2007 Captain's Log
Captain's Log #29
Well, at least for 2007.
We are at the ½ way point on the 1000 mile dreaded passage from Tonga to New Zealand. I say dreaded because since we left Florida I have thought this could be the worse passage of all. Our previous motoring has been along the equator, it can get bumpy, alright it can get rough; but not scary rough. As one gets further from the equator, the chance for bad weather increases. NZ is at 37* south and the term roaring 40’s (referring to 40* south) was named that for a reason. So far so good, still 3 days to go and forecast looks promising???? We will put “Special Blend” on dry ground for some needed TLC over the next few months while I go back to the salt mines.
Thank you for your support, we have had over 20,000 hits on our website, and e-mails “make our day”. Thank you for also taking the time to read my ramblings about pangas, turtles, guavas, fish, people, skirts, and crew. I hope you enjoyed my “alternative takes”.
If all goes well, we will resume our explorations in may/june of 08. On the schedule is Fiji, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, and remote possibility of Japan; but don’t tell Martha yet!
Don’t go away, Martha and crew have lots of pictures and posting to come.
Captain's Log #28
In order to insure a safe and uneventful trip it is important that each crew member go through a rigorous and comprehensive training program. A knowledgeable and trained crew is a happy crew, if not happy at least less of pain in the butt.
The griffins, mike and lauri came to us uptight and totally without the cruising mentality, a virtual opportunity to mold them into perfect team.
But first as in all team building you must tear down old preconceptions and values so that one has a clean slate on which new ideas and team values can be learned.
No lauri, 30 minute showers are not allowed, we have to make our own water and it is valuable, in fact cold rinse showers more then every 3 days is bad form. Salt on the body is a good thing.
No mike lights are to be kept off so that we can conserve batteries, batteries????
Laurie, when at anchor we cannot run air conditioner 24/7 like a hotel, even if members of crew are having hot flashes.
Yes I know its rough and yes the stabilizers are on and working, but its not like a magic carpet ride.
Please lauri, we don’t even know anyone that’s been eaten by a shark.
Yes, mike we have to go through this bureaucratic BS at every port.
Yes, eating out is most always like this, and yes I realize you didn,t get what you ordered.
Yes, when you tied to a dock, most of time the town does comes down and stare at you all evening.
And mike please don’t refer to children as those “little bastards”.
But in only a week lauri has become a snorkeler exordinar, I have to call her back towards the dink, she just wonders off looking at the little fishes and things.
Mike had one of the biggest grins and loud laughs as he passed out candy to children, his grouchy manner didn’t fool them a bit, lauri tried to adopt one little girl.
Mike has put away stomach medicine and pain pills for his knee, he and laurie have been sleeping 9 to 10 hours a night and claim best sleep they have had in years.
So in another week I think they will truly become “trained” to enjoy the islands.
Captain's Log #27
Here it is!!!!
- Put away your orange diving life vest, Mexico is out.
- Don’t need to pay a Belizean guide to snorkel with you.
- No guilt for having something to eat, unlike most of the poor souls in Roatan. They have also eaten everything alive on their reefs
- No need to dodge container ships and kiss Panamanian ass because they are the only folks with a canal.
- No standing in line to see Blue Footed Boobies do their dance and don’t have to deal with yellow panga taxies/guides. No trips to see the Galapagos World’s largest gopher turtle, in the kind of a natural like cage.
- Don’t have to deal with the French Bureaucrats.
- No parts and repairs to make at French Polynesia prices that are least twice USA prices.
- You do have to go to American Samoa and anchor next to the Star Kist tuna packing plant.
- You do miss the Tuamatus and the wonderful people and water.
- You do miss Suarrow, the little atoll in the middle of the ocean.
- No need to spend 8 months slowly moving westward at 6 knots.
Just hop a plane to Vava’u, Tonga and rent a boat from the Moorings and you can be enjoying the good stuff 24 hours after leaving home.
The Kingdom of Tonga (Yes they have a real king) has not been discovered by the jet setters and tourist crowd. They feel lucky 500 boaters arrive each year to hang out, enjoy the scenery, diving, people, and swimming with the whales. Tonga is one of two places in the world where swiming with whales can legally take place. I was told by the owner of the "perfect resort" (more later), that 8000 visitors arrive each year in Tonga. Each visitor is welcomed by everyone, unlike Mexico where one ship can disgorge almost that many per day.
Vava’u’s perfect harbor has three or four bars/restaurants that are right out a dream about the South Pacific. The beer is cold and the food is barely edible (can’t have everything), and the people are great. One bar owner said I could come watch TV on Sunday, he would leave word with the watchman, “just bang on the door and he will let you in”.
Tongan Feast, prepared by a village. No chefs, the local ladies prepared food; no professional dancers, the children of some of the workers had quite a show; no Polynesian like structure, just good food served under a tin roof shed at reasonable prices at the local beach.
50 anchorages within 10 miles of harbor, some with small restaurants, some with many boats, some small deserted islands with room for only one boat, some with small villages to visit. Most with beaches, all with more reefs within dingy ride then you will find in all the Florida Keys. You want it? It’s within 1 hour by slow boat.
Martha and I had dinner tonight on a private island. We are on the only mooring ball in front of the "perfect resort". The 4 guest cottages are scattered about an island that has no dock, you must wade ashore. The resort has a open covered deck for dining, drinking, and sitting; a 5 stool bar inside, and a reading room for 6.
So you can bypass the boat rental and go straight to Mounu resort and leave it up to Allen, Lyn and their daughter Christy, and the food was the best I’ve had, by far, here in Tonga. But don’t come next week, there will be 50 fit young women competing for the world championship Kite boarding championship. Certainly a place to avoid, all the congestion, loud music at night; just won’t be the same.
Captain's Log #26
Niutoputapu known as new potatoes by boaters. Written up in guide books as a place seldom visited by boaters, and the most friendly and “traditional” island in Tonga. Sounds great, just type of place we wish to visit.
When we arrive we are immediately invited to a pig roast, we know we should check in first, but its after 5 pm and officials are off duty and it’s a very small village and island, so off to pig roast we go. Martha and I walking along speaking to villagers and passing out candy to kids, kind of like pied pipers with a bunch kids around. Then a woman came down a path screaming and pointing at us to “go back, go to boat. NOW”!!! That was Betsy, customs inspector, who lived in house next to the “pig/chicken/horse roast”. We now have record for fastest to be thrown off an island.
