Sunday, November 2, 2008

Monkey Beach, PhiPhi Island, Thailand

The monkey's get their own entry. I can row to this beach in about fifteen minutes from where Pelican is currently anchored.

South Pacific Flashback

Now that I've been in Asia for a bit, I am seeing the South Pacific in a whole new light. The island I am currently on, PhiPhi, is like a disneyland for twentysomething backpackers. I've never seen anything to this extreme. Apparently there is a movie about this place called "The Beach." I saw it playing in one of the bars here. Odd to see the bar full of people watching a movie about the place they currently were... I could go on for a while about how backpackers are just another form of packaged tourism. This is happening to the yachtie scene as well in the form of rallies... When thoughts like these get me down, I flip through photos I took of the nicer spots in the South Pacific. The video below is usually the accompanying soundtrack...

The clip is of Sola in the Bank islands in Vanuatu. It is of a restaurant that turned into a music rehersal.

Tonsai Bay, Phi Phi, Thailand

This short clip gives a drastically different impression than if I were to walk around in the evening through the couple of small streets that constitute "town." Hordes of young partiers from all the world's richer countries getting tattoos, massages and seriously shitfaced. "Guys go to Phuket and girls go to Phiphi" is what I was told. No sex tourists or old white dudes with young Thai wives here. They are all over in Patong. If you are over thirty, you stand out as being old. Despite all the youth energy and huge amounts of booze, things are fairly tame. Even the one with the most outrageous image has their lonely planet and plane ticket home...

Malacca strait clips

I ended up spending three weeks anchored off Georgetown. I needed the break after that Darwin Singapore non stop madness. I got really lucky with the winds after hearing a few other cruiser's accounts of how flat the conditions were around the Java Sea.

I visited two anchorages in Langkawi. Kuah and the back side of Pantai Cenang. Loads of other cruisers spread around the island. At least three marinas. Langkawi felt like a "nice" place to cruise - many beautiful anchorages, decent amount of facilities, duty free alcohol. So nice it felt a little bland to me so I left.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Junk Anchorage, Penang

I had to switch clans. I'm now using the Lim Jetty. Some jerk over at the Chew Jetty cut my dinghy's stern anchor line. Spring tides are in a few days so I'll go through the mud looking for it.

On the way to the Lim Jetty I pass this sailboat (photo). Locally owned daysailer? Maybe a foreigner who flew out and bought something small to cruise just this area? It turns out that "Fidji," a 27ft Dufour, has been continuously cruised by a French Singlehandler since 1986. The skipper had me over for coffee this morning and I was regaled with tales of criss crossing the Indian Ocean countless times, a dismasting off the coast of Columbia, pre GPS challenges... Geez, I thought I was earning a few stripes hitting the two year mark. How about twenty two? If you look at the photo you can see how minimalist a set up the boat is. Atom windvane, stock non self tailing winches. Rope rode, no windlass, few electronics. In comparison, I felt like the weekend warrior with all the expensive accessories... I know I've made other yachties feel that way so I guess everyone gets their turn. I did come away from the visit knowning that you can only get there by actually spending another twenty of your years. There ain't no way to cheat.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Chew Jetty, Georgetown, Penang Island

I have to walk the length of this jetty everytime I come to land. It definitely sets the tone.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Dingding's revenge

I guess one shouldn't make fun of the name of a river while still anchored there. This one goes under the category of careless cruiser instead of clueless...

How did this happen? I came in at low tide, knew the range was about 2 meters which is more than I draw, and there were two sailboats upriver of mine towards the shallower side!

The cause? It turns out one of the two boats was a trimaran which I should have realized draws nothing, and the other had recently broken from its mooring and was grounded. The boats deceived me about the true nature of the anchorage. Plus, I never took soundings around my entire "circle." So when a strong squall kept the boat on the upriver side of my anchor, stretching the rode to the max, it put me on the tip of the mud which juts into the anchorage at only one point! Water goes out, boat goes on its side.

