Friday, January 20, 2017

Two Questions

We spent a chilly three weeks in Seattle.  Temperatures were in the twenties at night and thirties in the day. An occasional rise to maybe forty-one but darn seldom. There was a nice break for a week in Colorado for a family Christmas.
Christmas with family
We spent the Seattle time getting the boat ready to be shown to potential buyers and socializing with friends in the Seattle area. The boat was actually in reasonably good condition but it is amazing how much ‘stuff’ can come off a machine that’s traveled around the world in the last nine years. And how much cleaner you can really make it, once the stuff is off,  when motivated by a potential sale. I guess that translates as the power of money!
Dinner with good friends in Seattle
Amid all the lovely times with friends and the mild drudgery there has been some time for reflection on this trip.  “What do it mean”…what did it mean? What’s important? Maybe, what’s not.  That’s for the next, and probably  the last,  post of this blog. For now I’d like to answer the two questions that always come up when we meet someone who wants to chat about the trip.
A nice day at sea somewhere

I used to roll my eyes at that question and say something like ‘impossible’. There were too many wonderful places from the Pacific to SE Asia to Greece, Turkey and the Med. But lately its become obvious it deserves an answer. For me that answer is “Vanuatu”. 

309nm to Port Resolution
 The physical beauty of the islands that make up the archipelago, the relatively intact indigenous culture and the experiences we had there made it very special.
Port Resolution, Tanna
Coming into lovely, lush, undeveloped Resolution Bay on the island of Tanna arriving from Fiji with the active volcano of Mt. Yasur erupting above the bay, the same volcano that has been in continuous eruption since Cook first saw it in 1774, was a wonderful beginning. We had a rugged but beautiful ride in the back of a truck over the mountains to the community where we could check into the country.
Hitch hiking in Vanuatu
Customs, Tanna
Yasur volcano from the rim
We hiked to the rim of the volcano and spent a spectacular evening viewing the eruption. We sailed the trades north into the archipelago and enjoyed  the relative sophistication of Port Vila and the unspoiled villages everywhere else. 

Views on Tanna
We chuckled that Vanuatu ‘officially’ declared cannibalism to be over in 1968. And that the word hadn’t got out completely because an unlucky tourist got killed and eaten a couple years before we arrived. We met sweet people everywhere. 

Fresh Cava
We visited “cargo cult”  villages where “John Frum” is the principal god worshipped, especially on Tanna.

The blue holes
We took our dinghies up the cool freshwater streams to the ‘blue holes’ on Espirito Santo. We dove and did penetrations to depths of over two hundred feet on the spectacular wreck of the President Coolidge.
After a deep dive on the Coolidge
Washing clothes on Pentacost

Boating Vanuatu
James Michener got his inspiration for “Tales of The South Pacific” from his time on Espirito Santo during WWII.  Vanuatu was the “New Hebrides” in those days. To me it is still a most special place.
Bora Bora in the distance
When Janet is asked that same question she is likely to respond with “the South Pacific”. When I bug her to be more specific she will say,  “French Polynesia” or “Bora Bora” or “Moorea”. The part of French Polynesia known as the Society Islands was most special to her.  

Cook's Bay, Moorea
Bora Bora
She would say the spectacular beauty of the islands themselves, Moorea in particular. She loved the snorkeling around some wonderful reefs. 

Reef life in Bora Bora
Friends on Tahiti showed us some beautiful places and provided some wonderful meals.
Hamid and Teresa
Lunch in Papeete
Hamid, your lasagna is still the best we’ve ever had, anywhere. We had memorable times at Bloody Mary’s. There was a nice mix of traditional Polynesian culture and modern European sophistication. 

Bloody Mary's, Bora Bora
Since we were there in July during the Hiva festival  we saw great dance and drum contests over several islands. The final competition on Bastille Day, also Janet’s birthday, was marvelous.

 A good Polynesian drum band has to be heard to be believed, fantastic! And in the Society Islands we started to get to know some cruising people who became friends and who have been great friends ever since. We had a very memorable  time in the Society Islands.

 Question Number Two:  WERE YOU EVER SCARED?

The short answer is, “No”. We each had our fears. Janet’s was hitting something on a passage and sinking the boat. Mine was losing someone overboard, including me of course, but her or a friend mostly.  Would I have felt worse watching the boat sail off into the distance without me or searching a big sea for my lost sweetie or a good friend?
12-15 ft seas on the way to Fiji
I don’t even like to think about the latter. Very thankfully those fears were not realized. There were “interesting” moments. A midnight, preventer breaking, slam jibe got my attention once.  As in flying,  weather is the big killer. These days weather forecasting and enroute information is so greatly improved that if one plays by the rules the chances of getting in serious trouble are greatly reduced. We had some rough passages but the boat was very confidence inspiring and proved to be a great dry, safe and seaworthy machine. 

