"Egret" N4674 - Scott and Mary Flanders
Ed. note: On February 10, 2011, Scott and Mary Flanders, on board their Nordhavn 46, Egret, arrived in the Canary Islands. In doing so, Egret became the eighth Nordhavn to circumnavigate the globe. It had been four years, five months since the couple departed Gran Canaria, intent on seeing as much of the earth as possible, although not necessarily with an end goal to circle the globe. Voyage of Egret documents the Flanders’ entire trip, an endless adventure that has put them in touch with the most fabulous places and interesting people. Much route planning and forecasting was required in order to get to some of their ports of call. But the days of detailed planning are over…for now. “Egret” is now back in Fort Lauderdale, the place the couple called home for so many years, and, ironically, the starting point of their world wide cruising escapade that began with the Nordhavn Atlantic Rally in 2004. They currently travel hither and yon, sometimes by boat, sometimes not. Here, the latest update from the Flanders as they keep us continually apprised.
August 26, 2008
Position: 15 45.52 W173 35.82 About 10nm from Niuatoputapu Island (New Potatoes), Kingdom of Tonga
In a recent VofE I was describing a very real, fast paced fishing sequence of events, in fisherman speak (CENSORED), of what was happening in the cockpit to the next up angler. There was a bit of humour there, the fisherman was not identified (or ever was, except by RF or FS - rookie fisherman or fisher swab). In the end RF caught the fish and did a good job. You never got to know, the entire paragraph got the axe. Oh well, there are worse tragedies in the world. Dirt dwelling comes to mind.
Along those lines, in the first paragraph of the 8-15-08 (last) VofE we wrote a shameless commercial about Egret's near duplicate sister ship, Sea Once. This commercial was inspired by nothing more than our enthuisiasm for what we are doing and a special (to us) boat. At the end of the commercial there was a listing brokers name to smooth the way for anyone's interest. This was added, not by me. There is nothing wrong with the addition. However, I think we should take the time to let any VofE newbies understand exactly what VofE is all about and the business details. First, there are no business details. PAE does not pay Egret for VofE. VofE is our gift to you. PAE does furnish their website at no charge to us (or any other Nordhavn owners), and no charge to format the logs or pictures. This is the beginning and end of any business relationship Egret has with PAE. Obviously we like and know a number of the PAE folks and the principals.
What inspired VofE was the overall lack of informaton available of the DETAILS we wanted to make our decision to go long distance cruising along with the inspiration to go long distance cruising. Information and inspiration are first cousins. Without either you are in the dark or twilight at best. We subscribed to Cruising World and Ocean Navigator magazines in the middle 90's. When Passagemaker Magazine came along we bought two copies from newstands then ordered all the back issues. After discarding the pretty sunset and dolphins in the bow wake articles we boiled down years of subscribtions to precious few articles. We were dry sponges trying to put together a cruising lifestyle puzzle with most pieces missing. Most maddening were the words "routine passage". What the H is a routine passage when you don't have a clue? The relatively few authors who taught and inspired Mary and I gave us a priceless gift we have enjoyed the past 7 years. We feel it is our turn to carry the torch and help others as well. By piggybacking the popularity of the nordhavn.com website we have been able to reach folks to inspire and educate those who wish to join us on the water. Obvously our focus is long distance cruising. We know for different reasons only a relative few will join us crossing oceans. The far majority will be content coastal cruising, power or sail. Please understand coastal cruising can be rewarding as well. Coastal cruising is much easier and costs less. This said, I will give you fair warning. After coastal cruising, more than a few of you will look 'out there' and wonder. And wonder a bit more.....can WE do this? Before we get on with a more normal VofE let me throw a little gas on the fire. Long distance cruising isn't rocket science. It is actually quite easy once you have put in your time coastal cruising and becoming familiar with your boat, weather and so on. Except for a few long stretches most ocean crossings are connect the dots. Weather, that when first coastal cruising may get your big eyed attention becomes a no brainer in no time. Sea miles bring knowledge. With knowledge comes comfort. Bottom line: Our goal writing VofE is trying to give you an accurate picture as can be painted about what long distance powerboat cruising is all about. Reaility cruising if you will, only the salt spray is missing.
We are just one of many, many folks out here. Our opinions and perspectives are our own. A number of other folks out here write as well giving their perspectives. I believe it is healthy to follow as many boats as you have time. Don't discount sail as well. A lot of sailors have tons more experience than the Egret crew. Where your informaiton and inspiration come from doesn't matter. What does matter, if you think this is something you would like to give a go and don't, time WILL march on. Water is your friend, time is not.
Back to American Samoa. The week missing in computer issues was spent in a social whirl. N55 Myah has decided to add New Zealand to his ininterary so split for Tonga at the first good weather window while the rest of us are anchor bound waiting for mail or parts. We haven't gotten our mail since leaving Puerto Montt, Chile last April. (We have told you in the past we lead simple lives. We mean it) In the mail was a check from the US Government for a number of U.S. Pesos. Imagine that? Pesos because we made so little taxable income they felt sorry for us. However, our son got somewhat less and he does quite well. Smacks of buying votes to me, however we are happy with the gift.
There is a secret to our mail we'll pass along. We use St Brendan's Isle mail service. (www.boatmail.net 800 544-2132) For a nominal charge they sort your mail and get rid of all but first class mail along with any magazines you don't want sent overseas. They have a number of other services as well. We have used St Brendan's since we left the dock. They have never let us down.
For the social scene, we were back and forth on boats for dinner, etc. One evening we sponsored a fish fry for 16. This of course means YT gets to fish again!! We also apent a lot of time ashore together, the girls doing girl tings and boys being boys wandering the hardware store isles, fishing shop isles and so on. During our rental car days we toured the island every day. American Samoa is a great place to visit. We met a number of locals during the past week and have learned more about thier life and culture. One thing different here from the rest of Polynesia we have visited so far are the 'guest houses' all along the road. The guest houses are large open areas under roof on a raised platform. Family clans dominate the local culture. Guest houses are gathering places for families to get together. The more prosperous the family, the larger the guest house. Also, a number of homes have a family cemetary in the front yard with two to four graves.
