Thursday, December 29, 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Fiji

I decided to head to Fiji for the holidaze to visit my friend Soko. It took me 9.5 days to sail from Fiji to Auckland, NZ in October.  The return trip took 3 hours by airplane. Yesterday we returned to Suva after spending several days in her home village of Nayavu. Highlights of the visit include hiking in the bush and picking wild yams, edible ferns, chili peppers, and oranges; swimming in the rivers and streams; drinking kava and a homebrew made from fermented coconut juice and sugar; waking up in the wee hours to the all-night kava drinkers breaking into beautiful harmonies; delicious food; and the very welcoming hospitality. I'll be flying back to Auckland and Twister on New Year's Eve.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

reading list

Probably my number one pastime (based on the amount of time spent) since getting off the hamster wheel is reading--especially when I'm sailing. Here is a partial list of what I've read since departing Southern California in April (since I haven't kept written record, I'm sure I've forgotten a few things). More or less in reverse chronological order:

The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence For Evolution by Richard Dawkins

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

Eirik Raude by Preben Mørbak

The Island of Desire (The Story of a South Sea Trader) by Robert Dean Frisbie

Stories Of Hawaii By Jack London

The Ministry Of Special Cases by Nathan Englander

River Town: Two Years On The Yangtze by Peter Hessler

Life by Keith Richards

Brain Bugs: How The Brain's Bugs Shape Our Lives by Dean Buonomano

Hell's Corner by David Baldacci

1900 Morgenrød by Gunnar Staalesen

1950 High Noon by Gunnar Staalesen

1999 Aftensang by Gunnar Staalesen

The Forgotten One: And Other True Tales of the South Seas by James Norman Hall

Home from the sea: Robert Louis Stevenson in Samona by Richard Arnold Bermann

An Island To Oneself by Tom Neale

Madam Bovary by Gustave Flaubert*

The Life And Adventures Of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe* (I must have read an abridged version when I was a kid. After he's rescued, it goes on and on about his newfound religion)

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Breakfast Of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut

“Why I Am Not A Christian” by Bertrand Russell

Following The Equator by Mark Twain

“Walking” by Henry David Thoreau

Between A Rock And A Hard Place by Aaron Ralston

Guns, Germs, And Steel by Jared Diamond*

The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint Exupéry

Wind, Sand, And Stars by Antoine De Saint Exupéry

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

*Did not finish

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Waiheke Island

Today I'm cruising over to Waiheke Island, only ~12 miles from Auckland. The plan is to anchor in Huruhi Bay (sheltered from the north-easterlies which are forecast to continue for several days). Many locals have encouraged me to visit Great Barrier Island, but as the prognosticators are predicting crappy weather for the next week, I'll save it for January. Another Twister is said to live on Waiheke Island. It belongs to Miles Hordern who sailed his Twister from NZ to Chile and back and wrote a book about it. I'll let you know if I run into him or his Twister (to clarify, Twister is both the name and the model of my boat. You can read more about Twisters at The Twister Class Association).

Thursday, December 8, 2011

made it with one tank (and two jerry cans)

Today Twister and I putted over to the fuel dock to fill up in preparation for some cruising around NZ (I've also read that it's a good idea to keep the tank full to minimize condensation). Expecting to fill many gallons I was surprised when it overflowed after only 2.2. Back in the slip I sat down to calculate my fuel consumption for the Pacific crossing (I had topped off the fuel tank in American Samoa). Turns out I used almost exactly 36 gallons from San Diego to Auckland which is the amount of diesel I left San Diego with (25 gallons in the fuel tank and 11 gallons in two jerry cans).

Yesterday I gave the deck and the shrouds (steel wires that support the sides of the mast) a quick scrub with concentrated hydrochloric acid (aka muriatic acid). Sounds like a bad idea, right? Well it's great at removing rust and rust stains. Now Twister has white decks and sparkling shrouds. Anybody have any thoughts on the use of HCl on boats?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

what makes me nervous

Occasionally I am asked if I get scared out there in the middle of the ocean. I'm sure I will when I finally encounter some bad weather. But what scares me now and always is navigating the boat in and out of tight spaces with lots of other boats around (like a marina). A couple of days ago I was on Twister installing the new throttle control when the guy at the helm of a powerboat, trying to avoid bumping the dock and other boats, cranked the wheel, floored it, and slammed into a piling and another boat. Amazingly a minute or two later they found themselves in the same situation and responded in the same way and with the same result. With a lot of help they finally got the boat into the slip.

The reason they were having trouble parking (aside from lack of experience) was a strong wind perpendicular to the slip they were trying to park in. This has caused me many nervous moments parking the boat back in San Diego. Twister has a long keel, but it ends well before the bow, so that end of the boat tends to slide off when the wind is blowing on the beam (this is only an issue when the boat is not or barely moving). That power boat has very little in the way of a keel and a lot of area above water for the wind to push.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

News From The Bilge

The last week I've finally started seriously doing some maintenance on Twister. The engine came out Monday giving me unhindered improved access to the propeller shaft stuffing box (seal that lubricates the propshaft as it spins but keeps most of the water out) and the automatic bilge pump (and the float switch that should turn on the pump when the water level in the bilge reaches a couple of inches). I replaced the stuffing (teflon-treated thread/rope) and discovered that last time I had only pulled out two of the four rings of stuffing. I re-did all the (potentially) underwater electrical connections to the bilge pump and float switch. Amazingly the pump and float switch had worked before even though the person who installed them had simply wrapped the soldered connections in black electrical tape. Then a check-valve or non-return valve was installed in the hose through which the pump pumps the water out. Previously the last couple of liters of water would always drain back down into the bilge after the float switch had turned off which would turn the pump back on resulting in a dead battery if left unattended (so far the new check-valve is working as planned). The engine throttle and gear-shift control had to be replaced which turned out to be relatively painless. Calibrating the barometer turned out to be ridiculously simple. Removing the air bubble in the compass was also pretty simple. The whisker pole is now almost good as new. As anyone who has spent time on Twister can attest, the toilet has not been problem-free. I had intended to replace the valves, seals, etc, but they were not be found in NZ. Also I spotted a crack in the pump housing. So Twister now has a shiny new toilet. I've left the engine work to the professionals . Sorry for all the jargon.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

NZ trivia

This year, NZ had a net loss of a few hundred people from immigration and emigration. Most Kiwis move to Australia where wages and salaries are higher. It seems NZ IS in need of skilled labor in several areas--construction and the medical field are high on the list. I've met 3 doctors from the UK and one paramedic from the US who work here. So if you're interested in moving to NZ, now might be a good time. If you're under 31, you can apply for a working-holiday visa which is good for one year, I think. Bats are the only native land mammals.  Now there are ~40 million sheep, ~10 million cows, ~4 million humans, and lots of rats, mice, dogs, cats, and I don't know what else. Everywhere you can see signs of or signs warning of rat poison and other eradication efforts as the Kiwis try to keep some nonnative mammals under control and native species alive. My nonscientific survey indicates that Germans constitute the largest percentage of foreign tourists in NZ.

