October 29, 2009
24 Hrs to Brisbane
Well, we are almost back to where we started the season. The passage started
really rough , but overall has been very pleasant. No fish because I didn't put
a line out...it's kinda like my mind has flipped over to all the stuff to do when I get
home. List are made on repairs that are needed, parts to locate, and supplies to order.
The Special Blend will be put in a steel cradle at Scarborough Marine until we
return next year. I am trying to eat all the steaks and chickens in the freezer
before the quarantine lady takes it all when we go through customs in Brisbane.
Tough 5 day job.
This year did not go as planned, not that it ever does, but a good time was had
by all. Our 3 daughters and 2 grandsons and a friend that grew up with them got
to visit Vanuatu and meet the wonderful people. Some of them got to meet our special
friends Patrick, Nellie, and their children in Port Resolution. We also were
able to visit many other friends from last year and introduce our family to
The Tsunami warnings and the resulting 'get out of Dodge' warnings over the radio
were scary...it happened twice in about 7 days. There were no problems where we were, but we
had friends that were just lucky and friends of friends that were not. Tsunamis
had not even made my list of the top 20 things in the Pacific that will “get
We will spend at least one more year in the Pacific,but we don't have a plan for next
year. I've informed the Admiral we need some excitement and adventure. Maybe
Malaysia and on to Singapore, maybe Micronesia and on to Taiwan or who knows.
Thanks for taking the time to read our blog and be sure to check back in May of
October 6, 2009
Captain's Log #12
VooDoo Mama (for real)
The Island of Tanna is primarly noted for having the most active volcano in the
world and being the center of a strange “cargo cult”.
The cargo cult is the John From Society, originally it was believed that an
American named John From would come back to Tanna in an airplane and drop
“cargo” to the Societies' members. Over the years the Society has morphed into a
social club that preaches the goodness of men, be proud of who you are, and
other stuff that we (outsiders) are not privy to. The center for this is Sulfur
Bay, (next to the Yasur volcano) where they have a meeting hall and fly the
Vanuatu and the American flag side by side 24/7. Every Friday night they have a
all night singing,dancing, and preaching meeting.
Various church groups provide most of the education in Vanuatu, so most citizens
and villages are very practical and are of the religious persuasion of the local
free school provider.
Most villages retain “Kustom” (read “traditional”) laws, local government, and
rituals. The rituals and traditions reflect the fact that the smoking, fire
belching, and ground shaking Yasur volcano dominate their lives.
The result is kind of a complicated religion that incorporates Christianity,
Kustom, cargo cult, and volcano worship.
That is why the following picture has not been posted. Martha figured one of two
things would happen;
1.Made Queen on an island where she would live in a thatch hut with a dirt floor
and eat roots.
2.Be thrown into a volcano
We are leaving Vanuatu as this is being written, by the time it is posted we
will be in New Caldonia. 200 miles from Tanna and its inhibitants. The photo
below was taken by Martha from the back of a pickup truck as we were crossing
the ash field of Yasur volcano. The local people had been saying that Yasur was
upset because of the group of Scientist that were taking its temperature and
measuring things. The photo was one of several taken within seconds of each
other, the others were “normal”. THIS PICTURE HAS NOT BEEN ALTERED, and not
revealed until now.
September 15, 2009
Captain's Log #11
Going To Get Eggs
We were anchored in a great little bay in the Maskelyne Islands of Vanuatu, we
had been there for several days. The wind had been really being whipping when we
arrived and nothing like a snug harbor to spend a few days. Martha and Holly had
discovered that the shallow reef was more colorful and had more reef fishes than
anywhere we had been. The water had no ripples to distort the light, so they
were getting bragging type shots.
Priscilla left after a couple days for Villa, I thought they were being foolish
to leave such a snug harbor when some of the waves of 3 days ago could still be
lingering. We were dragging our feet, Holly has to leave in a few days so no
need to go to Villa until time to meet her flight. Calm water, reef fish to
photograph, pleasant neighbors, what more to want??? Eggs that's what! we had
been out of eggs for 10 days and I love my mid-morning brunch.
