Thursday, 6 December 2012

Majuro, near the edge of the world!

Brian at Eniko Island. 4 miles from Majuro
Outrigger canoe in the Presidents Cup race
Here is our first update from very nearly the edge of the world......
Jane is happy and BUSY at work at WAM so I have taken on the scribes role this time.

Jane with Kevin & Kathy on the way to work.

The town/city/capital is a vibrant spot of around 25000 people with an interesting mix of Micronesian people and expats (mainly NZ Aussie and US) living on a small narrow strip (about 5kms by 400 metres wide). The American influence is obvious with lots of cars,  taxis being half the traffic. A taxi is 50 or 75 cents per person as far as "the bridge" at the end of the main island, about 5kms, so most locals don't walk. A bit run down but very liveable with supermarkets, stores, hotels, cafes and attractive views ocean side and lagoon side. You can ignore the run down buildings as well as the wet rough footpaths. We have reasonable internet access (but not on Break Free) and with mobiles and VHF radio between all the boats and WAM good local communication. The food is a mix of stale imported veggies, good local bananas, yam, coconut, pumpkin and great fish (Tuna steak for shushimi or whole fresh reef fish from $2 to $5 a pound, $4 to $10/kilo) and a whole range of tins, oats, etc at any of the 20 plus stores.
Ocean side....showing the rubbish problem

Cemetery on Ocean side at low tide

Downtown Majuro...note KLG chicken fastfood

A "Mom & Pop store" in the 'burbs

From the tallest building you can see ocean and lagoon sides

Jane is at WAM 5 days a week (google "WAM Majuro" to find out about the canoe project) and finding it difficult to juggle teaching Maths and English, writing/adjusting a basic curriculim, meetings, more meetings, and then other requests needing her attention.
I have been doing a bit of building some afternoons at WAM and catching up on boat maintenance and household stuff. Last week I started some gardening supervising/teaching at the Wellness Centre (an NGO run by Canvasback Missions) attached to the hospital. In the Marshall Islands over two thirds of 60yo people have diabetes and 90% of hospital admittances are a direct result of Type 2 Diabetes. I will do 3 mornings a week at the garden with 4 Marshallese to work alongside.
Jane & her boss Alson at an Art opening

WAM trainees at a Retreat

Three gardeners Ants is working with

Our life is almost too busy. The Mieco Beach Yacht Club has made us very welcome. There are about 25 yachts here, about 8 semi permanent and the rest here for the Xmas cyclone season. We have been to the yacht club pub/restaurant meals each Tuesday night, a yacht club meeting, a yacht club Melbourne Cup Lunch, Thanksgiving dinner, a pre race skippers meeting , and last Sunday the first yacht race of the season." Break Free" did well being a close 2nd to a fractional rigged, kevlar sails, 39ft custom racer/cruiser and the rest of the fleet well astern. Our crew of 6 was all Australian including the commander of the small Aussie Navy base(2 people helping manage an Australian donated Patrol Boat)
The Skipper & Robert (crew) out sail training

The one Ants didn't catch!

Then you throw in,
 Yoga and excercise class for Jane.
 Billfish Club for Ants (went out on a 30ft powerboat on Saturday all day,6am to 5.30 pm, and the boat caught MahiMahi, Tuna, Wahoo, and Barracouda but missed out on Marlin in the Take 5 comp).
An Art opening/exhibition last thursday night.
And from tomorrow 2 hours of Marshallese language class maybe twice a week.
Throw in some boat to boat social stuff,  some box playing, and a weekend at a small island swimming and snorkelling and that sums it up!
Innovative timber body work!

A car parked on a basketball court (for good...!)

We are happy living on our boat. Our mooring is only 100 metres from shore but we have a nice breeze most of the time.When ashore our dinghy lives on an endless line just in front of our landlord's (Ben) apartments and Wire or his son Astor? keep it safe at night. We have calm water and offshore wind 99% of time and the morning it blew Westerly at 10 knote I was surprised that some yachties got jittery. A big west wind is the once a year or less so fingers crossed. Most of the maintenance jobs from the trip are done and the varnish has even had a touch up
Break Free & Little Fart at their moorings

Not a lot.
We are nearly used to the weather, 28 to 32 and humid with some very wet days, mould grows well! I live in shorts Teeshirt and thongs.
The town water is not safe but we catch rainwater.
The lagoon close to town is polluted but I swim each day  use a mask and snorkel andto keep it out of my nose/sinuses.
Jane was bitten by a dog on the leg last week as we walked back home one night. But the local hospital was great, clean, attentive, and quick at after hours emergency. 4 stitches, antibiotics, dressing change each day for a week and only $35. Don't worry. She is now fine but will be a bit wary from now on. 
Good cheese, coffee, and dark chocolate hard to find. Life's OK.
Note hole in leg!

We should by next week have 2 second hand bikes to ride the 3kms to WAM and Wellness and the 35kms to the end of Majuro Atoll (70kms return).
Over the Xmas break we will probably sail 70 miles north or south to another atoll.
We WILL update the blog and photos.
Quiet reading spot

Some of the local kids

School kids on the way home

More kids, sunset, ocean side

We would like to hear from you. Email is always good and anyone who has SKYPE and sends us there details we will happily skype voice call at prearranged time. Our skype name is antsandjane.

