Archive for the ‘World cruising’ Category

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Way too long…

September 25, 2010

Hanging out in Pelelui ... Suka's the far right boat.

Yes.. I know. It has been a long time since I posted. We have been busy diving and doing boat projects and waiting for the typhoon season in the Philippines to slow down so we can head west again.  That is our plans for January, head into the sunset again. In the meantime I have been doing a small amount of canvas work, (sewed two dinghy covers) and Doug has been working on the boat. We have continued to dive and snorkel and continued to take underwater pictures of all kinds of sea critters. Since that is what I have the most pictures of, follow me over to the new page, UW Photos – Palau 3,  and see what I have found!

 

Self portrait snorkeling....

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Still living the dream in Palau…

June 15, 2010

Well, I know it has been too long since I have updated this blog. But, we have just been busy, busy, busy!! We have been continuing on the marathon diving program and have managed to squeeze in a long trip to Peleliu. More on that later.

Palau, which is made up of the Rock Islands, is really hard to photograph well enough to convey the beauty of all the tiny islands scattered inside the fringing reef. The best way to really see it is by helicopter. Sorry I can’t accomodate you with some pics taken from the sky, the helicopter ride is just a bit out of our price range!

So, here are some sea level pics to try to show you where we are living our dream for the time being!

We are tucked back in a small hole between islands and this is our view, when not twisting in the wind. It's really private and peacefill back here!

Miel is living the dream too... tho he may not realize it. Spoiled cat!

While in town and not diving, diving, diving we have gotten out for a bit of cultural exposure. One resort here does all-you-can-eat buffets and tops them off with local dancers. Dancing here is gender specific… men and women don’t mix. It’s not really Polynesian style either. It’s more of a line dancing while singing.  More swaying arms and less gyrating hips! Here are some pics of the dancing.

Women's traditional dancing.

Men's traditional dancing.

When we get out to the other islands in the lagoon our anchorages are invariably gorgeous. Aqua marine waters, emerald green islands.

Over the bow of Suka down lagoon.

 We have been really lucky to have met our Aussie friends Ian and Christine of the SV Sabi Star. (A Sabi Star is a flower in Africa, where Ian and Christine are originally from). They love diving as much as we do. There are two things we need to watch out for diving here in Palau. One is the unpredictablity of the currents. The other is the commercial dive boats. We’ve managed to solve both problems by working out a dive system whereby we always have two people in the dinghy at all times. (The girls dive together and the boys dive together). That way we can come retrieve the diving pair in case the current sweeps them off down the dive site and we can detatch our dingy from the dive mooring making way for the commercial dive boats when they show up. The system has worked great. And I must say the commercial dive boats have been really great in letting us tie off to their boats at the dive sites.

Dive buddies Ian and Christine

Here I am diving one of Palau's outer reef walls. Messing with my camera, as usual.

Here are a few of my latest underwater discoveries.

Sea slug. Approx. 6 inches long. Which is the front and which is the back!?

Nudibranch. Less than 1 inch long. Looks like a miniature dragon, no?

Crab on a anemone.

The largest nudibranch I have found yet! At least 6" long. The yellow ribbon like mass underneath is its eggs.

 

The weather here in Palau has been just about perfect. Lots of sunshine and lots of rain. The rain occasionally will fill a whole day but most often comes in the shape of mildly windy squalls interspersed with all that sunshine!

Typical sunny/rainy day!

I promised you I would tell you all about our trips to Peleliu. Those trips take a special page so come on over to the Peleiu WWII page and learn a bit of history!
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Back Up for Air…. Again

April 26, 2010

Greetings to you all again from Palau. Doug and I just got back to town from another ten days of diving the absolutely fantastic waters of Palau.  You may all wonder how we are managing to do so much diving in one of the world’s top diving spots without going bankrupt! That is why we have our own home on the water and our taxi out to the dive sites, our dinghy! We have jumped through some beaurocratic hoops to obtain a Koror State ID card. If we did not have this card Doug and I would have to pay $25 each for 10 day visitor permits  that would enable  us to visit the Palau Rock Islands. We still have to pay $40 for a 30 day cruising permit but we figure that is definitely doable.

We can now take ourselves and our boat out to the Rock Islands and down to the best dive sites. The closest anchorage to the diving is still a good 20  to 60 minute dinghy ride but it is worth it. We take two tanks with us and a lunch and just go dive, dive, dive!!