The next morning we made amends with “special blend” T shirts to all the officials and were immediately forgiven our trespasses, they were still wearing them when we left 6 days later. They did shake us down for cigarettes and were disappointed when we had none.
We soon realized that was the theme of the island, everyone we met asked for cigarettes, when you had none they really had nothing else to say to you. It seems they weave stuff and have income for necessities, but not for factory made cigarettes. The whole island is consumed by the shaking down of yachts for cigarettes. If a rumor gets out that so and so boat has cigarettes, all the islanders that have boats come out to offer you anything; including their first born as trade for cigarettes. These same people seem to have no interest in providing any services or goods for money, its like cigarettes are money and printed money is only paper.
The reefs are dead and fished out.
Except for a few villagers that try to control yacht activities so they can profit from any transaction of cigarettes, the people seem to prefer to be left to their weaving. As soon as weather allowed, we did.
Captain's Log #25
We have traveled through 6 time zones since leaving home, keeping track of time is a major issue. We have a clock on florida time, a clock on local time, or a least the time that all our boater friends agree on, and a clock on UTC time. UTC is like where it all starts and is constant, we use it for communications on ssb when everyone scatters across time zones. The world is 360 degrees around so every 15 degrees the hour should change, but of course nothing is easy, these little island nations pick a time of convenience for their island group. Sometime they move up or down a Half an hour just to confuse travelers. Time is a constant topic of discussion and speculation.
Today just blew it all away; Monday noon we left Samoa, it was an overnighter to Tonga, 29 hours travel time, We arrived the next afternoon in Tonga, it was WEDNESDAY. What happened to Tuesday? I had planned on trolling on Tuesday; try to pick up a dolphin for a cookout, now no dolphin.
A boater said if we went around the world we would get Tuesday back???? Which direction, if you went the wrong way would you lose another day?
I think if on Wednesday we caught a plane back to Somoa we would arrive on Tuesday, but the boat would still be in Wednesday. Is that a time warp or the beginning of a black hole?? Captain Kirk would be better at figuring that out.
If we flew back and forth between Somoa and Tonga could it timed so that we could double up on each day and work out a 14 day week???
If you flew back and forth regularly would you become the same age as your children or as old as your parents??
These thought provoking questions are way beyond the mental ability of someone who’s biggest daily decision is which skirt to wear.
Haven’t even asked about the local time.
Captain's Log #24
The old saying of when in Rome, do as the Romans do, well I’m glad we weren’t in Greece. In Samoa the men wear dresses, now they call them “lava lava’s” but I know a dress when I see one.
The school kids wear them like a uniform, the bankers wear them, and the candlestick makers wear them. Men wear shorts for casual, but for dress up (literally) they wear skirts.
Several of us at the anchorage decided what the hell; let’s go to the other side for a while
- The local ladies were impressed, said I looked like a chief, (that’s big here), didn’t get opportunity see where that could go????
- Skirts can be very hot, If I lived here I would have to have a mini skirt.
- Found out how Marilyn felt when wind blew up her skirt, guys with me said somehow different for them.
- Gotta watch how you sit
- Get confused when you look at pictures on bathroom doors.
- Tom on Priscilla has a nice butt.
It is my understanding that the skirt is big in Tonga, get extra points with local officials if you wear one.
Somehow I don’t think Polk County is ready for the “skirt”, no matter what you call it.
Captain's Log #23
An Island to Themselves
Suwarrow is an atoll in the Northern Cooks. 800 miles from Bora Bora, 400 miles from Samoa, and 800 miles from Rarotonga, home of park ranger John Samuela, his wife Veronica, and their four boys. Every Spring, after typhoon season, the family is deposited on Suwarrow by the authorities in Rarotonga and told to watch over the Suwarrow National Park. 6 months later they return to pick them up. 3 years ago the authorities couldn’t afford a ship so they told John to get home the best way he could????
Last season 114 boats visited Suwarrow, and upon arrival and check-in at the Suwarrow Yacht Club are given a copy of the park rules. At first it appears that the authorities have shut down all activities. In practice John makes the rules and they are all flexible, if you respect the park.
Do Not Bring Trash On Island- John says everyone get together and bring burnable trash on same day and burn it together.
No Spear Fishing- In the anchorage the sharks will take everything you spear, the pass is even more dangerous, john will show you where to go spear a fish for dinner.
No Lobstering- leave the females with eggs, take a couple for lunch.
Absolutely No taking of Coconut Crab- getting harder to find all over south pacific, but on special occasions???
The list of rules is long, but if you don’t ask for a tour of the “off limits” bird nesting islands, John will ask if you want a guided tour, he gets offended by those that don’t.
When you get past the beauty and uniqueness of Suwarrow you begin to come to appreciate and be thankful that the world has people like Ranger John and his family.
They spend 6 months without electricity and the ability to keep fresh foods, with only a cranky solar powered SSB radio for communication, and water out of a cistern. Yet, John and Veronica feel that they are so very lucky to be able to have a job they love so much. Only because we read it in a magazine article do we know that John can sign his name followed by B.E.M. (British Empire Medal). The writer told how John found a lot of very valuable shells and donated them to the hospital in Rarotonga, it was of such value the Queen of England insisted on personally presenting the medal to John.
I thought we were the lucky ones, we had 5 days of diving, fishing, cook-outs on shore with “catch of the day’, pick-up bands, Veronica’s coconut pancakes, and a few nuggets of Johns humor every evening.
During our last night ashore John and Veronica invited Martha and I to stay. We could have our choice of the other islands; each family could then have an island to themselves. Martha and I would catch fish and cook on the beach every night while John and Veronica handled the bird tours.
I am writing this as we make passage to Samoa, am I really stupid or what???? Did I hear a knock? Hope we didn't hit something.
Captain's Log # 22
After 6 weeks in the city of Papeete there is nothing like slow life in the country. Tahitian be’a (beer for the mainlanders) on tap and the biggest chore of the day is fighting scurvy. Of course, while scurvy is relentless it is easily handled by one or two margarita’s every day, and “every day” being key for such an insidious disease that knows no boundaries.
One day an air Tahiti plane fell and a call was issued for all boaters to search for survivors. All that work fighting scurvy and just like that your plane falls. You never know.
