A Week Aboard S/V Sonrisa Part Four

Internet is a problem again, sorry for the text only post. I promise I will fill in pictures when I have internet access once more. …. For our second day of diving, we are going to dive the Clam Mac Wreck. My first wreck dive! Riki arrives with our regular dive crew – Jo and Mosh, and Makke the Tongan dive assistant. Riki explains the history of the wreck as we gear up at the site. The Clam Mack was a freighter traveling the Pacific in 1927. It was scheduled to collect and carry copra (the coconut meat used for extracting coconut oil) from the islands. They failed to add false floors to keep the coconut meat in nice layers, so as they piled up more and more copra, the weight of the coconut on top started pressing down on the bottom layers. Coconut oil began to weep into the bilges and eventually, the coal fired engine lit the coconut oil on fire. The Clam Mack was in transit from Fiji when the fire started. They shut all the hatches and smothered the flames. This worked until they reached Nieafu, but after they had anchored in the harbor and brought the ship along side Nieafu’s wooden wharf, they opened the hatches and the smoldering hot oil burst into flames again. The crew all abandoned ship leaving the captain and the engineer aboard to fend for themselves. Nieafu’s Port Captain gave them clear orders to get the ship away from the wharf before it burns down the entire village. So, the Captain attempted to drive the ship into the middle of the harbor and anchor it on a shallow coral ledge safely in the middle until they could contain the fire. Unfortunately, the huge anchor and chain caught on something and wouldn’t come up. Tongan lore has it that the captain and the engineer could be heard fighting with each other as the Clam Mac went down. They are still down there, fighting to this day. Sometimes you can see the bubbles rising from their watery graves. Everyone gears up and we drop down toward the wreck. It’s about 90 feet down, so you can’t see it from the surface. As we descend, the wreck appears like an apparition gaining strength. By the time we reach the deck, the water clarity is perfect. We can see from the stern all the way to the center of the 400 foot ship. The deck is decorated with all sorts of soft corals, tiny fish, and translucent shrimp. An eagle ray flies by in the distance. We make our way from stern to midship, breathing with a steady rhythm and beating a flipper only when necessary to create a steady movement. Coffee and Brian are doing great, each flanking Riki. We see a school of five giant travali being cleaned by cleaner fish. A huge sea snake rests at the bottom of a ladder. I look down the tunnel of a covered side deck and a school of about fifty fish the size of a yellow and black dinner plate weave toward me swimming right, then left, then right again through the narrow hallway. When we are almost nose to nose, they all turn in formation and squeeze through the rusting metal bars just like ghosts filtering through a wall. We float over the engine room, and we can see bubbles slowly rising out of metal rubble that has been under water just shy of 100 years. Where would that air be coming from? That must be the Captain yelling at the engineer. We circle back to the stern, then ascend. By the time we reach the surface everyone is completely jazzed by the dive. We are all chittering with excitement and reliving this or that thing we saw. Riki pulls out an old wine bottle he found on the wreck. Still corked, you could smell the sweetness of wine inside. “Whaaaaaaooooowwwww!” We all exclaim. What an amazing dive! Andrew and I immediately schedule another day to do it again. We want to go deeper and see the giant propeller. After basking in the sun on the dock, drinking tea and reloading our tanks, we head out to sea to dive another dive with crystal clear water, colorful fish and a number of tight swim throughs. At this point, C&B are feeling quite comfortable and everyone is having a great time. We all get together for a group shot. It’s not awkward to try to float all together, now is it? With the healthy coral, awesome underwater variety, and $45US per dive, Tonga is being added to my list of favorite diving destinations. But then again, there doesn’t seem to be any bad diving spots in the South Pacific. Back at Sonrisa, we clean up and head back to Neiafu. C&B have only one more day left in town before they fly out. We need to get back so they can shop for trinkets. C&B’s last day is “cruise ship day” in Neiafu – the perfect shopping day. All the Tongans have built their little tents and arrived with their wares to sell to the cruise ship patrons. We join the mix with its jovial brass band, chicken roasting on a rotisserie made out of an old truck bed, and trinkets everywhere! Coffee settles o

