Sunday, May 27, 2007

Paradise

Talk about being on another planet – I don’t speak any French and Marquesan is completely alien to me. Consequently – the communication gap is large. No matter, these people’s smiles are as broad as their shoulders, and they are skilled at pantomime. When going to shore, I find that all the kids ask for bonbons and all the adults ask for whiskey. I think they are conditioned to relate white people with handouts. The French take pretty good care of them.

With children, you’re foolish to pay them before they deliver. Once they have the bonbons they will never “take out the trash”, or “mow the yard”, or in this case; bring the bananas, bread or pamplemousse. When I was a kid, I did the same thing. I tracked 40 year old Jean for 2 days. I needed him to live up to his end of the bargain. He finally did, when the rum was all gone and the hangover had worn off. He even gave me extra as a consolation. You get 1 bunch of bananas per tree so the whole thing gets cut down. It was interesting to watch him wield that machete with expert skill in a remote jungle setting. I’m so glad these people don’t practice human sacrifice or cannibalism any longer.

The really good news is: They haven’t stolen my outboard yet!

They always want to trade. Rum costs $30 a bottle here and it has to be shipped in on the weekly boat. I paid $3 in Panama. I’m so happy I stocked up. That’s not the only thing they will trade for. If they take a fancy to something, they’ll swap. One sailor literally exchanged a paper clip for 3 bags of fruit, another, a whistle. I almost swapped a nearly useless garlic press for a pearl. Then she tried the garlic press.

These islands are so tall they seem to reach up and snag the clouds and create their own weather systems. It rains frequently. Consequently, we spend a lot of time opening and closing all the hatches a few times a day. These towering volcanic columns are so impressive. I implore you to find pictures of the Marquesan islands since it will be a long time before I find an internet connection and can send pics. I can’t seem to transmit on the HF radio from behind their looming slabs so even this form of communication is rare.

Suzi has perfected square pizza and in anticipation of it becoming a hit with all the other cruisers we’ve given it the code name “squeaky pete”. Her dishes are popular and I hate sharing food. I’m just too hungry all the time! Finally I have a use for that pizza cutter I brought.

Today we need to: fix the headsail, patch the dink, kayak the point, and after night fall, snorkel for lobster.

What are you up to?

- Capt Bobby –

P.S./ Forget the snorkeling. I just saw an 8 foot hammerhead shark swimming alongside while I was kayaking.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Day 24 - Fatu Hiva, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia

We made it. We anchored in paradise about an hour ago. Google this place cuz words will never do it justice. The water is pleasantly warm, and so incredibly clear that I can see the bottom in 100 feet of water. The cliffs soar 3000 feet over the anchorage with nothing but green green green.

Being here has been a dream of mine now for 16 years. I can’t believe it’s finally real.

We don’t know what to do with ourselves. The gauges and meters are all off. The sails are all furled. All the hatches are open and we are sitting peacefully still. What do we do now?

I’ll let you know later,

Bobby

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Day 22

Will this ever end? Wrestling practice, my dad, Sun Tees, and now this cursed crossing. If I can survive the above challenges, I can survive anything. I once traveled from a Danish island to a Greek island non-stop. It was 5 days of trains, ships and buses. I didn’t sleep on anything stationary for 5 nights. I thought that was a big deal. Cheese and Rice! This is punishment sustained. It’s like living full time, in one of those inflatable houses that children jump in at carnivals (minus the padding and kiddy germs). The constant sensation of motion is exhausting. Your muscles have to flex while asleep just to keep you in the bunk. There is no respite from the yawing and pitching and rolling. We both just want stationary. You take it for granted living on land.

I have pestered Suzi nearly to death. I’m out of material. Now I have to reach out to you. Can you imagine being confined to 200 sq feet of living space with one other person and no one gets to leave for 24 days? That water better be perfectly clear and warm and filled with gorgeous fish cuz I’m gonna kill ‘em all.

We are 209 miles out and the wind has completely died. We are now motoring. So much for tradewinds. “You’ll have 15 knots the whole way.” “You won’t ever have to adjust a sail.” “Smooth sailing on flat seas.” “It’s the coconut milk run.” Ha! When you guys sail this stretch, be armed with the truth.