So till next time Cheers from both of us
Ants and Jane   (XXXs and hugs  for those who want/need/deserve it)

Sunday, 11 November 2012

The Last Big Leg

The last leg from Espiritou Santo to Majuro. 1500 nautical miles.

Brian looking nautical?

After Santo our last sight of land was Tikopia, an isolated lonely looking island on the very NE corner of Vanuatu. Then 9 days of open ocean until we glimpsed the top of a couple of tall buildings at Tarawa in Kirabati (obviously a bit taller than the unsighted palm trees). You could be forgiven for thinking that day after day on the open ocean could be monotonous but truly it is quite varied. Firstly in the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) the weather is very changeable with squalls to calm to good sailing winds which meant lots of sail changes to keep up best sailing speed. From full plain sail with Yankee, Staysail and Mainsail, to wing and wing, to flying the big blue drifter.

For other entertainment there is spotting birds, whales and flying fish. We saw Sperm Whales (confirmed by our Whale book) and nearer Majuro we spotted Pilot Whales. Terns, White Tailed Tropic Birds and Red Footed Boobies were common. It was great to watch the development of tropical squalls and amazing looking vertical cloud formations which hopefully didn't pass over us. As we got nearer the Marshalls and Kiribati we saw quite a few Purse Seine fishing trawlers and their on-board helicopters. One particular day, not a boat in sight, we noticed a chopper making a bee-line for us....they flew really low across the water towards the boat, did a tight circuit, waved and saluted, then returned to wherever they had come from.

Purse Seine fishing trawler near Kiribati

Impellor repair on last leg

Ants retrieving a halyard on last leg

I found I relaxed into the sea journey and having Brian as crew enabled me to take to my bunk whenever I was uncomfortable with the motion. Brian was a gentleman throughout the trip and we both appreciated having him on board. Ants did the cooking as he seems almost bombproof towards the motion of the boat. Between the three of us plenty of books were read and lots of chat...and one movie night!

The equator crossing was celebrated late at night at 7 knots with a couple of glasses of port kindly donated by Don Duffy (KI friend) and a big feed of chocolate. Unfortunately I was bunk bound and waited for the following day to celebrate.

7 knots across the equator

Ants raising his glass of port after crossing the equator

We had plenty of time to look at the statistics of the trip so here are a few numbers for those who might be interested in that side of things:
A bad phone photo of a table from our Android tablet of trip stats

It seemed no time at all after this that we found ourselves sailing past Milli atoll, at 8 knots (favourable wind and current). this was our first view of the Republic of the Marshall islands. Milli looked tantilisingly tropical with tall palm trees perched on little motus (islands) with waves crashing on the reef.
One of the islands of  Milli atoll

An interesting way to sell a quad bike in Santo!

Kerry's last night in Santo

The dinghy landing in Santo
We arrived in Majuro in 11 days and 22.5 hours out of Santo. Ants had written a post it note before we left Sydney to say the last leg would take 11-12 days. Once again according to plan!!
A common equatorial cloud formation showing really high vertical development

A note from Ants. It is really unusual for us to cruise/sail to a timetable and it was amazing how this whole trip went almost exactly to plan. We met crew at the right time and place. The right weather arrived as if we had ordered it and Break Free performed at her best. Our breakages/ breakdowns were limited to a couple of impellors, a spinnaker block at the top of the mast and a CV joint needing lubrication. Trev the trim tab auto pilot was a great addition to the crew, he ate little (less than one amp), never complained and steered 95% of the way. On a personal note I have had psoriasis for forty years and by Sydney it was nearly gone and now in Majuro I have clear skin for the first time since my teens!! (I must be at my relaxed best when I'm sailing).

In our next post we will tell you about the joys of Majuro!
Cheers Ants and Jane

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

New Caledonia and Vanuatu

South Lagoon, New Caledonia

Brian with a Wahoo

Ile Ouen

Having a freshwater dip in New Caledonia
Hi Folks, just a small update before the last big leg of our journey to Majuro.

We left Noumea and had a lovely sail to Ile Maitre, a small island resort near Noumea. Ile Maitre is a conservation area and we found it was great for snorkling. The coral reef fish were abundant and incredibly varied even if the visibility isn't that good.  Then we sailed across the south end of the lagoon to what we are calling horseshoe bay....a quiet little nameless  bay where we anchored for the night which was on
our way. The following morning we moved to Ile Ouen, Bay Ouara...had a walk up the hill above the small village. The next day we moved nearer to Goro, one of the lagoon exits and had a great swim in a freshwater
pool up over a was a lovely feeling to remove the saltiness from my skin just for a while.

According to Ants we had the best ever sail onto the atoll of Ouvea, 100 miles
downwind in flat water and fast. We anchored in the lagoon near the "church with the two spires".
 Oh yes, we spotted a Sperm Whale on the way...a characteristic 45 degree blow and rounded dorsal fin also they are frequently seen on the edge of a deep drop off in the sea.
We had a little walk ashore just to stretch our legs after the overnighter and met the local Gendarme who pointed us in the right direction for a walk around. We found the people quite  friendly. Six hours later we were on our way again.

