Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Our Trip from Tahiti to the Cook Islands.

Day one. 09/11/11. Wednesday Afternoon 16:00. Exhaustion! thats all we could feel. Leaving an anchorage when you're ready to drop with exhaustion is not a good idea, but we had to leave, we'd already stayed one day over the limit and this morning we'd been slowly checked out by some officials on a small boat as they drove by. They could see that we were working hard at getting Puddytat ready so I suppose that's why they let us be. Finally at 15:45 we motor sailed out of the safe harbour area at Papeete, Tahiti.
Sunrise the next morning.
As soon as we were clear of all danger and we'd eaten our meal of lasagna, I went down to our cabin and crashed. David woke me up at 21:00.. groan groan groan I was still tired. He collapsed into the bunk and I sat upstairs trying to get some enthusiasm going. Nope nothing .. sigh... I sat my whole watch, gave David and extra hour till 03:00, like a zombie. Thank heavens for radar.

During David's sleep we were hit with a rouge wave and it found the half open porthole we'd left open in our cabin. David was woken, from a dead sleep, to a torrent of water cascading all over the place. He had to go and shower to get all the salt off him. All the sheets and things were dumped on the floor and towels draped onto the bunk and he want back to sleep... It rained and gusted and we flew along even with the main dropped... oh yes we decided that with both of us being so knackered, we'd drop the mainsail and only use the genoa. That way if we were hit with one of this areas infamous 70 knotters that spring up out of nowhere, we'd be able to furl the genoa till only a tiny corner was visible and run downwind with it. But lucky us, nothing happened and I handed over the watch to a slightly refreshed David and crawled into the damp bunk. Bliss!

Day two. Thursday. I came up in the morning and soon afterwards David went down to sleep. A couple of hours later he emerged, feeling much better. The day went along with alternating wind and no wind, but nothing over 20 knots, I rinsed all the bedding and hung it out to dry... a lovely calmish day. I baked bread and started to make a courtesy flag for The Cook Islands. It's a blue flag with a Union Jack in the top left corner and 15 white stars in a circle next to that. Again after our late lunch, smoked chicken roast and veg this time, (we eat at about 16:00), I slept and later that evening David woke me from a totally dead sleep, for my watch, then he went to sleep, in a much dryer bed this time :-) I wasn't so tired tonight, thank heavens. My body was catching up and getting into this new routine. I carried on with the flag and finished it just before my watch was over.. nice ;-D  We'd had hardly any wind the whole night, we were crawling along at 3 to 5 knots... in  5 to 8 knots of wind. Nice and peaceful.
The Cook Island flag I made.
Day Three. Friday.. 11th of the 11th of 2011.. ha ha nothing was written in the log book during David's watch... hmmmm.... I do remember that it rained and squalled pretty much all day. We were either dropping the main or lifting it again and catching water.. lots of lovely rain water.. what did we eat.... oh yes Kedgeree from some left over fresh caught Wahoo that we were given by another sailor... who's name is Ding.. true! :-) Everyone calls him that.

Day four. Saturday...Wonderful winds. 17 knots once for all of 7 minutes, yeah I was out there in the rain watching the wind speed and our speed wondering if I was gonna have to do some fast work if we were hit by a biggie.... then it died down to 12 knots and we went from scooting along at 11 knots to a more sedate 8 knots. The wind stayed pretty constant all day. So it was nice and uneventful. We haven't seen the sun for two days now... It's constantly overcast with occasional huge black rain clouds that make the radar shriek out it's warning.. then we look at the clouds and decide whether to carry on or drop the main.
A large storm ahead.
The center is where we are. This is the storm above as we see it on Radar. It is about 9 miles wide.
During this storm the wind whipped up to about 35 knots, David had dropped the main and he was furling the genoa when it hit. There was a lot of rain, we collected scads of water and then it was gone. The sails were reset and we carried on.

Day Five. Sunday.. No wind... we motored last night till almost 01:00 then it came up.. 11 knots yay. better than what we'd been having. I set the sails and switched off the engine. So when I handed over the watch to David at 02:00 we were sailing. It seems though that at 04:18 the engine had to be switched back on as we were going nowhere. From then on he was switching the engine on and off dealing with gusts of wind and dead calms. The log book has this note : "Wind 10 to 3 to 10 knots. The drizzle is now set in. The water is calm - just 6 inch ripples on the 3 to 4 foot ocean swell. The unsettling part is we never KNOW what the wind is going to be. We have a radar that shows us the size of the system, we have eyes to see the wave conditions and the darkness of the clouds and wind instruments to keep track of the wind changes.... But I can't tell, yet, when we are about to get clobbered by a 30 knotter, in the back of my mind is the capsize of the Chris White Cat last year... they didn't see it coming either."
So there you have it. This weather is sure keeping us on our toes.
It's now 22:00 (10 pm). I've just had a look outside and seen stars. The moon is rising and for a change I can see it. SO lets hope that we are done with all those storms for a while.