Makes for a blog entry and of course everyone at the yacht club knows me as the guy that hit the mud...

No problem getting off with a 2 meter range.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Malacca Strait

Six days out of Singapore and I've only made it up to Lumut. What a name... And the name of the river this town is on? Dingding...

I was going to take a serious rest at Malacca but they built a bridge over the river entrance! The SW monsoon isn't over so no chancing it anchoring off. I've gotten bits of real sleep anchoring off the coast a mile or two when the current reverses and the wind dies (Fortress anchor and half inch nylon works on depths over 150 feet pretty well when the bottom is mud). The dreaded sumatras(super duper squalls) are real but it isn't the wind or the chopped up seas that is the pain, it is the reduced visibility the rain creates when you get hit. There is more traffic on this stretch of water than anywhere I have ever seen. The nap timer was at an all time low of seven minutes. Radar is used often but it doesn't pick up the small guys.

Gear failure is a regular issue now, but it has been manageable. I had issues with the VHF (voltage drop in some wiring aways from the unit), windlass (I opened it up and used the pressure washer at Changi and got it to turn again, may need a few new parts), tiller pilot was thrown over the side, engine mounting bolt loosened and threw the shaft alignment off after how many hours? (I now check the color of the transmission fluid and shaft coupling clearance every fifteen hours).

Malaysia is ok so far, haven't seen much but the price is right. Checking in the country was free and I got a three month permit. Anchoring off Lumut Yacht Club and using their facilities costs $1.40 a day (dingy dock, showers/toilets and information). Today for lunch I had fried shrimp, sweet and sour pork, a thai style curried chicken and some green beans over rice for $1.30. Fresh watermelon juice was 60 cents. Basic iced tea is 12 cents at the place I had lunch. Bus to get around is 30 cents. Internet is 70 cents an hour. I remember paying something like 20 dollars an hour in French Polynesia...

I am getting close to some real destinations - less than 200 miles from Ko Lipe and those other "National Park Islands" in Southern Thailand. Two more stops in Malaysia (Penang and Langkawi). I doubt I will spend too much time in Lumut. Tomorrow the offlying island, Pangkor but ready to knock out the rest of this Malacca strait. Time to act like a tourist...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The other side of Selat Lombok

Pelican is on a mooring at the Changi Sailing Club in the Johor Strait off the island of Singapore.

Hopefully the grind that I started in Gizo is coming to an end. 4000 miles and only three stops. That isn't cruising... I'd take a break here in Singapore but this place is like a hyper modern shopping mall so it isn't to my taste. I walked around downtown and found myself getting bored. I'm definitely not in the South Pacific anymore. No kids arguing over who gets to hold my hand as I walk around the island. No more getting on my hands and knees and crawling towards the chief upon arrival. I didn't even get the custom guy's name here in Singapore. I need to get moving up the Malacca strait and find some islands off the coast of Thailand or Malaysia that don't have any roads or cars.

video #1 I'd been having problems with chafe on the spinnaker halyard and instead of going up the mast and seeing what was up with the block, I covered the end of the line with a piece of polyethelene tarp and wrapped it in duct tape. Of course, after three days straight of having the gennaker up in light winds, the block became so badly gummed up and jammed that the halyard was locked in place... Conditions were light for my punishment, about six knots but it still took about a half an hour to get from the spreaders to the top. I actually had to climb the mast twice on this passage. The second time when the snap shackle for the jib halyard gave and the halyard just shot right up to the top.
video #2 Selat Lombok is one of the main passes that connects the Southern Indian Ocean to Southeast Asia. The direction of the current never reverses in the main pass (except by season) so you have to go through a longer detour and time things accurately as the current is too strong to try and take on with the motor. Notice the extreme difference in sea conditions between the two scenes. Those small but breaking waves are being completely generated by currents colliding. There had been no increase in the wind speed and the distance from land is about the same.
Video #3 After pulling an all nighter which included hand steering with the engine for about nine hours, I finally made it through Selat Lombok right as the sun was coming up. I was about to set things up for some napping when I saw what looked like a flag flapping on the water. I figured it might be a fishing net marker but it was moving... And then I saw another and another. It turned out that there were hundreds, too many to count. Once it got lighter I realized they were fisherman on small sailing outriggers. Back to hand steering for several more hours. The fisherman would point which direction I should go to avoid their nets. There were so many I gave up and ran over a few and got yelled at a lot. At least I have the right underbody for running over Indonesian fishing nets as I didn't tow any or come to a stop. Those mountains in the backdrop are part of the island of Bali.
Video #4 It goes from about seven knots for almost the entire day to gale force for about a half hour before it slowly goes back down to seven. No seas, just a really strong wind blast. The rain is blowing so hard it is painful if you don't have any clothes on.
Video #5 Singapore Customs was a hassle. I wasted several hours going back and forth between different "grids" trying to do things right...
Video #6 There is only one free anchorage in Singapore and it has a bad reputation so I chose Changi Sailing Club on the NE side of the island. Pelican and my dinghy are both in the shot.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Headed towards SE Asia