Lucky(????) for us we are only 20 miles from the farm that produces all the eggs
for Vanuatu. Twenty miles that according to faithful weather forecast was blue
and down hill all the way, plus only 4 miles from the famous Dixon Reef. Farm
fresh eggs and Dixon reef, what a combo, throw in fresh veges from the locals
and it would be foolish of me not to make Holly's last few days with us the most
Last night we loaded the dingy and made ready to leave early. About 11 PM as I
am snuggling down in the cool fresh sheets, Holly calls me that the anchor alarm
is going off. I arrive in the pilot house to rain, 28 Knot winds from the wrong
direction, 3 foot seas, and an anchor that has pulled. All our neighbors are
out with flashlights tending to their boats that are maybe bumping with other
boats and certainly moving around a lot. Our anchor reset and a hour or so later
all was back to normal in our snug little harbor. Must have been just a freaky
My last words as;
We pulled anchor,
“This mornings overcast sky and good chop on the water, not a good day for
taking pictures, Martha. Your not going to miss a thing.”
Leaving the Bay,
“The large waves at the Pass are from the building of waves when they near
shallow water, plus the out going tide makes them seem worse. You know that
And, for good measure,
“Martha, the waves are wrapping around the Island, when we get out a ways they
will be as per the forecast and it will be down hill and easy”
As I write this we are 5 hours into a 4 hour trip and only half way there. It's
been at least 2 years since we've seen waves this big (not the biggest ever, but
close), and all coming from the wrong direction.
The only “good ???” thing is that right now the Admiral and 1st mate are sick
enough that they have quit complaining.
I'm sure this trip will get reported again in other sections of the blog, after
we reach calm waters.
Sept 1, 2009
Captain's Log #10
Special Blend and Priscilla anchored in Surundo Bay, mainly because we were desperate for fresh veges from Luganville, Santo Island, Vanuatu, but really didn't want to anchor in Luganville. The main attraction of Surundo Bay over several others is that by anchoring close to a certain house you can utilize the owner wi-fi, when he's not looking.
This day is a steamy 95 *F as we started our 5 mile walk to town on a road that was under construction with lots of dust and equipment to dodge. When Ken, a Ni-Vanuatuan came by in his new 4 door pickup truck and offered to take us into town it was like a prayer being answered. As we settle down in the comfortable seats and the sweat starts to slow down to a trickle, Ken ask us the usual question.
“Where are you from?
The Ni-Vanuatu people are always happy to meet from USA, they usually bring up WWII and how we saved them from the Japs.
“We are all from the US of A” I tell him. “in fact we are here to inspect this road that is being built and paid for by the U S of A”.
Ken says that it's great that our new president sent them the money. I can't let that pass, so I have to tell him that it is my money and the other taxpayers money that is building the road and not Obama's. That when they were collecting the money for the road we Americans all chipped in enough for a numbawon job, did he think they were getting a numbawon job? We had to report back. Tom and Susie were from Washington, DC and lived near Obama.
Ken confirmed that they were indeed getting a numbawon job and immediately goes into a long speech on Obama and how great he is for the US of A, Vanuatu, and the World. Above all, by being half black and half white he is the best of both. Then he turns to me and asks, “what do you think of Obama?”
I look at the fields that are flying by in the shimmering heat, study the construction workers sweating in the dust, glance at everyone in the back seat, who are holding their breath, I say, “Obama's my man, we sure are lucky”.
Ken offers to meet us and take us back to the boat, us Obama Men gotta stick together.