Source: A Week Aboard S/V Sonrisa Part Four

A Week Aboard S/V Sonrisa Part Three

Internet is a problem again, sorry for the text only post. I promise I will fill in pictures when I have internet access once more. …. I think it was circa 2011, but I can’t be sure. Andrew and I had been racing aboard Heeling Art with Captain Shane since 2007, but our regular crew mates were dwindling due to a variety of odd circumstances. Bobby was out of commission with his back injury, a crew mate who recently realized sailboat motors were equipped with a propeller rather than a jet had mysteriously disappeared, Benedict Alan decided to race on a competitors’ boat and the motley selection of randoms were not sufficiently reliable to man the boat on heavy wind days. So, Captain Shane reached out to two new sailors he met during the Nevada Yacht Club Sail Training Weekend. C&B arrived at the dock with cheerful smiles and ready attitudes. They climbed aboard and were promptly assigned to be rail meat. The cycle of sailing life starts again. Coffee’s spot-on impersonation of Monty Python and the Holy Grail won her immediate permeant crew status. They learned fast and were a cheerful addition to the boat. Soon, we were meeting them for dinners or cocktails away from Lake Mead, receiving invitations for random weekend projects like racing go carts or going camping, and bringing them along to listen to Henderson Symphony Concerts. New friends swiftly became old friends. When Sonrisa came into our lives, C&B volunteered not just to come visit her San Diego but to put in hours and hours of slave labor. They helped us reinstall new chain plates, re-bed various areas of Sonrisa’s deck hardware, and take her out sailing. Having them aboard for this tour of Tonga is our pleasure. After the Bacon Odyssey, our next project is to relocate to anchorages close enough that the scuba boat can pick us up. We have a couple days time to reach the close anchorages, so we have plenty of time to stop at a beach perfect for shelling, swing around in the hammock, snorkel the most colorful reef in Tonga, and stop by Swallows Cave for a tour. Both the reef and swallows cave are a bit awkward to access. They are far away from any safe anchorage for Sonrisa and Grin is nervous about taking all four of us at once across the great expanse. So, instead we take shifts. We reach our destination, everyone piles out in Grin, while I hove-to in deep water. (Hoving-to is a storm/lunch break tactic in which I backwind the front sail, leave the main sail as is, and balance Sonrisa’s rudder in the spot in which she wants to turn both right and left according to her opposite sails. This stops Sonrisa and allows her to scuttle very slowly sideways while we wait for the crew to finish their tour.) When the crew returns, we swap places, and I go explore while Andrew and Sonrisa wait. This worked great at the reef where Grin escorted everyone closer to shore. But, at swallow’s cave, we were so close we figured we could easily swim from Sonrisa to the cave. One by one, Andrew jumps in, Brian jumps in, and then Coffee jumps in. Suddenly, Coffee lets out a sharp screams/wail indicating both fear and pain. “What’s the matter?!” I call back. I begin to untwist my sail plan and use the motor to circle back. “Are you okay?” She is shaking her head “no, no, no”, but she is still swimming away from Sonrisa toward the cave. Andrew and Brian turn back and reach her. The three of them head to the cave and they huddle where the cave meets the coral reef. As I watch them, I wonder what could be wrong. Did she cut her foot on something as she jumped? Did something in the water bite her? Jellyfish? We haven’t seen a single shark while we have been in Tonga, so I doubt it was anything like that. I circle, but Andrew waves me off. So, Sonrisa and I shrug and circle away again. When they emerge out of the cave again, we circle toward them. I instruct them to swim together in the mouth of a cave and I will take a picture. Instead, I get a resounding chorus of “NOs!” What the heck is going on? As they climb aboard Sonrisa, they explain that Coffee did not appreciate the deep, deep blue of 200+ feet below her when she jumped in. I guess I have to come back to cave to get pictures later. We anchor at Port Maurelle and we enjoy beers and olives on the silky soft white sand beach. Pork chops, freshly made refried beans, mole and peppers for dinner. Riki and the Tin Can picked us up bright and early the next morning for our first round of scuba diving. Coffee got her Open Water Certification to be ready to dive in Tonga, so this is going to be her first dive somewhere exotic. Remembering my nerves the first time I dove out here (Link to Manihi Dive), I volunteered to be her buddy and hold her hand. Everyone gets dressed up in their gear, over the side we go. Suddenly, her regulator

