giant' which was great. Fresh food had to be brought back by Linda on the bus. Mimi (Yen Ney's cousin) was lucky enough to spend the day with Linda whilst all the last minute shopping and banking jobs were done. It felt strange to get Australian $ from the money changer in preparation for our visit to Cocos Keeling. We are so used to looking at Singapore$. After carrying the shopping back in the heat Linda and Mimi lay in the Jacuzzi at the pool for an hour. Captain Bill had almost completed lots of jobs on Valiam that had been nagging him for months.(and nearly got sun stroke in the process) Mimi's husband Donald came past after work as he had just finished a meeting at Sentosa. We enjoyed cool drinks amongst the chaos of Valiam's preparations. Today we will make one last visit to the chandlery for items such as spare ropes, shackles, spray on waterproofing for the dodger and we'll purchase another fire extinguisher from a marine safety shop. Linda also needs to winch Bill up the mast to check the light bulbs. The chandlery shop is near Little India so we might just fit in a last visit to an Indian restaurant.
We are quite exhausted and hopefully if the weather is suitable we'll be off on Saturday. We still need to tidy and stow things away after living in marinas for 6 weeks. We also need to get our clearance papers, pay the marina (ouch!) and contact customs as we are about to head off to meet them at Sister islands. (you can see them from here) We are not looking forward to dodging the ships just outside here as well as all the way past Sumatra, Indonesia. We don't have a cruising permit for Indonesia so we are not allowed to stop. This means we have to stay near the shipping lanes until we get through the Sunda Strait. (between Java and Sumatra) It will take about a week to get there. It's cooler today so it will make life on board Valiam more comfortable. Visions of beautiful white sand beaches, clear aquamarine water and swaying palms keep dancing before our eyes when we think of Cocos which keeps us motivated to get through these last jobs.
Champagne & last days in Singapore
It is Sunday and we are recovering from our little farewell party last night. Aussies Di and Bruce (Friend Jenny's cousin) came on board Valiam with the most important contribution- COLD champagne!!! Bi Yuen and friend Lim came down from Johor Bahru and seemed to enjoy the Aussie way of celebrating with finger food in the cockpit. They did well to keep up with our rapid Aussie English! As a 'Thank you' gift Linda had drawn a portrait of Valiam, photographed the drawing and put them in little frames for our guests. We bored our guests with video clips of our trip so far. It made us all realise how fortunate we've been experiencing places like PNG and the Philippines. Yes Valiam and her crew need to get moving again away from this urban environment to the ocean and hopefully pristine white beaches of Cocos Keeling islands. After a couple of bottles of Aussie Champagne and wine were finished the Aussies headed over to the One 15 Marina club bar at midnight. Its the glass 3 level bar we can see from our boat flashing pink, purple and blue lights. A live jazz (?) performance of a guitarist and female singer entertained the 4 of us. (There were 3 other people there - obviously a very 'in' place to go in Singpapore on a Saturday night!!) A couple of cosmopolitans and martini later we ceremoniously ushered our guests up the grand stairs (oops we only had rubber thongs on....) to the grand lobby. No-one at the reception but within moments a taxi arrived with returning guests which was most convenient for Di and Bruce. A lovely night.
Bill is getting through the last jobs and we finally got the ok for insurance for Valiam. I must congratulate our insurance broker in Australia for getting through all the bureaucracy in Perth and London at the last minute. On Friday afternoon just before the Queens Birthday weekend London requested a 'rigging report'! Bill promptly phoned Allyachtspars in Brisbane who emailed us one within half an hour. Thanks guys!! Our broker pushed it all through over the weekend so now we are officially insured for the Indian ocean, South Africa and southern Atlantic ocean for the next 12 months..
Immigration fun : A couple of weeks ago when Bill went to see Immigration he got into trouble by the boss because we didn't tell them at the Malaysian checkpoint that we were on a yacht. We were so pleased to get through but incorrectly we had a tourist visa in our passports. WRONG! Much tut tutting later new stamps and a new crew list later we were again officially crew reunited with our ship. BUT when on board later on inspection of the passport stamps and new crew list the dates were different! The passport said 11 June whilst the crew list said 6 June. Well on the 5th June Bill thought he had better do the right thing and go to immigration again. The man sat at his desk scratching his head for half an hour totally confused looking at the 2 different dates. When he found out the boss did it she laughed it off saying it was a mistake haha and gave Bill another month's extension. We didn't want another month we just wanted another day!!! Usually yachts only get 2 weeks at a time. If Singapore is like this in Immigration I wonder what is in store in the next countries we visit.. At least Cocos is Australia and we HAVE notified them of our eventual arrival!!!
As well as getting our departure and maintenance jobs done we enjoyed Di's recommendations of eating establishments in Little Arabia and Chinatown. The hand made noodle restaurant was fun. We watched the fellow throw the dough around and between his fingers to make perfect strands of noodles. They were delicious too!
We'll be doing a bit more shoppingbefore we go. We've already had one order delivered to the boat from the supermarket . We'll also take a careful look at the weather. We need to have good visiblity going through the shipping channels towards Indonesia. We can't stop so we will need to be alert at all times for about a week until we get through Sunda Strait. The captain cant wait to be sailing in the Indian ocean with the trade winds.
Lan Zhou La Mian Chinatown
Walking through Chinatown at night in Singapore is a visual and nasal sensory experience! Pretty lights, lanterns, smiling golden buddhas, garlic and spices....
***See how far we have come from Oz (nearly 6000 nm): click on Photo Gallery - tracking map.
GOOGLE EARTH :(attached to Sailblog/our website)
- Go to Current position (map)
- Click to see full map
- Click small Google Earth sign below map (click 'open this file')
- Type in town and country OR position (Lat:Long) in box 'Fly to.....'
- Click on magnifiying glass
- Click on little yellow squares
THAT'S US!!!! Our track is there
(as well as all our entries)
$pending in $ingapore
03/06/2008, $im Lim $quare & Little Arabia
Photo : Indian temple
We $pent the 2 la$t day$ tediou$ly cha$ing a
c-map (electronic chart) for our next leg which include$ Africa. We made numerou$ phone call$ to Au$tralia and difficult to undestand 'English'(?) speaking agent$ in $ingapore. A C-Map agent in $ydney emailed u$ 25 places to contact Only 2 could help. One had to get it from Oz (1 week's wait) and another dealer wanted an extra $200 for the privelige of selling it to u$. Anyway......... Linda wa$ wandering around a huge electronic$ building looking for a charger for the $at phone when $he got talking to a nice Indian lady. After discussing Hindu temples the subject of the necessary c-map aro$e. 'Ye$ I can get you one of tho$e!' (in beautiful English) and literally within the hour $he had one delivered to her shop whil$t I was there at a cheaper price than the other 2 'hard to get' one$.
What i$ the moral of thi$ $tory? In $ingapore it$ no good letting your finger$ do the walking. Face to face conver$ations achieve better re$ult$!!!
Other $pending$ today : a $pare Dell laptop computer, handheld vhf radio. I dont evven want to look at our bank balance! We also got a quote for in$urance for Valiam (more than our rate$ at Point Cartwright......)
After all that we discovered a wonderful part of Singapore tonight - Little Arabia. These little back streets contain really old terrace buildings with interesting shopfronts and facades. There were lots of lovely little Turkish/Egyptian restaurants to choose from. We chose one that had several customers sitting on Persian rugs on the footpath smoking from those long pipes connected by a hose to an ornate jug with intriguing ingredients. Rest assured we just had the food.
Singapore is a wonderful mixture of cultures. The Indian ladies all wear bright saris and the men have moustaches (just like Bill!!) Many of the young Chinese girls wear the latest fashion - short shorts or loose tops over lacy leggings. Most of the Malays wear traditional Muslim gear. In little Arabia today we saw a man in a long white gown and white crocheted cap. Westerners like us do stand out with our light coloured hair and more casual clothing.
Merlion - Sentosa Island SINGAPORE
01/06/2008, Singapura means 'lion'
The Merlion reminds us of the Merponies we saw in Caylan's 'My Little Pony' book!
Last week in Singapore we think....
1 June 2008
Photo: view from the head of the 'Merlion' statue
The other day I spent a 'tourist day' with Mimi. We checked out the museum and butterly place on Sentosa Island. When we got back to the marina we got changed for a swim but we were kicked out because of lightning,thunder and storm clouds surrounding Singapore!
That night Bill and I used the Sentosa coupon to experience the 'Merlion' and cable car ride accross the river. The Merlion is a huge statue overlooking Singapore. It has a lion head and a mermaid tail. There is a lift inside to see the view from the top. This was great fun. It was good for Bill to do some fun stuff after working on the autopilot for the last 2 weeks. Singapura means lion and there is some legend connection. The funny bit was there were lots of Indians on holidays - ladies in saris and the men dressed in long pants and nice shirts. Many of them had moustaches so we were comparing them with Bill's.
Our ETD is now 10 June (thats when our visa expires). First we have to get past Sumatra via the shipping lanes and aim for the Sunda Strait. This will take about a week. There's lots of lightning and thunder around each afternoon so hopefully our electrics will survive. (The stove is supposed to be a good place to put things like the hand held GPS, sat phone, chartplotter etc.)
We'll have to do a big provisioning trip to the supermarket soon. We plan to get a taxi back to the marina then get one of the boys to help transport it all to the boat via a golf buggy! Bill still has a list of jobs to do which is not enjoyable in the Singapore heat. It will be good to set sail again....
20th - 21st May
31 May 2008
I am still sitting under the fan whilst Bill is working on the boat. During this last week I have created a new website - hope you are enjoying it!! It still needs some fine tuning on my part as well as the website people in the USA. I couldn't get the tracking back to Oz so I created my own little map! If you do go to the website tracking map click on Google Earth . Put in the position or place you want to see where we've been. Our whole track is there! If you put in 'Kawana Waters Marina Buddina Australia' you can see our Goodbye party and getting ready to leave!
Whilst I have been in front of the computer not only doing the website but playing with SKYPE (so good to see family and friends LIVE for FREE!) Bill has been busy installing the autopilot. It is IN! And he says it works!!!! He is now doing some adjustments to the rigging.
Social activities in the past week have included hanging out with Mimi doing tourist stuff and catching up with Aussie Sunshine coast teachers Di and Bruce. Di is our friend and neighbour Jenny's cousin. We try to steer away from'teacher talk' which is difficult as Di also practises Reggio Emilia. They both work for an Australian International school here in Singapore. Last night they visited us on board Valiam for wine and nibbles in the cockpit. A very pleasant evening.
We will have to leave on the 10th June (unless we apply for an extension). We've still got lots of jobs to do so hopefully we'll get them done in a week. We will probably have a small 'bon voyage' gathering on board Valiam next weekend.
We've had thunder and lightning most afternoons with a few showers. (interesting when we've tried to do the wiring) I even got kicked out of the pool by the pool man when there was lightning about!!!
We are well and eating well - we go to the Food court in Vivo shopping mall most days as it's so cheap and delicious. Every so often we hanker after Western food and even succumbed to Burger King the other night!!!
25 May 2008
I am presently sitting with the new big fan blowing on me that I purchased for S$24. (We have shore power this time) Bill will make full use of it in the ensuing days as he wrestles with the wiring and electronic stuff. Already a couple of things he purchased have broken or don't work. In Singapore there is a famous electronic building called Sim Lim square where you can buy just about anything electronic. He's already been out there twice and estimates there will be many more times. We just spoke to another yachtie whose boat was hit by lightning and lost everything apart from the hand held GPS wrapped in foil in the oven. It was in the Bermuda triangle though.... Once we get past Sumatra and the tropical storms we'll be right.
We've just had an exhausting but interesting couple of days in Malaysia. Bi Yuen (Bill's sister in law Yen Ney's brother) invited us to Melaka so we said 'yes'. The Lonely planet guide describes the city as 'sultry' and by the historical account it has had lots of influences from the Netherlands, Portugal, Indonesia, China, Japan, India and the list goes on. It also happened to be a long weekend because it was Buddha's birthday on Monday. It was the day he went from being human to a god. The whole of Malaysia and Singapore was on holiday as was evident in the 2 hour traffic jam at the immigration checkpoint between Singapore and Malaysia. Bi Yuen kindly offered to pick us up in his car from Boon Lay station in Malaysia at 3pm on Saturday. Just as we drove into the checkpoint over 2 hours later and handed over our passports we were already looking forward to the delicious food we always have with Bi Yuen. BUT....The man in the box said "Where is your immigration card?" We explained that we weren't given one and that we had entered Singapore on a yacht. Puzzled face and consternation. Phone calls. "Sorry park over there - you will have to come to the office" We walked with Bi Yuen and his friend Lim to the office. After explaining to the uniformed officer how we entered Singapore he phoned the Seaman's section in Immigration in Singapore. He said he couldn't let us into Malaysia and we had to go back and get the correct paperwork. Bi Yuen and Lim went on to Johor Bahru whilst we were escorted by a female officer with a gun and walkie talkie out on to the road to the bus stop. We didn't feel very good...
5 hours later and 11 train/bus trips we had the right stamp and piece of paper. When we cleared into Singapore we are registered as a ship and her crew, not as a tourist (as in previous countries). We needed to get permission to leave our ship and be crossed off the crew list. The man in the seaman's section of immigration even wished us ' a nice leave'! Now I am going to bore you with the details of how we got the paper work done in several hours in efficient Singapore (rather than several days it would take in many other countries). Here is an account of our transport that afternoon (each carrying a small overnight backpack):
12.45 Sentosa cove. Missed bus to Vivo shopping mall. Sweltered in heat for 35 minutes
1.15pm Bus to Vivo Shopping mall. Walk at least 500m, escalators etc to MRT station
MRT (Underground train) to Outram Park interchange. Walk stairs escalators corridors etc
MRT to Boon Lay Station
3pm Arrive Boon Lay station. Walk around another shopping centre waiting for Bi Yuen
Drive with Bi Yuen and Lim through horrendous traffic jam to Immigration check point.
5-5.30p Detained and sent back. Escorted by armed officer to bus stop.
Bus back to Boon Lay station. Walk to find right place
MRT to Outram Park (45 mins standing up - train packed) Walk walk...
MRT to Vivo Shopping Mall. Walk walk escalators walk walk
Bus to Sentosa Cove. Walk stairs walk
6.45pm Arrive Dock masters office, One15 Marina (we phoned earlier). He typed up a special letter to leave our yacht. Walk 200m to Valiam to retrieve original crew list and ships stamp
7.15 Bus to Vivo shopping mall. Walk walk etc
MRT to Outram Park Interchange. (Standing)Walk walk....
MRT to Lavender station. (Standing) Walk walk to Seaman's section Immigration arriving 8.45pm. Received correct paperwork. Removed from Valiam's crew list. Walk to station
MRT to Bugis Station. Walk 1 km to bus interchange.
9.20 'Express' bus to Malaysia
Traffic jam. Arrive first check point.(Singapore) Get out of bus. Walk walk queue, stairs walk queue
Back on bus. After a while get back out of bus. Walk walk queue next check point (Malaysia) all ok walk walk queue for bus again
Back on bus
11pm Arrive Larkin station Johor Bahru. Walk around. Filthy place. Go to ATM to get ringits. STARVING! Queue in MacDonald's. Bi Yuen arrives. Drives us to Debbie's restaurant instead. Delicious food.......
After midnight - bed at Bi Yuen's house (with aircon)
NB: At each station we did not have to wait more than 5minutes for a train. An exhausting day!!!!
Before we left for Melaka we went out to breakfast to Bi Yuen's favourite place. It served mostly Chinese food with a man cooking Indian food on a table inside the restaurant. We had a huge breakfast of noodles with beef, pork dumplings and Indian roti.
The drive from Johor Bahru took about 2 hours on a nice smooth highway through palm oil plantations. There were no towns. It felt a bit like the highway up to Gympie! Bi Yuen stopped in the outskirts of Melaka to pick up his friend Jack. So Linda was in the car with 4 blokes driving around Melaka! When we got to the centre of town it reminded us of Europe. In fact one part is called 'Little Holland'. The buildings are very old and small like terrace houses with canals either side. There is also a large building called 'Haus Stadt' (town house) which is now a museum. There are also sections called 'Little India' and Chinatown. After parking Bi Yuen and his mates went their way and we were left to our own devices to explore the centre of town. We could see lots of rickshaws elaborately decorated with flowers, tinsel, lights etc. As Linda foolishly wore her gold heeled shoes rather than her sensible walking shoes it was decided to take a couple of rickshaws around town. I chose the prettiest one and felt like a queen. (See photo) We eventually ended up outside the Indian shops with their irresistible colourful saris and gorgeous Indian clothes. (Irresistible to Linda anyway) Bill went to pay the rickshaw drivers who of course demanded more money than what was agreed on. They wanted 20 ringits per hour when we were told it was 20 ringits for the tour! We of course refused to pay any more as half the time we were stopped having a cool drink while they had one and a smoke anyway! A couple of gorgeous Indian skirts later we decided upon Indian food for lunch. We found a place that was full of locals and no tourists. They were eating with their hands from a banana leaf. Several people came around and plopped different vegetarian curries and rice on our banana leaf. Then someone came with small pots of meat curries. We chose a couple and also asked for spoons and forks as we aren't very expert at eating rice and curry with our hands! The food was delicious and cost less than $10 for the both of us including iced tea.
Later on we met up with Bi Yuen, Lim and Jack and drove further into the old part of town. Her we saw lots of people dressed in white with banners etc. Bi Yuen quickly parked the car and we waited on the side of the road for the festivities to begin. Because it was Buddha's birthday a huge parade was about to pass us by. It was beautiful. Better than anything I've seen (even better than Woodford!) Floats with flowers and golden statues of Buddha lit by lots of lights and music passed us by. Each of these was followed by a generator on wheels! There were marching bands and Chinese dragons. We were given coloured cotton bracelets to wear. The Indian ladies and girls lining the streets looked beautiful in vibrant saris and jewelry.
After the festival we drove through a traffic jam and went for a drive along the coast. We saw the Malacca Strait. It looked flat and hazy with several ships in the distance. Captain Bill is happy that we are not going to do more motoring in the tropical heat! Bi Yuen then drove us to eat in an outdoor food area run by the Portuguese section of town. The food was cooked with lots of tomato chilli and garlic. The lady who served us did look very Portuguese. What a mix of cultures! There were mostly Malaysians in Melaka on holiday and very few Westerners. We always get asked where we are from. Most people know Sydney and Melbourne but not Brisbane. The locals are surprised to learn that Canberra is the capital of Australia as no-one has ever heard of it!
It was now very late and Bi Yuen had to drive back to JB (Johor Bahru). It was a long drive and we really felt for him as we didn't arrive back until 1.30am. We slept wonderfully in an air-conditioned room! The next morning we picked up Debbie and went out for Breakfast. This was a more Western style café which served bread, eggs as well as Chinese food. We decided on just bread and eggs this time! After breakfast we went to Debbie's mum's (Madame Cha) place to meet the newest member of the family - Je's Chinese bride. Yen Ney's mum was also there as well as Debbie's mum's boyfriend Colin who lives in Perth a lot of the time. Je looked so happy and proud of his beautiful wife. She is dainty, gracious and beautiful. We looked at their suitcase of wedding photos with awe. Many couples here have studio photos taken long before the wedding in many different outfits, hairstyles and jewelry . The photos are perfect and reminiscent of Hollywood glamour photos. We enjoyed a beautifully prepared fruit platter brought in by the Indonesian maid. We spoke with Madam Cha and Colin about our prospective voyage using a small map of the world. Colin is based in Perth and has a son who is a concert pianist. We mentioned Bill's cousin Helen who is a violist there and I am sure they know each other! I think his sons surname is Yung. What a small world! Madam Cha runs a construction company and has run it since her husband died when Debbie was a child. Her house is in a nice neighbourhood not far from the Sultan's palace! They have a view of trees and a park which is unusual in the city.
Bi Yuen and Debbie drove us to the bus station to catch a bus to Singapore. (We invited them to visit us at Sentosa Island before we leave. We will invite Mimi and Donald as well as anyone else who wants to come. ) It only cost 5 ringits (less than $2 for both of us). We held our breath at the check points but got through without any problems. We didn't even need the special letter written by the dock master at the marina! We have to get ourselves back on Valiam's crew list before Monday however!
Bill is now working out step by step how to install the voltage regulator. We pick up the autopilot today which will make a huge hole in our savings. Hopefully it will be worth it.
14th May 2008
As I sit here in the midst of this amazing city the rain drips steadily down making Valiam feel like a cosy haven. The temperature is mild and the fan is not needed. Singapore is like a modern well maintained slick machine. Everything works, is efficient and is clean. After being accustomed to messy dilapidated unorganized Southeast Asian towns and cities, Singapore is a refreshing change. It is good to be in such a convenient man made environment with absolutely everything we need before we head for the unknown and huge Indian Ocean.
We are making the most of this great city as it will be several months before we will be in another place that offers all the conveniences and things we enjoy. Yesterday we were ecstatic to find a huge supermarket like home at the Harbourfront shopping centre. For the first time since we left Townsville we have been able to buy nice cheese, yoghurt, smoked salmon, olives, fresh lettuce, rocket etc. Before we leave we will be able to stock up on cheese, olives and other delicacies. We can store quite a bit in our little fridge. Wine is terribly expensive - a $6 bottle in Oz is $22 here. The marina has given us a list of suppliers and there is a wine company that delivers wine tax free 'direct to your vessel'. I wonder what the minimum order is? There are a few mega yachts here.
Yesterday we acquired blisters from walking around for 10 hours! The free shuttle bus from the marina to the closest shopping mall is very nice and of course air-conditioned. The bus dropped us off outside the biggest nicest shopping centre we've ever been to. The first shop was a huge bookshop so we spent several hours in there! The Harbourfront shopping centre looks 'organic' from the outside - all curves which is reflected in the layout inside. It feels good to wander around but it is so easy to get lost. The bookshop is our point of reference! We had lunch in the Food court downstairs. There are 2 sections - one is 'Halal' approved i.e. food is prepared under Muslim rules and no pork. Both sections have Chinese and western food. The Muslim side has Indian as well so that's what we had. We watched the man deftly create naan bread spinning it on his hand. The food was delicious and fresh and only cost about S$8 for 3-4 different dishes. It was interesting watching all the people and the food all looked so good we want to go every day to try something new each time. For some reason it felt much nicer than being in a Food court at home.
After shopping we took the MRT (underground) to Clarke Quay. We enjoy catching the MRT and feel like experts now and even have a card each for several trips to tap on the electric gate. We walked around and finally relaxed at Harry's bar on the waterfront in Boat Quay. A nice hour or 2 was spent watching the colourful scenery. There are authentic Chinese barges going up and down the river as well as a special 'garbage' boat that scooped up rubbish from the water. Along the pedestrian underpasses of the bridges there are big signs saying 'no bicycle riding $1000 fine'. We saw several people dismount and walk their bikes. However just after we took a photo of the sign an older Chinese gentleman came careering around the corner on his bicycle with a big grin on his face. Pity we didn't get him in the photo with the sign! It must be his adrenalin rush for the day! I of course reminded Bill that he shouldn't think of doing a similar thing......
Last night as we walked back to Valiam we could see the marina bar lit up in its alternating pink, purple and blue lights which look great against the high glass walls. We must go and experience it soon! Many yachties, crew and staff ride push bikes around here so we will get ours out soon. It should be fun exploring Sentosa by bicycle. Much of Sentosa Island is a construction site but the cable cars, mono rail and other attractions are still open. The huge stone lion on the hillside has lights in its face at night that makes it look a bit devilish!
As I write this Bill is ordering our new coursemaster autopilot. He says its going to be complicated installing it so I will have to be on hand to hand over the spanner, cold drink or whatever is needed to keep the captain sane as he tries to make the electronic gadgetry work. We have shore power for electric tools, charging up computers and phones and the wireless internet is efficient and fast. This all helps make our preparations easier for the big trip ahead.
12th May 2008
position: 1.14.708N 103.50.471E
(may not be on Google earth as it is very new)
12 May 2008
It took 6 hours to get here from Sebana Cove, Malaysia. There were plenty of
ships most of which were stationary. However every so often one of these
giants would up anchor and start heading towards us. We tended to go behind
any moving ships but a couple of times we gunned the engine and went in
front. Go Valiam! It was interesting watching the Singapore skyscrapers as
we got closer. We had to go to Sister islands at a specific position given
by Customs and Immigration. We noticed a number of ships waiting in this
area also. We were the only private sailing yacht and after calling Customs
on channel 74 an army grey motor launch pulled up next to us. We were idling
drifting around as is the usual procedure as they handed out forms to fill
in reaching accross the 2 boats. They do this to make sure there's no
stowaways. Bill had to sign a declaration to say he had none. Linda got
writers cramp handwriting 4 crew lists. The captain signed and stamped
everything with our ships stamp. We handed them with our passports in a
plastic folder over to the man in uniform when he asked 'How long are you
staying?' We had heard that 2 weeks is normally granted and then extensions
must be applied for. Bill said we needed 4 weeks to do some work on the
boat. The Customs man nodded and went below to deal with the paperwork.
Minutes later he reappeared and said "I have given you one month".
This is more than we probably need but its good that we dont have to reapply
after 2 weeks. We still have port clearance to do which the marina will do
for us for a small fee.
One15 Marina is very new and quite posh. However the amenities visiting
boaters have to use is shared with marina staff and is around the side down
a corridor - a bit like a servicemans entrance. The showers are wonderfully
clean and dont have the grime and hairballs that Sebana had. (Nor the pool
attendants hanging about smoking outside the loos having loud conversations
with each other) It's nice not to feel like we are in a Malaysian village
but a civilised Western complex. It's a bit like Darling harbour in Sydney.
The best thing is we have a SEA BREEZE!!!!!! There is a big construction
site next door with cranes etc but the noise blends in with the general city
noise which is ok.
The pool looks beautiful - one of those gorgeous wet edge ones you see in
upmarket resorts. We were told by the marina to be discreet and not to use
it if possible on weekends. The private members of this club must have
complained about the yachties! There's a cool bar here with space age seats
and pink down lights. Can't wait to try it one day! We had dinner in the
restaurant tonight which was excellent and worked out slightly cheaper than
a meal at Mooloolaba. There's also a big airconditioned gym which we may
make use of too. There's a shuttle that goes every half hour into town to a
huge shopping mall so that should be very convenient for stocking up. We are
going to see the autopilot man tomorrow to make our final decision.
It looks like a good place to ride bicycles. There are a number of paths
around the place. Bill is very happy that despite all of Singapore's rules
one doesn't have to wear a helmet. It looks like Sentosa island has changed.
I'm not sure if it has all those tourist attractions as the construction
site is a massive area of high rise apartments which are selling for
millions of dollars. There must be more money in those as well as the marina
as a private club.
That's it for now. We'll proabably meet up with some of the relatives again
as well as a couple of Sunshine coast teachers who are working here related
to a good friend of ours.
Time for bed. It's been a long day.
Sebana Cove Johor
hot and sticky
29/04/2008, Mainland Malaysia
10th May 2008
Sebana Cove Marina
We are moving to One15 Marina in Singapore on Monday 12th May (Vashti's birthday!) This will involve dogdging the ships again going around the other side of Singapore island. We have to contact customs and immigration who will meet us at Sister islands to check who is on board and stamp our passports. One15 Marina is on Sentosa island and close to Singapore city. This means we will have easier access to boat parts, supplies and information before we head for the sea again.
After much discussion we have decided to aim for Cocos Keeling in the souther Indian ocean. We will have to get past Sumatra, Indonesia via Sunda Strait Java first. Valiam and her crew will hopefully fly along in the SE tradewinds. The prospect of motoring and dodging typhoons in the tropics does not appeal and is not the safest thing to do.
We are getting quotes for an electric autopilot and associated bit and pieces in Singapore. We expect to be in Singapore for a couple of weeks whilst we get ready.
Tuesday 5th May 2008
Sebana Cove Marina
We've just returned once again from a couple of days away being wonderfully entertained in Johor Bahru and Singapore by Yen Ney's (Bill's sister in law) family. Chinese Malaysian hospitality cannot be beaten! We have sampled the best and most unusual Chinese food and been shown around two most interesting cities by locals which is always better than on doing it on one's own.
On the weekend we invited various members of the family to visit us at the marina. On Saturday we had 8 guests and on Sunday we had 7! Luckily we were able to make use of the restaurant and pool as Valiam is too hot during the day to entertain especially for the 2 grandmothers who visited. We've had several grandparents manage to climb on board Valiam now! Of course photos of the babies (En, Joe etc) were viewed with lots of aahs and oohs (great for communication). Bill showed the blokes how we use the chart plotter and general navigation. One of Yen Ney's brothers is married to a young woman from Taiwan. They have a little girl and his wife is not allowed to work in Malaysia.
There are all sorts of rules about working and owning land in Malaysia. The Malay people in Malaysia have special privileges in buying and owning land/houses, businesses etc. They receive discounts and lower interest rates when buying property. They have priority in schools for their children. This is why many young Malaysian Chinese go overseas to study. (for those who can afford it) Although most of the Chinese and Indian people have lived here for many generations they don't receive the same treatment as Malays. There is very little intermarriage between the Malays and the Chinese or Indians due to religious differences. 90% of Peninsula Malaysians are Muslim. A Muslim man can have 3 wives. There are more Chinese and Indians marrying each other because their religions have similarities and are less restrictive. The Chinese culture is very strong and links are maintained with China. Je - one of Yen Ney's brothers is about to marry a Chinese girl he met while she was on holidays in Singapore. They will have a traditional Chinese Wedding in China. They are coming back to live in Singapore with Mimi and Donald initially until they are more established. Je's wife is allowed to work in Singapore but not Malaysia.
On Sunday Bi Yuen (one of Yen Ney's brothers) suggested we come back to Johor Bahru with him. This was a great idea so we quickly packed a couple of overnight bags and drove in airconditioned comfort through the countryside to JB. (about 1.5 hours) I was surprised to see that the land from Sebana to JB was mostly oil palm plantations. There were only a couple of small towns along the way. I was expecting it to be messy and crowded with towns and cities. Johor Bahru is a big city with a mixture of traditional housing, small town houses and high rise apartments. We visited Yen Ney's father's house where she grew up where we were greeted with a cup of Chinese tea. In the living room there is a significant Chinese altar with beautiful statuettes, candles fruit and flowers. Most Chinese altars seem to be red and give a beautiful glow to the living area. After another round of family photos we went to a shopping centre to meet Bi Yuen's eldest brother who just happened to run a jewelry store. Linda was very excited by this and fell in love with a ring of Muslim design - real rose gold with 'American diamonds' and artificial stone (yes you guessed it) in dark pink. This is a beautiful souvenier of Malaysia and doesn't take up any room on the boat!
Bi Yuen's wife Debbie was working until 11pm so Bi Yuen drove us around JB to show us the sights. One unusual sight was a small industrial type area with motorbike repairs etc on one side of the road but behind it were 'lady- boys' dressed to the hilt in evening dresses, high heels and lots of make up touting for suitors. One spotted Bill in the front seat and almost jumped on the bonnet with excitement! Bi Yuen accelerated quickly out of there! (It seems that once again the transvestites are attracted to Bill!)
Part of the tour of JB included a huge shopping centre (to buy our 'grandson clothes') and Yen Ney's mother's home she shares with her husband and mother in law. Her home is a 2 story town house with a court yard. The mother in law was out playing Mah Jong. It was time for dinner so we went to an outdoor food court to eat traditional Malaysian/ Chinese food. Yne Ney's mum and Je (another brother) met us there. Every dish was delicious and each one had its ingredients explained to us. One of the dishes was quite unusual. I saw Bi Yuen showing Bill something in a glass tank. Bill said "You should see the big frogs over there. That's what we're having with chillie!" I had a look at these creatures huddled together and thought they looked a bit like toads and said so! I wasn't sure whether I could eat them but when the dish arrived everyone was so enthusiastic about this delicacy we had to try it! Surprisingly it was delicious, tender and a bit like chicken!
After dinner we were also shown Bi Yuen's new home that doesn't appear to be very lived in. It's a 2 storey townhouse with a courtyard and huge kitchen. (Debbie likes to cook) Bi Yuen served us traditional Chinese tea with the proper little pot and tiny cups. Around 11pm we went to Debbie's mum's house where Debbie and Bi Yuen usually live. It's complicated because even though they are legally married they haven't had the traditional ceremony yet so in the eyes of the older generation they are not quite married yet. Debbie's mum was away in Kuala Lumpa managing the family construction business. Debbie's dad passed away when she was a child and her mum now has an Australian boyfriend who lives in Malaysia. Debbie's family home is very comfortable and quite large for a town house. She has 3 dogs about the size of Australian cattle dogs which weren't particularly friendly. The house overlooks a nice park with trees and has some gorgeous carved Chinese rosewood furniture inlaid with mother of pearl. There is also a housemaid in residence who does all the cleaning, washing, general maintenance of the garden, dogs etc. She is an Indonesian lady from Yogjakarta and is paid 550 ringgits a month. Even at the late hour of 11.30 she gave us drinking water for our room, towels etc. We were thinking one of these ladies would be quite nice to have when we go back! Bi Yuen and Debbie work quite hard and long hours (both are in marketing) and only have one day off a week.
On the Monday morning Debbie (her day off after working until midnight) served us a Chinese breakfast of steamed rice dumplings with minced pork wrapped in a kind of leaf. Food is such an important part of Chinese/Malaysian culture - this dish is for the month of May. Debbie's real name is Chinese (something like Wi-ee) but when she went to Glasgow to study they called her Debbie and now she uses the name quite often with work and visitors like us. Bi Yuen was flying to Bangkok for business and had a driver picking him up at 9.30am. He offered to take us to Mimi's house on the way in Singapore. Hi plane left at 12.30 and one needs this much time to get through the traffic jam between JB and Singapore because of immigration. It is so strange to be in a different country once over the bridge. Literally once the passports are stamped the mobile phone changes to another network (more expensive one) and we have to find an ATM to get Singapore dollars.
Mimi was waiting for us and we went up to her comfortable 13th floor apartment to drop off our bags before we all caught the MRT into Singapore city. We went to a shopping mall totally dedicated to computers and components. We purchased an aerial for our lap top to increase reception for wireless when we are in port. Bill was looking for marine shops and we found another high rise shopping mall totally dedicated to just radio and electrical components. We didn't have time to find the chandleries on this trip. Singapore really has everything one could possibly buy!
Singapore is well organized and a 'fine' city (there are fines for any small misdemeanour although bicycle helmets aren't compulsory) and there appears to be no obvious poverty. When we were in the city tourist area the other day we had never seen so many restaurants! There were so many different styles and flavours. The one which was the weirdest was called 'Clinic'. It had gold spray painted wheelchairs for chairs, operating lights above tables that looked like hospital beds. They served drinks in 'drips' attached to a wheeled frame. I was surprised the waiters weren't wearing white coats. Very odd. (I didn't see if the food looked like hospital food)
After our tour around the electronics malls we caught a double decker bus back which was great. We sat up the top right at the front. I was like an excited school girl whilst the bored teenage Singaporeans were slumped in their seats listening to ipods or had mobile phones glued to their ears.
Mimi and her husband Donald speak excellent English so we were able to communicate on a deeper level which was great. Mimi is a dedicated community worker for her church and is always looking after the family. Her mother in law is with them every weekend at least and she expects to be looking after her for many years to come. Mimi is a generous lively and giving person. She also looked after us very well with a delicious chicken curry for dinner that night. Donald kindly advised us on our computer problems.
It is the traditional culture for the sons and their wives to look after their parents. When older women are widowed they live with their sons and not on their own. They require attention, respect and all their needs both emotional and physical are met mostly by their daughter in laws. This can sometimes cause friction in families. The older generation have a lot of say in what is acceptable in the lives of the next generation. Children out of wedlock, homosexuality etc are issues which the older generation find impossible to accept under the same roof. We have heard tales where the mothers in law can be very difficult and rude even refusing to speak to a daughter-in-law for some perceived characteristic or behaviour they don't condone. (such as independence for example!)