I have an appointment with Customs tomorrow and should leave on Thursday or Friday. Looks like I will try a straight shot from Darwin to Singapore or Malaysia. Indonesia is out. Too much paperwork and fees. I'll be entering the no wind zone so this will be a long passage. I've got spare guitar strings...

Friday, August 8, 2008

Torres Strait to Darwin

Currently in Darwin, which is like being back in America. Enough said.

The Torres Strait was ok. I used Rennel and the Pilot Anchorage on the exit for rest. This whole area has an exotic feel as the water is so shallow. I took the long way into Darwin and was becalmed for a couple of days. At one point I anchored close to ten miles away from land in about 75 feet of water!

Video one is of Melis. If you look through my Flickr album, you can see Melis with the original owner, Arslan in French Polynesia. Melis was one of the first boats I hung out with upon my arrival in the Marquesas. When I saw Melis in the Royal Papua Yacht Club without the Turkish Flag, I knew Arslan gave up on his single handed circumnavigation ambition. I talked to the new owners and apparently he sold real cheap. In other news, I heard that Oden, the young Norwegian sailing the 22 footer has given up. There was a statement on his website. The story I got was that he no longer had crew and would have had to continue from New Zealand alone. Single handling can be a grind. Right now I am thinking of how to make the upcoming passages easier so I continue to enjoy this instead of it becoming only a challenge. Might have to dip into SE Asia to break things up.

Video two is hanging out with some Australian cruisers aboard their very nice cat - Highway Star. We went day sailing in Pt. Moresby harbor.

Video three is the experience of how the first world keeps out everyone else.

Video four is the requisite dolphin scene.

Video five is the aftermath of having to fish the gennaker out of the water at 2am. I broke my old rule of never having the thing up at night. At least during the day you can figure out what went wrong.

Video six is of my first shark

Last video is of the entry into Darwin

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

The grind is on... Round one from Solomons to PNG took eight days. Next will be the Torress strait with a straight shot to Darwin, unless I get bushed. In Darwin I will reconsider my cruising plans - that is, the transequatorial passage through the Indian Ocean or going through South East Asia. I am starting to waver about which way to go.

I am currently anchored infront of the Royal Papua Yacht Club in Port Moresby. This place has the harder core third world feel. This means it is actually more expensive to visit than the first world as it is too dangerous to go native. If you are white, you've got to ride in a taxi, you can't stay, eat or hang out in non tourist areas as you will just be harassed endlessly. It isn't all as bad as the other cruisers warned me but it is far worse than most places I've been. The Yacht Club itself is a high end establishment that looks like how I might imagine segregated America of the fifties. Only whites drinking at the bar with a huge staff of uniformed blacks. The staff all say "sir" when addressing me, even though I break the club's dress code and wear flip flops and a shirt with a "ring collar."

