17 July 2019
I'm now alone on Uproar. Lisa is having a long overdue visit with friends and family. I really don't feel alone here in French Polynesia, people are great here. And Uproar is a treasured friend. But let's not get too sappy.
Houdinky took me to shore at Uturora. My bike was not at the light post where I locked it the evening before. I was more puzzled than gripped by panic. It was hard for me to accept someone here would actually steal my bike. The information desk wasn't far away. The nice lady there said I should check at the port office. No one was there. She then directed me to the Gendarmarie.
As I walked out of the harbor area, I saw a bike with just the front wheel locked to a bike rack. I thought, “That's not a safe way to lock a bike.” Upon closer inspection, there was no lock, the cable was just artfully wrapped around the bike rack. And it was my bike! I returned to the information desk to report my find. The lady said there are signs for “no bikes” in the harbor area. I eventually found the sign. My bad.
This bike (Montague folder with 26” wheels) is precious to me. Lisa sure uses hers a lot too. Bikes are wonderful inventions. They open a lot of possibilities to us during our travels. My rented room is 3 miles from the boatyard where Uproar is currently getting a bottom job. I could not walk this commute easily. The bike makes it trivial.
Engineering school factoid: A bike is the most efficient muscle powered form of locomotion, including all animals in nature. Dolphins come in second. I'm pretty sure my salt and sand encrusted beast isn't quite that efficient but it serves me well.
Special thanks to Steve Whitford at South Shore Cyclery in Milwaukee for setting us up with these great bikes. I highly recommend them to cruisers. But have Steve replace the chain with stainless steel!
13 July 2019
Yellow Ducati doesn't have a name yet but it knows what to call me. We have been in a torrid relationship for the five weeks we have lived together in Wisconsin from my sea faring life in French Polynesia. Craigslist provided me the ridiculous notion of buying the Ducati of my dreams for my short visit. I did. Or rather, I coaxed Lisa into giving it to me for my birthday. Pourquoi pas?
Logic played a small part. My Ducati 900SS (1992) was waiting for me with bad tires, oil leak and valve maintenance needed. The battery was quite dead too. The red 900SS was the subject of Hunter S. Thompson's “Song of the Sausage Creature,” a controversial piece on this insane bike that alternately tried to turn him into a Johnsonville Brat and saved his hide at the last minute. My newly acquired Yellow Ducati 748 makes Sausage Creature seem like a nursery rhyme! The 748 is a Ducati Superbike, a step up in performance from the 900SS.
Oh, it did entice! The Metro Museum of Modern Art in NYC has a red one on permanent display as the finest example of moto art. I agree! Never had one and never rode one. But Craigslist provided one and Gary Heinitz checked it out and applied the right amount of proxy Ducati spit on the tank to make it mine.
Twelve hours after landing in MKE, I mounted the beast. Ten miles later, I was ready to sign the divorce papers! It hurt! Gary said, “You know, this is just a race bike with headlights.” No schmidt! This bike is meant for a testosterone fueled 24 year old. I am not. But with FBF bar risers from Ebay, we gained 1 ½ inches of more tolerable riding position. Yellow Ducati was determined to break me in.
The next day was a race at Road America. Doug Guinn rode his Ducati to the Rive Retreat and said, “You know, it is going to rain. Last chance, we can take your Alfa.” “I just bought this bike and I'm going to ride it!” Rain it did and we were cold and soaked all day as we enjoyed the moto racing at our favorite track. Yet another chance for the Yellow Ducati to initiate me to it's world.
A week later the Wisconsin Ducati Owners had a tour through our beautiful Kettle Moraine area. I showed up as the oldest rider and the only one on a superbike Ducati. Others had sensible Multistradas, Monsters or Sts, but Ross did show up on a Streetfighter, naked superbike but with more upright riding position. I was also the only one with a heavy, leather jacket instead of the tech gear others had. Oh well, nostalgia reigns! After the tour of over 200 miles, my neck pain was a dull ache. But my smile overcame it all. I had fallen in “like” with Yellow Ducati.
John Adrian said we should go riding. I told him we always consider the warning, curve speed limits as half what we can really ride. Yellow Ducati showed both of us this is so. It demands full attention and no beer for lunch. No problem.