My favorite be’a drinking place in Bora Bora is a little snack on a beach where you can lounge in the shade of a bean tree and keep careful watch on the Tahitian ladies. Somebody has to insure they do not get caught in the undertow. The day the coast guard issued a lookout and a search for the missing boater, I heard they had a close call at the beach. Hard to be everywhere.
I guess we are going to leave for a smaller island between here and Samoa, only a man and his wife and their 4 kids on the island, that’s really deserted. Kind of like 4 days ago when the coast guard started babbling on the radio, then came on in English (unusual) with something about a tsunami, the anchorage became deserted pdq.
Anyway, will be good to get back on the water and travel a little. They say if you want to dive and snorkel at the little island, the man that lives there will insist on going with you with a big speargun, Big sharks???
Now why are we leaving the slow life on Bora Bora and the cold be’a at the beach Snack w/ the bean tree???
Captain's Log #21
Exciting cruising in Tahiti when tied to a dock waiting on parts, or typical day for Jim.
- Get up in the morning, make coffee and spend an hour or two surfing internet and skyping.
- Get hair ball out of bathroom drain.
- Go to engine room and check some filters and stuff, take shower to get oil off and listen to Martha explain how I have ruined all my shorts with oil and grease.
- Walk ½ mile and climb on La Truck for ride into town, look for parts stuff for hour or two until frustrated.
- Ride La Truck back close to Marina, maybe.
- Start hounding Martha about what is for supper.
- Help/hinder supper process.
- Consume meal
- Watch Jack shoot people (watch 2 or 3 episodes of 24)
- Bed by 8:30
What I'm saying is, I will not waste anyone's time again until we get the hell out of here and actually go somewhere or do something.
Captains's Log #20
Fakarava Fishing- for fisherman only
We have a new inverter on the way, meanwhile what a better way to spend some of the time than fishing with my friends in Fakarava. Tuna season is during their winter months (now), so we had an invite and no reason to say no.
Martha and I landed about 3:30 pm and it took about 30 minutes to get me on the boat headed to the south pass. Actually I was on the boat in about 10 minutes, it took 20 more minutes for everyone to get up off the floor and wipe tears out of their eyes from the laughter when they saw my fishing rod. A TLD 25w/ 50# rod is not considered offshore fishing equipment. The concept of “drag” and allowing a fish to tire himself out is not macho.
A different technique was used then my last outings, we used 120 meters of big mono, 4 oz weight, 12/0 circle hook, tied to large float with ingenious gizmo to show top or bottom of float if fish on or not, kind of like using a bobber for speck fishing. The real kicker was the 10 lb rocks that were used like sand balls when yellowtail fishing in the keys. The hook w/bait was laid on a rock then the line was wound around the rock, every turn an additional piece of bait (chum) was added until rock had 10 to 15 pieces of bait added. The mono was then carefully looped so that by pulling, all would come apart and rock go its way, leaving bait and chum in fishing zone. So technique was to lay rock in water, let line out as it sunk, at max depth pull the mono releasing chum, attach ball, then go get another out while waiting for bobber to change color.
Score was 3 50# yellow fin and 2 small sharks in a couple hours, all within 300 yds of shore.
The second day we used electric deep drop rig for big red snapper type fish. Didn’t do well on those, but caught a lot of small unidentifiable fish, most some kind of fancy grouper species. Then in late afternoon turned to tuna, 2 big ones on bobber rigs, several lost on trolled lures, didn’t put one in the boat with TLD 25, but nothing with their trolled lures either. One of the tuna (50#) was caught as Rainui (10 years old) was pulling in last bobber line before we headed home, about 100 feet from the boat the fish hit and Rainui let out a yell, fish almost had his own fishing setup, but we all grabbed and a really green fish was hand lined to boat.
Many thanks to Tahoe, son Rainui, brother Taque, nephew Tue, and friend Dedie for allowing me participate in fishing Fakarava style, I’m sure they are still laughing about the rod and reel, I just wish I could have landed one on it. By the way, don’t get on a boat with these guys without gloves, my hands will never be the same.
Captain's Log #19
I have read that cruising is defined as working on boats in exotic places, I have a new definition; working on boats in exotic places with an ailing back and a severe case of the trots.
I think the worst part was that special blend is our home. When the boat was pulled out of the water it was like moving to the local hotel because your home has no electricity, and you are forced to live out of a suitcase. At the same time; trying to keep food frozen on boat, communicate with suppliers and technical persons, and observe work being done on boat. Computer is at hotel, where you can’t get online for some strange reason, and satellite phone on the boat will not work because battery is dead. Borrow electricity to charge phone, battery will hold charge for about 3 minutes and you need 3.5 minutes to finish phone conversation, get the picture??
Add to the mix that last week I moved the dink off to a beach, the next day my back told me, “that was stupid” and has made me pay all week. Add to the situation the worst case of the quick-step I’ve had ever had. Ate and drink anything anywhere all through Central America, get to civilization and bingo, go figure.
Launched boat yesterday, thought everything working, painted, or ordered for installation next week. Wrong, generator would not generate, jim had a total meltdown. My friend Tahoe from Fakarava came by the waterfront, called a guy who came right over and pulled a switch and made it all ok again. Tahoe then took us out and bought us several well deserved beers and best meal since panama.
The whole week has been like that, people at technimarina, nordhavn, suppliers, agents, mechanics, friends, all have gone beyond to see that jobs have been done right. Need a car ? take mine; need a phone to call u s a? use mine; I have one you can borrow; don’t worry, I’ll stop by on the way home and check it for you. I told Martha that it has the old small town feel that is becoming harder to find in central florida.
The “low point” will be when all the bills are tallied, might be the reason everyone is so happy.
Captain's Log #18
There has a lot been printed about boobies since the Galapagos islands educated us on the famous blue footed boobie. We now know how to identify the blue footed boobie, the red footed boobie and the black footed boobie. The diving patterns that are unique to the foot color. Their nesting habits, mating dances and locations that they prefer to hunt. In short,far more than anyone cares to know about a bird that does not have a hunting season.
My grand son, Brad being 15 and I being far older chronologically, decided that why be in Tahiti and look at feet? so yesterday was our now famous “polynesian brown boobie hunt”.
We got rid of the women and had the whole day with the dingy, a tank full of gas, the island of Moorea and many beaches that are famous locally as prime viewing areas.