Captain's Log # 9
August 17, 2009
Over several 1000 years ago, each village group in Vanuatu developed their own language, a neighbor could not speak to the neighbor in another village group. One small 5 mile by 10 mile island could have 5 or 6 languages spoken. Of course, their was no need to go visit your neighbor, because they would probably have you for dinner anyway. Cannibalism was not ceremonial, it was a major contributing portion of the island food nutritional pyramid. When the Europeans arrived, they killed off most of the islanders by sending ahead missionaries with lots of European diseases. The few natives left learned Bislama or English pidgen so they could communicate with the new owners of the land. In 1980 they again gained their independence, but the only common language was Bislama. Bislama or "Pidgen Engish" is the offical language of Vanuatu. And, in the Bislama language, a young child is called a "Picinini".
My friend and “Brother of the Shared after Chewed,( not Grated) Kava Bowl”, Patrick of Resolution Bay on the Island of Tanna, has honored me beyond anything I could have imagined. He renamed his youngest son “Jim” after me.
In Villa a few days later I went into a store that was head quarters for the local Picinini fund that aids Picininis that are in need. Seeing the signs and thinking of Little Jim, I purchased 4 of the 1$ shopping bags “to help Picininis” and put another 3$ in the save the Picinini jar. After the exhilaration wore off, it got me thinking, “What kind of responsibly does a so person so honored really have toward his Picinini? ” More to the point, “Does that really cover my responsibility I have to MY Picinini?”
I've asked all the sailboat people I have run into and no one has had this particular situation. Rosa who is a black lady that is Bart's cook on his 36 sailboat has a couple of Picininis on Fiji and her mother looks after them, but I think that is a different thing.
I mean I need some advice here, What are the rules for having a Picinini?
Do I have to take Little Jim and Mother into my home if something happens to Patrick?
What about medical insurance and flu shots?
Do I need to start a college fund?
Does Little Jim qualify for Citizenship in US and Social security benefits if something happens to me?
I just don't know? This Picinini thing is way too much to think about for someone who doesn't know what day it is
Patrick, Capt Jim, and Little Jim
Cap't Log #8
August 10, 2009
We have just left a fantastic anchorage at Port Orley on Santo and are headed to a small island that is part of the Banks Islands, the Northern most part of Vanuatu. It is only a 55 mile passage, so we pulled anchor at 3 AM this morning so as to arrive midday so we can see the reef entrance and coral heads in the anchorage. This is really starting to get off the beaten path.
As soon as the anchor was raised this morning everyone went back to bed, in doing so they are now missing one of those mornings that this trip is all about. The wind is only 5 or 6 knots, just a ripple on the water. The ocean has a gentle 3 or 4 foot role off the starboard bow, about the same direction that the sun will rise from in the next 10 minutes. Now the sky has a light blue tint in the East with a red band at the horizon. A few puffy clouds and a medium size shower off the bow that will probably wash the salt off “special Blend”. Absolutely nothing else to see except ocean. The dull deep thump of the Lugger engine, and the water rushing off the bow are the only things that break the silence.
I love this time of the day. How can they sleep like that?
Cap't Log #7
August 8, 2009
The Price of a Fish Dinner
The past three or four weeks we have been weather bound in Villa, or seas have been too high to fish. By “too high to fish” I mean that the “butt chewing” that results from stopping to land a fish and everything in the boat being thrown on the floor when the boat rolls, ain't worth a fish dinner. I have been eating a lot of Spam sandwiches and “Spam and eggs”.
When Tom, as in Tom and Susie our cruising buddies on Priscilla caught a 30# yellow fin yesterday I was really looking forward to a fresh tuna dinner that evening. The best part was without the usual criticism on boat handling skills and tales of the hours of drudgery the Admiral had to put in to clean up the resulting mess. WRONG, If I had to listen to Toms story of “his fish” and how he was able to entice the bite with a special bait and the blow by dull blow of the battle one time, I heard it 10 times. I know It was his first fish of the season, but really enough is enough. Maybe I had mentioned all the fish we had caught before Villa, maybe I did tell the “two dolphin one hook” story a time or two, but people were interested in that story. Like our “Wahoo Fireworks” story, that one was worth telling, people liked to hear it. I had probably mentioned it to several times over the past several weeks. Catching a 30# tuna is not in the same league, enough is enough.