Today, I rode the Milwaukee River roads with Doug and Roger. Doug really know the hidden treasure roads through this countryside. Yellow Ducati followed Doug's Ducati ST with aplomb. I was just along for the ride, loving it! After lunch, Doug and I switched bikes. Oh, his ST is so smooth and powerful. When we arrived at the River Retreat, Doug said, “I have always wanted one of these!” I said, “I'm leaving it right here with the key in it. Ride it any time.” He will. We leave the keys in all of our vehicles on the River in case a neighbor needs to borrow it.
I have been away from motorcycles for four years. Yellow Ducati has been an inspiration, friend and most importantly, mentor. We enter a corner with a good lean, I get on the throttle and discover we are about 20 mph slower than Yellow Ducati would like me to go. Wimp! I resemble that remark. But thanks to the Yellow Ducati for pulling me through. I'll miss Yellow Ducati. One can't really own such a spirit but being its caretaker is a privileged.
PS. Now I'm back on Uproar. I had a great time back in Milwaukee visiting family and friends. I am truly blessed how many moto friends I was able to see during my visit. You guys (and a few ladies) were everywhere and it was great seeing you. Thanks for all the good vibes and great times.
My decision to ride a motorcycle on this trip wasn't taken lightly. Previous trips I refused to ride as I really needed to prepare my old 900SS properly and get my head around taking the risks inherent with motorcycles. But Anguille got me through and safely back home on Uproar. Anguille is Yellow Ducati's new name (ahn gwee'), or “angry” spoken by Elmer Fudd. Anguille means eel in French. The Polynesians worship eels and their mystical powers. This agility and mystique fits my new bike well.
Tahiti Pearl Regatta
22 May 2019
“The most beautiful regatta in the world.” That's the theme of the Tahiti Pearl Regatta. They sure delivered! The racing was in the beautiful waters around Raiatea, Tahaa and Huhine. These atolls have clear, blue lagoons surrounding lush mountain peaks. None of this compares to the smiles of these Polynesians, the only thing brighter than the Sun.
Jeff and Terry McClellan traveled from frigid Wisconsin to visit us for two weeks and gave up a good chunk of that for the three day regatta. We could have never done it without them. Previously we just asked our cruising friends to race with us. No problem when we return to the same anchorage every night. But TPR involved inter-island racing. Those who crewed, had to stay on board when we raced to Huahine. We were fortunate enough to pick up John and Lorella from Imagination for the last, around-island race on Tahaa.
Registration was a bit strange, we all had to submit medical certificates stating we were physically fit for yacht racing. That's a first. We also had to join the Tahiti Sailing Federation. We paid our $40 each to join but have no idea what rights and privileges we are entitled to. At least show us the handshake. After registration, we asked where we could go for a beer. Nowhere? The nearest place open was the airport. That's another first.
When we registered, we had the option of a racing class or the cruising class. Racing classes needed a measurement certificate which we didn't have. We registered for cruising which was only the longer races each day. Previous year results showed most of the boats were in the cruising class. There was mention of assigning ratings. But at registration, we learned that the cruising class races just on actual time, no handicaps! Sailboats have widely varying performance. It just isn't racing to pit boats against each other with some being twice as fast as others. But we were racing in the most beautiful regatta.....didn't matter.
It turned out that of the 52 boats registered, we had no idea who was in our class or who was in any class. Nothing was posted and there were no class flags. What's more, we learned that all 52 boats would start in one start! The line was short too. Not good! But island manners prevailed and there were no crashes.
The fleet was the most varied ever. There were 55 foot catamarans and monohulls (in our division) as well as 18 foot sport boats and outrigger canoes. The outrigger canoes had a Sunfish size sail with four crew paddling like mad the entire race. Another first! They were fast too, almost as fast as us!
First race started inside the Raiatea lagoon, sailed south two miles to the reef pass, then 22 miles to Huahine. Uproar was on the line at the start in pretty clear air, but light air. It was a close reach. Soon, the boats with code zeros and lighter sport boats started to pass us. The outriggers, paddling, kept them moving well too. The reef pass was surrounded by two motus (small islands). Wind was blanketed which caused a pile-up. We sailed clear and around the pile-up, then settled in for a long beat to Huahine. Wind was about 10 knots and just a light chop and swell on the sea. These are conditions Uproar was quite happy with and we were staying well with the racing boats, about our size.