Source: A Week Aboard S/V Sonrisa Part Three

Shark Bait, By Sonrisa

We need to carry a bit of momentum if we are going to experience the windward society islands.  So, after three days, we pick up anchor and head to Fakarava’s Southern end.  The wind is spectacular at 20 knots off my port beam.  We sail along inside the atoll, so there are no waves.  I hear Andrew and Leslie praising my speed and agility, and I turn my nose up with pride. Then, I hear someone say “Take out all of her heavy cruising gear and she would be an excellent lake racer.” What?!  Lake racer?  That’s crazy.  No.  No, no, no.  I’m claustrophobic.   I hyperventilate about the possibility of being landlocked until I hear Leslie say “I don’t think she would like to be surrounded by land.  She has a pretty serious case of wanderlust.”  Right, exactly. I return to enjoying Fakarava’s waveless lagoon, and look!  Kevin is smiling, too.  We stop for the night at about the half way mark.  The crew heads ashore to drink a beer and they meet a handful of other sailors to chat with.  We don’t stay long, though, and the next morning, we pull out again.  For the first time ever, Andrew has decided to tow Grin behind me.  He is tied up tightly to my stern, and I look back to see what he is doing. As Leslie warms up my engine, Grin bops happily in the little wind chop waves. “I don’t know about this.” I think.  But Grin can’t imagine what could go wrong. We make quick headway under genoa sail alone.  The wind is blowing steadily behind my quarter stern, and whitecaps are forming even in the protected lagoon.  Leslie is at the helm actively steering, but with the whitecaps and passing clouds it is hard to spot coral heads.  I am nervous.  We slide by a coral head only two feet below the surface just to my starboard side.  We missed it by maybe 10 feet.  I couldn’t see it, Leslie couldn’t see it, and it wasn’t on the chart.   “Woah, look at that!” Kevin says, pointing.  Leslie gets a sick feeling in her stomach thinking about what could happen out here.  Andrew is then posted on top of the boom as coral spotter.   As we arrive, and I immediately start making friends.  I meet a super yacht named Vertigo next door, ramoras attach themselves to my underbelly, fish swarm around me, and sharks join the fun. Andrew hops in the water to check out the anchor set.  “Ayieeeeeii!  There are a lot of sharks down here!”   My crew spends the evening chasing sharks, eagle rays and fish right below my keel.   My captain, on the other hand, spends another night in/with The Boat of Punishment trying to fix the outboard motor that has so aptly been named Groan by a good friend/blog reader.  While Osmond listened to Andrew cry tears into his beer over the continually inoperable dinghy motor, Osmond mentioned that he would like to scuba with the sharks, too.  This cheered Andrew quite a bit, and Andrew set to work to find Osmond an adequate scuba apparatus.  Success was achieved with at lock tight bean canister and some butyl tape.  Osmond ventures where no owl has ventured before. Fakarava South Pass is famous for a wall of a thousand sharks.  So, later that afternoon, my crew left Osmond and I to relax while they scuba dived with more and more and more sharks.  I am jealous, but I plan to check them out as we leave through the pass in a couple of days.   The wall of sharks did not disappoint. We were going to leave the next day, but rain and heavy winds prevented departure.  So, Grin took the crew onto land to explore the tiny village.  But, when I look across the water and I see Grin drifting along in the current, all alone.  What the….???  I look and look and look for the crew, no crew.  Are they still on land?  How will they get back?  What if Grin is swept out to sea?  I try to brainstorm options, but there isn’t much I can do.  So, I wait and fret.  Grin is drifting directly to me, so that keeps me a bit more at ease.   As Grin moves closer, I see a rope tied to Grin’s bow stretched out forward and attached around Andrew’s waist.  Andrew has his fins and snorkel on.  Leslie, Crystal and Kevin are floating in the water, free diving and swimming along behind.  They had been drift snorkeling in the current the whole time!   All is well.  Leslie’s anxiety is starting to rub off on me, I think.  The snorkel pictures are awesome.  I can’t wait to motor through the pass, so I can see the sharks, too! The next day, we drop the mooring ball and head out to sea.  Onward, ever onward to Tahiti.  And here is some bonus material for you.  I couldn’t get it to embed here because I am a technologically disinclined sailboat, but click this link https://youtu.be/boV0t-riFuw to hear Sister Pooh’s warning about swimming in the Shark’s House.  You will laugh.

