Friday, April 17, 2015

Safety Stop -

We pulled in a remote part of Fiji, not as a scheduled stop, but as a safety stop for both our crew in rough seas and our boat in rough seas and to fix our main.  We opted to put safety of the vessel and crew above governmental regulations and customs.  We are rested, fed, hydrated, the sail is back in the track, and we are heading off again.  But the guy on shore, Moses, didn't seem like he knew the check-in procedure and if we could have carried on to the check-in spot, we could have carried on to Vanuatu.  This was not a formal stop, more of a layover.  If we laid over in Suva, we would have checked-in.  Due to our remote and spontaneous location, there was no possible way to do so unless the officials took it upon themselves to come to us (which, quite honestly, we were hoping was not going to happen).  But if it did, we certainly had our reasons to be here and would have explained them.

Had we gone to shore today, not saying we did, but had we, we would have had a delightful day!!!  A local man Moses may have come in a kayak this morning to our boat to visit and invited us to shore.  We would have showed him the boat, the issue with the sail and thanked him.  We finished breakfast, did school, fixed the sail, and at this point our day would have been open to go to shore if that was what we would have done.  If we would have, we would have met a delightful man Moses and his wife Luci.  He would invite us into his house, hand built after hurricane Ivan wiped through here.  Made of corrugated steel and 2x4s.  Woven mat as a flooring and beautiful cloth as curtains to hide the bedroom.  This whole house would be maybe 15 feet x 15 feet.  Another open structure, but with a roof for cooking all meals on fire and a third building with corrugated steel enclosure, but no door for an outhouse.  Curiously the opening where a door might go faced nicely toward the common area where people hang out.  But hey, maybe there aren't so many visitors . . .

We might then tour the area.  There are 3 houses and 7 family members there (but many children who aren't counted in that head count we were initially given).  Moses has 3 brothers and 2 sisters.  One brother recently passed away and was buried on the land.  The parents are also living there; so one brother who lives "in the city" is out here for the summer helping the parents since they are aging some.  They live on total sustenance farming and showed us all around the area.  Much of their meals appear to be yucca root based and catching of fish or lobsters.   Then they have coconuts, bananas, papayas, breadfruit, limes, mangos and some super hot chili peppers!!!  He might have picked a bunch of fresh limes for us from his tree.  Then showed us his yucca plantation that he grows more than his family can eat and he gives it to the villagers at the local village nearby since they don't have the land to farm like he does.  He doesn't believe in selling food.  They would have knocked some coconuts out of the tree for us and cut them open with a machete to drink.  Then they would have given us a stalk of bananas to take to the boat and we would go back for quiet time.

We would have lunch, go to shore to burn our garbage at a secluded beach, bake cookies, and then return to shore to share with them the nice fish he just caught.  We brought them flour, sugar, rice and corned beef (local favorites) as well as some kid's clothes for their nieces and nephews and some homemade cookies.  Luci could have cooked us up a lovely local meal of smoked fish as well as (I can't remember the local word, but ceviche) basically raw fish in limejuice, salt, and chilies.  It was quite nice!!  Moses may have cut his foot running after a stray dog that was chasing his goats this morning, so I would have cleaned it up, put a stitch in it, dressed it with antibiotic cream, and wrapped it in a torn up old sheet we had.  We would then dress it in a grocery bag and bring him and Luci to the boat for a tour and an evening visit.  Serve them some ice cream, learn more about the Fijian way of life and their personal experiences, then bring them back home in the dinghy and pull up anchor to carry on for our bumpy ride to Vanuatu.

Or then again, we may have stayed on the boat with our quarantine flag up and told stories like these to each other that we read in the compendium guide . . . Life is only perceived through the eyes of it's beholders . . . But if this might have happened for us for one day in Fiji, it might have been a really great day after 9 days at sea . . .  (and with 3-4 more rough ones ahead).

Kim and I are now solidly hydrated for 3-4 nauseating days on "The Goliath".  And we're off . . .


Yasawa Island Group -

Just a super nice place to stop!  After a great nights sleep one of the locals, Moses, paddled out to our boat and invited us to his families portion of the island.  Beautiful sand beaches, with rolling grass covered hills. We went in to the shore in the morning, and met up with Moses, Luci, and other members of the family. They grow all their own food, and catch fish whenever they desire. They live very simply, and their big smiles show their true happiness.  We will definitely need to go back there sometime, and spend some real time visiting.

While we were there Moses unfortunately cut his heel pretty badly.  Shannon ended up putting on some plastic skin, and throwing in a stitch!  And then there was the quarter of a bed sheet that we left for making bandages.