We expect to reach our destination, Aitutaki Island, at about 07:00 tomorrow. So I'm on watch till 01:30 instead of 02:00, because I'll have to be awake just before 7 to take the boat into the pass. I always get the job of taking the boat into our new anchorages. David stands point and scans the depths for coral heads, especially in places where we are going tomorrow. It's reported to be very shallow so we're going to have to be really careful. The Island's GPS position is 18 deg 54'S and 159 deg 47'W according to the guide book. If you have "Google Earth" you can have a look at it.:-)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Putting the mast back on Puddytat

Puddytat looks so forlorn without her rigging.
A sad Puddytat.
Somehow she just doesn't seem very happy. But the good news is that soon she will be getting it all back. Yup they have finished the work on it and have booked a date and time with the crane. They have had the mast for 5 weeks, the crane was booked for Friday, but on Thursday it was cancelled and the date moved to Monday. They had not finished the swaging and were now going to leave it till Monday morning and quickly do it before the crane arrived! David went to them and got angry with them, they'd promised to have the job done and were now slotting other work in front of ours!  They then they knuckled down and finished the swaging on the rigging. He wanted it done in his presence so that he could make sure it was done correctly. It's awful to have to get angry to get a job done that you have waited 5 weeks for... especially one that takes a few hours to do.
So early Monday morning we release Puddytat from our anchor rode and tie it to Limo, the dinghy, to our anchor rode and off we go to the commercial docks. We didn't want to haul the anchor up because the crossbeam was unsupported without the crossbeam in place. By nine am we are ready and waiting. David has gone off to see what is happening.

The mast is pushed into sight on trolleys and here comes the crane. They tie a fat webbing to it and start to haul it up.
Up she goes.
Over and onto the boat...
Settling it down..
Attaching the forestay and roller furler.
The strap is still attached to the crane.
Alex goes up to detach the strap.
It's nerve wracking it is! But all goes smoothly and soon the mast is sitting in place. It seems though, that they are having a bit of difficulty attaching the turnbuckles on either side. Everything seems a bit short. They haven't left much room to loosen the rig if it needs it!
The rigging wire is too short in the turnbuckle.
David is not happy about this! But, the mast is back on. Our genoa sail is still being worked on, it should have been finished weeks ago. They promise to deliver before we leave the dock... but our time is limited .. They've finished the work on the main.. We get our genoa back and where there was a metal ring at the tack, there is none now...just two straps of webbing.. Another thing David is not happy about. We cannot argue though, our time in this country runs out tomorrow and we have to get the boat sorted to leave. We wondered later, if API works the deliveries of sails and such to boats just before they have to leave the country so that we don't have time to argue or demand work to be redone.

Anyway, what's done is done but we're still not happy and will not recommend this company to any of our friends.

We motored back to our anchorage and worked solidly for the next day and for most of Wednesday, getting the sails back on, the davits refitted and all the electrical equipment re-wired.

Finally at about 15:30 we lifted the anchor and motored out towards The Cook Islands.

Personally... neither of us are in a hurry to revisit Tahiti. Our time was very limited, definitely not enough to see anything of the surrounding islands, and our boat problems were genuine, the powers that be were reluctant to extend my visa and then when they did,  I was limited to the boat and the Marina, so I couldn't even do any grocery shopping for us. David had to do everything! Also each time David had to beg for an extension on the visa it took two or three days out of his work schedule. He did say however, that the lady in the front office of the High Commission was very helpful.
We may visit Bora Bora and a few other islands though... maybe.....

Friday, October 14, 2011

Tahiti and the Tuamotu's.

I've been really busy doing all sorts of things and so have neglected my writing here. I'm so sorry. I'm about to rectify that right now.
We've been sitting in Tahiti for just over a month now. Shortly after we arrived we were told that the weather was going to be quite rough out in the ocean and the waves would be high enough to climb over the reef and make life pretty uncomfortable for us. David decided to wait it out and see how bad it was. In the mean time he'd check over the boat at all the rigging and such to decide if he wanted to do any work on the boat here or if we could wait to get to New Zealand. Everything checked out okay..except of course for those two plates on the mast and the two plates supporting the seagull striker loads on the crossbeam that were broken on the crossing to the Marquises Islands. He knew about those and had taken appropriate measures to ensure that the mast was still sturdily held in place.

The day arrived when we were expecting this bad weather and wow, it sure got bumpy in here. We could not go ashore. The huge mega yachts left the marina because the waves were so destructive that one actually damaged their stern. The restaurants were closed due to the fact that the water was cascading over the top of the wharf. In fact the water was at least 3 feet higher than normal here. Many sections of the walkways in the marina got rather beaten up and broken. We swung and jerked around on the anchor but it held and we just waited. By the next day everything calmed down and we went ashore to see the damage.
A couple of boats having a meeting...the Cat was dragging her on board either boat..note the rough water.
 The water doesn't look so bad in the photo's..but it was really rough.
 Oh yes....This yacht, (below), dragged it's anchor and came right down the side of Puddytat, David had to lean over our rails and push her off so she wouldn't hit us...we then gave lines to some chaps in a dinghy and they tied them to this boat and we tied off on Puddytat...I had the engines on very slowly forward, David was pulling up our anchor....We had to try and keep that boat off the reef that was just behind us. The owner was not on board, but the Port Captain gave some other sailors permission to get on board and try and get her motor started....They eventually did and were able to let our lines go and relay the anchor. Whew what a relief. There was a dog on board and he was very scared. He seemed to know that something was wrong..the boat's not supposed to move when the boss isn't on board...shame poor thing.
This boat literally swept down on us, David was fending it off as it  dragged it's anchor. 

The yacht we visited before the weather turned bad...notice the calm waters.
There was another Catana Catamaran anchored here. David said it was of the same vintage as ours and so we went over to chat with the owner. His was a year older than Puddytat. He told us he'd been dis-masted out at sea and then told us why it had happened. He took us around the deck to see the new rig and the changes he'd made. We went back to Puddytat with David in a thoughtful mood. The next morning he checked over Puddytat again to see if there had been any damage to her during that bumpy spat and there was. He was really surprised. If he hadn't checked he told me, it's probable we would have lost the rig between here and NZ. Gulp...There were a few more key structural rigging items broken! not just one but several...Oh heck, now we knew we'd have to get the mast taken off here, it couldn't wait for NZ...and we didn't have enough time. My visa was expiring at the end of September..what to do.

