Tag Archives: Darwin

Finally, Darwin by Trent Rigney

Aerial view of Coconut island, Torres Strait, Australia

Sunday, July 30, 2017

It took us 24 days to get to Darwin, Australia. It would have taken 20 days, but we were getting so beat-up by the waves along the way, that we stopped and anchored at Coconut Island in the middle of the Torres Strait. After 13 days at sea, Bryce couldn’t stand staying on the boat, so he swam to the island not knowing that he was breaking the law. When he got to land, everybody said that he was really lucky that he survived because there are a lot of sharks and huge crocodiles swimming around there.I finished reading “The Golden Compass” series by Philip Pullman. I loved the books – They are now my second favorite series after the “I Am Number Four” series by Pittacus Lore.

Gorgeous Cullen Bay and the entry clearance pontoon pictured down right.

When we finally got to the Cullen Bay pontoon at Darwin on Friday morning, July 21st, I really wanted to go to land, but I had to wait for quarantine and that took an hour or so. Once cleared by biohazard, customs, immigration and two sniffing dogs, we went looking for lunch. We found a great burger place called Lola’s.

Lola’s Restaurant Bar at Cullen Bay, Darwin, Australia

It had a ton of cool vintage stuff and colorful hanging decorations almost like going to the fairgrounds or Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. After lunch, I wanted to stay on land, so Bryce and I walked to the city to find a city tourist map, a McDonald’s, a skate park and the movie theater to find out the movies playing and their times. It was an hour walk both ways. It felt good to walk, but it was hot.

Later that evening, it was decided that we’d all take a bus back into town even though dad hadn’t slept for 24 hours. Bryce and I wanted to watch Spiderman, but it was very expensive, so just Bryce and I stayed to watch it. Mom and dad left to explore the city without us because we had already done that. The movie was great. We all took a cab home.

Kandu at Tipperary Waters Marina

The next morning, we motored over to Tipperary Marina Waters where we had a dock slip waiting for us. Before leaving, we filled up our diesel tanks with a hose. That was one of the easiest diesel refills ever…no jugs, no filters – diesel pumped straight into the tanks without worries of poor quality, dirt or water! It took us an hour to motor over to the marina, and since they have an 18-foot tide in Darwin, the marina had a lock. It was really cool entering into the lock, having the solid doors close behind us, and then rising up to the level of the marina water. We entered the lock at the closest time to slack tide to make the levels as equal as possible.

We washed down the outside of the boat and cockpit. Then, I took a long hot shower. It was very nice. A little later we got dressed-up and left for the ‘Sail Indonesia Rally’ Welcome BBQ held at the Darwin Sailing Yacht Club to meet all the other people sailing in the rally. The Bali dancers and the food were great, but the event got boring once we ate, so I played rugby with some little kids on the grass.

Uncle Curtis arrived the next day on Sunday, but before he arrived we had to do boat work like cleaning the back lazarette and anchor locker, dry the gennaker, new measurements for staysail halyard, washing and scrubbing the deck twice, fixing toilets, etc. Dad had a huge list that we worked on all week. Once Curtis arrived, we all ate together at the local Frying Nemo snack bar and then Bryce and I got to go with Uncle Curtis to sleep at his specially reserved hotel room. It was really nice with air-conditioning, a living room and separate bedroom, a small kitchen with fridge, stove, oven, sink, dishwasher, pots, dishes, a balcony, hyper fast wifi, a pool, a small washing machine for laundry, and most importantly, hot showers whenever we wanted with fancy towels!

Monday morning, we had an amazing tasting breakfast at the hotel buffet with Curtis before we had to return to the boat to get to work. Mom washed our massive 24-day collection of laundry at the marina coin operated laundromat, and we worked on cleaning the bottom of the boat. Dad had to replace the heat exchanger and repair the engine with a marine mechanic specialist. Curtis picked up some chicken for lunch, which was a tasty break. We worked a bit more on boat projects, then skateboarded to Curtis’ hotel for the night. Mom prepared dinner from the rest of the wahoo fish that Bryce had caught in the Torres Strait and we taught Curtis how to play Carcasson, our favorite board game that Curtis had actually given us before we left. We also enjoyed the speedy wifi!

Bryce’s second wahoo was WAHOO BIG!

