Tag Archives: at sea

From Oz to Indonesia

The goal was to arrive in Tual, Indonesia, on Wednesday morning. The distance is 650 miles, and I think 160 miles/day is a good figure to use for estimating. Four days. But the wind predictions were for two days of heavy wind followed by light wind. Too light to keep up our average. So instead of leaving Saturday at dawn we decided to leave late Friday afternoon.

The wind was around 25 knots the first night and day. We flew our small spinnaker, trying to take it easy, especially for Jesse. His first time really at sea, we were concerned about how he would fare, ever with Scopolamine. He was game, but sometimes his face seemed less game than his words, and he was clear that he wouldn’t last long in the galley!

Tahawus surged out in front, and Chapter Two and we sailed along within sight of each other. It’s now the fourth night, and they are still in sight. They have suddenly come from four miles behind to a mile ahead though. That’s because the goal has changed. After two days of very fast sailing, it seemed we could arrive Tuesday before dark, rather than Wednesday morning. But now with the wind light, it looks like we might not quite make it before dark. I think C2 has decided they are going to make it, even if it costs some fuel. Maybe we will come to that choice, too, but for now I’m just praying for a little more wind. About three knots more would be enough, if it would blow consistently. Funny though, that being ahead of schedule isn’t making things relaxed — it’s adding pressure to make the new goal. Actually it is sailing with Tahawus and C2 nearby that is doing it. If they are getting in tomorrow, we want to, too.

We are six degrees from the equator. And as Jesse and I worked out with a little mental gymnastics, the declination of the sun was directly overhead yesterday. It is very hot during the day. It is very pleasant at night. Last night I was treated to bright phosphorescence in the water — our wake glowing two large streaks, plus a small one from the hydrogenerator. Cool; but then add dolphins! First heard, as they blow and suck in air. Then seen, as glowing splashes on the dark ocean canvas.

Tonight the ocean is glowing from a different source. Dozens of fishing boats are alit to attract fish. They are all congregated in one area. It looked like the lights on a runway as we went by! Now they are a glow on the horizon.

I know Jesse will be very happy when we are again at anchor. He mentioned the 20 day passage that we did to the Marquesas. “Not for me!” he said. But I have very much enjoyed sailing with him, so far. We’ve never done such a great project together; never played on the same team like this. I like him.

I have no idea what to expect when we arrive in Indonesia. Will it be fun? Will it be overwhelming? Will it be scary? I’m very glad that we have Luc again organizing our activities, allowing us to simply show up and participate. He refers to “exotic Indonesia.” I’m not sure I’m up for exotic right now. But first we need to get there (whether tomorrow night or the following morning), then we’ll see…


Not wanting to be a day later than Tahawus and Chapter Two, we did start an engine and motorsailed. But we waited too long to do so, to get in before dark. With no moon, and bright lights blinding us from shore, and the scouting info from our fellow BPOers saying there are lots of fishing buoys, etc, in the water, it was a bit nerve wracking approaching in the dark. But in fact there was no problem and it was a beautiful night. We’ve anchored next to the other boats, and Luc has arranged for officials to come aboard at 8:30am to clear us in (in spite of it being the Muslim New Year holiday).

I’m already surprised by this place, even without seeing it in daylight. It appears to be a small city — a busy working port with generators running through the night. Funny how I don’t realize that I have certain expectations, until we show up and they aren’t met. I expected this to be an out-of-the-way place with little on shore. Oh well, I’m up for whatever Luc has arranged.


This last day of the passage I feel good about two things I did. The first stemmed from a problem with our starboard engine. We heard the bilge pump run repeatedly on the starboard side. Tim and I shared a “That’s not good” look. In the engine room, water was spraying all over, apparently from the vicinity of the cooling water pump. We shut the engine down and switched to the other one.

After the engine had cooled, I went in for a closer look. Tim suggested that we couldn’t do anything until we were at anchor, but I thought we should at least determine the problem, if possible. To see much in that area requires a mirror, and it helps to be a contortionist. But I was able to determine that the problem was a hose that had slipped up against a belt pulley. The pulley had ground a hole through the hose. With a little duct tape the problem is now minimized, and we have some right-size hose to do a proper replacement later. Hooray!

The second problem of the day stems from a hole ground in our three-way partnership. This came up due to a disagreement about who should pay how much of the yard charges, given that Bill is no longer aboard. We had the foresight to anticipate this situation in our partnership agreement, but we weren’t specific enough about the details. It didn’t seem like a major issue to me…but…it seems that Tim carries festering resentment about some events that happened months ago. This obviously didn’t get resolved at that time, and with the three of us no longer together it is unlikely it will get resolved now. He took the opportunity to bring the issues up, “piling them on” to the financial question. I pretty much went through the pilothouse roof. Was he really going to jeopardize the workability of our partnership because he had some upsets lingering from thousands of miles astern?? Apparently so, and I let him know I was not happy about it.