At the end of the day the tally was impressive. The only “downside” was that we were unable to get any pictures, the upside was that we so successful in out stalk that a camera would have been very unsporting and I do try to set a good example for my grandson.
The best example of the Polynesian brown boobie was perched on the bow of a speed boat, good thing our dink was faster, used up most of our gas and yet only passed them 3 times. Just goes to show you they can be elusive.
Anyway, beat hell out of bird watching. Gotta go, Brad is on shore with a local teen group and his mama is telling me to go get him, you don’t think he would try to turn this into a nighttime sport???
Captian Log #17
FISHING WITH THE MAYOR
Where do people of Tahiti vacation? Fakarava… in the Tuamotu islands is where many go. We tied to the city of Rotoava dock for about 8 days, cost is about $0.50/day/person for trash removal, left yesterday for 3 days at Toau, then we headed back to Fakarava to pick up Martha at the airport.
The people of Fakarava are very special. The “mayor” of this group of islands, Tekurio Tuhoe, his wife Yuonne, and 3 children have taken us in, and shown us the local waters and shared their local history. They have also given us a chance to meet this friendly group of island people as a friend to a friend, not an opportunist to a tourist.
Tuhoe has a 26 ft fiberglass panga w/ 115hp 4 stroke that has unbelievable performance, his fishing partner Tuhone is about 5’10” and must weigh 350#, and needs every bit of that to handle the locked down 10/0 gold toigra reels w/150# mono. On our first trip out I put out the lure, set the reel in the holder, checked drag (could not pull out a inch), backed off the drag lever a bit, and set down. Tuhone got up and moved lever back to full “drag”. All the way to the neighboring island I was afraid something might hit it and I would be expected to grab the rod!!!!
At Toau we put away 10/0 and got out the heavy stuff, mono that was almost 1/8 in dia. with ss cable for leader. Mono was tied to boat, with a loop to hold your in hand to feel the hit, then be macho man and pull in line hand over hand, didn’t see any gloves laying around. I caught a blue colored fish about 20# that was cooked whole on the grill the next night (delish) and a 30# “white” tuna, that made it to the sashimi platter at the cookout. Travis caught a couple of 20 # jack type fish that were also bar b qed the next night.
I really thought the hand line was over doing it, so this week we took special blend to toau island and I brought out the tld’s with tight drag and 80# line, Fish- 6 billy baits, jim-0 fish. I think I will bring some big mono back with me in a couple weeks. There is too much coral to fish conventionally here. By the way, grouper are bopped in the head and thrown back because of ciguatera.
Christy, Brad, Travis and I had a great day with the Tuhoe family as they shared some local family history and showed us the motu where villages existed as they were growing up. We had a lesson in Varo catching. Varo live in a hole and look like a praying mantis, body has meat similar to a lobster and about size of legal florida lobster. You offer bait, when he sticks his little claws out to grab bait, you grab claws and pull him out. All this in 2 to 6 ft of water. They also have sharp knife like spurs on the tail that can cut deeply if a person does not handle properly. My hand is healing nicely.
Captian's Log # 16
This past week or so had a couple of new experiences. Have you ever heard of filet and release? Well last week I filleted my first marlin. A 250# fish that took up most of our rear deck, I told grandson brad not to put him in the boat, but he doesn’t listen. I also tried to get him to throw him back, but it was his first and he wanted to keep him, what can you say? Before I get too much criticism, let me say that 50% of the fish we have had on our lines have been big marlin, this was the smallest we had seen. I had to have brad bring a whole new supply of lures and line to Polynesia when he flew in, all because of the damn marlin. Anyway 1 hour after he quit flopping we had everything in the boat full of marlin steaks, the next anchorage everyone ate marlin. Anyone thinks yellowfin is good needs to try marlin. Gonna get me a “eat mo marlin” bumper sticker.
Y’all won’t believe the inlets in these atolls, narrow with a lot of water flowing. Guide books say watch for coral reef half way in, or dog leg left 30* to avoid boat eating coral outcropping, or 200’ entrance narrows to 40’ on lagoon side, coral outcroppings can’t be seen because they are under derelict rusting boat hulls. On and on and on, you try to memorize all these instructions, than visualize your approach and route through pass, avoiding the buger bears.
In preparation you also consult computer graphs, books that give formulas for calculating tides, moon charts, other boaters, and local experts. All because many of these inlets have tides that are faster than Special Blend will go.
All that stuff doesn’t mean anything, the only time we got the tide right was when I calculated 8:00 am and everything went great. we later reviewed this great new formula, and found that actual best time was 8:00 pm, better lucky than good. Actual navigation during the run consist of trying to keep boat straight and not hit big stuff, all that planning, calculating, reading, and visualizing stuff is just something to do to occupy your mind before you jump off the cliff.
If that is not enough, knowledge that nobody within several thousand miles really gives a damn surely helps keeps the adrenalin levels up.
Captian's Log # 15
Frogs and cannibals
After Spanish America the marquises are a breath of fresh air. The French know how to organize and run a country. Everything is expensive, but finally good food, good meat to purchase, pleasant officials, no yellow pangas, and fantastic people.
The marquesians, who were saved by the missionaries, that brought the diseases that almost killed them off, are making a comeback. At one time over 60,000 strong they were down to a few 1000 well saved souls, but now number 6000 and are reviving their culture. Everyone has those tribal tattoos all over their bodies and look real fierce, traditional canoe paddling is in. in fact most communities have the traditional fiberglass canoes lined up down on the waterfront.
Jock, a Fatu hiva native that took an afternoon to show us snorkeling spots, swim with me into a rocky coast where we climbed the rocks, entered a cave, and swim in a fresh water pool. Back when, there were tikis and stuff in the cave and it was some kind of a religious place, jock doesn’t much speak English.
Leopold, a native of nuka hiva, who along with his friend dave, who is real big and fierce looking, cooked native on the fire for all the boaters in the cove where they live. Did anyone know you have to tie octopus to a rope and swing it so as to beat it on a rock to make it tasty?? Cooked it in coconut milk, to die for. Not too fond of the roasted fish heads, and I guess breadfruit is like grits, got to be raised on’um to like’m. They sure all went for some polk county punch I mixed up
At the beach party we met Marie, our picture is in the mix somewhere, we got to be related???