He went to our agent and explained the situation..she went to the powers that be and they said sorry no, no extension, you'll have to fly her out to Fiji where she can apply for another visa and then fly her back again. WHAT! Now that's what I call real friendly. I'm not the only one with this problem. There is a Captain, from Grenada in the Caribbean, of a charter yacht and he is experiencing the same problems. His Seaman's passport is also being ignored.

David had a more pressing problem in that he had to go to court in Trinidad, and therefore needed to know where he was going to be to arrange flight tickets. The obvious solution was to stay in Tahiti and get the rigging repaired while he went to Trini. But I had to stay on Puddytat to look after it.

He then spoke to our agent again..she told us..sorry they aren't listening to her, he was going to have to go and see them himself. Okay David thought, I'll do that.
He dressed himself nice and smart and went in to see the authorities. He was advised to write a letter stating that urgent work was required on the boat to make it seaworthy and that I was the only crew member and was required in order to look after the boat whilst he was away in Trini, and to crew the boat when we eventually left French Polynesia. It would also be necessary to have local confirmation that the work had to be carried out. The letter had to be in French of course ...... Google Translate to the rescue.

David hired a rigging surveyor to come and inspect the rig. He confirmed David's findings that the mast that the tangs for the cap shrouds and the front beam need work before going to sea. He wrote a letter to the high commissioner to confirm that urgent work needed to be done and that it would take 8 weeks to complete. This letter, plus David's did convinced the authorities to grant an extension.

They very reluctantly extended my visa by one month..BUT..I'm not allowed to leave the Marina basically I'm boat bound. Now if we'd not really been getting work done and were trying to pull a fast one on these bods and had planned an extensive exploration of the island I'd understand their reasoning, but as it stands, I really don't.

They wouldn't even accept my seaman's passport because, they said, I wasn't on a mega yacht! first they said..If I had been the Captain of the yacht then it would have been fine, then they said, its not acceptable because it's Zimbabwean, Zim is landlocked it can't issue seaman's passports, so that's irritatingly's in fact a South African seaman's passport, then they came up with the Mega yacht story!

So now we sit here, no mast as it has been taken off and David has taken the front cross beam off and examined it. he's having new plates made up to make it safer for our next leg to NZ. The cap shrouds and their mast tangs are being replaced. Our Genoa sail is being re-stitched, and as I write this David is flying back from Trinidad where he went to go and try and sort out the mess that involves a boat yard that destroyed his previous yacht..that's a whole other story....and so I'm all alone, with the CD player blasting out music, me painting, writing or swimming and having a great time...:-D

Before we got here we spent about a month traveling around the Tuamotus. There are an unbelievable number of these places poking their tiny strips of land out of the ocean and on some of them there are a surprisingly large number people living and working. A lot of them work on their own pearl farms. This is a full time occupation it seems, as it takes a pearl 5 years to grow to a decent size and they have to cultivate the spore, nurse them till they are large enough to insert a small piece of shell, that they have cut and shaped into a ball, along with a small piece of the mantle that gives the pearl it's colours, then they string them up in an area where there is no surf, a calm area with good clean water, and they watch them, scrub their shells clean so that barnacles and such don't take root on them. The shells have to be absolutely clean because when the pearl is harvested, the shells are sold to the Chinese who make jewelry out of them. They have to have a new batch every year so that after 5 years they still have more coming up start they have to wait 5 years before they can harvest their first pearl...and...not all of the pearls are 1st it's a lot of hard work.

The snorkeling on these places is fabulous!!! There are clams that are from a few cms to 15 or 20 cm in length with the most beautiful mantles of emerald green or brilliant peacock blue..I wish I'd had a camera to take a few underwater photo's.
Crystal Clear Waters in Paradise :-D
We went to one place, dropped the anchor and jumped into the water. We swam towards the little knoll that was reaching up out of the depths..we swam towards the ridge. The water seemed a dark blue on the other side and we were curious as to as to how deep it was there. Holy Toledo! an incredible sight met our startled eyes. The ridge was the top of a very steep drop. almost a wall...dropping away into oblivion it seemed... we raised our eyes and looked out and saw the hugest groupers and other fish that we'd ever seen on a reef. These guys were about 50 feet away from us and looked to be about 3 feet in! Just then we caught a movement out of the corner of our eyes and there was a shark..really interested in us..really scary...we swiveled around..we were holding hands so as to be able to call attention to things we saw and also it makes us look big and menacing to any interested sharks..I hoped....we hung in the water almost motionless and faced him.. he swam back and forth in front of he was pacing and deciding just what to do with us....I'd never seen David so wary, he normally just shrugs and continues swimming, but I couldn't see a black tip or a white tip of the normal reef shark, this one was all grey..what was it and why was David so wary of it? It seemed to pace up and down for ages, I was rather scared I must say, I was trying to remember what I'd been told about how to defend myself against an attack...but I tried to tell myself..he's only about 5 ft long and maybe our combined size will make him think twice.... then he made up his mind, turned, and swam leisurely off back down over the ridge..whew...It sure hadn't taken him long to spot us, we'd only just poked our heads over for a few seconds when he came to see what we wanted...David later told me he thought it was a Mako....but later we realised it wasn't.
Well we had a wonderful snorkel after that, that shark didn't come back again, though we both kept a very sharp eye out for him or any of his mates. We did see others though, the black tip and the white tip, I spotted a cousin of the seahorse a tiny little thing, I forget what it's called, it looks pretty much like a seahorse :-D we also saw fully grown spider conch...they were easily 15 inches 36cm from tip to tip..absolutely beautiful. It was a really busy shelf with all sorts of life...

