12 November 2019
I have been reading Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six. Then I had a dream that a CIA agent approached me and asked if I could design a launcher for a mini rocket. He showed me the rocket, it was a tiny thing, not much bigger than a large firework. It's mission was....classified.
He described a steel, rail launching system he had in mind. My suggestion was one made of plywood which would be lighter, cheaper and quicker to design and construct. Speed was of the essence, he agreed to my plywood design. Then I woke up.
For the next half-hour, I lay awake in bed, designing the rocket launcher. I designed it to be easily constructed from the meager tools I carry on Uproar. I even formulated how I would explain my design to him, putting my salesman's hat on.
That's the engineer's curse. But at least I didn't build the rocket launcher.......yet.
Huahine to Moorea the hard way
19 September 2019
Close call! We are OK but Uproar is wounded. Two days ago we set sail (trite expression that even cruise ships use) from Huahine to Moorea. It is just over 80 nautical miles, a little more than a Lake Michigan crossing. Wind was to start out on the nose but then back to NE at around 15 knots. So it was to be a beat upwind. No problem, Uproar likes going to weather.
We left at 5 pm for what we expected to be a 12 hour sail. It is not a good idea to try to complete a passage like this entirely during daylight. Arriving at an anchorage in the night is a dangerous practice. Arriving just after dawn is delightful and we especially enjoy night passages. Moon was close to full so we would have plenty of light.
What would have been a simple passage didn't start out that well. We motored an hour to clear the north end of Huahine, then found the wind and seas. Waves were short and choppy in the 15 knots of breeze and Uproar did a dance reminding me of rap music. Lisa was not feeling well and just lay flat the entire passage. I stood the whole watch but lay down a few times and slept in the cockpit. We didn't see another boat the entire way.
The wind did back to NE and Uproar, beating hard, headed directly to Moorea. It's lucky when the forecast plays right into your route plan. But unlucky when a cotter pin wears through and your forestay, furling drum and all blasts out of the anchor well and your jib is flying free like a spinnaker! The forestay is the most heavily loaded part of the rigging. When it lets loose, the mast usually comes down. We keep our spinnaker halyard attached to the bow pulpit (front railing). That spinnaker halyard prevented the mast from collapsing.
It was 6:30 am with only 8 miles to go when the forestay took off, I released the main sheet to relieve the load pulling back on the mast. The bow pulpit bent but held. Then the real excitement began. Lisa was immediately on deck. I crawled forward with a line, ran it around the anchor roller and tied it to the spinnaker halyard. Lisa winched it down hard to insure the spinnaker halyard didn't break off the bow pulpit. That spinnaker halyard was now our emergency forestay. We dropped the main and stuffed most of it in the Mack Pack cover.
The furling line for the jib ran to the stopper knot and held the jib, still full, by the side of the boat, pulling us sideways. We eased the jib sheets to relieve that load. There were no lines in the water so I started the engine, ahead slow. Next job was to try to secure that jib flaying crazily in the 15+ knots of wind. I tied a line around the furling drum which was whipping around my head. I approached it from forward to be sure I wasn't clobbered. Lisa secured the line around a stern cleat so we could keep control of the monster. Then we cut the furling line and the whole mess flew aft.
Jib sheets wrapped around the end of the boom but we cleared them and let them trail behind Uproar. Since they were well aft, and we had forward boat speed, there was no danger of wrapping the prop. We then released the jib halyard. Lowering the jib from the foil is always difficult as the upper bearing often gets stuck on the foil extrusions. I had no idea how we would get it down. But I pulled with everything I had and it started to come down. Perhaps the gyrations shook that upper bearing over the joints. Lisa and I struggled to pull the jib into the cockpit as some of it was dragging in the water. We retrieved the jib and jib sheets. All lines were aboard.
The jib wouldn't come down the last 8 feet. I saw that the luff tape was torn in a few places, it would have to be replaced. I cut the luff tape away the last 8 feet. But I had to do this reaching up, standing on a pitching deck. Then I had to cut the Spectra head strap off the sail with two dull knives. I knew when I cut it, I would fall with the sail so made sure I was leaning into the boat when the last hack parted it.
I can't begin to describe my exhaustion by that time. I took a few breathers just to get my wind back. Lisa was struggling too with exhaustion and sea-sickness. She tried several times to leave the cockpit to help me. I insisted (rather loudly, sorry Lisa) she stay in the cockpit. One of us had to stay in control of the boat. Fortunately the autopilot and engine kept us going slowly forward.
We finally had all of the sail and all lines safely in the boat after over an hour of struggle. We lashed the mangled furling drum to the stern rail. I increased speed from the 3.5 knots we were motoring but the mast shook violently in the pounding seas. Slow speed is all we could risk for the last 6 miles to Moorea.
