Tag Archives: Kandu

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.

Samoa Days by Trent Rigney

South Eastern Coastline of Upolu, Samoa

Samoa was a great place to visit. We visited Apia, capital city on the island of Upolu, the smaller of the two islands. The other island is called Savai’i, a bit like Hawai’i. Samoa used to be called Western Samoa to be different from ‘American Samoa.’ ‘American Samoa’ is an American overseas territory. The people of Samoa voted their country name to be simply ‘Samoa’ when it became it’s own country, independent, no longer a protectorate of New Zealand. In Apia, they have great restaurants and really nice people. The food in Samoa is much cheaper than in Tahiti and the people were always smiling. Not much Wi-Fi in Samoa but they have great surf and exciting new things to do.

There are all kinds of special natural wonders on Upolu all owned by different villages. In order to visit these sites, instead of paying a national park fee, you pay the family or village who owns and maintains the site. We got to visit the Papase’ea Sliding Rocks, the To Sua Ocean Trench, and the Piula Cave Pool.

The Papase’ea Sliding Rocks was mind blowing. We asked locals how to get down to the slides just to make sure we wouldn’t get hurt. There were over a hundred well-maintained stairs to walk down. It was a hot day, so there were already a lot of people visiting the falls and slides. Dad asked a local how to slide down the rock. He went first, then I went, Bryce and mom last. It took some time for her to gather her courage. After awhile having slid a lot, Bryce and I went over to the waterfall. I went under and it felt like I was getting a massage. It was the best natural rock slide I’ve ever slid on. We all had a lot of fun.

To Sua Ocean Trench, Upolu, Samoa

The To Sua Trench was nothing I’ve ever seen before. When I saw it, it looked like a big blue hole in the ground. The sides were covered in vines and plants. It was located next to the ocean with what looked like pretty good surf swell. To get down into the water hole, we walked down some stairs then climbed down a ladder made out of huge trees. You can jump off the ladder at whatever height you want (no rules) then swim into the connecting cave. It was lightly raining, not cold though. Bryce and I jumped and swam to our hearts content in the refreshing fresh water.

View from the cliffside next to To Sua Ocean Trench. Could have been good surf!

Another day we got to swim again in cold, fresh water at Piula Cave Pool located on the north side of the island, also right next to the ocean. When you go deep in the cave where it’s dark, your body turns blue. It might turn blue because the water was super clean, or because the rock ceiling dripped water minerals in the water. It sparkled in the sun. There were two caves and we heard they were connected by a small opening that you could swim through, but the passage was dark and under the water so you would’ve had to hold your breath all the way to the other side. We didn’t have a light and a mask, so we didn’t go.

Piula Cave Pools, Upolu, Samoa

We had a great day visiting ‘The Samoan Cultural Center’ to learn about different aspects of Samoan culture. First, a trio of men danced a Samoan paddle dance.

It was much tamer than Marquesian and Tahitian dancing. It wasn’t a war dance as the three men dancing were all smiling. A woman danced too, but all she seemed to move were her arms, hardly any hip and leg movement.

After the dance, the performers treated us to a kava ceremony and explained, back when they were cannibals, if they didn’t give you a kava ceremony they would eat you. Next up, we walked to see real tattooing in progress. Samoan artists like using their old wooden tools, but in an upgraded style. They used to attach shark teeth on a stick, but now they use stainless steel combs. We got to see them tattooing on two Samoan men. It looked very painful. Every Samoan guy has the same tattoo in the same spot. For Samoan men, it’s their dream to get this tattoo, but if you start and then stop because it’s too painful, you disgrace your family. The session goes for an hour a day for six days.

Lastly, we went to see how you could make clothing and artwork from bark. You cut off a branch from a specific tree, and carefully remove the bark. Then they separate the outside of the bark from the inside layer. After, you get two shells, one that is a little sharp and one that isn’t. After you’re done scrapping the bark, it’s six times the size. They stretch it out with rock as weights and let it dry. They dry it in shade letting the wind and air dry it because the sun dries it too fast.

Samoa has some great surf, but you have to pay to surf. Families own surf sites, which I don’t think is right. You can’t own a part of an ocean! Samoa is a Christian place so you can’t surf on Sundays. There are some surf resorts in Samoa and they pay to get permission from the families to go surfing, but they can only allow 12 people to surf at a time. We went to a resort and made an arrangement to surf on the following Monday morning. The spot was an hour and ½ away from our boat, and we wanted to catch the first boat out leaving early from shore at 6:30 am. So we woke up at 4:30 to drive over to the other side of the island and the surfer guide said we couldn’t go surfing with them. He said it in a really mean and aggressive way. We left and searched for another way to paddle out to the surf later that same day. When we arrived, that surf guide was frustrated we were there.

