2013


For all of you who asked the question: “You ever hit any bad weather out there?”

Posted by on 10:17 am in 2013, October 2013 | 0 comments


The Philippine Sea and the crossing to Davao We set off for the 600 mile crossing to Davao Philippines during the last week of June with a weather forecast of light 5 to 15 knot winds out of the S-SW and just a few scattered showers along our route.

We cleared out of Palau with customs and made our way south toward the lower islands of Palau for the last time this season and entered German Channel which is one of only a few opening in the reef on the west side of Palau. This is a really narrow ½ mile long 100 foot wide shallow channel that had been dredged to a mere depth of 6 feet at low tide many years ago. We found ourselves racing the clock to get through the channel before low tide. Our tide charts showing we still had a few hours to go but somehow the water in the channel showed us something very different.

 

The channel looked REALLY shallow as we slowly nosed our way into the tiny pass and it also looked much, much narrower while driving Downtime through than when I drove SD through several weeks before! At this point there was no turning back or turning at all for that matter since we only had what looked like a few feet clearance on each side! Our only option was to motor strait forward and I pushed the throttles all the way forward to full speed since I have always said: “When in Doubt, Gas it”!

We bumped 5 times on the way out but luckily just on soft sand mounds and there was no damage to the boat, just shinny new bottoms on the keels. We cleared the pass and set the sails, double reefing the main and letting the whole jib fly for what would be the last time.
 


 

We set the sails on a close reach with the wind at a 60 degree angle off the nose making 7-8 knots sailing on calm seas for the first 6 hours and it all looked just like the weather forecast said it would, light S-SW winds.It wasn’t until the first squall showed up at around 8 pm that things started to turn for the worse.   A squall came roaring though while Daria was on watch with winds near 40 knots that tore our 10 year old jib to sheds! WOW! I had not seen a squall like that in a long time!

The weather we had experienced for the last few months just 60 miles away in Palau had a lot of rain but never produced strong winds like what we just experienced. It took us quite some time to get the torn sail furled on the pitching bow of Downtime and then to reduce sail on the main and put the third reef in, but after several hours of hard work we were underway again slowly motor sailing toward our destination.

Hind site we should have just turned around at this point but I thought being the optimist that conditions would improve. I was WRONG!

The strong squalls kept coming, hitting us every few hours with 25-35 knots of wind accompanied by driving torrential rains and brilliant lighting shows. Lightning is another thing we had not experience in almost two years but here it was roaring with deafening booms that were way to close for comfort! We had planned for a four day crossing but it was apparent after the second day it would take at least five days to sail these 600 miles, which would turn out to be our slowest passages ever!

When the jib sail blew out it took with it two antennas that were mounted on the spreaders both of which operated our AIS system a tool that identifies ship traffic and reports our position to ships within a 25 mile radius. That damage along with our radar being down left us pretty much blind in the storms. Needless to say it was quite nerve racking when the squalls came through and took visibility down to zero!

The calm tranquil sea’s that we had experienced when we left Palau were long gone and now had grown to 12 foot sharp nasty waves coming from what seemed all directions.  It always seemed that just when I would go out to take a look around for traffic that the craziest of waves would jump on the boat and soak me! At other times I just stood in the cockpit getting soaked by the latest squall which would produce fiercer rain showers than I had ever seen.

This same nasty weather went on for days but finally the sun came out for a brief period on the 4th day and gave us the feeling the worst was over with. Wrong again! That night it blew with a vengeance and ripped the main sail at the 3rd reef point which forced us to put in the last and final 4th reef.

What is a reef you ask? Well, it is a slab of sail that you roll up on the bottom of the main sail to reduce sail area. During these squalls the wind would clock all the way around us (mini Tornadoes!) and when the wind was directly on the nose our boat speed would drop to snails pace of 1 or 2 knots with both engines running at ¾ throttle! The driving rain would fall in sheets and we could not even see the end of our own boat let alone any traffic.