We knew we would be safe as Uproar was still a fully functional powerboat. Our mast was saved! Dismasting is second only to sinking on the level of sailing trauma. Lisa had experienced two dismastings and I have been in one. These were all on smaller boats. On a boat the size of Uproar, the broken mast can be impossible to clear enough to start the engine and can beat holes in the boat, causing sinking!
Our jib furling system was trashed and jib damaged but easily repaired. Just dragging that jib down the companionway to stuff below was another struggle. The next day, another struggle was to drag it on deck and fold it properly. Damage to Uproar will exceed $5,000 which is our insurance deductible. But we are OK, except for bumps, bruises and utter shock!
Lisa and I are Sunday net controllers for the SSB (long range radio) Polynesian Magellan net. It is a twice daily radio broadcast where boats underway give position reports and their progress is tracked. Other boats at anchor can check in too just to chat about general information and anything of interest. The broadcast opens with the net controller asking, “Is there any medical, emergency or priority traffic?” It is quite rare to hear any response.
I keyed the mic, “Uproar.” Steve from Liward said, “Uproar, go ahead please.” I succinctly mentioned we lost our forestay but the boat was clear, motoring slowly into Moorea. Steve and Lili proceeded us to Moorea and were waiting for us. I asked that they listen for any further transmissions from us in case the situation deteriorated. Steve asked for our lat and lon which I gave him. He asked if cruisers should meet us at the pass to offer assistance. This was a breaking point for me, all I could reply was that we should be OK and thanks for the offer. Cruisers will do anything to help each other.
Steve did meet us at the pass in his dinghy. It was his birthday too. I can't describe the relief of entering calm waters and being met by a concerned friend. Steve and Lili have been cruising for many years and have had their share of “adventures” and well understood what we had just gone through. He piloted us to a good anchoring spot near Liward and shared his birthday muffins with us. That night, we had birthday cocktails on Liward. Mine was much more than a double!
Jim returns to Uproar
08 September 2019
Jim Leguizamon knows well that sailing on Uproar may lead to a blog post. This is his second time sailing in the tropics with us. His first time was in Carriacou (Grenada) where were were forced to flee to Tobago from Hurricane Matthew, 2017. Showing further poor judgment, Jim signed on to keep me company in the French Polynesian islands for a few weeks while Lisa was visiting friends and family in the US and Bahamas. This time we had great weather and a fun time in the Leeward Islands, Huahine, Raiatea, Tahaa and Bora Bora.
These islands are a cruising paradise. Distances between volcanic islands are 20 miles and each of is surrounded by coral fringed lagoons. Jim flew into Raiatea, the largest island of the group but we quickly sailed to Huahine for Steve's (S/V Liward) music show. The following night there was a local DJ/singer at the Huahine Yacht Club and an enthusiastic local crowd. That's about it for nightly entertainment in these quiet islands and we had a great time.
Jim is not a sailor but spends a lot of time on the ocean near his Orange County, CA home. He has gone on some extended fishing trips for days aboard rough charter boats, casting for large tuna. Unfortunately, the French Polynesian curse of “no fish” filled our log book while Jim was own board.
Jim and I worked together on several robotic projects in the 90's and beyond. That fateful day, September 11, 2001, I showed up at Jim's house, in LA for another project. Since, we worked on some robotic projects in the medical industry in the early 2000's. We have not spent a lot of time together but formed a quick bond and have always stayed in close.
This trip, we spent hours chatting about friends and family while consuming more than a few bottles of local rum. But that quality rum left us surprisingly healthy in the following mornings for bike rides, sails and snorkeling in crystal clear waters. Surprisingly, Jim was on a working vacation. His boss didn't care that he was not around for work as long as he could be reached. Jim diligently worked on some projects and stayed in touch with his wife, Angie and kids like a teenager with a new cell phone. We even called a former customer of mine with a business proposition. He was sure surprised to learn that I retired to a boat for the past four years. Isn't technology wonderful?
Jim, come back any time. We had a great two weeks that went by too fast!
A Sailor's Patience
12 August 2019
“No problem, I've learned patience. I'm a sailor and sailboats are slow.”
I've used that line a lot when someone apologizes for a delay. Sometimes this goes right over the person's head but most often, it gets a chuckle. Then I follow up saying, “Sailboats go about the same speed as a lawn tractor.” We actually do about 1 ½ times LT speed but it puts it in perspective for non-sailors.
My OFB (old flying buddy) Mirko Bodul would often have little, Styrofoam airplanes to hand out to kids who showed up at our flying sites on Lake Michigan Bluffs. These were perfect spots to fly our slope gliders when the wind blew from the NE. Since they were parks, we often had spectators. Mirko would not just hand out these little planes, he would assemble them and show the kids how to throw them for a good flight.