We met an interesting couple the other afternoon while we were having our chocolate milk shake treat with a number of yachties at the local gathering place. An Aussie couple about our age walked in. He had on a Harley shirt that jumped started the conversation. (I asked if they had a BMW) For the past 12 years these two have ridden their Harley in every country in the WORLD (world is not a typo) except for two; Tonga and New Zealand. Amazing!!! They have to know more about customs and immigration than any boater alive. We talked for quite a while but would love to have had them over for dinner to hear the stories. They hope to return to the US after New Zealand, buy a boat of some type and do the Great Circle Route using the Harley to go on side trips. We suggested a small trawler and gave them a Peso figure that fit their budget. Hopefully we'll run into them again before we leave. (We did later. they have over 500,000 kilometers (300,000 miles) on their Harley. They have a website if you are interested. goggle forwood@harley or forwood harley)
Friday we checked out of American Samoa. We visited a maize of offices seeing this person and that but in the end it was painless. The folks were great, particularly after telling them we were leaving on Saturday or Sunday depending on weather. In most places you only get 24 hours to leave after you check out. After, we went to the local hospital to get our malaria pills. American Samoa has some type of socialized medicine for the locals. We paid 10 Pesos to get into the system, including our Canadian buddies on New Paige, then were able to buy malaria pills for a nominal amount. Malaria in Tonga is near non existant but you never know. The pills are cheap insurance. The only downside to the pills is they make you multiple times more suseptable to sunburn so we'll have to be super carefull.
As we left American Samoa waves were stacking up against the coast after their long trek from the SE. It was a little sloppy until we turned the corner at the south end of the island and got away from land influencing waves and tide. New Potatoes is a 34 hour trek to the SW. We had a wonderful, gentle downhill ride all the way. Early this morning we had to turn around and slowly jog back upsea to delar our arrival. As of this moment we have turned around and are approaching the outlying island of Tafahi. Tafahi is a perfect cone rising from the sea with a white cloud covering its summit in the very early daylight. There is a warning in the cruising guide, Ken's Comprehensive Cruising guide for the Kingdom of Tonga about whales this time of year hanging out between Tafahi and New Potatoes. We haven't seen whales since before Easter Island so we are looking forward to seeing more of the giants.
So there you have it. Another island in the wake and another on radar. What will this new island bring? We'll letchano. Ciao.
August 15, 2008
Position: S14 16.35 W170 41.64 Pago Pago Harbor, American Samoa
Well, mis amigos, instead of reeling you in with a couple sea tales then going to commercial we'll just go to a shameless commercial up front. As you know Egret is dear to our hearts. She takes care of us and we of her. When we ordered Egret at the Miami Boat Show, February 2000, we ordered a plain jane boat not knowing any better. Fast forward some months later we found out they were commissioning a new N46 flybridge named Cardio Diversion in Savannah, Georgia. Mary and I took the time to drive up and check it out. What a surprise!! The custom woodwork inside was nothing like what we had ordered and we wanted it. To make a long story short we had the project manager follow us thru the boat with a legal pad and we duplicated most everything Cardio added right down to the separate washer dryer in the hallway, plus custom drawers/closet/berth in the forward stateroom (stbd side). Bottom line: as far as custom woodwork options Egret and Cardio are near duplicates and a far stretch from a stock N46. If we were feelthy rich we would buy her for a spare. We are a bit short unfortunately. So, if we can't buy her for a spare she would make someone else one heck of a sea boat. Ball's in your court mis amigos. Her name now is Sea Once and is in Rhode Island. (Contact Dave Balfour at firstname.lastname@example.org).
We visited the local NOAA site as we mentioned before. After a long rental car caravan (4 cars) to the far side of the island up we went on a private road to the top of the hill and the station. This is one of 4 stations studying ozone depletion and global warming. The others are in the Arctic, Hawaii and Antarctica roughly dividing the earth into 4 bands. The facility tour and outside tour was quite thorough and took a few hours. Bottom line was, the station operator (not a scientist but a technician to keep all the gizmos running) thinks global warming is a combination of cyclical climate change and human induced. He didn't point the finger at the obvious but simply said, "there are too many people".
We spent three days exploring the island by car with the swabs. There is a coastal road around most of the island along with roads that traverse the island here and there. The high roads are like driving thru a miles long nursery. The west coast is spectacular with detached small rock islands with a few palms growing on top. The swabs snapped away with their cameras as did we. One western road in particular was at best 1 1/2 lanes wide and so seldom traveled there was grass growing thru small cracks in the road. Our kinda deal. We drove under canopies of green bordered by reds so brilliant it seemed they were on fire. What we see is very hard to describe in words but there is nothing like it in the continental US or Europe we have seen or seen pictures of. Most of the east coast coastal areas have shallow reefs extending well out to sea. Cut in between the reef are deep areas of brilliant blues. The fishermen set their nets in the deep then walk along side beating the water driving the fish into the net. We saw this in a number of places. Other fishermen were standing in a foot of water fishing literally in front of them in one of the deep cuts in the reef. In the outlying areas the men, even when fishing, wear the traditional skirt.