Few vids

#1 is in the Florida Group, Solomon Islands of a local trying to sell me a "genuine" WWII artifact. After I didn't buy it, nor give him any thing he asked for (cigarettes, etc.), I finally gave in and towed him out of the estuary as he confessed to having exhausted himself trying to catch up with me paddling in his canoe.
#2 American WWII wreck, Florida Group, Solomons.
#3 Flies in Gizo anchorage.
#4 Coming into Port Moresby.

Gizo, Western Province, Solomons

Most people spend all day here doing nothing but sitting in the shade and swatting flies off the betel nuts they are selling. Many don't have anything to sell and just sit in the shade. The locals that I talked to about their predicament seemed pretty aware that their life was being spent this way. I openly confessed to many that it seemed like a terrible fate. Some agreed, some laughed... I left in a hurry.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tikopia photos

A few photos(thumbnails below) that hopefully convey how attractive I found the island. Thanks to James Baldwin for introducing me to this place in his journey log I read some years ago. Also, I later heard of Tikopia as James Wharram has brought much attention with his donation project.

Tikopia video clips

Some random clips of Tikopia with the following explanations;

First two clips are of walking to Chief #3's house with Mitchell.
Third is trading three fishing hooks for half a cabbage with John.
Fourth is Kuna rolling in our "anchorage" with gusts over thirty knots. They eventually left. You can see my dinghy behind their boat as I had lunch with them earlier but the wind got so strong I had to swim back (with flippers and snorkel of course).
Fifth is fixing the Monitor windvane on the floor of the cockpit. One of the delrin washers on the actuator shaft wasn't installed with washers on either side so it got mashed pretty thin allowing enough play that eventually the main gears no longer meshed.
Sixth is of huts by Chief #4's house.
Seventh is of a woman doing some weaving.
And the last is of myself with the ever present entourage.

Tikopia landing crew

The clip is of two separate landings on the island. The first is my very first landing. I attracted a good crowd of kids. The adults hung back a little but were curious as well. The second one is about the fourth day or so, the kids are now used to me and just want to play around.

There was one other cruising boat, Kuna, already anchored when I arrived. It turned out that they had come the day before and were the first cruising boat to arrive on the island this year. The skipper was an Australian woman who had managed to land a contract to ferry two BBC journalists to Anuta. A decision was made to wait for the BBC to complete their work with Kuna at Tikopia as Anuta doesn't have an anchorage at all. Tikopia's was pretty marginal as we were to soon find out.

I signed the island's guestbook which confirmed what I had been told, that only three to four boats a year make it to the island. The last time anyone recalled a singlehandler was about 2001. With these figures, every visitor is a big event and as you walk around the island, you receive a lot of attention.

Tikopia welcome statement

This is Jeffrey, Tikopia's representative that receives all guests. He wanted me to capture a short introduction statement on video and post it on the web.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Short Location Update

I'm currently on a mooring in the Trade wind anchorage in Honiara, Solomon Islands. Arrived here this morning after a six day sail from Tikopia in the Santa Cruz Islands, Eastern Solomons.

I visited a total of five islands in Vanuatu - Tanna, Efate, Ambrym, Santo and Vanua Lava. As soon as I get normal internet I'll upload a clip or two or at least a few pics of some of these places. The truth is that after visiting the island of Tikopia, most everywhere else pales in comparison. In fact a lot of the trip now just seems like work to have gotten to a place like Tikopia. Not many places have really done it... Arriving in the bay of virgins, Marquesas gave me a little. So did the view of Tafahi from Niuatoputapu. Also, hanging out with Edward in Palmerston, Cook Islands gave me at least for a moment the feeling of truly being in the South Pacific. Tikopia was right up there with them. With only three or four cruising boats a year it is still off the map. They have received much attention recently with all sorts of TV production crews coming in to broadcast what remains of an authentic Polynesian culture. There is still enough left that I did suffer from a bout of culture shock and during the first two days of my stay, I could not find my cynicism. It came back but slow enough that I could still marvel at all that was interesting on the island. I'll work on getting a few clips up or at least a few photos but the internet is really slow here in Honiara...