Friday, November 18, 2011

our NZ camper car
Opoutere Beach
Tongariro Crossing
Adrianna was kind enough to come for a brief visit to New Zealand. We had considered sailing around Hauraki Gulf--Great Barrier Island in particular--but the weather forecast did not look ideal (it's never ideal in New Zealand as far as I can tell). So we rented a Nissan hatchback set up for camping (the camper vans and cars of NZ deserve a post of their own) and set off down the road. On day one we drove around the coast of the Coromandel Peninsula where we saw penguins standing on a rocky beach. We camped by idyllic Opoutere Beach on the SE end of Coromandel. The following day we made our way to Tongariro National Park and hiked the popular Tongariro Crossing, a ~12.5 mile hike along volcanoes, snow, steaming rocks, and lakes.
We made our way down the SW coast of the North Island and ended up in Wellington where we only stayed for a few hours while I checked out the anchoring/mooring/berthing options for Twister. We did see the local Occupy Wall Street protests there as well as in Auckland. Neither has been evicted as of today. Our next stop was in the just appropriately quaint town of Martinborough, popular for its wineries. We stayed in NZ's wine region as we continued towards Napier in the Hawke's Bay region. On the way we stopped at Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Center where we got to see a couple of Kiwi Birds (in captivity) as well as some other cool NZ wildlife (shrieking eels). We also stopped at Junction Winery and had a few samples. We camped on the beach in Te Awanga just south of Napier, known for its art deco architecture. We returned to Auckland via Tauranga, where the container ship Rena is stuck on Astrolabe Reef 12 miles off the coast.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Road Trip

Mount Ruapehu
Yesterday evening Gary and I returned to Auckland from a 4-day road trip to Tongariro National Park and Raglan, a small town on the west coast, known for its left hand point break(s). We had planned to take advantage of the reduced lift tickets on the last couple of days of the ski season on Mount Ruapehu. Unfortunately the lifts were closed both days we were there due to high winds. We were joined by four of Gary's friends from Wellington and stayed in a lodge in the quaint mountain town of Ohakune. We did have a nice 3-hour mountain biking expedition in the national park. Later that evening at a bar we bumped into many of the actors from the movie "The Hobbit." They were having a crew party (I guess to celebrate completion of filming?). Both Gandalf and Bilbo were there (I don't know their real names) along with a bunch of other soon-to-be famous actors. After two days in Ohakune, Gary and I drove to the small town of Raglan where we had  nice evening surf session at Manu Bay. Gary's friend, Laura, was kind enough to let us spend the night at her (and her roommates') place. The next day we had another surf session at a beach break nearby and hit the road back to Auckland. Here are some photos.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Kiwi phone

Hi everyone. I've got a New Zealand phone. The number is (country code 64) 0221346789. please call (you may have to leave off the first zero).
Oh, I've changed the settings so now anyone can leave comments without having to sign in.

one door closes another opens

I received some disappointing news today:  The 2012 AMLR antarctic research cruise has been cancelled. Major bummer. On the plus side I now have more time to cruise around and explore New Zealand and Australia.
Yesterday I got in touch with my friend Gary from the sailboat La Cueca. He left La Cueca and Rory in Fiji and flew to NZ to work for a while to finance another year of cruising. He bought a camper-van and is heading south for some snowboarding. I've decided to join him for a couple of days. I'll be back in Auckland by the 8th.

Monday, October 31, 2011

In Auckland


Twister arrived Auckland yesterday (31st of October on this side of the date line) evening and tied up to the quarantine dock, right in the heart of downtown. I had to wait till this morning to check in with customs, immigraton, etc. The whole procedure was quick and painless, and the best part was it didn't cost me a cent. The sail down from Fiji was wonderful. I could not have asked for better conditions. Twister covered the 1140 miles (1140 in a straight line, I probably sailed more than 1200) from Suva to Auckland in 9 and one half days (I departed on the morning of the 22nd and arrived the evening of the 31st) for a daily average of 120 (as always, nautical) miles which gives an average boat speed of 5.0 knots (using 1200 miles, it works out to be 126 miles per day, 5.3 knots).

Twister at quarantine dock
The first couple of days were spent beating into 20-25 knots of southeasterlies, and it seemed there was as much water going over the boat as under it, but Twister handled it like a champ, often going over 6 knots. This helped me find a couple of previously undiscovered (but fortunately minor) leaks in the topsides. The rest of the passage, the winds eased a bit and became more easterly for very comfortable and fast reaching (ie with the wind at 90±15 degrees to the boat). I started out wearing nothing but shorts. The temperature became noticeably cooler each day, and by the time I reached the latitude of the north cape I was wearing socks, boots, long pants (trousers), and a woolen hat--the same gear I wore departing California. Not surprising since the latitudes of New Zealand's North Island (34 to 42 degrees south, rounded to the nearest whole number) are roughly the same of those of California (33 to 42 degrees north) and it is now spring here as it was in California when I left.
When I passed latitude 30 south, I began to see albatrosses and petrels which are common seabirds in the southern ocean. I think I could identify sooty shearwaters and white-chinned petrels among others. One day I spotted what I'm pretty sure was a Wandering or Royal Albatross (Wikipedia says their range is 60 to 28 degrees south) and a humpback whale which snuck up on Twister from behind and let out a big gasp of air, startling the captain. Auckland is at 36.8 degrees south, by the way.
I'll fill in some more details later. Now it's time to find a pub.

Friday, October 21, 2011

next stop Auckland

I'll be departing Fiji shortly. Next stop, Auckland, New Zealand. I hope  the ca 1100 mile passage will take 11 days, but it could take 15 or more depending on the wind. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Lako Gunu Yagona

Suva, Fiji, 17 October 2011.
More pics
Fijian pronounciation guide: q = ngg, g = ng, c = dth, b = mb, d = nd. Once you figure that out, it’s pronounced as written.
Fiji is the most exotic (for lack of a better word. Rejected alternatives: foreign, different, interesting) place Twister has taken me so far. Yet it’s easy to get around and interact with the locals as they all speak English. In Fijian (ie native Fijians as opposed to Fijians of Indian descent) society, family connections are everything. When two Fijians meet, it appears to me that the first thing they do is ask what village they hail from and try to establish some sort of family or at least regional link. Confusing to me is that almost everyone is referred to (in English at least) as brother, sister, father, mother, uncle or aunt (occasionally cousin) no matter how distant the relationship. There are rules for which type of cousin one ought to joke with or not and with in-laws, whether one is supposed to talk to them at all. This is all my very superficial and very incomplete understanding—possibly everything I just wrote is completely wrong.
                I have participated in several kava (yagona in Fijian) sessions. Kava is a mildly intoxicating drink (made from the root of some plant) enjoyed in Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, and several other places. Most westerners say it tastes like mud. It looks like muddy water, but I actually find the taste refreshing. The immediate effect is a slight numbing of the mouth. After several bowlfuls, I notice a mild sedation, similar to the effect of a beer or two, but without the stimulant/euphoric aspect of alcohol. The most I’ve had in one sitting is around 15 bowls (made from ca 1/3 of a coconut shell). I definitely felt something, but only a mild buzz. It appears to me that Fijians like nothing more than sitting around and drinking Kava—they’ll do it all night if there is time and enough Kava. Perhaps it just gets better and better the more you have (like beer).  One other effect I observed is waking the next morning a bit groggy (which is funny because they also call the stuff “grog”).
LT and Greg at Frigates
                I finally got some surf in Fiji. My friend, Greg, was in Fiji last week to work on his NGO, Pacific Blue Foundation, but he managed to take a break for surfing. We surfed Frigates Reef on the southwestern end of the Beqa Lagoon barrier reef. The break is maybe 4 miles from the nearest land (Yanuca Island)—definitely the farthest away from land I’ve surfed. We had two days of nice shoulder to head high waves and one day of mediocre surf.  By coincidence, one of the villages Pacific Blue Foundation works with, Yanuca Village on Yanuca Island is one of the villages I had visited the weekend before Greg arrived. Pacific Blue Foundation has organized a traditional sailing canoe (Drua) race in Suva the last two years. I was able to attend this years race which took place on Saturday the 15th after being postponed due to squally weather the previous Saturday.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Soggy Suva