Because I’m 38% insane at this point, I thought I might share the musings of my corroded mind:
1.) One English expression every Hispanic knows: “Take it easy.”
2.) Driving cars is fun
3.) Ice is your revenge against the elements
4.) It’s not Barraveigh, it’s Oye Veigh!
5.) “Llama llamada. Por una quada”
6.) When I’m in Vietnam I’m going to pick a fight with someone, so that I can truthfully say from that day on, “I fought in Nam.”
7.) Why do people like Mike Mayberry? He’s not a good friend to any of us? Let’s stop Mike Mayberry.
8.) “Hair and lips” are the only things on a girl you can get away with calling fat
9.) Iron Bru is made with girders
10.) We call it “cursive”, and the ever efficient English, who invented the language, call it “joined-up-writing.”
11.) Southern Cross my ass. I can find 150 crosses without even trying. The real deal is a let down

I’m gonna catch that reuben sandwich!

Bobby

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Day 17

I downed the shot of vodka, I swallowed the 2 red Columbian pain killers, I stuffed the sock in my mouth and only then, did I place my left hand on the table.

My uncle Bill, via long range email on the single side band radio, had described the process for realigning a dislocated finger, and it didn’t sound like a bucket of joy. This one was seriously out of joint after trying to loosen a jammed headsail in 20 knots of wind. It pointed violently toward my thumb with no accord to the harmony of the other 4 digits. Suzi’s instructions were to pull it out so it can reseat itself. We tried several times, and to no resolve. No pop, no straightening, just ripe pain searing along the length of my ring finger every time she gave it a yank.

Then the alarm on the GPS went off. I had programmed it 10 days before when we left the Galapagos Islands for the Marquesas Islands of French Polynesia. The alarm denoted the halfway mark. I was 1,500 miles from land. That’s the farthest you can get on this planet from terra firma. My engine was leaking oil & diesel, the generator only continued to run if you hand pumped the fuel ball, and the headsail had jammed in the track in such a way that I couldn’t reef it entirely. And of course, I have only one functional hand.

As I type this, we are currently on a heading of 325 degrees. 360 is due north so you can see we’re not that far off. Why am I pointing this thing north when the goal is west? Good question. I can’t keep the winds directly behind me due to this misshapen headsail that’s jammed, and my previous course before we gybed was going to take us to Pitcairn Island instead of Fatu Hiva. Had that happened, I would have had a mutiny on my hands that would have made The Bounty look like a Sunday morning “row”.

Our inability to sail directly downwind was further compounded 2 nights ago by the fact that the furling line had chewed through a point of chafe (that I had somehow missed) and parted at midnight in 28 knots of wind as it completely deployed itself. When it’s howling 28 knots you reef to expose less sail to the wind. The last thing you want is more sail. I suddenly had a lot more. The boat accelerated almost immediately. I needed to get this situation under control at once.

“Suzi! Wake up and suit up! I need you!” We put on our harnesses and I clipped into the jack lines that run the entire length of Barraveigh. I crawled forward with fresh batteries in my headlamp in order to inspect the situation. Once I put the repair plan together in my head I pulled myself back towards the cockpit and shouted to Suzi what I would need: 2 oversized carabineers and the new green furler line. Again I crawled forward with the vessel awash up to the mast every time she sped into another green wave. If I go overboard, there is no way Suzi will ever find me, let alone get me back in the boat. In an ocean this large with help so far away, if you can’t save each other – you’re done. Every move was literally life or death. I had to tie the frayed line to the new one and use the carabineers to redirect the angle of pull so it wouldn’t chew through again. Damn. I should have caught that days ago, then I wouldn’t need to be up here risking my bacon now. Sheets of water conspired against every step I needed to complete. The pain in my dislocated finger was a constant reminder that I couldn’t trust that hand to hold me should I bounce over the rail. I moved slowly and deliberately, careful not to drop anything or overextend my balance. I got the lines joined, and screamed for Suzi to start furling it in. She did, and the boat came back into control as her speed diminished. Good – now I needed to find a place to secure the carabineer. The toe rail hole was perfectly located; I just couldn’t get enough body weight on the line to push it into the jaw of the carabineer. I took a calculated chance and lifted myself up quickly and practically sat on it. It worked.

It looked good. It still does. I now check it regularly, and I adjust all lines a few inches every other day, just in case I can’t see if they’re wearing. That was harrowing and I never want to repeat it. I sense inwardly though, that in some way, I am stronger for having lived through it. This trip is like a 5 year “Outward Bound” program, except, this is the extreme version on steroids, with zero “do overs”. We expose ourselves to our fears in hopes of overcoming them. Sir Robin Knox-Johnston said, “…sailing is chess with pull-ups.” That’s the honest truth. We need to think at least 2 steps ahead and physically live up to the challenges as well.

The finger hurts constantly, and we won’t be out of danger until we’re anchored 10 days from now, but I know we can do this.

- Captain Bob -

Georgia

Crossing the Border The Georgian immigration lady literally put a diamond loupe on my driver's license and passport and went over every ...