The next day we went the way there was not another human to be seen for as far as the eye could see....we walked on the beach and around a knoll that seemed to have two different species of Terns breeding. They got really upset when we walked anywhere near to them so we stayed off a way. We saw, in two of the little rock pools, a Moray eel trapped by the fallen tide. Both of them were trying in vain to hide under a rock. What a glorious day we had.
We pulled Limo up onto the was tiny shells instead of sand..
Tiny shells.
The little island where the Terns were breeding..and Limo on the beach.
A brittle one of the rock pools.
Moray eel hiding ..caught in a rock pool at low tide.
A hermit crab in a super smart home.
There's a crab in here too..
Black Terns nesting ...
They were nesting here too..

Billy his wife, cat and dog visiting us.
One day we sailed into Katui and tied up to the dock's free and sits in an eddy of the entrance, so the water a few feet away is racing by at 10 knots but it's really calm right by the dock. At the turn of the tide we went snorkeling with a local guy called Billy...we would never had tried this if he hadn't been with us..Absolute shock as we dropped into the water and took in our surroundings!.. Wall to wall corals..I cannot even begin to describe it...all shapes sizes and colours, white, yellow, greens, reds, brilliant blues, purples, pinks...and then there are the fish...yeah I was talking about the corals...astoundingly stunning. Billy was going fishing for his dinner. He had a spear gun. Now I don't like spearing reef fish, but he was going for Wahoo and other game fish that were cruising the area. He did shoot a beautiful parrot fish and I felt so sad...and at the end of the snorkel he presented it to us for our dinner...ugh...We couldn't say no thanks, it would have been rude so we took it and David filleted it. It was a huge fish and we barely got enough meat off it to eat..what a waste of a beautiful life... :-( During the swim, David had the privilege of keeping the speared fish on a line. He had to drag these behind him as he swam around..consequently about 5 reef sharks were rather interested in him :-) I didn't swim too close to him...they made me really nervous, but he didn't seem to be very perturbed. :-D

All in All if anyone wants to experience the South Pacific Islands then these are the places to go. The folks are friendly, there's not much in the way of what we think of as luxuries, but they would just spoil the whole area. The charm of these places lie in the absolute remoteness of them all, the peace and quiet, the turquoise waters and tranquil evenings...I hope they stay that way for a long time to come. One thing we noticed was that when we had some locals aboard and offered them drinks, they were horrified when they thought we were offering them alcohol, they'd only accept soft drinks, they didn't drink tea or coffee either..hee hee ;-)

Of course I haven't been to Bora Bora or any of the islands around I can't say anything about them ...yet. :-D

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Onward! to the Marquesas Islands....

The Marquesas Islands. You know contrary to experience, we read up on places we'd like to visit. We talk to people who've been there, to get their take on the place and then we go...and we inevitably find it to be radically different to our expectations. Its quite amazing the difference. So we've read up on these islands..a lot..we've been told that the snorkeling and diving is exceptional...loads of fish varieties...but not many corals....the water is wonderfully clear with great visibility....the islanders are friendly and will barter food for things....its been hard to find out what things..but we've stocked up with stuff for the children and some vanity stuff for young ladies. It will be interesting to see all of this for ourselves. That's all part of the fun of traveling.
Sunset Day 1
I could give you a day by day blow of what we did but I wonder if that might get boring. So I'll tell the interesting bits ...Day 1 ..we managed to do a lot of sailing, but were heading into the wind and so progress is slow..even on a cat...the wind kept moving around..and I mean moving around. It blew from the south then a few minutes later it moved west then north then east then south and then west then north....and from 0 knots to 20 knots. All in one night...David put in one reef at sundown, then he shook it out a few hours later...a comment in the log book “Our route plot looks like a 2 year old's attempt to join the dots “...I struggled to keep the boat on a reasonable course during my watch...forever tacking this way and that, Eventually David took over at 2am and he had the same fun..putting in reefs and then having to shake them out again...we were both exhausted and we were going nowhere fast..or even slowly.!Oh yes we also had rain, and lightening, and more rain and then some more rain....So eventually David hove-to...ahh peace and quiet. We might as well try and get some rest until the wind makes it's mind up as to what it's going to do :-) Our goal was to sail SW so any direction in the S to W quadrant was acceptable, but sometimes we were headed WNW and others ESE as our angle between tacks was about 120 deg with the current factored in (it was against us).
With all this going on, David saw that one of the sail's battens was working its way he re- positioned it and tightened it up...then he had to repair the topping lift had chafed through and he had to tie another rope to it, to get it working again. So the dawn hours found us sailing under genoa only whilst repairs were done.
As you can see a very frustrating time...:-p
Our 24hour distance covered...a mere 61 nautical miles.. ;-( A SURPRISE...David called 'Good News' on the VHF and they responded.. whoo hoo, we swapped positions and found that we were about 13 miles away from them...we chatted about the conditions and they were pleased to hear that we'd also decided to hove-to. Then we lost radio contact and that was that... sigh... we sailed on slowly. By the time it was my watch again we were racing along at 2.7 knots :-P the ocean was almost a mirror, hardly a breath of wind. We'd decided to take a break and have a sundowner cost us a mile..we drifted backwards.....and by the end of my watch..6 hours later I was so frustrated with trying to keep the boat moving... I wanted to scream..I was more than happy to hand over to David at 2 am...It was starting to drizzle...boy was I ever happy to be climbing into my bunk.
Rain Clouds, everywhere we looked.
David got a bit of wind so at least the boat was moving..about 4 knots....and in the right direction too...and so during the day we pottered on...slowly...we only run the engine when we need to charge the batteries..for about 2 hours a day if there has been no sun, for the solar panels.
The GPS was having some fun too..note the lines off to the side..we did not actually do that.
And so it comes around to me watch on the Monday night...30th wind again. I sat at the helm willing the boat forward...and accomplished an astounding 2 nautical miles in 6 hours...yeah I thought I'd been frustrated yesterday...Boy! Tonight really took the cake! I was in a really bad mood when I went to bed...of course by the time I woke up the wind had risen to a roaring 4 knots....and we were once again racing along... comment in the log book... We have done an amazing 3 ¾ miles ( as the crow flies) in the last 12 hours and probably twice that over ground in tack changes and wind shifts.”
When was this going to end....please please give us a decent breeze. We'd even whistled for the wind during no avail.
By mid morning we were finally moving at 5.7 knots...a much more respectable speed. Then at 15:04 ...we heard “ crack! Shuck shuck shuck.clack clack” what the heck....???? we both realised at the same time..the main halyard has broken the main sail is down! Heck …..we just get moving and now this! David took our topping lift....the rope that holds up the end of the boom and tied it to the Main...."Okay" he said "we'll do without a topping lift...sail like this and when the wind dies again I'll go up the mast and sort it out"......did the wind die again..heck no!!