During one storm in particular the rain almost filled a 5 gallon bucket we had tied to the rail for a rain gauge in just a few hours! I spent a restless night napping in the salon an was shocked the next morning when I saw the main sail had ripped again at the 4th reef point and was finished till it could get to a loft and be repaired.

At this point it was up to the motors to bring us home. The next concern was how much fuel we actually had aboard and would it be enough? I went forward to check the tanks and was disheartened once again to see fuel on the locker floor that must have seeped out of a tank that must have cracked in the rough seas.

Quickly I found the damaged tank and transferred the fuel to one of the other two tanks before we lost too much fuel. Fuel would be tight and we still has 240 miles to go at this point. If we ran both engines at 75% we would burn the remaining 120 gallons of fuel in 24 hours! At 7 knots we would only cover 170 miles and would be 70 miles short of our destination!

The solution was to slow down ad run one engine at 5 knots and hope we had enough fuel to make port.

Then the next disaster struck! That evening Daria informed me there was no water coming out of the faucet from the sink!  I checked the water tanks and somehow 200 gallons of fresh water had disappeared? This was not a good feeling…I looked everywhere and finally found the leak from a failed gasket on the port water heater, and luckily I had a spare gasket and had it fixed within an hour and started the water maker which thankfully started right up.

There are very few things that that get me queasy on the boat but working in tight spaces is one of them and I was glad the job was finished with the repair and the tanks were filling with fresh water.

Finally on day 5 we were just 100 miles out but traveling at a mere5 knots it would still take over 20 hours of motoring to get to port. At this point we had the tattered sails stowed and the engines on for almost 4 days and I was getting concerned with how much fuel we actually had left. I transferred all the remaining fuel to the main tank and calculated we would have only 20 gallons of the 300 we had started with when we made port.

Luckily the winds died that last day and the seas calmed and we could maintain 5 knots with just 1 engine. A few times we has some strong winds on the nose and had to run both engines but were lucky enough for at least one day of light winds.

The list of broken parts did not end though, during this last day one more critical part decided to break, our trusty autopilot that had been working flawlessly the last 35000 miles gave out.   Looks like we will be hand steering the rest of the way Daria….

Exhausted we cleared the bay just before dark but still had the last 50 miles of motoring to get to Davao which is located in north end of a huge bay in the southern Philippines. We were tired and motored a few hours until we were in calm water and then shut of the engine and let the boat just drift while we got a few hours of much needed rest. After a few hours of sleep we motored the last few miles in the morning in calm waters that the mountain range around the bay provides.
 

What a difference a few miles makes when you are protected by the mountains, the rains had stopped and the seas were calm. Looking back we should have acquired much better weather forecasts but strangely enough nothing we had downloaded showed the class 1 typhoon we had just experienced?

Our next adventure will bring us back to the States for the first time in nearly three years.

Until then, Peace Pete & Daria

Burning Man, Part 4

Posted by on 6:28 am in 2013, September 2013, USA | 0 comments

Burning Man, Part 4

Part 4, California, the journey continues west

June 23, 2014

 

IMG_8659We left Tahoe and headed west, at least that was out intention.  In reality the road initially headed south along the lakefront and then went up and along the ridge of some of the narrowest and winding roads I have driven the Rambler on.

 

 

At one point we had to back up and make a two point turn to get around one really tight corner. The road continued another 20 miles south with more twists and turns.  One plus from taking the long way out was that the view of the lake was amazing!

 

Finally after way to many twisted miles we were back on the highway and in the groove of burning diesel and putting the miles behind us.  Our next destination was Napa Valley and then on to San Francisco.  We had been driving for most of the day in the rain and he sun was setting. When we just want to put miles behind us this is about the time we start looking for a Wal-Mart to pullover and spend the night.  Wal-Mart is great about letting RV’s camp in their parking lot at most locations and it saves the hassle of finding a campground and secondly because you always need something from Wall-Mart right?