Source: Shark Bait, By Sonrisa

Manihi to My Stern, By Sonrisa

We spent two weeks in Manihi.  Usually, I would be chomping at the bit staying in one place that long, but I was feeling a little down.  The day after we arrived in Manihi, I learned an old friend had passed away.  This news gave me quite a shock.  I know nothing is permanent, but I’m used to having him here.  When Andrew would get stuck figuring out repairs or the combination for my safe, my friend would always know what to do.  We had such fun together, years ago.  I’m going to miss him. Just like with my crew, Manihi cheered me up a little bit.  The kids helped Leslie clean all the sea grime off my waterline and I look prettier than I have looked in months.  Every day, kids would come and swim with me, doing backflips off my deck, climbing on my chain or otherwise paying attention to me.  They all wanted tours.  I rested, tied up safe and secure.  I didn’t have to worry at all about my anchor chain being tangled up in coral or being blown onto any reef.  But, of course, I want to get more miles under my keel, too.  So, after two weeks I was ready to head out to sea.  My crew spent the last day receiving a boulangerie tour, drilling holes in sea urchins for future necklaces, and trying their hand at tuna fishing with Ferdinand.  That night, the crew headed back to the soccer field for more of Estella’s chow mien, to listen to Lizzie and Mama Manihi sing in the Heiva talent competition, and to compete with Ferdinand in carnival games.  Everyone knew we were leaving in the morning, so there were handstand challenges, last minute cookie shopping (guided by cookie experts), lots of hugs and goodbyes. Andrew and Leslie said we had to leave by 9:00 a.m. to make it out of the pass on outbound tide.  They set an alarm for 6:00 a.m. and got to work tidying my decks and preparing things down below. At 8:15 a.m., Ferdinand stopped by in his panga and showed us all a large tuna he caught.  He insisted the crew pop by his house in a half hour to learn how to make manoi oil.   At 8:45 a.m. sharp, our friends June, Fatiaou, Lizzie, Manihi Mama and Sylvainn all arrived on the dock with giant manoi flower leis, sea shell leis, a captains hat woven from palm fronds, polished clam shells, and a manoi flower wreath for Kevin.  They adorn my crew; hugs all around.  Andrew starts my engine, and I think we are ready to go.  Then, the crew decides to stop at Ferdinand’s to say goodbye.    “Uh, guys? We are going to be late!”  I started to get a little nervous.  Our Manihi family and I waited while Ferdinand shows everyone a giant tuna, teaches Andrew to split coconuts, and explains the process for making manoi oil, grates coconut and sends my crew on their way with all the ingredients necessary to make manoi oil when we reach Fakarava. More hugs, tears from Mama Manihi, and finally, everyone is aboard.  We release my ropes and I try to hold really still in the tiny marina while Andrew pulls up my anchor.  A solid portion of the town is out at the marina watching Va’a races and/or saying goodbye.  We don’t want to look like turkeys.     Andrew gets the anchor up smoothly, and we wave goodbye.  We head out of the pass as another sailboat moves in.  Ferdinand is standing on the quay where the Dory ties up, waving us closer.  We try to move closer, but the current is taking us out pretty fast.  Ferdinand, Juanita, and a pile of kids throw flowers to us in the water.  The little kids run the length of the dock, waving.  Manihi is a hard place to leave.     Soon, we are out to sea with the Manihi pass safely traversed.  Although a gentleman does not sail to weather, Captain Andrew isn’t always a gentleman. The wind is just slightly off my nose at 20-25 knots, but the sea is fairly calm. We sail by a triple reefed main, jib and a hankie of genoa, and that balances my steering perfectly.  It’s a good thing, too, because everyone feels a bit seasick; there is a price to pay for that perfectly still anchorage.  We try to keep Kevin medicated, but he still barfed once.  Pretty soon, Andrew is leaning over the rail offering his trademark silent, dainty puke to Neptune.  Crystal holds it together, and Leslie was smart enough to take some Sturgeon before we left so she was fine.   The night watch was lit by a full moon, accompanied by a pleasant and dry wind.    By the time Andrew’s early morning watch was over, we had Fakarava’s North Pass in sight. The pass is wide and easy, we are entering on the latter half of an incoming tide so we have no problem motoring straight in. I look around and see coral heads here and there, but Leslie is following the charted path carefully and Andrew is posted on the bow as lookout.  This puts me at ease, and I relax as we motor through the calm lagoon.  We see our old friends on Athenor and anchor next door. Fakarava is known to be one of the very best pla

Source: Manihi to My Stern, By Sonrisa

Check where Sonrisa says she’s from (look at the picture.) Amazing!