We feel privileged to be part of the lives of even if for a short time of these wonderful people. We hope that some will visit our family in Australia one day.
We are now back at the marina deliberating our next move. The cyclones (such as in Burma) and the southwesterlies will affect where we can go. We are investigating an autopilot but feel nervous about spending such a large amount and getting it installed and working correctly. Lightning could also kill it in one foul blow! We hope to get to Langkawi soon. It's a week or so's sail/motor up the Malacca straits dodging more ships.
That's it for now
Valiam and her crew
Saturday 3rd May
Sebana Cove Marina Resort
(close to Singapore)
Position: 1.24.74N 104.09.765E
We arrived here last Tuesday 29th April after anchoring for the night just inside the Santi river outside the Navy base after 8 days at sea. The Santi river winds around for 5 miles until Sebana Cove Marina can be seen at the end. It is very comfortable and quiet even if hot during the day with no breeze. It's a slightly more delapidated version of the last marina but cheap enough with free showers, pool etc. This is always welcome and we get to have a rest from sailing for a little while. It wont be long before the sea is calling again however!
Singapore is an hour away by ferry but we have to go through immigration each end, change our money and the cheap Malaysian phone card is no longer cheap! (on roam in a foreign country!) We just spent a couple of days enjoying air conditioned comfort in a hotel room, eating in restaurants and catching the MRT to China Town, Little India and Orchard road. Singapore is noisy and full of shops and shopping malls.
The highlight of the trip was meeting up with Bill's sister in law Yen Ney's relations who have been so welcoming and interested in our trip. We caught a taxi to Mimi and Donald's place in Singapore which is on the 13th floor of an apartment building. It is a comfortable airy 3 bedroom place with balcony and bomb shelter! Because it was Bill's birthday Mimi surprised him with a chocolate birthday cake. later on we went in 2 cars with various relatives to the East coast to enjoy food cooked by hawkers on picnic tables. Traditional dishes included fish head curry and sate.
We have also been entertaining on board Valiam. Yen Ney's brother Bi Yuen and his wife Debbie drove out from Johor Bahru (at least an hour by car) on the first night we arrived in Sebana and took us to a local seafood restaurant in Sungai Renget (closest town). It is interesting for us to learn about how the locals live. Yen Ney's family speak 3 Chinese languages! Today we had 8 visitors to the marina including Mimi, Donald, Yen Ney's mum and aunty. It was a very hot day (34 degrees and high humidity) so we cooled off in the resort pool before having fried rice and noodles for lunch in the restaurant. They all loved seeing Valiam and were amazed at how comfortable we are!
Tonight we met a couple of New Zealand yachties who have been thorugh Indonesia and up to Thailand. It's great to gain information about places we haven't been to yet. This couple ended up buying an airconditioner for thier boat whilst in marinas in the tropics. This would be nice we must admit when the sweat drips off our brow during the day!
29 April 2008
Sebana Cove Marina
Position : 1.24.748N 104.09.765E
Valiam happily dashed along in a good southerly breeze yesterday at an average of 6 knots. Captain Bill and first mate Linda were quite weary after 8 days at sea with no more than a continuous sleep for 3 hours. Valiam was heeling a bit bouncing into the waves which were quite small but enough to make sleeping a muscle tightening and balance exercise to lie flat. One of our friends commented on our perceived fitness levels being 'confined' to a boat. Interestingly every movement on board whilst sailing is a 'balance and hanging on' type exercise. Our arms and stomach muscles get a work out and negotiating the 4 steps in and out of the interior of the boat 100s of times a day is like doing a slow yoga type 'step' class. No it's not like going for a long walk or a jog but there is definitely exercise involved. Bill each time he hoists and lowers sails etc is getting some exercise. It's not like we lie about on the boat sipping champagne. (we do that at anchor or in a marina!)
The ships became more of a regular feature of the seascape as the day wore on. By 2pm we were in the area where several shipping lanes from the north and south began to converge to create one huge shipping highway. This is where it got exciting. Valiam was already doing 6.5 knots so with the engine going at a good speed we were doing 7.5 - 8 knots. Ships do about 15 knots. The big shipping highway going in and out of Singapore has a north bound lane and a south bound lane with each ship around 10 minutes apart. We had to cross this highway. We waited for a gap and charged in behind a north going ship and then saw a south going vessel coming our way. It is always a good idea to go behind a ship as they cant stop or change direction very easily if a little boat like us gets in the way. Anyway we got accross and it was quite fun really. A bit like dashing accross a busy road dodging cars on a skateboard (not that i've ever done that!) The trip into the main Singapore channel took all afternoon. We stayed right over in the starboard side well away from the ships. They looked very sedate and orderly staying in their lanes. Just on sunset we witnessed an amazing sight. There were literally 100s of ships anchored as far as the eye could see in the hazy orange sunset. The ships were quite interesting to look at - all different sizes, shapes and colours. As we hugged the Malaysian coast we had to avoid floating cylinders presumably attached to crab pots or fish traps. It would have been anuisance getting one of those tangled in the propellor. For those of you who are not familiar with the geography of the area and are surprised we are still in Malaysia after being at sea for 8 days I will explain. Singapore is a small island connected by a 1000m causeway to Peninsula Malaysia. Singapore has its on currency and own government etc. We decided to stay in a marina on the Malaysian side because it was much cheaper and easier to get to from the sea.
Last night by 8pm we only just got to the mouth of the Santi river. As there were ominous thunder clouds and lightning we decided to anchor just inside the river near the Malaysian naval base. From our anchorage we could see the lights of Singapore and the planes flying in and out of the airport. It was phenomenal. A plane landed and took off less than a minute apart. Such a busy place for a small island!
After our celebratory champagne we were just about to go to bed when an inflatable turned up with 7 uniformed officers form the Malaysian Navy. They politely asked us to move further away from the 'Navy' area. It was very dark but with the aid of torches they showed us where to anchor 50 m further down. (They originally said 500m but we weren't arguing at that stage) I gamely tried my bahasa and said 'Terimah kasih! Salamat tidur!'(Thank you. Good night!) and they were absolutely delighted saying 'Sama sama.....etc"(You're welcome...)
After a good sleep we phoned the marina to let them know we were on our way. The river has mangroves either side and winds around for about 5 miles until we got to the marina. We eventually tied up on an end berth (hopefully we'll get a bit of breeze) next to a New Zealand boat. The marina is very quiet and feels like it's at the back of Caboolture or somewhere (Queenslanders will know what I mean) There appear to be many long term residents here or at least the boats are because quite a number look a bit sad covered in mould and decaying tarps. The pontoon needs some maintenance but is adequate enough. The NZ skipper next to us says he's been here since they started building the marina! Anyway it's nice and quiet. We checked out the facilities and the showers are quiet good. We get free towels from the very bored pool man in his little pagola. The resort is built from bricks and red tiles in a Florida - Asian style, It's quite open with very high ceilings and nice and cool. The restaurant is pleasant and the food average. There is a shuttle that goes to the nearest town Sungai Ringet 15 minutes away 4 times a week. One can also get a taxi there a round trip costing 50R (about $13) The ferry to Singpaore leaves 2-3 times a day and takes about an hour. We will proabably go tomorrow for a few days.
Bill's sister in law Yen Ney in Melbourne has been in constant contact with her family to make sure we are welcomed and shown the sights. We are meeting with Yen Ney's brother Bi Yuen and his wife Debbie this evening at 8.30 for dinner. They are driving 1.5 hours to see us and are very keen to do so.
It's now 4pm so we have time for a nap before we need to be at our sociable best!
enroute to Singapore
27/04/2008, South China Sea
27 April 2008
Position: 2.20.9N 106.10.6E
The sun has just set near a big rock jutting out of the ocean not unlike Ayers Rock. We've already had dinner - spaghetti bolognese which I made using a combination of fresh onion, garlic, herbs and a couple of tins. Cold lychees and frozen yoghurt to follow.
We've really had a magnificent day sailing most of the day. This afternoon we've been averaging 6 knots. There's very little current against us now. We hope to be at the entrance to Singapore this time tomorrow (7pm). We hope this steady breeze keeps up. It's been SE but now S-SW which means we are heeling to starboard. Sleeping maybe interesting as our bed is on the port side!
We've seen a couple of ships in the distance. I guess tomorrow will be interesting when all the shipping lanes converge towards the Malacca straits outside Singapore. The captain will need to be rested to negotiate around them tomoorow.
There have been a number of fishing boats quite close to us today. They look like Indonesian trawlers and are often brightly painted eg turquoise and orange. At night we see squid boats with their very bright lights shining from a long distance. The squid are attracted to the lights then hauled up in nets. They are probably soon cut up into calamari rings served to you at your local restaurant!
We're a bit tired but doing ok. We look forward to arriving without too many dramas. We received a nice email from Bill's sister in law Yen Ney who says her brother and cousin are keen to show us around. She also warned us not to eat too much Mi Goreng (fried noodles) because they have MSG. We did eat tinned chicken curry last night from Malaysia and had funny tummies and funny dreams as a consequence. They are not as strict about what goes into the tins as in Australia!
26th April 2008
en route to Singapore
Position: 2.55.97 N 108.15.68 E
9.30am : It is so good to be sailing again. Last night we motored the whole night as there was no wind and NO STORMS. We each got some decent sleep and feel less nervous about our lack of fuel. It is still quite a distance to Singapore. Bill said if the wind didn't blow we could be stuck out here for weeks!! So now there is a nice breeze blowing us along (6-8 knots SE). Unfortunately we still have 1.5 knots of current against us so instead of doing 6 knots we are doing 4.6 knots. It's not so bad when we are sailing but motoring using fuel with a current against us is worrying. We received grib files from saildocs giving us wind speed and direction which did predict SE winds for today and tomorrow. So far its correct. What we don't know about is the tropical storms that blow up in the evenings. They usually don't last more than an hour or so but we were unlucky the other night having to contend with one (or a series of storms) for 6 hours.
I used to be absolutely terrified of storms but now I am a lot calmer and know that Valiam can handle it. I have the best skipper in the world of course - always calm and sensible. Everyone we meet as well as old friends ask us about how we handle storms. I can now say 'ok' - you get through them as best you can having confidence in the boat and her abilities. We always have a few emergency plans in place if there is lightning about. We switch off the chartplotter and disconnect the sat phone from it's cable. (it has a portable aerial as well and I always have it fully charged) We now have c maps (electronic charts) on the lap top which also has our position.
We passed another Indonesian fishing boat earlier. It is strange to know we are close to Indonesia. Bill pulled the Malaysian flag down earlier in case a local vessel was sensitive about being patriotic and called the authorities on us! We are passing through Kep Bunguran (Bunguran islands) which are still in dispute over who owns them - Indonesia, Malaysia or Vietnam. We thought of getting fuel at Natuna Besar but to get permission to visit would be tricky. Our pilot book says " Rumours of piratical activity based on the islands, however it may effect commercial shipping, does not seem to be supported by reports from any yachts."
I guess this concern about pirates many people have about us sailing through these waters as well as storms can be alleviated by us by being reassuring and only dealing with actual facts and not rumours. Before we left Australia my father wrote to me saying 'my mother (who has passed away) would be having kittens about us going into wild seas and pirate infested waters'. Being the rebellious daughter I of course didn't listen and followed our 30 year old dream of sailing around the world. Mum was a worrier and my cousin tells me my aunt (her sister) worries about me. I think worry is fear of the unknown. Now that I've been in a couple of storms I am not worried about them. All we can do is reassure our loved ones that we are safe and careful . Well the seas can be wild (but so rarely) and Valiam and her crew have proven she can handle it. From what we've read and gleaned from reliable sources pirates are mainly targeting big ships not small fry like us. If we do encounter a suspicious looking vessel we plan to keep out of its way. Valiam is quite fast as well as difficult to board. We have heard of fishing boats signaling yachts for water, cigarettes, food, fuel etc. If we are in foreign waters we will not stop and play the 'dumb foreigner' act pretending we don't understand what they want. I plan to hide below and let Bill handle it. It would be best for the captain to indicate that he has at least 3 male crew members on board sleeping! (marine commanders perhaps) I could also dress up as a man with wig glasses, Bills shirts, different hat etc (which I have) as long as the other vessel wasn't too close. I could do this several times with several 'male costumes'. We have read many recent logs of several yachts who have traveled through these waters as well as the Red Sea in the last year and none have had to report any incidents of piracy. Fishing boats who want cigarettes etc are not pirates. But we wont be encouraging any contact in the open sea. Near land cruising through a country is a different matter - we are always friendly and wave and we usually get big grins and waves back (unless their hands are busy paddling or hauling in fishing nets)
The captain is sleeping and I plan to cook a big breakfast soon - eggs, ham (from a tin), tomatoes (2 last fresh ones). I have also got some cold yoghurt I made to have with tinned peaches. There's cold apple or tomato juice in the fridge and I will make some more fresh espresso coffee. As you can see we are eating very well despite being away from shops for a week. I think we have more than when the shop is across the road and we are too lazy to go shopping even the night before to make sure we have milk for brekky!
We had the line out yesterday but still no fish......
26/04/2008, South China Sea
Position : 2.47.739N 107.22.243E
I'm on the 'graveyard shift' - midnight - 3am. Just had to turn the motor on again as the wind had died. However, we have been sailing nicely since 6.30am. We have been averaging 130+nm a day on the log but 90nm+ in a straight line. We have 206nm to go so we should be there in around 2 days. We have had less current against us today (.5knot) The sea has been fairly flat and the wind blowing from E-SE 5-9 knots. (now 1 knot!) Very nice.....
The moon is peeping through the clouds shining on the water. Several ships are passing parallel to us on the port side in the 680 degree shipping lane.Earlier today I noticed mobile phone towers on one of the 'pirate islands' and lo and behold the phones worked! the Malaysian ones had coverage but wouldn't connect to Indosat or Telcomsat. The optus one was good though so a few sms meassages were sent back and forth to the kids and Yolanda. The phone camera worked too so i received a photo of Caylan and Joe and I sent one of us looking brown and windswept to all three. Amazing - I just love technology and satellites!! We even had a brief conversation with Vashti and Caylan. Caylan of course wanted to know about the pirates and whether I could see them!
We are kind of in the swing of the passage now and we are sleeping better. It will be nice to arrive though which we hope to do by daylight as we negotiate the ships going past Singapore.
Storm-South China Sea
South China Sea
position: 3.35.941 N 109.17.493
en route singapore
We are making sure we have a few hours sleep today incase there's a repeat of last night. (Hopefully not but so far we've had a storm every night). Bill will get the stay sail ready and put all the reefs in the main - supposed to be good for 30 knots.
Now of course there's no wind and we have been motoring since 11am. We don't have enough fuel to motor all the way so will have to sail at least 20% of the time.
Just had tuna, tomatoes and cucumber and crackers for lunch with icy cold apple juice.
Just to let you know that we are ok even if it is hot and there's no wind. Bill saw a couple of Indonesian fishing boats while I was having a nap.
I'm going to wash my hair as it now has dreadlocks - hopefully I wont have to cut it off when we get there.
We have the line out - you never know...
position ; 3.47.5 N 109.35.8 E
25 April 2008
en route singapore
We endured a storm from 11pm until 5am with very strong winds (25-40 knots), rain and building seas. Heath the autopilot ceased working at 3am. Bill handsteered for an hour or so. By this stage we had our heavy duty raincoats and harnesses on and were getting cold. Linda took the helm and Bill repaired the autopilot - a broken string. Out there on the stern like a crazy see saw he fixed it with a screw driver.(cruising is boat repairs in exotic locations!) We haven't been able to keep course due to the wind and seas being extremely uncomfortable with just the motor running. Sleep has been an impossibility but at least the boat is self steering. Good on ya Heath! Not feeling to good this morning Linda the chef has pulled out 3 packets/tins - brekky lunch dinner.
The prop is out of the water a lot of the time as the boat goes crazily from one side to the other. We will be putting some sail up soon to stabilise her and get back on course. The storm has abated - now 10 knots of wind but nasty big grey seas. We are currently heading for Vietnam so we better change course when we can to get to Singapore!
Later : We're getting closer to Mainland Malaysia. We have now clocked up 5240 nm since Mooloolaba. 390 to go on this leg. I've started another book (apart from writing this one!!)
Borneo to Singapore South China Sea
24 April 2008
South China Sea
3.555.76N 111.02.71 E
We had at least 1.5 knots of current against us yesterday which made our progress forward in the right direction 94 miles in the last 24 hours. This is even sailing all night at 6 knots. At 5am this morning we were hit with a storm. Bill had furled the jib but had the full main up. Carreering along in wind 25 knots gusting 33 Heath gave up so Bill put him on standby and hand steered in the wind and rain. Linda likes to be conservative in these situations and said something about reducing sail earlier.....Captain didn't like that. It's difficult to climb up the back in those conditions to attend to Heath as well as steer (which Linda did for a few moments). We are again thinking about a big autopilot in Singapore.
What of course made coping with the storm in the dark interesting was 2 ships nearby and having to change course to avoid a chance of a collision.
It is now 8.30 am and Valiam is cruising well at over 7 knots (only losing .5 knot in current this morning) It's grey and overcast outside.
We received an email from Caylan this morning saying she has the big responsibility of placing the ANZAC wreath at the memorial at school today. "To remember the soldiers who died in the war."
We had forgotten its Anzac day tomorrow. I was also remembering the 2000 Australian soldiers who died near Sandakan Borneo where we saw the orangutangs. They were made to build a road by the Japanese in the tropical heat without enough food or water so consequently they died. A commemorative walk is going to be made similar to the Kokoda trail in PNG. Mr Downer and other politicians are going to climb Mt Kinabalu and do this walk in August. I wonder how they'll go - its quite arduous! (as Bill discovered)
We had an unusual breakfast this morning. I had been nibbling at the left over Chilli con carne and rice during the night so Bill finished it off this morning. I then made 2 minute noodles 'mi goreng' with spicy sachets and poached egg. It was good! We have some preprepared hamburger beef patties in the fridge to be eaten. The only bread we have is some Indian bread half frozen so guess what we'll have for lunch! (with cucumber tomato and some relish/mustard if I can find any.
It will be good to keep this speed up (without storms) so we can get to Singapore quicker. I say Singapore but really mean Sebana Cove, Malaysia on the other side of the river. It means I don't have to make a Singapore flag and keep the Malaysian one up.
Position 3.38.84 N 110.15.937 E
We've had a wonderful sailing day. This morning we sped along at 7 knots which now has eased off and we've been averaging 5 knots this afternoon. Now we have a little current with us. The sky is clear now and no storm clouds at the moment but this could change. Borneo has the highest number of thunderstorms in the world so no wonder we get one now and then.
It's nice to not have had the engine on all day. We've been playing music and reading books. Some odd looking fishing boats have gone past - big aft cabins and high turned up bows. Another huge container ship has just gone by but there have only been a few today. They seem to like coming out at night to stop us sleeping!! We've both had naps today so hopefully we'll be right for the night.
Pulau Tiga leaving Borneo
20th April 2008
Pulau Tiga (Three islands)
Position: 5.43.145 N 115.38.857 E
Pulau Tiga is where the first episode of 'Survivor' was filmed. As we approached our anchorage just before sunset we saw some 'survivors' wandering along the beach towards two 'Adventure Resorts' complete with satellite TV, dive boats and jetties. One wonders if the camera didn't film these civilized structures or whether some money is being made of the place due to its 'Survivor' history. We had some notes passed on to us from fellow yachties that said that the hot volcano mud pools are evil smelling and rank and spoiled by tourists. (I think I recall a muddy interaction on that particular show. Perhaps the survivors wrestled a little too long in the mud....)
It is nice to be at an anchorage after being in the marina for 2 weeks. We had no breeze where we were berthed which made it very sauna like during the day. We didn't hurry this morning and after having our last hot shower and paying our dues we let go the mooring lines just before 12 noon.
Soon we were enjoying the scenery of islands in the distance, a nice gentle breeze, a cold beer and barbequed chicken sate and chicken wings purchased at the market last night. Last night I had one last medicinal massage at the little salon at the shopping centre. Being a Saturday night (yes they work 7 days a week until 9pm) there were quite a lot of customers. Whilst I was in my curtained little area with my masseur I could hear lots of loud conversation by men and innumerable burps and laughing. I said to Meriam my masseuse that that sort of behaviour would not be acceptable in Australia in a salon. She just giggled and said 'Many wind'. It was hard to relax with these men within feet of me but my massage was quite good anyway. When I came out there were two jolly plump Malaysian men lying in the reclining chairs having pedicures by two male attendants. I paid my 40 ringits (about A$13) and thought to myself that these people have to make a living and that it is quite equitable to have males in a salon. Their code of behaviour is different that's all.
Not long after we left KK I began reassembling the sat phone and lap top for emails. The lap top we use for emails was used in the marina for wireless internet. During that time the virus protector found a worm which Bill managed to quarantine. When we tried to start up the GMN xgate program it wouldn't work. We tried everything - reinstalling the program etc. We were worried it was the worm. Next thing we notice that the xgate window looks entirely different. I remember reading there was an updated version. (We hadn't downloaded it because it would take 3 hours in the internet café when we tried in the Philippines) Anyway after trying everything to no avail I decided to SMS Luis our GMN man in the USA by sat phone with a cryptic message about our problem. Within minutes (remember its Sunday morning over there) he sent an SMS message back with the solution. Yay ! It works now. I didn't know our computer decided to download the new version by itself. It even changed the icons on the desktop! How dare it/he do that without our permission! These computers have a mind of their own.
As we sailed closer towards Pula Tiga we could see several thunderstorms not far away accompanied by thunder and lightning. This seems to happen every afternoon by 4pm in this part of the world. We are currently in the transition period before the south west monsoon. Just after we enjoyed a fabulous sunset over the sea and were half way through our dinner in the cockpit, one of the storms decided to wash our decks and make us eat inside.
It's gone now and it's bed time. We have more or less decided to keep going till we get to Singapore without stopping if we can. We expect it will take a week or so. We have information on a couple of marinas and anchorages including one in Sebana Cove that looks ok. Sebana cove is actually still in Malaysia across the river from Singapore. Another one is in Sentosa cove and is cheaper than Raffles. (Raffles is further from town and harder to get to) Some yachts anchor outside Changi yacht club so we'll see how we go once we get closer.
That's it for now. Keep those emails coming in but do remember to delete my text before you reply! It's good to be at sea again (hope those storms don't come too often or just stay away preferably)
Linda and Captain
PS Bill tidied up Priscilla so she is ready to go again
Kota Kinabalu Borneo
Saturday 19th April 2008
We are leaving this comfortable 5 star Marina resort after 2 weeks to hit the ocean again. My next job after this is looking up marinas, weather websites etc for our journey to Singapore. It is 800 miles and will take a while. We plan to do a few day trips down the coast anchoring off a couple of islands and mainland inlets before crossing the strait to Singapore. the Malacca Strait is full of ships (every minute) and local fishing boats so we will have to have our wits about us.
Last night we caught up with David from Celtic Caper whom we met in the Philippines. We sat on the riverfront having a few drinks listening to his stories until nearly midnight. He is amazing. This is his third trip around the world after leaving the UK 20 years ago. He had some amazing stories to tell which would scare some of you so I wont repeat them! Both times he has gone around Africa. Maybe we should go that way.....the Red Sea will be difficult... Lets just see how we progress. It was good to talk with David and I have nothing but admiration for him. He has been singlehanded (but meets various ladies in each port). He says at sea he only sleeps for 20 minutes at a time. He is still enjoying the life and looks fit for his age. He is in his 70s but when I first met him I thought he was late 50s. It is certainly inspiring to meet someone like that with so much experience for us to learn from.
Bill is getting fuel. We'll be doing a big shop this afternoon ready to head off in the morning. Our first stop is Tiga island only 25 miles away.
FOOD, CULTURE AND OTHER BITS AND PIECES
One becomes quite open minded when traveling observing the culinary habits of others but some things seem more unusual than usual! When we were trekking through the jungle with our guide Leo he showed us some small creatures including a special type of millipede. He related an experience he had with some Thai tourists. Leo is very good in giving detailed descriptions of the creatures he finds and shows us handling them gently and respectfully and occasionally passing them around. He was showing a group of Thai tourists a millipede one day when "one man kept close to me and he didn't speak English when I was showing the millipede to everyone. He put his hands out like this (cups his hands) and I thought he wanted to hold it but he put it in his mouth and ate it! I could hear the crunch. He said it was to make him strong. I couldn't believe it! I didn't know what to do..."
A Chinese delicacy only found high in particular caves in northern Borneo is a birds nest made from the saliva of a swallow. Gathering of these has been restricted but they are worth huge amounts of money. The gatherers have to climb long bamboo ladders to reach them. I saw a shop in KK that specialized in boxed birds nests. (the birds nests are broken down into smaller nest like shapes) They were displayed like chocolates in red, gold and clear cellophane boxes.
I saw a Chinese Malaysian woman in restaurant pour a glass of water over her food plate to wash her hands. This seemed peculiar as she was right next to the door that said 'Washroom'.
One gets used to seeing live animals for sale for food. Chickens have a leg tied to something with a piece of string. Fish, crayfish, eels etc are in water . I've seen a squealing pig with its legs tied to a pole hanging upside down carried by two men.
Borneo is much cleaner and tidier than the Philippines generally. We got used to seeing rubbish littering the streets and waterways whilst we were there. However once again our jungle guide Leo was aghast when he took a group of Hungarians drinking beer into the jungle. When they were finished they just threw the cans into the creek they were trekking through. It's a National Park. He and fellow staff had to pick them up after them.
Smoking is an acceptable habit everywhere. In restaurants people light up all the time. In fact sometimes the waiter will bring the customer cigarettes or cigars. People at work commonly smoke eg the man in charge of the lockers and keys at the Orangutang Centre had a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. It is unusual to see women smoke - it is mostly men who smoke.
There is a large percentage of Muslims here. They co-exist happily with the Chinese who have been here for many generations as well as the Malays. There is generally at least 3 written languages in public places - Malay (almost like bahasa Indonesia), Chinese, Arabic as well as English. There are several mosques which are large and ornate with golden 'onions' as Bill calls them. The Muslim ladies look very elegant with beautiful headscarves of different colours with embroidery and diamantes. Their long dresses with long sleeves are often made from silky material in many beautiful colours often in floral patterns. The teenage Muslim girls often wear jeans with either a short or long sleeved t shirt and pretty headscarf. The headscarves are nearly always tightly fastened under the chin often with a pretty brooch. Some of the teenagers walk around hand in hand with their boyfriends. A couple of girls working in Macdonalds had their scarves tucked into the back of their collars. I have seen many children dressed in a Muslim school uniform. The girls have to wear a long white head scarf fastened under their chin, a long blouse and another long skirt underneath. They look a bit like little nuns! I wonder how the children manage to do normal play activities that our children engage in eg. Climbing monkey bars, cartwheels, playing in the sandpit, gymnastics, swimming etc... They probably cant unless they are in a girl only area and can wear non restrictive clothing.
The locals obviously don't feel the heat like we do. Apart from the men wearing long trousers and long sleeve shirts and the Muslim women in their flowing gowns and headscarves we also observed a group of school kids walking in the midday heat (33 degrees) in long sleeved acrylic tracksuits and long pants. A couple of boys we wearing beanies!
BODY TREATMENTS -
We have both sampled traditional massages which have been really good.
In some of the salons we have seen on the 'Menu' the following treatments:
- skin whitening
- virginity restoration
- ear candleling ( ear wax dripped into the ear cavity to reduce migraines and get rid of wax etc)
- body slimming (massage with traditional potions)
I have seen several men working in the salons in fact I had a facial by a young man and he was quite good. Many male customers also have facials often having a male staff member do it.
Bill and I both had a massage yesterday in a small salon in a shopping centre for 40 Ringits each (approx $13) At one stage I had 2 girls working on me!
Jungle Trekking Sungai Kinabtangen
Jungle trekking - Kinabantangan river Borneo 13 - 15 April 2008
Bill's legs had recovered sufficiently from climbing Mt Kinabalu by Sunday 13th April to be able to embark on our next adventure. We decided to fly to Sandakan from Kota Kinabalu (KK) as it was so cheap and more comfortable than sitting in a bus for 6 hours.
The airfares were only around $50 each way and the flight only took 45 minutes. We were only 2 of 4 people on the Malaysia airlines Fokker friendship plane. The 3 hostesses weren't very busy! (We received a carton of Milo milk as refreshment). The flight went over KK and we could see the marina very clearly with Valiam safely ensconced. Unfortunately it was cloudy as we went past Mt Kinabalu so we didn't get a view. Closer to the other side of Borneo near where we were going we could see a multitude of palm oil plantations and wide muddy rivers meandering through them an small areas of jungle. Imagining elephants and monkeys swinging through the trees Linda was getting quite excited! We took a taxi from Sandakan airport and asked for 'Uncle Tan's'. Uncle Tan is a family owned business that has been conducting wildlife safaris from their jungle camp next to the lower Kinabantangan for years. The taxi took us for a 20 minute journey to Uncle Tan's office in Gum Gum. It's a basic concrete 2 storey place joined to half a dozen Chinese shops selling lino, food and other bits and pieces. Sitting on plastic chairs next to the dirt car park were an assortment of young European backpackers eating rice and curry from plastic dishes. We were warmly greeted by an Uncle Tan employee and encouraged to fill a plate of food. The food was delicious local meat and veges in curry sauces and rice. Once our bellies were full we paid and signed the forms. The whole camp for 3 days and 2 nights is 320R each (approx $100). This includes everything - basic camp accommodation, boat trips, guides, meals. It is an hour journey by car/minivan to transport 12 of us to the river. (Bill and I were the oldest in the group!)
Once we got to the river we loaded our gear into 2 long boats with outboards. This trip up the river is at least another hour to the camp. Not long after getting into the boats we saw proboscis monkeys swinging in the trees. It's amazing how they jump with their hind legs to the next branch. Proboscis monkeys are called that because they have a long nose. They are quite human like in appearance and were originally called Urang Belanden by the Malay people ('Dutchman or European). They also have big pot bellies. This is because they have a stomach like a cow's with different compartments and digestive juices to make the most of their vegetarian diet to give them energy. We saw proboscis monkeys several times from the boat safaris but not as close as this first time.
Once we arrived at the jetty in the mud near Uncle Tan's camp we took our shoes off and donned rubber boots. Mud was to be a major component of our jungle experience as we were to find out. In fact one of the guests already there said to us as we arrived "Welcome to Mud World!" The track to the camp seemed quite a way and my boots kept getting stuck in calf deep mud and took lots of effort to step out of each quagmire and keep going. The noises the boots made in the smelly sticky mud would have made schoolboys laugh hilariously! (As well as my husband). Once we got to the timber boardwalk surrounding the huts our guide said 'Welcome to the Hilton!' The huts were simple wooden affairs with a mattress on the floor and a mosquito net. We were given one sheet each and made do with clothes folded up for pillows. We shared our hut with an English couple Bill met climbing Mt Kinabalu. After settling in we were given a 'Briefing' by a young man Leo who is obviously passionate about wildlife followed by a delicious meal once again of local cooking in the dining hut. The dining hut had simple wooden tables and bench stools covered in lino. These stools were a bit uncomfortable for poor Nanny Linda (sore back still) so the floor was the next most comfortable option. We met some very nice people mainly from Europe - Sweden, UK, Holland, Ireland, Hungary... There was also a French woman who spoke English with an Irish accent! (She had lived in Ireland for many years) She is currently teaching in Sri Lanka and has also lived in Namibia. The Swedish fellow was traveling around Asia mainly by land and boat. He asked us many questions about sailing around in a yacht and said it was his dream.
During our stay we went on night safari by boat, day safari (early morning 6.30am, late afternoon) and day trekking. The afternoons after lunch were for resting. We used lots of mosquito repellant as were staying in the wetlands. Wild pigs roamed the camp as well as macaque monkeys. The huts and kitchen were all covered in chicken wire to keep the monkeys out. They had been known to smash cameras for fun as well as tip out food, drinks and other items. Swimming is no longer allowed in the river because of crocodiles. In fact on one night safari we saw a wild pig lying on the river bank with it's leg torn off. This doesn't stop the locals bathing in the river. They do this next to their boats. Leo said locals believe if you remember everything you've eaten and what you are to eat for the day you are safe! I didn't want to try this even though it was so hot!
By the end of the camp our clothes were muddy and sweaty. The toilets were basic 'squat drops' which you had to flush with a mandi (plastic saucepan and bucket of water). The showers were the same - muddy water over ones head with a mandi.
The wildlife was wonderful and our guides passionate about all the creatures. The fellow in charge Lan reminded me a little of Steve Irwin. He nonchalantly picked up a tarantula as big as his hand to show the Irish girls (who nearly fainted). Unfortunately the pygmy elephants had visited the camp a while ago but were now 6hours by boat away so we couldn't see them. We did see some of their poo though! The first night safari was lovely - we saw rainbow coloured kingfishers, hornbills and huge families of macaque monkeys having picnics on the river bank. We saw the red eyes of the crocodiles. They do eat monkeys if they aren't quick enough. In fact a mother proboscis monkey got eaten so the locals rescued her baby and took him to a wildlife sanctuary. We saw 2 crocodiles. Each time was early in the morning sunning themselves. We got quite close in the boat and could see it's light coloured skin with dark brown flecks. (Lighter than Aussie crocs.) It was great to see them in the wild. From a distance the crocodile looks like a log sitting there quiet and still. After a little while it would slither down the muddy bank into the water. No swimming for me!
The day before we arrived a group saw a large male orangutang on their jungle trek. We didn't but we saw many other fascinating creatures - smallest frog in the world, a frog that looks like a piece of bark and a flying lizard. This trek was very exciting as we had to wade through almost thigh high water in a swamp.(depending on how long your legs are!)
On our last night the staff had caught many big prawns and fish in the river. This made a superb meal. Although the camp was a bit uncomfortable as camping often is we were very well fed. One event that almost spoiled my visit was a nasty fall outside the toilet block. After a mandi shower I stepped out on to the board walk but made a misjudgment and ended up falling into the dark muddy void banging my head in the process. I'm not sure how long I lay there for but I eventually got up and noticed a nasty selling on my head. Grabbing a wet washer I pressed it to my head and stumbled back to our hut. Bill said it looked not too bad but it hurt like hell! My right hand and knees were pretty sore too. Dosing myself with panadol I didn't sleep much that night. The next morning the lump had gone down. One can't be too careful in the jungle! We had one last ride up the river by boat the morning we left. The river is wide, muddy but beautiful. The trees tend to be oriental in looks. There really isn't much in the way of thick huge areas of jungle. Only a strip next to the river is left now for the animals. Much of the forest has been cleared here for palm oil plantations. We saw our second crocodile on this last morning who seemed to grin at us as he slid back into the water.
When we got back to Uncle Tan's office (half hour walk in mud, hour by boat, hour by car again) we were again given a delicious lunch. We had the afternoon and evening to spare so we visited the Orangutang Rehabilitation centre near Sandakan. What a treat! We saw several orangutangs of different ages and sexes come quietly swinging down to the feeding platform. The crowd of people were respectfully quiet. The orangutangs here have a wonderful forest of big trees to live in and are gradually trained to survive in the wild. They have been rescued for various reasons mainly because they have been orphaned. Each orangutang looks different with distinguishing features. They were beautiful to watch and I could see the advanced social skills they have compared to other animals. Genetically they are closely related to humans. I took many photos and have my own little stuffed one hanging in the boat with Velcro hands. It will be the only pet I will be allowed to have!
We had a bit more time to kill in Sandakan so we went with a pushy taxi driver to Hotel Sabah where our Irish friends had recommended the recreation club. Unfortunately by the time we got there (the taxi driver had to get petrol after trying 2 petrol stations) it was late in the afternoon and it was raining. It was pointless using the pool etc so we sat in the lounge and had cocktails. (We did manage to reserve one clean outfit each that wasn't covered in mud) We got bored with the hotel and jumped in another taxi driven by a Chinese man. We asked him to show us Sandakan town and the harbour. It's an interesting place largely run by the Chinese that we could see. Our driver said (as he drove past some depressing filthy apartment blocks) that illegal Muslim immigrants from the Philippines were a problem. They can't get work so they steal he said.