One of the best things about the marqueses island communitites is they got dogs. Not the fluff pups you see with ribbons, or the attack animals that are trained as killers, but just plain dogs, no special breeds, just big and small friendly dogs. Not too many, just a few and they belong to the community, everyone cares for them. When you land, one will adopt you for the day and just hang out ,the way it used to be in polk county,
The marqueses islands are a place to visit for much longer then time will allow for now, it’s a place where one could spend a lifetime. Unbelievable fishing.
Captain's Log #14
There has been a lot made of crossing the largest expanse of open ocean on the planet.
Weather- ssb weather faxs, satellite phone weather downloads, routing planners, history of weather patterns for 400 years, boater has more detailed information and better computer graphics than the “Weather Channel”
Equipment- engines that are rated for 20,000 hours, fuel cleaning systems that it takes a chart to figure out, extra engines, anti roll devices, generator, a/c, grill on the back porch, freezers, icemakers, all the comforts of home.
Electronics, I know where I am more precisely then someone driving to work on the same road they have been traveling for 20 years, radar tell me where everyone else is, autopilot takes me where I want to go.
Every two or three days get to battle a monster of the deep.
Watermaker w/ hot showers available
As long as one margarita a day is consumed the dreaded threat of scurvy is kept at bay
It’s just that 3000 nautical miles is so damn far at 6 knots.
Captain's Log #13
Rocks and guavas
On Isla Islabella we took the volcano tour, 30 miles in the back of a pickup truck with dust boiling up. When I could see, I noticed that the landscape was nothing but rocks and cactus on the flat portion, and then as we started up into the highlands the cactus was replaced by a seemingly familiar bush.
When we got to the horse stalls, the bushes were forgotten as I surveyed the Galapagos horses. 500 # each, maybe 600# on a good day, talk about 5 tons fertilizer on a one ton truck??? “Trigger” done good, I hope they give him today off to recover. Anyway, as we ride up the rock path and I get a chance to look at the rocks and bushes I see I was right, the bushes are guavas.
A loooong ride later we stood on the crater wall and it was explained that the crater was full of basalt rocks, we then rode another long way and saw more basalt rocks, then we hiked another long way and set on basalt rocks and had lunch. The view was miles of these basalt rocks.
I questioned the guide on guavas, it seems that the feral hogs and goats that everyone hunts, get fat on guavas. Also he said that the giant tortoise prefers guavas. In town I had already observed all venders selling guavas, guava pie, guava pastry, and guava preserves.
On the torturous trip down the mountain we passed a fenced “pasture” of guava bushes and rocks, with some good looking cows. I had to ask, and sure enough they fattened on guavas. Holly asked what they feed the sturdy little horses, and was told they were “free range", we know what that means, they don’t eat rocks.
All the way down the mountain I try to transcend the pain by contemplating this remarkable guava economy, and could it be applied to other less fortunate peoples, you know, could we wipe out world hunger with guavas?
As I try to get my leg to move to get into the yellow panga water taxi, I note the rock I’m standing on looks exactly like the one I had lunch on.
Hello from Gallapagos World
I am here in remote Academia Bay watching at least a dozen exploration ships disgorge their passengers into yellow taxi pangas. The yellow pangas take the explorers to Porta Ayora home to 12000 taxie drivers/naturalist guides.
The biggest attraction on the 17 mile X 29 mile island is the Darwin Research Center where they have several very large gopher tortoises, 4 land iguanas, and a small building that allows you to look at plywood cutouts about Darwin and how these islands were formed. Without a guide this is only $100.00, I don’t know how much with a guide. The one guide we saw yelled at us for standing on a gopher feeding platform?????
The following day we went on an extensive island tour, we saw blue footed boobies, red throated frigate birds, some seals and one pink flamingo. We were supposed to swim with sea lions but, they didn’t show up. It was real interesting; you walked on a path with 20 people and observe these animals being animals. Our guide said we needed to move along because another group was coming behind us, in all, he said about 1000 people a day will walk the same path, watch the same wild animals and feel as one with nature.
As it was patiently explained to me by our agent, (he and his people are our people, we do not have to deal with local officials and their people directly, in the old days he might be referred to as our “bag man”), anyway he explained that there is always 2 ways to handle things in the Galapagos, the formal way and the informal way.
If you are not part of a tour group, you can’t leave the bay area, but if you pay $200.00 per day per person plus $200.00/ day for a guide you can take your boat anywhere. It’s illegal to fish anywhere within the Galapagos islands national park, unless you pay $500.00 for a fishing trip. you can buy fish, the locals bring them in every afternoon and offer fresh fish for sale. The most successful fishermen are the spear fisherman.
The fuel thing is a hoot, diesel fuel at the station is $1.30/ gal. Yachts are required to formally buy from the navy in bulk quantities at $2.65/gal., or you can informally pay La Cockaroach $1.80/ short gal. and he will bring it to you in jerry cans.
When we leave here we are going to Isla Isabella and see the volcanoes. It is impossible to get formal permission to move from one island to another, you absolutely cannot get permission to visit a port other than the one you entered, period. Everyone goes to Isla Isabella by checking out of the Galapagos island to French Polynesia, and then have a “emergency” that requires a stop in Isabella. After you arrive you ask the port captain in Isla Isabella for informal permission to stay, most of the time it works. It’s almost standard procedure; I don’t know the informal cost.
The really big rumor down here is that Ecuador and Disney are going to team up, The politicians feel they are just scratching the surface for the tourist dollar, and Disney has about run the mouse into the ground.
Some of the possible new attractions we are hearing about are;
Molten Mountain, will be a really hot ride.
Blue footed boobies and red throated frigates doing mating dances to updated version of “it’s a small world” in surround sound.
Country Tortoise jamboree
Swiss family Robinson, several families already in place.
Pirates of the Pacific, ride with water taxi drivers in their yellow pangas
The hammerhead challenge
A lot of this is just local speculation, but the politicians are really excited about the possibilities of informal early retirement.