 

It was stiIMG_8712-002ll raining, so we went to cinema and when Daria checked in on Facebook via Foursquare after the movie she told me that an old grade school friend of mine Jennifer had seen her on there and had sent here a message that she lives just 10 minutes away!

What an amazing coincidence!  To top it off that it was Jennifer’s birthday and she wanted to know if we had time to get together with her and her husband Gary for dinner.  Well that was a silly question!
When things as amazing as old school friend show up by surprise and have a special occasion to celebrate to boot, of course we have time!

A few hours later we were sitting across from each other for the first time in over 25 years celebrating her birthday with her husband and reminiscing old times.  Isn’t technology amazing?

After many miles of open road the conditions began to get tighter and busier when we pulled into the small town of Napa Valley.  Then things got really crazy when we followed the visitor center signs all the way into downtown and ultimately wound up on a dead end road!  Great here we are 65 feet long with lots of traffic at lunch time rush hour with no place to turn around. It did not matter where I moved I was being honked at from blocking one driveway or another,  Finally one good Samaritan stopped and got out of his car and stopped traffic while I backed up and made the turn back to freedom.  In the meanwhile Daria was in the tourist center taking her sweet time getting all the information we needed to have a great week in Napa.  I simply pulled up in front of the information center double parked with my flashers on waiting patiently dodging F-bombs and fingers but while they gave me one finger I just returned two, the peace sign and smiled!.  One guy thought he was actually smart enough to tell me that I could not double park there? Well apparently he was wrong because I indeed had the parking brake on and was in neutral and obviously parked.  Sorry, but when you are un-towable, 25 tons and 65 feet long you can park where ever you want!

Our next mission was to actually find a place to park where we could legally leave the bus for a few days and not worry about it.  We headed to the old side of town and found a furniture store with a big empty parking lot and just by chance the owner was driving by when I flagged him down and asked if it would be a problem to park there a few days.  We chatted a while and swapped stories and he was very nice and let us park there for free and latter even brought us a friendship loaf of bread.  He was one of the few people I had ever met from the Middle East and was one of the nicest people I had met in Napa!

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After we parked we unloaded the bike and went back downtown and had lunch in Daria’s favorite Japanese chain, Morimoto… I was happy to, they had an awesome beer selection there!

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Daria had made reservations at Hotel Yountville and we packed a few bags and hopped on the BMW and rode up the valley 30 miles to the Hotel.  It was nice to be out of the bus and have room to take a bath and relax is what Daria was thinking but me as the lifelong camper was having a hard time shelling out $500 a night when there was a perfectly good bed back home in the Rambler.  But we do what we have to do in life I guess…..  The hotel turned out to be amazing and located right in the middle of the best wineries Napa Valley has to offer in Yountville.

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Daria did first pick, it was beautiful vineyard Artesa, but wine was just ok.

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Next turn was mine. I decided just drive bike to first place, which I’ll like. Bad idea. It turned to be some fancy swanky place that told us that a tasting would be $30 for one wine! (The name of the wine was Opus One, they’ve got just one wine*) Well this cowboy has rarely even spent $30 on a whole bottle and a taste for $30 was just redonkulous!  So back on the bike we went heading north to greener pastures and more reasonable wine!The bike was the perfect way to get around and we had amazing weather to ride in.  We visited 7 or 8 really nice places including the Castle and one of my favorite Robert Mondovi Winery and then Daria’s favorite Mum and took a tour on how they make sparkling wine. You could spend a week here and not see all the wineries but after three quick days we did our best to at least see the valley and enjoy what it had to offer.  Napa is like an adult Disneyland with lots of excellent restaurants and places to see.

Thankfully our hotel gave us 20 vouchers for free tasting and also 20 half price offers.  So actually the price of the hotel was not so bad, you just had to drink a lot of wine!
 

 

 

 

 

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We continued our trip west to San Francisco but instead of taking the bus into the city we decided to just repack our bags and take the bike.

