Andrew and Leslie’s excitement over the possibility of Thailand’s borders opening was short lived. It didn’t take long for that article to be retracted, with other administrators in Thailand saying “well, wait a minute, not quite.” And so, Thailand was again off the table and we are left to float
We’ve been having a lot of fun out here, but there is one problem nagging us (me) since we reached the Marquesas. What are we doing for Cyclone season? When we left San Diego, we had grand plans in mind. We wanted to sail from San Diego => Cabo San Lucas => Galapagos Islands => Marquesas => Society Islands => Cook Islands => Tonga => Fiji => Vanuatu => New Caledonia => New Zealand. At the time we made this plan, we were still headlong in jobs that allowed us (at best) two weeks of vacation per year. With that reality in mind, having only two weeks in each of these island groups seemed fantastic. A two week vacation over and over again? That would have to be satisfying. But, there were several realities about sailing we hadn’t wrapped our heads around: (1) there is a lot of boat administration that must be done in order to survive out here like acquiring diesel, parts for repairs, etc. (2) everything takes (much) longer than you anticipate; and (3) passage making takes a bit of recovery time. By the time we reached the Marquesas, we were passage weary. We had spent 53 days of 90 at sea. The idea of leaving the Marquesas in a short two weeks was painful, especially after spending five full days on just Hiva Oa alone. We either could not or did not want to try to move through entire countries at a two week pace for the rest of this season. We also learned about the beautiful Tuamotus (remember Manihi and Fakarava?) and realized we had to add them to our list of destinations. So, we started trying to figure out how to reshuffle Fiji, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia into next season. As fate would have it, we ran into some cruisers who knew some other cruisers who wanted to offload a cyclone rated mooring in Tonga. They had reserved their mooring months prior, but then after making the crossing to the Marquesas they realized they did not like open ocean sailing. They hired a captain to take their boat back to Mexico for them, leaving their Tonga mooring open for the picking. Could this be a good solution for us? The deposit was only $140.00 and there was no cancellation penalty, so that seemed like a low price to pay to have options. We could see several benefits to mooring in Tonga. It would give us a better jumping off point for the next season to sail through Fiji, New Caledonia and Vanuatu all the way North to Thailand by the end of the 2017 season. We would fly to New Zealand and Australia to travel by land while we wait out this Cyclone season. This way, we can still see all the places we want to see;, we would just shuffle the timing around a bit. In addition, we would not have to sail South to New Zealand, which is known as one of the stormier bits of sea in this part of the world. If you sail to New Zealand, you are guaranteed to hit at least one storm on the way there and on the way back when you sail North the next season. We know Sonrisa could handle the path (she’s done it twice before), but it just sounds unpleasant. So, Tonga sounds great, right? There is one large drawback to Tonga: it gets hit by at least one cyclone most years. Some years, it gets hit by multiple cyclones. Reading all the cruising guides, Va’avu Tonga is a “known hurricane shelter”. Shaped like a snail-shell, it is supposed to be a protected area where boats can ride out all manner of horrible weather. There are a number of reports written by other cruisers indicating they had a good experience leaving their boat in Tonga, either on moorings or on land. We had talked to an old sailing-codger in Galapagos islands a while back who could not understand why we were moving so fast. His position was that many boats ride out cyclones/hurricanes in all parts of the world without problems: Florida, Mexico, etc. etc., and therefore, there is no reason why we have to push to get to New Zealand by the end of this season. Just store her properly and you will be fine. His experienced opinion (after doing two circumnavigations) was that the South Pacific deserved at least two sailing seasons of exploration. This made some bit of sense to us at the time. So, we tentatively reserved the mooring ball, and sailed on. As time went on, I felt a bit of homesickness. It is rare to get this much time away from work. I am getting to explore the world, and it is amazing, but I am also a half a world away from my family and friends. The only thing that would make this year more perfect would be if I could spent a bit of time with family and friends, too. “Hey!” I think, “what if we spent half of November and all of December at home?” Then, I could cap off this perfect year seeing people I love, return Jan/Feb. to explore Australia, fly March/April to mountain bike New Zealand, then return to Sonrisa and sail her from Tonga to Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia at
Source: The Tonga/New Zealand Problem