The Samoans themselves are a deeply religious happy people. When we first arrived we couldn't get used to cars honking at us and waving. Yes, I know we are honkies but what's the deal? There is no deal. These folks are that nice. Kids on the street or when we are driving by in the car smile and wave or say hello. The parents do the same. We nearly got carpel-tunnel driving in the car returning waves. We got tired of smiling at every little happy face. All we wanted to do was get back to the boat and scowl for a while. Another ting that is nice is even though American Samoa is an American possession we haven't seen a single American administrator. The Samoans run their own lives. There are a few wild and crazy ex pats here and there but by and large there are no tourists other than the yachties. AS is a yachtie magnet and the harbor is full. AS is the cheapest place in the entire Pacific for provisioning and buying hard goods. There isn't any import tax or sales tax. We filled a shopping cart at the Cost You Less store, similar to a Costco in the US (and may be owned by Costco seeing the Kirkland brand here and there). Also for us (Americans/Canadians) in particular this is the only easy to get to place in the Pacific other than Hawaii to get 60 cycle appliances.
We'll get more in depth about American Samoa in a future VofE. Right now we are a bit deflated after the swabs left last night. We can't tell you how much we enjoyed having them aboard watching them evolve to the point when they left. From the beginnings when one's parents were aboard to when they left and they were alone with Warden Mary and Capt Bligh. The warden had them making their beds and keeping their room neat. It didn't take long before they found out it was easier to do it than listen to it. When one was asked early on to wash the breakfast dishes he asked "by myself?". And so it went. In the end the routine was down pat, they were cooking their own meals from time to time, washing dishes when it was their turn and they were comfortable enough to rag on Warden and Bligh. I believe their immediate highlights were fishing and meeting other cruisers. As time goes on I believe they will realize what an opportunity this was and how it changed them. Both said they would like to return in their own boats someday. Both were very impressed by the young cruisers out here as well and were comfortable visiting other cruisers' boats by themselves. In the end I believe it will be the cruising lifestyle of the floating, traveling community of like minded folks slowly wandering the globe that impressed them the most. The fish were great as well as the destinations however it is the people, mis amigos, that keep all of us going. Both swabs kept individual logs. In the beginning it was a chore to have them write their experiences of the day. In the end, as soon as we returned to the boat they were in their stateroom writing about that day's adventures. Yes, I'm rambling but I'm trying to pound out this drivel and get it sent to make the weekend torture complete for the dirt dwellers plus deliver a little message. When it is Your Turn and you have an opportunity to change a young person/person's life, take it. Win, win.
So there you have it. A couple more days in The Life of the sad empty nesters. Ciao.
August 12, 2008
Position: S14 16.34 W1170 41.63 Pago Pago Harbor, American Samoa
Well, mis amigos, it is 0632AM local not long after daylight, Friday, 8-8-08. It is raining at the moment and the radar has lit up rain showers over a large area of the 6nm screen. The American Samoan island of Tu'a is in the distance. Earlier this morning on Mary's watch we got within ten miles of land and could see Tu'a lights twinkling in the distance. At night particularly, land is not your friend. The sea is your friend. At times she is naughty but overall Ms Ocean takes good care of you. At the start of YT's watch we turned around and ran back up sea at 975 RPM making just 2.5 knots while jogging offshore waiting for daylight. At 0530 with a hint of daylight in the east we turned around and are heading west once again. The rowdy headseas brought one of the swabs up from below to crash on the salon settee.
Before we continue we'll bring you up to date on our adventure at Rose Island. After anchoring mid day in the central lagoon we received an e-mail from a cruising buddy saying Rose Island is a park of some kind administered from Hawaii. Rats!! However, we did the right thing and left after 5 hours on the hook disturbing nothing and not putting the dinghy over for exploring or fishing. After RF's big tuna we were trying to catch FS a big tuna as well. To position ourselves near the drop off we trolled up sea without a sniff from a tuna fish. Once turned downsea (the natural way to present baits.......baits don't normally attack monster feeding fish from behind.....(would you sneak up on a feeding grizzly bear and kick him in the .....???? I don't think so) fish feed into the current and waves) we had an immediate double, 10 and 12lbs. We released the 10lb but the 12lb was hooked where it wouldn't survive so we kept it. Baits out again, immediate single, 18lbs. Baits out again, immediate double, 26 and 30lbs. We quit fishing then cleaned fish for a while......a long while. The freezer is one block of food with 3 packs of meat in the ice cube tray. The fridge is full to overflowing. There will be some very happy cruisers or local Samoans within a few hours of now when we pass out fresh yellowfin tuna fillets.
It is daylight now. Time to turn up the brilliance on the radar and turn on the lights of the Naiad Multi Sea II display. We'll leave the running lights on because of the rain showers. The heavy hand towels will come off the navigation laptop screens, coffee is ready, life is good. Salon swab is up checking tings out. What will today bring? We'll see.
Later......today brought more wind and an empty anchorage. The 'Samoan village' where we had hoped to give away our fillets and meet the folks was just a couple largish buildings and a few modern homes. On we went running for Pago Pago, American Samoa. (Pago Pago is pronounced Pango Pango) Trying to make the harbor before dark we pushed up the throttle to a fuel guzzling (gasp!) 2.2 GPH. We didn't make it. Not only that, C-Map AND Map Media charting was a fairy tale. The charting was about 200 yards off to port putting the boat on the rocks. Well, we aren't stuupeed so by using radar, binoculars, local buoys, and the brightly lit range markers in we went without issue. Roger on N55 New Paige gave us a VHF harbor layout as well as telling us about the inaccurate charting so nothing was a surprise. We first tried to anchor in the logical spot in 35' near the tuna processing plant. A sailboater came on the VHF and said the bottom was foul so we moved and dropped in 69' with a steep uphill ridge behind the anchor. Of course all this was in the blowing rain. MS got soaked on the foredeck. YT got a bit as well in the flybridge.