     I think it has rained every day I've been in Suva. My laundry has been hanging out to dry for over a week. I wonder what it's like during the rainy season. All the rain aside, I like Suva. Food is good and cheap. There is the traditional Fijian fare--cassava, taro root, taro leaves with coconut milk--and indian food--curried everything often wrapped in roti bread.
guard at presidential palace
     You can get anything repaired here. People in Fiji are poor by western standards, so things don't get thrown away when the break. I've gotten my backpack (zippers replaced), cell phone, and shoes repaired. The shoe repair stalls are especially numerous.
     I had planned to be surfing off the west coast of Viti Levu today, but my efforts to get to Nadi yesterday were derailed. Oh well, there is a surf break at the entrance to Suva Harbor that I hope to try out today.
Monday the 10th is Fiji Day which is the day Fiji became independent of Great Britain in 1970.
     My plan is to set sail for New Zealand around the 20th of October depending on the weather forecast. The 1100 mile passage to NZ will probably be the roughest of my Pacific crossing. I expect it to take about 10 days.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Back in Suva

A few pics from Suva
Friday morning I motor-sailed from Suva Harbor to Vaga Bay on Beqa Island (as in Samoa and Tonga, written g's are pronounced ng). After anchoring I dinghied ashore to perform sevusevu, a ceremony wherein a gift of kava is presented to the village chief and he in turn gives you permission to walk around, swim, etc on their lands and waters. While the terrestrial part of Vaga Bay is beautiful, the underwater portion was less appealing, so the next day I headed to Yanuca (c's are pronounced something like dth) Island, passing by the private island resort on Ugaga Island on the way. After stopping in Yanuca Village on the east side of Yanuca Island to perform sevusevu, I continued to the most sheltered and picturesque southwestern end of the island where I anchored in a beautiful little bay off of Batiluva Resort. They are a few miles from Frigates Passage surf break (which is on the western end of the Beqa Lagoon barrier reef) and many of their guests are there for that reason. Yesterday I sailed then motor-sailed back to Suva with the intention of returning to Yanuca for a few days of lounging and surfing.

The population of Fiji is something like 60% native Fijians and 40% Fijians of Indian descent. The Indians were brought here by the British around 1870 - 1930 to work on sugar plantations. The Indian and native Fijians seem to live pretty much segregated from each other aside from business interactions. The Indians appear to own and run most of the shops and local businesses. Almost everyone speaks English (which I believe is the official language), but the native Fijians speak Fijian as their native tongue and the Indians speak Hindi.

I have bought a local sim card, so please give me a call anytime at 679 743 7927 (679 is the Fiji country code).

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Still in Suva

But today I went to the Ministry of Fijian Affairs and secured a permit to sail to the outer islands. The tentative plan is to head down in a couple of days to Beqa Island (the one with Frigates Reef) then Kadavu Island (of the Great Astrolabe Reef fame). After that...not sure. I hope to visit one or more of the islands in the Lau Group which are said to be the most remote and undeveloped (I sailed right through the Lau Group on the way to Suva but couldn't stop because there is no port of entry there). In the mantime Suva is a cool town. Quite un-touristy, multicultural, vibrant.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

In Fiji

I made through the (before the days of GPS) treacherous waters surrounding Fiji  to get to Suva on the southeastern end of Viti Levu. Again it was a slow and pleasant passsage until the last 30 hours when it became a bit bumpy. More about Fiji soon.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Neiafu, Vava’u, Tonga, 13 September 2011.
Pics from Tonga.
Greetings from tomorrow. I neglected to mention that I crossed the International Date Line on my way from Samoa to Tonga. In this part of the world, the date line makes a sharp left (looking south from Samoa), so although Samoa and Tonga are in the same time zone, Tonga is one day ahead.
Yesterday afternoon I returned to Neiafu to complete the check-out formalities (which involve a stop at immigration, the port captain, and—most importantly--customs, who give you the piece of paper called “Clearance” which the authorities at the next port will demand). The last couple of days I’ve explored a couple of the numerous anchorages within the Vava’u Island group. Yesterday morning I sailed out of the lagoon within Hunga Island with La Cueca. They set a course for Fiji and I for another nearby anchorage (the name escapes me at the moment) where I snorkeled, scrubbed Twister’s bottom, and had lunch.  Two days before that, I had motor-sailed down to Ano Beach for the full moon party (there was a race from Neiafu to Ano Beach, but I have no interest in racing). I was a little disappointed at the (low) levels of drunkenness and debauchery. It was a bunch of sailors after all. I’ve seen numerous Humpback Whales here but have yet to swim with them. I plan to set sail for Fiji tomorrow (Wed the 14th here in Tonga) and if I run into some whales on the way out, I may join them for a swim.  The visibility in the water is generally good here in the Vava’u group of islands, but the underwater scenery is rather unexciting (unless you run into some whales).  It's around 440 miles to Suva. If I manage 110 miles per day I'll do it in four.

It’s about a month and a half until the official start of cyclone season in the South Pacific—still plenty of time to make it to Australia.  I’m starting to lean towards New Zealand. If I head to NZ from Fiji, I should be able to spend about a month in Fiji--time enough for sightseeing and hopefully some surfing. The trip to OZ (with a stop in New Calidonia) is a little further and thus may be a bit more hectic.
There is an interesting group of expats here who run all the tourism-related businesses (bars, restaurants, sailboat charters, whale-watching tours). Americans seem to comprise the largest group along with a few Kiwis, Aussies, Italians, and Spaniards.  It’s quite feasible for a Palangi to move here and set up a business just as long as some wheels get greased, according to one American business-owner.