A few tacks and a few hours later we entered the Huahine lagoon. We had no idea how we finished of course. We were pleased how well Uproar, laden with all of our liveaboard gear (about 2,500 pounds overweight) sailed with the race boats. Our anchor beer taste especially good after a fine sail to Huahine. We swam and dressed in Island dress for the evening's party.
Water taxis were employed to take racers to shore. We had left our dinghy in Raiatea and a local guy promised to take it to Tahaa where the regatta ended. He did and we actually got our dinghy back! The party was a delightful buffet with local dancing and drumming. Crews were invited to take the stage for a Tahitian dance contest. Team Uproar wisely declined.
Day two was a race from Huahine to Tahaa, just north of Raiatea. It was a spinnaker run the entire way. Wind was only about 10 knots and seas again smooth. Uproar again found a clear spot on the line when the gun went off. We stayed with the boats we targeted until the last 5 miles. Wind got light and our asymmetrical spinnaker wasn't as well suited as the symmetrical chutes on the race boats. Everyone anchored just inside the Tahaa pass where we had a good swim and anchor beer. We still had no idea how we were doing but there were a lot of boats behind us.
We opted out of the second night's party and had a relaxing evening in our beautiful anchorage. John and Lorella from Imagination were at the finish to take pictures. John took me in his dinghy to where we hoped to find Houdinky, our dingy. Sure enough, he was sitting at a dock as promised, Thanks Tama!
Day three was the most interesting race of all. The race was inside the Tahaa lagoon, around the island, about 20 miles. The lagoon between the reef and the island was quite narrow after the start which made for some close racing. Uproar again got off to a good start. We sailed high to keep our air clear from faster boats who passed us. This became a mistake as we sailed too close to the wind shadow of the island. We struggled with the spinnaker in light air and watched boats by the reef sail faster.
As we sailed north, wind picked up and became a beat. There were narrow but well marked channels we had to follow per race instructions....and to avoid the rocks! John and Jeff did a great job grinding in the genoa on the 14 tacks it took us to round the north end of Tahaa. During the tacking, we passed a new, Hanse 575 and put some distance between us. We enjoyed our personal races with the boats around us. The finish was back at the Tahaa reef anchorage where we left Houdinky and Imagination's dinghy.
The final night party was on the nearby, private motu. It was perfect Polynesian village set. We were greeted with floral leis and a show of fire dancing. Awards were presented and to our surprise, Uproar took third in the cruising division. The trophy was an intricately carved shell. Up-Roar! Videos played on a large screen of the week's racing. The buffet was local cuisine, done very well. We enjoyed meeting some of the Tahitian racers and swapping stories. Racing was a bit strange but we sure enjoyed being a part of the most beautiful regatta in the world.
02 May 2019
Preface: I have been sitting on this one for awhile. I wrote this some time ago but hesitated about posting it. True to my pledge, I'm going to write the good with the bad. The tipping point for me to post this was when we were anchored in Moorea with Bill and Judy from S/V Whisper, visiting us from the Bahamas. We went ashore and left our dinghy at the prescribed spot in Opunohu Bay. There was an identical dinghy to ours with two French sailors fussing with their non-working motor. We spent the day in a rental car. When we returned, one of our oars was missing! Their dinghy was no longer at the dock either. Twice now I have heard, “British sailors outfit their boats to go sailing, French sailors go sailing to outfit their boats.” Do the math!
I'm a Francophile. I am part French, love their food, wine, culture and beautiful country. They also have some pretty darn, beautiful islands in the Caribbean and South Pacific. I resist the stereotype of the French as arrogant people. I have had some lovely encounters with French people, cruisers and dirt dwellers. I hope my French Canadian and French friends will not take any offense with this blog. In fact, I know some are in complete agreement with what I am going to spew about.
French cruisers have a bad reputation everywhere we have sailed so far! It started in the Bahamas. We were warned that French Canadian cruisers would anchor too close. They did. They also did not mix much with the Americans and Europeans in the crowded Georgetown Anchorage. But that's to be expected with the language barrier.
The Staniel Cay anchorage was another matter. We anchored during a cold front (bad weather) quite a distance from Sea Turtle, a French Trawler. Before we finished anchoring, they were waving their arms and on the radio, warning us that we were too close. That's a big breach of etiquette. When a crew is anchoring, never interrupt. They need to communicate with each other at that moment. We settled back on our anchor and were certain we were well away from ST. Friends in the anchorage called us on the radio and warned us about ST.