Maybe Spam is not so bad.
Cap't Log #6
July 27, 2009
Now We're Having Fun
This morning as we are beating our way to Santo Island in 6 ft head seas, Holly is holding on with one hand and washing the lettuce in bleach with the other. “This sure is more fun than sitting around Villa” she says, as she rinses off the last of the lettuce. All the veggies from the villages must be rinsed to kill the brain eating worms and other parasites. The village we had just visited was clean and by wearing shoes, we felt that hookworms would not be a problem. Also, with careful washing we have some of the finest organic veggies in the world. The local flies carry styph. So, we have learned to control it by covering all wounds and then washing with hexachloride when we return to the boat. It's great that the Malaron we take daily takes care of the threat of malaria. We love to interact with the friendly, healthy, smiling natives. Lesley was a little concerned about the cannibal thing, but I assured her that there have been no reported incidents in several years and the machetes that they all carry is for opening coconuts and swatting flies.
The local newspaper in Villa said that the riots and stuff they had in Santo last week had calmed down, everybody had made up, and were happy and smiling again.
Martha and Dane are really into shelling. In the evening they sit down and go over the “shell book” pictures. It's really great to watch them quiz each other on how to identify the deadly cone shells from the safe ones. Dane is really cute when he carefully picks one up and brings it to Martha so she can help him identify the venomous ones. I really preach to them about looking for the deadly rock fish and scorpion fish before wading out in the surf to pick up a shell. Just can't be too careful.
We just left Dixon reef, one of the best diving reefs in the South Pacific. I particularly enjoyed it because on a previous reef I had gotten bacteria in a small cut and had to do a lot antibiotics and stay out of the water. Luckily our “e-mail doctor”, Dr. Christy Edwards was able to give us good advice and a doctor/nurse team on “Quantum Leap” that was moored next to us, cleaned and inspected the wound every day. All is good now and I figure he was joking about flying back to Australia or face amputation. Anyway, on Dixon reef you don't see many sharks over 7 ft., we have never seen the deadly banded sea snake, and the locals say there are no saltwater crocs nearby. What is there not to like about Dixon reef? All our dive spots can't make that claim
We met a volcanologist that had moved here with his family to live and study volcanoes. He told us that the timing of our visit to the volcano Yasur had been really lucky because just before we arrived an earthquake and mudslide had relieved some of the pressure on the volcano. Just now it wasn't throwing very many boulders at the people that climbed up to peer into the fiery cauldron. It seems as though earthquakes are a good thing if you live near one of the 5 volcanoes in the area, or wish to see them up close and personal as we did.
Weather has been a little windy and it has been little bumpy on passages, but we didn't even feel the Tsunami. Didn't even know we had had one until Christy called and told us.
When you got things going your way, "enjoy it" I always say. We have a couple more weeks in this idyllic place and then we move on to the Solomons. Good news from there, the Australian Government has sent in troops and disarmed most of the rebels, so piracy and looting is way down. The really important thing is to get out of this area before Typhoon season, those things can kill you.
Cap't Log #5
July 20, 2009
Hanging Around With the Cannibals
As I have mentioned before, weather is our master, and he has been tough this year.
We had to hang around Villa for Christy's flight out, then we had about 10 days to head North and visit Islands and villages until Brad was to fly out. Weather forced us to hang around 4 or 5 days drinking Tuskers and eating tacos at the Waterfront Cafe. Good weather finally came and we decided to cruise the other side of this island for 4 or 5 days, hitch a ride to the airport for Brad and then head North. The day before Brad was to leave the weather report turned red, we had to beat our way back to Villa. We put Brad on the airplane and here we set drinking Tuskers and eating tacos at the Waterfront Cafe.