Here is a map of Palau and the dive sites: (just click on it to enlarge it)

Home base is up in the right hand corner, inside what is called the Pinchers. That is where Koror state’s main town is. We sail out of there and  southwest down to Ulong Island where there is a pretty good anchorage. The dinghy ride is only about 20-30 minutes to the amazing Ulong Channel. I am of the opinion that Ulong Channel is some of the best diving I have ever seen in my 10 plus years of diving. The sail to Ulong Island is about 2-3 hours. Next we head south of Ulong Ilsand for about another 2-3 hours sailing to the small group of islands just northeast of German Channel. There the dinghy ride is longer, but the dive sites are numerous and fabulous! Blue Hole, Blue Corner, Manta Feeding Station just to name a few!

When we are not diving we are exploring around the Rock Islands. This last trip we found a very cool swim-through that came out into a small lake. Here is a picture of looking into the lake through the opening.

Swimthrough

When we got through to the other side, snorkeling, we made two very cool discoveries. One was a new jellyfish.

Jellyfish and reflection

The other discovery was…… a BOMB!!!

WWII bomb

Believe me… as soon as we got back to town we let the authorities know about this bomb. And found out it is not unusual to still be finding them here and there. There was a major WWII battle down in the southern Palauan state of Pelalu.

Looking out of the swimthrough.

I have added another Palauan page to the right with MORE underwater critters from our last outing. Go take a look and enjoy!

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IT’S ABOUT TIME!! PALAU….

April 14, 2010

Rock Islands, Palau

I must give credit where credit is due. This is not my picture. I borrowed it off a Palau web site. This IS what the Rock Islands of Palau look like.  And this picture is only a small part of them. Very beautiful. Palau is actually a group of islands spread out haphazardly inside a fringing reef. The islands are not the flat little islets that make up atolls. They are tall and covered with rain forest type growth. The bases of a lot of the islands are limestone and they have been eaten away by wind, water and critters making them look a lot like green mushrooms.

Where is Palau??

The map on the right shows the Pacific Ocean in the Micronesian area. Palau is to the west. You can also see the Marshalls, where we started this saga last January!

Suka tucked in amoung some of the Rock Islands

When you arrive in Palau you will have a hard time disinguishing it from the Hawaiian Islands. It is that developed.  So, I haven’t spent much time taking landside pictures. Here are a few, though, showing some of our exploration in and out of the Rock Islands.

Exploring in and around the Rock Islands

Down lagoon on a dive trip

And of course, a beautiful sunset in paradise!

 

Palau is really a beautiful place. But, you know me. I go bonkers on what is underwater. So most of my pictures are going to be from our dives. Check out the new Palau page for some beautiful new creatures, including some sharks and turtles!

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Yap …. into the past

March 6, 2010

Febuary 15th we finally shoved off for our next adventure… Yap. Our hopes were to make the 1200 nautical miles in twelve days and make the celebration on Yap proper called Yap Day. We left with another boat, a single hander named Mike on his sailboat, Kanaloa. We would be traveling in tandom for the next two weeks.

Well, we didn’t make Yap Day. Missed it by 4 days. But, we had a wonderful 5 days on the Yappese outer atoll of Lamotrek.

Suka, at anchor, at Lamotrek Atoll

Today is March 6th and we now are sitting in Tamil Harbor in Yap proper, having arrived yesterday. And guess what!? They broadcast the internet over the harbor and here I sit on Suka updating my blog. So, go check out the pictures and our adventures we had on Lamotrek.

BTW… the kits are doing fantastic. Finally getting their sea legs.

Banger, tucked in behind my leg to keep from rolling!

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Suka has a new boom… almost

February 8, 2010

It took us a week to decide how to get our broken boom repaired. We finally settled on having Billy, a local Polynesian wood carver, carve us a new one out of Philippine mahogany. It took him about a week to complete. It is very cool to think we will be integrating a piece of  local craft into Suka’s working parts.

Here is a pic of what our broken boom looks like.

 

Billy the wood carver is on the left. Here he is working on our new boom.

Delivery!

Next step is for Doug to seal and paint it, replace the hardware and, finally, put it and the main sail back up. With that done our major repairs will be done and we can start thinking about moving on west!

As our new boom was being worked on we took an hour out of our other repairs for a short trip down the little river that runs out of the back of the harbor and through the mangroves.

 

The river runs about a mile through the mangroves and comes out on the west side of the island.

 

We also got to the ruins in Nan Madol and did some snorkling. Check out the new pages to the right!

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7 Days at Sea

January 24, 2010
The following are excerts from our log starting on January 15th, the day we finally left the Marshall Islands for Pohnpei, FSM. Read on …

Suka's Current and Future Route

 DAY ONE – SHITTY KITTIES

Finally got under way around 9 a.m. The lagoon was windy and our first snag was having the main halyard get hung up outside the shieve. Thank goodness Doug got that sorted out. We double reefed the main and had the headsail reefed as we headed out the pass. We met 10-12 foot seas and 20-25 knot winds. A bit rolly, but doable. The cats were NOT happy. First Miel shit in a cardboard box in the salon (at least it was not on the floor) and then the poor baby had a little accident, kinda like a wet fart, in his box in the cockpit. Next he threw up his breakfast and to complete the obvious voiding he felt the need for spewed bile a couple places. Banger just wailed and went comatose. It was NOT a happy family. 