Internet photo of Salani reef

It’s said that Samoa and Tonga are where all the Polynesians came from and that the islands form a triangle in the Pacific from New Zealand in the west, to Hawaii to the north and Easter Island at the eastern corner and all the French Polynesia islands are in the triangle. Rapa Nui is the island where the performers wear the least amount of clothing when they dance. Performers in French Polynesia and Hawaii wear similar clothing, using grass and leaves, coconut shells and pareos. In New Zealand, dancers wear warmer outfits sometimes with fake animals skins. It’s cold in New Zealand even in summer.I loved the rockslide and the trench. Bryce and I had a great day surfing the Salani reef. I loved how Samoa, being next to ‘America Samoa,’ had my favorite chips that we’ve not found anywhere else: Spicy Hot Cheetos. We were going to tour Savai’i but immigration would only let us check out from Apia and dad didn’t want to sail back against the wind. After just one week only, we left to Fiji.

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,



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!”

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

Daily Log Notes: Samoa to Fiji, May 2017

Kandu on the ocean blue, healed over +10 degrees.

Friday, May 26, 2017, 7:00 pm

Left Apia Marina, Samoa at 6:30 am. We were supposed to leave at 22h00 the night before but we were too tired. Motored to west point of Upolu, wind picked-up. SE 20 knot winds. Shut off engine at 12-noon. Starboard dodger window popped out again, but this time it shattered. Installed wooden blank board in its place to keep out the weather until we get replacement in Fiji. Sailing well. Reduced main and genoa, but maintained full staysail. Eric

Saturday, May 27, 2017, 2:00 pm

Winds calming, coming more easterly. Boat slowing from 6.2 knots to 5.2 knots. Eric.

Saturday, May 27, 2017, 11:45 pm

Leaving Apia harbor, Samoa was a piece of cake. We had flat waters and no wind for quite awhile, motoring until Upolu Island’s height decreased, then the wind and swell picked-up. Making our way through the island passage, then south of Savai’i, the brunt of the wind and swell hit us. Nausea arrested everyone. Trent and Eric purged several times while Bryce and I held the vomit at bay. None of us ate much. During the night, the wind died down, which was an enormous relief. The boat stopped healing over and calmed from ‘bucking bronco’ to a gentle sway. We added more sail pulling out the genoa immediately increasing our speed. We flew the rest of the day into the night. Our upset stomachs enjoyed vegetable soup and spam. Eric even got some paperwork done. I binged instead on our Outlander video series, season 2. Gee that was great fun! Take me away, to some higher place…..Leslie

Above Video: Air Guitar by Bryce Rigney

Memorial Day, May 29, 2017, 1:00 am

Bryce had taken an extra long nap starting around 4:30 pm, so when he took the first watch, he started counting at 8:00 pm and didn’t wake me until 12 midnight, stating that he still wasn’t tired. Then he stayed and chatted with me for another ½ hour explaining he had been editing some of the pictures I had loaded on his ipad from my computer – ones I thought he might like to post on Facebook or Instagram. He had been very pleased by my choices. He also wanted to share with me his writings about surfing in Raiatea. He had just finished his long recount of his surf camping and read to me the conclusion. He misses his buddies and easy surf life. What I miss is the steadiness of the boat and the familiarity of the surroundings, not to mention the lovely people we befriended, with whom we spent quality time.

We are finally officially experiencing the trade winds – real trade wind weather – where the sailing is comfortable. Sigh of relief! The seas are gentle and the boat is sailing on a beam reach. Today was sunny and trouble-free. If it continues like this, I’ll have to really cook, as we’ll get hungry. I have plenty of fresh vegetables. I just need inspiration and a calm stomach. 2.5 days until we reach Suva, Fiji. Leslie

Tuesday, May 30th, 1:30 am

Crossed the International dateline, longitude 180 degrees. Eric

Above Video: Crossing the International Dateline

Wednesday, June 1, 2017, 8:00 am

Arrived Suva, Fiji in the dark, again. Thanks to the NavX iPhone application from Navionics, we can see quite clearly the hazards. However, waking up this morning, we found ourselves anchored 100 yards away from an 120 foot overturned Chinese industrial fishing boat that we didn’t exactly note during the night. We had seen a pole sticking up marking a hazard….but that didn’t quite explain what was really there in the dark water. Confirmed Eric’s general rule not to enter a foreign port in the dark. Leslie

Note the wreck on the right. Arriving at high tide, we didn’t see it.