The rum n coke came out to celebrate. The swabs were allowed to get their fruit juice out of the fridge. We put a moratorium on opening the freezer or fridge to preserve the fish until we can give it away. After opening up the boat we found the cruising guide was spot on about the tuna processing plant stinking. Geesh!! We may look to moving across the harbor after checking in if we can find space. New Paige Roger has volunteered to make the check in rounds with us in the morning. The swabs will be flying out on the 14th. We'll explore here and putz in the meantime. This is the first time since May 2004, except for our 3 week trips back to the States, we can freely spend U.S. Pesos as the local currency. We'll leave a few Pesos here, particularly if we can find a Yamaha dealer to buy an 8hp outboard to replace the one we lost in Easter Island. We are getting ahead of ourselves so we'll wait and see.
Sat AM. NP Roger, the swabs and I headed to Customs, Port Captain, etc to start the check in process and NP Joan and MS were off grocery shopping for fresh goodies and junk food for the swabs. (The poor dears actually had to eat healthy food for the past 6 weeks) Three forms filled out later we were good to go except for a Monday visit to Immigration. The boys putzed waiting in a coffee shop while the girls shopped til they dropped. I asked the swabs what they wanted to eat in the coffee shop. One chose a coke and brownie, the other a root beer float and brownie. The dears were sugar starved. After shopping we now have such delicacies as Aunt Jemima original pancake syrup and the like. We can barely remember AJ'sOPS on our pancakes instead of Chilean or Argentine jam.
Later the swabs went over to Grace, the South African catamaran to help with their computer problems. We left them with a handheld VHF to call us when they wanted to come back. They didn't call. They were having to much fun with the Grace kids.
Sat PM. MS and I made the rounds giving tuna fillets to the sailboat crowd. Talk about a bunch of happy campers!! Saturday evening the N fleet came over for grilled tuna and the rest. Sat was one of the swab's birthday so NP (New Paige) Kim baked a delicious chocolate cake. Kim took a piece of cake before it disappeared and added enough extra icing to guarantee diabetes for birthday boy's breakfast.
Sunday was putzing and visiting other boats and a walk to town for a Samoan size ice cream.
Monday was final check in with Immigration and getting set up with wifi. NP Roger led the Egret crew thru the maze of offices to make all this happen. We in turn saw the Swedish boat Roxy heading for Immigration so gave them the heads up on the direct route to the proper office. Later in the day we checked on getting fuel and the only open fuel slot in our time frame was today. (you have to reserve your time on the fuel dock) Great. So after brunch with Grace and NP off we went with the rest of the N fleet for fuel. Egret took on 521 U.S. gallons at $4.89 USP per gallon. This price is similar to the 'old' duty free price we received in Papeete. It is funny how your values change with the times. When we left on the NAR (May 2004) we paid $1.26 a gallon from a fuel truck delivery behind a friend's house. We last paid $1.18 so felt we got robbed. My how tings change. Now we are happy with sub $5 fuel these days. Only by the good fortune of our range can we avoid the extreme pricing here and there. Our sailboat buddies with their small tanks are getting killed in no wind situations (where they have to motor) on arrival at destinations with hyper fuel prices.
Tomorrow is a tour to the NOAA station at the top of the mountain overlooking Pago Pago harbor. A friend of a friend whose husband works at the station is leading the tour. So there you have it. A few more days in The Life. Again, please take the time to read the missing VofE's to get the picture. The whole picture. Ciao.
August 8, 2008
Position: S14 32.51 W168 09.09 Rose Island, American Samoa (5 hours only)
Well, mis amigos, Egret is at sea once again. OMNI Bob gave us a great departure forecast so off we went. We would liked to have spent a few more days exploring Suworrow Atoll but we couldn't pass up the easy downhill ride we have now. We made the rounds in the dink saying our goodbyes Monday evening then loaded the dink and prepared for sea. Everything was in place, electronics were humming, the engine warming when we went to pull TK from among the boomies (small coral heads) just after daybreak Tuesday. YT hit the windlass switch and there was a THUNK and nothing more. Then another thunk. So off went the main and out came the tools. I thought we had sheared the key on the chain wheel. Apart came the capstan, chain wheel, etc and everything was fine. Up came the anchor locker hatch to take a peek and there was a clue. The entire motor and lower gear case was hanging by the battery cables. Grande clue why the windlass didn't play. Previously we had a very slow oil drip from the windlass so we had put a heavy plastic shopping bag under the assembly to keep oil from getting on the chain. Smart move because that bag caught 3 of 4 mounting bolts and all the spilled gear case oil. A half an hour later the motor and gearbox were back in position full of fresh oil and ready to go.
If you remember last VofE our double dumb lazy attack by not retrieving the chain and putting our chafe guard back in place caused the snubber to chafe and part. The chain was grinding on rock then telegraphing vibrations up to the bow roller into the forward part of the boat. Apparently this loosened the screws to the point they literally fell out. (Perhaps they were already a bit loose and this finished them off.)
So we finally got to leave, said our goodbyes on the VHF and off we went. We soon caught sailing catamaran Grace who had left before us in the light wind. She was struggling to keep both sails filled. Interestingly Grace's windlass has broken a piece and didn't work at all. It took their entire family of 5 to raise their anchor. Grace is headed to Pago Pago, American Samoa as well to receive windlass parts being shipped in. We chatted with Grace on the VHF for a while then the swabs put the baits out and we were now in open sea.
Egret loves being at sea. She is slow but steady. We had the pilothouse doors and salon door open. The baits were gurgling out back. We had fresh coffee. The swabs had their fruit drinks. If there is a plus being anchored in a chop with constant motion it put to rest any motion sickness the swabs had. Their forward stateroom has more motion than ours (midship) so by now they are good to go. It didn't take long for the right rigger (outrigger) to go off. I was on watch and heard the reel screech then go silent. FS (fisher swab) was yelling "fish on" but because I didn't hear the line ripping out I kept going trying to double (catch 2 at once) thinking it was a small fish. Wrong!! The clicker had popped off and the fish was pulling LOTS of drag. By the time we got slowed and paid attention 2/3 of the 80lb test line was gone. So Mr Fish was charging around WAY out there. In the end the hooks pulled. From the way it fought and thrashed on the surface we believe it was a very large dolphin (mahi mahi). A couple hours later the left rigger went off with a 2-300lb marlin giving it a go but shortly after snapping the hooks pulled. So we were O Fer for the day. O for 2.