I had thoughts about not being able to sail further with Tim. Maybe I could crew on another boat. Or maybe he’d be happy to sell me his share and walk away. These and many other thoughts marched through my mind as I sat in the cockpit and tried to calm down. Maybe after some deep breaths I would even see the humor and new possibilities this turn of events stirs up.

But Tim got the message. Before I embarked on any radical new course, he agreed to yield regarding the current cost allocation issue, and he agreed to set aside his other issues for now. I guess that leaves problem #2 in about the same state as the water hose — with a temporary patch. I have no permanent repair for lingering resentment over stale issues involving players not-all-present; I expect it is going to come up again. Still I am happy with my communication and the resulting truce. If it were only sailing issues I had to deal with, this adventure wouldn’t be nearly as interesting…


Sunday night…
Last gorgeous night at sea, and a fitting way to complete our crossing of the Pacific. Flat water, gentle sailing breeze, just-past-full moon, quiet, peaceful, and we’ll be at Mackay at dawn. Got buzzed by the Border Force airplane, and hailed on VHF, but they were very friendly and welcomed us to Oz. Have cleaned the boat thoroughly and disposed of all fresh foods, in anticipation of their stringent inspection. Fingers crossed about that. Have already scheduled our haul out for new paint. We’re as ready as we can be for our arrival and the changes that will occur.

Clearing in was an interesting, lengthy and somewhat stressful experience. Five uniformed Border Force officials plus the sniffer dog greeted us. We were to stay up on the bow nets until the dog was done sniffing. That took a while, especially because she got excited about something in our spares locker. So they bring in the drug-and-explosive analyzer device, and determine that an aluminum (aluminium) bracket has traces of pseudo epinephrine, or something like that. Can I explain that…? No, makes no sense. (Later Tahawus had a similar experience where they detected traces of cocaine on some random piece of gear. Norm thinks they do that intentionally to rattle you!)

Then lots of questions, some seemingly friendly/chatty, but clearly they are trained to keep you talking about your background, etc. and they split the crew from the skipper, so your stories had better check out! The big question up front: “Are we going to find anything aboard that might be an issue? Weapons, plants, drugs,…?” Well, yes, actually. We have a 12-gauge flare gun, which we’ve been told is considered a weapon in Australia. “No worries, flare guns are fine.” Okay, but we also have a big store of prescription medicines, since our third owner, not present, is a physician. That turned out to be only a minor issue. They pulled out the two boxes of narcotics and sealed them in an unused locker in the head. When we check out of the country we have to show that the locker is still sealed.

Okay, but there is one other thing. We had heard that mace and pepper spray are considered weapons, and Bob alerted me just before the inspection that he had a can of bear spray! Bob is from Canada, remember, so of course he carries bear spray across the Pacific 😉

That led to some research by Border Force, and with apologies they said they would have to confiscate the bear spray. Later in the afternoon we walked past an outdoor bar, and one of the guys was there. Seeing us, he of course asked if we’d seen any bears yet. No worries, the Border Force was friendly, courteous, professional, and they didn’t give us any further grief about strange substances on our spare aluminum bracket.

But still pending was the dreaded quarantine inspection. The agriculture guy was delayed, so we had to continue to stay aboard another couple hours until he showed up. We had been told they will confiscate most of your food, sometimes even your spices. Also told they would inspect the bottom of the boat with an underwater camera, and if they spotted any barnacles we would have to haul the boat immediately and have it cleaned at our expense. We were also told that if they found any insects, alive or dead, the boat would have to be fumigated, including sealing it all up and us moving off of it for two days — again at our expense, of course.

Well, the bloke was nice enough, but he certainly was painfully thorough — going through every locker, inspecting all food packages, and tapping all woodwork looking for signs of termites. He found some weevils in a bag of pasta. Uh oh… No worries, he says, these are garden variety weevils that are already in Australia. He disposes of the bag, but no further action. Then he takes a woven basket that I bought in Tonga and bangs it on the counter. And proceeds to point out tiny crawly things. This I had feared, as I had seen tiny ants around the basket, and I had sprayed it with an ant poison, but here they were still. Book lice, he says, not ants; the bane of libraries. Not a problem — he just wanted to show us that they were there!