Okay so that was on Day 4. The wind stayed at between 5 and 15 knots with very choppy in a top loader washing machine., so it's been impossible for David to go up to the top of the mast as yet. We've had loads of rain and had to constantly drape ourselves over the transom to bail Limo, our tender, as her bailer holes seemed to be blocked with something...we found out later that it was blocked with onion skins. Also there seemed to be a lot of water getting into the Puddytat via an outside locker. In really rough seas we are used to going down and pumping the shower well out every now and then, but this was ridiculous..every third wave that broke over us I knew I'd have to go down and pump...Why?
The first time I realised that there was a problem the shower was totally awash with water slopping into the cabin area..what a mess. I had to bail into the basin whilst David cleaned out the filter for the pump. There was broken bits of shell and hair clogging it. Still, why was Puddytat taking on so much water? David watched the movement of the boat and it seemed as if the port bow was struggling to lift out of the waves, what was making it so heavy? He went forward to investigate. In the very pointy section of the bow is a locker that we keep our fenders in. The lid locks down, its not water proof so water gets in, but there is a drain for the water to escape through. The ropes from the fenders had somehow worked their way down and out through the drain, blocking it rather effectively. So the locker filled with water, the fenders were pushing against the locker lid and nearly escaped entirely when David opened it up. Now when we put the fenders into that locker..we tie all the ropes together. This seems to have done the job of stopping them from blocking the drain. The bow, filled with water, was having a hard time lifting up after it had plunged down into waves. Once David cleared the drain hole everything returned to normal. Since then we've had hardly any water into the shower well.

You may be asking, why does water get into the boat via an outside locker...well for some strange reason, when the fuel tanks were installed into those lockers, some clever soul drilled a nice big hole from there into the inner works of Puddytat, at the lowest level of the locker, to put hoses through. So now water sometimes finds its way through that hole and into the shower. Thank heavens its into the shower and not into any other part of the yacht...Just another job on David's list of things to change to our liking.

Anyway so Day 5 slipped by, we're pretty exhausted. This section of the trip is sure taxing my sailing prowess, goodness knows what a woman who's sailing with her husband 'because he wants to', feels. I'm totally bushed, she'd be ' hey there , beam me up Scotty, I've had enough'...I actually said to David ..'Okay, stop the boat I wanna get off'...kinda jokingly just to let him know that I was feeling rather stretched... In times like this you can decide to hove-to. Its wonderfully calming and restful. You can get a good few hours of relaxed sleep that will fortify you and off you go again. We didn't, we're seasoned sailors don't cha know..ha ha Oh yes I forgot to tell you, Remember we'd spent that time in the Las Perlas islands cleaning the bottom of the boat? Well later that day I discovered yet another tiny crab hiding out in one of my ears! I kid you not! This is the 4th time its happened, damned annoying. Anyway I don't know why but this time I got here we are sailing along with all this stuff happening and I've got earache..which then infects one of my teeth, so I get tooth ache...sheesh! I treated the earache with a mixture of half water half vinegar squirted into my ear 2 or three times a day, plus two Iboprufen just before bed so that I could get some sleep.
It worked....eventually.

During the night the wind decided to strengthen to 28 knots so we put a second reef in the main. Puddytat sailed better and we didn't really slow down that much. Also saw 4 ships during my watch.
Day 6 was entirely uneventful. It slid by, strong winds and lots of rain, but peaceful..thanks.