Leslie’s Letters: Apia, Upolu, Samoa

Local Samoan fishing boats

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Hello my beloved parents,

We have been ever frustrated by our Internet connection in Samoa’s Capital, Apia, on the island of Upolu. Finally after a week, Eric has figured out the best method and now we have specifically purchased data sims to install into our phones in order to create hotspots to link our computers. I imagine this is going to be an ongoing struggle in each country we visit.

We plan to leave for Fiji tomorrow morning. Before we throw-off the lines, I’ll head over to the outdoor market to get some fresh fruit. I did find some tomatoes and apples this morning at a stiffer than usual price (everything here is discounted 60% for us with our great strong dollar exchange rate) than the local fruits, but still not expensive. For example, we can go to a decent restaurant (albeit not the most high end) and instead of paying US$70, we pay at the most US$35 for the four of us, and that includes drinks. We are charged about US$6.00 for an ATM fee. I find that fee a bit stiff actually…and then we have our own 1% bank fees at First Entertainment Credit Union. We stopped using our BofA account to withdraw cash because they charge 3%. I try to figure all those fees in when calculating our personal exchange rate.

Eric has been getting the run-around with immigration. One person says one thing and another says something else. We had wanted to go to the neighboring Samoa island Savai’i, but customs is requiring that we return and clear immigration from Apia, Upolu. I was actually told that when we first arrived, but Eric had spoken to someone else that said the contrary and didn’t believe me. So instead of departing tonight, we will be departing for Fiji tomorrow early morning, which, in fact, is really, really good. It makes all of us happy to have a sound night’s sleep as night watches are not our favorite, plus the constant movement and noises make for light sleeping. It will be a five-day sail to Fiji.

Sounds like you had a lovely and relaxing time in La Quinta getting to visit with Kay and Don and engaging in a lot of reading. Trent has gotten involved in a new series of 11 books: “The Ranger’s Apprentice” by John Flanagan, given to us by our La Cruz Mexico friends in pdf form. We loaded the entire series on his Kindle. He’s having a blast reading to his heart’s content. We got the new replacement Kindle from Michele and Ron, but now cannot find Trent’s – so back to two. We must find that Kindle! In Fiji, I guess we’ll unload the boys’ water toys from their ‘forecastle’ room and seriously dig around in the forward sail bins. We think it fell down into one of the bins when their bed boards were lifted up to store away the sails. Sigh.

Tasa and Leslie at the Ocean Trench park

Here in Suva, we were very fortunate to hook-up with a wonderful woman, Tasa, the first Samoan female passenger air pilot. She is on break from flying to take care of her aging parents, meanwhile making a living as a tour guide and masseuse extraordinaire. She popped over the first evening with the most remarkably delicious ice-cold beers in hand – the Samoan ‘Taula’ with no added preservatives (we never drank another brand while in Samoa as it was soooo tasty). Tasa is beautiful, amazingly friendly, intelligent, upbeat and enormously helpful. I think I found in her another friend for life. We spent a full Saturday afternoon with her touring the complete island and swimming the beautiful ‘To Sua Ocean Trench’ freshwater cave pool in the rain where the boys jumped 35-45 feet into the deep pool. Plus she directed us how to find the somewhat hidden Salani Surf Resort in the dark. Upon arrival at the resort, we made reservations for the following Monday morning (no surfing on Sundays due to church dictates) to surf at the renowned Samoan surf-site two days later. On top of all that, she insisted on doing our laundry, nor did I want to miss out on one of her massages performed in her spectacular semi-outdoor forest setting home. She made sure that we had papayas, lemons, and lemongrass a-plenty from her garden. Such generosity.

On a side note – the Salani Surf Resort ended up a bust. We had specifically rented a car for the occasion and left Kandu at 4:30 in the morning to drive to the other side of the island and arrive in time for the first boat out at 6:10 am. When we arrived there with the boys ramped up excited to go, the surf authority dude (a little Napoleon type) approached me and aggressively, in my face, spouted: “There is no way I am taking these boys out to surf the wave. The ‘reservation’ you made was not legitimate, and since you aren’t staying at the resort, there is nothing I can or will do to accommodate you.” Considerably affronted, we reloaded the boards back into our rental van and drove off to find surf at any of the other known surf sites in the area. Unfortunately, there were no waves to surf at the other southern sites: Boulders, Siumu nor Coconuts, so we drove back to Salani, the only site with some waves due to the strong southeast swell. Since we had heard you could paddle out to the reef break, we looked for the beachfront entrance accessed through a local village. A helpful woman on the road pointed us in the right direction, and we pulled into the village area surrounded by homes and a small local store adjacent to the surf-site. The boys were so excited that they took off like banshees for the water, surf shirts, sunblock zinc paste, and surfboards in hand. Eric approached the nearest local women to ask permission for the boys to surf, explaining that we had tried to surf through the Salani Surf Resort, but had been turned away even though we were willing to pay their expensive fees. With sympathy towards ‘boys’ and since she owned the beachfront, for a small fee, she generously allowed Bryce and Trent to disembark from her land to surf, even though she and the village had exclusively leased out the rights to surf the ‘Salani wave’ to The Salani Surf Resort. Three hours later when the boys returned happy and well exercised, they reported that Mr. Napoleon-surf-dude was not happy to see them, but he didn’t utter a word edgewise. Turns out that Bryce and Trent were as skilled as or better than most of the resort surfers that day!