Tuesday night and early Wed am have been the same if not more gentle following seas and little wind. Our kind of cruising. The day is juuust starting to lighten beginning a new day. What will today bring? We'll see.
Early the next morning (Thur). The day brought more great weather, a spectacular but brief sunset and no fish. Another thing yesterday brought was time spent reading one of our cruising guides. We were looking at alternative stops before American Samoa taking advantage of the great weather and zoomed on a little speck of an atoll off the beaten path. Rose Island is a small, 2 motu atoll with a pass to the north (protected side). C-Map charting is reasonable so we changed course during the day. We arrive around 8:00AM this morning. After we look at the pass we'll troll around the island a bit and see if we can find a few snappers before we enter the pass. Another guide had strict ciguetera warnings about Pacific Islands in general and specifically mentioned American Samoa. We did tell one of the swabs we would keep 1 grouper and cook it. He could try it and if his lips didn't go numb after 6 hours we were good to go. He didn't buy in so we won't keep any grouper or snapper we may catch inside the lagoon. For you Google Earth fans, central lagoon is S14 32.80 W168 09.14 This is true South Pacific exploring. We have never read or heard of anyone going to this atoll. The guide did say there was an American expedition in the 1920s to study the pink coral and bird life.
Before we fire this VofE into space we'll give you our first impressions of Rose Island. Because Egret's travels take us further and further west, time zones between US East coast (where VofE gets sent) and Egret, are getting later and later in the business day. While at sea we try to send VofE logs to be posted before the weekend so you dirt dwellers may torture yourselves on your time off dreaming of far off places then send the next on Monday to interrupt your work week. Our goal is you may eventually crack, buy yourself a little white fiberglass ship and come join us ending the pain and seeing first hand what this is all about. I promise it is the Real Deal.
Rose island appeared on radar just before daylight. Fisher swab asked to be gotten up at daylight so he got his wish. He was a bit slow getting up and was probably regretting his evening enthusiasm. Closing on the speck of land we saw birds swooping and diving. Shortly after the right rigger went off and produced a nice fat 18lb yellowfin tuna. Just a bit later the right rigger went off again producing a 16lb yellowfin. This action got up RF for the next hit and he was rewarded by a head fish. Or should we say a fish head. What used to be a 25lb tuna ended up breakfast for an appreciative shark. We completely circled the island with nary a sniff until we got back near the first action. Tings changed. There was a HUGE explosion and a large yellowfin skyrocked out of the water with RF's left rigger bait in his mouth. By now we have the drill down pat for larger fish. I head for the flybridge and put the boat into a wide turn, in this case to stbd - the side of the rod, and kept the line about 80 degrees off the transom increasing speed to well above idle. We slowly close the circles judging by the line out of the water. We literally screw the fish to the surface. Tuna dive deep and extend their oversize pectoral fins like diving planes but are happy to be gently planed up with the line drag, not the rod, keeping constant tension. If we dead boated the fish it would be over an hour deal instead of half the time. Slowly RF regained line. As the line was nearly up and down I could see the flash of the fish down deep and knew it was a whopper. Fisher swab expertly ran the cockpit having RF back up with the rod with the drag loosened in case the fish made a last dash, Mary got gloves for fisher swab then helped pull in the long leader and held it while FS gaffed the grande tuna. After filleting we weighed the three large pieces (2 fillets + head, backbone & tail) with a tournament certified scale. 52lbs (23.6kg) of beautiful, tough yellowfin tuna. Yup, the freezer is stuffed and the fridge has fresh fillets for tonight's dinner. Picture 1.
Now for the downside. While underway we sent a blanket e-mail to friends back in Suworrow encouraging them to stop by as well along with sending the same message to N55 New Paige, a day ahead. New Paige sent back an e-mail saying Rose Island is a park of some kind and we need permission to visit. We don't have permission. We have anchored in the central lagoon for 5 hours before leaving on an overnighter to Ta'u Island. We anchored over 1/2 mile away from the main island and did not launch the dink as we planned. Ta'u island is a small American Samoan island about 75nm from Pago Pago, AS. We'll spend some time there before heading to PP.
So here we sit pounding out this drivel watching the stuuped boobies landing on the forestay connecting the top of Egret's mast and the bow pulpit. They sit in the breeze doing the Bo Jangles trying to balance on a piece of 5/16th stainless steel wire. From the time they land until flying off they try biting the wire they are sitting on. First one side of their feet then the other, then the other, tto, tto, you get picture. Dumb and dumber.
Recently we received some interesting Forum requests. One is about fuel availability during our travels and the second about traveling with kids. The replies have been posted. Picture 2 is for boat kids. Yup, those are diapers flying from this 30ish couples lines. The picture was taken as we were leaving Suworrow Atoll. Pelagic's decision to travel with kids is obvious. Pelagic is a quality smaller sailboat (Crealock 37) from Kodiak, Alaska. Their dink is a nesting (one half fits inside the other on deck), rowing dinghy. On their way to the dock the wee one looks like a small orange pumpkin in her life jacket and floppy hat sitting between mom and dad. Picture 2.