*Warning to Crystal and Kevin: You should probably just skip the next few posts.* We were going to skip Maupiti. The pass from the ocean into the Maupiti lagoon is notoriously harrowing, especially in a Southerly swell. We were running out of time on our 90 day visa, and there still wasn’t much clarity from the Gendarmerie regarding whether we could check out of Bora Bora and then go to Maupiti or not. So, we were planning just to leave from Bora Bora and head to Roratonga in the Cook Islands. But, the weather answered this question for us. The wind was forecasted to be from the East, with a minimal swell for the remainder of our day. Then, it was scheduled to increase to gale force winds the next day. The swell was going to grow and turn Southerly. The trip to Rorotonga is a four to five day passage, so if we left, we would be stuck in some nasty weather. We had just enough time to sail over to Maupiti and settle in. We had a rainy sail over and we could tell the weather forecast was going to be accurate. Nonetheless, when we saw the Maupiti pass, we considered just carrying on anyway. The pass is only the width of maybe three Sonrisas, side by side. On the right and the left are shallow coral beds where even the minimal swell gathers up into mountains that roll over on top of themselves. We can see deep blue ocean transform to turquoise and white foam from a mile outside the pass. I am not being neurotic here. There is nothing more dangerous to a fiberglass sailboat than the nasty combination of a breaking wave onto coral. If one those breaking waves catches Sonrisa in its curl, she could be thrown onto the coral and smashed to pieces. We circle at a safe distance and think: what could go wrong? Current could pull us to the right or to the left, the helmsman could lose attention for just a moment, or most concerning, the engine could fail. As we consider these possibilities, we look around. The pass between the breaking waves is calm and flat aside from little ripples that look like a river current. All of them are pointing straight out at us, so we feel reasonably certain the current won’t pull us away. Andrew will be posted on the bow as coral spotter, so I won’t have to look around. My only job will be to keep Sonrisa pointed straight and true unless Andrew instructs otherwise. The wind is from the east, and the pass is facing South. This means that if the engine cuts out, we would be able to pull out a sail and carry forward without too much trouble. We decide to do it. (See how we did that, Dad? T-R-A-C-K) Okay, enough; time to execute. As we go, I wonder if Sonrisa has been here before, or if her prior owners were too prudent to take her through this pass. The roar of breaking waves to both sides is deafening, but Sonrisa and I stay focused on where we want to go. The current is flowing at two knots against us, but her engine easily handles that push and we slide through at 4 knots. The process seemed to take forever, but I’m sure were through the sticky spot in less than 10 minutes. We were in. We will worry about getting out later. Once in, red and green markers guide us through a twisting path around shallow spots and coral heads. Andrew is still posted at the bow, the sun is bright now and we can easily see where to turn. We snake through the channel and over to an anchorage filled with boats. We drop our anchor in white sand, play out as much “storm scope” as we can without swinging into other boats or coral and settle in. We head to shore to explore and discover a cute little town. The island is small enough that you can walk around the entire thing in just a few hours. We walk far enough around the island to watch an amazing sunset. On our return trip, we push through a tide of locals. “Ia Orana, Ia Orana, Ia Orana, Ia Orana….” Every single passer by greets us. “Ia Orana, Ia Orana, Ia Orana.” As we pass the church, scooters, bikes and a few cars are congregating in the small parking lot. We come upon the local hippie. His hair gray in Rasta dreads locks. His face creased with smile lines, and a small radio is strapped around his neck playing regge. His bare feet shuffle in the sand and shells on the side of the road. He smiles and offers to share his smoky religious exhalation. En Francais, he explains that “Everyone in the world is God’s children, and his smoky treat would let you see the face of God.” He waves his arms broadly toward the sky, blissfully kissing his two fingers and sending them skyward. “Merci, Mon Dieu, merci!” He smiles at us, but we decline. He can hardly believe we don’t want to see the face of God today, but then he shrugs as if to say “your loss!” Then he giggles and thanks us profusely for stopping to say hello. We hear there is a party scheduled for Friday night at
Source: The Maupiti Weather Window
Really. Check it out along the right border of this page. Weather Bug abandoned its WordPress users, so I switched to Accuweather. Less colorful, but accurate. (It’s right in the name, innit?)
In Las Vegas we expect to top 100 degrees Fahrenheit this week. It was 94 yesterday afternoon, so it’s only a matter of time. Mornings are still cool, but check out the temperature now.
In case you’re wondering, Las Vegas is in the Pacific time zone, 8 hours behind GMT, but in summer that’s only 7 hours. Also it’s exactly 3 hours earlier than it is in New York City. I mention that to help you figure out what time it is when the temperature is what it is. Just now, at 8:09 in the morning, it’s 80 degrees.