Whenever Eric checks into a country he is full of smiles, and with upbeat energy he asks where to find the best local places to eat. Suggested by staff members of the cruising permit office for a ‘local experience’ was The Sunrise Café where Eric and Bryce both ordered a plate of fried chicken, taro and banana. It was simply that – the taro and banana were boiled and served w/o sauce. We didn’t return. Upon the advice of Curtis, Eric hunted down the little known local delicacy ‘Pangi Popo’ (sweet buns in fresh coconut cream custard) only available in two bakery’s: Mari’s on the beach front or at Myna’s, a rather isolated grocery store. They were finger dripping good. We also ate a delicious meal at Giordano’s Wood Fire Pizza Garden Restaurant. However, The Seafood Gourmet, across from the marina, became our hangout for inexpensive healthy options and ice cream. Unabashedly, we did go to McDonald’s once or twice for a taste of home. And aside from the ‘Pangi Popo,’ the other pastries available were also quite delicious. There are buns and doughnuts filled with cream and ever-so-soft-n-tasty cinnamon buns, plus an interesting hard cookie biscuit made with pig lard and sugar. It’s salty yet sweet: a rather pretty’n tasty substitute for breakfast toast.We enjoyed our movie fix in the evenings seeing four American movies in a lovely modern cinema theater. We felt spoiled because it was soooo cheap for the four of us: US$4.00 per ticket. We were thrilled to attend a fabulous and free four-hour presentation at the Tourism Cultural Center including real traditional tattooing, cloth painting, carving, tapa cloth tapping and scraping, dancing and singing, palm frond weaving of headbands, and a taste of their ceremonial drink, Kava. In fact, Eric and I hunted for Kava everywhere in the open market, super markets, Chinese stores, and finally found it in small 4-ounce quantities for US$6/bag at the flea market. Whew! We were told that we needed it to present to chiefs in Vanuatu when arriving in their villages. While at the flea market around 4:00pm when the kids are returning home from school, we saw the most incredible parade of brightly decorated buses loading up to travel to the far sides of the island. Each truck-bus was sponsored by a local restaurant or organization as advertisement! Fun! On our own time with the rental car, we extensively explored the island getting to swim with the fish in the iridescent aqua freshwater Piula Cave Pool. It was an extraordinarily refreshing experience during that hot and humid day. On another day, we had more energizing fun at the Papase’ea Sliding Rocks close to the University of the Pacific in Apia. Being in Apia on a Sunday, Eric and I got up early to attend a church service at the extraordinary Immaculate Conception of Mary Cathedral located on the main Beachfront Blvd. Already at 7:00 am, we were late getting there only hearing the tail end of the service, yet what we heard were the most incredible mix of native sounding Catholic liturgical hymns. They were uplifting and deeply emotionally stirring when surrounded by an exceptionally beautiful and grandiose interior.We’re all in decent spirits – not excited for 5 days at sea, but ready to leave Samoa. It has been a fabulously profound time here with such delightful people and arresting beauty. We never seem to have quite enough time to discover everything. Sadly, we missed visiting the two Samoan museums in town. But, the boys got to surf the famous Salani reef – which is the most important thing in their book, and therefore in ours! It’s been a spectacular visit.

Oh – one of the reasons we wanted to come to Samao for was to meet up with Eric’s Samoan family through his Uncle Dan. Auntie Lori is from Upolu and her grandparents are still alive. We got a chance to see them at their Bartlay store – Amazing!

Had better sign off. I’m glad you well received the cards – I penned those poems. A little corny – but straight from the heart! Hey – there is a fantastic cribbage app that you can add to your phone. It teaches you how to make the best moves and which cards are the most appropriate to discard from your hand. Trent, Bryce and I all played it so much during our night watches that we’re already rather bored by the game. I’m trying to get them to play a threesome. Probably will succeed during this next five-day passage.