I buy big bags of these planes to hand out to kids we encounter during our travels. Kids just love to get un petit avion here in French Polynesia. We always get a smile.
Lately I have encountered some fairly long waits in the post office and Air Tahiti office. Nothing passes the time better than to help the kids put together these planes and watch them fly them. The entire office seems to enjoy the show. In the Post Office I overheard one lady telling her friend that I was a gentleman. She must have seen me walk through the door that said so.
Today in the Air Tahiti office, it was a five airplane wait. There were three kids in a family ahead of me. They loved the planes and went zooming around the room with them. Their parents were most appreciative too.
Then two more kids came in before it was my turn. I was just about finished with the last plane when a lady pointed to the desk and said, “Monsieur,” I finished the plane before I took my turn at the counter. Priorities.
Fafa and Angry Birds
05 August 2019
Fafa is Polynesian for Callaloo, the green leaves of the Taro plant. We often ate Callaloo in the Caribbean as a green, similar to Collard Greens. But unlike other greens, Callaloo will burn your throat like ground glass if you eat it raw. Don't try it. I have done that for you and it really burns! But sauteed in duck fat or bacon fat and simmered with onions, red wine and chicken stock for 15 minutes makes one of the best green veggies you can get in the tropics.
We were told that Taro grown in water produces the best leaves for Callaloo. Taro grown in dry ground produces the root bulb eaten as a starch. When I first spotted it growing in French Polynesia, I was excited that I could get one of my favorite, green veggies here. The locals call it Fafa but rarely eat it as a green. They gladly let me cut it and never accept payment. They are careful to warn me not to eat it raw. Oui, je connais!
My bike route in Raiatea often took me by a ditch full of Fafa. I stopped and asked the guy if I could buy some Fafa. He always let me take what I wanted and never accepted payment. I noticed he had a lot of cages off the ground with healthy looking roosters. One day I asked him if the roosters were for competition. Mai oui! He told me where and when they had chicken fights on Raiatea. I googled cock fighting, FP and learned that the original Polynesian voyagers brought fighting cocks from Asia. Cock fighting is the oldest sport know to man according to the article. While it is forbidden, it is still popular in FP. DNA tests have linked these cocks to Asian fighting cocks.
Well, it has been a slow weekend. Lisa has been back in the US visiting friends and family for a month. I moved Uproar to a beautiful Motu on the east side of Raiatea, just adjacent Avera where the combat de cocques is held. Porquoi pas? I dinghied to shore and started walking. I asked several people where I could find the combat de cocques. More directions and I found myself on a lonely road heading inland. I don't mind a hike but we have found locals in these and all islands notoriously bad at directions and distances on foot. They all have cars.
Eventually I heard the shouting and knew I was near. I found the arena, a permanent setup for combat. There was a strong warning sign that no alcohol can be brought in. They sold beer and were pleased to offer Hinano for the lowest prices around. I wandered into the arena area and a guy moved to give me a seat. Sure enough, two roosters were tussling to the delight of all. I was struck by the nude necks and bellies of these birds. Had they plucked each others feathers out? That's enough for details.
After the bout, everyone left their seats and wandered around. There were cocks everywhere with one leg tied to a string, staked to the ground. They were totally docile and their owners were often petting them or holding them. I bought another beer. What else could I do? I asked a few questions and one guy summoned a friend who spoke English. He explained that the trainers pluck the feathers from the neck and belly so the other cock can't get a grip. He said things are quite boring on Raiatea and cock fighting is just a social gathering for the guys (very few ladies) to get together and drink some beer.
Several other local guys approached me with smiles and greetings. I noticed I was the only white boy in sight! There are a lot of French citizens living in FP but none were there. I did notice a lot of Chinese descendants among the Polynesians. Nothing much was happening but one guy mentioned there was a lot of negotiating to find a good match for the next fight. Suddenly, everyone headed for the arena seats.
I entered with a Chinese-looking guy who spoke perfect English. He motioned for me to sit next to him. He said, “The fight is boring unless you bet $10 on the fight.” I readily agreed to take the bird he had bet against. His friend said, “You have a good cock.” I said, “Well, I hope my wife didn't marry me for my money.” I don't think that translated well.
The round began. It was actually more of a wrestling match than blood sport. These two chickens were tenacious! I'll skip to the end. It was quick! I hardly saw it but one cock put his spur through a weak spot in the others head. Down he went, instantly dead! The crowd went wild. My neighbor said, “No problem, you don't have to pay me.” I insisted and gave him the $10 with a smile. We fist-bumped and I headed back to the road.
A departing car gave me a ride to within a kilometer of my dinghy. I'm back on Uproar richer for yet another cultural experience with these gentle people. I'm not a fan of animal cruelty and have mixed feelings about what I witnessed. But I promised to tell all about our voyage, good and bad.
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!