Category Archives: Leslie’s Posts

Shades of Sea

Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary definitions:

  • Blue- one of the three primary colors (red, yellow, blue); a hue of the clear sky or that of the color spectrum lying between green and violet
  • Turquoise- a variable color averaging a light greenish blue; bluish green
  • Aqua- a light greenish blue color
  • Aquamarine- a pale blue to a light greenish blue
  • Blue-green- a bluish green pigment
  • Cobalt- a greenish blue pigment; a tough lustrous silver-white metallic blue
  • Light Blue- a pale sky blue
  • Cerulean- resembling the blue of the sky
  • Azure- lapis lazuli- the blue color of the clear sky; the heraldic color blue; unclouded sky
  • Royal blue- a variable color averaging a vivid purplish blue lighter than navy
  • Sapphire- a transparent rich blue edging toward navy; a variable color averaging a deep purplish blue
  • Navy- a variable color averaging a grayish purplish blue
  • Slate- a grayish blue with a silver tint
  • Indigo- a variable color averaging a deep grayish blue; blue w/ a coppery luster
  • Silver- a nearly neutral, slightly brownish medium grey having a white lustrous sheen
  • Blue-brown- a group of colors between red, yellow and blue of medium to low lightness and of moderate to low saturation
  • Inky-black- like oil, very dark with no spectrum of light, almost seems viscous
Inky Black or Indigo?

Today, 2 days past the Torres Strait now sailing in the Gulf of Carpenteria between Cape York Peninsula and Darwin, Australia, the color of the salt water surrounding us is a translucent aqua, the color of an aqua marine gem, like the gem that my mother passed down to me set in a ring designed by my Uncle Denny. The water is so clear, if it weren’t for the whitewater chop and 6-foot swell, you get the sense that you could see exceedingly deep. The color gives me the false impression that the gulf is quite shallow, maybe 10-50 feet deep with a sandy bottom like in French Polynesia’s lagoons. However, consulting Kandu’s depth gauge, we measure 175-feet. As far as oceans go, this is somewhat shallow, yet no lagoon.

Aquamarine Blue

“Trent, what color is the sea to you?” sitting across from me in the cockpit. “It’s green and blue, so turquoise,” he said gazing at me uninterested while listening to ‘The Sing-off’ on his iPod. With the angle of the sun shining from the west at a little past noon, looking behind me to the east, the water is aqua with shimmering highlights of baby blue. There is a definite sense of coolness, but not cold, a thoroughly welcoming sight under the hot sun. Gazing west toward the direction of the intense sun, the color morphs into a deep sapphire or indigo blue with silver glistening on top as the swell leisurely rises and falls. Light winds, no clouds, slight cirrus wisps visible on the horizon 360 degrees around.

Turquoise

My unblemished mood is directly related to today’s genial ocean temperament.Circumstances in life provide a multitude of colors and moods, all of which are left to our own interpretation: good, bad, happy, sad, like the sea: magical, mesmerizing, meandering, monotonous, massive, morphing. Today the sea is kind and mesmerizing, tomorrow maybe not. She is a fickle beast, undeterred in strength and hue by us voyagers. But like all things in nature and circumstance, she isn’t personal in her charm or rage. We simply float on the surface, riding along while it suits us, tucking away close to shore if we can when her condition no longer warrants safe and breakage-free passage.

Royal Blue

When fathoming her magnitude, strength and changeability, this day, her color is expansive and her mood gentle, inviting. Aboard Kandu, we have witnessed most of her colors, those found in the color spectrum between green, blue, purple and inky black at night. One of my favorites being shiny slate, normally glimpsed at twilight or on a 75% cloudy day. Most other cloudless windy days her color all around is navy blue with sky blue highlights. That’s when we’re sailing in deep waters. When first approaching the more shallow Torres Straight, the shiny bright blue plastic color on the boys’ Skylander figurine Freezeblade, offered a distinct demarcation between deep waters and this new ‘other water.’

Freezeblade

It was as if we were entering an entirely different ocean, passing from cavernous shadow into liquid light suggesting a certain mystery. However, this afternoon, there is no hidden secrecy. The path is straightforward, lucid and clear, no humidity thus no haze. The sun shines brilliantly and the winds are fair, steady, not cold nor hot, not too strong – just right.

Leslie

 

Daily Log: Are we there yet? We’re coming Darwin….

Exhausted Captain Eric

July 12, 2017 – Damage Report – Eric

Damage Report: wind generator (dead), wind vane (chaffed), electric generator (doused), alternator belt (loose), sail sheets (frayed), water maker (impossible to run in bad swell), boat (water intrusion in unexpected places), propeller shaft packing gland (leaking profusely), forward head, (leaking), crew (tired), US flag (shredded like a Fort McHenry replica).

High winds 30-35 mph gusts +40 mph and 2-3 meter seas made upwind sailing difficult. Tried to use engine, but squeaky alternator belt made me nervous. Weather forecast 2-3 days same, so would have to navigate a precise route through Torres Strait at night with a tired crew, and a hard worked, wet boat. Leslie suggested anchoring somewhere. I made a VHF 16 call hailing the coast guard, but there was no response. When I asked “Any boats in the area?” a patrol boat “Cape Nelson” replied. I asked for advice and approval to anchor off Coconut Island. He agreed and said he would notify Australian authorities of our circumstance. Though choppy and windy, the anchorage along side the small island strip was a great respite. I slept for hours. When I awoke, I learned Bryce had swum ashore. I couldn’t believe he could be so ignorant: 1) no knowledge of tides or currents, 2) no knowledge of wild life – jellyfish, sea snakes, crown of thorns, crocs or sharks, etc., and 3) landing before we’ve officially cleared. At a loss as to what to do, I texted Curtis with our Delorme to make contact with the Coconut Island Police. They found and returned him via boat stating, “He is a lucky boy. Lucky to be alive.” The local policeman went on to explain that a previous boater who swam to shore was mauled on his shoulder by a tiger shark. Further, Bryce was swimming ashore close by where sea turtle entrails were being tossed in the water. Bryce was lucky also that his misstep (breaking international law) happened in Australia and not in a strict Islamic country. Before leaving, the policeman mentioned that the officials in Darwin had been contacted and would not be pleased.