This morning there was a swap meet. I sold a diesel jerry can and my Alvarez acoustic guitar (I sold it to a local for a symbolic sum). Every time I divest myself of possessions I feel lighter emotionally and even physically. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Neiafu, Vava’u, Tonga,7 September 2011.
Sometimes I can’t remember what I’ve written and what I’ve only thought about writing.
I’m moored just north of a 27 foot Albin Vega (there always seems to be a 27-footer around beating out Twister in the smallest boat category). It’s the second Albin Vega 27 I’ve seen on this trip. They must be good boats. Rebellion, the other Albin Vega I’ve noticed, sailed by Paul from the Netherlands, came through the Beagle Channel (just north of Cape Horn. One of three ways to get around the southern tip of South America—Straits of Magelan, Beagle Channel, and, of course, around Cape Horn) to get to the Pacific. Another Albin Vega 27, Berserk, was sailed from Norway to Ushuaia then to the Antarctic Peninsula. You can read about that in the book, Sailing To Antarctica With Berserk, or something like that (not well written IMHO, but a fascinating and inspiring story)
To my north are a couple of “old friends” from the Pacific crossing—Gary and Rory on La Cueca, and Wattie and Di on Cariad. Elsewhere in the anchorage are Rutea (from San Diego).  
Many of the cruising boats in the South Pacific have converged on Vava’u Island in Tonga for the Vava’u Regatta—a week of racing, partying, and other activities. I had originally planned to bypass Tonga, but the other big attraction—swimming with Humpback Whales—drew me here. I was in fact greeted by a few of them as I was entering the passage to Neiafu Harbor (also known as Port Refuge for its excellent shelter).
The sail down from Apia, Samoa was shaping up to be the most pleasant passage of the trip until the last 30 hours. Most of the way I was sailing on a beam reach with ca 12 knots of wind and only 4 feet of swell (The majority of my sailing on this trip has been downwind which is fine as long as there’s little swell.  With swell, Twister tends to yaw and roll with every swell that catches her stern and since I typically only have the jib up going downwind, there’s no mainsail to stabilize the motion of the boat). It was so pleasant I was almost getting bored when the wind started backing (changing direction in a counterclockwise direction) and increasing in strength until I had 30 knots of wind from the south (ie right on the nose). It didn’t take long for the swells to start building in size. So the last 30 hours (and about the last 30 miles) were spent beating into the wind and swell, going 2 knots or less.  Twister handled the conditions like a champ, though. That was probably a little taste of what what’s to come if I decide to sail to New Zealand. I’d love to get some input from y’all on that subject (NZ or OZ), so please leave a comment (in fact, comments on any subject are encouraged). From Tonga I plan to sail to Fiji and from there either to New Zealand or to Australia via New Calidonia. In Apia a lovely couple, Martin and Simone on the boat Whistling Oyster, gave me a complete set of paper charts for NZ, so that’s no longer a reason to skip NZ.
The check-in procedure in Neiafu (main city on Vava’u) was pretty painless. I tied up to the customs dock and checked in with immigration, customs, and quarantine. The fourth and final office, health, was unavailable, so I’ll do that today. More about Tonga when I’ve seen more of it.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Apia, Island of Upolu, Samoa

Apia, Upolu, (formerly Western) Samoa, 31 August 2011.
Here are some pics from Samoa. And pics from American Samoa.
After having chafed through a few dock lines during my stay at the public dock in Pago Pago I now have a good collection of short pieces of rope for trading on my next pass though the Marquesas.  Twister is back in a marina for the first time since departing Marina Del Rey in April. The authorities require all yachts to take a slip in the marina here in Apia which is the only port of entry in Samoa.  Apia Marina is actually much nicer than either Bar Harbor in LA or Marina Village(San Diego) where Twister stayed the ca 1.5 years before departing on this trip. The cost is somewhere around $12 per day. That’s of course $12 more than I have been paying to anchor most other places, so I plan to move on toward Tonga (Vava'u) tomorrow. My stay in Pago Pago lasted one day over three weeks.  Interesting place, American Samoa.  Did I mention that people there are extremely friendly and helpful? Also as there in basically no tourism there, almost everyone I met were curious what I was doing on their island. I attempted to surf a couple of times with my friend Corie from Rutea.  Even though the waves were at most 6 feet and mostly less than that, I received a humbling assessment of my surfing level. Surfing in American Samoa is, “experts only”--every wave in AS seems to break on quite shallow reefs.
The passage from Pago Pago to Apia took 24 hours. I had a solid 20 knot winds most of the way (aside from a few hours in the lee of Tutuila) and numerous squalls, the tail end of a front that had been sitting on American Samoa for the last week. I had taken down the large genoa headsail to patch it, and the smaller jib was perfect for the conditions. Most of the way I used what has become my standard downwind setup—just the jib (sometimes poled out) with the mainsail furled. I had been concerned about boat traffic from the many fishing boats based in Pago Pago but didn’t see a single boat. Here's a video of the passage:

For comparison, here's a video of RV Moana Wave in the Drake Passage earlier this year

The difference between Apia and Pago Pago that immediately stands out is how clean and tidy it is here. In the South Pacific Lonely Planet guide (thanks again, Tim), they eloquently describe the American Samoans’ “carefree approach to litter disposal.” Ie there’s a bunch of trash along the side of the road and in the water. Unlike American Samoa, tourism looks to be a major industry here. With that comes, of course, the usual array of hustlers trying to extract money from the tourists. I can’t walk more than a few meters down the road without a taxi driver offering his services.  Somewhat less frequently I’m offered marijuana or methamphetamine.
 In 2009 the government decided to switch the side of the road they drive on from the right to the wrong—er, left , apparently to be able to import inexpensive used cars from New Zealand.  So there is a roughly 50/50 mix of left and right-hand steering on the vehicles.
Yesterday I walked a few miles up to the village of Vailima and Vailima Estate where Robert Louis Stevenson (RLS) spent his last 4 years. The mansion is now the RLS museum. RLS’s grave is another ¾ mile hike up a steep trail. While in Suwarrow I read a fictionalized account of RLS’s last years in Samoa. It’s called, “Home From The Sea,” the last four words in the poem RSL wrote for his own tombstone.
I’m still debating whether to head to New Zealand or Australia at the end of this leg. Sometimes I dream of instead taking “the logical route” as described by Bernard Moitessier—eastward around Cape Horn.  But there are a few reasons not to attempt that. For one, there is probably a reason they call it the “Roaring Forties” (the Southern Ocean south of latitude 40 S). It appears that I will be invited back to work on AMLR 2012, so it would be convenient in that respect to sail to Chile.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

In Apia

I made it to Apia in 24 hours. Arrived yesterday around 10:30 AM. Just finished checking in an hour ago.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Still in AS

Small delay--I'll be departing American Samoa Saturday AM thus arriving Apia Sunday sometime. In the meantime I hiked Mount Alava with my Samoan friend Junior. The view was even better than the one from Matafao Peak.

Friday, August 26, 2011


The weather has finally settled down a little, and I plan to be sailing out of Pago Pago Harbor in a few hours. Destination:  Apia on the island of Upolu in Samoa (formerly Western Samoa). With all the tacks it is somewhere around 100 miles, so I expect to arrive sometime tomorrow (Saturday).

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Squally Weather

It has been an exciting night and day for the sailors in Pago Pago Harbor. 20-30 knot winds and the notoriously poor holding caused several  boats to drag their anchors. Twister is tied up to the dock, but I have been preoccupied by the abandoned longline fishing boat tied up in front of me. If the boat breaks free, Twister will be in its path. I supplemented its ratty collection of partially chafed dock lines hopefully sufficiently to last a few more days.
Yesterday I went with a few of the long-time cruising residents to a Samoan Umu cookout. The hosts were Jay (an American palagi--ie white person) and Mae (his Samoan wife). The dishes (which were all cooked on the umu) included breadfruit, goat, fish, taro leaves, and papaya--all cooked or served with coconut milk. Delicious.
The previous several days have been mostly occupied with boat projects--replacing one of the solar panels, replumbing the sink drainpipe, changing the oil on the inboard diesel engine, replacing the jibsheets (which were close to chafed in half), moving the chartplotter inside the cabin and placing it on an adjustable arm, attempting to refurbish the foot-pump that delivers water to the faucet, patching the canvans dodger (the blue canvas thing that gives some shelter to the cockpit), and fixing some dings on my and Corie's (from Rutea) surfboards.
Thoughts on AS (American Samoa):
conservative AS
In contrast to French Polynesia, the people of AS seem to live disconnected from the ocean. Very few of them have watercraft of any kind; they don't surf or dive. The commercial fishing boats are crewed by Filipinos, Chinese, and Western Samoans, and Tongans. I would guess that the tuna canneries or the government are the biggest employer here. American Samoans seem to me to be heavily built and most carry some extra weight on top of the sturdy foundation. Though there are some American fast-food restaurants and shops, AS is much less American than I had expected. Everyone knows English, but Samoan appears to be the everyday language. I estimate that about 50% of the men and women (and all the school children as part of their uniforms) wear lava lavas (skirts) rather than shorts or trousers. The society is relatively conservative--church attendance on Sunday is the norm, everyday at six in the evening, a bell is rung in every village signalling prayer time, and bikinis are nonexistent. The bell is invariably an old compressed gas cylinder hanging from a tree or other support. There is no tourism here that I can tell and palagis are few, so locals are often curious about what I'm doing me here.