The lady on ST sat on her bow, arms folded and just glared at us for an hour. That evening, we were on River Rat having cocktails and ST called Uproar on the radio. The skipper of RR said, “Russ, take this call, this is going to be good.” The skipper ST again berated me for being too close. All on RR were certain that Uproar was well away. I told the skipper on ST, “My responsibility is to keep clear since you were anchored before us. We intend to do so.”
Another boat anchored even closer to ST than we did. That brought the focus and stares of hate from us to the new arrival....who was also French Canadian. The new arrival was eventually chased away from ST and struggled for hours to find a safe place to anchor. It is sad that these people were obsessed with other boats and not enjoying the Bahamas.
But one incident does not a trend make. That would come much later. When we were in Grenada, we were warned that the French sailors at the marina would steal our water and electricity. I thought that would be impossible. The marina actually warned us about the potential problem!
About a year ago, we were in Shelter Bay Marina, Panama. The measurer for the canal authority visited us to measure Uproar and finalize paperwork for our transit. He said we may be rafted against other yachts. His exact words, “It will be a pleasant experience, unless you are rafted to a French boat.” Wow, this is from a Panamanian official for the Canal! Friends of ours were rafted against a French boat and they did have problems!
Now we are in French Polynesia. There are a lot of French boats here. We have made some nice friends with them. But! When we talked with the manager of the Papeete Marina, he, unprovoked by us, went into a rant about how rude and obnoxious the French sailors were. We were just laughing as he continued. He finished by saying, “Now that they have won the World Cup, it is even worse. We are French of course, but we are Polynesian first. Just because they fly the blu, blanc, and rouge, they think they own the place.” We were flying the French flag under our Polynesian flag. We quickly removed the French Flag.
What prompted me to write this blog is an incident here in Gambier, a remote area of French Polynesia. A friends of ours (French boat btw) anchored in an idyllic spot. Soon after, three, French catamarans anchored all around them. And those boats were full of kids who are a little noisy. Our friend moved their boat to a more secluded spot. You would think that would be a hint to the intruders. It gets worse. The storm of the previous week wreaked a lot of havoc on the gardens and orchard of Pauline and Gerrard, the elderly inhabitants of the island. Our friends (French and New Zealanders) spent two days clearing fallen banana trees and other debris. The three French cats came ashore with their kids and filled huge sacks of fruit and vegetables from Pauline and Gerrard's crops, without asking, and carted them off without a word or offer to pay.
I promised to tell all in this blog. There you have it. Sorry to say, the stereotype of French cruisers as bad neighbors has a ring of truth. Again, we have some wonderful French cruiser friends who will readily agree with the above.
PS. A French boat just anchored...pretty close to us. We aren't sensative about that but their screaming kid is pretty annoying. They don't have very nice potty manners either. They just shit in a bucket and throw it overboard. Viva La France!
Baby Shark doo doo doo doo doo doo
11 April 2019
We haven't exactly been living under a rock...but nearly. We live next to some beautiful rocks, above some beautiful rocks, and unfortunately, one time stuck on an ugly rock. The past five months we have had only three hours of decent internet. But even as isolated from the outside world as we are, we have enjoyed the Youtube ditty, "Baby Shark."
Swimming and snorkeling in French Polynesia means you are swimming and snorkeling with not only Baby Shark but Momma Shark, Daddy Shark, and Grandpa Shark! We are quite used to them but they still can be startling when they appear out of the corner of your eye. They are also hugely entertaining, some of the largest and most beautiful creatures in the sea.
Fakarava South Pass is world renown for the diving and snorkeling. This pass from ocean into the lagoon is about ¼ mile wide, ½ mile long, and 70 feet deep. The entire pass is full of beautiful coral and teaming with fish. Above all, there are hundreds of sharks in the pass. Water is so clear we can see the bottom easily from the surface. We see all the flora and fauna right from the surface but free dive down to get a closer look and take pictures.
We snorkeled the pass with Frank from Maxim and Silke from Ocean Maiden. There is a buoy near the outer edge of the pass where we tied the dinghy. If there is current (incoming please!) someone hangs on to the dinghy and it drifts through the pass with us. Yesterday there was no current so we were able to leave the dinghy and explore. Silke suggested we snorkel out from the edge to the "wall of sharks." We did!