 

We took the long way to the city and went north through Petaluma and through the rolling country side that had the remains of the small dairy farms that looked to be struggling through another drought.  It was so hot, dry and dusty with pastures brown and struggling to survive.  The temperature dropped quickly as we approached the coast from the mid 90’s to the low 70’s within minutes as we turned onto Hwy 1.  We continued north rode into a small sea side village and stopped at a small fish market for lunch.  We enjoyed fresh fish and oysters and washed them down with a few tasty micro brews.

 

After lunch we turned back around and the road
IMG_2532wound its way south along the coast and the weather and views were fantastic.  A small farmers market lured us in to buy fresh fruits to snack on along the way. Finally after a few hours of scenic road the city appeared on the horizon and we crossed one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Golden Gate Bridge.  While driving across it is hard to imagine that man could build something this huge.  The view of the city from the bridge in itself is amazing and then you have these massive 300 foot towers supporting giant cables that hold the whole bridge up!  Simply breathtaking!

 

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We found our room downtown after a near death experience of sliding sideways with both tires locked up through and intersection because I missed a red light. City driving in SF is like driving in LA traffic with pedestrians and bicycles!   Rattled from the city driving we checked into our room and hit the streets in search of a place to eat and relax on foot!
 

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IMG_9037Just a short walk from our hotel was Hakkasan Restaurant and we had an great time there enjoying food and drinks I had never even seen before!

Later we found out to our surprise the Americas Cup sail boat race was in town!  IMG_9055What a treat here we are sailors and by chance hit town the day the races start!

In the morning we had a quick breakfast at famous SF market…. and

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And we were off to buy tickets and watch the first of the series of races that would take place in the next several weeks.  We found a crowded place on the finish line to see the race and were able to see just what these boats were capable of.  It is hard to imagine a sail boat hitting 50 mph but here they were rising up on their hydrofoils and screaming across the water!

Sailing has come a long way from the first cup races and now it is piles of money and technology rather than skill that decides the winners.  These machines are single purpose engineering marvels and designed to sail in winds 15-20 knots anything more would topple them in no time.  The USA lost the first few challenges but replaced a faulty electronic gyro that controlled the boats pitch while on the foils and wound up winning the last several races by a big margin.

Later this afternoon we took a tour bus and saw all sightseeings, it was a lot of fun!

Back in the RV we took the 101 south with Hearst Castle as our next destination. On our way we stopped for lunch in Monterey Marina and did quick mototour around.

The castle is on Hwy 1 and about half way there we saw a small grey line on the map that would take us across to the coast and back on Hwy 1, a kind of short cut!  Two hours later we were wondering how it was possible to make a 40 mile long road this crooked and narrow as we slowly progressed through the mountains that run along the coast of California!  The road curved through beautiful valleys filled with oak trees and we saw at least 20 deer on our way across the mountain range.

The so called shortcut would have been a blast on the bike but in the RV it was torture! There were a few turns that I had doubts we were even going to make, scraping things I hoped were not important on the underside of the bus as we struggled around them all the time hoping the road would not get any worse!  Finally just after dark we made it to the top of the pass and found a place to pull over and give my tense nerves a break and went to bed.  In the morning we woke to a majestic view of the Pacific Ocean covered in a blanket of clouds 3000 feet below us.  Another tedious hour driving down the twisted road and we were finally on Hwy 1 and just an hour away from the castle.

On the coast just before San Simon there was an Elephant Seal refuge with hundreds of these stinky monsters noisily sunning on the beach.  These are BIG seals weighing upwards of 900 pounds and 10 feet long each one eating who knows how many pounds of fish each day to maintain their layer of blubber.  With no natural predators left after we wiped out their main concern the Great White sharks years ago the population is exploding and causing economic grief for the local fishing fleets.