We ended up at Kings Seafood restaurant on the waterfront. It's a huge Chinese establishment with 100s of tables swathed in lolly pink table cloths accompanied by pink upholstered chairs and pink serviettes. (Caylan would love it!) In a corner there was a huge pink tulle arch entwined with fake flowers for weddings perhaps.The staff had pink writing on their uniforms. In each corner was a statue of Free Willy (the whale). The view across the harbour was very nice and as the sun went down we could see the Buddhist temple on the hill lit up. There was no menu so a man took us around the side to tanks of live lobsters, fish, crabs, prawns etc and asked us which ones we wanted! After finding out the prices we settled on large garlic prawns, steamed whole white fish, stir fried crab and some veges. With two large beers, bottomless tea the whole lot came to less than the equivalent of $30. What a treat! Feeling very full after this trip of being very well fed we boarded the plane for KK. We left Sandakan airport at 9.15 pm and we were back on the boat in KK by 10.30pm. As soon as we got out of the plane in KK our rucksack was right there on the baggage belt and a taxi outside whisked us back to our resort marina. Climbing up the marble stairs once more into the spacious lobby I couldn't help contrasting it once again with the muddy path through the jungle to Uncle Tan's huts. We feel very fortunate to have these wonderful life experiences. Traveling opens ones mind to other worlds, creatures and people. I feel like I am learning so much every day. Maybe that's another reason we feel constantly tired - it's not the heat - it's using our brains in different ways!
Mt Kinabalu and Sutera Harbour Marina
12 th April 2008
Sutera Harbour Marina
Life in KK is pretty good. It's very hot so we have been spending the middle part of the day at the pool.(30degrees during day 24degrees at night)
We've also been to the local airconditioned shopping centre a few times. The shop keepers and customers are a mixture of Muslims, Chinese and Malays. There are very few Westerners. Even when we try to scrub up we still look untidy compared to the Asians for some reason. The Muslim ladies look gorgeous with long flowing colourful gowns with exotic sequined and embroidered headscarves.
Bill just bought a tiny outboard 50cc - 9kg - so much easier to manage than the big 30kg suzuki! She's called Lik lik (Pidgin for small) and she only needs a lick of fuel! The dinghy has a leak so the captain has a bit of maintenance to do. 'Cruising is boat repairs in exotic locations'
Bill had his haircut last night and enjoyed all the extras that came with it - shampoo, scalp massage, ear wash, blow dry etc!!!
Everyone asks about our children and how old we are. The girls are most interested in our unmarried son and want to see pictures of him! They all want to meet him! Liam would certainly have a good holiday in this part of the world...
We'll have to get ready for our jungle expedition. Bill is going to carry our gear as my back is still not the best. I am being careful but I am wondering if it will ever heal...
Bill said the climb up and down Kinabalu was quite strenuous but he did extremely well getting up there first. He said the last 1.5 km was very hard on the knees and legs. He had difficulty walking for the rest of the day! Well done Bill!
10th April 2008
Sutera Harbour Marina
Bill is climbing Mt Kinabalu as I type this. It is overcast this morning so perhaps he didn't get a sunsrise view form the summit. He is taking lots of photos so these will be included soon. Mt Kinabalu is 4101m high and the altitiude affects breathing etc at that height. It is 12 degrees at the overnight hut and 0 degrees at the summit. We stayed in Hills lodge within the park the night before and it is very cool - a nice change from the tropical heat we are used to.
We leave for Sungai Kinabantangan on the weekend for Uncle Tan's jungle river safari. Hopefully there will be photos of the wildlife on the website next week. (probiscus monkey, orangutang, pygmy elephant, rare birds etc)
We had a pleasant and efficient as well as NO FEE time with the Ports authority and Immigration here in Kota Kinabalu. All it cost was the taxi fare.
Each time we go in and out from here a uniformed white gloved porter opens the door to the taxi for us. We aren't always dressed as fashionably as the other guests but the attention is kind of nice. Such a contrast to manoevering ourselves out of the tricycle on a dirt road outside the yacht club in Puerto Princesa. Instead of balancing on a precarious floating bamboo pontoon in the dark and rowing to Valiam we walk down marble stairs past a big gold bird sculpture, a nice security man and down the pontoon to our 'yacht'. The yachts in the harbour provide a scenic view for the international guests in the adjacent hotels. Therefore we cant hang out washing or have messy tools or paint tins about the place. Instead the laundry is done for us for minimal cost. We receive a 50% discount at the restaurant (for food not drinks)overlooking the harbour. Today Linda will try out the swimming pools. Will it be the Olympic pool, the waterslide (perhaps not), the lagoon or the spa?
7th April 2008
Sutera Harbour Marina and Resort
We are now enjoying 5 star luxury of the resorts facitliies - hot showers, free internet, hald price food in restaurant, hot showers with free towels and soap,use of 5 swimming pools, gym etc. I don't see us using the golf course but we are about to embark on a few adventures around Borneo. Bill is going to climb Mt Kinabalu. Linda will do some sketching. We are then going to see some wildlife on the Kinabantangan river with Uncle Tans safari (see www.uncletan.com)
Tip of Borneo to Kota Kinabalu
Enroute to Kota Kinabalu
Sunday 6th April
We are in a routine now. As soon as it's light we get up and start pulling up the anchor at 6am. The morning departures are always beautiful. It's nice waking up at sea moving along looking at the scenery drinking coffee and having brekky. We are usually motoring for the first hour or two until enough wind comes up and we've finished brekky! I will be phoning Sutera Harbour Marina in a while to make sure there is a berth for us. Hopefully we'll get there before the next thunderstorm.
We can see Mt Kinabalu very clearly. It looks magnificent and has several peaks. We are not sure which is the highest.(4101m). I am encouraging Bill to climb it as he really does want to. Hopefully another yachtie might keep him company unless one of you decide to ly out on the spur of the moment!!
Priscilla (our spinnaker) threw a hissy fit yesterday! she got herself all tangled around the forestay with her sheets madly whipping the sea. We were about to get the knife out or find somewhere to anchor so I could winch Bill up the mast when the wind died down a little. Looking at the problem I suggested rolling her into a sausage and somehow twisting her down. Bill and I wrestled with her and Bill got her around the forestay a few times gave her a couple of tugs and she hesitantly came down. Not one rude word was said! She is in a bit of a mess and we stuffed her in the bag which seems twice the size almost hanging over our bed. She is sleeping on Bill's side. Bill said he's not really interested because Priscilla is really a boy (who thinks she's a girl). It seems there is a thunderstorm every afternoon or evening in this part of the world. Yesterday around 4pm we were still a few miles from our anchorage when a huge black cloud came over accompanied by very loud thunder and lightening. Another yacht 'Wild Card' was also gunning the engine and going for it. Valiam being a little longer and more powerful surged ahead. It was a scary time running away from the storm. One lot lightening hit the water directly behind us....I disconnected the sat phone and computer and Bill memorised our course in case the chart plotter blew. Adrenalin plus! We made it safely into Usukan bay (position 6.22.2N 116.20.5E) and the storm disappeared. We watched another impressive sunset as well as the local tinnies going by. One lot were very cheeky making drinking actions with grins and thumbs up pointing to Bill. They did it again coming back slowing down by our boat. Bill did a wonderful 'stupid foreigner' act pretending he didn't understand. They must know that yachts coming from the Philippines have lots of cheap booze on board. Allah wouldn't like it.
En route Tip of Borneo to Kota Kinabalu
5th April 2008
After a sleepless night at anchor in Balabac town (position: 7.59.990N 117.03.878E) (storm gusting to 38 knots) we left on the 4th April around 6am for Borneo. It was quite windy so we sailed across Balabac Strait at a good speed of 8.5 knots with full sail up. We didn't see any pirates - only a few fishing boats. We slowed down after lunch to about 5-6 knots and it wasn't too long before we could see Borneo. How exciting! Another country in the same day! As we were tired we decided to anchor at the tip of Borneo, Malaysia.
(Position 7.01.916N 116.44.437E) Tg Slimpang Mengayau. This is a beautiful wide crescent shaped bay with white sand and a rocky headland. It looks very neat with a road behind the trees with one or two normal cars driving along. On the shore is a small square pink building with a turquoise roof and a golden dome. It must be a little mosque. There are very few buildings around. No shacks on stilts or traditional bangkas that were used to seeing in the Philippines. In fact the fishing boats seem to all be very modern with outboards. One fisherman came past waving and shouting a cheery 'Hello! How are you?" The sunset last night was superb. We must have so many photos of sunsets!
We left early this morning at 6am again. The sea is calm and we have been motoring. It is now 9.15 am and Bill has put the sails up. The scenery along the coast of Borneo so far is lush and unspoilt. We can see Mt Kinabalu in the distance. It is quite a high mountain and is climbed by many people. Bill is thinking about it. Linda would rather soak in the hot springs nearby. One thing Linda really wants to do is see the animals in the jungle along Sungai (river) Kinabatangan. Proboscis monkeys, orangutangs and sometimes pygmy elephants and Sumatran rhino can be seen there. It would involve a trip across to Sandakan on the other side of Borneo and a trip up the river in a local boat with a guide. We hope to organize this in Kota Kinabalu. We are probably going to stay in the marina resort in Sutera harbour in KK. This should be a nice rest from anchoring an sailing. The captain says "It's Priscilla time!" - the winds are light enough for the spinnaker. This will be a lovely way to cruise
REFLECTION - FAREWELL PHILIPPINES!
After spending a month in this huge country skipping from anchorage to anchorage we feel we have got to know the country and it's people a little. It is a beautiful country with many scenic islands - a fantastic cruising ground for yachts. The water between the islands is somewhat protected so when it is windy sailing on relatively flat water can be exhilarating. We did motor a lot as well. Anyone thinking of going to the Philippines either on a yacht or for a holiday will be pleasantly surprised. There are few tourists in most places. It means that often we are a curiosity but it is refreshing not to be besieged by hawkers (as in Bali, Phuket etc) The Philippinos are very friendly and helpful (apart from the immigration officials in Cebu). They are a cheery bunch and many speak English. We were surprised when we wandered around the last town in the Philippines - Balabak how well English is spoken. We were often welcomed "Welcome to Balabac. We hope you like it here." It seemed everywhere we went the people were keen for us to enjoy their country and wanted to make sure we liked their town. We were often mistaken as Americans which we hastily put straight. Most knew of Australia due to a female relative marrying someone there! Others weren't sure and got it confused with Austria in Europe.
Each place we visited was of course unique. The towns were full of TRICYCLES (motorbike with sidecar and roof). It was very cheap for us to get around in these although not so good for Linda's back! They are tiny and designed for smaller people than us. Once we shared one with a local lady and Bill sat side saddle behind the driver. Philippinos are quite comfortable in that position but Bill had to bend his neck at an awkward angle to fit! Luck it was a short journey otherwise he may have ended usp with a permanent impairment! Twice Bill got fuel in 20litre containers using a tricycle. The drivers are always interested in our boat and are amazed we sailed all the way to their country. The tricycles all have names painted across the front. In Maasin they had religious names eg Saint Theresa, Jesus is love etc. In Puerto Princesa I recorded the following names :
James and Sonny
Triple J (I saw this a few times!)
5 Brothers 1 sister
CATS AND DOGS
As with most Asian countries mangy dogs and cats with crooked or stunted tails roam around. We noticed in Puerto Princesa outside the council building a large banner that read "Rabies Awareness Month". I was less inclined to pat the cats that often came to our table after reading that!
We found the food in the Philippines on the whole very good. There is a tendency to have mostly meat on the menu. The green mango salad was delicious especially with
'crispy pata' - pork leg with crackling! We ate a variety of food - Thai, Italian but predominantly traditional Philippino food which we thoroughly enjoyed. It is very cheap to eat and drink in the Philippines. Most meals were around $2- $4.
In restaurants San Miguel beer is $1, Spirits and cocktails are $2.50. Wine was usually not available and when it was, tended to be off, expensive and we would send it back. We found 1 or 2 'expat' type places that had drinkable wine for around $2. (Usually Spanish or from California. ) Australian wine is far superior. We are saving our last bottle of Hardys on board for a special occasion.
In the shops bottles of rum and gin can be found next to the detergents or any shelf! It is ridiculously cheap. On our last stop in Balabac we had to spend out remaining pesos as we wouldn't be able to get rid of it in Malaysia. We bought several 1.5 litre bottles of gin for $1.50 and 750ml bottles of rum for 80c. (handy for killing fish, disinfectant as well as for bribes later on in our trip) We might have a few sips now and then!!
PIRATES AND SMUGGLERS
We didn't see any. Only fisherman asking for water, rice or selling fish.
Ursula Island Philippines
3rd April 2008
heading towards Balabac Island
(left Ursula island this morning - position : 8.20.437N 117.30.768E)
The day we arrived at Ursula island seemed like a day in paradise. We had a beautiful sail in with spinnaker up the whole way. Again Valiam shot ahead but after seeing the photos Franck and Everlyn took of us I can see why. Priscilla is a monster! I didn't realize how huge she is. Now wonder she's a handful in strong winds. She's purple and green. Fourteen years ago when we had her made she was to match the hull at that time - white with a purple stripe. Against the turquoise hull she looks good too. Vashti tells us that purple and green are gay pride colours! (AND I have called her Priscilla - oh no - have you seen the movie 'Priscilla Queen of the desert"? It's about transvestites....) Before you think we seem to have a fixation about this topic let me go back to our tropical island holiday.
Ursula island is a tiny white sand island with natural vegetation including many pandanus trees. As we rowed ashore we could see a crowd of children waiting under a tree. Our attempts at 'hello', 'Good afternoon', 'Kumasta' seemed to not be understood and the children just looked back at us. We walked towards the fishing boats and lean-tos on the beach and repeated out greetings to some of the adults there. He received a couple of hellos and they indicated it was ok for us to walk around the island. I don't think much English is spoken here. It didn't take long to walk around the island. It is very beautiful - clear water and white coral pieces on the beach. We had a wonderful swim when we got back. Sunset drinks and nibbles were enjoyed by all 3 crews on board Peerliane. Franck played the accordion and Mary sang Scottish songs. I played with Peerliane's cat 'Acra' .He seems very happy on board. A barbeque on the beach was planned for the next day. Unfortunately yesterday was windy and showery causing the sea to be choppy around the 3 anchored boats. We read books, watched movies and ate pea and ham soup with Hungarian sausage for lunch. The barbeque seemed to be cancelled. Later in the day we went for a swim near the boat which was just so refreshing. Bill was industrious and cleaned the green slime from Valiam's waterline. Franck said that they were planning to head for Balabac island today and would stay until Saturday. (Sailing folklore says it's bad luck to leave on a Friday) Peerliane and Adventura will be heading for Kudat, Malaysia.
Last night for dinner we had our 2 lovely T-bone steaks that we bought in the supermarket in Puerto Princesa. Well - what a disappointment! They were gristly and tough and tasted not quite like steak from home. Before I lost all my teeth trying to chew on them the remains were fed to the fishes! Perhaps they were the cheapest export quality from Oz meant for pet food?!
Early this morning (4.30-5am) the wind picked up and it started raining. We closed the hatches and went back to bed. Linda woke at 6.45am and looked out the window. It was grey and miserable and we were on our own. Two masts could be seen way in the distance! "Wake up!" I said to the captain poking him. "The others have gone!" The captain slowly emerged from the sleeping chamber and we were on our way by 7.15 am. We couldn't see the other two yachts at all now. It's been quite windy - around 15 knots. We've had full sail up (no spinnaker) and have averaged 6-7 knots. We went through a rain squall which gusted to 22 knots. Valiam heeled the first time in months!
It's now 11am and the captain says we should be in Balabac harbour by around 1pm. We are seriously thinking of sailing straight to Kota Kinabalu for an overnight run from Balabac. It would mean saying 'au revoir' to the others as they are going to Kudat. Peerliane will be there for a while having her bottom painted. We'll see how we feel this afternoon.
I have tied a thick belly dance scarf around my middle to support my back. It seems to help a little. The back exercises definitely help and I still have to lie down every hour or 2. I think it's all the twisting I have to do as galley slave - the sink, oven, bin, getting plates out etc. Staying in KK to recuperate sounds good to me!!!
Sailing with Peerliane & Adventura Philippines
Leaving Brookes Point, Palawan
1st April 2008
Franck the Frenchman gets us up at 6am every morning to get to our next destination! We were both flying spinnakers by 6.30 am. After making coffee and getting dressed I did my back exercises - yes they work and I like doing them because they feel good and I can do them lying down!
The wind has just stopped and Peerliane is motoring to catch up. There must be absolutely no wind as Franck is a purist and rarely uses the motor but we do have to get to a little island in the middle of nowhere today!
I am listening to Maria Callas soprano with the fan on my back as I type this!
Here the weather is really hot during the day and we have very little shade for a couple of hours but at night it is nice and cool with a breeze blowing usually.
Bill is till getting sunburnt regardless of what sunscreen he puts on. He sweats so much I think it just disappears. He's tried the clear zinc but says it doesn't work either. he wears a hat. What to do? The doxyclyclene we take for malaria prevention has a side effect that makes skin sensitive to the sun....
The island we are going to is tiny and was recommended to Franck by another yachtie. It doesn't have a name perhaps Ursula island but we'll keep in sight of each other to find it. We haven't been off the boat since Puerto Princesa. I would have liked to get off at Brookes Point but everyone wanted to keep moving. I guess out goal is Malaysia and it is nice to hop along and have a good night's sleep every night instead of going flat out for days on 3 hour shifts. I don't think My back could cope with an ocean passage right now.
Yesterday we arrived 1.5 hours earlier than the other 2 yachts. (We are a longer boat and have bigger sails). We tried to slow down but Valiam just wanted to GO! We have used the big purple and green spinnaker every day. I have named her Priscilla as she looks like she's showing off lifting her skirts in those colours against a clear blue sky. We practiced talking on the VHF radio yesterday to Adventura and Peerliane. Channel 16 has lots of Philippino fisherman talking on it so Chris and Franck suggests other channels which we have been switching over to. 3 way conversations are tricky so usually it is 2 of us with the 3rd listening in. Adventura didn't think they would make Broookes Point by dark so asked us to have a look at Filanthropia point. We did but it wasn't any good - shallow, exposed and reefs everywhere. We were first at Brookes point so had the responsibility of finding a suitable anchorage. As we rounded the headland we could see a wharf with a barge and some big fishing boats. We went in behind that an anchored in less than 4metres of water. This is good for Franck as he pulls his anchor up by hand. The others arrived just on sunset. Franck swam over to liase with each of us about today's destination. Basile splashed about next to him with his body board.
If you want to see on google earth where we were last night : 8.46.302N 117.49.413E
The motor is going now. The scenery is magical - high peaked mountains clear blue skies, palm fringed shore with scattered huts and fishing boats.
South Palawan on the way to Brookes Point
We are enjoying sailing with 2 other yachts - calm seas, blue skies, reading trashy novels. We left at 6am though to get to next anchorage - Brooks Point. Some bloke went there in the 1800s called Sir James Brookes calling himself the first 'white raja'.
We had the others over for drinks last night. Franck and Everlyne swam over with nibbles in a waterproof bag. Bill taxied Merry christmas (Mary and Chris). Franck and Everlynes boys Martin and Basile are 14 and 10 and have known no other life other than cruising and living on the boat. They jump off the boat whenever they are anchored into the water with their body boards. They are just so comfortable with life on the sea. Martin is one of the best spear fishermen, loves bodyboarding and is very mature for his age relating very well to all adults of all nationalities. They have to do correspondence school in the mornings. The boys don't like going back to France because it is too cold, too crowded and there's no spearfishing etc.
The Philippines is an amazing place - much better for holidays than Bali - it's a wonder it's not advertised in Oz.
South Palawan - en route to Malaysia
30 March 2008
enroute southern Palawan
passing Rasa island
Not one to make comments on the egos of sailors but the competitive streak is out. Peerliane (the French) were leading the fleet followed by Adventura (the Scots) with Valiam pacing quietly at the rear. Well.... Peerliane put their spinaker up and shot ahead. The captain of Valiam would have none of this and prepared her spinaker. Accompanied by bellydance music and a cold beer the beautiful purple and green and purple spinaker went up. And now there was nothing stopping Valiam as she raced to the start of the fleet within seconds. Linda took photos, movies and did back exercises to bellydance music while the captains grin got wider. However Valiam is now heading out to sea and will have to pull her reins in to get back on course to achieve our goal of a quiet anchorage before sundown.
What a lovely afternoon of Sunday afternoon yacht racing in the Philippines!
Sunday 30th March 2008
Sailing along yesterday in convoy with Peerliane and Adventura was a different experience for us as so far we have been on our own. Peerliane with gaff rig looked beautiful sailing in the gentle breeze. (a bit like a pirate ship) 14 year old Martin was up the mast standing on the gaff as I took a photo of them. As we slowed down to 1.5 knots the captain decided to motor the rest of the way.
We left Puerto Princesa at 10am (after taking back 4 of the 5 empty plastic beer crates and having a slap up brekky at the yacht club). John an Englishman and Cissy a local Philippino lady were very welcoming, extremely helpful and the nicest hosts one could imagine. It was more like visiting someone's home than a yacht club. As the building is on stilts hanging over the water it is the coolest bar in Puerto Princesa. A few local expats drop in for a drink and lunch on a regular basis. It was great to swap notes with other yachties there. We met Aussies Roslyn and Peter from Adamant 11 who have just been through Indonesia and Malaysia. Roslyn kept saying to me - "you'll love Malaysia". She said it is so well organized and the marina at Kota Kinabalu is like a resort with pools and efficient staff etc. (Linda can't wait) Meanwhile the three skippers Franck, Chris and Bill consulted with each other over a chart hanging in the yacht club and Chris in good economical Scottish style wrote the preferred anchorages on a torn serviette. (looks like toilet paper!)
We three yachts anchored within minutes of each other at 4pm yesterday. As it was so hot the two boys from Peerliane jumped in the water. Valiam's crew thought this was a great idea and followed suit. So did Franck and Everlyne. 'Merry Christmas' didn't. (Mary & Chris of Adventura). After cooling off we had a cold beverage and read trashy novels before dinner. As the sun went down we heard wonderful piano accordion music over the water from Peerliane. Franck played a huge repertoire from traditional French music to The Entertainer to Brandenberg Concerto. This was enjoyed by all the crew for at least an hour (although I suspect Martin and Basile had earplugs and MP3 players going so as not to endure Dad's music)
We went to bed early (BY 8pm) and slept until we heard the motors of the local fishing boats go past at dawn. Linda's back is still on the mend but with the exercises given by Angela the physio in PP things are slowly improving. The exercises are to be done in the morning and at night which isn't difficult because they are all 'lying down' ones!
We are not sure where the next anchorage will be today. Brooks Point is a possibility and is described by Lonely Planet as 'the last major inhabitation on the southeast coast of Palawan'. It's interesting that only half a page is dedicated to the whole of the south of Palawan while a thick chapter describes the north. Maybe it's something to do with PIRATES and SMUGGLERS down this end. I just put that in to keep your interest and make you think we are doing something very exciting and dangerous.
All well on board.
Just so you know the list on the port side has been corrected by the 5 crates of beer purchased just before we left Puerto Princesa.
Puerto Princesa Philippines
Wednesday 26 March 2008
Albanico Yacht Club
Valiam is now anchored amongst yachts from around the world - the most she's seen since Noumea a few years ago. Her crew is happy also to meet other crazy people who choose to live on a small floating object going from place to place. We were certainly pleased to see 2 other yachts and crew we met in Palau 2 months ago. They of course have been cruising at a leisurely pace while we raced over to Oz by plane then scooted over to the other side of the Philippines a matter of weeks. Peerliane is here with her French crew Franck, Everlyne, Martin and Basile. We had a few drinks with them yesterday afternoon. They will be heading to Malaysia after the Sunday buffet at the yacht club. I think we'll do the same. As I type this Bill is making noises above me on deck improving the rigging.
Albanico yacht club is a simple dwelling on poles in the water not unlike many of the residences that grace the waterfront in this part of the world. John and Englishman who manages the yacht club welcomed us with a free beer and gave us heaps of advice. His wife Cissy we haven't met yet but she seems a very talented person. She builds sailing dinghies and teaches kids to sail. The yacht club raises money to encourage this. John says she knows of an excellent masseuse to fix my back. As I type this with a pillow behind my back I am reminded of being squashed into the tiny side car of the motor-tricycle last night . Bill and I have to bend then fold ourselves in with our hips squashed together and our knees up around our ears. It's quite a way into town - at least 20 minutes. To extricate ourselves is also a feat and for Linda to straighten in her present condition is nearly impossible.
We had dinner at one of the best restaurants we've ever eaten in 'Kalui' - easily rivals the Spirit House (on the Sunshine coast). The building was like a bamboo tree house with gorgeous carvings, paintings and printed fabrics. We had to take our footwear (in our case thongs) off at the door. We chose a set seafood menu. Small artistically arranged and delicious morsels came to the table every few minutes. I had fresh coconut juice straight from a green coconut. We were very satisfied and happy especially since the bill only came to 500 pesos (less than A$15)
I love the name Puerto Princesa - especially the 'princess' bit! From what we've seen from the water and our short stroll in town last night we like it very much. It has a lively happy atmosphere and many types of eating establishments as well as other normal non touristy shops. There's a beautiful church with 2 spires painted in 2 shades of blue. It looks like a fairy castle from Disneyland or from the Barbie princess movies Caylan likes.
We look forward to chatting to more of the yachties around here in the next few days. We briefly met a kiwi couple who have just come from Malaysia so it will be good to hear what they have to say. We also met Alan from Chile who has sailed from there 3 times. Bill wants to talk to him further about that part of the world.
Everlyne (from Peerliane) says the boys are busy in the mornings doing their correspondence lessons. I can think of worse places to do school work! They are such nice boys. Even though we only met them for a few days in Palau they were pleased to see us and shook our hands. I don't think Aussie kids greet their parents' friends in this way. Or perhaps it's because cruising kids mix with adults such a lot and are more mature socially in lots of ways.
Anyway until next time,
All well and happy on board.
Captain Bill and Linda
Sulu sea islands Philippines
Monday 24th March 2008
Position: 10.08.8N 119.14.7E
Another mostly nice sailing day. We are now just off the coast of the main western island of Palawan, Philippines. We are getting closer to Malaysia. This type of sailing watching out for boats, islands, reefs, fish traps etc is a bit stressful and we can only think it will be good practice for the Red Sea. The chart was wrong again coming into here. Again we were relying on the depth sounder and our eyes at just before sunset to anchor somewhere suitable. The oceans aren't marked with lanes like roads so one has to know where we are at all times so we don't bump into anything. It's nice and quiet here and no movement so we should get a good sleep.
The weather is very pleasant and we usually have a nice breeze blowing over our heads at night. This little island has a couple of fish trap -farm things made of sticks and nets in shallow water. There's a floating pontoon with a couple of small structures on it made from plywood and tin. Someone was lying in a hammock when we arrived and gave us a wave. There are mangroves here and a small beach.(very much like Moreton Bay) Three more canoes paddled quietly in fishing and minding their own business. We are being left alone which is how we like it after a long day. Thank you Reinhard island dwellers!
My back is a pain! Literally - and taking painkillers all the time isn't good..........bring on the masseur! Puerto Princesa should have someone suitable. The captain tried but didn't quite know which bits of flesh to pound without causing more pain.....
Well I guess that was our Easter.....Another voyage in the life of cruisers. We are lucky in that we don't have to go to that 'w' word tomorrow. All we have to worry about is keeping ourselves safe, healthy and well fed. Oh yes and Valiam needs our attention too - she's doing a great job. Most of her bits I have decided are male - her engine has the low purr of a male lion. Heath the autopilot is a clever little thing. He is doing a superb job controlling Fred the wind vane without the airfoil. The computers are male of course as they can only do one thing at a time. The stove could possibly be a female as she is a bit sensitive and only lights first go if the right amount of pressure and timing is exerted. The sails are streamlined and simple things so must be male. Although the spinnaker which needs special conditions and is the feminist colours of purple and green is probably female. So if we were French it would be la stove, le autopilot, etc.
Ho hum time for bed. Today is the first day in all the days we have been cruising that we have not received an email. It must be something to do with Easter Monday. You are all having a good time getting used to not working after 4 days and not staring at a computer at work??? Or more likely you have had lots of social activity and now you are arguing who is going to do the dishes. Don't be too grumpy tomorrow. You too could put tenants in your house and travel!!
Linda and the captain
Matarabis Is Sulu sea
En route Boracay to Puerto Princessa
North Sulu Sea
22 March 2008
The alarm went at 4am this morning - groan! We left Boracay under a full moon and watched the sun come up. 2 cups of espresso coffee and yesterday's left over hot cross buns and we are awake. We only have the jib up at the moment. The captain will put up the mainsail when he feels energetic. A couple of fishermen were waving madly for us to steer around their fishing net. Having that tangled around the rudder, prop and or keel would be a nuisance for both of us!
We'll see how far we get today whether we'll stop at Cuyo island or not.
We have 4 eggs on board to boil tomorrow and a bar of chocolate in the fridge.
We've just anchored off a tiny island called Matarabis Island (11.06.853N 121.08.581E ) It's just on sunset. The island has a high rocky peak and lots of fishing boats. No local yokels have come to have a look at us (yet). We aren't feeling sociable - very tired. Have cooked paella with chorizo sausage from Cebu and Aussie whilte wine - mmmm smells good. I wonder if Easter bunny will find us out here!
It's been the most uneastery easter - no chocolate eggs in sight and the only hot x buns were the ones I made. (There's still a couple left)
We are having such a nice night - the moon started coming up over the sea as a big orange ball. Now its glowing silver over the water. Th stars are lovely and the local boats of this little island are far enough away. I have Il Divo playing - Bill puts up with all my choice of music! I still have to do the dishes ( in cold water) have a body rinse with washer and bucket. It's a bit rolly here but better than sailing all night. Tomorrow Dumaran island (we'll miss Cuyo) then Puerto Princesa where there is a yacht club and hopefully a few yachties to chat to before heading for Malaysia. Our French friends will have already left for Malaysia but we'll catchem up!
23 March 2008
We left our anchorage at 2am this morning as the wind had picked up and we were rolling about and couldn't sleep! I wne back to bed whilst Bill took the first shift. It's now 6am and my turn. No Easter Bunny here! Only a big red orange sun coming up
We are sailing slowly through small islands in the middle of the Sulu sea. My back is troubling me again and I can't get comfortable so more nurophen....
The southern part of the Sulu sea is supposed to have pirates. We are going over to Palawan island but first to Dumaran island which is just off it for a rest. Then we'll finally be in Puerto Princesa - a town of 170,000 and a yacht club.Here we will gather food, fuel, advice and some rest. (massage....) Here we will clear out of the Philippines and hug the coast for Malaysia. Lots of boats go that way so hopefully we wont see any pirates
Can't think of anything to write about except its quiet out here with Valiam sailing with a bit of a rolly motion at 4 knots. We only have the jib up at present. Not much out here - no other boats yet. (ships, fishing boats) We never see any yachts and the local boats always wave. (very friendly pirates...)
We've just taken the spinnaker down after 5 hours of nice sailing. There's a rain squall ahead so we are motoring until we are through it. We are aiming for Dumaran Island on the east coast of Palawan.
It's Easter Sunday and we had paella rice left over from last night for both breakfast and lunch. I dutifully fulfilled a family tradition by drawing faces on boiled eggs. These we had with breakfast rice. Lunch rice had tinned curry with it and a cold beer.
Boracay Island Philippines
Holy Week in Boracay is very unholy. There are bikini clad girls wandering around as well as muscular tattooed long haired Philippino boys (not unlike the Kuta 'cowboys' of Bali). Most of the tourists here are well - off Philippinos who are letting their hair down. I met a very friendly lady who owns resorts here and in the USA. She was with a bunch of beautifully groomed teenagers whom I naturally assumed were her children. She introduced them as her grandchildren. When she took her sunglasses off I could see she had that funny frozen smile associated with botox. There are a number of European , Japanese , Korean and American tourists, mostly young but no Australians. If you aren't interested in surfing or temples, Boracay would be my pick of a touristy holiday rather than Bali. It beats Noosa and Mooloolaba for variety and ambience in eating establishments. It also reminds me of Woodford. One can get a temporary henna tattoo or one's hair braided. Passing the braiding ladies they called out 'Ma'am, Sir hair braided?'. Bill pointed to his beard and asked 'Can you do this?' "Yes!' they replied. Needless to say we walked on past the pearl and shell necklace sellers. There are even fake Rolex watches and Gucci sunglasses. The Japanese tourists all have their hair braided, have the tattoos and colourful sarongs. The latest fashion seems to be crocheted garments over bikinis. Bill says he likes it here.
Linda enjoyed a massage and was delighted that the back pain disappeared for a while. It returned later but not as severe. Another massage should assist!
Whilst walking along the strip we encountered all sorts of promotions - mobile phones, alcohol, cigarettes etc. Pretty girls in matching bikinis, loud music etc were offering prizes, free massages with certain deals. We decided to buy 2 big bottles of whisky and 1 of vodka for 120 pesos each (A$4) and with that came 3 prizes that had to be drawn by a spinning wheel. We won a cap, cocktail shaker and a T shirt. When we unwrapped the T shirt it had a huge photo on the front of it with a girl in a brief bikini in a sexy pose. Bill thinks it's great! I reminded him that there would be some places he wouldn't be able to wear it. He thinks it may be good as a 'gift' for officials in some more repressed religious regime further down the track...mmm..
We enjoyed sitting along the beach front in cafes and bars watching the passing parade. Bill went off for a sail in one of the trimarans. He is thinking of building one when we get back and perhaps doing some adventurous trip.
It really is nice to wander around without being stared at. Boracay has a few problems associated with the mass development and huge influx of tourists in such a small place. The main one is sewerage. Sadly the water that washes ashore on to the white sand has green slime. This doesn't stop tourists from taking a dip! Whilst on the topic of slime and other undesirables we witnessed a bored waiter in a very nice restaurant occupying himself picking his nose for a good 15 minutes. In full view he nonchalantly cleaned out both nostrils and rolled the snot into little balls flicking them on to the floor. Fortunately we had finished eating and when he came to clear our table we declined any further beverages. Interestingly a pretty waitress sat nearby completely unperturbed by this display of gross behaviour.
From morning to night there are all kinds of boats whizzing around Valiam - power boats, sailing trimarans (paraws - at least 100), diving boats, sunset/sunrise cruises, banana boats with shrieking tourists, parasail boats etc etc. There are no speeding laws. I saw a fellow snorkeling with 2 fast power boats careering past either side of him! We miss all the fun which starts at 10pm every evening with discos, night clubs and live entertainment (karaoke bars). We rowed back with laser beams circling the bay, fireworks and loud 'doof doof ' music traveling over the water. Our dreams were permeated with techno and Bob Marley until dawn. Then the roosters began followed shortly after by bible readings over the loudspeaker. Then the motors of the boats (which are very like lawn mowers on a typical Good Friday morning at home.)
Today we will go to the supermarket for some fresh food and get ready to sail again. It's a full moon so we are seriously thinking of sailing tonight and perhaps making a run for Puerto Princesa. If we aren't going as well as we would like we will stop at Cuyo island. Bill is presently getting the spinnaker ready as tail winds are predicted. Apart from the batten/lazy jack problem he is very happy with the new mainsail. It really was a great sail into here the other day.
I got up early this morning and made hot cross buns from scratch - flour yeast etc. They turned out well and we have a big batch to eat today!
Happy Easter everyone!