The same could not be said of Day 7...I woke up and on going above to greet David and the day, I was informed that we would have to hove-to to fix the Port trampoline. Ho hum. It had been bashed by the water so much that the stitching that was probably rather UV damaged just gave out, so it was half dangling in the water. Also Flea, our other dinghy, was tied down to it, so we had to come up with a plan. Another thing was the roller furler rope for the genoa sail, it had chafed through and needed to be replaced... so two jobs to be done and I hadn't had breakkies yet...pooh
The front pole on the trampoline broke..and then everything just fell apart..
When we hove-to and went forward we realised that the roller furler job would be easy but that we couldn't repair the trampoline, we'd have to remove it, but that would leave a huge open space there. So we came up with a great idea. We wove ropes back and forth as best we could. You couldn't walk on it but if you slipped and fell you wouldn't fall through it. Good Ja! ...Ja! :-) Those two jobs took four hours and during that we'd drifted 4 miles backwards. But the job was done!
Our new trampoline.. :-D
We cut the line and tied it off...
I forgot there was one other job to be done before we set sail......We'd run over yet another long line and it had caught on something under the boat... David had cut it but it was still under us. He tied it to one of the stanchion poles, and now he had to go swimming to cut it away from under the boat...he thought maybe it was tangled around the props....
While he was doing that I had some much needed toast and pate to eat. Toast, you ask, do you have a toaster on board?...we do, but not like you'd recognise. :-) In the UK you can buy these great little fold up flat toasters that you can set on a camp fire, we wanted one but in the States you can only buy those stand up Coleman toasters for the fire...we don't like them. So we had to improvise...we looked everywhere for something that was made of mesh and that would lie flat on our gas (propane) stove. We were walking through Office Mart and I saw an envelope holder..the type you put on your side table at home to hold the post. I stopped, picked one up turned it on it's back and looked at David. He smiled and bought two. It's perfect for toasting the bread that David bakes...well for any bread really. ;-)
Our Toaster ! :-D
Suddenly I heard a yell..Oh heck I thought, there is a 2 knot current running, he had strung a rope to the boat with a fender at the end of it so that he could grab onto it if the current pulled him away from the boat, had he missed it, did I have to go and rescue him? Fortunately that wasn't the problem, or maybe unfortunately, because David had been stung rather badly by a blue bottle, he had welts all over him...out came the vinegar again..Its great at neutralizing the sting. He did, however, clear the props of line before he got out, so we were soon on our way again.
The sting marks stayed with David for about a day.
Day 8. David's suffering from sunburn from yesterday and he lost a filling that he'd had done up in Mexico. In the late afternoon David spotted a sail, behind us, and over time watched it get closer. We were doing 7.5 knots with one reef in the main and this other yacht was slowly catching us up. He called them and they answered. The boat is called Rapparee, Don and Sally are delivering her to New Zealand. She's a 60 foot yacht, and she has her main and jib out fully and is doing 8 knots. That's why she's catching us.. ha ha We watch them sail by, it takes them about 3 hours to finally overtake us. They're heading for the Galapagos Islands for a day or two to do some repairs..we tell them that we're not going but they give us some info about the best place to drop anchor if we decide we need to go there.
Day 9. We've used rather a lot of fuel and David's filling up the log book with calculations of estimates to see if we can last till the Marquesas or if we should stop at the Galapagos islands for a top up. We discuss it and decide that if we need to conserve fuel, we'll cook all the food in the freezer and store it into the fridge then switch the freezer off. We're only using 3 gallons of water a day at the moment, but maybe we could economise some saving using the water maker..also we can run the engines at lower revs when we charge the batteries...Okay so no worries we'll just carry on.
During the afternoon the boat kept on veering off at a tangent...why? We sail with the autopilot on 'wind'. Are there big wind changes going on? David looks up at the top of the mast. Our wind direction instrument has been knocked sideways, maybe by a bird. He switches the auto pilot to compass heading...Add it to the list. Every evening at six thirty we put a symbol of a Martini glass on our track, then we look back to see how far we've traveled since the last one. Its kinda fun. I also take a photo of the sunset, if its not clouded over and raining. Today we've sailed 181 miles since cocktail hour yesterday. :-)

As usual I take over and start my night watch at 8 pm..20h00. We're traveling at 9.3 knots ..this is great. Don't know what the wind speed is but it feels much the same as it has been for the last day or so.
Then at 20h50, …..DISASTER!!! The topping lift that we had moved to become a main halyard snapped. The main came sliding down the mast. I yelled for David and went to center the boom so that it wouldn't smash the solar panels. Fortunately it missed them. But now we had no way to get the main back up. We're sailing with the genoa only. What the heck is chafing the ropes through all of a sudden. We've done heaps of sailing all the way from Hawaii to Canada and down the west coast of the USA, Mexico for 2 years, down the Americas...with no problems..AND we've replaced these lines {ropes} with new, so it's not as if they are old and worn out.

We're a day away from the Galapagos seems that we are fated to stop there. David is not happy about this. We envisage huge costs, for the privilege of anchoring there to do our repairs. Fortunately we'd got that info from Don and Sally the other day, it was going to come in handy.

The x's are where we've been and the cocktail glasses are our course we've traveled on this leg, the 'x' in front of us is our way point to sail to.
Day 10. We have an uneventful sail, didn't have to tack again, the wind was kind and we sailed right to Wreck Bay on St Crystobal Island in the Galapagos, dropping anchor at 8pm... 20h00....
The sun going down as we head into port....

Wonder what tomorrow will bring...and how the heck is David going to get up that mast with no ropes to pull him up?

See ya. :-)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Panama to the Darien Forest....

We left Panama on beautiful sunny Monday 23rd June 2011 and sailed towards the Las Perlas Islands. The wind was not very strong and so after a few hours of sailing we had to switch the engine on to get us to an anchorage by sundown. Using the engine was something we wanted to avoid because after our visit to the rain forest we'd be leaving for our long Puddle jump of nearly 4000 nautical miles, with only the Galapagos as an option for refueling. We'd decided to give the Galapagos a miss because it would be far too expensive to stop there. We'd heard rumours that it would cost $150 for an agent, plus $100 per person, plus $50 for the boat per day...all that just to be able to refuel was just too much. Of course these costs would then allow us to stay in that anchorage for 21 days..if we wanted to see anything of the other islands we'd have to pay for a tour...we thought NOT.
Onions...we are loaded up and we go!
So anyway I digress, en route David managed to break the Titan winch handle....:-), man doesn't know his own strength....finally though, we eventually dropped our anchor in a lovely spot on an Island called Moga Moga. David lit up our charcoal braai and cooked us some chicken breasts, pork chops and whole onions. I'd been marinading these in different marinades. The idea was that we'd eat some of it now and some tomorrow and some the next day. We would be sailing again early tomorrow to get down to Espirito Santo Island where we were going to spend some time cleaning the barnacles off the bottom of the boat. David wanted to make sure that the intakes for the engines were clear of critters. So we knew we wouldn't have a lot of time for cooking.
Anchorage in the Las Perlas Islands
The evening is perfect, with calm mirror smooth water, sounds of bird life, the sun going down and wafting aromas of delicious food.... ahhhhhh yeah!