We are now on our 3 to 4 day trip to Vanuatu, and are going to try to do it only with the Genoa to keep the mainsail from getting to much stress from the 30-knot winds. Last time it popped out we were double reefed and in the 20 to 30 knot wind range. So the plan is to take it slow and not hurt anything.

We are having a difficult time connecting to SailMail sometimes because there are limited relay stations out here, so there may be a few days of quiet from us.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

New Plan -

For the past 3 days we've been drifting at sea.  At one point Courage started the motors because while there was NO wind and we had to take the sails down so they wouldn't flap and tear in their wrinkled, withered state were was a current and we were moving at -1.7 knots toward our destination.  While we were willing to suck up no forward movement, we were unable to accept a backward movement.

So, as predicted the trades have started again.  Not just the trades, but also the "reinforced trades".  So winds are 20-25 knots, with gusts up to 30-35.  Initially this morning the seas were relatively flat.  As the winds grew, so did the waves.  As we rode the waves, we'd dogged down all our hatches except those on the roof (for a little air flow).  The roof is about 10 feet off the water.  Well, we were taking water over the roof in large surges of waves across the windshields and flowing into the living room.  Vitality and Intrepid looked as though they'd been swimming and both wrapped up in towels afterward.

First move was to double reef.  We were moving nicely at a double reef when the top car jumped the track (again).  We went on to a third reef.  We were still bouncing all over the place.  The new fridge/freezer is bolted to the wall on one side, so subsequently the other side began to fall forward from the wall, so we braced it in place.  Many things removed themselves from the shelves and threw themselves onto the floor (we don't really stow for a passage usually and this time it didn't pay off).  While we were moving nicely along finally (10 knots at times), we were increasingly bouncing.  This was in the lee of Fiji, when we cut free of the protection of the island, we were anticipated to have some large waves coming from 2 different directions.  With the promise of big seas (and we had all we needed), the sail out of the track, and the fact that our buddy boats are now waiting until Saturday (weather delay) to leave, we decided there was no need to push it at this point.  We were close to land and could get a rest, repair the sail, and try to wait it out and wait for our buddy boats.  That being said, very little is expected to change in the next 96 hours out there.  If you pull into Fiji without checking in, they take it serious, on the order of thousands of dollars of fines.  We are armed with our excuses (reasons) of sail repair and safe harbor and hope to spend a couple/few days here.  Sooo, is this a good time to ask if we can go to shore and play?


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

StopOver Fiji -

We have tucked into a cozy cove here in Fiji to wait out the bad weather, and to repair the sail. The same problem that has been plaguing us since the Marqueses is back. We thought we had fixed it in Samoa, but when the wind hit 30, even with a double reef, the top of the sail broke free of the mast.  Fortunately we had installed a doubler so were still able to use the main.

The wind is blowing up to 35 knots and the seas are 6 to 9 feet at about 5 sec.  Would be a great run downwind, but at 90 degrees to the wind, was not perfect!

We plan on leaving when the repairs are completed, and the waves are down a bit.  It was fun though to finally start moving again.


Day 8 -

Looks like tomorrow the wind starts. So we may actually start moving. The wind is going to start really blowing by the weekend, so we are predicting a fast rough passage over the weekend.  We have about 460 miles to go so we shall see. Winds are projected to be a little over 30knots with 6 to 9 foot seas from two different directions.

As every sailor knows sailing to a schedule is deadly, so we have told the other two Sea Mercy boats that we will be sailing independently, so that there is no pressure to go a certain speed, or arrive/depart at a certain time.

We were blessed with another super fantastic day of calm seas, warm water, and delightful drift swimming under the boat.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

More of Day 7 -

This is turning into one of our longer journeys.  Light winds, but at least today there were some winds.  We even hit a midday squall and raced to drop the spinnaker (again in love with the sock), and get our Genoa out just before it all hit.  The sail must have collected a lot of water 'cause our drum filled up in about 15 minutes!  We put some in the bilge and Vitality and Valiant got into the drum for a fun swim and bath.  I got a couple very cute pictures of them in there.  

We pulled out some jingle bell instruments, Cassidy on guitar, and an iPod playing and had a fun dance party, then went for a swim.  Valiant has one or sometimes 2 adults escorting him, but he lets go and likes to fly solo (thus the second adult at the receiving end to reign him in as he floats by the back of the boat).  Whenever he can get free and bob in the water he's just ecstatically laughing.  

Then, to top off our fun day, Kim reeled in her first fish.  It was a beautiful medium sized yellow tail tuna.  Cassidy pan seared up a nice half of it for dinner and we will have the other half tomorrow.  The new fridge is making leftovers quite easy on us! 

This evening while watching the sunset and playing on deck we saw a few dolphins.  They were about 100 feet away and didn't come over to play.  Haven't seen dolphins in a long time, so it was nice to see, but we were hoping they'd come entertain us a bit longer.