Monday, May 26, 2008

Passage to Port Vila

A shot of Yasur, the active volcano on Tanna. This was taken when leaving for Port Vila.

First Glimpse of Tanna

This is the first good view of Tanna I recorded on the 10th day out of Opua. The passage was a lot easier than having gone down to New Zealand. The wind clocked around to the NNE and hit 25 to 30 for about a day and a half right at the end. I got under the lee of Anatom and waited until it backed to the SW for an overnight run to Tanna. The clip was taken the next morning about ten miles out from Port Resolution, the destination.

Fishing Clip on passage from Opua to Tanna

This is the only clip I will upload of the main part of the passage from New Zealand to Tanna, Vanuatu. I don't know why I chose this one but it captures a lot of the kind of frustration one goes through when singlehandling long passages.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

In Vanuatu

Made it after 10 days to Tanna. Currently in Port Vila. The passage up wasn't bad. I have a little video clip that I've been trying to upload that just isn't going to make it. They barely had internet on Tanna. Some Norwegian cruisers and I tracked down a "computer school" where the teacher's computer had a dial up account set up....
Updates will be sparse as there isn't going to be any internet let alone electricity where I will be headed for the next month or so...
Pic is of Port Resolution.
I'll post a few more pics the next time I come to town and abandon the movies for now.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Leaving this afternoon

It will be lighter in the morning but I don't really want to sit around here another night...

To see how the conditions are check the "New Zealand to Fiji Ocean charts"

If you want to chat, I'll monitor five minutes before Opua Offshore Radio begins their morning sked

Frequency 4417 at 1855 UTC or 6:55 am New Zealand time.

See you on the other side.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Whangarei to Opua

First sail in some months. Most everything went pretty smoothly. The worst was arriving at Opua and seeing all the other cruising boats. It took me three tries at anchoring amongst them all.... The season is definitely upon us.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Leaving Norsand

Few clips strung together of being put back in the water. I wanted to shoot more but I had engine problems (overheating issues)...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Hitchhiking in South Island, New Zealand

Montage of hitchhiking scenes from two and a half weeks(about a 1000 kilometers) around the South Island.

Shortwave Radio Conversation on Fiji to NZ passage

Recorded in late October of 2007, this SSB transmission is between myself and Rod Burgoyne of SV Material Girl while en route from Fiji to New Zealand. The conversation took place on about the tenth day out of Fiji on what was to be a thirteen day passage from Lautoka to Opua.

Files is Audio only and is 14 minutes 52 seconds long.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Te Paki Reserve Tramping

Robin and I hitchhiked up to the Te Paki Reserve area in Northland and spent five days tramping. Our gas contributions amounted to $15 for the entire trip. We only spent $12 each for camping. One of our rides was from Cape Reinga Adventures and we ended up at one of their campsites. When we got back and realized what their rates were, we were pretty amazed. Just their drop off and pick up service at the beginning and end of the Coastal Hike would have been $105 for the two of us...

One of their guides was "Bushman Pete." In some ways he was more "bush" than the local Maoris even though he sometimes came off like the MTV reality show cameras were rolling. He did have a dead pig head in the back of his 4x4...

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Whangarei Swap Meet

There was a cruiser's swap meet over the weekend by Town Basin. I bought a 1 1/2 inch Marelon Y Valve for $15, a medium sized fender for $10, an aluminum hook-on boarding ladder for $5 and 300 feet of 5/16 hi-test chain for $125. Only about 150 feet is usable which should be plenty when added to my remaining good lengths. I figure with this approach I'll avoid the dreaded conversion to 8mm which would necessitate buying a new gypsy...

The meet reminded me of similar one's I'd been to in California except there was less of the "armchair sailor " element. There were a few people displaying RDF's and other antiquated and uselss gear but most of the folks selling were cruisers who had actually sailed here to New Zealand from elsewhere. I've been succesful selling my unneeded items through the local version of ebay (Trade Me) so only browsing for me.