Passage to Opua
We used Commander’s Weather on all the long passages, and another Australian forecaster as well on the passage down to New Zealand from Tonga. Commanders was always good and gave us confidence in our own analysis of the grib files and other info available by HF radio. So, having been severely scared a few times in other activities and finding that to be greatly overrated as an experience, I’m very happy to relate we were never really scared on this trip.
South Pacific sunset
I’m still thinking over this experience and with a little luck I’ll be thinking it over for a long time. The next post will try to summarize some of those thoughts and try to communicate some ideas that might be helpful to someone interested in this kind of experience for themselves.

Love to all,
Bill & JanetSV Airstream

PS: And yes, one more time, the boat is listed at:

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

To Seattle

Say it ain't SNOW!
 WHY is there snow on our decks? Why am I so stinking cold? Because its 26 effing degrees Fahrenheit in Victoria, British Columbia and its been snowing, that’s WHY! And our sweet warm weather boat has just been offloaded after shipment from Golfito, Costa Rica to Victoria. I’m sure the boat is in shock and although we’ve been in Vic for a couple days awaiting arrival, and know the forecast,  its still no small irony that this is the coldest day of the year. I was really worried that it had been cold enough, long enough, that our fresh water plumbing might have frozen and some of the copper tubing might have split. That could create a lot of problems.
Oh well......
This all started a few months ago when we realized that we really did not feel like bashing up the west coast of Central America and the USA to get home. We’ve done much of that coast before, some of it several times, and the thrill was gone. When we began this little voyage almost nine years ago I had a sinister ulterior motive in that I wanted to complete a circumnavigation. Then the great pirate panic of 2011 took place and some friends got killed in the Gulf of Aden. We considered many alternatives but ultimately we wanted to cruise the Med and we couldn’t find a practical way to sail the boat to that sea. So we shipped the boat on SevenStar Yacht Transport to Marmaris, Turkey.
Janet at Fish Hook. One of our favorite marinas.
All this is outlined in the blog posts from those years. We have no regrets about that decision but it did mean that a circumnavigation was no longer a possibility. So now, in 2016, with the claim of a circumnavigation no longer at stake the joys of Central America and the Mexican Riviera couldn’t overcome  the unpleasant anticipation of the bash northward against wind and current. SevenStar had a ship heading north with stops in Golfito, LaPaz, Ensenada and Victoria, BC. They dangled a pretty good deal on a shipment all the way to Victoria and we bit.
MV Happy Dynamic arrives in Golfito
So we enjoyed our time in Golfito waiting for the ship. The motor vessel Happy Dynamic, the SevenStar ship,  arrived on time and loading was professional and without incident. We said goodbye to the staff at Fish Hook Marina who were absolutely first class and  had become friends, took a car to San Jose and caught a flight for home. Bye, bye tropical world.
Loading, always a tense time.
Home was nice for a week. But too soon we packed some boat stuff into the back of my pickup and headed for Victoria. Stops in Portland to spend a night with friends and Seattle to arrange selling logistics broke up the trip. We took the Victoria Clipper, a big 30 knot catamaran ferry to Vic and settled into a nice hotel to wait for the ship. It was cold! We were not acclimated. Victoria is a lovely town but walking around in 20-30 degree weather when one is used to 90 degrees dissipates  the charm.  Happy Dynamic arrived without undue delay and we were scheduled for an 0900 offload next day. Rather amazingly we were picked up by a launch at 0830, taken over to the ship where Airstream had already been unloaded and we were aboard by 0900. Incredible! Also really nice was the fact that the ocean was staying on the outside of the boat, no leaks, the boat was in good condition, not too dirty, the engine started and the water pipes were not frozen! 
Think chilly!
 With a good weather forecast and the notorious Strait of Juan de Fuca mill pond smooth we just pulled off  the side of the ship and headed across the strait to Port Angeles where we could clear the boat back into the the USA for the first time since April 1st, 2008. That felt rather good I will say. We spent a night in Port Angeles and motored the next day to Port Townsend. Spent a night there and then had a choppy motor against wind and current  to Shilshole Bay Marina in Seattle. A night there and then through the Ballard Canal and locks into Lake Union.  It was a lovely passage. The snow in the mountains of the Olympic Peninsula was a fitting visual climax to the trip. That’s the end of this voyage.
Puget Sound in winter.
Sooooo………by GPS we’ve put 29,945 nautical miles on the boat since departing Humboldt Bay. That does not include the estimated 12,000 miles the boat did on the deck of ships from Singapore to Marmaris and from Golfito to Victoria. We’re at a nice convenient slip at Discovery Yacht’s docks on Lake Union and the boat is for sale. Mike and Beth Locatell  who own Discovery Yachts are old friends who we’ve bought two boats through and sold one. Now we hope to sell another soon.
Mike Locatell and Louis Nelson on board
Through the locks
Under and through the bridges
To Lake Union
We’ll be living on the boat until the middle of January. The day it sells will be one of mixed feelings for sure. I intend to post one more blog concerning this little venture. Maybe I’ll have some cruising thoughts sorted out for that one. For now we’re back to thinking about AIRPLANES!

Happy New Year!
Bill & Janet
SV Airstream