The next day, Tuesday, mom and dad came to the hotel and ate breakfast with us because we said it was so good the day before. And it was great again! Bryce and I skateboarded back to the boat for more work projects. We finished at 2:00 pm. Without mom since she was working at the hotel on our website, the four of us drove to the mall. We ate at Pizza King and I had a double chocolate muffin. I also bought a really nice metallic figit that was Aus$30 and got a cool plastic one for free – or two for the price of one. Bryce bought a high quality JBL speaker that’s supposedly waterproof. When we got back to the hotel, Bryce and I worked out at the hotel gym and then went swimming in the modern looking pool.

The following day, Wednesday the 26th of August, Uncle Joel was coming, but we had to work some more at the boat after all of us enjoyed another great breakfast at the hotel. We met Uncle Joel at the airport with Uncle Curtis around 1:00 pm. He dropped his stuff off at the hotel, then the four of us went to the mall again. I got an Australian straw cowboy shaped hat and Bryce got new wheels for his penny skateboard. We ate at Subway. I LOVE Subway!

Massive brute! This Australian Saltwater crocodile weighs close to 2,000 lbs.

Thursday, we went to Crocasaurus, a saltwater crocodile marine aquarium where they breed crocs and feed huge ones in front of the visitors. While the trainers are in a croc’s habitat to feed the beasts, they never turn their back on the massive creatures and always carry a big stick. The zoo had viewing glass tanks where you could watch the crocs up close swimming in the water. They had an area with a hundred small juvenile crocs, which we could actually feed with a bated fishing line ourselves. It was kinda like a carnival game holding the bate out to tempt the juveniles.

Plus – we had a chance to hold a baby crocodile while getting our pictures taken. The babies are already quite heavy. The massive male adults can weigh over a ton. The Crocasaurus marine park takes care of the troublemaker crocs taken out of the wild…ones that have gotten too close to humans. They breed the crocs for their expensive leather hides and good quality meat. Burgerstyle, the meat has the texture of chicken and a light flavor of fish. I liked it, but they oversalted it.That evening, we ate at a really nice restaurant where the beef steaks are known for their high quality, but are very expensive. I ordered the meat lasagna, which was so big I couldn’t finish it. Bryce split a steak with mom. Joel ordered fish. Uncle Curtis and dad both ordered the huge fancy steaks. It was all delicious. Bryce and I even got FREE ice cream. Yum!

The next day, Friday, was our last full day in Darwin. We worked a lot that day on the boat with dad while mom, Curtis and Joel went shopping to bulk up on staple western type food provisions for the next few months while traveling in southeast asia. When we finished our work, Curtis drove Bryce to the fancy skateboarding park that we located the day before, and I stayed at the hotel to do internet because I wanted to research buying a new penny board on amazon. That night we all went to Mindil Beach where food trucks and local artisans set up shop. Tons of the local people were there swarming the food trucks and cool artisan stalls. It was really festive. The food choices were incredible: Greek, Indonesia, Malaysian, Indian, baked potatoes with chili and most importantly, Australian kangaroo, croc or water buffalo burgers served with huge french fries.

The Road Kill Cafe offered Australian burgers of Crocodile, Water Buffalo & Kangaroo

There were amazing street musicians playing didgeridoos where a group of local Aborigines were inspired to get up and dance – Wow! Dad bought two didgeridoo music albums, I bought myself a cool tiger eye crystal pendant for improved concentration, Bryce bought a crocodile spine wristband, mom got a couple Indonesian looking longer length dresses in preparation for Indonesia and Uncle Curtis and Joel bought two Aborigine paintings to add to their art collection.

Didgeridoos for sale

On Saturday, having enjoyed our last night at the hotel, we woke up early because Kandu had an appointment to exit the Tipperary marina lock at 8:00 am. Uncle Curtis and Joel were at the lock waving goodbye. We made it to the starting line on time for the rally kick-off signal. While sailing past Uncle Curtis and Joel waving goodbye on the big rally coordination boat, we blasted our horn and I waved a bubble stick up in the air. Turns out the bubble stick presents that Joel gave were more fun than I expected.

Even with all the work and shortened time window, we had a great time in Darwin especially due to being able to spend so much quality time with Uncle Curtis and Uncle Joel. I liked the area so much, I hope to travel there again someday to visit the sites we missed: Kakado National Park and Aboriginal peoples, and the Litchfield Park termites.