Love from Bill and Linda
20 March 2008
Sailing through the Sibuyan sea was like getting through an unpredictable huge lake. Although the seas within the Philippines archipelago are protected from most of the ocean swells yesterday we experienced wind waves 'without the wind'. Motoring through these produced a nasty rolling motion and we had 1 knot of current against us most of the way. Just after lunch the wind picked up so we were able to sail. We have an annoying problem with the mainsail in that the ends of the battens continually get caught on everything - the lifelines, the lazy jacks whenever Bill raises the sail in any wind. In retrospect we should have seen a sail maker in Cebu to rectify the problem. The sail cover is also torn. The lazy jacks are a great idea for day sailing but are more of a nuisance when cruising.
Anyway once the sails were up we began to sail along nicely. The wind increased to 15 knots and Valiam sailed extremely well at 8.5 - 9.5 knots. The captain was very happy. As we were now racing along Bill decided to sail around the top of Boracay rather than down through the narrow channel in the south. We had a great view of Boracay sailing down from the north. The development has reached most areas of the island now. We had to dodge boats with parasails, ferries and local trimarans with full sail up. We could see 2 other yachts anchored so after negotiating our way around the reef and continually avoiding tourist vessels and watching the depth sounder we anchored in 4 metres of water not too far from all the restaurants along the beach.
Unfortunately Linda got soaked after trying to jump out of the dinghy on shore. Very cranky with water dripping from the waist down I decided to find a bikini to wear so at least I was dry where it was important. Boracay has a white sand beach with 100s of eating establishments, resorts, dive shops etc all along the beach for miles. There is no road which is nice so everyone is on foot or bicycle. We did see one or 2 scooters. The locally built trimarans here are sleek looking with big triangular sails. They looked very picturesque against the sunset over the sea. Bill is planning to sail one today. Linda is planning a hair wash and massage. Her back is still not repaired and the hair resembles something like a feral dishmop.
It feels a bit like Bali here but because there's no surf there are literally 1000s of boats of all descriptions here. It's nice to wander along being one of many tourists rather than being a curiosity. Although we were stopped by a family from Michigan living in Manila asking us questions about our lovely 'sail boat'.
All well on board (apart from Linda's sore back)
The website will be updated whilst in Boracay.
I haven't seen any hot cross buns yet!
Sibuyan Is Philippines
19 March 2008
12.17.9 N 122.35.9E
Sailing most of the way to San Fernando from Gigante islands was such a treat. We only used the motor for 2 hours in the middle of the day. Captain Bill was very pleased with the way the new mainsail was performing to windward. We could play music and I started reading a detective novel.
As Sibuyan Island came closer to view we could see the rugged 6000' mountains apparently some of the most heavily forested areas in the Philippines. Unfortunately the locals are busy with chainsaws if you go into the mountains. An American bomber plane was only recently discovered in the 90s complete with skeletons and machine guns by a local cutting grass. Since then there has been quite a bit of interest. As it's a 3 day hike through steep jungle I think we'll give it a miss!
As we looked for a place to anchor a couple of fellows in a canoe waved us over towards the far end of the beach where we could see a couple of local ferry boats. As we had been on the boat for 2 days we thought we'd go ashore to stretch our legs. As Bill rowed us to shore a man was waving at us with a stick so we went towards him. He informed us that when we were coming in we went into a restricted area and normally there is a 2500 peso fine so he said we would be fined if there was a second attempt. As we were ignorant of this we said "sorry' and would let other yachties know on noonsite. Bill said he had to tick us off in front of the locals because he had to be seen to treat everyone equally.
San Fernando is a gorgeous little town- we were the only white tourists
and got lots of 'hellos' and 'good evenings'. We wandered through the cute little streets and enjoyed observing and interacting with the friendly locals in their little shops. These little tiny shops are mostly lean-tos and there were quite a few little old buildings in Spanish style. We had a burger with ham and egg in a tiny lean-to eatery with 2 tables for 70 pesos -less than $2
We are heading to Boracay tomorrow - the equivalent of Mooloolaba/Noosa/surfers paradise of the Philippines. We might even hire a jet ski!. Then to Cuyo island then Puerto Princesa. Not far to Malaysia then!
We are keeping a tally of the mileage since Mooloolaba - now at 4094. Its 7000 to Greece and 22000 back home the long way!
All well on board
18th March 2008
enroute Gigantes to Sibuyan Island
Last night after the local boys hung around staring at us for ages even after selling us some fish they went off only 100m away and next thing KABOOM!
They were dynamiting fish. Scary....But that's what they do here...
We are sailing to Sibuyan island today as going to Boracay is too risky sailing at night. There are so many little boats and unlit fish traps everywhere. Sibuyan is a bit to the north and sounds nice. A quiet little town called San Fernando. They discovered a crashed US bomber there in the mountains only a couple of years ago and retrieved the bodies etc...
I am just having my coffee whilst typing this. It is beautiful here. In Oz it would be a wild part of the world and it looks it here except for the tiny village on the beach 100 m away
17th March 2008
South Gigantes Island
We have just anchored south of one of the Gigante Islands.Position :
> 11.35.2N 123.21.0E
> We are currently surrounded by a dozen or so canoes with young men staring at us. One finally said 'fish' and we said 'yes'. We gave them 40 pesos and a can of
> corned beef for 2 beautiful fish. Language is very limited so after
> smiling and laughing at one another for a while we have retreated inside
> the cabin to prepare dinner and have a quiet drink. They are still out
> there staring at the boat! We are in a secluded bay with rock walls,
> little white sand beaches with the one at the far end having a small
> village. I guess that's where they are from. They are all young men
> laughing and chatting with one another. I guess we are an object of
> curiosity and the most exciting thing that's happened in a while!
> It's 100 miles to Boracay our next intended anchorage and we are not sure
> how we'll tackle that one. It's usually not a good idea to sail at night
> around here but we do know of yachts that have
Malapascua Is Philippines
Monday 17th March 2008
En route Malapascua to Gigante Islands
Malapascua (pronounced Malapasqua) is everything a yachtie or beach bum looks for. It has that idyllic island feel - no cars, friendly locals, small intimate beach bars and restaurants where you sit with your feet in the sand watching the bangkas (local fishing boats) and canoes in clear aquamarine waters. Small brown sometimes naked children frolic in the white sand splashing and laughing. A shy smiling waitress brings you a cold beer for 50 pesos (A$1) and the best Italian food outside Italy for $5.
As we were drawn into the relaxed ambience of the island we began talking to a local Italian who recommended diving to see the thresher sharks. We went to the dive centre behind the Italian restaurant and booked a dive for the following morning. As we had to be ready by 5.30am we asked if they could pick us up from our boat anchored in the bay on the other side of the island. 'No problem'says the Swiss French speaking dive instructor. Normally to go to and fro from our boat into the little town we hitch ride on a motor bike along the path for 20pesos (50c).
We had trouble with our phone alarms and I calculated mine incorrectly form Aussie time with it going off at 1am! Anyway we got up at 5am had our coffee fix watching the sunrise and waited for the boat. The dive people use big bangkas and this particular bangka driver executed a perfect stop coming alongside Valiam without its long white trimaran tentacles touching her hull.
When we got to the dive spot for the thresher sharks out at sea there were already at least 6 diving boats out there. When Linda finally managed to get all the gear on and fall backwards in the water (sore back again) she had difficulty getting down. Wearing a full wetsuit (not short ones), not enough weights and a fully inflated BCD made it very slow work trying to get down. The dive master who did 't want the responsibility looking after me suggested I try another day with less people. Feeling rejected I clambered back on board. However a very nice German woman who had come along for the ride befriended me and made me feel better. Bill and the other divers emerged from the sea and reported that there were no sharks down there. C'est la vie! Sabina has a lively personality and dreams of quitting her job as a doctor in a German hospital to live on a boat and take divers to exotic places. She has been coming to Malapascua for 4 years and has been on the island for several months taking leave from her job. She is caretaking the White Sands cottages mentioned in the Lonely Planet Guide. After the diving expedition the dive boat dropped us back to Valiam. We invited Sabina to come back with us. She exclaimed her delight and appreciation of Valiam's comforts including the stove top espresso machine. The number of times I could have sold it for a profit! (I knew I should brought a shipment with me!)
Bill rowed us back to the closest little beach and decided he would row all the way around to the main beach. Sabina and I took a 'hobble hobble' each (motorbike) after she shouted to some locals 'dos hobble hobble!' and 2 turned up within minutes. The ride on narrow paths up over hills and through the village is very picturesque. The island has 3000 people living on it mostly in little shanty houses. I noticed quite a few pigs being fattened up as well as magnificent roosters each tied by the leg to a roost. The roosters are being prepared for cock fighting and with Holy week beginning today betting will begin in earnest. At one o'clock Sabina had arranged for a massage lady to come so she invited me to be at her bungalow also to repair my back.
At 1pm I arrived by 'hobble hobble' from the boat and beach around the corner. Sabina was having her long hair washed and braided by Bergie as well as her toenails done. Amie arrived to give me my massage. The little bungalows ('nipas') at White Sands are idyllic and made of thatching. Whilst I lay in the cool darkness listening to the ocean gently lapping the shore Amie massaged me for 2 hours. Bliss! I did hear the rain dripping on the roof but apparently it was quite a squall whilst I was in there! Feeling totally relaxed and my back somewhat less painful I emerged covered in coconut oil and sat with the 'girls' to gossip. (massage 300 pesos = A$8, toenails 100 pesos =A$2.50)
The previous day Bill bought me some beautiful pink cultured pearls from a beach vendor. They are non perfect ones probably rejects from the nearby pearl farms but beautiful nonetheless. Thirty years of marriage is pearls so now I have my pearls! Amie commented on my pearls saying in a whisper that the people who sold them to me are Muslims without soul. Amie is deeply religious and as a practising Catholic felt that the pearl sellers were bad because the clasps etc joining the pearls go rusty. She sees herself as 'God's instrument' and accepts her calling as a healer.
After having a lovely shower in Sabinas bungalow and having my toenails painted metallic green it was time for Bill to join us for a sunset drink on the beach at 'La Dolvitas'. Sabina took us around some of her favourite haunts including 'Josephine's'. Josephines is a wooden picnic bench on the beach with a little shack behind it from where pretty smiling Josephine serves drinks to a mottley assortment of foreigners. Several older men have a young Philippino girlfriend. This is such a common practice in the Philippines that on many occasions the local girls I talk to say they have a sister/aunt/cousin who is married to an Australian.
We are now sailing beautifully towards the Gigante Islands. I am not sure where we will be anchoring but the pilot book gives a position for the Gigantes as 11.36N 123.21 E if you are looking on Google Earth. It's nice to have the peace and quiet of sailing after each socializing experience in each place we visit. We always exchange addresses with people we meet and do hope that one day we will meet again. In some ways it helps me be less homesick for my family and friends. Every now and again I feel a pang of homesickness and feel surprised when I realize it's only been 4 weeks since we left Australia after our visit. We have been in the Philippines 17 days now so I guess we need to keep going in the direction of Malaysia and Thailand if we are to make the Red Sea this season.
It's a beautiful day - blue skies, flat seas and a gentle breeze. A number of ships and bangkas continually pass us on this route so we have to keep continual watch. We are feeling a little weary and it has nothing to do with the happy hour last night where we had several banana rums etc! Thank you to those who send us an occasional email. It's fantastic to hear from you out here and find out any news. We now know that Bob Abbott is the Mayor of the newly amalgamated Sunshine Coast. Apart from that we haven't heard any other news. I always respond to your emails individually so if you have any comments or questions we would love to hear them.
All well on board Valiam
Linda and the captain
Friday 14th March 2008
Position : 11.30.36 N 124.06.66 E
A fishing boat with it's 'white tentacles' either side motored by just as the sun - a big orange ball melted into the sea. We were rewarded after an 11 hour day of motoring with a magnificent sunset just after we dropped the anchor in a small bay on the northwestern side of the island. The pilot book recommended to anchor in 6 metres of water SW of the light house which is what we did. A large residence built on rocks and limestone is directly opposite us on the beach of the smaller bay just south of where several fishing boats are anchored. The Lonely Planet guide although recent hasn't kept up with the description of the extra development on the island. Rather than one or two thatched roofed huts several concrete resorts were obvious on the main beach as we came towards the island. There seem to be many dive boats in the style of the fishing boats anchored on the main beach as well. Where we are presently anchored seems more deserted although we did witness a group of people having a party of sorts sitting on the beach. There are reputably no cars on the island but we did see some motor bikes wizzing by on the tracks behind the beach.
Valiam is rolling gently protected from the northerly wind. There was some lightening in the distance and we do hope we wont be woken by a storm during the night. Tomorrow we will explore the island and then head off again most probably the following day for the Gigantes islands.
Tonight we enjoyed a meal cooked on board for a change - pork chops, cabbage and broccoli. For lunch we had an oven warmed baguette with camembert cheese, lettuce and tomato. It is difficult to buy this type of food but the supermarket at the Marina Mall across from the Cebu yacht club was well stocked. We have a few more supplies of non Asian food to keep us going for a while. No fish caught again today. We are beginning to wonder whether Dennis' recommended lures from Palau are jinxed.
Tuesday 11th March 2008
Cebu Yacht Club
Position : 10.19.73N 123.58.59E
We didn't leave Maasin until Friday morning (7th March) after an uncomfortable rolly night. It seems the wind had picked up causing waves to rock Valiam from side to side like a violent cradle. We left at 8am in wet overcast conditions and motor sailed all day until we got to Cebu. It was a slightly uncomfortable passage with short choppy waves and 1 knot of current against us. We had to be on constant watch for small canoes, ships, ferries etc. We had emailed Cebu yacht club well ahead and booked a berth. We had been given the co-ordinates so Bill plugged them into the chart plotter. This was confusing because we thought the yacht club was near the first bridge but the co-ordinates placed it near the 2nd bridge. As we rounded the corner towards the first bridge with fast ferries wizzing by us we noticed a few yacht masts behind some larger ships near the first bridge. This didn't match the position given by the yacht club so Bill gave them a call. The woman couldn't tell Bill which bridge the yacht club was near and said she had given us the co-ordinates. She said for us to see a Mr Sipik when we arrived. We kept going into the shipping traffic as it got closer to dusk. Valiam's mast just made it under the bridge so we kept going towards the 2nd bridge. As we got to where the yacht club was supposed to be according to their co-ordinates all we could see were a whole lot of shacks at the water's edge. This couldn't be it! So nothing for it but to do a U turn in a busy shipping channel in Cebu harbour back to where we saw the yacht masts. As we got closer we could see the yacht club was quite small. A fellow who must have been Mr Sipik was waving over the far side beckoning us in. Bill did a beautiful reverse park between 2 motor cruisers. A couple of lads jumped on and assisted with the ropes.
Desperate for a shower we stepped ashore towards the yacht club restaurant. The shower was past the kitchen behind a messy pile of mops and boxes. It was a bit grubby, tiled and consisted of a partially blocked shower nozzle coming out of the wall spurting cold water. At least it was a shower of sorts. Feeling a lot better we sat in very comfortable chairs with a view of the harbour. Many diners/drinkers chatted to us constantly which was a bit much after just having each other for company for the last few days! We also recognized a fellow we saw frequent the Palau yacht club bar. For a moment we were confused as to where we were! It's the same when we wake up each morning in our own comfy bed. It takes a few moments to remember where we are!
SCAMS :On Saturday morning Bill went to see the woman in the yacht club office. She informed him that we had to have a Quarantine inspection and phoned straight away. Within half an hour a man saying he was an officer arrived looking very dapper in his neatly pressed uniform. We sat and chatted for a while about the trip. He didn't seem to be interested in asking us what we had on board or a stores list. Eventually he said that there was a fee of 2500 pesos. We expressed our surprise as the Philippine embassy in Palau said there wouldn't be any further fees. I showed him a copy of noonsite's 'formalities' for Philippines where no fees for quarantine were mentioned. He said it was overtime fees for him. The conversation was very friendly and he seemed very nice. He did offer for us to pay at the office on Monday as we didn't have enough pesos. But a little later he said he would accept US$ to save us the trouble of going there on Monday. (taxi etc into Cebu finding the place). We relented and I gave him the money. I asked for a receipt but looking at it now it isn't a proper one - just a blank invoice with his name signature and "Quarantine Medical Officer' Port of Cebu. I think we were had. He mentioned 2 other yachts we knew from Palau so I think he was a pretty smooth operator. We have learned from this and will take the motorbike people's advice and take the persons name and details to check with authorities before we hand over any money. It's annoying as we thought we were pretty switched on but realize he probably did extract much more money than he was entitiled to(if any at all). The port fees for Manila are around 900 pesos so 2500 for quarantine seems far too high. We intend to check with immigration this morning. If we have been conned we will warn other yachties on noonsite.com
Another scam around here is the taxis. The metered ones approved by the authorities are supposed to charge the correct fare. Again we were overcharged getting a taxi into town the first time for 200 pesos. Trips since then in metered taxis have been around 120-130 pesos. Last nights taxi driver said that even some of the metered taxis are tampered with. He pointed a few out in the street and said "Bad taxis. Not go in them!"
FLAG ETIQUETTE : We managed to get a small Philippines flag from the embassy before we left. When I managed to hoist it up Bill said it had to go higher because at half mast it means someone has died! When we arrived in Cebu the local lads were laughing at our flag because I had hung it upside down. Red side up means 'War' apparently! I hastily rectified this so now the blue side is up.
SHOPPING MALLS: Philippinos love their shopping malls. They are everywhere! We decided to go to one of the biggest ones in Cebu for the 'experience' - The Ayala mall. Wow! The noise was unbelieveable! Music from each shop, noisy electronic game rooms, eating halls etc. We also watched a fashion show with huge loud speakers blaring. We lost count of the number of escalators and there are at least 6 floors and nearly 400 shops. Linda just had to buy something! In a department store a few bargains were found. Whilst Bill fell asleep waiting outside on a bench Linda emerged with 2 tops and a skirt for the equivalent of $3.47! Retail therapy nonetheless!
We eventually found somewhere to eat that had walls around it and didn't give us a headache. It was a Mexican place called Tequila Joes. Lonely Planet describes it as 'truly excellent Mexican'. We would have to disagree. The nachos and pizza we ordered were flavourless and dry. The wine however was superb. The smiling waiter informed us after showing us a couple of bottles that it was 100 pesos a glass. One was a 2003 bottle form Chile. It seemed excellent value and after 5 glasses between us helped wash down the terrible meal. When we were presented with the bill we were shocked to see 1500 pesos for the wine! Bill argued with the waiter and he said we had chosen the more expensive wine. (no wonder it was nice) We refused to pay the extra because obviously the waiter had made a mistake telling us it was 100 pesos a glass. He went off to talk to his boss. He took ages so we just left the amount of money we thought the whole lot should cost and left. As we were waiting outside the doors in the rain for a taxi the waiter appeared with my shopping bag of clothes I had left behind. He was trying to explain that we still needed to pay another 300 pesos and that he did make a mistake and he had to pay the 900 pesos difference himself. We felt sorry for him and especially as he brought me my forgotten shopping (I would have been cross with myself leaving that behind!) we gave him the 300 pesos.
2 pm, 11 March
Internet Cafe, Cebu
The bureau of Immigration wasn't much fun. When we first got there we were redirected to a photocopy woman and had to pay for copies of all our papers....that was ok but seemed unnecessary. We were lead upstairs to a small office crowded with 3 desks, 2 men and a family being interviewed for something. We thought having our Visas already would make things fairly straight forward but the man we had to deal with said it was going to cost 500pesos each to get our passports stamped and another 1500 pesos to clear Valiam into Cebu. This seemed excessive so we argued politely saying that the emabassy in Palau told us there would be no further fees. After talking about overtime fees etc I explained that it was Tuesday during business hours so how could there be overtime fees. "You misunderstand madam - I meant fees for your yacht...bla bla..." We said several times that it seemed expensive seeing we had already paid 2500 pesos for our visas. Bill asked whether people at the airport had to pay to get their passports stamped. They pretended not to understand. As it looked like we weren't going to get out of there without paying we emptied our wallets and only had 2000 pesos between us. We said that is all we had and that we would have to walk to an ATM otherwise. Immediately he said 2000 pesos was fine. I then asked for an official receipt. He sighed and pulled a piece of letterhead out and typed a receipt with a manual typewriter. We knew the whole thing wasn't quite right but we were stuck in there and wanted our passports stamped. Very unhappy we walked out of there. We noticed the man we gave the money to was already out on the footpath also.(probably ready to spend our money) We also noticed a sign on the door outside the building about only paying the cashier. I could see Bill getting quite angry. He said to the guy "What's this?" He said that's only for visa extensions. I said that's not what the sign says. Next thing we are ushered into the Chief of Immigration. We explained we were not used to paying large varying amounts of cash for non official receipts. They had no clear reason why there were no set rates other than they were a separate organisation and could charge what they liked and each port was different. (This was after I said that other yachts had cleared into Manila for a lot less) We said it was far too expensive and that we would be contacting yachting organisations to see what the rate should be. Apparently the little office upstairs with these 2 guys are for clearing yachts and jobs quite separate from the usual tourists. We noticed on the receipt that the fees were for overtime, meals and transportation to inspect the vessel. They didn't even come to the vessel! We went to them which cost us taxi fares etc. Anyway we couldn't do anything so we set off in the hot sun without money in 'down town' Cebu (described by Lonely Planet as the 'seamy' side of town') to look for an ATM.
The first ATM didn't work. The next one was out of order. After walking in the heat and fumes dodging traffic we were getting more cranky and discouraged. The 3rd ATM didn't do visa. Bill had US$10 in his wallet so we changed that instead at a money cahnger who gave us a terrible rate. We were beyond caring.
Calming down we found a taxi and went to the Basilica and Magellans cross. Both places had beggars and hawkers selling candles, guitars, carved crucifixes etc. Once in the basilica it was beautiful, peaceful, cool and quiet. Now I know why it's nice to go to church. We found the peace within ourselves and wandered around admiring the beautiful 500 year old paintings and architecture.
We studied the Lonely Planet for a lunch place. We tried to find one near the basilica but it really was the seamy side of town. However we did find an ATM that worked. Jumping in a taxi we went 'up town' to the Sideline Garden restaurant and had a nice meal of bbq chicken salad and beer. Now we are at an internet cafe with private booths, air con and local radio going. Bill has just informed me that on noonsite.com other yachties were scammed by corrupt officials even worse than we were (3000 pesos each official) They refused to pay at Peurta Princesa, Palawan (thats where we will be clearing out) and went to straight to Malaysia. Apparently in Malaysia they don't care if you haven't cleared out officially from the Philippines. They are used to yachties complaining about the corrupt officials in the Philippines.
The sooner we are out of Cebu the better. We look forward to beautiful islands, white sand beaches and fresh air and water. Malapascua Island has no cars. Just walking tracks. That will be lovely. First I have to winch Bill up the mast to repair/check our navigation lights. Then we'll do some food shopping in the mall opposite the yacht club.
Oh yes we have discovered what the 'musty' smell was - it actually smelt worse this morning - more like something rotten. Our eggs had gone off and were crawling with maggots! Yuck!!!! I have been burning aromatherapy oils to get rid of the smell.
Bohol Island Philippines (by ferry)
As we couldn't officially clear in until Monday we decided to catch a boat to Bohol island so Linda could see the little primates - the tarsiers. Whilst waiting for the midday 'fastcat' I phoned a place called 'Nuts Huts' that looked interesting in the Lonely Planet guide. It was described as the only accommodation on Bohol that blended in with the environment hidden among the jungle along the Loboc river. At 800 pesos for the night (about $20) we booked one of the huts. After negotiating once again with a taxi driver we got dropped off at the river a boat ride away from Nuts Huts for 250 pesos. ($7) For 80 pesos ($2.20) we had a lovely ride up the river in a pump boat driven by a boy who looked barely 14. The river was muddy and the vegetation each side was lush with steep sides. Lovely thatched houses lined the river. To get to the reception and restaurant of Nuts Huts we had to walk up a muddy path then 350 excruciating steps! A cold drink was very welcome at the top. What a fantastic view though! Two Belgian couples began this low key accommodation 10 years ago. The food is quite nice - great fruit drinks and freshly baked bread. We booked a motor bike for the next day to see the tarsiers.
That night we slept in a somewhat harder bed than we are used to. It was nice to hear the night noises of birds and animals. It's a lovely place to enjoy nature in the Philippines. Rita and her partner have a battle on the their hands with developers. Apparently Chinese developers want to put lights along the river and run river cruises with restaurants at night. This would completely destroy the quiet ambience of the place . The nocturnal animals would be affected, the locals wouldn't be able to fish and the whole place would change. The Nuts Huts people understandably are very concerned and upset and are attending local meetings to express their views. The locals applaud their contributions and are too frightened to say anything themselves. There are people in higher authority who are making the local Loboc people (and Nuts Huts) very nervous including the Chinese ambassador. Interestingly Bohol island is advertised in magazines and the Lonely Planet guide as being more ecologically in tune than other places in the Philippines. The idea of running lights along a beautiful river with karaoke river boats blaring at all hours seems incongruous. Especially since there are no street lights on the road. No one is offering to pay for that!
TARSIERS: Bill rode the 100CC motorbike with Linda on the back (a struggle up the hills!) to the Tarsier sanctuary. We found the faded sign beside the road and made our way to the visitors centre. It was very quiet and a quiet young man came out to guide us into the sanctuary. The Tarsier Sanctuary is a non profit organization and is dependent on donations to keep it going. (20 pesos in the box). After going through the cat proof fence (domestic cats are the tarsiers biggest threat) the guide showed us several tarsiers. Each one had its own little territory clinging to a small tree branch looking unblinkingly at us. They are so cute! A mixture between a tiny monkey, frog and possum! About 4- 6 inches their fur is brown and grey and quite soft. Their tails are almost hairless as are their crinkly little ears which are transparent. The tarsiers' eyes are huge and stared at us turning its head almost 360 degrees to look at us. Linda took many photos and fell madly in love with them. There are 10 tarsiers in the 1 hectare enclosure - 7 males and 3 females. The females only have one baby at a time after a 6 month pregnancy. After 6 months the baby is big enough to fend for itself. At the most the females produce 1 baby a year. They are extremely vulnerable and are endangered. Some locals catch them and put them in cages charging tourists to look at them and hold them. These poor little creatures in cages are often sick, not fed the right food and are not happy critters. It is illegal but somehow these people get permits that are really for lemurs and say they are allowed to have them. It's best not to support this inhumane practice and view the tarsiers at the sanctuary. There are about 1000 left in the countryside on Bohol island. We have learned that the tarsier is in fact NOT the smallest primate but one of them. The smallest is a lemur from Madagascar. The tarsier is not a monkey but is the oldest surviving member of the primate group at 45 million years. It's not known for its intelligence for its brain is smaller than one of its eyes! Nevertheless they are unique and beautiful and hopefully enough people are interested to assist in its surviving. There is some research being done and a large sum of money has been distributed by Dept of Natural Resources to assist the tarsiers. Hopefully the money is going in the right direction and not lining someone's pockets.
After riding around a small part of Bohol on the motorbike (without helmets) we ended up in the main town of Tagbilaran. We sheltered out of the rain in the Garden restaurant. This Western style place complete with checkered curtains, saddles and staff dressed in denim had fairly average food on the menu - burgers etc. The restaurant is run by the Deaf and Disabled organization with the staff being deaf. Inside the menus there are pictures of hand signs for communication but there are internal phones beside each table to place orders. The staff were very friendly and smiley.
We had to take the motor bike back to Nuts Huts. After this we waited outside on the road for a bus. Of course it started to rain heavily but luckily there was a small shelter (with nasty biteys - Linda got stung by something!) Peering around the corner in the rain for a bus one eventually came after half an hour and screeched to a halt beside us. We were ushered on and it was full of locals. There were pieces of plywood instead of windows and a rail to hang on to in front. We couldn't see much until it stopped raining. Then we could slide down the piece of plywood and have a big open window to the outside. The lady in front would have to hang on to her toddler on the corners otherwise he'd fall out! We eventually arrived back at the bus depot and had to catch a tricycle to the wharf. The express boat left at 5pm getting us back to Cebu at 7pm. Again the scamming taxi drivers make a bee line for us pale looking tourists. We found a taxi with a meter and a driver who was very nice. He struggled with English and we had a conversation of sorts on the way back to Maktan island. The Philippinos here appear quite religious and every taxi seems to have a saint on the dashboard with a cross. This taxi driver says he is Catholic but his wife is 7th Day Aventist. He says he goes to church once a month because he drives the taxi 24 hours a day. His wife goes to church 7 days a week but his 3 children are Catholic.
Last night we treated ourselves to a delicious Italian meal of pasta and a bottle of red wine at a very nice Italian restaurant we found in Marina Mall.
This morning we will go to immigration to finally clear in.
Thursday 6th March 2008
9am: It's raining as it has been since yesterday afternoon. Our laundry will be ready in an hour. First we have to row ashore, remove the debris and black sand from our feet before we can put our thongs back on, crawl through the earth floor passage of the beachside dwellers and work out how to get to the laundry. It's a one way street in the opposite direction of the laundry so we will have to find a suitable 'tricycle' with a driver who speaks a bit of English.
Yesterday we were fortunate in meeting tricycle driver Jerry who spoke very good English. We hired him for 3 hours to take us around. It was such fun riding around in this little thing. It's a bit cramped and we had to bend our heads to sit in it. We went a few kilometers away to the provincial capital to find the 'Big Chow Garden restaurant' for lunch. It was very pleasant there with overhanging flowering plants and a park with tennis court next door. We have discovered the best cheapest meal is bbq chicken for 85pesos ( $2.20). Almost half a chicken marinated in spices is cooked on a skewer over coals. This is served with garlic rice and a little sweet and sour cabbage. After lunch Jerry drove us around to do our errands - buy diesel, go to phone shop, post office, internet café etc.
Bill wonders why most Filipino hairdressers are transvestites?! In Palau we met several and here it appears to be the same here. Bill decided to have a haircut and beard trim at the local hairdressers up the road. There were about 6 staff lounging about reading, gossiping and texting on their phones. The two hairdressers working were both transvestites. The one who looked after Bill had long dyed red hair, 5 oclock shadow, earrings, plucked eyebrows, tight tight hipster jeans and stiletto heels. He/she did a great job and was very particular. About 45 minutes later Bill looked very dapper and the whole lot cost 100 pesos. ($3). A haircut on its own is 50pesos ($1.50).
We are thinking of going to Bohol island where we can possibly see the smallest primate - a tarsier- which has a furry body, tail like a mouse and a face a bit like a monkey and fits in the palm of your hand. Bohol is also famous for 'chocolate hills' which are really formed from limestone. It's raining, the visibility is 0 and we still have to go ashore......... The satellite phone beeped several times last night so we know there are email messages. ( I also need to put a few more photos on the website, particularly one with Caylan in it as the new one has only Joe! )
Bill had a chat to David our neighbour on 'Celtic Caper' This is his 3rd time around the world! No wonder his boat looks a bit needy of attention. He has never had any trouble through the Pacific or Southeast Asia. He said in parts of Africa and the Caribbean he came across some difficult Africans. David appears quite relaxed about life and doesn't seem to be in any hurry to go any where. He's been cruising for 20 years.
Wednesday 5th March
The smell of burning rubbish greeted our nostrils as we entered Maasin harbour. We were pleased to see another yacht here. We met the occupants briefly - an older Welsh/Englishman with a young Asian girlfriend. He said he has been here 5 weeks and everyone is very friendly - no problem with leaving the dinghy on the little grey beach nearby. This has certainly been the case. Each day as Bill rows us ashore to the small grey beach littered in rubbish next to the wharf we have been warmly greeted by the people who live in the 'beachfront' shacks. We have been told by one of the men here that Maasin people are very religious and that's why it's a safe town. There is a big painted statue of 'Our Lady of Assumption' on the hill above town directly behind Valiam. She is lit up at night and as the Lonely Planet guide says 'looks like a benevolent apparition floating in the sky'. She was built to commemorate an old legend about an angel who descended from the heavens to turn back a typhoon. Early every morning (4am) we are woken by prayers and singing carried over the water by loudspeaker.The people who live in the beach shacks look after our dinghy and continually welcome us through their dark passageway to the street. A small bamboo gate slightly ajar next to a tiny eating place called 'Leahs' is where we go in and out to get to the boat.
The street is very noisy with 'tricycles' zooming along. They are motorcycles with a side car attached with a roof. There is enough room for a whole Filipino family or 2 large Australian yachties. We haven't tried one yet but intend to today to take our washing to a laundry.
We have tried each day to clear in but the person who handles yachts hasn't been in the immigration office yet. We have registered with the port and the coast guard. We will try Immigration again today.
We have been dining mostly at the only real restaurant in town 'Kinamot' which happens to be right on the beach front where Valiam is anchored. It is so cheap to eat here. A very nice meal with chicken, pork or fish, vegetables, rice, beer, iced tea etc rarely comes to more than $10. There is an internet café down the road which only costs 15 pesos and hour (30c). Its nice to be in a place not geared to tourists. However we are a bit of a novelty walking around and we often hear 'Americanos!' . We have bought local sim cards for our phones so we can call Australia for about 40c a minute. The trouble is sms to Oz costs the same! Bill and I can sms each other for free so this is handy communication if we go out separately.
They've been a couple of beggars approaching us, usually children. At first we didn't do anything but if we had some coins we would give those. However a local told us not to give money as it encourages begging which they don't like. It is difficult. Yesterday I was at the bakery buying bread and a boy/adult made signing gestures to his mouth. I offered bread but he didn't want it and looked annoyed. Another grubby waif followed us for a long way. She waited outside the internet café staring in at us. Bill said 'Hello' but she didn't give any eye contact and just sucked her finger. She may have had a disability such as autism and lives on the streets. She may have been fascinated with us because we look different....... Anyway she eventually lost us in the traffic.
Yesterday we met our friend Jerry's forestry colleague Nestor at the restaurant Kinamot. Jerry and Bill were at Uni together and Jerry arranged for us to meet Nestor. We enjoyed a feast for lunch with Nestor and some of his staff from the uni. We went on a field trip out in the countryside which was fascinating. I was interested to see a plantation of mahogany trees and a small scale sawmill which also made furniture.
We will get the laundry done today, update the website, buy diesel etc in preparation for our next bit of cruising. I'm looking forward to having a ride in one of the colourful 'tricycles'.
Layauan Bay Philippines
Sunday 2nd March 2008
Position : 10.16.8N 125.32E
(Baranguy) Imelda Village
It rained during the night and continued early this morning. As we watched the passing scenery with our morning coffee we debated whether to go or not. The scenery at Malinao inlet was spectacular with the waterfalls flowing white against the dark volcanic rock and dense green undergrowth. The locals continued to paddle past in their bangkas going fishing. Several more waved to us. We had decided to have a 'rest day' when 3 men turned up in a canoe. They came purposefully towards us so I called the captain to warn him. They said 'Good Morning. Good Evening' and indicated that we should go to their village to talk to their captain. They weren't particularly friendly but then again their English was limited and our Filipino non-existent. I noticed one of them having a good look around the boat. Bill stood on the ladder blocking any way they could get on. We had a bit of an uncomfortable feeling. "Lets get out of here" says the captain. Within 5 minutes we had the anchor up and we headed back out to sea. I guess we are foreigners and they were doing their duty. If a Filipino boat turned up in Mooloolaba harbour I'm sure the authorities would be down and giving them a much harder time than we had!