Doug and I did okay…. At least we had a full day to get a our bearings. Did the 6 p.m. Yokwe net. Was really happy to see we were doing a good 6 knots.

 DAY TWO – WILL BANGER MAKE IT ??

Cats still not happy. Really worried about Banger as he is not eating, nor drinking. He really seems shell-shocked. I am begining to mull over the possibility that he may not come around and that we may have a very sick cat by the time we hit land. And that if he doesn’t get his sea legs we may have to find him a home in Pohnpei. He isn’t interested in water or dry food. I decided to try his favorite… wet food. All I had to do was stick a little of that under his nose and I finally got the first squeak out of him in a day and a half! I fixed him a bowl, and just like in a hospital, brought it to his box where he had entrenched himself, and he slowly ate it. Thank goodness he was finally eating.

 
 
 

Banger in his box (hospital bed)!

 DAY THREE – GOONY BIRD ATTACK

Another wonderfully windy 6 knot day. Only problem is where the wind is coming from. To stay on a course of 269 degrees, or as close as we can to that magic number, we need to wing and wing it. For you landlubbers that means flying the main sail one side of your boat and the head sail on the other… like a pair of wings. Doug poled out the headsail and we made good time. But, our wind steering is not working and hand steering is the name of the game and not a fun game. When you wing and wing it you are placed in a fine slot of steerage where you can’t go off course much either way without fear of gybing. We managed.

To take our minds off the tedious chore of steering we had two goony birds join us in the morning and make us their target for the day, continiously swooping down and around Suka’s masts. It seems like they thought they would like to give a shot at landing on our madly gyrating masts. One of them finally worked up his courage and made a try only to miscalculate  landing on Suka’s deck with a neck at a very odd angle. Miel rallied from his seasickness enough to stand up in his box, look out the dodger window and salute the poor, dead bird with a puffy tail and arched back. Sad to see it dead. Doug gave it a burial at sea. Fish food now. That left one goony bird still circling our masts. I swear… you are probably not going to believe it… but not more than 10 minutes later there is another “thump” from above and down comes hurtling goony bird number two right into the ocean next to us. It makes you wonder …. was this a goony bird suicide pact? Was this a case of I can’t stand to be in this world without you and I’m coming to join you in the afterlife? Just plain weird.

Banger is still struggling with getting his sea legs so I gave him more wet food in the morning, a definite violation to my cat feeding rules (they only get it at night), and he ate that. But, I had still not seen him drink any water and he was still lethargic. Doug was the one to come up with the answer. Catfood gravy! Banger’s next meal, in the afternoon (spoiled cat,) was soupy wet cat food. And he ate it all. He actually perked up a bit and seemed to relax with a quick couple grooming licks and a long stretch. No sea legs yet, but an improvement.

Doug and Deb are doing okay. Never will love passages, but we are adjusting.

Doug at the helm.

DAY FOUR – WHAT’S THAT NOISE?? 

20-25 knot winds again today and a wonderful sail. Gave up the wing and wing and settled on a broad reach. Losing some southing that way but less stressful on the steering. 

The sea gods definitely decided that less stressful was not the order of the day. About midday, while on the helm, I heard a “not” usual noise coming from forward on deck. After getting Doug’s sleepy attention he finally pulled on his life vest, tethered up and hooked off on the jack-lines and went on deck to investigate. When I heard the “OH SHIT” I knew we just might have a serious problem.

A sailboat has a mast, (or 2, like Suka), and to keep that mast upright a sailboat has cables called rigging that connects to various parts of the mast and to the hull of the boat. When one of those cables comes unattached at either end it is NOT a good thing. And that is what happened to us. One of the cables had become “unattached”, that is it had rusted in two, at the hull end. Doug, being the Dudly Do-right to the Rescue that he is, got that loose end temporarily attached back to the hull in record time. Granted, it is not attached to the spot it is suppose to be, but it is at least attached. We were also lucky in that it is one of the cables that attach lower down the mast and so is not one of the majorly critical supports. And, it was on the lee side (non-weather side) and thus has less stress on it. And on we sailed. 

The Banger saga continued and he got his pampering again today with his food mixed with water. He seemed to rally in the afternoon for a bit but still was not his old obnoxious self. He still has me worried. 

The sun goes down and we sail into another moonless night. Not only moonless but actually pitch black. It actually can be very unnerving steering a boat across the pitching ocean with the only light coming from in front of you off your radar, your GPS screen and a gyrating compass. Your only comfort is that the odds of meeting another boat all the way out here hundreds of miles from everywhere are pretty slim.