7-13-2017 – Coconut Island. Got much work done on the boat!

7-14-2017 – More work, prepped for the next day’s favorable forecast.

Trent Rigney replacing our beaten American flag.
Retired American Flag

7-15-2017 – Pulled anchor 9:00 am. Passage through complex Torres Strait route went smoothly. Very relieved. Bryce caught 20” mackerel and 40” wahoo over 20 minutes. Awesome! Smooth sailing expected all the way to Darwin. Hope we can arrive during daylight hours. No moon then and the tidal variation is high: 18 feet low tide to high tide. Yikes!

Good fishing in the Torres Strait. Bryce landed two Wahoo and one mackerel.

7-20-2017 10:05 am. Almost there – Leslie

This morning the boat movement changed from slow and gentle downwind sailing to a close haul but with gentle seas. We are now healed over on a port tack flying all three sails: white reefed main and genoa sails plus our fluorescent orange staysail. A large pod of small dolphins played around our boat surfing the swell for about 15 minutes until they tired. Only five miles distance to Cobourg Peninsula on the top of Australia alongside Melville Island to starboard, saw a 3 foot sea snake squiggling on top of the water near the dolphins and a very large turtle just under the surface. Maybe the turtle was chasing the snake and got confused among the playful dolphins.

We were just hailed by an Australian Border Force aircraft flying over. The first time we were hailed was shortly after leaving Coconut Island by a border patrol helicopter. After the radio contact, Eric stated, “I read to expect many inquiries from Border Force aircraft almost daily upon entering Torres Strait. Afterall, neighboring island nations could experience unrest at any moment.” Since exiting Torres Strait, it was a straight shot of 550 miles with no obstacles except moving cargo ships. Now that we’ve turned the corner over Cobourg Peninsula heading south into Darwin, we are entering ‘Torres Strait’ navigational circumstances with obstacles and shoals, along with large commercial ships. Eric has configured myriad waypoints on our electronic navigation chart to direct our path avoiding all hazards. We expect to arrive tomorrow morning if the wind holds.

Wahoo tartar made with ginger, garlic, capers and olive oil. MMMM good.
Popcorn for dinner!

Daily Log: Bucking Bronco is Kandu

July 10th, 2017 Monday 23h20. Jiggling it up with boobies.

Kandu is acting like a Bucking Bronco, but she’s keeping it altogether. With the heavy movement, the crew and captain are lethargic. Tonight, we are still benefitting greatly from a slightly waning moon. It makes a great difference when you can see the surrounding ocean and waves instead of just feeling it by how the boat reacts to the swell. The sea has been so turbulent, we’ve been attracting red-footed booby birds and other marine birds as a resting haven. Last night one landed on our solar panel. It did not want to budge. Finally when forced to fly away, he left a rather large wet present behind. Ugh! Tonight during Trent’s watch, he heard a bit of racket behind the cockpit and thought he saw something fall. It turns out, after he scrabbled for the flashlight, two boobies had boarded. One was laying dead on the stern poop deck with it’s neck broken, the other flapped around nearby startled by the light and lodged itself under the starboard genoa lines. The swell was so that every time the boat heeled over, and that was often, rushing saltwater would run down the starboard deck right into the birds face. Yet the booby refused to leave until Eric eventually pushed it overboard in preparation for a jibe as it would have gotten crushed. It’s funny how the booby bird in every language has a silly name. All consider it a very dumb bird. The next morning, we had to jibe again and called everyone up. Eric asked Trent, “Please get rid of that dead booby bird over the side. Do you want gloves?” Trent replied, “If I’m going to touch a booby, I’m not wearing a glove!”

July 11th, 2017, Tuesday 23h15. Torres Strait.

Darwin is getting closer but is still far far away. We entered Torres Strait around 19h30 this evening. No boats along the shipping corridor, just a couple off to the side quite a distance away. We sure are loving our AIS (Automated Identification System) transponder right about now! We’re moving fast for Kandu between 6.5 and 7.5. We don’t really know how fast the wind is because our wind gage is broken, but we’re thinking it is blowing about 30-35 miles per hour with a swell of 2 or 3 meters. It’s overcast and stormy, yet Kandu is handling very well. The cockpit is pretty wet. I’m enormously thankful to have our solid dodger instead of a canvas one blocking the saltwater spray, and our newly constructed cockpit canopy built in Raiatea to keep out most of the rain. Our previous canopy had slipped off and fallen overboard while crossing to Tahiti from Fakarava in 2016. Expensive loss that was!

We continue to attract sea birds. Booby birds seemed to have gotten the word that it’s not safe aboard Kandu, but the medium sized black petrels with red webbed feet didn’t get the message. One landed on top of our canopy during sunset. He couldn’t find grip so relocated near the stern BBQ. I haven’t shewed the petrel away mostly because it’s been keeping me company during my watch, hanging on for dear life. Two others that night didn’t make it aboard instead flying into our wind generator. When that happens, the sound it makes is rather chilling. It’s not ideal sailing the Torres Strait at night. However, with our radar, AIS and mapped out waypoints, ‘We Kandu.’

Little Petrel sea bird taking a rest aboard Kandu.

July 12th, 2017 17h00. Reprieve at Coconut Island.

Shortly after I finished my log notes last night, a large wave struck the boat healing us over 50 degrees or more partially filling the cockpit with water. Immediately after the wave hit, Kandu started to head forcefully downwind into the oncoming swell causing the boat to dangerously heal over again. Our Monitor wind vane had been steering us steadily up until that point, but it wasn’t correcting itself. I grabbed the helm and pulled it to starboard, but alarmingly the helm would not budge. At that point I yelled to Eric for help. I put all my weight on the helm and suddenly something gave. By that time, Eric had flown up into the cockpit and was asking what happened. He took over the helm and while steadying Kandu, realized it was loose.