So there you have it, a couple more days in The Life. Exciting, eh? Cia
August 4, 2008
Position: S13 14.90 W163 06.71 Suworrow (Suvorov) Atoll, Cook Islands (Northern Group)
Well, mis amigos, it is just after daybreak here at our island prison. This place just won't let us leave and we have decided to go back to work. Yup, work for pay. The other morning I was up early to run the generator and charge the rapidly deteriorating batteries. The sun was just coming up in a beautiful burst of orange and light shafts over Southern Cross, an American wood ketch. So with the sunrise, shadowed ketch and palm trees outlined by the light we snapped a few pictures. They turned out great so we made a CD copy and gave it to SC. The admiral from Grace, a large South African sailing catamaran with the pile of kids, heard me talking to SC and offered to bake a chocolate cake for pictures of their boat. Well, mis amigos, for a chocolate cake in the middle of nowhere we have reversed our decision to never work again and have gone back to work. So here we sit after taking some good pictures, but not great, of Grace early this morning. (there were no clouds to highlight the sun). There was however a pretty blue shaft of light ending up on Grace separating the pink morning sky so there may be something there. This project may take a few days.
SV Grace is an interesting story. Youngish parents with 3 children ranging from 6 to 12 sold their business in Johannesburg, South Africa, flew to Ft Lauderdale and bought a 10 year old sailing catamaran. NEVER having sailed or been to sea they hired a captain and set off for Panama. Learning from the captain as they went they dropped the captain in Panama and here they are. They plan to be out for 2 years, sell the boat and move to Durban, a smaller seaside town, and start another business. The kids are home schooled each morning until around noon then are free to join the other yachtie kids or the caretakers kids on the beach. Our kind of intrepid folks and quite an adventure for the kids. As for kids to play with, Momo, an American sloop anchored in front of Egret has two children 3 and 6. Southern Cross has adopted a 9 year old boy from Kiribati (formerly the Gilbert Islands, an island group in the western Pacific) and Suworrow caretakers John and Veronica have 4 boys from 6 (twins) to 12.
Yesterday we received an e-mail from a parent of one of the swabs. They must have been at work without access to Egret's personal satellite e-mail address so fired off a tear soaked message about missing their son using the VofE Forum venue. (the Forum is where a reader may ask cruising questions then we respond with a personal reply thru the Forum) Not to clutter the Forum with sobbing parents anguish we'll include our reply here.
XXXX, XXXX is now our adopted son. We are enjoying him thoroughly. He has decided to stay with us until New Zealand where his girl friend will get off as well. (ed note: XXXX is 17 and still in high school) This will also give his new tattoo a chance to heal. He is pretty sore right now and has to stay out of the sun. He had a close call the other day snorkeling with a bunch of small sharks. They became aggressive when he shot a parrot fish with his speargun.
Now we are getting ready to go ashore, XXXX is covered from head to toe in clothes as well as Falani taking care of the new tattoos. She is really sweet and helps Mary around the boat. You'll enjoy meeting her. Poor XXXX now has to sleep in the salon.
So XXXX is having the time of his life enjoying new pleasures. Take care, Scott & Mary
So there you have it. Every parent's nightmare. Oh well.
Later. We've been busy, busy, busy with social tings. Friday most of the anchorage dinks were in a flotilla led by Caretaker John (CJ) and his family to a couple nearby motus with nesting birds. We stopped by ourselves first at an island that has a lot of nesting frigate birds (Man O War Birds) with frigates holding stationary in the breeze over the island. We wanted good pictures of a frigate bird, something that is hard to get. We were patient and waited. When the birds got used to us standing stationary they resumed their vigil over the low island and we snapped away. One thing we have noticed since taking up photography is sea birds can rotate their eyes in every direction including down and back. We use the zoom on the Picasa2 editing program (free download from Google) to see just that. When editing the frigate pictures we stumbled onto a phenomenon we have never seen before. Not only do the frigate eyes rotate but they have a black accordion type membrane that extends the eyeball out away and down from the head. Amazing!! We were telling friends last night at the pot luck dinner (more on that later) and they probably thought we were a little heavy into the white. Nope. We have zoomed 150% on one picture and have it ready when they come this morning for coffee and cake.
OK, back to the bird island story. Sorry, got distracted with our discovery. After the frigate shots we motored to the island with the other cruisers. This island was covered top to bottom with sooty terns, white terns, a few frigate birds and boobies. The sooty terns would hover stationary in the wind just over your head. It would seem simple to take full frame pictures with birds so close but it isn't easy. The camera takes a bit of time to focus then the bird moves. Again patience pays and in the end we did well. We have mentioned before there are quite few kids in the anchorage, one still in diapers. Boat kids are attracted to each other like magnets and here at bird island they were as thick as the terns running back and forth looking at the birds just over their heads and all shouting to be heard. Great fun for the older folks as well as we got together in groups and had our picnic lunch.
This get together inspired a pot luck dinner on the beach the next afternoon (Sat). CJ asked the swabs and I if we would provide fish for the pot luck. After piling his fillet table with grouper and snapper we felt a bit guilty about fishing so have laid off. The swabs were thrilled, so near dark we left on our fishin' mission. It was rough, it rained hard then the sharks moved in so we had to quit. The tally was 1 nice snapper and 3 grouper. Soooo, we cleaned fish in the pouring rain then fed the sharks the leftovers on the other side of the island. We returned to Egret after dark. Saturday morning at daybreak we left to complete our mission to furnish the now 16 boats in the anchorage along with CaretakerJohn and his family. We had shark problems but in the end had 3 nice grouper including our trips largest caught by FS (fisher swab).
A couple days before we had given Caretaker John a few fishing lures. When we first arrived and were asking fishing advice he mentioned a lure he named Alfonso after the cruiser who left a diving, swimming lure for him to use but eventually lost it. We wrote on the bottom of each swimming lure the swabs' names, Mark and Eric, and on the two spoons, Scott and Mary. Like a kid with a new toy off went CJ and his boys before daybreak to his favorite fishing spot around the corner. They came back with 4 fat grouper so there was plenty for all.