Dad On Board

What does your Dad think of this crazy sailing idea? This question is posed to me quite often.  You have to feel a little bad for a guy who’s daughter has some crazy idea that she is going to sail off into the middle of an ocean with that guy who married her.  Dads of daughters out there….can you imagine?  Since it is Father’s Day, I thought I might tell you a little more about my Dad.   My dad has three daughters and no sons.  Much to his credit, he didn’t let this daughter conundrum stop him. He always said his girls “can do anything a boy can do, only better.” So, as a little girl, he taught me to play softball, I was always invited to go pheasant hunting in Delta, Utah, and when I was old enough, deer hunting.  The traditional family hunting spot is in Whiskey Creek (pronounced “Crick” in this instance).  My Dad’s family has been hunting there for at least three generations if not more.   To reach deer camp, we would travel quite a few miles off road into the mountains, up a dirt road requiring four wheel drive or a bit of finesse.  Once there, we pitched our smaller tent next to a large, canvas tent that held several bunks, a fire burning stove, and a camp kitchen for my dad’s cousins.  My uncle Ray would ask my dad if he wanted a “soda pop”, reach into the cooler and pull out a Budweiser.  He’d crack it open and throw in a dash of salt.  Uncle Ray would give me a big hug and laugh.  My face would squish against his suspender straps and wool plaid shirt.  He smelled like roasted coffee grounds.   We would go to bed early because we would have to wake up in the dark of night (3:30 a.m.) or so to eat breakfast and start hiking.  We had to be in place at the top of the mountain by sunrise. It is really cold in the mountains at 3:30 a.m.  I would throw on my long johns (which by afternoon, I would always regret), my jeans, my hunter orange wool button down shirt, a bright orange beany cap, and my hiking boots.  Then, I would set off, usually the only gal in a pack of men with beards and rifles.   We would hike several miles together and then split off to go to our respective rocks.  My dad had his own rock, but by the time I was going hunting with him he took me to my grandfather’s rock each time instead.  It would still be dark by the time we would arrive, my pant legs would be damp with the frost I brushed through as we hiked, and I would get cold as soon as we tucked ourselves into the crevices of the rocks.  Making an exception for me, even though the deer would smell it, my dad made me the tiniest of fires to warm me up.  You could cup it in your hand if it wouldn’t burn your wool glove.  Sitting at the top of the mountain, you could see the top of the peaks of the range that surround the area.  Whispering, my dad would tell me stories about other hunting trips with his dad. The stars were numerous until the pink light of sunrise started to brush them away, first at the horizon, then spreading to the dome of the sky.  Quietly, as that early light would turn from pink to yellow, a group of deer might sneak over the ridge.  Some years, neither he nor I had a license to hunt, so we were just there for the fun of it.  My Dad would point and say: “Look, Les!  Isn’t that beautiful?”   My Dad has a million pursuits he could pursue, but he put all of them aside to work.  My mom stayed at home to raise all three of their daughters, and my Dad kept that engine running.  He would get up at 4:30 a.m. to be to work by 5:30 a.m. so that he could be home by 5 to coach my softball team, attend (and videotape) my dance or piano concerts, etc.  While he has always worked in mining or chemical manufacturing, he is an artist at heart.  He is a very good photographer, an excellent chef, an artist of landscape design and lawn maintenance, and a storyteller. He is the guy that taught me you can enjoy life even if you are not perfectly comfortable.  You will not see deer sneaking over the crest of a mountain at sunrise if you do not hike six miles in the dark and settle in by a rock even though you are very cold.   Andrew and I started talking about this sailing idea within a year of its conception, but I don’t think my Dad believed we would actually go until approximately six months before we left.   “You can’t go until you take me out and show me you know how to sail in the ocean.” He announced on a late summer morning as we sipped our coffee on his beautiful back patio.  The deep crease on his forehead furrowed with concern. “Dad!  We took you sailing for the Fourth of July last year!  We showed you we could sail!”   “No, no.  That is not in the ocean.  Anyone can sail in the bay.  You have to take me out in the ocean and show me you can sail.”   I laughed.  “Ok, ok.  I would be happy to, but don

Source: Dad On Board

Once again, excellent pictures if you click the link.