TBT: Tales From the Crypt in Cruising Helmsman Magazine

Don’t believe it is bad luck to leave port on a Friday? Well, six years ago we tested the theory when we departed from Isla Coco’s and sailed to the Galapagos Islands. The passage was one of our worst!

If you’re near a news stand Down Under you can trip down memory lane with us and read all about our (mis)adventures in the March issue of Cruising Helmsman Magazine.

ch-tales-from-the-crypt

Rocking the Rock Islands

I was starting to get worried about Palau. We’d been here for two weeks and I had yet to be impressed by the place. Besides the (mostly) good provisioning and general convenience of the place it had failed to inspire the awe that everyone talked about. And after our way-longer-than-expected passage and a non-existent New Year celebration I was really in need of a little inspiration.

Anchorage in Koror

Anchorage in Koror

The big destination in Palau is the Rock Islands. Located just south of the main town of Koror they are a cluster of uninhabited limestone island that are designated National Park zone. The area is home to the few white sand beaches and pretty much all the prime dive and snorkeling sites found in Palau. If you’ve seen a photo of Palau – verdant green, odd-shaped islands surrounded by sparkling blue water-chances are it was taken in the Rock Islands.

Being a National Park there are, of course, national park fees to pay. A cool $50 USD per person will buy a 10 day pass for the island group. This one-time fee is perfect for the usual fly-in tourist who only spend a couple of weeks here but a little inconvenient for those of us who are upwardly mobile and like to dilly-dally a bit. Tack on another $40 USD for a boat permit for the area. Add to that that you cannot extend your stay in the islands without returning to Koror and the logistics of exploration are both a little expensive and frustrating. Nevertheless we put our money on the table and were excited about getting out of “town”, and away from the constant roar of the power plant, for a little while.

The Rock Islands are beautiful, dramatic and full of surprises. We found flat calm anchorages tucked into intimate coves surrounded by nothing but chirping birds and splashing fish. A few nights the boat sat so still that I actually woke in the middle of the night to check that we were actually still afloat. Continue reading

First Impressions Palau; Conveniently Inconvenient. 

Within the first week of arriving in Palau a friend asked me how life was closer to land. I blurted out the phrase “Conveniently Inconvenient” and then wondered if I was making a snap judgement about the place.

I try and reserve my first impressions for at least a week when we arrive at a new destination. A week gives me time to kinda get to know the place, to work out what are it’s short comings and what are my own. And so we been here for close to close to 3 weeks now I haven’t said much about Palau other than “We are here.”

Truth is I wasn’t that impressed in the beginning. Continue reading

Passages, Super Typhoons and Christmas at Sea

I once read that humans are incapable of remembering pain. That is to say that although we recall that an event was painful we cannot actually evoke the physical sensation of pain that we experienced. This surely explains why women are will to have more than one child; birth, I am told, is right on the top of the “Holy F#@K that was painful!” scale. I also believe this is why sailors are always keen to haul up anchor and put to sea.

Our passage from Papua New Guinea was a rather long drawn out affair. Since we were crossing the equator this was somewhat expected, in the beginning. We were assured, by everyone who has sailed that route before us and our Weather Router (a service that we employed for the first time this passage) that once we got over the equator and through the doldrums the winds would fill in. Being good little sailors we believed and sailed due north out of Kavieng, hoping to find the shortest line though the windless zone as possible. And sail we did for the first three days, although the wind was out of the NW and on the nose the sea was calm and the ride was comfortable. Continue reading

Palau

So we are here, safe and sound in Palau.

In fact we arrived over a week ago after a rather trying and very long 20 day passage from Papua New Guinea. Although we hoped to be in port before Christmas light winds, contrary current and the beginnings of Super Typhoon Nock-ten, which smashed the Philippines on Christmas Day, kept us at sea. Ah…the life of a sailor. Continue reading

Holidays Onboard

This month in my Blue Water Sailing Column, Heather Francis Onboard, talk to several sailing families about how they celebrate holidays onboard. Check out the December Issue on news stands or zinio.com today! Celebrate the holidays this year with subscription for hour favourite sailor and never miss a story!

Love,

H&S

On Passage to Palau

So the weather is looking good.

The pin on the right is where we are and the small island in the upper left is where we are going. Looks like we’ll head north out of Kavieng for a while to find favourable winds to push us west. With any luck passage will be a quick 10 days but since we are skirting equator it could be longer.

As usual we will drop a ping with our SPOT each day with our GPS location so you can follow along. Find the updates on our FB page or on the website. We do not have email at sea so we will check in online only when we arrive in Palau and have communications sorted. Until then, safe sailing!