The potluck was a typical cruiser potluck dinner with to much food, a lot of conversation and fun for everyone. The older kids played football (soccer), the wee ones splashed in the water and CJ's kids were climbing coconut trees like they had steps to send down coconuts for everyone to enjoy fresh coconut milk. Even his youngest (6) could open a coconut with a machete in just a couple strokes. Next they would split a coconut into two halves and use a purpose cut chip as a spoon to scrape out the meat. The dinner went on into well after dark. CJ brought out a light to keep tings going.
Mary overheard one of the swabs telling another cruiser he doesn't want to leave here. We have heard that from both swabs now. It is interesting to watch the dynamics of these two young guys thrown into an unfamiliar environment (living aboard a boat moving from anchorage to anchorage) change as they become more comfortable with the routine. I believe they feel part of the crew now and cruisiers being cruisiers accept them as part of the crew as well. A number of the boats were anchored with us here and there along the way and have gotten to know the swabs names making them even more comfortable and accepted.
The South African catamaran delivered their chocolate cake in exchange for pictures. (They were thrilled with the pictures and said they were going to blow them up and put them on the walls of their new house to be) Stewart drove the dinghy over balancing the cake in one hand and steered with the other thru the chop. Another potential olympic event. The swabs were starving yesterday afternoon (what else is new?) when the cake arrived. Warden Mary held firm and told them (with tears welling in their eyes) we were saving the cake for tomorrow morning (today) when friends were coming over for coffee and cake.
We had a little excitement this morning (Sun). We kept hearing the anchor chain rubbing on coral, something we haven't experienced before. I got up to investigate around 4:00AM. For the first time in our cruising we had chafed thru our anchor snubber. When we initially set the anchor, the fire hose chafe guard on the snubber slipped over the bow roller but it was super calm, had been calm so we unwisely let it go rather than retrieving the chain a few feet and reattaching the snubber and chafe guard properly. Double dumb lazy attack. The winds of the past week and all the associated pitching took its toll. Fortunately as a precaution Mary attached our 'at sea' snubber just before the windlass as well as flipping the chain wheel lock on the windlass. (Egret doesn't have a chain stopper and should.) The chain was now hard onto the bow roller so the grinding noise was transferring up the chain, thru the roller to the hull instead of the snubber taking the shock and eliminating the noise. After daylight we started the main and moved forward a bit releasing the tension on the two additional snubber we attached early in the morning. We let our replacement snubber out its normal 20' past the bow roller then Mary centered the fire hose chafe guard and cleated it off. We then added a second precautionary long snubber as well AND reattached the at sea snubber.
There is a little trick to cleating lines/snubbers we'll pass along. This works well for docklines as well in high winds. We take two complete wraps on the base of the cleat before finishing the usual figure 8 tie off. The reason is in high winds where there is a lot of stress on the line if you have the normal one turn around the base then the figure 8, releasing the figure 8 with that much tension is difficult if not impossible at times. Our main anchor snubbers are 5/8" X 30' (16mm X 9m) with 4-5' of fire hose 20' from the forged stainless steel chain hook. Our at sea snubber is 5/8" X 8'. At sea we attach a short snubber and cleat it off as a precaution to the anchor becoming loose in heavy picturing. With the short unused tail end any water coming on deck won't wash the balance of the usual snubber line out the scupper.
Later Sunday. Two more boats arrived today and both were happy to get here after the lumpy seas of the past week. One is Swiss and the other French. The Swiss boat we have seen here and there but not the French.
It is time to start thinking about leaving on the 3 1/2 day trip to Pago Pago, American Samoa. The swabs have a return flight to the States the evening of August 14th. We don't want to be trapped by weather here and have to leave in conditions we would prefer not to leave. We'll look for an optimum weather window of 20 or less knots (sustained) from the SE (normal trade winds). Our course to American Samoa is WSW puting the trade wind seas on the port stern quarter giving us a push but a corkscrew ride as well. If we are lucky the winds will be a little more E than SE. Of course our dream seas would be NE but I doubt we could be so lucky. Bottom line is we will fire off an e-mail to OMNI Bob and check the gribs as well.
So there you have it. A couple more days in The Life. Ciao.
August 1, 2008
Position: S13 14.90 W163 06.71 Suworrow (Suvorov) Atoll, Cook Islands (Northern Group) (Suvorov is the name of the Russian expedition ship that discovered the atoll and the name they gave the atoll. It has since been renamed Suworrow by the Cook Islanders)
Well, mis amigos, Life on the hook has taken its routine of meals, boat chores, walks ashore and dinghy exploring. The friends who visited Egret in Papeete thru Bora Bora sent an e-mail saying he was back at work and busy. So we sent a return e-mail saying we were so busy we were multi tasking earlier...burning garbage and walking on the beach while it burned. I'm sure that shot an arrow deep into his gonnabecruising heart. Tough crowd here folks. The other day an over the hill two-masted antique sailing ship wallowed their way into the anchorage. I'ts probably 150' long with two towering square rigged masts, a longish bowsirit and place for a probable third mast. We met the passengers later on the beach and to a person they were having a great time and very thrilled to be here. One older German guest had been with her for two months and was gushing at all they saw. Of course I felt it my duty to ask why didn't he go back home, buy a boat and do this full time. It doesn't take many Euros these days of US Peso economy to fly to the States and buy a really great trawler or sailboat and set off. It isn't to be in his case but you could tell it was in his heart. Along with AS (antique ship) in rolled the local Cook Island catamaran supply ship loaded to overflowing with tings and a few paying passengers. She is around 65' long and VERY stern heavy.
Tuesday morning I got up to start the generator and looked offshore to see if there were any new boats laying off until good light to enter the pass. Way in the distance was a shape with NO sails. Yup, N55 Myah and about 4 miles behind, N55 New Paige. As we type this drivel Myah is almost directly in front of Egret and New Paige is off to the stbd side. After chatting a bit on the VHF both boats went quiet with the crews taking a nap after their 5 day trip from Bora Bora. Mark on Myah had to be particularly tired being a single hander on this leg of his trip to Australia via New Zealand. Both boats had a nice wind push on their way here.