Our guidance system

DAY FIVE – DID YOU HEAR A SHOT??

Wind died down today. Got the grib files off the ham radio. Grib files are weather files showing atmospheric pressure and wind speed/direction info. What has killed the wind is a low pressure system south of us sucking the wind away from us. Not only does this system screw up the nice NE trade winds we have been riding for 4 days but it will bring unpredicable weather towards us until the system blows past. Which is exactly what it did to us today. Barely enough wind to sail by for most of the day with a switch to a NW wind in the afternoon. As our direction of travel is almost due west any wind with a W attached to it is not our friend. Thank goodness that lasted only a few hours. The wind finally came back around to our stern later in the day…. but very weak. This all lead to our third (fourth? fifth?) trama of the trip. 

Slogging along in messy seas (seas can’t stay neat if the wind keeps confusing it on which way to make waves) and in weak winds our main sail boom (which is like its foot) was doing a lot more swinging than usual. On a particularly violent side-to-side roll I heard what sounded like a gun shot. Again, Debra at the helm yells for sleepy Doug. Into life vest again, etc. etc. This was a really amazed “OH SHIT” coming from on deck this time. Like he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Our 18 foot boom had been amputated…. about 3 feet of the end had literally snapped right off. It was so sad to see.

Dudly Do-right to the rescue again. After a quick consultation on our game plan on getting this poor broken member secured Doug went to work. As it was a pretty thorough break he mainly needed to get the hardware and sail still connecting the two parts detached. Once that was done he had to re-rig the topping lift to fit our new shorter boom. Lastly he had to reattach the sheet to secure it back center boat. All done in about an hour. After he climbed back in the cockpit we just sat there shaking our heads in amazement.

Thank goodness we are a ketch rig and have 2 more sails to work with. Up went the mizzen sail and we are now sailing head and tail … a sail at each end with none in the middle.

And the Banger saga continued. This is the third day of cat food gravy and Banger finally decided that was enough of that turning up his nose at the soupy stuff and stumbling away. Miel had no similar objections and cleaned Banger’s bowl (Miel will eat anything) and I dished up a new helping of cat food sans water for Banger who polished it off nicely. He is still not 100% but I think the water in his food has finally brought him around where I don’t feel so worried he is going to expire.

After about 2 hours of no wind and little progress we made a command decision to start the engine and motor for a while. It seemed like a good opportunity to make up some of our southing as we were still way north of our rumb line. With a broken chain plate and a disabled main boom we were handicapped sailing with our wounded side to weather, which we would have to do if we wanted to try to sail back south enough to make our target. Thank goodness the seas have finally settled down and we are not rolling like a corkscrew anymore.

And another night begins switching on and off at the pitch dark helm. What’s in store for tomorrow?

 

First sight of the island....

DAY SIX- FINAL APPROACH 

Still motoring… but, we have put the head sail up and that has added a bit of push. This is good as after doing all the speed/distance calculations we need to keep up the good progress or end up having to wait outside the reef at Pohnpei if we arrive in the dark. Major rule of cruising. NEVER enter an unknown harbor/anchorage in the dark. That is a recipe for disaster. Looks like we will make it by noon tomorrow.

Everything is improving. Our speed is up, the kits are rallying and our spirits are rising with the prospect of finally “getting there”. To not have the deck under your feet constantly pitching will be heaven. It’s exhilarating and scary. A new place. New people to meet.  New challanges.

DAY SEVEN – LANDFALL AT LAST

Last night at sea. Finally arriving in Kolonia, Pohnpei at around 11 a.m. and after a nervous trip through the pass in the reef and through the lagoon down to the commercial dock we tied Suka up to the dock and waited for all the officials to show up. We had radioed the port control while still outside the pass and they had notified immigration, customs and quarintine of our arrival. The only snag was that immigration had not processed our boat permit (which we had faxed to them in October) and that quarantine was busy checking in some fishing boats. Immigration finally got back to us and asked us to come down to their office Monday and hopefully it would be done. That finally left us free to leave the dock and head down to the yacht basin.   

 
Suka at the commercial dock checking in.

 

 As soon as we got there we waved at Phil, on Windswept, who had arrived 2 days before us. That was actually all the contact we had with him while he was here. Ben from the yacht Niye Keema came over and started filling us in on EVERYTHING even before our anchor was down. He and his wife Cindy have been here since October and came from Western Canada, or maybe it was N.W. U.S., I forget, via Kauai. He finally left but returned later to introduce his wife to us. She has a job here teaching English at the college here. 

We did a few chores… what we had energy for, I made a pot of pasta and we collapsed into bed.