The sea was much calmer than yesterday and the rain had stopped. We followed the track on the chart plotter the way we came in past the breakers. They were smaller this morning. As we motored north about a mile from the shore all the way we enjoyed the scenery. Majestic misty mountains with waterfalls tumbling right into the sea. As we got closer to Surigao Strait we noticed we were doing 9.5 knots. We had 3 knots of current with us. As we rounded the tip of Dinagat island the sea was flat and the current was pushing us along. We were warned that there were 1000s of fishing boats and traps in the Straits. It was surprisingly empty and peaceful. I think we only saw two the whole day! Being Sunday and good Catholics perhaps the fishermen have gone to church. We could see Leyte island in the distance where the town of Maasin is where we will head for tomorrow. The cruising guide described Layauan Bay as an excellent anchorage. As we turned into the bay at around 3.30pm we could see a village perched right on the edge of the water. Many of the houses were on stilts and there were a number of bangkas alongside. Where we are anchored there are several fish traps made of long sticks in the water supporting nets. Looking over towards the village which is about 250 metres away we could see many children running along the front. Groups were standing looking towards us. We waved and they waved back. Not long after we arrived a small bangka arrived with a young man paddling accompanied by six children. He introduced himself as Bini speaking beautiful English. He welcomed us to the village and we exchanged pleasantries. The children giggled and smiled at us. I asked if we could buy fish and he said there was a fish seller in the village. As we hadn't been off the boat since last Tuesday we took the opportunity to visit the village. We took with us some pesos, photos of the family and a few gifts (last of the baby clothes, notebooks and pens, womens mags and a kangaroo keyring) The people of the village saw us rowing towards them and began to gather at the entrance of their village. It had a curved wooden sign saying 'Welcome Baranguy Imelda'. We took a big breath knowing we were going to be mobbed. Nearly everyone came out to greet us laughing smiling and the more confident ones speaking English with us. The children followed us everywhere. The tiny ones were frightened of me when I got too close. A big white lady with blonde hair is probably a bit like our kids being frightened of Santa Claus. Bini showed us around and introduced us to various people. Bill asked to see the village captain. Whilst he was talking to him I got chatting to a couple of older ladies. They were lovely and one was a retired school teacher. She said she was 76 but she looked so gracious and had a peaceful aura about her. (She did say her husband was shot by a gun in the village though.) With the women I shared my little brag book of photos of the family. Photos of Joe, Caylan, Geordi, Annika, Emma and Sara were shared. Everyone wanted to have a look. Bill returned saying the village captain said we were welcome and safe to anchor here.
As we walked between the little timber shacks with tiny stick fences we heard loud 'doof doof' music coming from one of the buildings. Inside we could see a gathering drinking beer and having a whale of a time. The fish seller came out very jovial and loud and with the crowd watching us took us over to the fish. He pulled 2 dark muddy looking fish with sticking out spines out of a polystyrene box and said '110 a kilo.' He put the fish in the dish of old fashioned scales and they were over a kilo. I gave him 120 pesos (A$3) and he was happy. We were warned by several people to be careful of the spines. The fish seller who seemed one of the loudest in the village insisted Bill have a beer with them. A couple of his mates came out and were introduced. In the meantime I met a few more women and gave out the magazines and baby clothes. There were so many children I asked Bini to give the notebooks and pens to the teacher of the local school. The kangaroo keyring I gave to him. I noticed a little girl with Downs syndrome and smiled at her. Esmerelda the retired school teacher described her as 'abnormal'. I said I worked with children like her as a teacher in Australia. I had one little koala I decided to give to her. She seemed confused and some boys around her took it from her. I said to them that it was for her. Another fellow showed us a letter asking for donations to support the village school sports team. We gave them some money and put it in the envelope provided. The people of this village were so welcoming and happy we came saying 'Thank you for coming to our village'. I had one gorgeous old lady cling to me professing that I was her 'amigo' (friend) She also had a Spanish sounding name. It's interesting to see evidence of the strong influence of the Spanish. As with our previous encounters with people who don't have much in the way of material possessions we came away feeling humbled and at the same time overwhelmed. One feels a bit like the pied piper or Santa Claus with children and adults surrounding us and following us through their village. I took lots of photos ('litrato') and gave out our 'Valiam' cards. Unfortunately many of these people cant access the internet but they did ask for our cell phone number!
We left in our dinghy with the village waving us off saying 'Bali bali' which means 'come back again'. When we got back to the boat Bill cooked the fish and I made a salad. The fish was actually very nice.
Tomorrow we will aim for Maasin on Leyte island and try to make contact with Jerry's forestry colleague.
Until next time.
Two weary sailors need to go to bed. A shower would be nice. Sponge baths aren't quite the same.
Dinagat Is Philippines
Saturday 1st March 2008
Position : 10.14.98N 125.38.65E
After leaving Palau 4 days ago we are now in the Philippines! Thank you Valiam and Captain Bill. We did well traveling 550nm in that time. We sailed quite fast for most of the trip and motored since 6pm yesterday. Yesterday we already spotted a Philipino fishing boat with its trimaran type outriggers spread like spiders legs. This morning Bill saw a couple of smaller craft still quite a long way out to sea. We aimed Heath the electric tiller pilot strait forMalinao inlet, Dinagat Island. We discovered this was a good first stop on the Puerto Galera yacht club website. On this site there was a whole section on how to enter the Philippines via Surigao Strait. It's difficult to know what the tides and currents are doing but the next suggested stop in Hibuson Island.
The sea was glassy with an undulating swell a deep deep blue colour. The weather is perfect and at 10 degrees north is slightly cooler than Palau. Linda first sighted land at 9am Brisbane time (7am Philippines) and had great pleasure in waking the captain with "Land Ahoy!" We could see lots of mountains and imagined an inlet with rugged mountain sides. In the far distance out to sea a big plume of black cloud could be seen. Bill thought perhaps one of the bangkas may have caught alight. (They use recycled car motors and often smoke cigarettes.) After another nap each and a cold beer we gradually got closer to Dinagat island. At first I thought I could see another yacht mast but as we got closer it was a waterfall coming down the mountain into the sea. We weren't sure whether to trust the electronic charts as in PNG the close up charts were out of alighnment with the large scale ones. It was a clear day and with Polaroid sunglasses we could just make out breaking waves either side of where we were supposed to go. Glancing behind us we spotted two bangkas coming towards us. The boats were brightly painted with outriggers each side. There were several people in each boat swathed in long sleeves and cloth around their heads and faces. We could just see their eyes. We waved to them in a friendly manner. As they came closer a man opened a polystyrene box and pulled out a bright pink glistening fish. As we couldn't stop and weren't sure what they were saying -" pito or kito??" we just smiled and waved. They must have thought we were idiots. Anyway they took off again. We pointed to where we were going and they did the same. Linda was stationed to stand on top of the upside down dinghy in front of the mast. As we got closer large swells began to form breaking waves directly in front. "I don't like this! Turn around!" The captain obeyed. Switching from the depth sounding back to the electronic chart we could see the boat was positioned too far to the right of the channel where it was beginning to become shallow. Motoring further to the left but quite close to the breakers on that side we slowly found our way in.
After anchoring in 5metres of water we cracked open the cold bottle of champagne and soaked up the scenery. On either side of the channel there are dense rugged mountains. One side has a beach with coconut trees. On the other side we can see a waterfall trickling down. Looking towards where we came in we can see and hear the surf breaking. As we sipped our champagne we watched several bangkas (motorized canoes) go by. One had 8 kids and the driver. Some of the people wave and some don't. We noticed some of the women wearing head scarves. Although the Philippines is 80 percent Catholic there are a minority of Muslims mainly living in the southern end (Mindanao) which isn't far from here. We observed some people swimming and snorkeling near the reef. Most of the bangkas were heading towards the end of the inlet where we could just make out a village. We expected people to come up to the boat as they did in PNG but no-one has apart from the ones outside the entrance where it was difficult to talk. How we wish we had purchased that fish! Maybe they went and told everyone here we don't want fish! So we had chicken curry instead from our trusty longlife Prodin supply. It was still quite tasty. Hopefully our new fishing gear will work soon. It's been quite disappointing so far!
Tomorrow will be another day of exploring. We may try to go to Maasin (bottom of Leyte island) in the next couple of days to make contact with a forestry colleague of our friend Jerry's. Jerry suggested that he would be quite pleased to talk to Bill and show him around. We'll see if we can get there easily. The Lonely Planet guide describes the town as quite interesting with a beautiful old church surrounded by jungle. That's it for now. We should sleep well tonight.
All well on board Valiam
Linda and the captain
Palau to Philippines
Friday 29th February 2008
En route to Philippines
1.45pm (Brisbane time)
This morning I looked blearily out to sea and to the left (port side) I saw boat that looked like it had outriggers. It came directly towards us so I woke the captain. "There's a Philippine fishing boat coming towards us. Perhaps you better have a look" As it came closer it looked like a big white spider. We watched intently as Valiam cruised along gaily (have decided to use this term in its original form) at 7 knots. As we continued to watch it come closer I was conscious of being in my shortie PJS which consist of knickers and singlet. I decided to keep down below just in case and let the captain be the hero if we were to be approached. After a little while the bangka (Philippino boat) passed our stern and into the distance. The captain said it definitely came over to have a look at us. We must be near the Philippines then!
Last night not a lot of sleep was to be had. The squalls always develop at night with the winds changing with each one. At one stage we were flying at 9.5 knots! Then of course the wind drops for a while and the sails start flapping and banging. After changing the direction slightly in favour of the wind (E-NE) the wind remained steady and increased so by lunchtime we were doing 8.5- 9 knots. We were heading too far north also. The captain decided to drop the mainsail so as to steer better with just the jib. "?%#$@&()?! The other lazy jack has broken!" Because of the friction last night of the sails flapping and ropes chafing after a squall the lazy jacks on the port side had worn through. These hold the sail neatly in it's zippable cover when the sail is dropped. Now the sail is all over the deck and almost in the water. After several attempts the captain managed to hoist the sail back into position and tie it on. The lazy jacks had broken on the last leg also. That's when I had to hoist the captain up the mast in Palau to repair them. I guess I will be doing that again when we get to the Philippines.
Our 24 hour distance at 12.00 Brisbane time was 171 nautical miles which is excellent. Our ETA at present is Saturday afternoon. If we make good time in daylight we may go a little further than the first anchorage on the east coast of Dinagat island. We may try for the next ones - Hibuson island or Tabujon Bay, Lisub cove.
We also saw a big ship passing ahead of us. So yes we are definitely getting closer to civilization.
We had left over pasta for lunch and I cut up the remaining pawpaw. The captain had a cold beverage after all the exertion and is now resting. Uh-oh 'beep beep beep beep...' Heath the tiller pilot is complaining. The captain had to get up to check. Seems ok now. We've slowed down to 4.5 knots and we are rolling around quite a bit. The jib is banging around. This is a problem - how to stop this and stay on course....... The captain is considering poling the jib out - more physical exertion..........
All well on board
Still no fish...
Thursday 28th February
At sea - en route to Philippines
About half way there.
This has been the easiest passage so far. A bit boring really. But... I would rather be bored than anxious! We prepare meals,eat, sleep, check for ships, read, watch movies, charge up computers and phone, send messages and listen to music. We came away from Oz with another huge folder of burnt music cds as well as a few new ones and have listened to them twice already. The biggest disappointment so far is not catching a fish. Maybe there aren't any out here.
The wind has been a steady 10-15 knots from E - NE. Bill hasn't had to change the sails since we left. (full sail up) He let a bit of rope out before dawn this morning during a short rain squall. The wind got up to 25 knots then and Valiam was cruising at 9.5 knots!! Since we left we have been averaging about 6-7 knots and the boat has been nice and steady. Occasionally around nightfall the winds drop a bit so we are then down to 4-5 knots. Bill has kept the repaired electric tiller pilot going on the wind vane bracket. Resurrected 'Heath' is doing a slow and steady job keeping us consistently on course. The wind vane needs more monitoring especially when the winds are light so Heath is doing all the steering now.
We do 3 hour shifts each on watch with the tormenting timer beeping every 20 minutes to check for ships. Catnapping at 3am isn't fun having to wrench oneself up from a comfortable position to look outside. The stars have been nice and the half moon pops out after midnight which makes it a bit easier to see. Last night the navigation lights on the mast stopped working so we had to use the anchor light instead. The captain wont be climbing up the mast to investigate. It's probably a blown bulb of which we don't have the right spare unfortunately.We haven't seen anything out here since we left Palau. We have the old navigation lights on the stern and bow rails. The captain has instructed to put these on if a ship is sighted.
There's very little sign of life out here except for flying fish. They are amazing and leap for miles out of the water, their bodies shimmering silver in the light. Bill did say he saw a big splash behind us yesterday.....
The boat is so steady during the day - much more comfortable than being on a plane. It just takes a bit longer that's all! It's only when the wind changes a bit at night and the sails start flapping and the wind changes direction to make the boat more uncomfortable for sleeping. We have been napping during the day so we aren't as tired.
Yesterday I cooked a chicken curry using the whole chook in a tin (from USA) fresh veges, coconut and spices. Delicious! We ate the lot! Today I made burritos for lunch using a tin of stag mince, beans and chilli. The burritos come in long life packets and after being heated wrapped around the hot chilli mince, sliced cucumber,salsa, grated cheese and a dollop of plain yoghurt they taste like the real thing. (which they are!) I make yoghurt using the packets of 'yo-easi' in a thermos type container. This takes 6 hours and delicious after chilled in the fridge. We found 'gingersnaps'(from USA) in Palau which are just as good as the Aussie 'gingernuts' if not better. These are my night time nibbles with a cup of tea.
We have been reading lots of relevant books, magazine articles, internet logs of the Philippines. We already have recommended anchorages with GPS co-ordinates for when we first arrive just off Dinagat island. This would be either Malinao inlet (10.15N 125.38E) or Gaas inlet (10.11N 125.39E) When conditions allow (there are strong currents) we will negotiate our way through Surigao Strait perhaps stopping at a couple of recommended anchorages along the way until we get to Cebu. Cebu is a huge city with shopping malls etc so we don't plan to spend much time there. We have to clear in there as it is an official port of entry. We will aim for some of the islands north - Malapascua,, Romblon etc. The main thing we have to watch out for is unlit fishing boats and fish traps which are everywhere apparently in the Philippines. It is not recommended to sail at night.
Tuesday 26th February 2008
Just off Angaur Island Palau
Position : 6.51.482N 134.11.676E
It's nice to be out at sea again. We left Palau at 1.20pm, a bit later than planned due to the Philippines embassy not telling us it was a Philippines holiday yesterday when we were due to pick up our passports with visas. Dennis a local yachtsman kindly drove us into town again this morning to pick up our passports. Bill arranged for Customs and Immigration to meet us at 1pm. All yachts entering and leaving Palau must do so at the shipping wharf. It is a delicate operation to tie the yacht up unscathed against a big brick wall with large tyres held on by big nasty rusty chains. It wasn't particularly windy but it did push us against the wall. Linda made sure our fenders were in the right position and Bill threw the ropes to a helpful 'Post authority' young man who tied them around the huge yellow bollards meant for big ships. The Customs man arrived in his little airconditioned car next to the wharf. He sat in it and about 15 minutes later the Immigration man arrived. Both were young Palauns. We paid our $20 each departure tax, had our passports stamped and we were on our way. We needed a crew list once again. I have lots of spares for a Bill to sign and date each time we need one.
Due to the lateness of our departure the captain decided not to head out through the west passage through the reefs. Rain squalls are typical around here and we could see one coming over which means visibility would be minimal. Instead we have sailed right around the east side of Palau and will be rounding Angaur Island shortly. It's been a pleasant sail until now. We were cruising along nicely at around 6 knots but now we are down to about 3 knots. Bill changed the wind vane for the repaired electric tiller pilot as there isn't enough wind. We motored a little and will probably do so again to keep up a bit of speed. Fickle winds make the captain cranky. It is supposed to be from the East(which it was) but is now from the south.... The captain will be staying up until we are well clear of Angaur island then we'll start our 3 hour watches.
I bought a book at the Palau Museum about an American couple who lived on Angaur island just after the war. It's called 'Number One Pacific Island' by Cecilia Hendricks Wahl. Throughout the book she refers to the Palauns as 'natives' not a term used these days. The Japanese had set up Phosphate mining on the island and had forced 3 villages of people to live in the one area on the southern tip. The Americans were stationed to keep an eye on things as there were constant scuffles and disagreements between everyone.
Last night at the yacht club we noticed a Harley Davidson motorbike with 'Australia' written on the front and the whole bike was covered in stickers from around the world. The dates and places it had been were written on the panniers. We noticed a middle aged couple who looked fit enough to be bikey types so we introduced ourselves. Their home base is in Redcliffe, Queensland. We ended up talking to them all night about their trip over the last 12 years. Jim and Jeanette of 'Dancer' and Carol and Dennis also joined us. The funny thing is the Aussie bikey couple Peter and Kay Forwood were originally from Canberra and Peter even went to Telopea Park High where I went. (He was a few years ahead of me) Peter and Kay have broken a record for the most number of countries visited in the world on any type of vehicle. They have visited all the countries in Africa, Europe, most of Asia, USA, Canada, Mexico etc. They have 8 countries to go - North/South Korea, Taiwan, China, PNG, NZ, Timor and Palau. They were inspiring to talk to and had some great tips on how to not pay bribes. They refuse to pay them and have got used to going past officials with guns. Their biggest challenge is finding ways to ship their bike from country to country. They have their own crate now. We haven't had a chance to see their website yet but for those who are interested here it is: Anthony and Gary I am sure you will enjoy looking at this.
We haven't caught a fish yet - must be the bananas in the galley! Instead we had a delightful lamb stew with potatoes heated up in longlife sachets. Quite edible really. I found the equivalent to Gingernut biscuits in the supermarket in Koror. They are called Gingersnaps and are from USA as is most food there. (even the apples we have on board are from California). Ginger biscuits with a cup of tea are nice at sea and settle the stomach.
We hope to be in the Philippines within 5 days. We will anchor off a couple of islands before and during the passage down Surigao Strait before we officially check into Cebu. We will most likely stay at the Cebu yacht club there for a few days before heading north to explore some of the small islands we have read about. The winds are light and are supposed to be blowing E - NE.
Last days in Palau
Sunday 24th February 2008
Today we are preparing for our trip to the Philippines. Yesterday Bill with the help and expert advice of Dennis went to 4 different shops around town to buy all the gear needed to catch fish. The lures look very pretty with coloured feathers. Bill purchased special surgical rubber hose, wire, fittings etc and borrowed Dennis' big swaging tools to put it all together. They did this on a table in the yacht club bar. Several passers by added their comments but seemed suitably impressed. The gear cost around $150 which Bill says should last years. He is putting on the final touches today. Lets hope we catch lots of fish! Dennis says we will catch something for sure as soon as we leave Palau. Wasabi is on the shopping list for the sashimi we will prepare!
Yesterday Linda had a wonderful 1.5 hour massage with Flor. ($20 plus a tip).I gave her a couple of 'Golden favourites' $2 CDs from Oz which she was delighted with. I had to listen to these during the massage whilst she hummed along but it was still the best ever massage. Bill came by to pick me up whilst I was still in there. Erica one of the transvestite hairdressers didn't recognize him and called down the stairs 'Want a massage sir?' "Where are you from?' When he realized Bill was with me they sat on the lounge waiting having a chat. Business was quiet. Erica says he's lonely in Palau and wants to go back to the Philippines when his contract is finished even though he will earn half as much. (He/she earns $200 a month for a 6 day week in Palau). The hairdressers/therapists in this salon are all Philippinos and live in the same house together.
We discovered a pleasant out door bar called 'Riptide Bar and Grill' down the end of the road yesterday. It is right on the water overlooking the main wharf and the famous old lighthouse where we entered Palau. We reminisced about our prolonged stay in Palau (2 months!) and discussed how nice it will be to explore new places again. Palau is a great place for yachties and divers. Everyone is very friendly and welcoming. Sams Tours (aka Royal Belau Yacht Club) have been wonderful. It's been good to get to know the locals and really get a fell for the place. The food is excellent and reasonably priced. I am not sure we can get used to being called 'Ma'am and Sir'. It makes us feel old. I guess we do have grey hair!
Today is shopping day. The supermarket is open on a Sunday and we've been told a ship has just come in with lots of fresh goodies. Unless something exciting happens the next update will be from out at sea hopefully after we've caught a fish!
Visit to Oz
31 January 2008
We stepped back on to the land of Oz on Friday 25 January at 12.30am in Cairns. Linda was the last passenger to leave the terminal due to being held up in Customs. Many of the presents bought in Papua New Guinea were either confiscated or taken to be fumigated. The beads contained prohibited seeds and the buka woven baskets had insects in them. The carving had a borer......The customs people were very nice and apologetic taking some time to rethread the remaining beads. The basketry and carving will be posted to us in Brisbane after fumigation at the mere cost of $30. Bill had picked up the hire car and by 2am we were on our way. Macdonalds was open so we drove through for coffee. On the highway to Townsville it was of course dark but also raining and many trucks were coming towards us. We were extremely tired so we pulled off the side of the road in Cardwell at 4am and slept for 2 hours. Waking up in the the smallest hire car available felt odd (no different to being in a plane!). The view of Hinchinbrook island was nice being one of our favourite holiday destinations over the years.
We arrived in Townsville around 8am and were greeted by a very excited granddaughter and daughter (Caylan and Vashti). Mother and daughter shed a couple of tears especially when viewing 6 week old Joe asleep. We've had a lovely time being grandparents going at the baby and playing with Caylan. On Australia Day we bought a blow up wading pool and the 3 of us sat in it!
We look forward to catching up with the rest of the family and friends in Brisbane and the Sunshine coast.
It seems strange to be back here without Valiam. I guess it's been an achievement to already have sailed (and motored) 3000 nautical miles in the last couple of months. Upon reflection we are very happy doing this trip and look forward to getting going again when we get back to Palau. It is a big project and involves lots of calculations, research and public relations! We received an email from our French friends on Peerliane who have reached the Philippines. They said it was relatively easy clearing into Tacloban. We are not sure whether we will check in there or Cebu. (after entering through Suriago straits)
Many people we meet ask many questions mainly to do with disasters! We haven't been cruising that long but so far this is how we feel and have tackled or intend to tackle the following:
STORMS : The strongest winds we've experienced were just before Townsville at almost 40 knots. (prelude to cyclone Guba). Valiam handled it fine. It's important to have a crew that isn't tired and that minimal sail is up. The captain always has his harness on when outside. We discovered that with a large following sea it's best to have the washboards in place. (refer wave in cabin incident) We encountered quite a few tropical storms/rain squalls throughout Papua New Guinea and on the way to Palau. These were shortlived and we did not experience gusts more than 25-30 knots. The captain was happy during these times as most of the time there was no wind or very light. Linda was nervous to start with especially seeing lightening in the distance at night in several directions. With each experience Valiam and her crew were fine. It was somewhat annoying to experience one of these rain squalls when we were just about to enter Palau after nearly 10 days at sea. Heading back out to sea was disheartening when were almost there!
OBSTACLES: The huge log we hit 300 nm from Palau was a bit disconcerting but then again Valiam proved herself to be strong and seaworthy. (must be the strength of the plywood hull)
Reefs are something watch for whenever we know they are around. We never trust the charts completely and always watch the depth sounder and look with our own eyes wearing Polaroid sunglasses. Both PNG and Palau had areas of poorly chartered waters. The other rule is to avoid areas with reefs at night.
Ships: When on watch we look outside 360 degrees around the boat every 20 minutes. This is awful at night and quite torturous! We have crossed several shipping lanes and so far it has been difficult to tell which direction they are going. Their lights are not always clear to us. (red/green etc.) Every cruising boat and crew have different ways of doing things. One family of cruisers we met who have been cruising for 12 years believe it is important to get enough sleep and only look every hour or so. Another cruiser was actually hit by another yacht miles from any where in the Pacific but sustained minimal damage. That would have been extremely bad luck. We are prepared for lots of fishing boats etc without lights throughout SE Asia and don't plan to travel at night in busy places.
SEASICKNESS: Linda takes travacalm most of the time and phenergen at night. This works quite well especially being the chief chef and communications officer needing to have ones head down. At anchor no medication is needed . Crackers, ginger nut biscuits and cups of tea are helpful. The occasional beer is a relaxant also. (wine is too acidic)
PIRATES/THIEVES: We haven't met any yet and plan avoid them. There is quite a lot of information about areas to avoid. There are also emergency radio/phone numbers in some areas of the navy etc who are there to assist. Mayday and Panpan will alert any ships in the area when giving position. From the cruisers logs we have read most get followed or intercepted by dilapidated fishing boats with poor people wanting water, fuel etc. The rule of thumb is generally not to stop and change direction. Parachute flares are also a deterrent. The most likely event is that a thief could board the boat at night or when we aren't there. We have a portable sensor alarm which sends out an ear piercing siren if anyone comes near it. This is usually enough deterrent and will at least wake us up. Pepper spray has been recommended by other cruisers. A foghorn in the loo or main cabin may be useful also. Bill also has his speargun by the bed!!! We don't have a gun as we don't believe in having one on board. There are many places at home that are robbed so the risk is always around wherever you are.
The desire to travel, meet people and experience different cultures requires an open mind. Everyone we have met so far has been friendly and welcoming. A smile, sense of humour and respectful attitude goes a long way even when one's patience is at it's limit. We are visitors and don't expect things to be the same as home. Each place we visit and each ocean crossing has its challenges as well as rewards. So far the people we meet are very pleased that we have come to their country in our sailing boat all the way from Australia
PNG to Palau
Sunday 30th December 2007
8.30am position : 7.01.55 N 138.4.50E
This trip is becoming very tedious. The captain is being pushed to his tolerance limit. Last night after readjusting the rig for the 100th time that day he said. "I'm not enjoying this. I'd rather be anywhere but here." I said I would still rather be here than at work! Another shackle pulled itself apart this morning on the boom vang with a 'bang!' We have the mainsail up to steady the boat and the engine going. Of course the conditions are not good for Fred the windvane to work so we have to constantly watch the tiller, the compass and chart plotter and hand steer. If not the boat goes the wrong way either back to PNG or Indonesia! The weather reports say it is supposed to be NE 10 -15 knots. WRONG! It's been all over the place. The night before we thought we had the trade winds and she sailed beautifully until 3am. Then we had a big swell which made everything sway and lurch and pull...As we haven't had much direct sunshine the batteries have been very low so if the engine isn't going we switch the chart plotter off. The compass light has blown so last night before the moon came up we had to check our course with a torch on the compass. We watched movies on the lap top to distract ourselves pausing every 20 minutes to check outside. We've had intermittent rain squalls every day which makes the wind difficult - ranging from 0 -25 knots from any direction. Today there is more blue sky. I can see Bill has adjusted Fred to make the boat steer itself. But for how long? The instruments now mounted inside say we are presently going at 5 knots (it was 4 knots before) and the wind speed is 8-12 knots from the East.
Too tired to cook last night we combined 2 meals - one tin of Rogangosh lamb and a sachet of Bombay potatoes - one pot dinner and quite tasty. We finished with red plums and custard.
It is highly unlikely that we will make Palau for New Years Eve - another 2 nights at sea. It would be ok if we had consistent tradewinds like we are supposed to have so that we don't have to adjust and fix things every 5 minutes. I'm glad we have plenty of food, water and wine. Champagne is cold in the little fridge for tomorrow night.
At least with the engine going the batteries are charging. Last night email wouldn't work and we thought due to the moisture in the air the data cable connections stopped working. We consoled ourselves that we still had the sat phone. I sent an sms to Luis in USA our wonderful GMN man to tell him of the problem. Later he sent a message saying the Iridium Gateway was experiencing problems and to try again. This morning it worked. Great! Although the emails one can never take for granted - still a luxury at sea -it has kept us in touch with everyone which is nice. It is good for us to know that we have support out there. - so keep those emails coming in! All the gossip, news (we don't know what is happening in the world) anything.
Computers - you can love em or hate em but they are useful tools!
When we do eventually get to Palau we want to forget about sailing for a while and just be tourists and not have to think too much!
Saturday 29th December 2007
1.55pm BANG! BANG! BANG! What was that? Something hit the boat....Bill looks out the back. "It's a log!" It was quite big 600mm diameter and 5metres long covered in barnacles. Heart beating... no holes...no water coming in... Rudder is ok. Check the propeller - start the engine ....seems ok. We are 300 nm from Palau. Bill will check the hull etc when at anchor.
Its moments like these when we are reminded of our vulnerability out here. John Butler is still singing on the cd player. The computer monitor is still staring at me. I am still enjoying an après lunch glass of cold wine...especially needed now to calm the nerves.
The bunch of bananas we bought in Kavieng just before we left looks ripe but when I opened one it tasted strange - very starchy. I remember reading about cooked bananas in sugar so I have sliced them and cooked them in oil and sugar. As an extra touch I have simmered them in sherry. After a quick taste I am not sure about them - a bit like potato in sugar! Maybe with tinned fruit and custard they might be alright!
It's a long passage. We left Papua New Guinea 7 days ago. The winds have been very changeable with intermittent rain squalls. Sometimes lots of wind. Sometimes none. We only have self steering with Fred the windvane as Heath the electric tiller pilot is broken.
29 DECEMBER 2007
I kept staring and staring at Joe's photo and he looks very different to Caylan - very much himself. Yes the large nose is also a Frylink gene - just as well he is a boy.
Another shackle broke/came undone with a big bang this morning - that's the 3rd one. Because the wind changes all the time and when it is light the sails etc pull hard then slack off all the time which is worse than a constant force in consistent winds. This has been a challenging passage. It would be good if the wind stayed the same so there is 'switch off ' time for the captain to relax read a book etc. It seems maybe today it could be like that. We are more than 6 degrees in the northern hemisphere now. It didn't get light till after 6.30 this morning. An email from Dave yestersday said there's another cyclone in the coral sea - so glad we are away from there!
We are 1/10 of the way around the world! We've done 2700nm and its about 26000nm!!
This passage is very long and the captain says it is relentless in that he has to constantly think about what the boat is doing. The winds change all the time making it difficult but seems steady now. We're cruising at over 7 knots now. We received a friendly and helpful email from Palau regarding clearance where to anchor etc. Palau should be good for us to have a rest from the boat and do a few tourist things - diving, hiring car etc We are still hoping to get there by Monday for New Years eve. We are very tired but hanging in there.
Grandpa is very keen on all the details of this trip. When I told him the other day the belt broke on the electric autopilot he came up with all sorts of solutions. Here is parts of the exchange :
We had some strong wind early Christmas morning (20-25knots) after which the
> small electric tiller autopilot refused to work. Bill pulled it apart and
> saw that the small drive belt was broken (probably a $5 part). So now we
> have no self steering in calm or light winds. The wind vane works after
> about 5-8 knots.
The wind must be right behind you, would it be better if you could be on a
I suggested using some twine as a temporary repair as I have done that in the
past (when I wore a maintenance eng. hat ) for small belt drives. It looks
as if it would be a good thing to carry a couple of spare belts when you get
27/12 The captain:
The belt is a small toothed belt, the teeth have worn off in a few places ,it still sort of works. I'll order a couple of spares. I have been using the tillerpilot to actuate the wind vane and the setup is a bit dodgy, ie the stroke of the machines don't match so I've been pushing it a bit hard occasionally, I will devise a more forgiving arrangement before using it when the wind is blowing.
The wind has now decided to cooperate and is NE at 5 - 10 knots whichs suits the wind vane. We're reaching at 4-6 knots. Looks like it may stay that way now as the tradewind clouds have established themselves. We just get the occasional rain dump from a cloud which involves plenty of wind for a few minutes then nothing for half an hour or so while the wind comes back. 540 miles to go so could get there Sunday afternoon or Monday.
I had a feeling that the belt might be toothed as it is a control component. If the teeth are worn off in a few places it looks as if the pulleys are out of alignment and are not running exactly parallel to one another so you are getting a sort of elliptical twisted action on the belt. The misalignment needs only to be very small for this to happen. Its a problem with toothed belts. There may be a slack pulley bearing, but would need to understand the arrangement before making any more comments. Anyway when you replace the belt try to check the alignment to prevent it happening to the next one. It looks as if you are making good progress from your change in position between13:53 and 18:43 PM - Abt 20+nm in 5 hr. Heres to the winds keeping steady
Yes we are going well. wind has been 20-25 knots gusting t 30 at times. 2 reefs in the main. difficult to sleep - quite big wave action. This wind is not in any weather reports! The hatches closed so a bit hot inside. she feels like an express train bumping occasionally and slewing sideways as Fred the wind vane corrects its course. Bill wrote the last email about the belt - too technical for me!
The tillerpilot belt was stripped as a result of irresistible force meets immovable object type abuse, it was adjusted for motoring in a calm and we had a 25 knot rainsquall fro a few minutes when it was seriously overworked, I was stuck at the tiller hand steering so couldnt disconnect it. I'm sure a replacement belt is all it will need but it's a fiddly job to pull apart so it can wait until we're in a calm anchorage.
We feel honoured that so many people are following our progress - great for our morale. This xgate is the best thing - otherwise it would be pretty lonely out here!
Vashti asked the other day what is more difficult than I thought- I thought some more and I guess the night watch is hard. So much responsibility in watching for ships every 20 mins. There's been a few quite close the last 2 days coming from Taiwan and Japan. Learning to trust my eyesight and rechecking. Right now it's raining and I squint and look and look....because if we did collide with a ship............... The other thing is I feel is of an awe of the captain's knowledge and thought processes and feel quite dumb at times. Our roles are much more defined than on the land. I do all the galley work basically and keep the captain comfortable. I don't want him to think I am just a passenger!!!
27 Dec 2007
We're galloping along now 7-8 knots. Captain happy 15-20knot NE pushing us along right on course. 500nm to go. Could be in Palau by Sunday arvo. I am already looking forward to restaurants, showers, hairdresser and a full nights sleep. Reading the Lonely Planet guide the island speciality is fruitbat pie! There are lots of bars and cafes serving international cuisine some within walking distance from the port - Malakal. We look forward to being tourists for a while - rent a car, go diving etc
Made pizza today and baked a french stick - yum
We watched another movie today - Snakes on a plane - quite ridiculous in a similar style to the disaster movies of the 70s - towering inferno etc. It was a copy of a pirate copy complete with people's heads occasionally and people walking in front of the person filming the film in a movie theatre!
until next time
position: 4.21 N 142.31.6E
26 Dec 2007
4.41pm 26 Dec
The wind has changed again to the SE.(10-15knots) Interestingly that is the forecast for Palau and Yap. It's a little cooler too which is nice. Bill has poled out the jib and the main is right out. The wind vane doesn't like it much and doesn't keep course very well unless the wind is consistent at 15 knots+. Sadly we only did 90nm in the last 24hrs and that is with 1knot of favourable current - but we were practically stopped half the night. Lets hope we can make it up in the next few days.
We watched a movie on the laptop - La vie en Rose - my favourite which Bill hadn't seen yet. Very beautiful and emotional. My mum loved Edith Piaf and La vie en rose was her favourite song.To think Edith Piaf was only 47 when she died. It's a hauntingly beautiful film in all artistic senses - the photography and the music. We were so involved in the movie we didn't notice we went off course!
The captain says we are back on track now.
The boat is nice and steady and Bill had a nap earlier today. The moon at night is great - we can almost see as well as during the day.
We are having 'Indian takeaway' tonight. ie heat up meals - chicken curry etc by Prodan. It's the cook's night off after all the Christmas baking.
The captain says he doesn't think he can repair Heath the autopilot. Fred the windvane is doing quite well so we'll keep looking after him....
position : 3.21.6 N 144.28 E
5.12pm QLD time
Email to our granddaughter:
It was nice to hear your voice on Christmas Day. Mummy said you are such a wonderful big sister and you love your little brother so much. Nanny is sad to not be able to cuddle him. Nanny and Pa will get on an aeroplane in February to come and see you and Joe. We have to wait until we can leave the boat somewhere safe like in a marina. There are no Marinas in Papua New Guinea or the next country called Palau. We have been on the boat on the ocean since Saturday and we still be sailing for a few more days - probably 8 or more days at sea altogether. It is very tiring because one of us has to be awake at all times to watch out for ships. Pa has seen only one this morning.
The present Pa like the best was the giant water pistol - he said he's going to fight pirates with it - maybe put something horrible inside instead of water....
I have printed the photos mummy sent of you and Joe and have stuck all over the boat.
We had Christmas pudding and custard for breakfast and then we opened a fresh coconut and drank the juice. Yummy!