We have been having steady trade winds from the SE since we have been here. The past two days the winds have been particularly breezy staying steady between 17-20 knots. (later....steady to mid 20's) One sailor ashore called them reinforced trade winds instead of the normal 10-15 knots. On Egret's trip here we had the reverse, winds under 10 knots. The anchorage is choppy and trips ashore a bit wet at times when the wind is puffing at its higher limits. Approaching the wharf, particularly at low tide, is a trip these days. Since the CIB (dinghy) rolled over in Bora Bora it has a miss at idle, more like a pop, that stalls the engine. Above idle it runs like it always did. We have cleaned the carburetor a second time (perfect), and changed plugs as well with no change. A trip ashore means; chopping the throttle far enough offshore to drift in case the engine stalls (most likely), raise the engine and flip down the wedge to keep the engine raised while running, shifting weight (crew) forward to raise the prop, then charge the dock weaving in and out of boomies (coral heads are called boomies because when you hit them you go BOOM!!) Arriving on anything but dead high tide (rarely) we get out before the coral dock and wade in, tilt the engine up and let out the bow line to float the dink in the deepest water between the boomies. The wind holds the dink in place.
Last night it was dinner aboard New Paige with Myah Mark and the swabs. If you remember from Papeete, New Paige has Captain Roger, Admiral Joan and First Mate (and home schooled) Kimberly, 10. We were invited to a swordfish dinner, probably RF's swordfish. Later...... Welllll, Capt Roger is Canadian coming from the frozen wastelands of interior Canada, not exactly an area to become a salt water fishing expert. It turns out, particularly after Roger's description and the pictures, our swordfish wasn't a swordfish after all but a short billed spearfish. Yup, the rarest billfish of all. So, we ate the nautical equivalent of Bambi, Snow Leopard, Panda, etc. Yes it was good, just like Bambi would be. Supermodel Kimberly was thrilled to find out we had extra copies of Circumnavigator III Magazine delivered by our buddies in Papeete. Kimberly was featured in a big spread on page 170. Returning home and jumping from New Paige's bucking bronco dinghy onto an active Egret swim platform should be the next event included in the Olympics. It was a good evening.
Another day begins. Early this morning there was a VHF call from a pretty dark blue American sloop, Iris, asking for information to enter Suworrow's pass. Iris John is the cruiser who helped us on Le Truck (local bus) when we first arrived in Papeete. This time it was our turn to help.
Later Wed AM with Iris securely anchored we went ashore for photos and exploring. We met some American folks traveling on the local Cook Island supply ship. They are having the trip from hell. The catamaran wallows miserably because of so much high weight on the boat deck. It is roach ridden and filthy according to a 4 folks we met on the beach. They showed us their dirty clothes as proof. The 5th folk has food poisoning and is still aboard. They have NO food except rice. They said the three guys running the boat are nice guys, it is how they live. The fridge has soft drinks for the crew and a supply of chilled roaches. One passenger, a retired US Navy captain, has been fishing and supplying their only meat. They all are going to jump ship when they reach American Samoa, a 3 day run. We offered canned meat, veggies and fruit they could smuggle to their staterooms but they declined.
Mary, the swabs, the New Paige crew and folks from a South African sailing catamaran complete with a pile of kids took a long walk out onto the reef at low tide. We are on moon tides now and the water recedes quite a lot exposing much of the shallow reef. They saw a number of critters including a coconut crab, baby giant clams, tropical fish trapped by the tide, birds, shells and all kind of coral tings. We'll repeat the trip tomorrow together (Mary & swabs). Another photo fest.
Speaking of photo's, there is a fairly new set of photos posted on the VofE website we didn't mention. I'm not sure when they were posted but I believe it was around the end of June. There will be a new set returning with the swabs on their return in a couple weeks. The pictures (Tahiti, Moorea, etc on to American Samoa) will be posted shortly after. We are still learning this new camera so the quality should improve incrementally. Today we got some great shots, reduced to 4, of the three Nords anchored in Suworrow. Tomorrow we'll try to do better if the sun will cooperate a bit more. Last year there were 3 Nords visiting Suworrow at different times. The fact there are 3 here at once is amazing. We are not traveling together but moving in the same direction as weather allows and eventually will end up in New Zealand. This said, there are also a group of sailboats on the same path and are with us now, have been here and gone or are coming. We are the class of 08 folks.
Today's (Thur) low tide hike to a small motu with nesting birds was a lot of fun with 5 boats worth of folks and a pile of kids. The exposed or just underwater reef was the prettiest we have seen. The different colors of corals in many different shapes, sea critters, small tropical fish and so on went on and on as we walked down the reef toward the nesting site. The nests included nearly fully grown frigate bird chicks as well as tropic bird chicks. I imagine in a matter of weeks these now big kids will be flying. The camera was busy.
Tomorrow (Fri) we are getting with John the caretaker for a dinghy trip with 4-5 boat loads to a larger island that has nesting birds. I particularly would like to get a good picture of a frigate in flight. There are not a lot of these birds and seldom do you get a chance to take anything but a long distance shot. From what we have seen so far, frigate birds are the local pirates working in pairs to steal fish from a tern that has just caught one. The frigates swoop from high and intimidate the tern into dropping their fish. The frigates pick the fish up in the air before it hits the water. When we used to fish in the Florida Keys we would follow frigate birds for miles. They are the best fishermen around. When they would swoop low you were guaranteed there were fish under them.
So there you have it. Sea stories from a deserted island in the middle of the Pacific. We had three more boats arrive today Swedish, South African and German, plus one more arriving tomorrow (Swedish). With the caretaker, his wife and family of five boys, and now 13 boats in the anchorage this place is turning into a small city. One big happy family mis amigos. Ciao.