Sending you virtual saltwater and salty hugs – Leslie




Surfing, Camping, Islet, Friends

The Motu at Raiatea

Gotta see Video: Motu surf camping

“Yo, Bryce, wanna come? We’re spending a night on the motu,” says my best friend in Raiatea, Nari. Motu is the Tahitian word for islet inside or along the reef. Nari is a young man, three years older than me, who extended his friendship at a time when I had felt abandoned by my previous group of wave-faring comrades. Together with Nari and a couple of other surfers, we would take a boat to surf along the reef’s passes. My immediate response was “Yes!” hoping there wouldn’t be the rain and 25-knot winds like our last campout attempt. After school, I ran back to tell my parents the plan and to start packing for the next two days. First, I packed a hammock to sleep-in and a rain jacket, just in case this experience played out similar to the last. I also packed two extra pair of underwear, one pair of board shorts, one extra shirt, and a thin sheet in the form of a sleeping bag that would keep off the hundreds of mosquitos that would most certainly try to make a buffet out of me. Completing my packing was my surfboard, of course, my machete & sheath, and a 1.5-liter bottle of water. Nari had asked if I could bake a cake like I had before, to serve as breakfast before the morning surf. Hurriedly, my mother and I baked a 5 x 8-inch chocolate cake.

Waiting for Nari to pick me up.

Around 17h30 (5:30pm) Nari showed up in his boat, the one we would use to go surfing as you can only reach the passes by boat. As I loaded my things into his boat, I handed Nari a thousand Polynesian francs or US$10 to help pay for gas. Filling up the tank at the gas station, we came across a few of the other kids who would be camping with us that night. They also needed to purchase gas before heading out. Our outboard full of gas, we headed south from Uturoa to the motu and our hope for surfing adventure.

At the start of our voyage, Nari steered the boat outside the reef to engage in a little bit of fishing along the way. I was handed the fishing pole so that he could steer the boat as close to the breaking waves as possible. After ten minutes, I yelled, “I caught something, I caught something!” As I reeled in the line, I sensed a bit of pride knowing I hadn’t let down Nari, an expert fisherman. Nari steered the boat away from the reef as I brought the jackfish, the size of my forearm, inside. “Hey, Bryce, do you think you could steer the boat so that this time I could cast the line?” asked Nari. With that I took the tiller and copied him as best I could, staying close to the waves like he had. Twenty minutes passed with no success (I had been reluctant to direct the boat as close to the reef as Nari had). As we approached the entrance to our destination, Nari reeled in his empty hook and I caught sight of our fellow campers out in the water already surfing. Once ready, Nari said, “Throw the anchor!” When the hook grabbed, we threw off our shirts, snatched up our boards and paddled out towards our friends. While greeting all the local surfers, I watched for the sweet spot, where I would set myself up.

That afternoon, we stayed out until we could no longer see. One by one, trickling away, the various boats hoisted their anchors and headed back home, or in our case right next door to our motu campsite. From the surf, we saw hoards of boats gathered along the white sand beach of the motu. Finding our group, we stationed the boat and tied the painter around a tree. Afterwards, I unpacked my things from the boat and searched for a spot to set-up camp for the next two days. Because of all the pretty distractions that had just finished their evening swims, it took me a while to find a spot. I settled in the middle of two trees behind the fireplace, attaching my hammock to a coconut-less coconut tree and a chestnut tree (didn’t need the possible headache). That night all the kids circled around the fire to talk, listen to music, drink, smoke, and to barbecue whatever food it was they had brought to share for the night. Nari was the main chef that night, cooking breadfruit, sausage, rice, and potato gratin. It was practically an all-you-could-eat buffet surrounded by friends!

The best surfer in our group, Heremanu, who I looked up to, was the only one besides me not to drink or smoke. I was glad that it was with someone like him that I could relate, and appreciated him more for it. As the moon rose higher in the sky, our fires burned lower. Nari knowing that I was the earliest bird in the group whispered, “Hey, Bryce, I know that you’re going to be the first to wake up. Can you wake me up early in the morning so we can be the first to go surf…. and gorge on your cake? Don’t tell anyone else about the cake. All right?”

My normal routine was to go to bed early and wake up early, so I hit the sack at 21h00 (9:00pm) for a good night’s sleep. As instructed by my dad, I positioned myself at a 20-degree angle in the hammock. I slept well through the night, and with the luck of no rain or falling coconuts, I arose with the early morning light. As I walked around, I heard the wrestling of giant ground crabs, tupas, running back to holes they had dug for themselves for shelter. That morning, despite the fact that they had gone to bed at 3:00 am, Nari and Heremanu woke up on their own. A few of the other kids had also woken up eager to go surfing as well. Being that my friends were all Polynesian, the three of us were obliged to share the cake and to bring them along surfing.