For the third time since leaving Polynesia, the control line had chaffed. In this case, the frayed section must have gotten hitched on an interior bolt and with my forceful tugging on the helm was shredded in two. Chaffing of the control line has been a problem since using the wind vane continuously while sailing from the Galapagos to the Marquesas. We thought we had the problem fixed in the Marquesas: the Monitor manufacturer replaced the suspect bolt with a shorter one and gave us new lines. Evidently, after three separate incidents of a frayed control line since leaving Polynesia, the problem is not yet solved.

Eric re-rigged the wind vane right away and it continued to work fine after that. But the weather continued to be terrible all morning. Fortunately, we positioned the plexiglass divider between the cockpit and the interior as we took a couple more BIG waves filling the cockpit halfway. Our electric generator stored in the cockpit got completely doused with salt water and then our wind generator failed. Craziness! By 10:00 am, we were all wiped out by the pounding. Eric was stressed and exhausted. After discussing our situation, we decided to see if we could find a place to hide from the heavy swell and winds. Eric contacted the Australian Coast Guard and arranged permission to duck behind Coconut Island, a sliver of an island four hours away, to wait out the bad weather for two days. Anchored in 60 feet with all but 3 feet of our 300 feet of chain out, we collapsed for a much needed nap.

Torres Strait. Note Coconut Island in the middle.

 

Daily Log: Kandu To Darwin by Leslie

Leslie Rigney – on the road again!

July 1, 2017 21h30. Off to Darwin for a 20 day passage.

July 4, 2017 21h30. Fourth of July. No celebrations on Kandu, however, the day passed cheerfully. Everyone helped themselves to breakfast: cereal, leftover banana bread, or toast and grapefruit. The boys and I played 3-way cribbage for the first time to great success (Bryce won) and after dinner, we played a round of monopoly, which Bryce also won. Stinker! We listened to loud music and the boys showed off their growing arm strength by trading off doing pull-ups hanging off the top of the hatchway. Before dinner, I read out loud three or four chapters of “Carry On, Mr. Bowditch,” a book I assigned the boys to read during this voyage. Turns out I had two identical paperback versions on board. Before we left the states, I guess I really wanted them to read the book. And in fact, they are enjoying the story as it’s about a boy indenture apprenticed to a chandlery on the East Coast of the US in the 1780’s, who improves his lot by intense individual study and ‘Sailing by ash breeze.’ Oars are made of ash. Can you divine the meaning of the turn of phrase? It’s a lesson the boys are slowly learning. Early education isn’t about teachers teaching you, it’s about learning to learn and taking it upon yourself to study the materials presented so that you absorb them and make them a part of you. The ultimate goal is learning how to teach yourself.

I took the first watch tonight as I had a late afternoon nap and was wide-awake. It’s a peaceful night: less wind so less swell. Not as scary as the two previous nights, hence my ability to write. We’re steadily heading northwest toward the Torres Strait. It’s also getting warmer the more north we sail. All the port lights and hatches are closed tight. We had some moments early on during this passage when salt water shot inside due to our laxity. Don’t want that to happen again. Yesterday, Eric fixed the stalling engine problem, a second time. He had replaced the filters before we left, but the new ones were still not filling up with diesel, even after Eric worked to solve the problem in Espirtu Santo. Fortunately, he figured the problem was still the same and it was an easy fix, thank goodness. So far, the engine hasn’t stalled again.

July 10, 2017, Monday 7:15 am. Full moons & illegal fishing trawlers. We’ve been enjoying the fullest of moons during the last three night watches. The days are passing slowly. Still an estimated 8 days to go – Eric thinks it will be a total of 18 days at sea. Sailing downwind, we are rocking a lot and moving at a snails pace of 5 knots. Now in the Coral Sea, we’re pulling close to the Torres Strait. We are not yet sailing inside the shipping lane but have already encountered a good share of boats. Two nights ago, little 42 foot Kandu was sandwiched in between two 770-foot cargo ships within 2.5 miles. They were traveling north and south while we were heading west. Everyone’s AIS systems were working that night!

Kandu’s Navigation monitor.

Yesterday morning, Eric and I were enjoying the cool cockpit breeze when a 60-foot fishing trawler surprised us. In the cockpit covered by a towel in order to block the light, I had been intently watching a movie with headphones. It wasn’t until the trawler was 50 yards away to our aft port that Eric heard a strange engine noise, looked up and turned around from sending inReach delorme text messages.

Eric Rigney in the process of texting.
Crystal 102 looked a lot like this.

He shouted in surprise. The trawler had approached dangerously close and all their men on deck were staring at us intently. Bryce quickly hailed them on channel 16, but they didn’t speak English or French. He thought perhaps Chinese, Taiwanese, or Korean. After a few minutes, they fell off displaying their name: Crystal 102. There was another twin trawler about 1 mile to our north. We figured they were illegally fishing in Papua New Guinea’s waters. It’s a shame we didn’t have the foresight to jot down our latitude and longitude in order to report them to the international authorities later. It’s possible that we had crossed over their fishing nets. The way they acted, they were definitely aggravated. They didn’t wave, nor did we.

Daily Log: Vanuatu Notes

6-13-2017 18h00 – Leslie. Off to Port Resolution, East Tanna, Vanuatu. Clearing out of Customs early in the morning, Eric was informed that we had to leave Fiji within the hour and that we were not to stop anywhere on the way out. Not stopping is standard protocol.  Leaving in one hour is not. He then asked Eric when we expected to leave. Eric smiled, “Why, within the hour, of course.” No way! Family boats don’t spin on a dime, and most customs agents respect this, typically giving us 24 hours. It took the good part of the morning to prep Kandu before we could leave. Before sailing completely away from Fiji, we needed to stop over at Port Denarau Marina to pick-up a new outboard prop that died on us in Suva. Eric had ordered it the week earlier. Port Denarau Marina is a high-class modern vacation marina, intended especially for super yachts and the like. It even sports a Hard Rock Café. We were in and out within an hour, wishing we had had more time to visit. By 19h00, after a standard tropical sunset, we sailed through the last Fijian pass and into open-ocean, a three day passage.