I hope to move on to Apia in (formerly known as Western) Samoa within the next couple of days. I appreciate all the packages I have received. If you are contemplating but haven't yet sent one, please don't send it to Pago Pago. I will do some research to find the best general delivery post office in my upcoming stops.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

more fish

Life on the public dock in Pago Pago is pretty comfortable. Food stores, free internet, and buses to the rest of the island are a short walk away. The buses of American Samoa are worthy of their own blogpost. Fortunately, Neal has already done that. The fishermen working on the commercial long-line fishing boats are very friendly and generous. Yesterday the crew from another long-line fishing boat gave me a big hunk of Wahoo. They also offered me some swordfish, but I declined as I wasn't sure what I was going to do with the Wahoo. Half went into a fish soup (got the recipe from some Australian sailors in Suwarrow) while the other became sashimi.  Neal, Ruth, and Corie from Rutea helped me prepare and eat the fish. I'm not sure I've had raw Wahoo before, but it was tasty.

Since giving up on reaching South Africa by December, I've been contemplating sailing to New Zealand before Australia. Would be a shame to miss it, really. I guess that's why they call this the (coconut) milk run, but I haven't had what I would call rough seas since leaving San Diego. The weather reports I hear on Radio New Zealand do make me a little nervous about sailing in NZ waters, though.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

One Week In Tutuila

It's hard to believe I've already been here a whole week. I spent the first day and night anchored in the far western end of Pago Pago Harbor (the yacht anchorage). The next day I tied up to the public recreational boat dock which costs the same as anchoring (something like $12 per month). It's certainly convenient to be able to step right from the boat onto dry land (as opposed to having to row the dinghy ashore), particularly when moving things to or from the boat. There is a ca 50/50 mixture of cruising sailboats and commercial long-line fishing boats on the dock. A few days ago I asked the Tongan fishermen on one of the long-line boats if I could buy a tuna. They said no, then pulled out a Skipjack Tuna and gave it to me. Some of the meat I used to make poisson crue which is called Oka here. I also attempted to cook breadfruit for the first time a couple of days ago. After peeling and discarding the seeds, I cut it into one-inch cubes and boiled them. The water was discarded and replaced with coconut milk, minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Not bad.
Sean's boat
There are several cruising sailboats that have been here from several months to several years. Some of them experienced a near pass from a hurricane last year and the tsunami in September 2009. Pago Pago Harbor, being sheltered by tall mountains is known as a hurricane-hole (a harbor where one might safely seek shelter in a hurricane).
   Yesterday I hiked Matafao Peak with fellow solo-sailor Sean. It was a thoroughly enjoyable hike with a great view from the top. On the way down we intentionally diverted from the trail. After bushwacking for an hour or so we found a creek which we followed down, encountering 6 or 7 waterfalls with swimming holes (which we made use of). I think it was Nu'uuli Falls we found. Sean is roughing it more than most and his 27 foot boat is powered only by wind and sun.
Some photos from Tutuila (the main island where most of the 60-some thousand people in American Samoa live).

Monday, August 8, 2011

Pago Pago

I arrived Pago Pago (pronounced Pango Pango) Friday morning after spending the previous night hove to (along with a big container ship) a few miles outside the harbor. I ended up spending close to 3 weeks in Suwarrow (no internet there) and probably would've stayed longer had I not been running short on provisions. As you can guess, I liked it there. I also like this place and think I'll stay here a while. I went to the post office on Friday and was overwhelmed by all the packages I received. Thank you so much, Chris, Jen, Sandra, Bruce, Jim, Noreen, Adrianna, Bridget, Tim, Isa, Brian, Pia, and Veda. My deepest apologies if I forgot anyone. My only excuse would be the number of packages I got.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Suwarrow living

Suwarrow Atoll, 28 July 2011.
I had planned to stay a couple of days. Almost two weeks later Twister remains anchored by Anchorage Island. I have explored Suwarrow more thoroughly than anywhere else I’ve stopped so far.  I couldn’t imagine a better place to learn to slow down and just be.  My days have been spent snorkeling, fishing, reading (among other things a story by James Norman Hall about Robert Frisbee who also lived on this atoll before Tom Neale), napping, playing guitar and a little fiddle, tossing the frisbee (not by myself, I found another sailor who enjoys throwing the disc), and socializing with the other sailors and the rangers.  It seems John and James think I’m underfed, as they often invite me to join them for their meals (those guys can cook!).
There are now 11 boats here in addition to Twister. “Rutea” anchored next to me contains a family from Ocean Beach, the neighborhood in San Diego where I lived my last year in San Diego.  Small world. Tonight there will be another potluck ashore.
 There is an abundance of fish to be hooked or speared, and there are almost always several sharks (black-tip, white-tip, and grey reef sharks) nearby ready to pounce on your catch, so you have to be quick in getting the fish into the boat.  I have managed to pull in one parrotfish fishing from Twister, anchored at a depth of ca 30 feet, the sharks gobbled up the other two before I could reel them in. So now I do most of my hook-and-line fishing in shallower water. I’ve speared one Grouper. Yesterday I went trolling through the reef pass with John the ranger and caught my second tuna (a Dogtooth Tuna according to John, it had white meat). Apparently the fish here do not have Ciguaterra. I have not suffered any ill effects from eating the parrotfish and grouper.
I’ve been learning  atoll survival skills—coconut husking and opening (there are several techniques), making coconut milk (which involves grating the white flesh and squeezing the pulp through a piece of cloth, leaving a delicious white liquid) and like I mentioned I have actually caught a few fish. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Suwarrow Atoll