The sharks were thick near the bottom, at least 50 feet down. When they saw us they came up for a visit. Within a few minutes there were at least 50 sharks circling us. It made for some great photos and videos. There were Blacktips, Whitetips, and Gray Sharks. Some were pretty big, none were Baby Sharks!
Fear turned to euphoria as we enjoyed these magnificent creatures. After about 10 minutes, they tired of us and returned to the deep. Throughout the pass, at least one shark is always within sight. I almost touched one that passed quite closely. Some play a little game of chicken, swimming right at us and turning when only a few feet away.
Strangely enough we didn't see anyone eat anyone. All the fish seem to be swimming in a relaxed ballet, with the snarks steadily roaming. Sharks need to be moving to keep water flowing through their gills or they would drown. Only when the current is strong can they sit on the bottom and let the current oxygenate their gills. We have spent approximately 15 hours in that pass on numerous trips and everyone from sharks to small fish seem to get along.
But at night we can hear the verse, "Let's go hunting, do do do do do do..."
Alfa Romeo at Sea
05 April 2019
“How are you going to get an Alfa Romeo on the boat?” More than one person asked us that when Lisa and I sailed away from Milwaukee, almost four years ago. We decided to give up the life of a dirt dweller for the sea. Our travels on Uproar have taken us through the Great Lakes, Erie Canal, Hudson River, Chesapeake Bay, Bahamas, Caribbean, Panama Canal, Galapagos, and French Polynesia. We still have our 156, 166, and Giulietta Veloce Spider tucked away in Milwakee but certainly no Alfa on Uproar. We have seen a few Alfas in French Caribbean islands but usually beat up 146s or Mitos.
Alfa Romeo is never far from my heart though. For years I have been dreaming and planning construction of a vintage race boat with an Alfa engine. Alfa has a history of providing superb engines for hydroplane racing. The Laura series of hydroplanes used the powerful 159 engine and set records. During the 1960s Alfa made marine 1300 and 1600 engines available for hydroplane racing. A book on hydroplane racing mentioned that the Alfa Romeo engines were expensive but one could depend on several years of good service without rebuilds. Tom Zat had some literature for Alfa marine engines at one time. If anyone has copies, I would love to see them.
The 1936 Crandall Flyer appeared on my computer screen and I had my boat design. This sleek, mahogany double ender really caught my eye. The original construction article from 1936 can easily be found on the internet as well as Youtube videos of replicas. The Flyer is a 15 foot single-step hydroplane designed for the 135 cu. in. engine class. The Universal Blue Jacket, four cylinder engine could easily be replaced with an Alfa 2 liter. The Alfa engine would be at least 200 pounds lighter and have almost double the horsepower.
I started collecting drivetrain parts before departing on our cruise. The batwing oil pan would not fit well between engine stringers. Ignazio gave me an Alfetta oil pan. I will probably have to cut the aft corner off and weld a plate on to accommodate the slanted installation. Marine transmissions are heavy so I found a sprint car in-out box to at least give me neutral. Race boats don't have a transmission. When you light them up, they go! Neutral would be very useful for docking, etc. a canoe paddle would work fine for reverse for this small boat. An Alfetta flywheel would be ideal due to the coupling that would hook up to the sprint car box.
Marine engines use a water jacketed exhaust manifold. I found one for a V-8 that could be modified to fit the Alfa head. Cooling would be with seawater pumped through a heat exchanger for both oil and engine coolant. I have toyed with the idea of buying an aftermarket engine management system for ignition and fuel injection. Four motorcycle coils on the firewall hooked up to the system would replace a distributor. Sparks from a distributor are dangerous in a boat.
I have designed this boat over and over in my head. But a few months ago I took another step in the project. The photo is a 1/12th scale model I constructed on Uproar while we were hanging out in French Polynesia. The model is built with scale bulkheads from the magazine article. I learned how to do old fashion “lofting” in a naval architecture class at Purdue. The entire model is built out of 1/8” balsa and bamboo skewers. For paint and stain I used acrylic paints from Lisa's paint set, not ideal but it worked.
I can just imagine the throaty rumble of the Alfa engine, racing the Flyer at 50 mph. But that is best I can do from my seafaring lifestyle. Lisa and I have no plans to “swallow the anchor” and return to shore. If we do, I have a unique Alfa Romeo project waiting for me.
S/V Tumultuous Uproar