On the positive side, this is the only place within several 1000 miles that I know of that understands what a taco is, and I know of one other place within 500 miles to get a cold beer. Another little known fact is that Vanuatu raises beef under the coconut trees, its marketed to Japan as Organic Beef (they don't have or need fertilizer). Japan is crazy about it and we buy fantastic NY strip steak for 5$/#.
So it's not diving on new reefs and exploring new fishing spots, but it could be worse.
Cap't Log # 4
July 4, 2009
4th of July Wahoo Fireworks
We were leaving Port Resolution on the volcano Island of Tanna, and were headed to to Port Vila. I had been reading a cruising guide and it spoke of a little island only 18 miles off Tanna called Aniwa with great diving. We really had not done any good snorkeling this trip so a side trip for a few hours on the way to Port Villa was planned. As we approached Aniwa from the West I noted the chart showed a shelf of 200 to 300 ft water extending out from Aniwa's West side. I radioed “Quantum Leap”, a fifty ft cat that was traveling with us. that we were going to detour and check out the Tuna and Wahoo fishing. They decided to detour too.
The first pass both rods had strikes and the lines were ripping, as we set up to fight, the lines went limp. Ok fish off, another pass. 2ed pass each rod had multi hits but nothing sticking. 3rd pass again multi hits, you could see fish hitting lures, but nothing sticking. Pulled in baits and it appeared that the first hits had taken the hooks and left the baits. On passes 2 and 3 the Wahoo had been playing ping pong with what was left of the baits. A hard head lure with 10” skirt had 3 pieces of skirt left and notches in the hard head. Wahoo 2, Special Blend 0. Ok, lets go to wire. Next pass two hits, one got away because of equipment failure (took lure), the other just lost fish. Wahoo 3 “Special Blend” 0. Next pass only one rod out, don't remember what happened but result was Wahoo 4 “Special Blend” 0, and that was after only 15 minutes. Meanwhile “Quantum Leap” had lost one tuna, lost one wahoo at boat and boated one Wahoo.
Now our problem on “Special Blend” was finding lures with with good wire leaders. We finally added weight to a couple and put one line out and made a pass, Christy boated a 50 # Wahoo. Wahoo 4 “Special Blend” 1. Next pass two lines out, Holly 50 # wahoo, Brad an over 50# Wahoo.Wahoo 4 “Special Blend” 3. we now had over 150 # of fish on deck and had been in area only 45 minutes, most of that time spent feeding lures and exercising Wahoo. Meanwhile “Quantum Leap had added their 2ed Wahoo. Time to get to the main attraction of diving.
Anyone in Vanuatu on 4th of July that would like to try spectacular Wahoo Fireworks, try West end of Aniwa, North corner, 250 of water. Nothing to compare this to.
Cap't Log # 3
June 28, 2009 IFGA Record? 60 Pounds of Dolphin
Special Blend is making passage from New Caledonia to Port Resolution on Tana Island in Vanuatu. We are taking our friend Patrick and his family a sleeping dent (?)* and want everyone on board to see the awesome volcano.
40 miles off New Cal the trolling reel started to sing and Christy grabs it and acts like she is on to something big, we see the water break but can't see the fish. The Admiral will not allow Special Blend to set still in a rolley sea anymore, so fish have to be fought against a 2 knot current. Christy's enthusiasm wanes as the drag is increased, Holly wants a shot. Holly has to pass back to Christy and we still can't make out what is on the line. We think we can see a large dorsal fin, we also see a tail fin. Maybe a bill fish, but blue color? Maybe a world class Dolphin? Meanwhile Holly and Christy keep passing rod back and forth.