Suwarrow Atoll, 15 July 2011.
As I write this, I’m anchored along with 4 other boats in the lee of Anchorage Island inside the lagoon of Suwarrow Atoll. On the passage from Bora Bora, I read Tom Neale’s An Island To Oneself which describes his solitary years on Suwarrow. An enjoyable read, you can download the pdf here.  Now it’s a Cook Islands national park and only two rangers live here and only for half the year (this half, the not-cyclone season).
I anchored yesterday morning after another sphincter clenching entrance through the relatively narrow reef pass. There was 3 to 4 knots of current going out of the pass adding to my stress (I don’t mean to say that it’s very difficult or dangerous, it’s just new to me, and running aground in Bora Bora left me a little gun-shy).  Last night there was a pot luck dinner ashore with all the sailors (I prefer that term to yachties) and the two rangers (James and John from Raritonga. Very friendly and laid-back guys). I made lentil curry. Among the highlights were lobster, parrot fish, and tuna (all caught here in Suwarrow) which was prepared as poisson crue, except here they call it ika mata. The underwater scenery is wonderful and the parrotfish (for example) are noticeably bigger here than anywhere else I’ve been (I guess because there are fewer folks around here to eat them). I have read that Cook Islanders are very friendly, and if John and James are representative, I agree 100%. In addition to Twister, there are two American boats, one from New Zealand, and one Swiss (I asked them how they sailed from Switzerland, but I think my humor escaped them).
In Bora Bora I reconnected with a couple of boats I had met previously—Gary and Rory on La Cueca,  Paul on Rebellion (he’s also a solo sailor—did I mention that he sailed into the Pacific through the Beagle Channel (at the southern tip of South America)? No small feat in a 27 foot Albin Vega sailboat), and Chris and Terry, Aussies on Double Diamond (they had an American couple—Jason and Polly (when I first heard her name pronounced, I thought it was Paulie and had visions of a fat Italian mobster) and Terry’s wife along for the Society Islands portion of their journey). I also made some new friends. Roland on Connivence is a Swiss singlehander. Wattie (short for Watson—though it’s the same number of letters and syllables) and Di (Dianna) on Cariad are on their way to New Zealand, thus completing Wattie’s leisurely-paced 14-year circumnavigation. La Cueca and I departed Bora Bora together, but they set a course for Raritonga. Rebellion is probably still en route to Tonga. Connivence has probably reached Niue by now and Cariad and Double Diamond are still in Bora Bora as far as I know.
Thoughts on French Polynesia.

I was ready to move on when I left Bora Bora July 7. It took me 7 days to cover the ca 680 miles to Suwarrow, though I did a bit more than that because I ended up about 30 miles farther north than I wanted to be. I only got a short and superficial look at French Polynesia. I had been looking forward to seeing Tahiti and Bora Bora as their names were synonymous with south seas paradises in my head. I enjoyed Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas and Rangiroa in the Tuamotus.  They are visually stunning, but otherwise I was less impressed by the three Socity Islands I visited (Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora—of the three I like Moorea the best).  Of course the language barrier did not help, and if I return to French Polynesia, I vow to learn some French beforehand. The extremely unhelpful and hostile immigration officer I dealt with in Papeete also left a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth.  

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Bora Bora Gazette

Bora Bora, Wed 29 June 2011 17:30 Tahiti Time
Sailing across the Pacific is a lot like getting a Ph.D.—it’s not difficult, it just takes a little time and determination. If I were to recommend one, I’d say sail the Pacific.
                Twister was looking a little scruffy on the bottom of her keel, so I decided to run her aground on some sand. I had made an appointment for the following day to do two dives with a local dive shop and decided to move the boat near the dive shop which is on Matira Beach. The last few hundred meters into the anchorage were a minefield of coral heads. I managed to barely scrape the keel over one (I probably would not have touched had I not just topped up the water tanks and filled all my jugs at Bloody Mary’s pier). I made it through the coral heads without further incident and turned into Matira Beach. Trying to avoid another patch of coral I turned right when I should’ve turned left and ended up grounding Twister on sand (fortunately sand and not coral) in just under 5 feet of water (Twister normally draws about 5 feet—draft (or is it draught?) is the distance between the deepest part of the keel and the water’s surface). I noticed that the depth meter read 3 feet at that point. Good to know. The keel doesn’t appear to have been damaged, just some paint scraped off.  It was pretty stressful after I first scraped against the coral, anticipating a bone-crunching impact to follow at any moment. Oh well, I had figured that the entrance to Matira Beach was going to be tricky (with one person. With one person on the bow and one steering, it wouldn’t have been hard). It’s difficult to see how deep the coral heads are while steering from the cockpit. Part of me had wanted to stay in the comfort and safety of the mooring by Bloody Mary’s, but sailing is like other pursuits, you have to test your limits sometimes to grow and learn(maybe I learned to stay on the moorings when they’re free?).
                I jumped in the water and walked/swam an anchor out to try to pull the boat off the sand (kedge I think it’s called in nautical terms). Before I tried to use the kedge, I found I was able to slowly push Twister toward the deeper water, about 25 cm at a time. A French couple saw my predicament and came over in their dinghy and offered to pull me off which they were able to do. By pulling sideways on the boat, the keel cleared the sand and they pulled me to where Twister was floating freely again. They invited me to their boat for coffee, so I brought the now-chilled beers. They—Pac and Marie—have been living in French Polynesia for six years, working as charter and delivery captains. Bridget and I actually met Pac briefly in Rangiroa—he was the guy walking the opposite direction as us when we were had just walked from the dinghy dock with our surfboards. He asked if we knew that Liz Clark was there in Rangiroa (she’s a sailor and surfer with a website and some sponsors). They said that was the first time they had helped a grounded boat. I replied that it was my first grounding (at least on my own, ).
                Before I left Bloody Mary’s I tied up to their dock for 30-40 minutes to fill the water tanks and jugs. I have become much less conservative with my water use than I was during the first, long passage. I think the longest passage from here to Australia will not be much more than a week (I used 38 gallons on the passage from San Diego to Nuku Hiva).  Bloody Mary’s is also kind enough to give sailboats free ice, so I filled up a small cooler with some ice to cool a six-pack of beer (which I had bought in anticipation of the free ice—normally I wouldn’t  buy that many beers at once as they’d get warm before I could drink them all—hey it could happen). It’s a real luxury to be able to tie up to a dock and fill water and ice.
Thursday 30 June, 2011
                You know what I miss about my old job?  That’s right, not a goddam thing. No, I kid--I really miss the ultrafast internet connection.  I did two dives today with Bora Diving Center today. Bridget and I had met the owner while hitchhiking in Tahiti where he was kind enough to give us a ride (he was sailboat shopping in Tahiti).  The main draw of the first dive were the lemon sharks. I had never seen one before and they are quite imposing. I’d say they were about six feet long and quite hefty. There were also black-tip sharks, lionfish, octopuses, and lots of fish I can’t ID.  The main attraction at the second dive were the Manta Rays, but the reef and many colorful fish were nice too. After diving I took my bike for another loop around the island. Still no buyers.
                I feel a bit claustrophobic in this anchorage. Not because it’s crowded or small (in fact it’s just about perfect at the moment—quiet, calm, sand bottom, 20 ft deep, spotted eagle rays swimming around the boat) but because I’m not sure I could get out of here without running into a coral head if the weather turned nasty. The last forecast (GRIB file) I saw called for calm winds the next couple of days, so hopefully that is what we’ll have, but tomorrow may be my last day in this anchorage if conditions are good for moving (ie not cloudy so the coral is more visible). 
Just posted some pics from BB