We awoke bright and early on Tuesday, lifted the anchor and set off in a good breeze. Unfortunately the morning breeze didn't stick around and so we ended up motoring the last 12 miles, dropping our anchor at 2pm. We then spent about 2 hours in the water scraping and cleaning the hulls. Fortunately the water temperature was a lot warmer than the last time we were here, but the visibility was still bad. After our shower to get rid of pesky shrimps that cling to your clothing and hair, we sat down to dinner and then enjoyed a Maitai cocktail and watched the sun go down, chatting about the trip tomorrow..the Darien Rainforest....So exciting :-)

Wednesday morning dawned bright and sunny and with high expectations and happy hearts we lifted the anchor and sailed east. We decided that the river of choice would be the Sucio. We didn't want to see people. We just wanted to go up a river, drop the anchor and soak up the ambiance.
We sailed all day and arrived at the entrance of the delta....It was massive...miles and miles across and deep. We'd have to anchor behind a little island for the night and continue the next day. Out came the sundowners and I created a stir fry chicken dish out of the pieces that David had cooked on the Braai.

After a leisurely breakfast we set sail for our river of choice....soon the wind died and on went the engine, we motored up a wide calm river with trees that grew tall right from the waters edge. They were the tallest Mangrove trees I'd ever seen. Around every corner I expected to see know tall trees, vines, monkeys, parrots...all the stuff we'd been hearing about from others and reading about in books.....all we got was mangroves, mangroves and more mangroves....we eventually went down a tributary and dropped our anchor. Switching off the engines, we sat and listened to the silence. It was unreal. There wasn't a man made sound to be heard. Fantastic.
Mirror smooth and tranquil.

A panoramic view of our spot.
A close-up of the section to our port side.
As we waited the birds started calling again. We didn't see many birds, but we heard them. We heard the Howler Monkeys and some other type of monkey. We had a moth visit us. It's wings looked just like a dried brown leaf, quite amazing.
The moth..quite lovely :-)
We realised that to actually see the 'rain forest' we'd have to go further up the river, go ashore somewhere and go walking. We didn't have the time..we needed to be crossing the puddle. If we ever come back to Panama, we decided, we'd take a tour up into the mountains above the lake between the two ends of the Canal and we'd take a land tour from the city to the Darien Forest. We certainly weren't experiencing the forest right now. However, this spot that we'd chosen to stop in was wonderful. Peaceful....till the dawn chorus..ha ha what a racket it was just brilliant to hear the area wake up. During the night the cicadas had been giving it stick and David actually woke up out of a dead sleep and was half out of bed before he realised that it was cicadas he was hearing and not the fridge motor trying to run without the cooling water running..ha ha...It rained while we were, really, you say, you are in a rain forest you know...*grin* the heavens just opened up and the rain poured down...the Howler Monkeys groused and complained we smiled and enjoyed the idea of a salt free boat for a change. David said that if it wasn't for the bugs and horse flies ( one bit him) he'd stay a week.... :-)
Wonderful wonderful rain :-D
We could only lift the anchor at about 11am because till then the tide had been coming in at a rate of at least 4 knots. We didn't want to fight it..rather enjoy the morning and then motor out on the ebb tide...whoosh :-) This we did, finally leaving the river and entering the huge bay area. We set sail for the Marquises. Whoo hoo!!!!

Little did we know ...this wasn't going to be a milk run.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A quick note

Just to let you know that I'm not having so much fun here in the Marquises that I've forgoton to write about the trip...I've written everything up but as the internet costs about USD$5 an hour and is VERY slow, I cannot and will not waste good hard earned cash loading up the story and photo's. So I'm sorry folks but you're going to have to wait till we get somewhere cheaper...then 'l be loading a new story ever couple of days to catch up. :-D

Till then......

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Staying In Panama

We've anchored in an area called Las Brisas. The water is too dirty to swim in, yet sometimes we have to go in to scrape barnacles and slime off the bottom of the boat..not much fun but it has to be done. David runs the starboard engine so that there will be hot water for a good hot shower when we finally drag ourselves back on board. Always when I look back at the weeks we've spent anywhere, I ask myself.."what have we been doing?", and realise that I should have kept a daily log...I know that for the first week and a half we were clearing into Panama and then zooming off to the Las Perlas Islands for a week with Claire and Denver....then we started to do odd jobs on the boat..and the days and weeks seem to have merged into each other till we notice that we've been here for almost two months!

Buses are individually owned here in Panama. Some of the owners paint their buses up beautifully and some of them light them up like Christmas trees at night...soooo pretty

Down town

Looking for a post office. Pretty area this.

A new spiral building going up.
The city center has some interesting spots....but it's, of course, not all like this ;-D
In an area called Cinco De Mayo there are a lot of vendors selling all sorts of things, fresh fruit and veg, hamburgers for a dollar, a spiral cut sausage stuck on a stick, wrapped in bacon and cooked, but the most interesting one I saw was an instant sugarcane juice machine. They'd shove sticks of cane in and the dried crushed sticks would come out one end and lovely sweet juice out the ingenious!