Trent Rigney walking down the main dock to enter the classy Port Denarau, Viti Levu of Fiji.

6-16-2017 Friday 11:00 am – Leslie. Arrived Port Resolution, Tanna, Vanuatu (originally known as New Hebredes). Our original port of entry was supposed to be Port Vila on Efate, but the winds directed us more south, so we turned toward the first island in the archipelago, Tanna. Through our InReach satellite texting, we asked good friend Ron Bruchet in Victoria, Washington to email the immigration authorities our circumstances and to find out if we could clear on Tanna. Vanuatu customs indicated Port Resolution on the southeastern tip would be the best anchorage even though the customs office was located at Lenakel on the west coast of the island. Upon arrival, arrangements were made immediately for a customs officer to drive the 2 hours one way over rugged dirt roads to clear us in. Wow, what service!6-23-2017, Friday 2 am – Eric. After more customs and immigration business plus getting some laundry done, we left the very expensive, not-so-pleasant Vanuatu capital, Port Vila. We’re sailing from Port Vila, Efate to Ranon Bay, Ambrym, passing several islands in a narrow channel. We were passed by two inter island cargo/ferry boats, fore and aft. Winds light from south due to storm in New Zealand. Helping us sail a bit. Motor sailing too. Nicer ride than any other since French Polynesia.

Ambrym has 2 active volcanoes. They practice magic (black and white), Rom Dance and sand painting. Dr. Alan of the Seven Seas Sailing Association recommends we meet with William Adel to take us to the volcano. Don’t have nearly enough time to explore, as we must leave Vanuatu for Darwin by June 20th to arrive before the ‘Sail Indonesia Rally,’ which starts July 29th. All is well and working about Kandu.

6-23-2017 7h00 – Eric. Arrived Ranon Bay, Ambrym. Descended Kandu to find William Adel. Witnessed Rom Dancing in Fanla Village. No time for a 3-day round trip hike to see the active volcano. Fortunately, we had already witnessed a live volcano on Tanna. Did exchange some new T-shirts and a long solid rope for a carved statue in volcanic rock and local produce.

Eric Rigney looking for William Adel.

6-24-2017 6h00 – Eric. Departed Ranon, Ambrym for Wali, Pentecost. Morning sail. Arrived 8h30 to see extraordinary10h00 presentation of Land Diving by village boys and men. 16h00 Kava Happy Hour to meet Chief of Wali village. Fantastic!

6-25-2017 6h00 – Eric. Left Wali, Pentecost for southern tip of Maewo, Asanvari Bay. Easy day sail. Beautiful and comfortable anchorage with a stunning waterfall to boot! How could cruising get any better?

6-26-2017 5h30 – Eric. Departed Asanvari, Maewo for Luganville, Espirito Santo. Anchored 16h00 in front of The Beachfront Resort in the second channel on the southeastern corner of Espirito Santo next to the main port, Luganville. We were told there had been some recent yacht theft, but decided to risk it in order to be close to the principal city of Luganville. We had many plans: diving the President USS Coolidge WWII wreck, touring WWII sites, swimming the Blue Hols, and of course, provisioning for our upcoming 20 day passage direct to Darwin.

Luganville’s Temporary hold for Japanese POWs during WWII.

7-1-2017 17h00 – Eric. Weighed anchor from Santo at 14h30. Fuel and water topped up (diesel, gas, propane). Last of provisions acquired.

Two locals helping us provision in Luganville.

Left a day later than planned to see East coast of Santo and to start in a slightly easier way (less windy). Still steady, wind and seas pushing us right along at 6 knots. Clear skies with occasional traveling rain cloud. Rocking a bit but not crazy seas, mostly steady. Estimated 16-20 days to Darwin, Australia. First waypoint is +1250 nautical miles away, lining us up for the Torres Strait. Weather forecast constant SE trade winds, 13-18 knots. Hope we can get away without running downwind much. All excited to get this crossing behind us. Boys helped a lot in getting the boat ready. Makes things easier. Poor sleep the night before leaving. It was a Saturday night and I feared reported thefts, so set-up the motion detector alarm, but it went off twice in the night. False alarms. No intruder was seen onboard. However, there was a cockroach intruder crawling on my naked legs during the night. It was annoying!

7-1-2017, Saturday, 11:30 pm – Leslie. Cleared out yesterday; we left Luganville, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu at 2:30 pm. Eric had hoped to depart in the morning, but as always, it took longer to get everything arranged from acquiring diesel, last minute provisioning in town, returning our day rental car, and the cleaning, wiping down, and deflating of the dinghy plus tying it down onto the port foredeck.Our tour of Vanuatu was Eric’s dream come true. Ever since he was a boy, he dreamed of seeing land diving off of log and branch scaffolding, which he had seen on TV. We were quite fortunate to have witnessed it actually. Our June travels brought us to Pentecost Island of Vanuatu on the last Saturday presentation of the year. Only the day before were we anchored at Ranon Bay on Ambrym, the “black magic” island, where our contact William Adel of Ranon Beach Bungalows informed us of the following day’s last diving-of-the-year event. We were completely unaware. What luck to have been in the right place at the right time! Ambrym to Wali Bay on Pentecost was only an hour and ½ sail. We’d sail early the next morning. But on Ambrym, before leaving for Pentecost, we hiked up the hillside for a tour of Fanla Village and a private presentation by men of their sacred Rom pig dance, a bamboo flute performance, and their special sand painting.

We felt honored and privileged to have heard and seen this special ritual that even their own women are not allowed to witness. Afterward, the village carvers displayed their beautiful wares and we bought 2 carved bamboo flutes and a gorgeous wood statuette depicting their Rom mask.