I sent you a parcel from Papua New Guinea. I hope you get it. The mail isn't very good there. I will buy you some unusual things in the countries we visit and bring them back to Australia on the aeroplane. That way they wont get lost.
We don't see much out here in the middle of the ocean - just water and sky. The change colours and the clouds change. The last few nights the moon has been shining on the water as well as the stars - it's very beautiful. The sunsets are wonderful. Sometimes just before dark a sea bird flies around us thinking about stopping on the boat for a rest. We had one little bird stay all night. He must have been very tired.
Please send me an email soon. It's a little bit boring here but I read books, cook food and send emails - sometimes I help the captain.(you know that's Pa)
Love you heaps and heaps.
Merry Christmas from 1.14N 147.06E At the moment we are heading for Japan the way the wind is blowing but will shift our course by tomorrow. We had some nice wind since we left PNG but late this afternoon the sails started flogging and after it got dark Bill discovered a couple of broken shackles. Lucky the moon is out and with the aid of a head torch all is repaired. I've been busy baking Christmas goodies today - kerstkruntz with an 'interesting' pastry. The roast chook had to be done tonight as it is so hot during the day. But now we are in the Northern hemisphere shouldn't get cooler as it's winter?
Anyway we have about 850 nm to go. I do hope we make Palau yacht club for New Years eve - nice to have some company. Palau has a big American influence and many more yachties go there. We saw none in PNG.
Internet was almost non existent in PNG and Palau is supposed to be slow too.
The website needs a lot of fine tuning and I didn't have time to do anything on the blog drive....
Bill is still figuring out how to make weather grib files work through saildocs. At the moment we can only get general weather reports with text from saildocs.
MERRY EQUATOR CHRISTMAS!
24 December 2007-12-24
At 3 minutes to 1am we crossed the equator! The pineapple Bill is holding is our xmas tree. We sent a note to King Neptune in a bottle and Linda sacrificed her last lime bought in Townsville to the sea. Of course we had a glass of champagne!
Its 9.20 am and our position is 00.31.3 N 148.05.5 E . In the 1st 24 hours we did 149 nautical miles. (that's not bad) In total we have done 250nm from Kavieng (left 3pm 22 Dec) 915 nm to go!!!
Have a great Christmas everyone and think of us out here looking at the ocean and each other for another week!!
24 Dec 2007
Sails are flogging - wind has died down. Chook is in the oven and I've baked kerstkruntz (dutch almond ring) and there's prezzie under the pineapple tree! We have 850nm to go - hell of a long way!!
Not much else to report except the moon is beautiful and makes it easy to see at night. Bill has to repair a couple of shackles.....I'll give him a xmas sherry when he's finished.
About to leave? at 1:02 am? perhaps the time on the email is wrong.
Took a look at the weather map. Those 10-15kt winds have retreated
northwards a bit (1200UTC 22 Dec), so while the direction is good for Palau,
it doesn't look like a fast trip.
Well I don't know if Jerry is right or wrong. It hasn't been too bad and we've been sailing quite nicely most of the time. There's a nice 10-14knot NE blowing now. Lets hope it stays like that all the way to Palau. No more logs please! I better get their flag made - sky blue with a yellow ball - easy compared to PNG! I will also have to do a stores inventory for quarantine....
Christmas on the equator
Wednesday 26 December 2007
It's 7.35am QLD time and we are becalmed. The captain is having a well earned sleep after handsteering with the motor since 4am this morning. We had some strong wind early Christmas morning (20-25knots) after which the small electric tiller autopilot refused to work. Bill pulled it apart and saw that the small drive belt was broken (probably a $5 part). So now we have no self steering in calm or light winds. The wind vane works after about 5-8 knots. I can see some rain clouds ahead which may bring some wind. The boat is very rolly (things sliding back and forth in the cupboards) and we're drifting in the right direction at about 1 knot. So huey wherever you are please send some wind. We've given lots of presents to King Neptune including left over Christmas chook carcass so come on guys!
The alarm going off every 20 minutes when on watch is torture. We just drift off into that unconscious world (which was even more colourful and dreamlike after lots of Christmas pudding ) when BEEP BEEP BEEP until we push the middle button. After pulling oneself up into a sitting then standing position and crab walking hanging on to the boat then wrenching oneself up into the cockpit to do a 360 scan - ok 'no ships' - another 20 minute catnap.....that's 9 times in 3 hours...But it is important to do this because Bill did sight a big ship early this morning - first one since leaving PNG on Saturday. He said it took 40 minutes from the time he saw a light on the horizon to it actually passing us - 20 minutes if on collision course. So I am glad the 20 minute torture is worth it!
Christmas was just like home with all the rituals but not as many people!
- Presents under the tree (6 each). The tree is a pineapple decorated in a green plastic champagne bucket. I got 2 laplaps (sarongs) - 1 with PNG motifs, a head torch, shell bracelet, woven purse, tiedyed T shirt (Linda bought to match Bill's)
- Bill got - yes you guessed it - 4 pairs of underpants! They are suitable colours such as army green, grey and brown. They are a strange fit (Chinese and PNG) and made of thin cloth. One pair has 'TATA 2008' on its band. Bill says it is brand of car/truck? He also got 3 T-shirts - one with 1977 on it (our wedding anniversary), a tourist 'Kavieng one with a big colourful fish and pidgin) He also got some black bata thongs and a huge water pistol. He liked the water pistol best.
So we did quite well considering the limitations of the Chinese trade stores in Kavieng.
- Daggy Christmas carols on CD including Myer xmas special from 3 years ago and the kids 'rusty holden ute' version of jingle bells.
- Kerstkrunts - I have had this every Christmas since I was born - traditional Dutch Christmas cake. (pastry ring filled with ground almonds and sugar topped by apricot jam and glace cherries) My pastry (using the last of the butter) wasn't very good but it was still important to have this treat at Christmas
- Roast chook - we bought one in Kavieng frozen which was nicely thawed out by Christmas eve. Substituting crushed rye biscuits for bread crumbs in the stuffing with bacon and onion was delicious. We also had fresh beans (snake beans) and sweet potato bought at the market just before we left.
- Christmas Pudding - this is in a big tin and says serve 12. Warmed up with longlife custard is delicious! We didn't have dinner last night but I do confess to having some more pudding and custard at 1am. We also had some for breakfast this morning
- Candles - I have small t-lights in safe glass holders hanging in the cabin and one on the table with Christmas dinner.
- Wine - no shortage here. Before we left I bought a carton of white Semillon blank called 'Long Row'. It is indeed a long row from anywhere here! Bill also enjoyed the tradional sherry with the kerstkrunts
- Phone calls to family members not present - quite a lot of those this time! Thank you Iridium satellites! Nice to hear everyone's voices.
We always feel insignificant out in this big ocean. It is comforting to have our safe cocoon and haven. It is easy to sometimes forget where we are when cooking, emailing, reading etc within our compact home. Yet when on deck it's only a metre from the cockpit to fathoms of water all around.
We are conserving our fuel as we still have over 600nm to go. Drifting along like this I am losing hope of getting to Palau for New Years eve. The boat is creaking and rolling, the rigging banging, the water slapping against the side. The captain says it is impossible to sleep. I'm sure there will be some strong wind soon associated with the dark clouds I can see ahead. Then it's all sytems go - Bill adjusting the sails, the boat suddenly healing over and whooshing over the waves once more. Yesterday morning we were doing over 9 knots when the wind came! Our 24 hour mile count hasn't been too bad so far. 1st day = 149 nm 2n day = 143 3rd day=130. We do this at 3.30pm each day as that is when we left PNG last Saturday. Today will probably be less I imagine. Most yachties are happy if the 24 hour count is at least 100nm.
I still haven't done any art. It's a bit difficult when feeling lethargic most of the time. The guitar is also waiting to be picked up and played. ( I bought a beginners CD for Bill - alas no song for me yet - I was hoping......)
Nothing else to report. At least we had events such as crossing the equator and Christmas to make the days different to each other. I hope you liked the King Neptune & mermaid photos. Even at that small size it takes a long time to send but being such a significant occasion felt it was worthwhile.
All well on board
Kavieng PAPUA NEW GUINEA
18 December 2007
We arrived here yesterday at 11.30 am after motoring all day and night from Rabaul. First impressions were very favourable and still are. We are anchored outside a resort which caters for mainly surfers. It has a relaxed atmosphere and very beachy ambience not unlike the resorts Linda used frequent in Zanzibar, East Africa, The buildings are all made of local materials - palm thatching, handhewn poles, sand floors, carvings everywhere, crocodile skeletons and tame exotic birds. An Aussie couple Adam and Danielle who charter a catarmaran out to tourists have a gorgeous 2 storey thatched beach house. I have asked Bill to renovate our house in the same style when we get back! Perhaps we can bring back a house girl and garden boy to assist.
Danielle and Adam have been really welcoming and extremely helpful. They joined us at the restaurant and bar at the resort next door. This is where we exchanged information, drank pina coladas with fresh coconut milk and played with the horn bill. We have a mudmap of town, more local cruising info etc which Adam and Danielle kindly gave us. We also have a 2 week old Australian newspaper that someone form Lihir mine gave them which we will enjoy later.
Apparently many yachts come here but again we have missed them and are the only cruising boat here. Jesse Martin ("Lionheart - youngest to sail around the world) has sold his catarmaran and now has an Indonesian built schooner which is huge - 70ft. This is the other boat anchored here. (with just a local boy on it at the moment bailing it while Jesse is away)
Fruit ripens very quickly here especially when next to bananas so sadly had to throw out a beautiful huge avocado this morning. As usual we are eating well and enjoyed a delicious buffet at the resort including fresh local crab. I gave a huge pile of smelly washing (since Australia) to Danielle and Adam's house mary who will do it for us for a few kina.
So as you can see life is very hard here. We are pleased the optus phone works so we had a nice chat to Vashti. Our grandson Joe is being kind to his mother and allowing her to sleep for 4 hours stretches. Last night we finally received photos of this most handsome baby with his proud big sister and now they are plastered all over the boat .
It is hot and we still have to go into town. I will try and update the website.
Love to all
Linda and the captain (he now has a big bushy beard which he says he will shave off when we cross the equator)
Rabaul volcano PNG
Friday 14th December 2007 Rabaul PNG
We were only 2 hours away from Rabaul after leaving Put Put harbour early yesterday when I was suddenly and rudely tossed to the other side of the boat. We had been motor sailing in 5 knots of wind when suddenly we had 20-25 knots from the NW (worst direction!!!) The computers were saved but the flowers the mission people gave us in Puput ended up on the floors as well as other things that were lying about. Whilst Bill reefed the main and Heath (our little autopilot attached to the wind vane) struggled to keep on course I made sense of the mess below. One can never become too relaxed even after weeks of no wind!!! We had been receiving weather forecasts from sailmail as well as our friend Jerry in Oz and which only indicated E-NE 5 knots - WRONG!!!! Forget the weather forecasts as one old yachtie said 'look out the window'!
The seas became rougher and at the same time my Optus mobile came in range! Whilst gripping on I smsed the kids and my sister who all immediately phoned back (cheaper that way) The volcano could be seen in the distance spewing smoke. So we were shaken out of our lazy reverie controlling the boat, taking photos of the volcano, answering the phone and trying to steer into Rabaul harbour. As luck would have it yes you guessed it a SHIP started coming out towards us. Bill steered as far to the starboard side of the channel as we could. Meanwhile Valiam was doing 8.5 knots and heeling right over. As we headed closer into the harbour the seas and wind calmed and ship passed us at a comfortable distance.
Our impression of Rabaul as we entered: VOLCANO still erupting billowing smoke from its crater as well as down its sides some steamy bits too, SHIPS - at least 7, dilapidated buildings and sheds, some green on the slopes of old volcano (not the one that's still alive). Bill phoned the Rabaul yacht club and spoke to a woman who sounded a bit vague but said we could anchor just outside the yacht club jetty. We assumed the yacht club was still in the same location as Lucas' 30 year old mud map we had. We saw something that looked like a mast which turned out to be a decoration on the grass which was next to a dilapidated double story building with 'Travelodge' painted on it. As we got closer (no other yachts in the harbour) we indentified the jetty and saw a small sign that said Rabaul yacht club.
After anchoring and putting on some clean clothes (and taking toiletries for a shower) we wandered ashore. The kids at the jetty couldn't understand English nor our terrible Pidgin. (Pidgin is spoken here) We walked through black sand (actually soot/ash from the volcano) and found ourselves in an open air shed type construction with benches and a bar at one end. A beautiful girl with intricate braids welcomed us and we enjoyed a beer and gin and tonic or 2. The place was deserted but she said the 'members' would come later after 4pm. I asked about a shower and was given directions to an outdoor besser block amenities building. (pink for ladies, blue for men). A rusty leaky shower with a fine spray in one corner and a wooden barn door completed the shower cubical. I do remember from our times in PNG in the 80s cleanliness in public amenities is not important (even if it's the yacht club). I place al my items on a plastic bag on the floor and had my shower. It was still a shower and did not matter it was cold and I washed my hair. Feeling 100% I went back to Bill sitting at the bar. A couple of older Australian men had entered the premises, social skills not being one of their assets staring into their beers at the bar. One fellow who looked a little more sprightly than the rest (younger than 60 and the smallest beer gut) made conversation with us as he has a yacht moored at the Botanical gardens in Brisbane. His name is Darryl and he wants to sail it up here. He even offered to transport Bill this morning to get diesel.
At 6pm we wandered next door to the Travelodge for dinner. This was to be our first meal out since Townsville. The Travelodge has seen better days. It looked like it was barely functioning with cracked concrete, faded walls and curtains, dilapidated furniture and 60s type decorations including artificial flowers. Nevertheless we were determined to have a meal in the restaurant (the other clientele were watching TV or smoking glued to a newspaper out side) We were the only ones in the restaurant and it felt clean enough if a bit dusty and musty. A nice young girl wearing shorts was our waitress. (Rabaul must be much more modern - no shorts on women anywhere else we've been) Turned out she'd lived in Queensland and had stayed in Byron Bay (even named her child Byron) and loved hearing about the Sunshine coast as she hopes to go back one day. She is the same age as Vashti a single mum with 2 kids (one baby having an Aussie dad) and working for 100 kina a fortnight. (that's $50) Her English is excellent and I'm sure would have no trouble getting a job in hospitality back home if someone sponsored her.
Anyway we had a very nice meal. I had fish and Bill had chicken both with salad and chips. What a treat! The salad was better than the Kawana pub! A security guard called Nelson walked us back to the jetty. We felt this was unnecessary but anyway we enjoyed talking to him NEWSFLASH! Vashti has gone to hospital!!!!!!! The baby will be born today I am sure of it. We have cold champagne ready............
Now where was I?? As we were walking back to the jetty I said "Oh look it's raining' (It was sort of misty) Nelson said "That's not rain it is ash". I can't get over this volcano still spewing out stuff and the people here take it all for granted!! Many of the locals are a bit sad as Rabaul used to be a beautiful town green with frangipani flowers. Now it's a black dust hole.....Many services have relocated to Kopoko.
Anyway we are off shopping/walking looking around this morning so will close now.
Rabaul Papua new Guinea
16 December 2007
enroute to Kavieng PNG
Rabaul was a memorable stop over for many reasons mainly because this is where we heard the news of the birth of our grandson Joseph Andrew Walker born 8.56am 15 Dec 3.9kg in Townsville. Vashti and baby are doing well. Craig and Caylan (and the grandparents!) are all very excited. I immediately had to go out 'shopping' finding an artefact shop and found the only teddy bear in Rabaul (It's black with a PNG flag!) As Vashti was born in PNG it seems very appropriate!
We continued to explore Rabaul yesterday after hearing the exciting news. After walking in the intense heat into town we had a look at the colourful market. Unfortunately the camera battery died so we made a promise to visit again. The women were dressed in colourful 'Mary' dresses - long flowing with puff sleeves which the Missionaries introduced a while back to cover bare breasts. These dresses are now traditional and seem to be worn by all the women in Rabaul. They do look comfortable but surprisingly are often made from polyester fabric. We even saw one with sparkly sequins. The fruit and vege were beautifully displayed under the permanent market structure or under umbrellas. It was extremely busy in the heat. We caught a PMV (small mini van) to Kokopo. This was fun squashed in with all the locals and only cost 1.50 kina each (60c). It was at least a half hour bouncy drive through lush vegetation and villages by the beach. Beautiful big fish were for sale beside the road suspended on big sticks.
We arrived in Kokopo outside an even busier market than Rabaul. The heat was very intense. Shops and commercial buildings that we have seen in this area are very industrial and dilapidated made of steel usually. The exteriors and interiors are not particularly attractive and the goods are displayed in a very basic manner on wooden trestles, cardboard boxes etc. The lighting is poor and it is often dusty. We wandered down the road towards the water to see what the wind was like outside the bay. As we got closer we spotted a sign not far away saying 'restaurant'. Not wanting to get our hopes up too high we entered the establishment through 2 carved columns. We were pleasantly surprised. A lovely beachy place with matting on the walls and a verandah over looking the sea. We were ushered to a front table and were the only white people. A cold beer and gin and tonic later we were in heaven. The burgers we ordered were very nice and even had the Aussie influence of beetroot. The restaurant started with the letter 'V' and we do highly recommend it to anyone visiting Kokopo! We asked the waitress about internet and she gave us directions. We found the place again a funny little room advertising telecommunications. It was air conditioned and we were given a computer with 'broad band' straight away. We were able to look at weather charts and print one off, check the bank and send a few photos to family. We met a couple of Bougainville guys in there. They were really lovely and were making comments about their black skin - supposedly the blackest skin in the world. They had gorgeous white smiles. (no beetle nut stains)
Everywhere we go everyone is so friendly and pleased we have visited in our yacht. Always lots of handshaking and sharing of information.
Feeling retail therapy withdrawal Linda was determined to find the artefact shop mentioned by one of the women at the yacht club. We walked and walked in the hot sun following the directions to the 'Diabetic Centre'. We found it down a back street. It was a house with a big mural of animals and locals in native dress painted on the fence. The sign said it was open but to knock on the gate if the gate is closed. We knocked and banged and knocked and were ready to give up when a man named Paul with a German accent came out dressed in a towel. He apologised saying one of his staff had 'buggered off'. Paul is helping the local people identify and treat diabetes and has received a medal from the PNG government for his services. He has lived in PNG for 40 years. The artefacts is a side line. We walked into a crowded room filled with carvings and beads and all sorts of lovely hand made things. Linda was in heaven. 900kina later (We had to go back to the ATM to get more money) we now have beautiful carvings and basketry to decorate the boat as well as gifts for loved ones. (including the little black teddy for Joe)
The yacht club in Rabaul deserves a special mention. They have looked after us really well. The members were pleased to have an actual yacht outside using the new jetty just built. (usually has lots of kids using it as a diving board for swimming) Every time we went out we left the oars there and the staff kept an eye on the boat for us. The meals there are very nice and the beers nice and cold. (very cheap too.) A stubbie of SP beer is 5 kina (at the moment 38c to 1 kina) so $1.95. Gin & tonic with whole can of tonic 10.50kina ($4) The meals were 15 kina ($6) Usual pub fare and very tasty. The yacht club was rebuilt after the volcanic eruption where the 'hauswind' was. It's basically a big open building with a high roof with a bar and kitchen at one end. Wooden benches and stools at the bar complete the décor.
Outside everything is covered in black volcanic soot. The dinghy and the decks of Valiam were covered in it. Most of the time a haze of cloud with volcanic particles cover the town. However the people both local and long time Aussies love Rabaul and wouldn't dream of going anywhere else. It was interesting hearing first hand how some of these people lived through the major eruption in 1994. There was also another one last year. (I don't remember hearing anything of it on the News in Australia) The 1994 eruption caused damage not because it was particularly big but because of the direction of mudflow and ash. No-one was killed. One woman said when she went back to her house everything below waist level was damaged by the mud. She said only the clothes she didn't like that were stuffed at the top of the wardrobe were saved! Interestingly the Aussies whose houses were damaged didn't really speak much of looting and thieving. I think the media likes to play up these things. There are several world renowned vulcanologists living in Rabaul. There seems to be really little warning for the eruptions and that the other volcano next to Rabaul is about to blow and could be quite big. The one that is smoking at the moment is more of a nuisance and wasn't as big an eruption as the next potential one. Perhaps this is why Kokopo is more of a business centre these days. Many of the expatriate community live there also.
Last night we met some interesting people - local business people and a government politition. (All Australians with residency) I was surprised to learn that there are 4 Australians in Government. The local people like them because 'they don't steal their money'! Everyone made us very welcome and were very interested in our trip so far and how we found PNG. The main drift of the discussion was how much bad press PNG gets. We believe Rabaul is fine for anyone to visit and doesn't pose a threat any more than towns and cities in Australia. We have been welcomed everywhere and everyone is extremely friendly. We feel that we should write an article in yachting magazines to dispel the myths. Even ABC programs (according to our politician friend Peter) exaggerate the problems. The general consensus seems to be that the new government lead by Kevin Rudd will be good for diplomatic relations between PNG and Australia. In fact when we bought the PNG newspaper several articles alluded to that. There was one photo of the new Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd shaking hands with Mr Somare in Bali at the Climate Change conference. The newspaper article stated that diplomatic relations would definitely improve under Australia's labour government. One of the yacht club patrons said that Downer talked to the media too much and didn't seem impressed with what he used to say about PNG. We met another local business fellow Nick (he used to work for the government) who is a sheet metal fabricator and has lived in PNG for 30 years. His children grew up running around with the local children and they all have citizenship. He bought himself a freehold property - a house on an acre on the beach north of Rabaul for $45,000 10 years ago. Nick loves it there. There is of course a downside of living here in regards to medical facilities. Nick's daughter and her fiancé were involved in a serious car accident hitting a tree near Madang and were flown by air ambulance to Cairns. This cost $45,000 (same as his house!) for the 2 fathers to fly their children to medical facilities that could cope with the extensive injuries. The young man is of mixed race with a German father. He is doing well and will probably walk with a limp but his life is saved and he can actually walk. The daughter is now fine. Their wedding has had to be postponed.
We also were aware of being accepted as part of the 'old crowd' when we mentioned living in PNG in 1980-1982. I compared notes with the women managing on a plantation with a baby with no communication but surviving and actually loving it. (no phone, no internet, no TV) Only mail when someone went to Moresby. Nick knew of BNGDC (British New Guinea Dev. Co) the company Bill worked for in those days. He said we had P.O. Box 2 and his organization had P.O Box 1! I do remember writing that address so many times!!! Apparently there's a sawmill at Doa now where we used to live harvesting the rubber trees. I'm sure if Bill went there he would get a job!! In fact I think we would both get work here in PNG even if I was teaching voluntarily. (Perhaps when we get back??!!)
Nick has kindly given us his business address in Kavieng to use his internet. I have promised to send a photo of our yacht outside the Rabaul Yacht club. But the main reason is so that I can view photos of our new grandson! We look forward to Kavieng. It is supposed to be a bit of a holiday place with an abundance of fresh crabs and crayfish - yum!
Irish cove PNG
11 December 2007
New Ireland PNG
From Alan Lucas "Cruising Papua New Guinea" given to Bill Christmas 1981 - yes we are actually using it!
"English and Irish Cove: These two anchorages have a rather romantic history as they were the chosen site for the Utopea of the Marquis de Rays who, in the 1870's distributed prospectuses throughout Western Europe advertising it as already settled and established land of promise. He induced 3000 shareholders to part with 300,000 pounds sterling, many of who sold their properties, presuming their share to be protected by title deeds to land in and around English and Irish cove. A rather remarkable reaction when it is remembered that the Marquis de Ray's total knowledge of New Ireland came from his reading of ships' journals. In 1879, 150 people sailed from Holland aboard the the ship Chandernagore to be dumped ashore at their Utopia where only the scenery fulfilled their impossible dreams. There was nothing else. Needless to say the venture failed after a misery of starvation and disease although a start was made in building jetties and houses. None of these tragic reminders of Marquis de Ray's confidence trick remain today. He by the way spent 6 years in jail for his part in the fraud."
When we went ashore we did see some evidence of a low stone wall bordering the beach. Bill read somewhere that a ship full of bricks was delivered here but because it was abandoned a business woman from Rabaul grabbed it all and built herself a mansion which was to become famous for the elite to have parties drinking champagne etc...
> > I am standing in the sweltering heat in my bikini at the chart table
> > typing this. the satellite connection was non existent a moment ago
> > but has come back in. I wonder how many satellites are buzzing around
> > out there? Never mind i love them as i can communicate from the wilds
> > of PNG. After 3 days of motoring in calm seas and occasional lightening
> > and storms in the distance we have arrived at the bottom tip of New
> > Ireland at a place called Irish Cove. I'm glad we didn't come in the
> > night relying on the electronic chart as it would have had us sitting
> > on the land. Some areas around PNG haven't been charted very well we
> > were warned. We will write to c-Maps and tell them of the .3 mile
> > discrepency. It feels like deep jungle here. Tall hills with
> > rainforest and coconut palms. The little bay we are in is still and
> > deep. A couple of guys in canoes went past at first not that
> > interested in us waved and said they were off for a bath. I think it
> > is a waterhole not far from the boat which we will row over to once we
> > are rested. About 4 guys in canoes stopped by for a quiet chat. It is
> > SO HOT and steamy!! They said there are crocodiles here. I can
> > imagine it as there are mangroves and a little creek running off this
> > bay. Eventually one of the fellows asked for matches which we gave
> > him. Then he plucked up the courage to ask for a magazine. I only
> > have a few womens magazines left. I gave him a glossy Madison. He
> > giggled when seeing the gorgeous blonde on the front. They left soon
> > after. I imagine the underwear ads will get a good look in!
> > Tomorrow we will head accross the channel to Putt Putt bay (New
> > Britain) then the day after Rabaul. We need to go to Rabaul for fuel
> > and maybe a bit of civilisation.(and beer!) The volano has wiped out a
> > lot of what Rabaul was famous for (beautiful well appointed harbour) so
> > we don't know what to expect. As we were not originally planning on
> > going there we have absolutely no information except a mention of being
> > able to anchor near the yacht club (I wonder if it was rebuilt?) If
> > you can find out anything about Rabaul today we would appreciate it.
> > We'll be fine if you can't and we will definitely arrive in the day
> > time watching the sounder. This morning just before we arrived here we
> > witnessed a magnificent sunrise. Next thing a huge pod of dolphins
> > came over and swam/dived/jumped around in the bow wave of the boat.
> > Beautiful - i made a movie. After 3 dyas and nights at sea we could definitely smell the land
> > - a mixture of earth and vegetation and campfires. Also a sulphur smell
> > (volcanoes)
> > The sweat is getting to me - I have put wet washers in the ice box to
> > provide a little relief.
> > It feels a bit like the wilds of the Amazon here - pit helmet and khaki!!
11 December 2007
It is really lovely here - beautiful protected bay and were pleasantly surprised when we went ashore to find a little rock pool the size of Paul's spa with icey cold fresh water. Glorious! There is no village here either. Some people go past occasionally in canoes and don't really bother us. Bill also rowed us down a little creek beautifully shady (no crocs) and again -cool fresh water. We are very tired after 3 nights of not much sleep so we are having a lazy afternoon reading and resting.
It's going to take us longer than we expected to get to the northern part of PNG - Kavieng - New Ireland before making our longest ocean crossing yet to Palau. It is important for us to stay in Kavieng for the right weather. We are almost out of the cyclone belt (phew!) - only 4degrees south of the equator.
It will be interesting to see Rabaul - re the volcanic eruption form years ago. It wont be as peaceful as here and we will have to be a lot more security conscious - yay for the Dick smith alarm!!
It's weird not to have seen any other boats or tourists so far and only 2 other white people at Samarai. (except for the boat load of tourists from a distance)
There's no-one around here except locals. One of the guys we spoke to this morning did say that other Aussie and American yachts had anchored here. It is on the way from the Solomon Islands....
Sorry if you are bombarded with emails. Every day seems like a week to us as lots happens - so different to a week of should I say it - (w.o.r.k)
I have a feeling we'll be having christmas in the middle of the ocean on the way to Palau. I have bought kerstkrunts ingredients and will buy some treats before we go.
It's a bit hot and boring out here. No wind again. Motor is droning (se attached) thank god for Heath - the little autopilot strapped to the wind vane. We wouldn't have been able to hand steer for so long.....
We're reading books and just watched a movie. Another night at sea by the look of it - that's when the exciting light show starts (female crew doesn't like lightening) and we will probably get a bit of wind blowing from different directions....maybe..
current position: 5.50.96 S 152.07.439 E There's 8 km of sea under us!
> > 9 December 7am
> > Position: 7.47.4 S 152.11.5 E (getting a bit closer to the equator!)
> > We are in the middle of the Solomon Sea - no wind, no land, blue skies,
> > soft white clouds, just the engine droning. Last night there were a
> > few storms about with lightening flashing from 3 different directions.
> > We had an uneventful night - no ships this time. We decided to do 2
> > hour shifts - both a bit tired. The beeping of our little alarm every
> > 20 minutes when on watch (we dozed/catnapped between) is torturous at
> > times...One thing I love seeing at 2am or there abouts is the big star
> > to the east that reflects on the water like the moon. Also the
> > phosphorescence is magical to watch going past the boat. At least we
> > have a rest from visitors out at sea!! Although a sea bird did circle
> > the mast a couple of times hoping to rest on top for the night.
> > Thankfully it didn't because the wind instrument up there was damaged
> > by a bird once before and I don't want to hoist Bill up the mast out
> > here to repair it. I've just put the coffee machine on but I think the
> > captain has gone back to sleep. Just before sunset last night I saw a pod of dolphins
> > jumping in sequence
> > parallel to the boat. Their silhouettes looked just like the typical
> > image of a dolphin jumping mid air.
> > We enjoyed our 2nd meal of lobster last night. Might have to put the
> > lure out - see if we catch anything to day.We still have heaps of fruit
> > and veg. Does anyone out there have a recipe for pawpaw salad? (maybe
> > using it green??)
> > The last lot of bananas we traded are a bit strange - maybe they are
> > cooking ones too.
We are down to the last half doz stubbies. Have plenty of wine but beer is better in the heat. W e should be able to get some beer in Kavieng or maybe Rabaul if we stop there....
Solomon sea PNG
Monday 10th December
Position : 6.15.80 S 152.01.00 E
Bill says its 8 kilometres deep here!
It's the third day since we left Egum atoll. It's been mostly calm so we have been motoring most of the time. Last night we had a bit of wind but from the wrong direction. Bill decided to change course (making a dog leg turn towards New Britain), use the sails and turn the motor off. Aah nice an peaceful.... The wind kept changing so this meant more work adjusting the sails and autopilot for Bill. As with the previous night we could see lightening in the distance coming from several directions. We could also see the stars. Bill reassured his crew that the lightening was a long way away. Last night's meal consisted of mashed pumpkin with garlic, tin of stew and corn on the cob. After boiling the corn for ages it still tasted awful so we decided it must have been pig food or the locals aren't as fussy. The corn is still sitting there - no pigs out here to feed - only flying fish!! All along the trip we see heaps of flying fish. Some of them fly for ages before returning into the water. Fun to watch.
5am this morning no wind again. It's so hot during the day. I have now started putting wet washers in the little fridge to put around our necks - nice.... We are down to our last dozen beers - Pure Blonde. It is really nice to drink in the heat with a wedge of lime. I also made a pot of tea, the remains of which I have put in a plastic jug with lemon juice and sugar in the fridge. Haven't tried it yet. I have also been making yoghurt which has been great. Our fridge is just our little icebox with a condenser about the size of an esky. It has been essential (I think) in this heat to have cold drinks and keep food fresh. When we were in Noumea a couple of years ago we came across a young English couple in an old wooden boat who had sailed from England without refrigeration. They said they kept cheese in olive oil etc. I love our fridge.
It really is becoming a bit irritating with the engine droning. We are only averaging 4.5 knots (to conserve fuel) and we have 1 knot of current against us. It will be another night at sea at this rate. Bill is thinking we may have to go to Rabaul to get more fuel. We might go to Put Put harbour, New Britain first which is on the other side of the channel from English cove (New Ireland). There is very little up to date information about these places. The Alan Lucas book I gave Bill in 1981 on cruising PNG is still the most informative but out of date. Dolphins and DimDims didn't document up this far. Because we weren't expecting to go to Rabaul (we still may not - will know tomorrow) we have no up to date information on the harbour since the volcano erupted recently. The electronic chart plotter will give us accurate depths and the lie of the land if we do decide to go to Rabaul. There may be other yachts there and maybe the yacht club still exists...
It's too hot to do much except lie about,read, doze, eat, drink, navigate, put more fuel in the fuel tank etc. The emails are a great distraction even if they are expensive!
As the galley slave I plan and prepare most of the meals. Yesterday I made Nachos for lunch with one of the 2 packets of corn chips we have. I tipped tinned spaghetti mince, a jar of salsa, tin of artichokes, sliced onion, garlic,chillie topped with grated cheese. It was delicious but our oven tends to burn things on the bottom so next time the griller might be better.
Yesterday we had a shower on deck and washed some clothes. After washing 10 pairs of my own undies I asked Bill where his was. He held up one pair! They looked disgusting so I threw them in the sea! He said they were his favourite, comfy pair.....
I will go back to my trashy novel now - it's set in the Viking days when Princesses were stolen from different kingdoms.
The sea is still oily and glassy to the horizon 360 degrees.
Yanaba Island Egum Atoll PNG
8th December 2007
On route to Kavieng
Left Yanaba Island - Egum atoll this morning
We arrived at Egum atoll yesterday morning after sailing all night from Pitt Bay. Pitt Bay was a good anchorage and we slept well. Several people in canoes came to visit us there . We traded clothes (the baby clothes are a big hit) and books (as well as womens mags) for pawpaw, pineapple, pumpkin, 4 eggs, and a local green vegetable we've never eaten before. The lovely thing about the people we've met is that they speak beautiful English - no Aussie accents even though we hear Aussie teachers often teach here.
We have taken to having our baths at night under the stars by using a bucket and wash cloth - very refreshing after sweating all day. The heat is quite unbearable in the middle of the day when there is no breeze. We've become used to rivers of sweat dripping from our bodies. Our clothes have had a couple of quick rinse outs but because we are conserving water our most comfortable items are looking and smelling quite bad. Anything that has been in sea water just doesn't dry and then takes on a musty smell!
The night before we arrived at Egum atoll started off quite calm and sedate. We enjoyed a sundowner watching yet again another magnificent sunset. The islands we pass around here look like the pictures in Treasure island - lush, green, hilly, white sandy bays lined by coconut trees. Everyday we watch sailing canoes in the distance going from island to island. I was on watch for the first half of the evening and as luck would have it I had to wake the captain due to the close proximity of ships. The last occasion at 1am in the morning we had 3 ships around us and couldn't work out which way they were going. One had big yellow lights which were the front of the ship. I flashed the torch on the sails (read that in a sailing book somewhere) but this didn't make any difference. We turned the radio on and heard heavily accented men telling each other they would go 'port to port' which didn't help us at all. I was going to pluck up the courage and call them up on the radio but Bill said with 3 of them out there it would be impossible for them to identify themselves and tell us which way they were heading. It was very confusing and stressful. We put the engine on and went full throttle changing our course dramatically. We could finally see the side of the closest ship but still couldn't work out the back from the front or which way it was going. Eventually it seemed to get further away from us and the other 2 ships were going in the same direction. Looking at the paper chart later we discovered we were in the middle of the shipping channel and we were lucky enough to have 3 of them there at once.
The electric chart plotter is amazing - we navigated our way into Egum atoll through an entrance between Yanaba island and Egum islet. The depth goes from hundreds to suddenly 7.5 metres over the top of coral bommies. A sailing canoe with a couple of guys sailed out to us and sailed alongside waving. What a beautiful welcome. We followed the directions of 'Dolphins and Dimdims' and anchored in almost the same spot recommended by them.