David had noticed that one of our jammers were tearing the outer covering of our main halyard and the last thing we needed was to have that break, then jam up the works and inhibit the mainsail from being dropped....just what you don't need if the wind comes he first spent about 4 days traveling around Panama trying to find outlets for things we needed on almost futile pastime. Panama doesn't really cater to us yachties. We are only here for about three months of the year then we're off again, either into the Caribbean or off across the Puddle to the South Pacific why bother get a business running for that short a period of time. Consequently if we want any specified parts we have to fly them in from the USA. So While he was ordering a new jammer or clutch he also ordered new lockable latches for all 10 of the outside lockers where we store our fenders, extra ropes, extra water and diesel, our spinnaker, and hose pipes, cleaning fluids....all sorts of  things that we need periodically on the boat. We also needed spare impellers as the ones we'd bought before were the wrong size... and other little things that we wanted to put on Puddytat so that our trip over would be a good one. :-D

I've started a new blog page. It's to do with all of us Africans,  who create things that are influenced by our time whilst in Africa. There will be several authors posting on this blog. I'm sure it will soon prove to be rather interesting. The blog is called Africa Bursting Out!

The part of the saloon seating that's finished.
I've been finishing some painting, getting my stock for my online business up to date, then I revamped the photo's and hopefully made my shop more user friendly. The internet connection we have here on the boat can be very this has taken me longer than I first thought. I've also been sewing for the boat...a new cover for the cushion that runs along the back of the cockpit, a repair and adding on of some shade cloth to the surfboard cover, I also painted the bimini with waterproofing so now the rain doesn't come pouring through any more. :-D.... I've nearly completed the saloon seating..finally getting that job done! Never again will I undertake upholstering...It's not something that I enjoy at all....I'll be really very pleased when I've finally finished it...I've made a waterproof cover for our huge igloo that doubles as a cockpit table, so that rain and sea water will no longer get into it, keeping the food we have stored in there nice and dry.

David has also been fiddling with the starboard rudder, putting in a new platform for the hydraulic arm to sit on . It looks very smart now. He's also had to work, and is still working, on our water maker which packed up just before Claire and Denver got here...
New base for the hydraulic steering.
Old locker locks..the circle couldn't reach the hooks!

Nice neat new lockable locks.
On occasion we treat ourselves like on Saturday just past, we went to the movies for the afternoon very pleasant. On Thursday night we'll go to the local pizza restaurant, meet up with some buddies and drink beer, eat pizza, talk rubbish and come home..great fun ;-)

We have had a lot of rain and when it rains we can't do any work outside the boat. In this area, when it's started to rain we sometimes get winds of up to 35 knots racing through the anchorage. Sure enough boats start to drag. A few of them would surely have ended up on the rocks but for other sailors leaving their boats in driving rain, jumping in the dinghy and racing over to the stricken yachts, climbing aboard, lifting the anchor and moving the yacht, either under its own engine ( if it's not locked up and can be got at) or towing it with dinghies, or getting another motor yacht, ( which happened about two days ago), to tow it away from sure disaster, and dropping the anchor again making sure that it holds before we all go back to our boats to dry off and rest. WHEW!
A rain storm building over Panama City.

Different day, different storm..notice the mirror smooth water.
                         The mirror smooth water doesn't last long. It's a genuine calm before the storm.
David was given a bottle of Rum today, as a thank you for rescuing another cruiser's boat...yum :-)  We don't expect to be given gifts for doing things to help our neighbours. We are like a small village and we get to know each other...even if we don't know the owners of the boat we'd still race over and try and save it...The thought of coming home after a day searching town for some spare part or other to find your boat wrecked on rocks is too much to bear...we wouldn't want that to happen to us so why would we sit back and let it happen to others. Our motto : "do unto others as you'd want to be done unto you".

Last Thursday or Friday we went to town, to a store called Mega Depot where we bought about 6 months supplies of cleaning stuffs, canned goods, nuts, dried fruits..flour for bread making, etc, etc. We ended up with two huge trollies packed full...(shopping carts to some) and we still need to stock up with our fresh fruit and bulk rice, sugar and salt...strangely it seems that one of the things that islanders run out of, is salt! David and I can't understand this....when we've run short of salt we fill a bowl with sea water and leave it on deck to dry out...hey presto..salt....Out there deep in the ocean the water is lovely and clean, we use it in our cooking when we make pasta, potatoes or rice. We're also going to buy kids 't' shirts, shorts, skirts, toys, some educational stuff, toothpaste and tooth brushes, nail polish and remover, perfumes, body lotions and anything else feminine I can think of ..oh yes needles and thread.....these are great to use for trade for fresh fruit and stuff out there on far away islands.

And so the time flies by, We seem to be always be busy, then the rains come, work stops and we are outside watching to see if anyone is dragging, needing help, or making sure we're not dragging. At the same time I'm collecting rain water to do laundry in....and once I sprayed soap all over the cockpit floor and got down on my hands and knees and scrubbed it..letting the rain water rinse it down...the air here in Panama is very dirty, what with the hundreds of ships passing by, the car exhausts and soot from burning sugar cane fields...things turn black in no time at all.

Late afternoon is always the best time of day. The air has been cooled by the rain and there is a slight breeze blowing .. we put our feet up and read or surf the internet. Sometimes someone stops by for a chat and a cold beer. This is okay...but I must admit I'm pretty sick of this place, I really do not like cities..I yearn for the fresh clean air of the open ocean...and I'm really looking forward to our adventure to the Darien Rainforest.

YUP we're going to sail there and venture up the river. We intend dropping our anchor, way up river and experiencing the toucans, parrots of all kinds, myriads of butterflies, howler and other monkeys...watching the snakes and crocodiles swim by...but no humans... There are humans around but there aren't many and it's apparently easy to find a place devoid of them. So that's what the next post will be about...

There will be a long period of time between this post and the next. After we leave the forest  we will be heading out to the French Polynesian Islands...that will take about 4 weeks...We don't have an SSB radio and so don't have 'sailmail' therefore we will have no contact with the outside world till we arrive in Hiva Oa or somewhere like no posts sorry....I will be writing while we are sailing so that when we get ashore I'll post them up for you to read.

Until then..... :-D