This believe it or not was my third time to Hearst Castle and would be the first time I would finally take the tour.  The times before I arrived when tours were sold out or times were just not convenient.  You need to buy tickets well in advance in the summer or be patient and flexible.   With tickets in hand you wait at the bus station for a narrated trip 2000 feet ride up the hill to the Castle.  I will not go into detail about the castle but will just say that this is one of those places where money and dreams came together and created an amazing collection of ideas and architecture.  The castle was never actually completed or even lived in for that matter; rather it was more of a party gathering place for the rich and famous movie stars of the 40’s and 50’s.

 

Back in the bus we had the wedding of my oldest son to get to in So. Cal. and motored that direction. With a few extra days to burn we called up some old friends and family in the central valley and announced we would be in town.

We arrived in Visalia and parked the bus in the driveway of my cousin Jake and Terry’s house on their farm and used it as a base camp to meet friends and family for the next few days.  Jake gave me a tour around his dairy and farm and I have to say that I never in my life seen corn grow as tall as it does there, over 12 feet with ears 6 feet off the ground!

 

 

Jake is into adventure dirt bike riding and has a couple of Husaburg 690’s in the garage. These dirt bikes are amazing machines with 80 something horsepower and made to go FAST!   We took them for a ride one day down a wash that Jake had been down hundreds of times and I held on for dear life going as fast as possible along the brand new trail.  There was no way I was falling off holding on that tight but even good riders get caught by surprise and an hour later I was shaking dirt out of my helmet and shirt!  This was my test ride, so Jake could see if this sailor was up to the 3 day 500 mile ride he had planned in Vegas next month. I made the cut and will tell that story later.

It was great to have dinner with so many friends and family and to spend time with all of them after way too many years had passed.

A few hundred more miles south put us in So. Cal the day before my oldest son got married.  I hoped my tux would fit as we got dressed for the occasion and the weekend went off without any problems.

One last stop in California put us back in my old hometown where we parked the bus in my lifelong friends Tony and Gina’s back yard.  The reunions continued with another bar-b-q and more old friends taking their time to come say hello. I lightened the load in the trailer going home and left the Polaris Ranger to live the rest of his life with Tony behind the wheel, enjoy it guys!
Sunday morning Daria hitched a ride to LAX for a trip home to Russia with the honey moon couple who were off to Hawaii.
It had been a busy few months and I took my time driving the 1200 miles back to Kansas to put this amazing machine, “The Rambler” back in the storage shed where she will wait who knows how long for the next land adventure sometime in the future?
Looking back at all the friends we make in life and the roads that bring us back together, we all go our own way in life but keep that special place in our hearts for the special few we call friends.  Great to see all of you again and I promise it will not be 20 years until next time we meet!

The adventure continues in our next story, we head east to see yet more friends!

Until then, Peace, Pete and Daria

Burning Man, Part 3

Posted by on 9:44 pm in 2013, September 2013, USA | 0 comments

Burning Man, Part 3


Here is another part of our trip in USA.
Luckily we did preparation ahead!
It had been 6 months since we had been anchored in Pompeii,  Micronesia buying tickets for this event and now the day had finally arrived to see what Burning Man was really all about.

 

I had heard of this event many years ago and vaguely new what it was all about…  Fire, art, self expression are just a few of the words that simply describe it but like they say,  pictures are worth a thousand words so I will let Daria’s photos explain it all further.

What we did know for sure was that the event was a week long and located in Flat Rock City on a dry lake bed about 60 miles NE of Reno, Nevada.  The idea for the event was conceived over 20 years ago and back then only 10 or 15 thousand people attended.  It has since grown to over 60 thousand, people show up in all varieties of vehicles burdened and bulging with everything they need to live in the desert for the next week from all over the world.

 

Traffic was backed up 20 miles on the narrow two lane road that wound its way across the desert towards the dry lake bed where the event would be held.  The road turned off into the desert and onto the dry lake bed that was organized with thousands of orange traffic cones separating traffic into a dozen or so lanes.  Hundreds of vehicles were patiently waiting there turn to present their $750 ticket and proceed into the well organized camping area.