I musn’t neglect to mention that the first stop on our Vanuatu tour began on Tanna, the most southern island in the chain. We enjoyed the beautiful people of Ireupuow Village situated on the east side of the large bay called Port Resolution. Firstly, we were beautifully welcomed by Stanley, the Port Resolution Yacht Club custodian. He hooked us up with the customs officials right away. He helped us exchange money across the island in Lanakel, and made reservations for us to visit volcano Mount Yasur. While walking through their simple village, we passed out toys to the children, explored the village of thatch roof, one bedroom huts/houses, provided skin medicines to an older gentleman with a nasty knife injury, traded rice, corned beef and electrical re-charging of a phone and video camera for limes and bananas with a man in a canoe,BnT played frisbee and volley ball with the local kids (two gifts to them were frisbees), we ate a nice local lunch at Leah’s Restaurant (incidentally Leah spoke no English, only French),

Leslie Rigney and Leah from Leah’s Restaurant, Port Resolution, Tanna Island, Vanuatu.

and attended a quarterly talent show school fundraiser of local song and dance accompanied by modern mixers, microphone and speakers à la karaoke. Witnessing the fun spirit of the locals in song and dance was a highlight of activities on Tanna. To top off our quick stay on Tanna, we traveled 4-wheel drive over craggy dirt roads to experience the remarkable active volcano, Mount Yasur. It exploded a minimum of every 2 minutes. We arrived onsite at twilight, and when night set-in, the exploding lava light show was spellbinding, visually hitting our eyes the same time as the shock and sound waves hit our bodies and ears, we were that close. You could actually see the shock waves in the mist.

 

Leslie’s Letters: Vanuatu in June 2017

View of Kandu from Beachfront Resort, Luganville, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu

June 27, 2017

Dearest parents,

Well received all of your incredible newsy emails. Thank you ever so much. I haven’t written you many emails of late. I’m in the midst of posting some of the blog entries that I’ve been collecting and writing at night. It’s a long process.

We’ve had the most incredible experiences here in Vanuatu. Exploding volcano, Rom dancing, hiking into remote African like villages, Land Diving, eating local yams and local mackerel – what adventure!

Mount Yasur, Tanna, Vanuatu.
Rom Dancing, Fanla Village, Ambrym, Vanuatu.
Leslie Rigney hiking to Fanla Village, Ambrym, Vanuatu.
Land Diving, Pentacost, Vanuatu.

Tonight we’re anchored outside The Beachfront Resort (friendly and helpful to cruisers) on the island Espiritu Santo in Luganville and are planning to have dinner at the resort in order to benefit from their great Wi-fi X 4 people/devices. We’re hoping the wind dies down a little so our dinghy ride back in the dark to Kandu is not bumpy and wet as we’ll be transporting computers.

Eric got the engine figured out, which had been causing him angst since yesterday. Happily, the problem was apparent and the solution was simple; he had changed the oil and filters but didn’t stock up the new filters with oil, so the engine was sucking air. When we get our retrofitted pactor modem in Australia, we’ll actually be able to send emails in route over the ocean along with low-resolution photos. It will be great to have that working again along with our wind sensor.

I’ve got to send a message to Teaching Textbooks (Bryce and Trent’s math programs) regarding the discs we’re having problems with probably due to being in a salty environment since early 2015. They said they would send us replacements. We need them badly now that the boys are boat schooling full time. I must find the list of bad CD’s that we painstakingly drew-up! Where could that be? Sigh.

This week, we plan to go on a scuba dive of the USS President Coolidge 600 foot troop carrier wreck that sank in 1942 during WWII.

Image of USS President Coolidge wreck on it’s side.

It is located in relatively shallow water so it will not be a problem for the boys to dive it considering their low degree of experience and skill. We also plan to take an afternoon island tour of the WWII leftovers: Million Dollar Point where the Americans dumped massive amounts of war vehicles and equipment deep into the water after the war, hospital sites, quonset barracks and shelters still in use, an old prison cell built to detain Japanese POWs, etc,

Trent Rigney at Million Dollar Point looking at rusted engine parts.

It should be a great education adding to the boys’ understanding of World War II and how it affected even the most remote peoples of the world.

Also, I think we might rent a car to tour the northern part of the island up to Port Olry, fitting in a swim in one of the celebrated Blue Hols along the coastline and a visit to Champagne Beach where the sand is beautifully fine.  Friday – we’ll stock up and check out of immigration. Saturday we’ll be leaving.

Gotta go – dinner is ready. I love you, and dittoing your memorable salutation, send you back clouds of love love love, Leslie.

Daily Log Notes: Musket Cove, Fiji – Surf Spectaculaire

6-4-2017, Tuesday 23h15 – About Musket Cove and the surf.

Now on watch, I have a bit of time to recount some of our adventures in Musket Cove. From Suva, the most southeastern city of the island Viti Levu, we wanted to head west to the Western Mamanuca Islands and the renowned Musket Cove Marina and Yacht Club. With an obligatory $5 processing fee, we each became lifetime members. The Mamanuca Islands of Fiji are central to some of the best surfing in the world, boasting the legendary Cloudbreak, rated one of the top 10 waves in the world. Incidentally, the International Volcom Fiji Pro Surf Competition happened to be in full swing. As we were sailing up to Cloudbreak, we could see the hubbub and gathered boats, onlookers and surfers so we anchored the boat and hurriedly rigged up the dinghy for the boys to get close and check out the quality surf and male competitors. Bryce and Trent were ordered to be back by 15h00. Sure enough, they returned on time bubbling over with excitement, ready to haul-up anchor in order to make Musket Cove and its protection from the open ocean swell before sunset. We had a small glitch raising the anchor. The anchor, 50+ feet below, with a strong current was likely stuck on corral. Bryce quickly donned his mask and fins and dove overboard. With one hand on the chain and the other to clear his ears, he free dived as close as he could get. On his first attempt, he couldn’t get close enough to see the problem. Eric told him he didn’t have to get to the anchor, just see what it was doing. The second time, after relaxing and getting a solid breath, he plunged down the anchor chain again, determined to succeed. Once down, he realized exactly how the tip of the anchor was stuck. Under his directions, we motored forward over the corral head and with a strong tug, the anchor came free. Whew! Bryce saved the day!