Before leaving, we all headed to the beach to examine the morning’s surf conditions.

Morning’s sunrise view from the motu

At the last minute, Vaimiti, the fourth musketeer in our group, awoke to join the surf excursion. With surfboards, wax, and friends all loaded inside Nari’s boat, we took off. Heading to the pass we saw another boat arriving at the same time as us. Vaimiti anchored the boat in a stable position. Given the okay to go, I hopped in the water and paddled out looking for the day’s sweet spot. There was only enough light out in the sky to see my own hand, yet the others as well started to paddle out. As the first set started to roll in, I placed myself in the right spot to catch the wave. Once the wave started to lift and carry my board, I stopped paddling and popped up to my feet, surfing the dark, glassy figure of the wave. For two hours, we were a group of seven, surfing a 40-second left, reef-barreling wave in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean. Towards the end of our morning session, a group of 14 body-boarders showed up to crowd the occasional seven-wave sets. After three hours of great surfing, we returned back to the motu for some much needed lunch. This way, we could eat, regain energy, and wait out the crowded surf spot.

All the girlfriends clad in bikinis had come out to play volleyball and petanque (like bocce ball) on the white sand beach of the motu. I unfortunately was one of the few fellows left to keep his hands in his pants. For lunch, Nari and I reignited the fire to boil rice and to heat up a few cans of corned beef. While waiting for the food to cook, we joined in on the beach activities. After a few games of bocce ball, the scent of food led all the famished clan into a huddle. The music and the plates came out as we dug into the huge portion of mixed rice and corned beef hash. Not a grain was left in the bowl.

Our group of four musketeers, anxious to head back to surf, walked over to the beach to scout out the new afternoon conditions. Seeing as the waves had grown in height, the four of us headed to the boat with haste for another session. Approaching the pass, we watched six foot linear barrels being surfed. We quickly anchored the boat amongst five other boats and flew into the water. It was the best day of surfing I have ever had. The waves were perfect. In a single wave, one could maneuver three carves and shoot out of a hollow tube big enough to stand in. I had only ever dreamed of waves like these. It was truly a gift to be surfing these perfect waves with my awesome friends!

Conversely, wiping out on one of these perfect waves would land you cuts from the sharp coral reef just below the surf. Respectfully, GoPro photography was forbidden. The locals do not want their home waves to be overtaken by professional surfers from around the globe.

With the swell picking up, two of our party too frightened to continue, caught a boat ride back to the motu. That left 8 of us who continued to surf the waves of our lives, including the ‘early bird’ guy from the boat that had arrived before us that morning. I watched my friends as they surfed, shooting out from being fully covered in clear blue tubes and carving up and down those perfect lines with grace.

Bryce rigney surfing a clear blue tube.

It was the happiest day of my life that I could remember. To be experiencing my Polynesian dream amongst good people was truly awesome. We continued to surf until rashes, jellyfish stings, sunburns, burning muscles, and reef cuts covered our whole bodies. After four hours of doing what we eat, sleep, talk and dream about, we returned back to the motu to find some more food . . . Hungry!

With all our energy left in the pass, making our way to the motu’s luxurious fresh water spigot came with great difficulty. We rinsed our things and ourselves then brought the boat back to the campsite to tie it off. De-energized, dehydrated, reef cut, and starved, we looked like a bunch of bedraggled kids who had just returned from being exiled in the desert. Immediately upon arriving back in camp, we scavenged potable water to drink and snacks to satisfy our needs. With our stomachs satiated, we hit the sack to nap and ready ourselves for the day’s evening surf; yes, morning, noon, AND night! After an hours worth of rest, us four musketeers were ready to go back to the pass, cut, burnt, and all. At around 16h (4:00pm) the boat departed full of newly waxed surfboards and brow beaten Tahitians. The local crowd, including our loyal ‘early bird’ friend, was still there. They were shredding what was now a 4-foot barreling line. Though the afternoon swell had died down, so had the wind. We caught wave after wave, landing ourselves more reef cuts, stings, and rashes. Nothing stopped us from our love for surfing. As the light dimmed so did the band of surfers who needed to get across the lagoon to their main island homes before dark. The few to prevail included us and the ‘early bird,’ who seemed to know everything about his home pass. We couldn’t get enough, the swell and conditions were too great to pass up. Though as the time passed, the sun and the light descended to hide behind the mountain. Too dark to read the waves any longer, we left the pass and headed back to camp, having added two more great hours of surf that day. Being as the conditions were too good to pass up, a few of us decided to stay for an extra night on the motu. Our only problem was the food rations.