Captain's Log # 11
As I set here doing the midnight till ??? shift I am reflecting on the pampered life of the crew and todays happenings. Last night on this watch the wind and seas did grow, by morning we had 23/25 kt winds and 6 to 8 ft chop on the 12 ft rollers, not fun, but PLEASE Martha not “one of the worst days of my life”. The a/c was on all day, no one got wet, stereo playing in the background, leather couch and recliners, get out of here!!. I know you had to hold on to slip a new dvd into the tv, it was a difficult going down the stairs to the bathroom w/ hot showers. Microwaved 3 day old pizza is not the pork chops, avocado salad, baked potato, w/ fresh steamed cabbage we had yesterday, not nearly as good as the fresh dolphin I grilled on the back porch the day before that was served with mashed potatoes and fresh broccoli. But worst days of your life, PLEEEEASE???.
Sylvia said her 30 ft sailboat slipped right thru waves like this, are you kidding me, 30 ft boat, 8 ft waves, can we say “foul weather gear”, slip right through 8 ft waves my a##. I did miss the breakfast that Sylvia fixes every morning, but we can “get by” with “hot coffee” and a breakfast bar, and not fish one day, that’s really a tough life.
It was constant like that all day, like it was my fault the weather sucked, I took a sleeping pill and went to bed.
The weather is moderating as I write this. Forecast is for a great day tomorrow, when I finish this I am going to rig a couple of new baits. fresh tuna on the back porch grill w/ avocado salad would be great tomorrow. If it is still choppy, I have a couple more of those sleeping pills, you have no idea how little this boat can be.
Captain's Log #10
In preparation for canal crossing the well trained captain and line handler extraordinaire recruited John from "silkie", his friend Lawyer Larry, and Ian from Canada. Ian, his wife, and daughter will finish an around world circumnavigation when they reach Hawaii. John and his wife Susan are on the same track as us. Lawyer Larry and his wife are from St. Pete and visiting “silkie”. We were joined by Martha’s Ft. Meade High School friend Dee Dee Drohan from Panama City, Panama. Of course, chief photographer and advisor Sylvia is also with us. I thought the admiral was going to need a nerve pill.
The first set of locks we tied to a tug boat and it did all the work, I was disappointed that I was unable to use my extensive training. That night was spent on Lake Gatun with 3 other boats, really peaceful and everyone slept well, except for the captain, who had no place to sleep. No respect.
The next morning our advisor George arrived at 6:30 and for the next 3 hours we traveled thru the lake in a small channel that wound among jungle hilltops, the wildlife and jungle of panama could be observed up close. The captain missed this highlight because he was asleep.
The dug part of the canal thru the highlands of Panama is truly a engineering marvel; but more so, that men would even dare to dream of moving that much dirt, especially with equipment available in early 1900’s. It boggles the mind.
We saw a floating crane that was built by Hitler (yes, that Hitler), moved to California after the war, and after military closures was moved here and reassembled. Dee Dee’s husband Tom who retired from the canal 6 years ago as chief engineer, was instrumental in the acquisition. He bought it for a 1$ from the US Gov, which is a 1$ more then they paid. He says a portion of the original skin that shows bullet holes was left in place. This is the largest floating crane in the world and is used to lift and repair canal lock doors.
The last set of locks they tied a small sailboat to us, probably because of captains’ extensive experience; we were able to give them a free ride. Our well trained and enthusiastic team of line handlers allowed both boats to exit canal without a hitch.
At Flaminco Marine in Panama City we fueled up, Tom met the team with pizza and bubbly for all. Many thanks to everyone for a marvelous, safe, and memorable trip.
The 7th we traveled to the Pearl Islands of “Survivor” fame, the idea was to clean bottom. You couldn’t see two feet in front of your face so Tom on “Priscilla” and I decided the bottoms were clean enough.
This is the 8th and we are on the way to the Galapagos Islands, only 843 miles to go. Of course, according to news everyone there may be screaming “Devil Americans” when they meet us at the docks????
Captain's Log #9
Making a living on the Panama Canal
We had been in panama for 4 days when we were informed by authorities it would be 7 more days before our turn, and note that they can change their minds at anytime without reason. What we would consider fair has nothing to do with their decisions. They own the only canal in town and know it. 4 days at a marina is a long time, 7 more would be forever, and if leave for a few days w/ the boat, that is the day they decide to allow you to go early and if you are not available you loose deposit and start procedure all over again. All boats going through the canal must employ 4 line handlers as well as have a local professional advisor on board. With this knowledge I gave up my position as Captain Jim and became professional Line Handler Jim. Have line, will travel.
My first client was a 55 ft French built cat, 28 ft wide with a living room bigger then most of us have in our home. The procedure is for the boat to be at a location at an exact time, going to the pacific, be on station at 5:00 pm or again, you lose your turn, money, ect ect. The advisor shows up when they get around to it, generally around 6:00- 7:00 pm. Your 1st goal when he arrives is to make sure he is comfortable, has beverage of choice and hope you have prepared a dinner he approves of. Of course bottled water available at all times. These guys work for THE PANAMA CANAL. At the lock the line handlers stand at a corner of the boat with a 125 ft 1 in. dia.rope. on shore they take a very large steel nut, wrap cord around it so that it becomes a 3 in dia very hard ball, w/ the cord trailing out behind. By twirling around their head they can throw these balls a tremendous distance, with great accuracy. They have a contest to see who can
knock the most line handlers off the boats. You tie the big line to the
cord, they pull it in and attach to a bullard. Line handlers can then
control boat by letting out or pulling in rope depending on going up or
down. 3 locks up takes about 1 ½ to 2 hrs Advisor goes home, boat ties to mooring, crew is feed about 10:00 pm and then bed. At 6:30 new advisor arrives for breakfast and process starts over, wait, boat ride, wait, then 3 locks down. Before cocktails, surviving line handlers are dumped off at balboa yacht club???? And for $75.00 can find a
cab ride home. Line handling is not very profitable.
Line Handler Jim
San Andres, Columbia
Captain's Log #8
Left Roatan on Friday 16th, with rolling seas and not real comfortable, no fish. Saturday 17th was fantastic, light chop, breezy, great day. That ended Saturday night when front arrived with more enthusiasm then I expected. The seas were 6 ft from the port side. The crew was not doing well, but everything holding together. Martha said it was really amazing that coffee pot had sat on the counter in same place since Long Key. Thirty minutes later a wave hit the side of the boat and knocked the coffee pot all the way across the saloon. Coffee and grounds on everything. The same wave knocked Dick's suitcase off the pilot house berth, down the stairs and dumped everything in with the coffee. Coffee clean up time.