What I haven't really talked about yet is while at sea, in between the ports/stopovers we use a 24 hour watch system. So someone is always on watch, which involves watching for other boats/ships, tweaking the sails, changing the sails according to the changes in the weather. Most of the time its been 2 hours on during the day and 3 hours on during the night. Ants, Brian and Kerry have covered the night watches with 3  on and 6 off. I help during the day.

The sail to Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu was again fast. At first the sea  was a bit rolly but conditions got more comfortable on the second day. We anchored near customs in Luganville and eventually
managed to get everything sorted. We have to go back to immigration
tomorrow as they shut at 3pm. The local vegetable market which seems to
be open 24 hours a day was one of those places I could have spent ages in. Lots of sweet potatoes wrapped in banana leaf baskets, chillies, a huge variety of bananas, taro, spinach, tomatoes and really friendly helpful people.
We are over halfway now from Sydney and two thirds from Kangaroo Island.....just 1420 nm to go.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Life on the High Seas

The Yellow Fin King Fish we caught near Elizabeth Reef

Crew (part II) Kerry, Me & Brian

   The  few days in Sydney were great and a welcome bit of land time.  Departure saw us loaded up with  all sorts of delectable goodies from Ants cousin & family, Kristine & John. They came to visit us aboard Breakfree for the day with young Isabel and Conor and left us with lovely real butter, King Island cheddar and  lots of other treats.

A small bit of a downer was the fact that all dairy and fresh foods will be taken by customs in New Caledonia....but we really enjoyed the process of having to consume all the goodies before we arrived. The morning of arrival in Noumea we treated ourselves to a gourmet version Emmental omelette and freshly squeezed orange juice. And then they let us keep the last of the cheese anyway!
The first long leg was Sydney to Elizabeth Reef. We had a nor'westerly when we left, by that night it had gone SW and we had thirty knots plus so we were screaming along downwind with our staysail up alone. I spent quite a bit of time on my bunk the first few days as it was too rough for me. To get East from Australia we could not have chosen a better mix of winds (so the boys say). 520 nautical miles in three and a half days at 6.2 knots.

But I must say my condition has slightly improved compared to other trips. I haven't been actually sick once since leaving Kangaroo Island which is a first for me. Its been great having Brian and Kerry as crew as I'm not worried about not being able to do my share of the watches.

Kerry on watch with a cuppa

Kerry in his bunk using the lee cloth to its best advantage

?A Cape Petrel

Brian on the helm looking quizzical

Being at sea absolutely miles from anywhere can be a bit daunting but life seemed to settle down to watches, sail changes, food preparation, reading and even watching a movie from the hard drive with the digital telly....when its not too rough. We only spotted one solitary ship for the whole of the ten days, it still amazes me about the vastness and space on the ocean.

We also saw a constant stream of Shearwaters migrating south along the way. We all spent a while trying to identify what we thought was a Cape Petrel, when we're stuck with the bird identification, taking a photo and zooming in quite often helps.

Elizabeth Reef was a welcome stopover....on our approach we caught a 25kg, 1.3m Yellow Tail King Fish. It lasted well and tasted delicious....actually a bit like chicken! The reef is truly in the middle of nowhere....90 miles north of Lord Howe Island. The anchorage is just in the lagoon entrance and once we anchored we noticed quite a few small reef sharks..(Ants was gutting the King Fish!) ...swimming around the boat.

The next leg to Noumea of 600 nms was notable for light winds and too much diesel. Of note were 2 mechanical problems. The first was a broken impeller which caused a small overheat but Ants fixed it fairly quickly. More worrying was a prop/gearbox/shaft rumble that gradually became loud. But an hour bum up in the engine space at midnight and Ants found a dry CV joint and some grease had it quiet and no further concerns.Five and a half days later we had a lovely sail up to Dumbea Passage and a midnight motor into the Noumea anchorage. We are now past the half way point.1900 miles to go!

We were all looking forward to a few days ashore by the time we arrived. And very French it is with coffee French sticks(baguettes really) and pardon, au revoir, merci.

Brian treated us to a delicious meal in this eatery in Noumea

Non photos s'il vous plait

Breakfree in Port Moselle marina, Noumea

We berthed at Port Moselle marina which is right in the centre of things. Copious showers, a big dose of shopping and a big feed at Monsieur Boeuf (Mr Beef) and I feel like a landlubber again.  We managed to catch up with cruising friend Marie Lise from S.V. Pied de Lune who we last saw in Sydney last year. They have their yacht berthed in another yacht marina CNC. Ants has been busy with a bit of boat maintanence.



Cafe au Lait avec croissants

Note the SMALL coffee
The Cruise Liner Pacific Jewel in Noumea

Noumea was a welcome stopover but I'm looking forward to Vanuatu and our final arrival at Majuro. We are still trying to keep to schedule and make the Republic of the Marshall Islands for October 29th so I'm keeping my fingers crossed for fair winds....and none of that upwind stuff....

Ants in the galley