The lake bed was transformed into a self-contained city for the week and street signs and maps were provided to find your way around.  The town was laid out in a big radial with the outbound streets from the center named like time on a watch which made finding your way home easier, you just had to remember what time you are parked on. We were parked on the end of  6:30 and  found our way home pretty easily most of the ”time“…. We also had a book, 200 pages, with all events, where and when you can find it…

 

 

 

 

 

Once parked which was wherever space was available, we unloaded out our bicycles which would be the only form of transportation allowed for the week to have a look around.  Thousands of people were already here and the party had begun.

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the first things we noticed was that there was a that there was no dress code.  And when I say no dress code I say it in the most liberal form. It went any where from totally naked to people being pulled around on leashes by their masters to elaborate costumes.  We kept our clothes on a went for the crazy hat look. And one night we were the pirates! Agrrrr…

 

 
The main theme of the event is that you are to share what you have with everyone and money is of no use for the week.


Camp sites we rode by would each have a different theme and most had snacks and beverages set up for whoever wanted them.  In return you traded something you had either with swag or at a later time with an event you brought to the party.  The veterans really got into it and we attended some amazing events like one camp that fed sushi to hundreds of hungry campers off of the naked bodies of volunteers.  In the morning there would be bacon hanging on clothes lines and plates of just about anything you wanted to eat somewhere in this crazy town.

 

The main and biggest attractions were located north of the center of town a place called the Playa.  In the very center was the main meeting area, a place where coffee was served 24-7 and couches and shade to lounge around on were plentiful.  Just off center was the main structure of Burning Man. The structure is built a little different every year but with the same small stick figure of the Burning Man on top. This structure is made of 1000’s of board feet of wood and three stories tall.  On the last day the whole creation would go up in flames like many other of the pieces of art this week.


Located further out on the Playa was the temple. The temple was built with interlocking high strength laminates and had a stairway you could climb up and  look around on two floors and to exit you went down a big slide from the second story.   It was amazing to see this life size puzzle that was held together with engineering instead of nails, bolts or screws.   It was a place that was very spiritual and would also be burned like a big sacrifice at the end of the week. Every surface in the temple within reach was written on or had notes and pictures placed on them. These notes and pictures were respectfully  placed to remember loved ones who had been lost that year.


There were other works of art placed randomly around the Plays and most had some relation to fire.  We put lots of miles on the bikes that week but do not feel we experienced but half of the events that went on at all hours of the day.  The nights came alive and the Playa would be the meeting place for many fire breathing creations. Rolling works of art would slowly roll across the Playa and belch  huge fire balls into the sky.  You could tell some people live the rest of the year for this one week since some creations must have took thousands of hours to build.  And a lot of $$$.

 

It was another big piece of wood art called “Station Peace”, built by Russian people.

The younger crowd would party into the wee hours of the morning to blaring music dancing the night away.  Most of these people would sleep the following day away nursing hangovers getting ready for when the sun went down and be ready to do it all over again.  The day people like myself did not mind because if everyone was awake at the same time the place would have been way too crowded.

The mornings were cool and crisp even in the desert due to the 5000 foot elevation.  It would warm up during the day to the mid 80’s and most afternoons the wind would blow creating massive dust clouds on the Playa.  The busiest roads on the  ancient dry alkaloid lake bed would turn to fine powder after having been loosened by hundreds of bike tires and feet.   The efforts of the water trucks only created mud that would actually make your bike tires actually grow bigger as you rode through it but it did help keep the dust down.  One afternoon we were out and were riding 50 feet apart across the Playa and a wind storm came up and we lost each other in the cloud it generated.  Visibility was cut down to a few feet and you had to just wait it out because you had no idea which direction you were going.


Thankfully we had an RV and were part of the minority that had enough water to shower each day. After riding around for a few hours our clothes,  legs and feet would be white and caked with the fine dust.  Most campers had limited water or shower facilities and the “leave no trace” rule would not let you even dispose of shower water on the lakebed.