We had barely put down the anchor when we were visited by a couple of young men with children in canoes. We explained that we had sailed all night and needed to sleep! Bleary eyed we chatted for a little while and eventually got down to the subject of their wish list! I guess Bill does look a bit like Santa with his grey beard. They wanted batteries mainly and fishing line. We asked if they could get us some lobster (crayfish) and they said yes they would. When asked what time they said 8 or 9 pm. Bill also gave them some fishhooks. I gave the kids balloons and biscuits (yes the gingernuts are slowly diminishing) Another young fellow came by with some pawpaw and a wooden carved sword like piece. (They are really used for houses at the entrance or on tables) I gave him a t shirt and cigarette as well as shorts Bill didn't want. After the first visitors left we thought we would put the Dick Smith sensor alarm in the cockpit as we needed to go to sleep. An hour or so later we were rudely awakened by a piercing siren. Bill staggered out trying to remember the code to switch it off and saw a very frightened man on his sailing canoe next to the boat. He thought when he touched the boat the alarm went off! 'For rascals?" Yes said Bill 'We were just testing it!' Most of these guys just want to talk to Bill about the boat and what/how it is made. They know quite a bit about boats and thought fibre glass over plywood (as in Valiam) was pretty good . This fellow asked if we could help the village with medicine and bandages. We don't have a lot of that sort of thing and gave him some panadol and bandaids.
A little later as we were pumping up the inflatable and lowering the outboard, we had another visitor. This time he was the local school teacher named Tassie also asking for medicine for the village. We said we would like to visit and that we had books and clothes to give and a box of panadol. We ended up towing him ashore along with a couple of kids paddling a canoe. We didn't realize we were so far out! It was a fun ride for all and I could see a crowd gathering on the beach. A couple of young blokes helped drag the dinghy through the waves on to the beach. With the whole village looking at us in front of their gorgeous thatched houses we started opening the bags. We had only 2 packets of biscuits so I asked Tassie the teacher to tell just the small children to come forward. It was so difficult with so many little reaching hands. I gave Bill some to help me. We both ended up breaking them in half to make them go further. Knowing I only had a handful of baby clothes I asked where the little babies were. Mums or Dads with little babies came forward hurriedly to collect the clothes. The rest of the stuff (my old clothes, mags, books etc) we kept to give to Tassie the teacher. He took us on a windy path with sharp coral (ouch!) and mud past vege gardens and huts to the school and his house which was next to the playing field. The school was an open bulding without windows with very traditional maths/English lessons on the board. The maths looked fairly advanced actually. The trail of children that followed us spoke excellent English once again. We all sat on the grass ( a bench was fetched for Bill and I) while we chatted and gave the rest of things out. We also showed them photos of us living in PNG in 1981 with our "first born." Daughter born in Moresby. It is nice to chat to the locals when we visit but it is so obvious that we have so much more in material things and opportunities than they have. But when we explain about mortgages, cars, credit cards and everyone having to work to pay for everything they realize our lives aren't as easy as they think. The men spend much more time with their children here. I explained that many parents have to work long hours in Australia and don't see so much of their children.
We haven't seen another cruising yacht and only 2 other white people (at Samarai). We've seen no cars, shopping centres, no stressed people or people being aggressive or beligerant. On the islands out here life appears so peaceful. The Yanaba people live in thatched houses right on the beach, grow fruit and veges, raise pigs and chickens, go fishing and don't seem to need much. The problem of course is when someone is seriously ill - there are no facilities to deal with it. There is a hospital /clinic at one of the larger nearby islands but I believe their resources are limited.
We were given a wonderful send off by the village waving and helping us launch the dinghy. Watching the people on the shore waving to us made us feel humbled and overwhelmed.
The scenery is gorgeous and I have of course taken 1000s of photos and short movies. I haven't given myself time to paint or sketch what I have seen. I might have to break my self imposed rule of working from photos.
The young man who gave us the carved sword came by again just before dark with his young 10 year old brother and naked baby girl sitting in the bottom of his wet sailing canoe. She sat their quietly her little hands hanging on to the edge of the canoe whilst her 'uncle' kept bailing. (They are pretty leaky!) She must be a good little baby sitting in there on hard wet wood whilst the boys sail, paddle and bail out the boat! No life jackets, baby restraints here! I gave the boy a couple of picture books and some baby clothes for the baby. (I think she was called Belina) I have forgotten the young man's name but was aghast when he said he was 15 and had been married for a year! He did look young but I thought about 18-20. He said he was at school but his mummy got sick and died so now he looks after his younger brother. He said he liked being married. His sailing canoe he said he built in a week. It is made from a hollowed out log and sticks held together with fishing line. The sails are made of black builders plastic sewn on to the sticks that serve as mast and boom. You can see the big tacking stitches on the black plastic - looks like string. These sailing canoes sail quite well and the boys know how to make the most of their design. The canoes are double ended and the outrigger is always on the windward side so tacking is done by steering it from the other end.
This lovely young man gave us pawpaw and another long carving " For you Mummy Linda because you give clothes for my baby" (get your hankies out....)
He also asked for medicine for his sore back. (I've nearly run out of panadol!!!)
We were very tired last night but knew the lobster boys may be back later so we got the trading goods ready - Bill's red Lowes board shorts, my batman t shirt, a 'valiam' shirt, some kitchen knives, more panadol, a few cigarettes and some cheap rope. We put the Dick Smith alarm back out.... Just as we dozed off I heard voices. Bill crawled out, tried to switch off the alarm and I heard him say " You've got some crayfish!" When I went out 3 guys and a boy were in a sailing canoe with 10 wriggling lobsters in the bottom of it! They proceeded to pull the heads off the live lobsters so they could give us the tails. They made a funny squeaking sound during and after the beheading. This almost made me want to be a vegetarian but memories of the succulent birthday lobster over ruled this momentary desire. After giving the boy some books and a glow stick (should have seen his grin!!) Justin one of the lobster boys pulled out a couple of old carvings. One was for the prow of a canoe and the other a carved bailer. He said they were very old. I asked what he wanted. He said 'trousers'. I fished out some long pants of mine (Bill didn't have any spares) and a polyester long sleeved work shirt of Bill's. I was surprised they were happy with them. Feeling guilty I gave them a Marie Claire magazine and another kitchen knife. The boys loved the mag!!! We put the 10 lobster tails in a Tupperware container in the 'fridge'
We were getting ready to go this morning after a rolly night, ( a couple of rain squalls too - Bill put out containers to catch the rain water for the batteries.) when more visitors showed up. I was in the middle of making the marinade for the lobster and Bill was hoisting up the wooden dinghy. The fellow who wanted his reference copied showed up. While I was attaching all the right plugs and cords to get the computer,scanner and printer working (and dripping with sweat!!) Bill talked to the fellow. Apparently he has done some interesting work around the place including turtle conservation, crewing on a yacht, driving a boat in Alatau and is currently the local Magistrate. He has authority to impose a fine of up to 300kina but cannot get involved in marriage disputes. He showed Bill a diagram of the PNG legal structure with his position at the bottom as village magistrate. He has 5 children and when they are high school age they have to go to boarding school which costs 500 kina a year. (not sure of accommodation maybe 'wontok' system ie family/tribe system) I asked how he pays for that and he said he gets sea cucumber and shark fins for 'business people'. I asked 'Chinese?" He said yes. He said they don't eat the rest of the shark and just throw it in the water. I said many Australians eat shark usually cooked in oil with potato chips! He said they only have coconut oil..
I finally got all the "white man magic" working and gave him 6 copies of his reference. Bill explained that its like an outboard motor - you just buy it and use it - not magic!!
Just as I had packed away the computer gear and we were ready to go Justin the lobster guy turned up with a letter for us. It was from Rose the wife of a resigned school teacher. The letter is beautifully written and addressed to 'William and Linda". She asked that we could teach new cooking and sewing skills including baking cakes, bread and sew a graduation suit! Parts of the letter :
"....I am very glad to know your names from this young man who came to your ship today....I saw my chance of learning something new........my interest of learning new way of cooking and sewing is very high so I therefore write to seek for your kind help of teaching and showing me....I would very much appreciate if you come to the land and show me.......with this thank you for your kindness.....I look forward to hearing your kind response....Yours sincerely Rose Vepet.....Corrections under your care thank you."
Well what to do??? I decided to scan some recipes for cakes and bread and send her a handwritten card. Out with the'white man magic' again. In the card I gave her our Australian address. I wouldn't be surprised if a letter arrives from PNG!! I still feel a bit guilty for not going ashore but we really couldn't spend another day if we are to get to Palau by Christmas. (that's our goal)
We are currently sailing to the southern tip of New Ireland - "English Cove'. It will take us a couple of days. We've had a couple of rain squalls. At one stage Bill was steering and sailing with 25 knot gusts the boat going at 9 knots on flat water. He was grinning from ear to ear while I was panicking a little. We'd only eaten half our lunch (grilled lobster). Once the boat settled we finished them with some chilled white wine. We're back to sailing at 4.5-5 knots now. Tonight we are having lobster AGAIN! They are still delicious and we aren't sick of them....
All is well on board Valiam
Current position : 8.36.4 S 152.05.4 E
Linda's 50th birthday Rogeia Pata PNG
Rogeia Pata Bay, near Samarai Island 4 December 2007
Position 10.38S 150.39 E
What an amazing day! Not just because it is my 50th birthday but because we are so happy to be here experiencing all that we are. Still anchored at Samarai with our yellow flag up, we were beginning to feel like part of the surroundings after more than 3 days! We actually saw Felix the customs officer arrive back from his 'compassionate leave' yesterday late afternoon. He arrived by speed boat accompanied by many sacks and bags carried off the boat by numerous children after being in Moresby for several weeks. Earlier yesterday we spoke to Justina his wife who described him as short with a beard so we recognized him when he arrived and he even waved to us, (the only yacht in the harbour conspicuous enough with our yellow flag still up.) Being late in the day he was caught up with family so we resigned ourselves to a morning visit to customs. It was so hot when we got up this morning I immediately put on my bikini to have a dip off the ladder at the back at the boat. I discovered this to be the best way to cool down. We hadn't cleared up after breakfast yet and just as I re-entered the cabin after my dip I heard Bill say "Customs!") I said "Wait! I have to get dressed!" Women cover up their thighs and tummies here so I hastily put on a dress over my wet swimmers. Bill had been cooking a chocolate cake for my birthday so the cabin was unbearably hot with the oven on. There was not a breath of fresh air when Felix arrived. He chose to do the paperwork in the cabin whilst we were dripping with sweat. I ineffectually waved a hat to try and create a breeze. It was the untidiest the cabin had been in ages - dishes, clothes everywhere, unmade bed and Bill didn't have a shirt on. On our previous unsuccessful trips to customs he had put on a buttoned shirt. Nevertheless Felix was calm, respectful, shy and called us Captain and Madam. We paid 200 kina each for clearance and 50 kina quarantine. (a little more than we had heard). He wasn't worried about what we had on board in relation to alcohol and foodstuff. We explained all the fruit we bought had been at the market. As were really not supposed to go ashore he just nodded. I think he was just anxious to get the paper work done and leave. As Bill rowed him ashore he said 'You can take the yellow flag down now". Felix said the previous year 40 yachts came through but this year 20. I guess his workload has been reduced somewhat but we were pleased we were keeping him in a job!
After receiving lots of birthday messages and phoning Vashti & Caylan on the sat phone we cleaned up and went ashore to give the clothes and photos I'd promised and a bit more shopping at the market.. Bill left me in the sweltering heat at the little market while he went off to get diesel. I made my way towards the little hospital and ended up stopping at the school on the way. I spoke to some kids as well as their very young teacher Georgina (with her baby) as they were cleaning up around the place for the end of year. I gave them a few books and fished out a little outfit for Georgina's baby. I looked at the student list and noticed a girls name 'Yolinda'. I said my sister is Yolanda and I'm Linda - what a co-incidence! Teenage girls here are quite shy and embarrassed by the smallest things and Yolinda didn't feel comfortable being the centre of attention. I left soon and began to walk towards the hospital. Along the way I bumped into David the Reources Officer we met the first day. He walked with me to the hospital and he told me many things about his life including his previous 'defacto ' marriage and 9 year old son he never sees. At the hospital I wandered past the Labour/Maternity ward and saw 2 young women and 2 tiny babies in their cribs. I gave them the baby clothes I had which I think they liked but seemed a bit shy about accepting. The photos of the kids I gave David to distribute. We went back past his house where I met his wife, sister and all the kids. I showed them photos and movies on my camera of our family in Townsville as well as our boat arriving at sunset into PNG. Even though PNG people are curious to some extent of our life I think they are quite happy with their lot. And why wouldn't they? They have everything they need , the land and sea is bountiful and they don't have to worry about where they live.
My biggest acquisition today was lobster! Talking to David's offsider about getting some lobster (crayfish) for dinner for my birthday he said he would get me some. He sent a boy off with my last 25kina and came back with 12 lobster tails! (A$12.50) I was quite pleased with this when I got back to the wharf to wait for Bill outside the Pearling office. The big Australian guy was there and I asked if we could buy some pearls. I said it was my 50th birthday and my husband hadn't bought me a present!!! Unfortunately he said he couldn't sell me any. As I was waiting on the bench a little boy came by. He said he had a pearl and held out a tiny one to me. He said he'd found it outside. I paid him 1 kina for it so now I have my pearl!!!!
After lunch we motored off across the bay to where we are now. During the afternoon many canoes came by selling/trading fruit, veges, woven baskets and shell necklaces. Bill did not have to move far to go shopping for me!!!! He was very impressed with the lobster tails and proceeded to marinate them in lime juice, garlic and herbs. Just as he was doing this another canoe came by offering more fresh lobster! We had to say no !! After a feast of grilled lobster, fresh cucumber ,cold champagne followed by mud cake we felt fully satisfied. It was the best birthday anyone could have. The stars are out. We can see camp fires on the beach and some occasional singing. We are indeed in paradise.
The People and Beetle nut and coconuts
5 December 2007
The people here are so nice and 'pushy' would be the last word to describe them. The first person who visited us in his canoe yesterday was a young man. He greeted us quietly and complimented the boat. Everyone seems in awe of it - especially when we say how many years it took to build and refurbish. In each instance when we meet someone we notice the red stains around their teeth and some cases the teeth literally ground to stumps from chewing beetlenut. I feel it is a shame because it detracts from the attractiveness of these people. Nearly everyone has red teeth - beautiful young women, older men, even Felix the customs man and his wife. The only people who didn't seem to be afflicted by beetlenut stains were David the Resource Officer and when I met his wife she had a lovely smile with white teeth. Even the school children chew beetlenut. I noticed on the classroom school rules that chewing beetlenut in class was forbidden. The beautiful young teacher also had red teeth and gums. For us it can be disconcerting. Yesterday we lost count how many canoes came by. After the young man there was a talkative grandfather. We traded baby clothes, books and some money for shell necklaces and hand woven baskets. Many shy children came by (with instructions from their parents I suspect) with coconuts, pineapples, chillies, little white fruit etc. We love the way the coconuts are prepared for drinking the juice. The outer skin is cut off except for a small area around the top with the vine like branch left on for carrying. When ready to drink the juice (to alleviate the 'big sun' as one man said) the top part is cut off and the little holes speared with a knife. The juice is delicious! Needless to say we traded for a few of these. Pity we didn't bring any rum to make pina coladas!
It's so nice to be here and we feel we are under a spell. A gentle breeze blowing over our faces as we woke this morning and fresh fruit salad for breakfast. We will be sailing about 20 miles today before we plan the next big leg of the journey.
Email to the children in Oz
03/12/2007, Samarai Island PNG
3 December 2007
Dear Caylan (also Geordi and Emma - thought you might like to hear about
> > the PNG children) also all the Melbourne kids - Isadora, Jack, Noah,
> > Otto,Tristan, Saskia. Also Chayse and Declan
> > I just got a message on the sat phone that you have sent me an email.
> > I have to write one before I try and connect because it takes a long
> > time sometimes and it is better to have the emails all ready.
> > I was going to tell you about the children here on Samarai island in
> > Papua New Guinea. They are beautiful children with brown skin and are
> > very happy. There are no cars on this island. The children stay on
> > the island which isn't very big. It's about the same size as
> > walking/riding around pt Cartwright. I see the children all the time
> > playing together without any mummies and daddies watching. There are
> > big kids and little kids always together swimming and jumping in the
> > water. Many of the little boys are naked! When we were at the beach
> > yesterday we watched the children play. No hats. no sunscreen. no toys
> > from the shops. no mummies and daddies watching. They were laughing
> > and splashing running in and out of the water. Some naked little boys
> > were laughing and rolling in the sand - even their faces! They looked
> > at us laughing so I said 'Dim-dims!". That's the name they have for us
> > white people! With the white sand sticking to their bodies they looked
> > white! The island is beautiful with lots of little coral beaches and
> > bright tropical flowers. Everything is really green and lush. The
> > families if they want to go anywhere have to paddle their canoe. The
> > canoes are carved out of logs from the trees on the island. Some
> > families have small motor boats. There is a school here but my little
> > friend Nelly who is 9 said she goes to school on another island by
> > boat. The families live in old houses made from tin and timber. There
> > are no fences and everyone goes wherever they want. Some houses have
> > beautiful views accross the water. I think they are very lucky.
> > When Pa and I went for a walk yesterday we met a little girl all by
> > herself who looked only a little bit older than you - maybe 6. She was
> > wearing a skirt by itself and some beads around her neck. She was
> > carrying a huge knife almost as big as a sword or dagger. She also had
> > a small piece of green fruit. I asked her what it was. She said
> > 'guava'. I think she is allowed to cut the fruit off the trees by
> > herself with the big knife!
> > Every time I see the children play I never see any mummies or daddies!
> > The big kids look after the little kids I think. They all know how to
> > swim. The children here don't have toys unless they make them
> > themselves out of what they find. One little boy had made a small boat
> > out of polystyrene ( some white foam from a rubbish trip probably). It
> > was really good and had something to balance it when he made it go in
> > the water with a string and a stick. There's no TV here. There used to
> > be a supermarket but it's closed and broken. There is only a small
> > tin shed called a trade store that sells boring things like soap, tins
> > of fish etc. When I was talking to a little girl called Nelly the other
> > day she asked me for hair clips. I didn't have much on the boat so the
> > next day I gave her what I had - as well as a necklace, a writing book
> > and pencil as well as prints of photos I had taken. She seemed really
> > surprised by all the things I gave her.
> > Today we are going to another island which won't have many people. I
> > will wake up on my birthday somewhere really beautiful. I feel really
> > lucky.
> > I miss you heaps. Caylan: I bet you are having a lovely time with Nanna and
> > pop. The baby will be here soon! How exciting!!!
> > Much much love always
> > Your loving Nanny (and Pa too - he's lazy reading on the bed.)
> Nanny Linda (or aunty Linda) and uncle Bill
LAND HO! Samarai Island Papua New Guinea
Samarai Island PNG
30 November 2007
We first sighted land at 1.10 pm. As we got closer to PNG we were greeted with a magnificent sunset. We could smell campfires and saw a couple of lights in the distance. This did not detract from the multitude of stars, one which reflected on the water. We had to motor all day so the sea was very calm. We celebrated our arrival in PNG waters with the Chandon bubbly saved for this day. One glass and the rest upon arrival.
Linda watched from the bow with the gentle warm air blowing over us whilst Bill navigated with the assistance of the chart plotter. As it got dark we turned the plotter on to night mode and peered ahead to make sure we wouldn't bump into anything. As we rounded Kwato Island (This is where the story of Sinabudalily originated - Vashti being a 'papuan meri' born here grew up with the book and now Caylan loves it) we could see a multitude of lights that was Samarai island. With the chart plotter, Alan Lucas' 30 yr old book and the more recent 'Dim dims and Dolphins' book we worked out where we were and where we should anchor. As we got closer to the township we looked for the correct anchorage as marked in the 2 books. What we didn't see was an unlit beacon right in front of us - phew! near miss. It really isn't a good idea to anchor somewhere unfamiliar in the dark. After 3 attempts (the first one , we caught an old car tyre in the anchor!) we finally anchored without moving with the tide or bumping into a boat at the wharf. By the looks of things we are the only yacht here so I expect we'll be on display tomorrow. A canoeist has already circled us a few times quietly in the dark. It is very quiet here and the boat is lovely and still. Time to go to bed and face civilisation tomorrow.
Our prior communication with immigration has been a bit vague (from PNG end) so we used the sat phone earlier today to ring customs here at Samarai. Bill spoke to him explaining who we were and when we would arrive. I heard him say at least 3 times that we can't send a fax because we are on a boat in the ocean. Bill said he seemed a bit confused. We have the quarantine flag up as well as the PNG one I made so I guess we'll be paid a visit tomorrow. It's Saturday so we'll probably have to pay overtime...From reading other cruisers logs a fellow called Felix is supposed to handle all the paper work. We are not allowed to leave the boat until customs, immigration and quarantine have checked us out. Hope we aren't ship bound until Monday!! There's a supermarket here and a P.O etc. We'll also need to buy fuel.
It feels strange to be in the middle of a small town when we've been at sea for nearly a week.
We couldn't face the tuna curry for the 3rd meal in a row so fed the fish with it and ate (you guessed it) tinned spaghetti bolognese instead accompanied by the rest of the Chandon.
Stay tuned for the next episode!
Saturday 1st December
> Samarai Island PNG
> We haven't been able to clear customs yet so we are marooned on the boat
> watching the local scenery.We phoned and radioed without success this
> morning. Bill rowed ashore to the wharf and spoke to 2 little girls who
> spoke perfect English. They said the customs man is on leave and that
> they saw our yellow flag and we were'nt allowed to leave the boat until
> our passports are stamped! They ran off and came back with a woman in her
> thirties who also spoke excellent English. She had tatoos on her cheeks
> and stumpy teeth with beetle nut stains. she told Bill that Felix the
> customs man is on compassionate leave to attend his brothers funeral in
> Moresby. He is due back this afternoon.
> Since we woke up we have been watching canoes and runabouts arriving from
> all directions from other islands to go to the market area we identified
> on the maps from Lucas and Kerr's books. All morning we have heard the
> sounds of a local band playing modern islander type music interspersed
> with speeches on a microphone. We are curious to know whether its a lcoal
> community council thing or religious (7th day adventists?). The scenery
> is lush and tropical. Samarai has a wharf, a pearl farm/production
> shed(I've given big hints for pearls for my 50th!!!haha), old tropical
> type dwellings made from timber and iron. What we can't see from the boat
> is a supermarket, P.O. etc.It is very hot and sticky. The locals seem
> friendly but I expect they aren't allowed near us until the yellow
> quarantine flag is gone. So in the meantime we are studying charts, books
> and cruisers logs to plan where to go next. ( and drink cold beer....)
> It really is so cool watching the locals get around paddling their canoes.
> Lots of happy sounds of laughter, music etc
> I wonder when Felix will arrive. Hope we don't have to wait on the boat
> until Monday!!!
> keep those emails/messages coming in. Connection is much improved since we
> put a cake tin under the small external antenna to serve as a ground
> plate! (Our helpful GMN guy Luis suggested it. He and his wife cruised
> for 10 years before starting up their business - ie compressed emails for
Sunday 2nd December 2007 Samarai Island
This morning we woke to the sound of 'church bells' - a gas cylinder being hit with something!
Yesterday we waited around on the boat drinking beer watching the locals going past in canoes to congregate at the end of the beach under some trees. Linda wanted to get off the boat after being on it for a week so we decided to become illegal immigrants and go ashore and say to anyone we met we were looking for Felix the customs officer. Bill rowed us over to the wobbly jetty attached to a decrepit wharf and we unofficially landed on PNG soil nearly 26 years after we left in 1982 with our infant daughter Vashti who was born in Moresby. We approached a couple of guys sitting nearby asking for the 'customs man'. Looking confused they pointed to a fellow walking towards the jetty with a small child in his arms. We approached this fellow who could speak beautiful English and he didn't know when Felix would be due back. The description Bill gave him of the woman he'd spoken to earlier matched his wife. This nice young man turned out to be David the Rural Development Officer with his little 2 year old girl Freda. Time seems to have no consequence here and David kindy showed us where the customs office is. It's a tin shed with an old dilapidated house behind it (Felix's house). David seemed in no hurry for us to go and seemed to indicated that it was ok for us to wander around. Bill talked to him for ages. David has a tropical agriculture degree which he gained in New Britain. He said that developers have tried to do something with the land and islands around here but it's too difficult to prove who owns the land. It's complex and has belonged to families forever and there's nothing on paper. The cute little tropical island opposite us was purchased by the ex prime minister however.
As Linda wanted to stretch her legs a little she left Bill chatting to David and wandered over towards the end of the jetty. She said hello to a small group of children and sat on a bench. The oldest girl who said she was 9 and called Nelly spoke beautiful English and referred to white people as 'dim-dims'. She talked a lot about the island saying there were 38 children at the local school and they had their lessons in English. More children joined our little group. The smallest little girl with a serious face is called Joyette. I took some photos which I promised to give prints of the next day. Nelly asked if I had any hairclips. I said sorry but I didn't think to bring any. Thinking of the huge pile of beaded jewelry on board I asked if she would like some necklaces. She said yes. I asked if the smaller children would like some picture books which I had brought with me (ones thrown out by Currimundi kindy where I used to work in OZ) She said 'yes'. After a while we walked further down the dirt road (no cars - just people wandering around and a couple of pushbikes). It was a pity we missed the market earlier in the morning but we were being good not breaking the rules! The supermarket referred to in 'Dolphins and Dim-dims' book is no longer - just a derelict shed. There was a small tin trade store just like we remembered when we were in PNG in the 80s selling basics such as flour, soap, tins etc. A small church had its door open. Peeking inside it looked clean and orderly even if it needed a coat of paint (as the whole place does!)
There's a pearling industry here run by a big Aussie 'who drinks all the time' according to David. He lives above the office and was leaning out the window when he said 'hi' to us. Still feeling concerned that we still hadn't 'cleared in' he said not to worry about it and that we didn't look like we were bringing in any diseases.
The children here have a simple life with no adults constantly supervising there every move. A bunch of kids mostly boys with the youngest no bigger than Caylan (about 4-5 yrs) were jumping off the decrepit jetty into the water. This jetty has big rotten pieces of timber sticking out everywhere. In fact the smallest child was balancing on a piece of wood that was perched at a 45 degree angle and used it as a gang plank. No safety rules or pool fences here. The water is deep so the kids must all be pretty good at swimming.
The wind suddenly picked up from the west and we observed Valiam bouncing about in suddenly choppy water. (It was calm before) As we went back down towards the dinghy the floating pontoon that we had to get on to was further away - in fact a huge leg stretch that Linda wasn't keen on. One of the boys who Linda had been talking to pulled the jetty closer and after she said 'Thank you' he reminded us of the photos the next day. It was a wet and bouncy hard row for Bill against the tide and wind to get back to the boat. Just as the strong wind and choppy waves appeared from nowhere it disappeared again making the harbour calm once more. At the far end past the wharf is a long timber jetting with a couple of outhouses ("long drops') perched over the sea. They must be the public toilets marked on the map! Watching the passing traffic of canoes and runabouts we noticed a huge power boat come towards the island. As it anchored on the other side of the 'long drop', we noticed it had a helicopter on its roof! Not long after that 2 large dinghies with outboards full of people visited the island taking photos. The helicopter then took off taking a few people for an aerial tour no doubt. After a quick visit ( an hour?) they went back to the boat and disappeared again into the sunset no doubt getting dressed in their cabins while the chefs prepare their horsdouvres.... It seemed quite incongruous in this simple laid back setting. It must be a rich persons 'wilderness tour' of PNG?
Still needing to catch up on sleep we slept soundly last night.
Today we plan to go for a walk around the island again, find the kids (or they will find us) to give them the photos and presents. We don't expect to be officially cleared in until Monday. The yellow quarantine flag is still flying!
125 miles from PNG
29th November 125nm from Samarai Is PNG
Position : 12.26 S 149.46 E
Its hot and sticky. We are definitely in the tropics. We motored most of today. No wind. We had an exciting start to the day however
Our sleep patterns are crazy due to one of us being on watch all the time. It's about 11am,no wind, sails flapping, motor droning. The sea is almost glassy. Our eta in PNG is more likely Saturday now.
Bill has just handed me a cold pure blonde beer in my favourite hot pink stubby cooler with a mermaid and Byron bay on it. I like beer with slice of lime now, especially sailing.
It was so exciting early this morning when I looked behind the boat and saw a fish on the line. I pulled it most of the way in and it wasn't hard as it had been there a little while so had drowned. I woke Bill "A fish! Afish!".( We had put out Phil's home made lure which was cut out from a piece of aluminium. We weren't sure it would catch a fish because it looked like a disabled fish that couldn't swim. Bill said the tuna must have been a really stupid one to think it was a real fish!) Bleary eyed he said 'It's a tuna!" and began cutting it open getting the blood and guts out. I can't watch this bit so I looked at the seafood cookbook Robyn gave us instead. There are 5 recipes for tuna so our biggest decision is how to cook it for the next 3-4 meals.(Bill cut it up in steaks, chunks and fillets)
Breakfast : tuna steaks fried in a little olive oil and salt & pepper. Serve with lemon wedges.
Lunch : 1. Tuna Sashimi with soy and wasabi.
slice tuna in thinslices
combine wasabi and mirin (I brought with us all these ingredients but wasabi not much left)
Stir in soy sauce and place in dipping bowl
place tuna on large serving plate with dipping sauce. Serve with chopsticks
suggested wine : unoaked chardonnay
2.Tuna tartare (CRASH! Boat rolling. My favourite small serving plate broken on floor! Didn't put plastic plates in front cos boat was steady before. I said some rude words)
onions, capers,parsely (have dried),olives, lemon juice,cucumber (will have to pickled intin) lemon wedges
Dinner: Kawati Fish Stew with black limes (thanks to Ruth for spices and recipes from Herbies - she hasn't got email so I
will send a card from PO in Samarai)
several spices, garlic, tomatoes (will use either sundried or tinned), onions, large green chilli, coriander leaves (have some in a tube) tomato paste, water, 2 tableps flour
Tomorrow :Aromatic Fish curry
Sound good? You probably aren't as keen on raw fish but fresh tuna is excellent.
Rolling around a bit now. Better take a seasick pill......to think there was a cyclone right here a week or so ago...
I started making the PNG flag yesterday with material, craft glue and sewing. The bird of paradise looks demented and the stars are wonky but never mind.
We are pretty happy living in our cocoon. It feels like a space ship at times but we are very comfortable. The only thing that is a real bother is the mast rattles and squeaks when we are sailing. As it as the foot of the bed in the main cabin it prevents the captain from sleeping. He's even talking about chopping it off at deck level.......
I've started reading my aunt Nancy's book 'Rhythms and cycles'. It's quite philosophical and just the right sort of book to read when in a meditative state of mind. It explores different religions, emotional health etc. Nancy said she would meet us in Europe. I wouldn't mind turning our trip into a book and I thought Nancy might help me. I know we were constantly looking for books about cruising....lets see....
I love Annika's words especially 'Bugger' for kookaburra!! Darlings your children are so precious to me - We opened Caylan's letters she wrote us as we sailed away from Townsville.I had a lump in my throat and felt that emotional pull that almost makes my tummy feel like it's tied in knots. I will miss them so much but this adventure is something we must do. I will be able to tell them lots of funny stories for years when I become and old Nanny in a rocking chair!
I am so happy to have the sat phone for communication. We haven't tried phoning on it yet but I am assuming it works. There have been a couple of call attempts but failed. I know Bill's father tried to ring and my brother Roy said there's a sat phone at the fire station. The signal sometimes weakens which is what happens when I email it takes a few goes. If you ever need to ring and it cuts out just keep trying. We've attached the car aerial that came with it through the toilet hatch which seems to have improved the signal.
Our GMN friend Luis says we really should have an external aerial with a particular type of cable. We did get one when we bought the phone but couldn't get a cable for it. We'll address this next time we are near a city.
I have to plug the computer into the data cable attached to the sat phone and keep trying till it connects. Fist it sends mail then receives. The receiving seems to take longer and takes a couple of goes. I am so glad we bought a spare lap top as it is the one that works. The original one seems to have a fault which can't be fixed until Philippine, Malaysia or Oz when we fly home. We are not sure when we will fly home. Probably Jan - Feb to see our new grandson. He's due next week! So is my 50th birthday....
I'll send this then start preparing the tuna.
I did prepare the above recipes. We felt like kings. Delicious!!!
We think that our timing for arrival may be not the best - most likely in the dark tomorrow night . This is not a good idea in a strange place we haven't been before. Anchoring in PNG will be challenging as the charts are not that detailed and typically there is very deep water abruptly becoming shallow with big tides too. We have Alan Lucas' original book of PNG from the 80s which is useful as well as 'Dim Dims and Dolphins'. Both have detailed drawings of anchorages.
More emails along the way:
28 Nov 2007
We are almost half way there! It's so cool to type and send emails from the middle of the ocean. It's not as easy as at the marina. At first we thought it wouldn't work at all but it does on the 2nd hand spare laptop we bought the day before we left! Lucky.... It's connected to the sat phone with a cable going up through the hatch with a little flat thing that sits on the roof of the cabin. It's meant for 4wd cars going to the outback. We have to wait for full strength signal before we hit 'go!". Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. It requires a lot of patience but hey I don't have a lot to do out here except cook the captains meals and give him cold beer! I do occasionally hold the tiller and pull on a rope. Night shift out here was wearying last night. The wind was much stronger than during the day. The main cabin with our new rubber/latex top of the range queen size bed became a trampoline as Valiam punched through the waves. There is also an annoying noise rattling in the mast which Bill can't stand. So last night we had catnaps in the main cabin. The narrow bunk which was roomy for Caylan was a bit like an ironing board! The spare quarter berth needs rearranging because when Bill tried to sleep in there he had my art easel and guitar for company.
Whilst we weren't heeling yesterday we had a nice cold shower on the stern. Bill took sneaky pictures which I promply deleted!! I'm glad I am the communications officer!
Townsville to PNG
28 November 2007
Our current position 14.21 S 149.28 E (I meant to buy Caylan a globe or map of the world!) It's been a comfortable day with no motoring. A smoother ride tonight hopefully without bouncing off the bed!! I started making the flag for PNG today using the materials I bought from Spotlight. The bird of paradise is hard! Mine looks a bit strange... It's a courtesy to fly the country's flag that you are visiting. (as well as our own Aussie flag so we are identified) Bill says we might get to PNG late Friday. Knowing us it will be knock off time and we'll have to pay extra! A fellow called Felix is supposed to clear yachts in as well as half the village apparently! I'm looking forward to the excitement of arriving. Hopefully the locals wont hang around too long as we will need some sleep!
Tonight we had another Prodin meal which was delicious- sweet and sour chicken(I added fresh capsicum). These meals are in sealed containers and taste better than tins. We've used the last of the fresh salad items apart from cabbage. I wish I had bought more apples as they keep quite well and are nice to eat if feeling a bit 'off'
We watched a movie Tequila Sunrise with Mel Gibson with a cold beer. It's hot in the middle of the day. Heath, the small electronic pilot lis doing a great job keeeping us right on course for Samarai Island. We'll be crossing the shipping lanes about midnight tonight so we will have to keep even more of a sharp lookout. The kitchen timer is set with an alarm every 15-20 minutes. It's quite hard getting up this often in the wee hours when either dozing or watching a movie. Worse than getting up to a baby!
I've been experimenting with sea sick pills and travacalm is definitely the best. Avomine makes me very sleepy and extremely thirsty with a funny taste in my mouth. Quells are ok but if I am doing computer stuff or have my head down in the galley I still feel sick. With travalcalm I can do anything.We'll start taking the malaria pills tomorrow too.
Coral Sea (about where the cyclone Guba was a week or so ago!)
28 Nov 2007
Our eating habits have changed whilst sailing to some extent to include tinned spaghetti on the menu. Although I take sea sick pills the spaghetti helps. (must be something in it that lines the stomach!) Fishing hasn't been successful on this leg of the journey so last night we had chicken curry from a longlife sealed container that we just heat in (sea) water. These meals seem to taste better than tins. We have so much food on board, I think we have enough for several years! Because it's hot we tend to drink beer. (I now have this with a slice of lime) I haven't felt like champagne whilst sailing. We bless our refrigerated ice box!