Sunday morning, with little sleep the crew really needed a cup of joe. Martha put it on, when ready she pushed a mug into the dispenser valve, I guess it was broke, because it dispensed 12 cups of coffee in 2 minutes. Coffee clean up time.
Monday am we pulled in San Andres Island, part of Columbia and little known in the USA. Crew was in need of R&R badly. This is a real neat island. The island survives by being a duty free island. Tourist from Columbia, Central America, and Canada come here to vacation and shop. I could tell this was not going to be my favorite layover.
Rene is local agent who handles everything, sends a boat to guide in boats wondering aimlessly through the harbor, rounds up a crew to pull a boat into a med moor when the captain does not understand the concept, and brings officials out to the boat to pleasantly do their official stuff. If another USA boat finds their way to San Andres call Rene on channel 16 and he will find you.
If you enjoy beef remember “lomo fino” or close to that, uncertain where it comes from off a cow, but it is great. More than you can eat for about $10.00 US or $20,000.00 Columbian pesos. You can feel rich and not have enough pesos to buy a t shirt.
People are friendly, good shopping, good food and great cheap beer. Excellent beach with lots of South American Beauties. If you want a vacation where no one in your town has gone, much less ever heard of, I highly recommend San Andres, Columbia.
So after 4 days of shopping, eating, drinking and cleaning up coffee, we set Friday 23rd as departure date. Thursday I check out engine room. Fluids levels ok, fuel valves ok, generator ok, but there is a brown stain all over engine and floor, something is obvious leaking. After an hour checking fittings and hoses, I understand. Coffee cleanup time.
Capt log #7 written from 16*30’N X 84*53’ W, midnight watch
We arrived in Roatan Sunday morning, it was a tough crossing from San Pedro, Belize. We were really tired after 28 hour trip. So I called channel 16 for local info and found Lady V. Lady V, her husband, 13 year old daughter, and 12 year old son will handle your paper work, sell you diesel, and in our case a place to tie up. She gave me coordinates, had a boat to meet us, and take us in to marina. On the way Martha asked what kind of place we were going to and I said it didn’t make any difference if they has a pole we could tie up to. We had been on the hook for about 2 weeks and I don’t sleep well at anchor, and was done.
We found paradise, a 4.5 acre island, room for about 6 boats, 6 cabins, fantastic pool, chef standing by to cook whatever you wanted, 6 table open air restaurant, cold beer, and great friendly people. Barefoot cay, developed by the Kennedy’s, a couple from Seattle, Washington, semi-retired and don’t want to be bigger. I highly recommended for a very laidback, restful few days.
New crew arrived Tuesday, see “ships papers”. Sylvia is going to French Polynesia with us. Dick will be going through Panama Canal and then fly home.
For fishing enthusiast we moved the boat Thursday, found floating log with 6 dolphin to 16# and 4 wahoo to 25# They are still with the log, We have a new record in progress, over 1000 miles on a pink billy bait and not 1 nibble, but not giving up.
Finally found a snorkel spot that didn’t require a orange life jacket. Most fantastic reef formations I have ever seen I see why one of top dive spots in the world. Roatan has 1000 ft of water within ½ mile of shore, within 5 miles 14000 ft (that’s nautical feet, jerry), and spooky ledges you can peer over and not see bottom.
Sea life was lacking, they now have much of the reef as a park, and patrols to stop poaching. Those areas will slowly come back. Everywhere else is completely void of anything that can be eaten.
Friday morning we left for panama, 600 miles of possibly worst passage of entire trip, so far so good,
Captains Log #6
San Perdro, Belize
Wed 8th Belize,Ssan Pedro. It’s great to get to a more laid back place. The tourist rules in Mexico sure make it difficult for a do-it-yourselfer. San Pedro people are friendly and most important I do not have to use my extensive Spanish vocabulary. You do have to be agile to keep from being over by the golf carts, must be hundred to the city block. These are not regular golf carts, these are souped up, jacked up, big tires, huge bumpers, macho machines.
Wed 9th finally a chance to go diving, our friend, at the dock where they allow us to tie up our dingy, is a captain on a dive boat. He recommended we go to Hol Chen Pass Reserve, but he thought it required a daily permit for the reserve, lots of fish and stuff. I think you can dive with rays (recently of croc hunter fame) and nurse sharks. We asked at the dive shop and they assured us we could purchase permit from ranger at park. He would be there in a boat.
Off we go, as we approach the area we see a spot that looks like Sombrero Reef on the 4th of July, only anchor balls are 6 ft. apart, and everyone is in space less than 1 acre. Martha says she doesn't want to swim with anymore nurse sharks any way. While we are watching, the park ranger motors over. I explain we wish to purchase permits. He says he hasn't sold permits in years. We would have to go back to San Pedro. He's real nice and I think I have a chance to work this out. Then he asked if our boat is registered to enter park
waters. My confidence is shattered and I now wonder what the fine will be. I ask where we register the boat and he says at headquarters in San Pedro, sounding little more upbeat. The ranger then informs us that after we get permits and register the boat, we must have licensed local guide with us when we come back. I tell him we are about done for the day and think we will head back to our big boat. Mr. Ranger tells us he owns a restaurant in town that serves pretty good food, we may want to try. I ask (I'm feeling good and confident again) why only pretty good food. He didn't pick -up, but said he had eaten there and again assured us it was ok.
I hear Roatan is fantastic diving.
Captain's Log #5
Remote Ascension Bay
A rough ride from Puerto Adventura to Ascension Bay, Martha had had a bad taco for lunch and about 2 in the morning I woke her up and said we needed to turn back because I was having chest pains. We headed back, and she gave me a bunch of Maalox pills. About 30 minutes later my chest pains were gone and we again turned around. She reminded me that at Gringo Dave’s I had told them I wanted real fajitas, not the tourist stuff, when they open one near you, stick to the basic menu.
We anchored next to an island to try to stay out of the wind, for three days we watched the wind blow up to 30kt. We only saw one guy bone fishing in a flats boat; you could tell he was bone fishing because every now and then he would “crouch down”. I remarked to Martha how nice to get away from all the tourist in this remote bay. I also thought it would be nice if we put the dingy in and she could row while I crouched on the bow with my fly rod. She said she didn’t hire on as a bonefish guide.
Thursday afternoon we actually put the boat in the water and got wet, still murky but could see there was no lobster or conch that I had been sure would be there.