The remaining group of ten walked over to the showers to rinse our salty dry skin.

The remaining group of kids.

Dinner was breadfruit and rice mixed with the fish I had caught with Nari on the way over. Again, the alcohol and weed came out for the ones who wanted it. With my good friend Heremanu being one of the kids to have taken off, I was the only ‘good’ boy left. Towards 20h00 (8:00pm), dinner was ready. Being hungry surfers, we ate like champions, going back for seconds and thirds. I kept to my same schedule, going to bed right after dinner. Even after the nine hours of surf, the others stayed up late till one in the morning, talking and being teenagers.

That morning, lucky to have slept well through a second clear, starry night without rain and deadly coconut droppings, I was awoken by Vaimiti. He had the bright idea to wake everybody up an hour early for no apparent reason. So being awake, we pre-packed our things into the boat, ate breakfast, and waited for the sun to come up. We couldn’t help but walk over to the lookout spot a few times, anxious to see what the day’s conditions might be. After thirty minutes of waiting, a speck of light glimmered over the horizon, giving us a peek at what our waves were going to be. Our guesstimate was 4-foot. And with that, we motored off.

Again the six of us guided the boat through the exit of the motu coral reef and out to the breakwater. Ten minutes later we dropped anchor and jumped into the rolling waves. I was the first to start out and swam away from the boat to relieve myself of a full two days holding tank. Swimming as fast as I could away from my fish food, I saw two more boats arriving to profit from the perfect waves. In one boat was a group of three older guys who could hold their own, and in the other, our good friend ‘early bird’ who came with nothing but his surfboard, machete, and spear gun.

With the tardiness of the others, I had gone ahead and caught the first wave of the day. As the surfers came together, we exchanged friendly greetings, bantering about our hopes for the day’s conditions. Later in the morning, more and more people appeared including a group of ten to sum up 20 and counting. I had never seen so many people in a given Raiatea surf spot. It was as if all the known island surfers had gotten wind of the day before, and all decided to come to the pass.

Becoming more and more crowded, it felt as if the sets were an eternity away; more and more people started to snake one another. Eventually, I made my way to the top of the line where the three older dudes tended to remain stationed. I watched as one of the three started to loose his energy, no longer able to easily catch the waves he paddled for. A set of waves rolled in and being first in line, I began to paddle for the first wave of the set, thinking normally people like to wait for the bigger waves behind. While paddling for the wave, I saw the fatigued older man cutting to the inside to try and catch the same wave. I continued paddling thinking that the man would be overtaken by the wave, like all the other times, but this time he seemed exceptionally ferocious and determined to catch it. Paddling head to head, I felt the wave lift me up and I popped up on my board. I saw the man giving all his might to catch the wave. He stood to his feet finding balance and pointed the nose of his board to the left down the line. But I had already caught it! I looked back at him with an expression like “What are you doing…I was on it first!” but he kept going. With the wave starting to close, I left the line disappointed, while the water pushed the man further down the reef. As he left the wave, he looked enraged by the fact that I had not relinquished the wave to him. On top of it, because that wave had been the first of the set, he had to deal with the next few crashing waves. I paddled back out with all eyes on me as I heard the enraged Tahitian spitting insults as loud as he could.

I didn’t know what I had done wrong. Normally, in California, that should have been my wave. I had started paddling for the wave before him, and I had caught the wave before him. Yet I could still hear him bellowing things like “bastard…stupid kid…idiot, etc.” The other older men, with whom I had previously surfed, turned their backs on me with a sense of contempt. Others started to say, “Kid, you need to get out of here. That guy’s gonna come over and start wailing on you…you really need to leave!” A few others came over offering me support and comfort saying, “Don’t worry, you did nothing wrong. Just wait a few and then go apologize.” So I did. After a few minutes, I started my approach, cautiously paddling closer to him, knowing any second he could just start raging on me. My friends; including, Nari, Vaimiti, Antoine, and a friend’s dad, John, came along to cover my back should things go sour. As I got closer to the guy, adrenaline surged over me. Within six feet, I stopped to sit up on my board and began apologizing.