My little cappucino maker is great but it doesn't really froth longlife milk - how terrible!
Valiam is presently cruising at 6 knots and the wind is SE 5-10 knots. Yesterday and the day before we motorsailed most of the day. The drone of the engine isn't as peaceful as just sailing and it's pointless playing music.
We love being out here. The sea is so blue and glides along under us with a soft swishy sound. Yesterday we had a close look at Flora reef. The sea over the reef is a gorgeous turquise colour not unlike Valiam's hull. All we'll see for the next few days is the changing moods of the ocean and sky. We did have a bird try and hitch a ride. It was trying to perch on the mast which Bill wasn't happy about because there is a wind instrument p there which is rather delicate. I have taken lots of photos an movies (how unusual). The sunset last night was fantastic - a big glowing orange ball sinking into the glistening sea
27 Nov 2007
We are just about to go through Holmes Reefs and are about 1/3 of the way there. We had a close look at Flora Reef. Beautiful aquamarine water with a few breaking waves in the middle of the ocean. Gorgeous to look at. We've been motorsailing a lot today - very light winds. I suppose the SE will be here soon. No luck with fishing even near the reef.
We are going well but fairly tired. We only manage short naps here and there. I've almost finished reading a book so the saesick pills are working.
I better prepare for PNG by making a courtesy flag with my sewing thins. I don't know how I'll go sewing on a bird of Paradise! At least Palau is just a blue ball on yellow.
It's hot outside - we had a cold shower in the cockpit! Bill has enjoyed looking at the reefs with his binoculars perched at the front of the boat.
The small tiller pilot is working well so so far we haven't needed the big expensive hard to install autopilot we didn't buy.
Lucky we bought a spare lap top because our original one has a problem with receiving mail. It's blue skies out here. Not much wind. We're a bit sweaty and smelly so we might rig up a shower today.We've both had only about 2 hours sleep + 15 minute catnaps when on watch. We ate the last of the fresh meat last night so we'll put the line out but I think it's too deep out here but maybe there's some fish near Holmes reef and Flora reef 20 miles away which may give us our dinner.
Current position 1710.9South 14740East
We got our first saildoc weather forecast last night after hours of trying. I hate to think what our internet bill will be like. Typing messages for us is easier on the computer. The sat phone takes ages.
Skipper is getting frustrated with lack of wind - fickle 8 knots.....
26 November 2007
We are well and so is Valiam. She is presently sailing along nicely. 15knots NE. She's healing a bit so I am wedged in with cushions with grippy mat under the computer. Email worked last night only after we reinstalled the program on the spare second hand laptop we bought just before we left. It's tricky getting a signal poking the sat phone antenna up near the hatch while connected to the computer with a cable.
We left Palm island this morning at 8.30am. It is now 9pm and we have passed the barrier reef. position 17.57 S 147 E. We've seen a couple of ships but didn't catch a fish. We motored for most of the day due to light northerly (5 knots) The small auto tiller pilot did a greatjob connected to the wind vane. I have christened him Heath (aka Robinson!) Bill pulled the anchor winch apart greased her up and put it back together so hopefully it will work when we get to Samarai.
We are more relaxed today (our 30th wedding anniversary) and have both had a small nap. We are eating well - had to polish off the rest of the bread as it was already going mouldy. The cold Chandon is waitingtill we get to Samarai.
The conditions seem pretty good. Thanks kids for the weather update - we may need you assistance again. If this email works we should get free info from saildocs free weather service.
With all the babies being born in both families we will definitely have to fly back to view them all and make appropriate comments "he's go my nose. He's got Bill's eyes etc etc hahaha
Bit tired. Hope this works.
Holmes Reef 30th wedding anniversary
26 November 2007 outside the Great Barrier Reef (no land in sight!)
Position: 17.48 S 147.19E
Our 30th wedding anniversary today. How nice to be out here and not working! We watched the islands disappear after long time including Hinchinbrook where have ad many happy holidays bushwalking and sailing small boats in the past.
We had more luck tonight and last night receiving emails. The connection to the satellite needs improving! We used the little car aerial tonight waiting for full reception before clicking 'GO". It usually cuts out before it receives but we had some success after 2 hours of intermittent trying. The boat is heeling at the moment so it takes 2 of us carrying the laptop connected to the sat phone and aerial with cables dangling everywhere to find the best position. We finally got a weather report from saildocs. It would have been cheaper to phone the bureau in Oz! I'm sure we'll get the hang of it. It's great to be able to use the technology but not so great when it doesn't work and you are relying on it! It's fantastic to get emails in the middle of the ocean when they finally do come through. It makes one appreciate them more....
We motored most of today as the winds were light (NE 5 knots) past Pith and Kelso reefs. Now it's about 15 knots so we are sailing very nicely at about 6 knots with the mainsail reefed. I have christened the little tiller auto pilot Heath because it looks like a heath robinson device attached to the wind self steering. I admire the way Bill works things out and solves problems. He also pulled apart the anchor winch whilst conditions were calm, greased it up and put it back together. Hopefully it wont get stuck when we are in PNG because we will be doing a lot of anchoring.
The months and years of planning and we are finally here. The ocean is much kinder today than the night we arrived in Townsville. A gentle breeze to cool us down waiting to catch a fish but alas none today. We ate the last fresh meat (mince) as burgers with the last cucumber and 2nd last loaf of bread. (It goes mouldy very quickly) We have several thousand packets of biscuits/crackers on board as well as flour if we feel inclined to bake. (which we don't at the moment.
Our provisioning should last months even years for some items! We filled 2 trolleys at the supermarket before we left which created some interest: " Do you live on an island?" after noticing hundreds of long life milk containers, reams of toilet paper etc. It feels good to be loaded up with all that we could possibly need and more. Maybe we could set up a trade store in PNG??!!
It's a full moon tonight shining on the water. It is just amazing to look around and just see the sea all around glistening in the moonlight. The stars seem brighter out here too. We have a little kitchen timer set to sound a beeping alarm every 15 minutes for whoever is on watch. We saw some ships earlier in the day near the reefs but none tonight. Ships are always a worry. We are so small in comparison and even though sailing boats should have right of way I doubt very much ships would alter their course. One ship was on a collision course with us today so Bill slowed the boat down. 15 minutes is just enough time to check if any ships come over the horizon.
Oh there is another thing to fix - some of the bolt holes leak drops of water on the starboard side. We only noticed today as we are sailing to windward for the first time since Mooloolaba and splashes go along the decks.
It's a beautiful peaceful place to be out at sea. We are lucky we can take our home with us wherever we go..
Palm Island Queensland
PALM ISLAND NorthEast Bay 25 November 2007
Position: 18.44 S 146.38 E
We are almost ready to throw gadgetry away!! After spending many hours on computers (we have 2 on board now) setting up email through the satellite phone we have belatedly discovered that we can't receive emails just send them. The signal from the sat phone changes so in the meantime when the minutes are ticking away ($2.16 per minute) and it cuts out with all these error messages with codes ---aaaaarrrggghhh! We have even been smsing our contact in USA for the service. He says there is a problem with our communications port. As we have decided to do this instead of a radio we have to get it working. In the meantime we have sent sms messages to our kids in the hope they will be able to give us weather up dates.
We had a beautiful sail here - light E-SE winds. Actually one gadget did work today. The little tiller autopilot worked in light winds strapped to the self steering wind vane. It should be good when there's no wind and we have to motor.
The anchorage here is a bit rolly and we are breaking the rules by being on a lee shore. (wind from east) Bill was a bit unhappy as the anchor chain is stuck in the winch and it is difficult to let out more chain. He thinks it may have received a jolt at Pancake creek when the anchor clip broke and the wind was against the tide. We did hear a nasty thump and the starboard bow has gouges in the paint.
Vashti Craig and Caylan came for breakfast to say goodbye. We had a bit of champagne and splashed some on the bow as we were leaving. We could see them waving from the shore and Vashti later text messaged me to say Valiam looked beautiful sailing off.
At least the satellite phone sends/receives messages. We haven't made/received calls yet. We hope the lows around the place wont develop. Just got a message from the kids saying all fine and winds not too strong.
The best thing we can do is enjoy sailing and not worry too much about gadgetry unless they are necessary for survival.
We have a lovely comfortable bed as we decided to splash out on a wonderful mattress with layers of latex/rubber etc that moulds to ones body. Bill had to do some woodwork to make it fit - queen size mattress!!!! I call it a princess bed as it is so comfortable and soft. It is calling me now. Good night!!!
Townsville 21 November
We have had a really nice holiday in Townsville seeing the family and eating out at all the restaurants along the Strand. The cyclone has finally gone so we are aiming to leave for PNG in the next few days.
Townsville is a busy progressive city with lots of construction and development going on. We noticed that there are more young people out and about than the Sunshine coast (where there seems to be a predominance of retirees). We went out for dinner on a Monday night and were lucky to get a table. It was as busy as a Saturday on the Sunny coast.
Bill's parents came for a visit for a few days which meant we spent lots of quality time with them and Vashti, Caylan and Craig. It was so special to have 4 generations together. Caylan's kindergarten teacher was amazed when we all trooped in to pick her up! Bill's parents Peter and Gwen stayed in a motel right on the Strand overlooking the water and Magnetic Island only a stone's throw from the Marina. They managed to get on the boat and we had a lovely lunch pouring over charts of where we are going. We were so pleased they made the effort to come. Peter is 80 and Gwen in her 70s. Peter booked the tickets on the internet but made a small error with the departure time this morning. Thinking we had plenty of time to get them to the airport (we were in 2 cars) imagine our surprise when Bill phone to say they were about to board in 10-15 mins (half an hour earlier than they thought) when Vashti and Linda were still on the road...... Vashti is 2 weeks off giving birth so finds it difficult to run! Linda remembered to remove her tweezers from her purse in the car knowing that would be a hold up at security. As we got to security we bumped into Peter, Gwen and Bill. With 5-10 minutes to go poor Granny (Gwen) got chosen for an explosives test! Gwen who is not known for hurrying proceeded to have a 'chat' with the explosives officer about time and daylight saving. She needed to visit the Ladies before boarding so Grandpa (Peter) decided to go ahead to let them know at the gate that Granny would be there soon. Vashti and I went with Grandpa to the gate to see the tail end of the queu disappearing into the plane with 2 agitated airline staff waiting for Granny and Grandpa. 'Where is she?' Grandpa says she will be here soon. A few more minutes and the fellow with the fluro vest and walky talky was getting more agitated. Very pregnant Vashti went off to find Granny. She finally appeared. The airline man said 'You must hurry Mrs A!" Poor Granny tried her best to walk faster. Quick hugs and kisses and then their boarding passes wouldn't work in the machine! The less agitated airline lady fixed the problem and off they went......
Bill's role is constantly changing. Yesterday he was a plumber - the toilet got blocked.......needed a new pipe....the old one had calcified with unmentionable something..... Today he, with the assistance of Admin/Communications officer Linda was a computer technician. We have spent a lot of time on the computer lately. We have now signed up with an American company who have provided us with software/programs to quickly/easily use the internet at sea with the satellite phone. Their support and communications with us have been wonderful - answering our silly questions and assisting us on weekends and evenings within minutes. Our contact person already feels like a friend! I wish I could say the same for our Australian phone company with whom we have had to deal with through a call centre in India........
Now Bill is a sailor preparing ropes on deck. Linda is still the Communications officer. Our roles are fairly clearly defined depending on our level of skills in that particular area. I think it's fairly balanced. Provisioning, storage, organizing domestic/personal affairs seem to fall into Linda's area while technical/physical workings of the boat is Bill's domain. In some ways it's a more traditional partnership with the skipper having ultimate responsibility of the 'ship'.
We have a couple of parcels waiting for us at the Post Office - spare wind foils we ordered (to replace the one that broke on the self steering vane the night we arrived), more charts and software to help us load the electronic ones on to the lap top.
We have to do lots more shopping including a spare laptop, new harness clips and line, a more comfortable mattress for our bed (FIRM foam!), and lots more bits and pieces as well as more BEER! (and a bit more food)
We've heard that customs may come down to the boat but I don't think they are far away to stamp our passports. We're booked into the Marina until Friday but we'll extend until Saturday. A sailors tale says we must never leave on a Friday!! Instead we will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary and Linda's 50th birthday (again!!)
Not long now. It seems whenever we are in port we get caught up in a huge amount of jobs and errands/shopping to do........... It's great cyclone Guba has gone. We've read some more stuff on the internet about Samarai and where to go from there. Kavieng (New Ireland) seems the best spot to leave PNG from for Palau. It was surprising to find out that there are resorts there and boats that take surfing /sailing safaris. Jesse Martin ('Lionheart')runs trips from his catamaran there. Linda found a treehouse place that looked delightful and jokingly said to Bill that it would be a great place to have her 50th birthday. (Would we get there by 4th December?!!!!)
Stay tuned. Thanks everyone for your messages to our Iridium phone and calls while in Townsville. We appreciate your support of our adventure. Linda's aunt Nancy in New York who is an established author suggested writing a book....... Lets see if our journey is interesting enough to others!!!!
Until next time. All is well on board Valiam
Wave dumped in Valiam's cabin!
14/11/2007, Whitehaven to Townsville Australia
Wednesday 14 November 2007
We arrived yesterday at 11.52am after a rigorous overnight sail. We left Whitehaven beach at approx 10am with overcast weather and SE winds. Passing the islands we were able to get mobile phone connection outside Hayman where we had a quick conversation with Vashti our daughter. The winds were directly behind us which made it difficult for the wind vane to steer the boat. Bill put up 'butterfly' sails again which worked well. Later in the afternoon the winds increased so he took down the jib keeping up the staysail. We were still averaging 7 knots. As it got dark and further into the evening the seas became larger and the wind continued to increase. It was getting more diificult for the wind vane to keep its course and we had a few obstacles and islands to avoid. There was no sleep for either of us that night. Linda made endless cups of tea and we nibbled gingernut biscuits. Everything always seems worse at night and the conditions were challenging. Still getting used to the electronic chart plotter we found it difficult to trust it completely but looking back it really made navigating easier in the dark. The wind and waves increased and Linda was scared to look at the big waves coming up behind the boat. At around 11pm Linda was standing in the saloon when a huge waterfall of water came down the companionway into the cabin. Normally a very dry boat we were both in shock. Bill was standing in the companionway when it happened. He saw 2 waves build up upon one another before the last one decided to dump itself on us. Standing in ankle deep water we immediately put in the wash boards (now we know to do that in a huge following sea) and Bill proceeded to pump out the bilge. We rolled up the soggy carpet and put it in the cockpit. The rest of the night wasn't much fun. Bill handsteered most of the way. As we approached Townsville the winds died down a little but we were still sailing along at around 6 knots with just the staysail. We phoned Breakwater Marina and made sure there was a berth for us. The water in the bay outside Townsville was choppy and murky not like the blue clean water were used to. Bleary eyed we negotiated our way to the fuel dock and were very lucky that a helpful fellow took our lines. Valiam is now ensconced in F finger at the Marina. It's noisy with dredging works and we have a lovely view of Jupiters casino. We will now be concentrating on getting the jobs done to improve things before go offshore again. We were disheartened to see a big Low hovering over the Coral sea. Knowing we have left it late to go north we will have to wait for a weather window to get to PNG then the northern hemisphere as soon as possible.
We spent the evening with our daughter and family. Our granddaughter Caylan was excited to see us pick her up from kindy. After catching up on much needed sleep we will start attacking the jobs we have to do today.
All is well on board Valiam
Monday 12th November 2007
Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday islands 20.17S 149.03E
After almost a week at sea we are finally beginning to relax. We enjoyed another enjoyable sailing day with the wind behind. Linda can now read without getting sea sick - still downing 'travacalm' every 4 hours or so. Bikini weather and gourmet lunch. As we had the rest of the fish to eat for dinner (marinating in coconut milk and spices) we ate the Spirit house' meal which had defrosted (famous Thai restaurant on sunshine coast). Duck dumplings in red curry with cold beer. We eat better on board then we did on land! Just before coming in to here before Solway pass, the waves were nasty, confused and had breaking crests when Bill had to take down the poled out jib. Linda was a bit worried as usual when he is out on the foredeck especially as the harnesses need replacing. It got a bit tangled but he didn't have to cut the ropes this time and no expletive language either!
We had the tide with us coming in which mad for a beautiful entrance into Whitehaven. Although a couple of tourist boats were there they soon left taking their passengers back to their resort. The beach is long with white white sand. The vegetation is wild and mystical always with swirling dark clouds behind. The weather is always windy, gusty with occasional showers here in the Whitsundays. We have visited the Whitsundays many times before camping or sailing small boats when the children were small. It is luxury to be here on 45ft Valiam with only ourselves to please.
We launched the dinghy and got to shore without getting wet. It was only our second time off the boat in a week! A charter catarmaran is also here anchored only a couple of metres from the beach. A large ex racing boat(70ft) now full of tourist/backpackers (Bill counted 26) named Boomerang came in at sunset. The anchorage was a bit rolly but not too bad. We both got some reasonable sleep. Today we are going to keep heading north until we get to Townsville. It will take around 24 hours if all goes well. It will be good to see our granddaughter Caylan, our daughter Vashti and hubbie Craig there. Bill has brought 2 baby hoop pine trees for them. They have even appeared on deck whilst at anchor previously for fresh air and rain! We are grateful for the continuing southeasterly winds.
Mooloolaba to Middle Percy Island Australia
Sunday 11th November 2007
Scawfell Island 20.51S 149.35E
We left early yesterday at 6.22am from Middle Percy knowing we had a long day ahead of us to get to Scawfell Is. Middle Percy is very pretty and the typical image of a tropical island. Linda made coffee below whilst the skipper motored out. Bill put the jib and staysail up at the front like butterfly wings (no pole) and we stayed like that all day. It was the most beautiful day we had so far sailing - very easy, relaxing with blue skies. We passed several islands and could finally see Scawfell in the distance. We averaged about 5 knots and Bill was so relaxed he didn't feel the need to go faster by putting more sail up. Bill put the lure out at some stage during the day and around 4pm Linda was lulled away from her trashy novel by "It's a little fish!!" Bill pulled on board a "small" spotted mackerel less than .5m. It flapped around in the cockpit making it fishy and slimey and then dribbled blood when Bill stabbed it with his swiss army knife. Yuk! Our first 'fruit de mer'. After cleaning and filleting our fish we had enough for at least 2 meals.
We finally got to Scawfell about 8pm watching a gorgeous sunset on the way. We could see several boats including a fishing boat lit up like a Christmas tree. Even with the chart plotter, depth sounder and Lucas' book it was difficult to see where the best place to anchor. It looked like the other boats had the best spots. We eventually dropped anchor in 10 m of water a bit further out than the other boats. There's nothing worse than drifting towards other boats in the middle of the night. Linda made coleslaw with the last of the fresh cabbage and Bill cooked the fish in butter. Delicious with a freshly squeezed lime! (and cold white Semillon) This morning we woke to wind howling around us and discovered we were anchored in the worst spot where the wind funnels through a gap between 2 hills. (Too lazy to move we pored over what little charts are available on PNG whilst enjoying freshly made espresso coffee with our you beaut capaucino maker which works on the gas stove) We are not sure where we are going today apart from towards Townsville and where the wind will work best for us - somewhere in the Whitsundays. Life on board Valiam is very comfortable and we enjoy all the little luxuries we have become used to on land. We even had a warm shower in the cockpit last night using our solar shower and big plastic bathtub. (not that this is a luxury but a necessity as far as Linda is concerned)
Friday 9th November 2007
Middle Percy Island 21.39S 150.14E
We have finally arrived in paradise! After a grueling night particularly for Bill navigating at night trying to stay on course using the new electronic chart plotter through islands and protruding rocks we greeted the morning with blue skies and sunshine arriving at this delightful island at 11.30am. Alan Lucas describes this anchorage as 'abominable' in his Cruising the Coral coast book for rolly conditions. We are finding it anything but 'abominable'. It is paradise! We have the place to ourselves with gorgeous clear turquoise water (matching Valiam's hull) white sand beach and swaying palms. West Bay is famous for it's 'yachtie museum' of memorabilia of yachts and crew who have passed through in the last 50 years. Just back from the beach is an A frame structure filled with items placed by yachts over the years with names, dates, comments etc. We placed a purple 'Valiam' shirt with our names and today's date written on it hanging amongst the myriad of other interesting items including paintings, carvings, bras, plastic eagle, life jackets, champagne bottles, flags etc etc. It was eerie seeing evidence of so many people on yachts who had been there yet we were there entirely on our own.
After a nap and catching the sunset over the little islands opposite, we enjoyed a steak for dinner with fresh salad and cold white wine. We felt very lucky sitting under the stars while Valiam gently bobbed on her anchor. Tomorrow we will leave early for Skawfell island, the southern end of the Whitsundays.
Thursday 8th November 2007 at sea north of Gladstone
We were trying to leave last Saturday but due to numerous jobs yet to be done to the boat and the winds blowing from the north we didn't leave our home port until Monday 5th November 3pm.
With a fresh SE wind behind us all the way we sailed until Wednesday 7th November arriving Pancake creek at 9.30 am. (position 2400.559S 15144.29 E)
We experienced a few mishaps along the way as Valiam and her crew got used to one another again. Afterall we hadn't been out at sea since January. At one stage the jib got tangled around the furler so Bill had to cut off the ropes and stow her down below. The Fleming self steering wind vane is marvelous but sometimes doesn't work as well with the wind from straight behind. We had some problems with the electrics blowing fuses several times. As the marine electrician wasn't available before we left Bill did the wiring himself. The new chart plotter is marvelous as we only had a hand held GPS and paper charts before. We still have small scale paper charts and pilot books so if the plotter fails we can still work out where we are.
We sailed around Fraser Island until we got to Pancake creek. This was 2 nights at sea with Bill and Linda doing approximately 3 hour shifts. We have a little kitchen timer that we set with an alarm every 20 minutes to stick our heads out and check for ships. Bill prefers to doze and check things while Linda does movie marathons on the lap top. It has been rainy and overcast the whole trip so the solar panels haven't been able to charge the electrics much. We anchored just inside the beginning of the channel with a beautiful view of a little sandy beach with a palm grove. We celebrated our first anchorage with a chilled bottle of wine and chicken curry. It was too rainy and windy to go ashore. The new anchor (Manson supreme) worked well but we heard a nasty jolt in the middle of the night when the wind was against the tide. The clip that holds down the anchor chain is broken so we will have to fix that in Townsville among other things.
This morning Bill put the jib pole out and we put the repaired jib back on the furler. We currently have the jib poled out on the port side and the staysail on the starboard side. We are cruising along quite nicely trying to stay on course. The staysail keeps flapping and so far the wind vane corrects the boat and the staysail goes back out where it should be. Occasionally a big wave makes us slew sideways and one got us both wet! When we are surfing down a wave we go 9+ knots averaging 7.5 knots.
The new satellite phone with Iridium (Motorola 9505A) has been fantastic for sms messages to family and friends to keep in touch. We asked Vashti our daughter to text us an up to date weather report which we received immediately. So far we have been able to reply to sms messages sent to us but not so successful at sending new ones. Family and friends can send us a free message up to 160 characters long by logging on to the www. iridium.com website. All they have to do is type in our satellite phone number and we receive the message on our phone immediately. This is free for them and costs (I think) 65c for us to reply. I have received one message from a mobile phone but this is not guaranteed. (sat phone people said 1 in 5 success) Vashti has also received a message I sent to her mobile. As time goes on we will learn how to use all the facilities it is capable of. We have yet to connect the data cable and modem to access the internet. As this costs $2.16 a minute (for us to make voice calls too) and the internet will be very slow we will only use it for important stuff (like the weather). We are looking into a service that filters out all the rubbish that comes with websites and emails so that we only receive text. So far we have only discovered one GMN which is based in the USA.
We are quite comfortable and have all we need on board - cappuccino maker, cold wine/beer, adequate communications, flushing loo etc. Linda has to keep taking seasick pills every 4 hours.
The motion of the boat with the wind behind is a bit wallowy and the seas are a reasonable size at present.
We are aiming for Scawfell Island at the southern part of the Whitsunday Islands. We may also stop at Pearl Bay before then depending on how we are going and how tired we get. We should get to Townsville the middle of next week.
All well and happy on board Valiam
Monday 5th November 3pm
Waiting for William
03/11/2007, Kawana waters Marina
We were going to leave today but (a) Bill hasn't finished all the wiring jobs (tiller pilot and solar panels) (b) the wind is a strong northerly. It's been an exhausting couple of weeks preparing and spending oodles of money. We have enough food for a grocery store and enough medicine for a chemist!
I still have to finishe the cover for the extended settee and make the crockery and glassware safe in the galley. I spent most of today itemising the bathroom/cosmetic/sun protection items into tupperware containers so they wouldn't fall off the shelves making a big mess.
We had lots of nice dinners with friends and family this week. We've purchased a satellite phone which is great. If you send a message via the iridium.com website to our phone it is FREE! (160 characters) If you didn't get my email with the satellite phone number leave a message on this blog drive.
Not long now............xxxxxxxxxxxxx
October 21 - 27 th 2007
It was Bill's last day of work last Friday 19th. (He's officially on leave for a few months.) His brother John phoned from Vienna enquiring when we'd be in the Med. It's a long way from here but we do aim to get there! John has a friend who could arrange a mooring for us in Croatia. This may be a good place to leave the boat if we want to travel around Europe. (maybe buy an old van with a bed in the back) It feels like we're getting ahead of ourselves! I'm sure we'll be in Townsville soon then PNG and SE Asia before know it. (as long as the wind blows from the south!)
Well, we got some quotes on recovering the settees! Cloth was double price of a lounge suite and leather was 4 times the cost of a lounge suite so we will forget that idea for now. The pink velvet looks fine and feels nice to sit on. I have some left for the extra seat being mad by Steve. Perhaps when we get to Thailand we can have the settee recovered at a reasonable price.
We want to come back to see our new grandson at some stage early in 2008.(He's due 7th Dec after we plan to leave Townsville). Unfortunately we have to leave as soon as possible so we will miss the birth. We are already leaving a bit late in the season but feel confident we can get to PNG without bumping into any cyclones. Langkawi, Malaysia will be a good place to leave the boat and fly home for a few weeks. (probably Jan - Feb)
It's been blowing from the south all week! Hopefully a southerly will return when we are ready to head off. We finally got some of the rigging parts we need and Steve is giving Bill hand to get it all set up. This is so Bill can adjust the sails from the cockpit rather than always having to go on the foredeck. We had all our appointments with the travel doctor (They wanted to know which countries we were visiting - the receptionist was astonished and had writers cramp after our conversation) Several vaccinations and half the chemist shop later we carried 5 bags of medication back to the boat. (visa got another bashing). We sorted the medication into Tupperware containers in categories (stomach diarrhea nausea, wounds, sea sickness, painkillers cold and flu etc) We will be each others doctors! We also went to the solicitor. We don't plan on dying but thought we'd better have something in place before we go.
The sail maker arrived on Saturday with brand new sails! Bill says the new mainsail will go well in light winds. (good for up north) Gary Saxby the sailmaker said we could trade our old mainsail in PNG for a week's worth of lobsters!! It is too big and heavy so we are leaving it behind.
Next week we'll be doing the final preparations (including a lot of purchasing - ouch!) I just bought a portable sensor alarm from Dick Smiths for $27. This will be handy when staying in harbours where some locals may have sticky fingers. Placed in the cockpit it will sense human (and animal!) movement and send off an earpiercing sound. It worked for some other yachties with the intruder dropping everything and disappearing with 'Sorry madam...sorry madam... when the the lady crew appeared.
It looks like we've sold the Ipswich house. It should settle just before Christmas. The only thing left is the motorbike!
We are so looking forward to finally getting going. We've been living on the boat so long and it is now so full of our possessions we'll have to do some serious tying down and stashing away so we can sail! Next time I update the website I will be saying we have left for Townsville! (and drinking champagne)
Its count down time now! We hope to leave by the end of October. It's a bit risky at this time of the year with the threat of cyclones November on wards. Hopefully all will go well. We have read a couple of other cruisers logs who have successfully made it to SE Asia at that time of the year. When we get to Townsville (which would be interesting in the current weather conditions of strong northerlys!!) we will watch the weather carefully to get accross to Samarai Island (usually about 4 days). We are particularly interested in seeing PNG again as we lived there in the early 80s. Vashti was born in Moresby when Bill was a rubber plantation manager on Doa Plantation. We have heard that on the islands the locals like to trade for lobsters, fish, pawpaw, bananas etc. Items suitable for trading include clothing, batteries, smokes, fishing/snorkelling gear etc. A t shirt for a lobster sounds good to me!The plan is to get to Palau as quickly as possible as it is north of the equator. Palau looks really interesting - great diving, fishing and snorkelling.
We have a list of jobs to do and have engaged the services of our good friend Steve who has helped us over the years building and maintaining the boat. We've decided to enlarge the settee and shorten the table. This will enable us both to have a comfortable corner to lounge in! We are toying with the idea of recovering in leather. We'll see what the quote comes in at! It would be nice - considering we'll be living and looking at it for several years!
We've had a delightful time with our granddaughter Caylan who was down from Townsville. Our daughter Vashti had to go back for Uni exams. Caylan went back at the end of the week with her Daddy. Nanny Linda took her to Brisbane to the theatre, the city and to Ipswich to stay with Pa Bill for a couple of days. Whilst in the city we went to Boat books to purchase several hundred dollars worth of pilot books. It's so exciting to to have them on the boat - SE Asia, Red Sea, Turkish waters & Cyprus, Mediterranean France and Corsica. It feels so much more real now!
It's quite pleasant living here at Kawana Waters Marina. Although we are so close to the pub and boat yard it is much quieter than living on the river. It's a bit of a walk to the amenities block but hey we need the exercise!
My little blue MX5 is sold and we're also trying to sell the motorbike and Ipswich house. Liam has a new housemate - old school friend who plays the drums in his band. (neighbours may not enjoy that!!) The boys are happy and enjoying our house at Point Cartwright. We are lucky that Liam is there to oversea the house and mind our stuff. Sometimes I wonder why we have so many THINGS!
Goodbye Party Point Cartwright
We had a wonderful celebration last Saturday afternoon at the Rock pools Point Cartwright. Our friends and family were there to officially farewell us as well as celebrate my 50th (a bit early but who knows where we'll be in December!?) A great time was had by all with much champagne, delicious food and frivolity. The highlight was the humpback whales who entertained us in the bay breaching and leaping about. I had never seen them do that out there before. They were there behind us in this photo :
It looks like I have sold my car. A passing yachtsman saw the for sale sign on it in the marina carpark! I don't know why I bothered with internet/newspaper advertising! Our van is going to Townsville in a week to our daughter's so I will be carless but I have a very reliable pushbike. Lucky we are so close to the shops and boat yard. Even the travel doctor is around the corner - very handy.
We are looking at a satellite phone system for emailing and weather reports rather than installing a vhf. This will be cheaper and easier.
We've just had our 5 year old granddaughter staying with us on the boat. She just loved it! She had her own bunk up in the saloon and her own locker to put her things. Caylan was particularly impressed with the dolphin curtain in the showers and the concrete whale in the garden! She climbed about like a monkey and watched a movie with us on the lap top in the evening. It was 'Stranded' - version of Swiss family Robinson - a great movie especially the resourcefulness of the family on the island. I personally liked the wine glasses made from bamboo!
It's count down time now.
Sunday 15th September
Just spent this weekend talking to agents to rent out the Ipswich house, getting the car and motorbike ready to sell etcetc. Anyone want to buy a lovely blue Mazda MX5 or a BMW motorbike? Crucial to our cruising funds!
Thursday 20th September
Today was my last day of work - what a great feeling! A glass of champagne or 2 were definitely deserved! Bill has decided to sell Ipswich instead of renting it out - less responsibilities while we are away. We received some great advice from ed on yacht Doodlebug currently in Turkey. (We met them in Noumea 2 years ago) We are seriously thinking of getting a satellite phone to hook up to email instead of the vhf radio. We'll be on a learning curve with that one! Vashti, Craig and Caylan have arrived from Townsville and we'll have the pleasure of having Caylan (gorgeous granddaughter extraordinaire) staying with us on the boat for a couple of nights. She is looking forward to sleeping in the saloon on the pink cushions. I organised a 'ships stamp' (with Valiam's port and rego number )yesterday. It will be round like a common seal - self inking unfortunately and not with the red wax!
Kawana Waters Marina
September 13th 2007
Well, here we are still at Kawana Waters Marina, Buddina, Queensland, Australia conveniently located to Linda's work, shopping centre, boatyard, our house (with Liam and boys renting it) the beach etc...
It's a pleasant change here from being moored in the river. Linda was not used to the vigorous exercise rowing ashore in freezing July weather (it did get down to 1 degree!) getting wet landing avoiding sharp oysters as well as hurting her back dragging the dinghy up. Putting dry clothes on in the park like a hobo trying to look respectful for work was not amusing. So the marina is luxurious! No rowing, hot showers, no noisy pilot boats going past in the night etc etc. I guess it makes one appreciate things that are often taken for granted. Bill is mostly in Ipswich working and staying in the house there. We've spent the last couple of weekends there doing a few renovations before we instal tenants. Linda has enjoyed the TV and usual conveniences found in a house. The problem is now that Linda's back and hip are needing physio. We better get going before she needs a hip replacement or needs a wheel chair!
Many friends and family have been asking about PIRATES! Rest assured we are fully prepared. Linda has an assortment of costumes with false beards etc so it looks like Bill has a crew of several men. We will also try to acquire some form of pepper spray . I believe it has been used to scare off grizzly bears in Canada so should work quite weel in the event of unwelcome visitors. This should do the trick. Flares are handy too especially those parachute ones!
We are rethinking very carefully the need for a lot of electronic gadgetry. Yachty friends of ours lost theirs twice during lightning strikes. Insurance seems such a waste of money - you can buy an awful lot of food, beverages and entertainment for $5000. A new mainsail and storm jib are being made so Valiam will be sailing at her best. Other purchases will include another big anchor, spares for the engine and anything that might break. A quick haul out for a final clean and antifoul and we'll almost be ready. A trip to the travel doctor is also booked to have any vaccinations we need plus lots of drugs for any kind of ailment or emergency. (and also loads of sea sick medication for Linda) A few more jobs on the boat include shelving for books and 'things' as well as extra fuel tanks. (we will probably have to do a bit of motoring in the tropics and the Red sea)
Linda has been buying interesting tinned food. Bill can't wait to try the cottage pie! This will be supplemented by the many fish we will catch and fresh food traded with the indigenous people. Linda's surplus clothes will be good for trading as well s torch batteries, elvis cds and anything else we find we wont need. (eg shoes)
Our plan is to head for Townsville as soon as the winds are favourable. Townsville has the added advantage of being where our adorable granddaughter Caylan lives (oh yes and daughter Vashti, husband Craig and their delightful dogs Belle and Charlie. Belle and Charlie were so helpful last time taking my clothes off the line and leaving them in the garden beds so I wouldn't have to reach up so high. So thoughtful)
It should be around a 4 day trip to PNG (Samarai, Louisaides) if we wait for the right weather. If we successfully arrive in PNG we will head for Palau - great place for diving and snorkelling. (If for some reason the weather is unkind to us we may have to wait until after the cyclone season and go across the Indian ocean instead........keep fingers crossed)
We've started stocking up on Lonely Planet guides, pilot books etc. We will probably get electronic charts as well a some paper ones. The laptop will be very useful for logs, photos, movies, charts, emailing (when we get to port) etc. Lets hope it keeps going and doesn't get wet and refuse to work.
Hopefully these last few weeks will be stress free. I have a case of champagne - that should help. Looking forward to catching up with everyone around here before we go.
Until then..................all is well on board Valiam!