In fact he ended up taking very little. Our 7 remaining eggs, the pasta, and the only fresh produce we still had aboard – some garlic. As he was leaving I asked about the underwater inspection. Yes, he has the camera in his car, but he only uses it on the boats with major growth. The gypsies, he says, who stay in one place a long time and don’t clean/repainted the boat.

Whew! Everyone was friendly and heartily welcomed us to Australia, but it was a major relief when it was over, we could take down our quarantine flag, and move the boat from the quarantine dock to a slip in the marina.

Hauled the boat. Everyone seems professional and knowledgeable. By the end of the day the bottom is already clean, the waterline is taped for painting, a lower shroud is removed for measuring the new wire, and the first batch of decisions is behind us.

I feel an emotional “whiplash.” Being at sea one day, talking with various contractors the next. From solitude to city. We took the bus to the mall (just to look around; there wasn’t anything there that we needed). Bob rented a car. I visited a dentist to reattach a crown that had popped off. (I consider myself very lucky that this happened one day before arriving in civilization!) We have a list of maybe 30 boat tasks/issues/questions. Hard to prioritize, after the obvious top items. And what’s it all going to cost???

Water music performance, the night before we left Vanuatu.
Water music performance, the night before we left Vanuatu.
I like this poster that was on the wall at the customs office, when we were clearing out of Vanuatu. I think it’s funny how the last bit of the “story” is covered, so you can fill in your own blank for “You shoulda married _______”
A photo taken by Doina that I like -- figure out the message in Pidgin English.
A photo taken by Doina that I like — figure out the message in Pidgin English.
14.7 knots, and 7 miles ahead of Blue Wind
14.7 knots, and 7 miles ahead of Blue Wind
Approaching Blue Wind, to make our medicine transfer
Approaching Blue Wind, to make our medicine transfer
With weighted throwing line in place...
With weighted throwing line in place…
Good shot, into the sail
Good shot, into the sail
Thumbs up! Pull in that PB jar. We'll get the line back in Oz.
Thumbs up! Pull in that PB jar. We’ll get the line back in Oz.
A guest stopping for a rest
A guest stopping for a rest

Video of our welcome to the Great Barrier Reef:

In the slings in Mackay.
In the slings in Mackay.

Beautiful Emptiness

[Written en route to Niue]
It is 1,000 miles from Maupiti to Niue — about a week, and we’re four days into it. The weather has been beautiful, the winds light, no rain squalls, so there’s been lots of time to contemplate…emptiness. No boats. No land. A thousand miles of ocean. Bill has been reading, and Bob has been learning everything about the boat. I’ve been doing a lot of staring at the ocean during the day, and staring at the sky at night.

The emptiness is punctuated by little events. We caught a fish the first day. That generates lots of activity: trying to slow the boat down while we reel it in; all taking our positions on the stern to gaff it and to blow a mouthful of rum into its gills to kill it; filleting it still on the back of the boat, to contain the mess; cleaning up the mess; and of course cooking and eating it!

We haven’t caught a fish since, but yesterday we had small tuna swimming with us. I’ve never seen this before — fish acting like dolphins. They would swim alongside and sometimes in front of the boat. Then disappear for a few minutes, and then they’d be back. We were trailing a lure at the time, but I was a little relieved that we didn’t get a strike. Didn’t seem right to catch a fish that was being a sociable escort.

The stars in the early night have been magnificent, and then the moon rises, and paints its own beauty across the sky. Last night I saw six satellites. One was so bright we were convinced it had to be the space station. But then ten minutes later I saw another one that was equally bright.

We celebrated Bill’s birthday. Bob had brought a two kilo bag of granola from home, as a gift from Bill’s daughter. (She made granola and sent it to Bob, but it didn’t get there in time, so Bob bought some.) Bob made a card and wrote a poem to go with it. I baked banana bread.

Receiving emails via the radio is a treat. Missives from family and from the other rally boats. Lots of time to think about family and friends (and future boats and adventures). Lots of time to enjoy emptiness.
I got interrupted at this point by a yellow fin tuna on my line. An hour later he was filleted. Then I had to finish the loaf of bread I had started preparing earlier. And then I offered to make dinner even though it wasn’t my turn in our rotation, because I found an interesting recipe for fish curry. After dinner we needed to get the spinnaker down because the wind was veering too far forward. By then it was time to look for satellites (just for fun). No satellites tonight (we might have missed prime spotting time when we were busy with the spinnaker), but two airplanes. I’m guessing we’re approaching the flight path between New Zealand and Hawaii.

So the last several hours have been busy, but now it’s back to the emptiness. Stars galore. I learned that the dark area next to the Southern Cross is actually a dust cloud that obscures the stars behind it. I have two more hours on my watch to contemplate that…