Love,

H&S

Galley Notes: Cooking for Passage

I always like to have some ready-meals in the fridge when we are on passage. If we are planning only a night or two at sea that usually means making a double-batch dinner a day or two before we depart and stashing the leftovers in the fridge for a quick re-heat meal underway. Everyone gets a nutritious, hot meal and no one loses any sleep- either by being the one to get up and cook or the one to get up and sit watch. Sleep on a short passage is a precious commodity as neither of us adjusts to our 24 hour watch schedule – 4 hours on, 4 hours off – for a couple of days. Knowing that neither of us will be particularly rested I think it is important that at least we be well fed and it doesn’t take much extra time to cook a meal for 4 instead of 2.

Prepping for longer passages like our upcoming voyage from Papua New Guinea across the equator to Palau, some 1100 nautical miles straight line, requires a little more planning and time in the galley but is definitely worth the effort.

For long passages I cook enough main meals for at least 50% of our projected days at sea. I usually take a day or two to adjust to being underway, especially if we haven’t been sailing in a while or are expecting uncomfortable conditions. Having dinner prep taken care of for those first couple of nights means that I don’t have to stand over a hot stove in a heaving galley, an activity that will turn almost anyone’s stomach even if they are not already feeling a little green. There is nothing worse than putting in the galley time underway and not be able to eat the food you prepared, or worse watch it come back up 5 minutes after you managed to choke it down.

Continue reading

POV in PNG

One of the things I like most about living on a boat is that it gives you the ability to change your point of view…literally. Sometimes it is just the wind swinging the boat around a little while resting on anchor, offering you a slightly different angle on things. Sometimes you to move to a whole new neighbourhood and all the problems and tensions of the previous week suddenly come into perspective.

Although we enjoyed our time in Rabaul I didn’t realize how much being “in town” was stressing me out until we left. While we were there I was enjoying trolling the second-hand clothing/book shops, the interesting rides on the cheapo buses, the hum of the crowd at the local market, the faster-than-we’ve-had-it-for-a-long-while internet. Despite all the stories we’d heard about PNG we felt safe in Rabaul. In fact we felt safe enough that when Steve had to go away on business for 10 days I had no hesitation whatsoever staying on board by myself.

OK, I had a little hesitation but an audible motion detector in the cockpit (that scared the bejebus out of me when I got up to check the boat in the middle of the night and totally forgot it was on) and a baseball bat in bed seemed to soothe me.

But when Steve came home he knew something wasn’t right. He made it back for Hallowe’en but I hadn’t even mustered enough enthusiasm for my self-professed “favourite holiday” to even search the market for pumpkins. In fact I hadn’t even mustered all that much enthusiasm for his home coming.

I figured I was just completely drained. I had spent my time alone on board writing and completed two long articles and a solid proposal while he was away. Intense bouts of creativity like that often leave me feeling empty and I thought I just a needed a couple days to recharge. But almost a week came and went and I couldn’t find the reset button. I seemed to be falling further down the “difficult mood” rabbit hole, causing all sorts of troubles between us as I plummeted.

With the boat fully stocked and all the online work done we dropped our mooring and pointed the bow towards the Duke of York Islands, fully expecting to motor the 18 or so miles as there had been no wind for a week. But a light breeze filled in and we put up all the sails and suddenly were trucking along at 7 kts. Which felt ridiculously fast because we haven’t had enough wind to make more than 4kts in a very, very long time.

I felt myself lighten, slightly.

Continue reading

Rabaul and the Rascals

I am constantly amazed at how different each country that we visit is, especially when we only sail to the islands next door.

So far Papua New Guinea has been a VERY pleasant surprise for us, particularly considering that it was never our intention to stop in Rabaul. After three weeks here I can’t even fathom why we would have sailed right on by. Oh, right, the “rascals”.

Rascals is the local term that quaintly describes violent and unsavoury characters such as thieves, vandals, drunks who like to fight and machete-wielding crazy men that show up in the middle of night. PNG has a bad reputation about rascals.

It seemed everyone we talked too over the last year had bad experience in PNG. Normally we take such stories with a BIG grain of salt, after all there are bad places everywhere and many such encounters are a wrong place/wrong time scenarios. But these horror stories didn’t seem particular to one small area.

Everyone warned to stay away from the “mainland” which is the large island of Papua that PNG shares with Indonesia. That was a no brainer- decades of political unrest have peppered that islands history with seriously violent outbreaks. Port Moresby is still considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world for tourist. But we spoke to people who had problems at other islands. Let me tell you it is one thing to read stories online about being boarded and threatened but when you met the guy who suffered a broken arm and 16 stitches while defending his wife from a local man who had a machete held over her head you tend to sit up and listen. Carefully. Continue reading