This is turning into one of our longer trips.  Our weather router anticipated it as a 7 day 12 hour trip, but here we are at 7 days and still another 600 miles to go.  Of course, we missed cyclone Solo, so that was nice . . . We will be land starved by the time we arrive.  

Can't wait to meet the Swedish boat with 2 kids!!  Hope they are ready for some Explorer time!!


Monday, April 13, 2015

Day 7 -

Well we hit our first squall last night. The wind got up to a roaring 10.8 knots, and we got 52 drops of rain. So we are thinking we are not at the dangerous squalls yet.

It is nice to have a big boat when out at sea for a while. The children run laps around the deck chasing each other, and I can always find a nice place where I can have a quiet time.

These light winds have made the ocean quite smooth, and there are daily swims that always feel great!


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Slow but Still a Work in Progress -

Last night we motored for a little bit to get to where a light wind was predicted for today.  We had a good day of school today, still calm seas, but we are moving at 2 knots and the spinnaker isn't collapsing on the deck, so we think we are moving!  We can see 2 Fiji islands on the horizon and a whale came up by the boat this morning.  All in all going quite well.  I gave all the boys a haircut yesterday before we swam, so we're all cleaned up and ready to meet people.  Currently we are not planning to stop in Fiji, but drift past it.  Our two other disaster relief vessels are leaving Fiji on the 17th, so we hope to be in their proximity at that time and do the final 425 miles as a fleet.

They are still hashing out a schedule. Initially we were going to 2-3 ports per day, which would have been very strenuous, constantly running.  Then they slowed it down to one port per island.  But I'm concerned that we can't assess the damage to the villages, the resources available, the general health of the people of the entire island based on a single port and encounter.  It now looks like we'll hit a few ports per island which will remain fluid and at the captain's discretion.  All a work in progress.


Notes from Shannon -

We are doing great out here.  The seas are flat and calm with almost no wind. The other two relief vessels had left Fiji and returned due to the formation of Cyclone Solo out there, which is likely to hit the Loyalty islands and part of it maybe the island we are heading to Aneityum.  Our weather router told us to continue to travel in "stand by mode" waiting out the storm.  Little does he know we are traveling at full speed with all the canvas out that we can muster!!  We seem to be peaking at 6 knots of wind and moving from 1-3 knots.  That is all we can do without the motors.  Of course using to motors to speed ahead and burn all our fuel stores only to then wait out a storm doesn't make much sense either, so we drift . . . (at full speed).  Fortunately it made for nice swimming twice today!  We have great sunshine and calm seas, so we did a load of laundry, we felt well enough to do school this morning, Courage unplugged our final plugged toilet, so all 3 are back in action, and now the kids are playing with balloons and bubbles on the front bow.  We decided to try trolling for a fish since we weren't speeding along, but no bites yet.

Oh yes, and to top it all off, we had ICE CREAM for dessert tonight.  That was awesome.  Usually a rare treat only eaten in port with stores that supply it, and usually we devour an entire 1/2 gallon carton since it won't keep and we didn't have a freezer, but now, we have the whole bottom shelf stocked with ice cream in our brand NEW freezer!!!  We are LOVING it!  Keeping our fruits and veggies lasting longer, drinks cool, ice cream cold, and we are able to make Jello and ice pops!!!  What a revelation indeed!!!  Feeling very spoiled.  We are still fine tuning it.  It drained our batteries at first, but now we turn it to super freeze (-20) during the day when we are wasting power, then at night we turn it to 10 or 20 degrees with hopes that it never gets that "warm" and therefore doesn't use any power at night.  It certainly seems to be improving the situation.  Mid day we are still flush with power, but our batteries can only hold so much (and there sure isn't any wind the past few days to be boosting us with wind power).

I thought of some funny thing the kids said in American Samoa that I never got around to sharing, so here it is:

We borrowed a friend's truck to do laundry and shopping. I was driving and it began to pour rain, Innocence asks me "Can you close the hatch 'cause it's getting wet in here."  We don't know about windows apparently.

Same truck two days later an EMS vehicle was coming with lights and sirens, so I slowed down and pulled over.  Innocence (again) informed me that we were "off course."

Her vocabulary is a bit strange for land life.

Valiant walked up to Courage who was sitting in a chair.  Courage scooted the chair forward and it squished Valiant's little foot.  Valiant cried and said, "I'm bleeding."  When he looked down there was a mark on his foot, but no blood.  So he changed his statement, "I'm bleeding on the inside."  It was really cute.  He's used that more than once now to express pain with no signs of external blood source.

I can already tell that however brief our stay in American Samoa was that we are sooo going to miss the variety of fresh fruits and veggies . . . But so be it, the price you pay to travel to remote places in the world.