He turned around and started with, “I know who you are, Bryce. My friends told me about you. They told me you were a disrespectful American who snaked and cut in line whenever you were surfing.” Then he cussed some more before continuing. “Bryce, you need to start being more respectful with us elders.” A bit more cussing, he approached until he was approximately a foot away then said: “But it’s not just you, it’s all of you arrogant little boys who don’t give a rats ass about how you surf and disrespect those of us who are older.” Then he started to say crazy things like how he and his people had formed the passes and how the elders should have priority out in the water. He continued to go on for a while about respect and how things needed to change. Since half of what he was saying was in Tahitian and the other half in French, I was having a hard time understanding. But after about ten minutes of him lecturing and humiliating me for what I didn’t realize was a disrespectful action, he calmed down. I repeated that I was sorry once more and that was the end of that.

I thanked my friends for having my back, then paddled back into the sweet spot with the other 20 surfers who had been gossiping about what had passed. An hour later, we caught our last waves for the morning before pulling anchor. Cautiously guiding the boat through the motu coral heads, we made our way back to the fresh water spigot to rinse. Following our now familiar routine of tying up the boat, we rummaged to find whatever food was left over to eat for lunch.

Heremanu: guy holding the camera
Nari: super buff guy sitting down
Vaimiti: guy in the back with machete

Now we were only three, as the other two surfers with us were picked up to return home. Since breadfruit takes a while to cook, we stoked up the fire, setting a timer for an hour nap. Awoken just in time to pull out the cooked breadfruit, we heated the beans on the dying fire while the charred breadfruit cooled enough to remove the skin. The other surfers left behind three baguettes. Once Nari and Vaimiti had skinned the warm breadfruit, we jumbled the baked beans and breadfruit together into the bread to make a breadfruit/bean sandwich of sorts…a tasty and filling last meal on the motu.

Since the music had gone home with the others, we chatted about how incredible our last couple of days had been, and how we were going to miss each other when I left on Kandu to continue my family’s world voyage.

Enjoying our last bites, we prepared our departure from the motu. Once I was done stuffing away my single person hammock and personal junk, I offered to help Nari and Vaimiti put away the 14-person tent. Together with a bit of punching, kicking and shoving, we got the tent into its small bag, the size of a small car wheel. We then tossed our things into the boat praying they would stay dry, grabbed the remaining trash bags, and pushed off the motu for the last time. Knowing it was going to be the last time I would experience anything like this again soon, I felt a sadness pass over me as I said goodbye to the motu. Yet our day wasn’t over as we still had one last afternoon surf session to relish. Hastily anchoring the boat next to Heremanu’s family boat, in my excitement, I jumped out first to greet Heremanu and his dad, who is the best surfer I’ve ever had the pleasure to surf with.

That afternoon’s current was entering the pass, pushing us away from the line-up and making it hard to paddle out. I examined the waves finding that they were 7-foot tall and made a little messy by the 10 knots of on-shore wind. The nine surfers caught huge outsides and enjoyed being out in the water, laughing with and at each other – sharing only smiles. After an hour, Vaimiti broke his board, so he and I paddled to the boat to catch a break. We grabbed some fins and snorkels to head back out to watch the action under water. Vaimiti and I pretended to spear huge parrotfish that were gorging on the sharp coral reef. When we reached the sweet spot, we watched through the clear water the surfers catch drop-in barrels and carve up the waves above. The sight under water was as mesmerizing as it was on top of the wave.

We swam around the surf point for half an hour before getting bored and returning to the boat. I pulled my board back out. As I paddled over, Nari shouted, “Just a few more minutes!” I decided to make the best of it – to catch the biggest outside in the set. I positioned myself alongside Heremanu’s dad and watched as the other surfers caught the smaller waves. Then, the time for waiting was over as a big set rolled in. Though the first few waves in the set were good size, we continued to stall on the outside in hopes of a bigger wave.

The moment came when the momma wave peaked. Both of us started to paddle. I looked at the surfing legend before me, (Heremanu’s dad) and asked permission to take his rightful wave. He looked over and responded, “Yeah, it’s yours.” With that I was off, digging deep with each stroke to catch the sizeable six-foot wave rising behind me. “Go, go, go, go, go, Bryce. It’s all yours!” yelled Nari, Vaimiti, and Heremanu. Once I felt the lift, I popped to me feet and readied myself for a tuck n’ barrel. As the lip of the wave fell over me, baby blue water and a slim hole at the end was all I saw as I rode Fa’aroa’s glassy tube. I rode inside for a magical three slow seconds before I shot out of the tube and paddled back to the boat. My friends caught their last waves and also paddled back to brag about each other’s waves. Before picking up anchor, we quietly sat and watched the beautiful curling waves for a good ten minutes, then the three of us motored back to our homes to recount our weekend’s stories. I hope never to forget those three days spent camping in French Polynesia, off the island of Raiatea, on the motu  with all my Polynesian friends!  Bryce Rigney

View from under the water