This is the Cloudbreak wave that we saw. It can get much much larger.

Easily anchored in popular Musket Cove, we stayed put for a quiet dinner on board. Bryce was the only one who ventured out to the marina resort with the dinghy that night to try and learn how to taxi over to the various surf spots: Swimming Pools, Tavarua Rights, Second Reef, Wilkes, Restaurants and Cloudbreak. The next day, we organized a boat and I went with the boys that first afternoon. That day, our goal was Cloudbreak, but the weather was so rough and windy that we decided to stop at a closer spot called Wilkes.

The next couple times, Eric went with them to videotape. Each time it was our own private taxi boat, a little costly, but worth it, in case one spot was blown out, they could then go over to another. In all, the boys got to surf Wilkes again, Second Reef and Cloudbreak. Normally during the competition, the Cloudbreak wave would have been off limits to non-competitors, but when the competition was paused four days to wait for bigger waves, it presented perfect conditions for Bryce and Trent, so they headed over. While surfing, Bryce recognized his favorite pro surfer, Gabriel Martinez. Bryce paddled over and shook his hand. Cool beans! Eric was there video taping. Hopefully they got some good shots. Haven’t yet looked at all the media. After Fiji, the boys won’t be getting much opportunity to surf, so we really supported them to get out to the reefs everyday. Trent too had great success surfing. Bryce constantly encouraged him, which made for a happy Trent. The boys got in 4 days of great surfing.

We forgot to collect sand, darnit. I’ll have to contact Kurt Roll, a surfer/sailor/drone flier ex-patriot who lives on a modern south pacific style studio hut-boat in the Musket cove Marina. He took the boys surfing one afternoon. Maybe he’ll collect some sand for us and mail it back to Ventura for our growing collection. Every place the boys surf, we commemorate it with a vial of sand.

We also met some Danish sailors, a couple and family of 4 with 2 sons of similar age. I approached them for a game of beach volleyball. We played together a couple times and enjoyed a couple BBQ dinners and happy hours together. The father was a minister. We had much to talk about and share. Eric had recognized their sailboat from the Papeete Marina the summer before. It was lovely to meet such culturally interesting people.

The Musket Cove Resort was gorgeous and high class. We felt so spoiled being able to enjoy it without having to pay the high daily resort fees. We even got a chance to walk to the adjacent island during low tide to visit a nearby local Solevu village and school. The central village buildings were solidly constructed in cement blocks. The outlying thatch homes and structures were similar to the Polynesian style – open without glass windows. The villagers were friendly and the children at play were full of smiles and polite ‘hellos.’ Bryce had a great time amusing two little boys giving them piggy-back rides and playing ‘Catch me if you can.’ The walk back across the pass was a bit more challenging. Up to my thighs in water, I sloshed back as quickly as possible conscious of the ever rising tide and wanting to keep my clothes away from the salty water….laundry is always a consideration, of course!

Lautoka, Viti Levu, Fiji Sugar Cane Plant.

6-4-2017 To Lautoka, Viti Levu from Musket Cove.

Departed Musket Cove and headed back to the main island of Fiji, Viti Levu to anchor outside the east coast city, Lautoka, to provision and check-out of Fijian customs and immigration. Lautoka is a sugar-cane oceanside town, less important than Suva. It is quite modern with a brand new shopping mall sporting many fancy shops, a restaurant court and a fancy movie theater. The downtown was large with a McDonald’s, several gas stations and well-paved streets. Apparently a Hawaiian owns all the McDonald’s in Fiji. After provisioning one afternoon, the boys and I hired a taxi to carry our many bags of groceries back to the boat and asked the taxi driver to give us a quick city tour. He brought us to a couple colorful Indian temples, drove us through nice residential areas and passed by the very large sugar cane plant. There were lines of trucks loaded with long poles of sugar cane waiting to enter. The air smelled sweet surrounding the factory. Kandu was anchored just opposite that factory and the exterior of our boat became immediately dusted from the filthy black soot blowing across the water from its hot fires.

 

Don’t Cry Over Broken Eggs

Today, deep down in my soul, I really understand the idiomatic expression “Don’t cry over spilled milk.” I thought I did when I was raising my boys. So often, the two toddlers would be sitting at their miniature dining table while I was serving them lunch and all of a sudden, a plate would accidentally be overturned onto the floor, or a glass of milk precariously situated would get knocked over. On earlier occasions I flipped out and yelled at them, but as they grew-up I found it easier to quickly bring over a rag and clean up the mess. Less stress, less commentary, less noise. After all, it was an accident. They knew their mistake and already felt badly. With my outward show of calmness, I also felt like I was growing-up as a parent, learning patience and feeling an adult sense of satisfaction that I was better handling ups and downs.

Remaining eggs and those saved of the 3 dozen or more.

Wherever or whenever the expression “Don’t cry over spilled milk” was born, I imagine it might have been on a family farm perhaps during a South Dakota winter where we’ll presume a young maiden or mother, rather starved, had woken very early on a frigid morning to go milk the cow for breakfast. She walks to the barn through the snow remembering this time to bring the cleaned bucket with her, sat herself down on little stool, and got hit in the face by the tail a few times while filling the bucket. She makes sure to give the cow some more hay before leaving. She almost slips on the ice as she walks back into the cottage, yet catches herself and safely places the milk on the dining table. As she is preparing to cut the half of loaf of bread they have leftover from the day before, her two young sons enter the room roughhousing. Inadvertently, the bucket of milk is knocked over. Now – I can imagine crying over that milk. No warm milk for breakfast to add to the meager bread, and the morning’s work was a waste. But what does it serve to cry?