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Bora Bora

Bora Bora, Tues 28 June 2011 10:00 Tahiti Time
Twister arrived in Bora Bora yesterday morning after a two day passage from Tahiti. What could’ve been a one day/one night passage became two days and two nights due to light winds and a late start. As there was no chance of arriving during the daylight hours of the second day, I could set a leisurely pace (ie reef the sails more than I normally would’ve and sail more slowly) and set my sights on the following morning. Getting through Teavanui Pass into the lagoon in the dark would not have been difficult, but finding a good spot to anchor might’ve. The result was a slow but comfortable ride and an unusually dry cockpit. As I was searching for a spot to anchor not too far from the main town of Vaitape, I spotted a small group of sailboats anchored in Povai Bay. As I got closer, I could see they were all on moorings. A dock and restaurant were on the shore. I tried to find a relatively shallow spot to drop my anchor when I put 2 and 2 together and realized I had found the famous Bloody Mary’s. I tied up to one of the available mooring balls, inflated the dinghy, and rowed ashore. I confirmed with the staff that the moorings were indeed free. It has been squally and the winds have been gusty and constantly changing direction since I arrived, so I’m glad to be on a mooring (assuming that they maintain them). Also the lagoon in Bora Bora is quite deep in most places, so that makes for much less work coming and going (putting down and pulling up all the anchor chain which I do by hand). 
                The previous several days (after Bridget had to return to the real world) I sailed to Moorea and back to Tahiti once again. The film crew (two guys Steve and David) Bridget mentioned were interested in going back to their island to get some more footage (Me’etia) and I had agreed to take them (with the provision that we would sail the whole way) for a small fee. However, the winds were blustery and they had had trouble landing on the island in calm conditions, so they decided they’d rather spend the last few days relaxing in Moorea. Thus I sailed with Steve and David back to Cook’s Bay, Moorea. There we hung out with the guys from La Cueca, did some spearfishing, sightseeing, and beer drinking and my cruising kitty (as one’s bank account is called in the cruising vernacular) was replenished somewhat. One night while we were anchored in Cook’s Bay, someone snuck up and stole La Cueca’s dinghy and its outboard motor.  Finding a reasonably priced dinghy and outboard motor in French Polynesia is about as easy as finding a (insert noun) in (insert place). They had a small backup inflatable dinghy so I offered to sell them my outboard motor for a reasonable price. They agreed, and Twister is happy to be rid of the weight when we’re sailing.  I have also decided to sell my beloved bicycle (hopefully here in Bora Bora). It has a lot of sentimental value for me, but I have not been using it very much and after another few months at sea, it will just be a lump of rust.  Anyway, I sailed back to Tahiti on the23rd (I think), dropped off Steve and David, set sail for Bora Bora the next day, and the rest you know.
     Oh, Bridget posted a bunch of pics from her visit.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bridget's blog entry 3

Tahiti is a beautiful island, but we are anchored near the city, Papeete, so it is a busy place.  However, we still awake to the sound of roosters just before sunrise.  It is full of sailboats, jet skiers, mega-sailboats 150+ feet, water skiers, and such.  It also has big city perks such as cold beer on tap, lots of fun cruisers, parks to toss the Frisbee in, big grocery stores for provisioning (where get mustard to improve the already delightful sardine baguette), laundry, and food vans called roulottes, which serve up tasty local treats.  My favorite local food is poisson cru.  Poisson cru is a bit like ceviche, but it created from raw tuna, coconut milk, and a few veggies and spices. Delicious.
We got more eggs and therefore could return to making Norwegian pancakes! And we return to inviting cruisers over for breakfast.  We shared a breakfast with Paul, a Dutch, singlehander.  His boat, Rebellion, is 27 feet and he left on his journey 6 years ago.  During the breakfast a sea turtle swam by, so I grabbed my mask and snorkel and joined the turtle for a swim!!!
Evenings are typically spent chit-chatting with cruisers at the Dinghy Bar, which happens to serve up liter beers.  Simple and delightful evenings of conversation and sometimes even poetry from Terry a gentleman Aussie.  The evenings seem magical, but so simple that is difficult to describe what makes them wonderful.
We met a film crew on their way to explore an island 80 miles from Tahiti, which might be appropriate to relocate a tribe and culture from another Pacific Island, because their island is being erased by rising sea levels due to climate change.  Gray and Rory are hired to sail them to the island. 
One evening as we were getting back into our dingy we bumped into Gil and Kathy, two wonderful Canadians that live on Endorfin and they invite us over for a nightcap.  We get to sip bevies, listen to good music, and dance on the bow in the moonlight.  They give us a tour of their boat, which they have had for 17 years so the stories are incredible and the “remodeling” of the boat over the years is impressive and makes it a lovely home sweet home.
There is a surf break not too far from the boat, so we can dingy there in the mornings often with Gary and Rory after coffee.  Nice waves, but it gets shallow and reefy on the inside. It is crystal clear water and one can enjoy views of coral and fish while waiting in between sets.  We surfed one day with fabulous locals that were taking off late and staying in front of the barreling wave crashing on the reef behind them!!

Mo’orea is a lush and mountainous island just 20km northeast of Tahiti.  Spectacular!! We headed there on June 16 for 2 nights and a day.  We anchored in 10 feet of clear water.  We could hop off the Twister and with a minute swim be snorkeling an impressive reef.  During one snorkeling we saw what looked like a white mini-moray eel with Polynesian style tattoos. We also spotted some crazy life form that looks much like 4 feet of rope with 2 inch diameter and has a tentacle head at both ends seemingly snacking on coral. BIZARRE!
We hitched about Mo’orea.  We hitched up a mountain to Belvedere lookout for a view of Moorea from above.  We did a splendid short hike through the lush jungle.  We found a waterfall and had an incredible fresh water rinse.  Showers are extremely rare while dwelling on a sailboat, so the waterfall felt amazing.  The flora was diverse with numerous types of flowers and trees.  We didn’t see much wildlife.  And each and every time I heard something in the jungle moving around it turned out to be a chicken or rooster!! Unexpected at first, but then it became normal.  Why would there be rooster just running wild in the jungle.  There are a ridiculous number of chickens on Moorea.  It is evident in the morning when the roosters begin crowing.  They are loud even on the sailboat anchored offshore.  The night sky was delightful.  The moon was just past full.  So, the nights started without moonlight just impressive stars.  After a few hours the nearly full moon would rise behind the mountain to join us and the stars!
We returned from Mo’orea to Tahiti after 2 nights.  There was enough wind to sail most of the way. 

I head back to LA tonight and as I approach the end of my trip I feel extremely lucky to have experienced the wonderful life on the Twister and also a bit like having a big cry.
“She said she usually cried at least once each day not because she was sad, but because the world was so beautiful and life was so short.” –Brian Andreas

Bridget's blog entry 2

Cruiser Culture
Cruisers are the folks that live on the boats.  Most of them travel in pairs and have crossed the Pacific at least once.  The boats come in all shapes and sizes.  I would say typical size is around 40 feet.  The Twister is on the tiny side of the spectrum at 28 feet.  The people are friendly and appreciate a sense of community, because all are dwelling a bit isolated on their respective boats.  The evenings are often full of nice conversation and cold beers when possible.  The weather and wind is always topic number one.  And then stories from life and philosophies on living.
One night on Rangiroa it was simply announced on the VHF radio channel 16 that there would be a bonfire on the beach after sunset.  At sunset the sound of dingy engines heading to shore fill the air.  The campfire was delightful. There are lots of good cruising folks.  We remembered to bring bourbon for sipping, but forgot cups.  Luckily, Lars is ship monkey so he climbed a coconut tree to fetch us coconuts from which we could sip.  The beach was lovely with moonlight on the white sand and palm tree shadows for decoration.  Lars played some good old blues guitar!