Fortunately, we did get to see those scary crocs. The saltwater crocs live near rivers because they have to detox from the saltwater every so often. All river outlets in the Northern Territory are extremely dangerous. Did you know that Australia’s saltwater crocodiles were endangered and have now increased in numbers from 100,000 to 200,000 adults in the wild? The population of crocodiles in Darwin is as big as the population of humans. Those statistics are great for the crocs, but there is a price. People cannot swim in the local waters for fear of attack – no kayaking, long board paddling, nor surfing in the Northern territory. Instead, fishing excursions are very popular along with boat trips into the mangroves to watch wild crocodiles jump for fish on a stick!

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: 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.

 

Sailing West by Eric Rigney

We Kandu with the Rigneyskandu team: Eric Rigney, Captain, Leslie Rigney, Co-Captain, Bryce & Trent Rigney, Crew!

The trip has changed dramatically since leaving Bora-Bora. The larger boat jobs completed in February and March, planned and parts ordered months prior, are behind me. No longer do I shoulder an over-shadowing burden of endless preparatory tasks. So many were completed: haul-out and new bottom paint, re-plumbed some items in the head and galley, revamped electrical system (batteries, solar, monitoring), new standing rigging (hardware, cables and fittings to support the sails and mast), installed an AIS transponder, set up our new dinghy, and more. Kandu feels whole, ready for frequent ocean passages, ready for whatever awaits us.

My captaining tools have improved: additional electronic navigation, weather forecasting, and communication with ports. As a result, after days out at sea, we successfully sailed into two foreign ports at night using tools recommended by a more experienced cruising sailor. My skills have improved as well. The boys are stepping up, particularly Bryce. Getting from point A-to-B, and repairing/maintaining Kandu come easier. Stress levels don’t immediately jump to DEFCON 5 when problems arise: automatic bilge pump counter shows 263 cycles of pumping water out of the boat in 8 hours, starboard side window falls off dodger a second time and shatters, wind vane steering line frays and locks-up the helm toward an accidental jibe in 25 mph winds and 8-foot seas, Custom officers can’t reach us over VHF radio, after changing the oil and replacing all its fuel filters (5) the 44hp diesel engine dies and won’t start, modem fails thus preventing us from emailing via HF and SSB radio. It turns out that stressing over a problem doesn’t resolve it faster. It just ages me. I do the best I can with what I have, “sail the wind I have,” I like to say. With support and assistance from family and friends, I resolve problems and order parts. Our pace, frequent crossings and shorter stays, is possible because our boat is working and with the help of my “team,” problems that arise are typically solved within the available timeframes.

We are seeing places in concentrated fashion, diving in deeply and getting out quickly. We’re seeing cultures new to me and more traditional than French Polynesia. Images from childhood wildlife and adventure television programs come to life, people and culture made real and tangible. This phase of our travel is very rewarding. It’s the trip I envisioned years prior. The two-year stay in French Polynesia was not planned, but proved helpful in terms of ‘finishing’ Kandu and making the boys bilingual. Better still, we deepened existing friendships and established new ones. We also delved deeply into the reviving Marquesan culture. Taking it slow has its rewards. But so does a faster pace. This quickened phase is driving our small family even closer together. We do most everything together, but make efforts to provide the boys “alone” activities ashore.

Our itinerary from this standpoint is:

  • Leave Vanuatu this Saturday for Darwin, sailing 20 days through the Torres Straight.
  • Join the Sail Indonesia Rally and sail through Indonesia over 2.5 months, stopping at 10-12 locations.
  • From there, sail to Singapore, along Malaysia, to Thailand.
  • After Christmas, sail to Sri Lanka and the Maldives before arriving at the Red Sea in late February.
  • From March-September 2018, sail the Med.
  • Make our way to northern South America and Southern Caribbean, and through the Panama Canal.
  • Then home by either coming up the Central American and Mexican coasts, or sailing to Hawaii and then over to North America, arriving in CA the summer of 2019.

When other sailors remark that our pace is too fast, I smile and reply, “Well, then maybe we should just go home and not bother sailing around the world.” It’s not perfect, not even close. But as another sailor noted, “You can’t kiss all the girls.” And with that, I’m happy with what we’ve done, and with what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. Sure, at this speed, we are not able to experience all that we would want. Still I would argue that the bits and pieces we are able to see provide a greater appreciation for the global vastness of culture and natural wonder that exists on our amazing planet, an experience more satisfying than the inspirational one I received watching it as a child at home on TV. Whether we sail one year eastward back across the Pacific or two years westward around the world, we wind up home either way. So why not sail west and kiss a few more girls? Sounds good to me.

by Eric Rigney