Kandu and crew departed Lautoka, Fiji yesterday afternoon – Monday. It was a busy morning. Eric had to clear the boat out of customs and immigration, the boys and I had to get the three 15-gallon diesel jugs and one gas can filled at the gas station, all carted ashore in the dinghy along with our folding aluminum Kandu cart. I needed to get some last minute fresh food provisions that we hadn’t found over the weekend because most of the stores were closed and I wanted to try one more time to obtain some Vanuatu money, Vata, so we’d have some before arriving. I paid for the diesel and it was agreed we’d all meet at McDonald’s before returning to Kandu. Eggs, lemons, pineapples, ginger ale and Indian tonic water for nausea, a Bic lighter to ignite mosquito coils, a flea bomb (Eric discovered a flea trying to bite him onboard, ugh!) and money – off I walked hurriedly to town. After trying several stores, I gave up on the Bic and flea bomb. I enjoyed a hurried stroll through their outdoor market, where I found the fresh foods. Neither bank nor money exchange carried Vata. I carried back all the purchases in bags to McDonald’s, which then were carted and lowered into the dinghy and then up onboard and into Kandu’s galley.

The dinghy and boat exteriors were filthy due to the soot carried over the water from the sugar cane processing plant. The boys proceeded to rinse them both, store the dinghy, and prepare to leave as I vacuumed the interior and cockpit. Everything in the galley was cleaned, carefully stored and arranged for heavy movement…including my large basket of specially sought after eggs that I considered a bit like treasure. We pulled anchor and departed around noon, stopping briefly in a nearby fancy port, Denarau, to pick-up a new prop for our 9.9 hp outboard motor that had recently broken. We threw off docklines around 17h00. It was getting on dinnertime. Quickly I fried up lamb sausages and boiled yams before we exited the calmer water of the lagoon. Leaving the shelter of the reef, that’s when the swell picks up. As predicted, the night proved to be another “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride,” bumpy, moving up and down, side to side as we were sailing between a broad reach and downwind. My watch went without a hitch, although I was exhausted when Trent summoned me not having been able to sleep beforehand (I always take the second watch). Two and half hours later, Bryce relieved me of my watch, and two and half hours after that, Eric, his. That’s when I awoke to Eric yelling, “Bryce, Bryce, come back here quickly, the wind vane isn’t steering properly.” The boat was flailing around and that’s when it must have happened. I didn’t hear it, but the egg basket let loose and two-and-a-half dozen eggs crashed, leaving a terrible mess in its wake. Bryce having finished helping Eric had since come down into the galley. I heard him exclaim, “Wow, it’s a lot of eggs! What a mess!” which brought me out of my bed into the galley. It was a mess. Broken eggs all over the counter, yolks and whites streaming into my topside icebox and refrigerator. Eggshells and slime on the stove, under the stove, on the floor, in the sink. All the places I had scrupulously cleaned beforehand were now slimy and sticky from my shattered treasure. I started to wipe up the goo, but after a few moments, I simply couldn’t bear the cleanup and the loss (the money, the time to purchase and transport, plus the plans I had for those eggs). I returned to my aft nest to cry so that I wouldn’t make a scene throwing things and hollering expletives in the galley like I have been known to do.

Lying there and reflecting, while Bryce on his own accord sweetly started the cleanup, I realized that it’s good to take a moment to step away, to calm your emotions and thoughts before reacting. I can easily be reactionary when stressed. Certainly, broken eggs are not the end of the world. What was egg-ceptional was my son stepping in and helping tidy up the greater part of the wreckage. My stepping away, gave him a chance to save the day. Bryce is a good egg. As far as broken eggs are concerned, omletting it go.

Leslie Rigney

 

Leslie’s Letters: Fijian Bliss

June 8, 2017

Dearest Mom and Dad,

I have enjoyed keeping in touch with you through our Delorme texting. It’s a perfect way since connecting to Wi-Fi is so limited.

I came down with a little cold – so have been careful to eat well, drink lots of water with lemon, and get plenty of rest to recover as quickly as possible. We are presently hanging out in Musket Cove, Fiji in the Mamanuca Islands.

It’s an idyllic spot – the very first Fijian resort – but we’re here specifically for the surf. A couple internationally famous surf spots drew us to this area (Cloudbreak and Restaurants) and by accident we happened on the annual international Fijian surf competition presently being held at Cloudbreak. Bryce and Trent got to surf the famous Cloudbreak today with some star surfers…Bryce paddled over to one he recognized and shook his hand.

This is the Cloudbreak wave that we saw. It can get much much larger. This is the size that Bryce and Trent surfed.

It’s a very pretty, clean, and high class resort here at Musket Cove. I was able to wash our laundry in a real laundromat. It seems that two loads (darks and lights) wash and dry is a universal US$20. Plus, at the resort we benefit from hot showers! It’s been quite awhile since we’ve enjoyed hot showers.

Dick’s Place at Musket Cove Resort, Fiji.

Yesterday we met a Danish family with two teenagers similar ages to BnT who are traveling Fiji on a sailboat. We played a GREAT 2-hours of beach volleyball and then all went over for happy hour beers at the outdoor spot Dick’s while the boys swam in the adjacent pool. They returned to their boat and we, ours. The boys decided to make: dinner by themselves: gnocchi pesto and tomato-cucumber salad. I loved it! Today, I rewarded them on their return from surfing (they left at 5:30 am) with a fresh-baked chocolate cake. Tonight we intend to BBQ over at the resort, New Zealand lamb chops and lamb sausages. We bring our own food and the resort provides plates and the use of a grill for US$2.00. We’re excited.

Island Bar/BBQ at Musket Cove Resort, Fiji.

It’s much cooler here in Fiji…well it is considered winter, but here in the dry Mamanuca Islands of Western Fiji, there is little rain, so we have the hatches and port lights wide open (hardly any mosquitos). The guys get so chilled at night in the front & middle section of the boat, that they crawl into their sheets and use blankets to keep warm. It’s a welcome change from Polynesia. In the aft cabin where I’m sleeping, I too use a blanket and am even wearing my longer pajamas considering I’m always the hottest these days! It’s delightful not to be constantly sweating and dripping.