Our Dingy with the Little Engine that Could
The dingy is a key accessory for any cruising sailboat.  It moves boat dwellers from their isolated boat islands into the world and community.  Our dingy rocks!!  It is a shade of orange that matches the color of a cheery flower and rays of sunshine.  I love our dingy complete with the little engine that could! And it has made us well known in the cruising community.  It has a few leaks.  Many folks know us for our dingy and our smiles as we lounge crosswise in the dingy bailing water as we go and sometime pumping air into it as well.  One couple we met said they enjoy watching us.  The wife said the first time she saw us was after her husband called her up on the deck saying “you’ve got to see this” and the “this” was us in the dingy.  But, it always gets us where need to go.
Passage Rangiroa to Tahiti
We packed up the Twister on June 10 and started the 200 mile trip to Tahiti around 10am.  We timed the passage out of the atoll with the outgoing tide and sailed out of the atoll into 20 knot winds and 6-8 foot swell. Eventually we went into the island shadow for “perfect” sailing conditions to use Lars’ adjective.  The Twister just cruised along with the auto pilot wind vane doing the work at 5.7 knots. Sunshine and boobies kept us company.  The boobies considering a rest on our mast, but can’t find a suitable seat.   Gorgeous sunset. Then, I was harnessed in for the first watch. 
We sailed through the night sharing watch duty in 2 hour blocks.  The weather was quick to change from star filled skies to clouds and back to stars and moonlight.  Squalls could be seen in the distance, but we never ended up in the heart of one just a few raindrops now and then.  When not on watch the large swell made sleeping on the floor the best option on few seat cushions.  Then, rise and shine every 2 hours. 
Just after sunrise back to the normal routine of coffee and breakfast of granola, cookie crumbs, and powdered milk.  The auto pilot does most of the work.  We tossed in a fishin’ line.  Then, played high stakes chess with the loser having to clean the fish. I lost, but we never did catch a fish.  I was feeling a bit of background seasickness during the passage.  It was nothing awful, just a constant reminder that the sea is much mightier than I am. 
Night two had rougher seas and I was cold as wet just like I imagine sailing to be.  I awoke from my secure location on the Twister floor at 2am to start watch.  The moon was ¾ full and was in the clear western sky.  The eastern sky had rain and dark clouds.  Then, magically and eerily a “moonbow” appeared.  A perfect rainbow shape spanned across the eastern sky, but the color was of moonlight. Beautiful. We had a lovely sunrise as we approach Tahiti.  We dropped anchor 47 hours after we picked up anchor in Rangiroa.

Bridget's blog entry 1

Marvelous! Simply marvelous. I steal the phrase, but believe it is the best way to describe life on the Twister with Lars.  I joined the journey in Rangiroa, an atoll in the Tuamotus, 16 days ago and Lars asked me to do a few guest blog entries.  There is so much to write and I would have enjoyed writing more frequently and somehow attempting to catch all the moments, but the moments must be lived, so writing is tough.  Plus, the internet connection is not reliable.  We are motoring currently from Tahiti to the neighboring island Mo’orea.  We started by sailing off the anchor, but eventually the wind died and the motor began putt-putting us along.  I decided it is a good time to write.
                Lars suggested telling chronologically…
I met Lars on Rangiroa on June 1.  It took me 16 hours of traveling from California to catch him after 5 weeks of sailing.  Planes are apparently quite fast.  Rangiroa is an atoll and at the widest point is about a half mile wide.  The landing strip is nearly as wide as the atoll with blue tropical waters all around. Lars greeted me after my walk across the tarmac with a smile, hug, and a cold beer!! A fellow Lars met a few days before happened to be at the airport, so he gave us a ride the few miles down the atoll to a dock.  There we were met by the “neighbors” Gary and Rory.  They are two Brits that left Los Angeles on a maiden sail in January on their boat La Cueca.  After a few months in Mexico they crossed the Pacific and anchored next door in Rangiroa.  We cheers! a Hinano, a Tahitian beer, while overlooking tropical blue seas and they give us a lift in their dingy back to the Twister.
The anchorage is beautiful with crystal clear water.  We are anchored in 25 feet of water, and can see the bottom, corals, and fishes with no problem while on the boat.  We enjoy a quick snack of grapefruit.  Grab the snorkeling gear and snorkel to shore.  Incredible! We pick up the dingy under a coconut tree and Lars rows down to the passage so we can drift snorkel over a reef.  The atoll has limited passages from the outside ocean, so when the tide is coming in the current is quite strong and one can simply drift along and admire the coral reef.  There was so much life including moray eels, parrot fish, pipe fish, pufferfish, fish with hot pink spots, banner fish, squirrel fish, and, and, and… We return to the Twister sip rum from coconuts we just harvested, shared a PBR, and cooked up some pasta.  Then, relax in the cockpit under the most twinkling night sky!!! There was a no moon, so the stars had the sky all to their selves and put on quite a show.  The Southern Cross shines brightly each and every night with shooting stars.
Typically we awake to roosters “cockadoodledoo” before sunrise around 6.  We are anchored 200 meters from shore.  We watch the sunrise while the water boils for the French press full of coffee.  I like a morning swim and then we can kick it with coffee and a grapefruit in the cockpit as the day begins.  Most mornings we listen to a bit of RadioNew Zealand from the shortwave radio.  This keeps us having a clue about the happening in the world.  Listening to human news from a peaceful lagoon has a sci-fi feel to it.  A sense of ease dropping onto a world far far away with updates on wars, war crimes, trade agreements, food stamps, murders for sorcery.  The pressing issues of the day. Busy, busy, busy. And then we switch it off.   And must decide if we want Norwegian Pancakes or French toast to go with the nutella and bananas that Lars acquired by trading a chunk of rope.  So, that was my first 18 hours!
Okay Highlights….
After a few days we sailed across the Rangiroa atoll to the Blue Lagoon. BEAUTIFUL.  Before we drop anchor we already see 5 black tip reef sharks.  We dive in a swim with the sharks, check the anchor, and snorkel over to Rory and Gary in La Cueca.  They buddy sailed with us to the Blue Lagoon.  We wander the lagoon.  Gather coconuts, see sting ray, little baby sharks about 1-2 feet all over the place.  Lovely sunset sunset over the lagoon! Dinner on La Cueca. 
Day 2 at the Blue Lagoon -The dingy engine works for the first time since November 2009! Miracle, which is celebrated with wine and dingy rides.  Snorkeling and more coconut gathering. We play the violin/fiddle. Lars has learned a Norwegian folk tune on the violin.  Happy Hour CocoLocos (rum in our coconuts) while floating in inner tubes with sharks swimming past. We catch 3 crabs from the island for dinner and prepare them with potatoes and coconut rice.  STARS!!!!!
Day 3- Weather goes crappy! So we must leave the blue lagoon and cross the atoll for shelter.  Back return to our original anchorage near Tiputa. 
The weather, wind, and swell meant no leaving Rangiroa for 5 more days. Rainy days equal cribbage, French toast, guitar, swims.  Weather cleared on Rangiroa, but the open ocean still had large swell and lots of wind 30+ knots.  We surf.  The locals are so friendly and invite us to share the better wave at the peak.  We toss the Frisbee with the local kids after which every time we come ashore kids ask us to toss the Frisbee with them.  We dive with grey reef sharks in the deep blue ocean.  We hitch rides around the island and learn that the best deal for lunch is a baguette with canned sardines and we eat lots of those sandwiches.  We play chess on the beach. Lars plays guitar.  We cook pasta with tons of garlic and always hard boiled eggs.  We campfired on the beach with Rory, Gary, and a few local kids.  We watch the dolphins do crazy jumps in the rushing currents and standing waves in the passage.  We hitch rides around the atoll. All lovely adventures.