Saturday morning was beautiful, about 10am I put my head out of the water and there were pangas (For those of us at home….pangas are small boats) everywhere at least 10 or 12, loaded with tourist wearing the required orange vest. These were eco-pangas, which resemble dive pangas a lot. They apparently had brought these people 5 miles across the bay to take pictures of a couple of trees covered with bird poo, I guess we were lucky because we had gotten to see the white bird poo trees for three days. I don’t think Martha got a good picture.
I also don’t think they showed them the underwater lobster trap things that don’t have buoys, or the fact that conch was hard to come by.
Time to go to Xcalak or somewhere to check out of Mexico.
Captains Log #4
The drug thing is getting serious, only 12 days of blood pressure medicine on the boat. Martha says I better get some before I run out or one of us is flying back to Florida. Puerto Adventuras seems like best bet, so here we are tucked in a marina between a rusting trawler and a 53 ft sleek sailboat owned by a couple from Europe, he's from England and she's from Sweden.
Interesting little resort area with interesting people. Take Pete, Pete works for Dave, (who is a dead ringer for David Letterman) of Gringo Dave’s fame. Pete is here to help Dave’s franchise his operations so look for one near you soon. Pete is buying a fleet of fishing boats, starting a photo business, opening an eco tour where you ride 4 wheelers, and several other things I forgot. Pete is American, has been to Alaska, had a welding business in St. Thomas, has escaped from a Mexican jail from drug smuggling bust, and has had a string of hot tub businesses in Florida. Pete has/had cancer and likes to talk about Jesus, almost as much as about talks about Pete. Good luck Dave.
Down the street is a eating establishment run by a couple from Kansas, they take turns running the restaurant while the other plays in a real laid back 3 piece band. There is dancing in the streets sat night. Our friend Tim who plays in the band gave us a cd of his music. You cannot find it at Wal-Mart, best original song is THE WAXIHATCHI JAIL.
How to speak Spanish, do not be intimidated, I have a easy vocabulary guide that I have developed over 2 weeks;
ola- pronounced o-la means hello, with a big stupid grin it will get you anywhere
montejo- mon-te-ho best beer in the world
There you go, all you need to know for a Mexican vacation, well, a big roll of 50 pesos bills will help the rough spots. Learned that from Pete.
Well gotta close, hopefully we will not spend the entire trip here, it would be ok except the Swedish lady, who is just starting her morning exercise routine on the bow of their boat, next to ours, outside the pilot house where i sit, in tht litl erd nmbr agin, is levg soon............
Captain’s Log #3
February 21-23 2007
We left Puerto Morelos and headed to San Migual on Cozamel, officially we never made it. There is no harbor, just the leeward side of the island. We anchored Wednesday evening in front of Porta Capitan’s office and I called Porta captain to report, no answer. Thursday morning I again called, no answer. We launched dink and went to the town dock, 6 cruise ships had come in during the night and every person on every ship was at the dock to go diving or snorkeling. Every thing that the local Mexicans could float was loading tourist; all wearing the required orange diving vest. Thought I was in Polk County during fruit harvesting season. Anyway, we tried to land on beach, but surf changed my mind. We went back to boat, repaired stuff and pulled anchor 6pm Friday. So, we never made it to San Migual.
Captians's Log #2
le Mujeres has great beer, the first establishment we entered everyone ordered Corona I told the guy that Corona tasted like Mexicans peed in a bottle and what else did he have? He agreed and said corona was "tourists” beer and he recommended majeto (or near that) anyway great beer, better than Coors, Mich, or Bud light. I can identify it if I can't spell it.
We have had terrible weather, wind blowing out of the north about 20k, temp in 60's after 2 days we decided to go snorkeling right out of harbor, there is a underwater statue to look at, everyone got in to go see the statue but me and I'm looking at the cold water trying to decide if its worth it, when a boat comes over and tells me I have to wear a life vest to dive??? What the hell, didn't want to see the statue anyway! Christy and Martha spent a day taking Mayan porno pictures at the ruins, lusty little guys. (see pics of the ruins)
Monday the 19th we had a bumpy ride to Puerto Morelos, crew musta had some bad tacos. Great little town, Christy caught a cab to airport and Martha and I met our friend Lobster and his buddy Juan, who is the director of tourism for Puerto Morelos, nice guys, we gave a tour of boat to lobster, Juan was working. They told us some good diving locations. Martha and I went to one spot and it was fantastic, coral and reef fish beyond description. We went to location #2 and before we could get in the water a boat came over and said we had to wear life jackets??? What gives with Mexicans diving with life jackets!!! We left and went back to the boat. I would not recommend Mexico for diving. That evening we met a interesting couple from Canada, Trish advised lawyers and Rob was in the of all things, golf. We had a great evening.
Wednesday 21 we left for San Miguel on Cozumel and arrived mid afternoon. About a 3.5 to 4 knot current against us the whole way. We decided to stay home tonight and will see the town tomorrow. The water is clearer than I have ever seen in the keys and the local director of tourism must have scripted tonight. Tomorrow will be new people to meet; maybe we'll try fishing.
Captain’s Log #1
Special Blend left Seabird marina, Long Key, Florida on Sunday February 11, 2006. Friends gave us a resounding send off, and I made a Tahiti or bust toast, I think Tahiti or Mexico, or Key West or anything other than “Bust” would have been better. Anyway, Sunday was choppy and Sunday night was Hell, crew mutinied and we pulled into the Dry Tortugas Monday morning for R&R and character building lectures. By nightfall all was well and we set sail Monday evening, all went better. A little bumpy and we left one mad freighter captain, I don’t care to talk about that yet. Tuesday and was better and except when I went out on the P deck Tuesday night and looked behind to watch the wake, it’s really relaxing, usually. That night I noticed the wake was off to the side of the boat, which happens when the boat is going in circles???? So much for navigation skills, all that fancy equipment and you still got to rely on the old P deck back up.
Wednesday was the day that people that write those books on trawlering tell you about. The dreaded Yucatan channel was fantastic, like a lake, got everyone in great frame of mind and we soon forgot the other days.
With great skill, I (el capitan) brought Special Blend into Isla Maujeres after dark without incident. Natives and officials are fantastic and stuff is cheap, 11 pesos to the dollar. Going to lay over a couple days, Northerner coming thru so no more exciting tales for awhile. Martha will be posting some great pics over next couple days.