As the fish nears the boat we gradually make out that two fish are hooked on the single hook Billy Bait. I gaff the larger fish and the smaller comes in with it. It appears that a less than 20# Cow has eaten the bait, the hook point came out through the thin area under the tongue. A over 40# Bull was trying to take the skirted portion of the bait away from the Cow and the top of his head caught on the hook and pulled it all the way though. The Bull is foul hooked in the head and the Cow is hanging on the fishing line.
I've seen a lot of things Dolphin fishing but never two fish on one single hook. Is there a IFGA record they could apply for?
One Billy Bait, One Hook, Two blonds, and Two Dolphin on 80# class line.
* Patrick sent Jim a letter and asked if he could bring a sleeping dent....we assumed that Patrick wanted a sleeping tent.
Cap't Log # 2
June 26, 2008
On The Lam In New Caledonia
We finally got away from Australia and had a fantastically easy 6 day voyage to New Caledonia. Seas were flat and with 4 people to stand watch it was the best long passage ever for Special Blend. The weather charts were in the “blue” the whole way.
Let me digress for a moment to explain my method of weather analysis that so far has gotten us across the pacific. When planning this trip we attended classes on things like “weather”, we purchased books on “weather analysis”, people recommended “routers” to help us plan passages and read charts. Far more information on “weather” was available then I am capable of digesting without serious study time, had to be a better way. I discovered NOAA. NOAA is the organization that own all the satellites, they supply information to all the weather prognosticators around the world. NOAA is the “source” from which all weather information flows. Then I found they produced these weather charts that are in color, blue areas were small waves, green is medium, yellow is large, and red is to avoided at all cost. So now when I am hanging around sailor types and they start talking about highs, lows, squash zones, fronts, and other things I can't even spell, I have to excuse my self before they ask me my opinion. Stay in the “Blue”.
We did the arrival thing with customs, immigration, and quarantine. Picked up Christy at airport and looked for ”blue” seas to Vanuatu. 4 days later I thought it looked good, did the check out thing, customs, immigration, and port captain. Documents stamped, passports stamped, clearance papers in hand and on file, and 24 hours to get out of New Caledonia. The next day the “blue” was “red”, so we moved to the South End of New Caledonia where there are lots of hidden bays to await the return of “blue” that would take place within 2 days. The “Officials” would certainly understand weather problems? What is an extra day? That was Tuesday, today is Sunday. We actually changed anchorages Friday because we heard the “Officials” came around on that day. We thought we would leave today, but held off when “red” showed up again. Maybe this evening we can get away, if not, tomorrow is Monday and we probably will go back to Noumea, turn ourselves in and ask for understanding and mercy. So far the French have been real nice
The good news is that the penal colony that was on this small concealed bay is no longer in use and in ruins.
Cap’t log #1-09
Australia- In search of McDonalds
All travelers need two things above and beyond clean hotels, decent restaurants, and transportation. 1. A good cup of American coffee and 2. Communication with the world back home.
I guess all of Europe, certainly New Zealand, and apparently Australia have fallen for the fluffy stuff that has names, like bar drinks. Chocolate palm leafs and sprinkles on top of a cup of joe??? In Australia the average coffee maker is about the size of a 58 Ford Edsel and far more complicated to operate.
At McDonalds if you ask for a cup of white filter coffee you will get American type coffee with milk. Ask for coffee with cream and they will just stare at you. I think McDonalds is the only place in Australia where you can actually get a cup of unfluffed and unsteamed coffee.
All McDonalds in Australia have wi-fi, FREE. That means you can get a cup of white filter coffee, log on to “Skype”, and talk to friends , family, and business associates. All for the price of a cup of good coffee.
Fortunately Mc Donalds is probably more successful in Australia than in the US of A, so first thing when we do when we get to new town is locate the local store. No problem until you reach the “outback”, apparently McDonalds prefers to market to people instead of kangaroos. At roadhouses in the “outback” you set around with the local “Dundee” types and drink foamy, coffee flavored, stuff that has sprinkles and whipped cream on top. Just doesn’t seem right.