Tomorrow we will start taking the antibiotic Doxycycline that will protect us against malaria. There are several choices, but we chose this particular antibiotic because it helps with acne. I’m hoping it will help clear up our skin. We will have to take the antibiotic for about 9 months from Vanuatu until we sail away from Sri-Lanka. There is one drawback. We will have to be extra careful to protect our skin against the sun as it makes skin more sensitive to sun damage.

Doxicyclene to counter Malaria. We call them  our robin eggs.

Sending you all my love,

Leslie

 

Daily Log Notes: Suva, Fiji by Leslie

Suva Harbor, Fiji

6-3-2017 9:00 pm

We pulled-up anchor to depart Suva, the capital of Fiji, late this afternoon at sunset around 5:30 pm. Eric estimates our arrival at Musket Cove Marina (surf extraordinaire!) around 2:00 pm tomorrow. The sky was gently crying in anticipation of our departure. The guys did a bang-up job getting the topside ready in the wetness. There was much to do: rinse the small outboard with fresh water, hoist ‘Wee Kandu,’ our dinghy, up on deck, tie it down, move our larger 10 horse outboard engine to the aft stanchion fitting (it was straining the mast pulpit where it sat previously), set-up the lines to sail and prep the cockpit. Bryce and Trent’s hands and minds are remembering what to do without having to be directed. It’s terrific that I don’t have to prep both topside and down below too. Always when living aboard, things are pulled-out to use and then not put back in their designated places. The laundry hadn’t yet been stowed; groceries needed to be organized and dishes required washing and stowage. It’s quite the preparation. But if everyone does his or her part, it can be relatively quick.

Due to our latest experiences departing into rolling seas, we all swallowed anti-nausea, seasickness medicine earlier in the day around lunchtime. We are all benefiting immensely from having taken the precaution.

9:30 pm – Ohh – the rain and wind have picked-up. It’s a soggy night, but had we waited, the weather & conditions were only going to worsen. Happily, our hard dodger is providing more than sufficient shelter to hide behind out of the wind and most of the wetness. I’m not wearing a raincoat as it’s not cold, although my bottom is soaked through. On nights like this, along with our doubly equipped lifejacket/harness, we wear a tether line attached to a solidly anchored cockpit ring. After two and ½ years of use, our poor lifejackets have unfortunately developed spots of black mold. I cleaned them well before leaving Raiatea with soap, water, vinegar and anti-mold spray to no avail. Evidently, I wasn’t able to eliminate all the mold spores that insist on living. The jackets look quite nasty and smell worse. I’ll have to try and clean them again. Ugh! At US$250 a pop, they are worth not replacing. Plenty of other things to spend our money on.

Friendly supermarket employees.

With time to reflect, I think back on our recent experience. Suva is a small city bursting with energy. There are taxis galore with friendly drivers. All the people we met, Fijian and East Indian, were cordial and helpful. “Bula-bula.” I felt welcome. Eric had heard that the population was instructed to be friendly and helpful to tourists to encourage tourism. Well, their outward enthusiasm affected all of us positively. Someday, if the opportunity were to arise, I would love to visit again.

Bryce Rigney at the entrance of Village 6 Cinemas in Suva, Fiji.

The city of Suva is the most attractive city we’ve seen out of all the islands we’ve visited so far, perhaps because its movie theatre was modern and clean….lol. Like in Samoa, we were so starved for a modern film experience that we attended movies every evening since there was nothing else going on and the ticket price was a mere $4.00 USD per person. We enjoyed seeing great Bollywood films along with international box office hits: Wonder Woman, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the very silly Bay Watch. Bollywood theatergoers seemed especially amused by our presence, almost giggling as our family entered the cinema chamber and found our seat assignments, as if they thought we were lost, surprised even more so that we returned after the obligatory Bollywood intermission. We thoroughly enjoyed Suva’s East Indian cultural influence in clothing, work ethic, and on the delicious food flavored with Indian spices, although it’s typically quite salty.

Suva was also one of the most plentiful and resourceful of cities we’ve visited. Eric was even able to replace our shattered cockpit dodger window with Safety E glass, matching what was lost. Just as with the rest of Fiji, the glass cutting was immediate and inexpensive. One USD equals two Fijian.

Taro galore!

The outdoor vegetable market offered a large selection of beautiful and proudly displayed seasonal foods: pineapples and mandarin oranges were the most plentiful and succulent. Unfortunately, their grapefruits were dry and terrible: nothing like Polynesia’s succulent ‘pomplemouse.’ Lots of okra, huge yam roots, taro, cucumbers, papaya, eggs, cabbage, bok choi, green beans, carrots, celery, and delicious drinking coconuts were for sale. The fishermen offered a variety of small and large fish, green crabs of all sizes, sea grass, sea grapes, clams and lobsters. It was a cornucopia of plenty. With so many choices of fresh foods to eat, the population looked healthy and fit with bright, naturally straight teeth.

Salty sea grapes traditionally served with grated coconut.

Yesterday, on our last day, Bryce and I stocked up on the many fresh selections at the market plus stopped in a local store to pick-up bread and boxed milk. Thank goodness I had a helper to help carry the many shopping bags. Feeling it would not be convenient to walk our folding aluminum cart into the city center, we instead hired a taxi from and to the Royal Suva Yacht Club where our dinghy was docked. It was a five-minute dinghy ride to Kandu, anchored with other sailboats in the murky bay. Our 10hp outboard having developed a problem with its propeller the night before, we were relegated to use our slower and noisier 3hp. At least it was downwind.

Rigneyskandu posing outside the National Fijian Chief Hall where chieftains meet to discuss local policies.

And finally, Suva is where Eric, before leaving Raiatea, found that the US Embassy would be willing to allow a commercial courier to ship our boys’ renewed passports to his brother in Sydney. Samoa would not, and no other location would be as convenient as Fiji or Samoa. Suva’s newly constructed US Embassy was pristine and heavily guarded. The guards at the guard station joked with Trent that they’d play on his DS while he was inside. Leaving, Eric joked, “Even the fountain water tastes American!”