We spent 5 days taking it all in and the thought of a 60 mile traffic jam was something I did not want to experience so we loaded up the bikes and left a day early.  By this time there was a fine coating of dust on everything and getting to a place with a hose to wash it all off sounded really good to us both.

Looking back, if I was to do it all over again, I would skip the first two days and leave after the crowd just to see the big burns.  But that is for a later time I guess, one Burning Man is more than enough for most people in a lifetime. And Daria wants do it again with bunch of friends, can be a lot of fun too.

We continued our journey back west on the road to Lake Tahoe another place I had never been. This decision came from a friendly encounter 10 years back when I was sailing in St. Martin and met this couple Mike and Donna at the Little Bit Inn.  One of those encounters when you meet someone and immediately hit it off and stay friends for life.  I remember them saying all those years ago, “If you are ever in Tahoe give us a call”  Well, we were in Tahoe and I called.  Mike and Donna had a cabin 20 minutes from where Daria and I parked the RV and we wound up having dinner and spending the night at their cabin in Fallen Leaf lake.

What a wild week it had been of meeting new and old friends!

In our next adventure we continue driving west to the wine country of Napa Valley and throw all California.

Until then, Peace

Pete and Daria

The wild and crazy summer of 2013, part 2

Posted by on 7:55 am in 2013, August 2013, USA | 0 comments

The wild and crazy summer of 2013, part 2

February 2, 2014

For those of you just joining the blog this is part 2 of a 5 part series. We are taking 4 month sabbatical from sailing on Downtime and traveling around the USA.

With the reunion behind us we headed east after Daria and my niece Lindsay spent the morning shopping at the Costa Mesa mall just in time it seemed for the traffic to get nice and busy. Agonizingly were slowed back down to sailing speed by the traffic as we left LA at a crawl. We were heading east back through Las Vegas this time on our way to Utah.
We were not in any big hurry and spent the night in Vegas and in the morning headed east out of town for one more trip down memory lane. Way back in 1985 I had run a farm located 45 minutes east of town and we pulled in to see the mere skeleton that remained. A few of the main buildings were still standing like the 70 year old adobe two bedroom house that I had lived in for a short time and the partly demolished milking parlors now had rusting roofs on them the same buildings where we had milked countless cows back in the day. Sadly a cow had not been milked here in years and I new in my heart never would be again.

I had moved here to Hidden Valley when I was 20 over half a lifetime ago. I spent three long years out in the harsh climate making my first stand in life. This was a special place with many memories and a place where my first two children were born and my life as an adult began. Out of curiosity I wondered how many people from my past here were still around and I got on the phone to try and contact Jose the manager and friend I worked with so many years ago. I finally got in contact with him through his brother and we were able to have lunch together later that day, something we had not done in over 25 years. We found ourselves both drawn back to a earlier time remembering the many adventures we had running this 3000 cow dairy in the desert so many years ago, back in the day when our kids were still learning to walk. Our kids were now grown and the same age as when we had met so many years ago.

Time is a strange commodity, back in my younger days I never seemed to have enough of it or was always in to big a hurry to see the simple things in life like the Valley of Fire State Park located 30 miles out of Vegas. I must have driven past 100 times back then way too busy in life to take the few hours to see this wonder of nature. Now time seems to be plentiful and those little sideline trips beckon me. Daria and I hopped on the bike the following morning on a warm summer day and were at the park entrance 30 minutes later and spent the next few hours being enchanted by the many colors of the natural sandstone creations inside the park. We rode down through valley with naturally carved sculptures on either side on this beautiful day with perfect weather to enjoy. We were even lucky enough to see a herd of bighorn sheep, an animal I had rarely seen in the wild, ironically just past the yellow and black sheep crossing sign next to the road.



Leaving the park we took the long way home and rode next to what remains of Lake Meade. The lake is down over 80 feet since I last lived here in the 80’s. The lake is having serious demands put on it from the ever growing city of Las Vegas and all parts west for that mater. You can now drive a jeep to the many places we used to fish and the marina we used to launch the boat at has the concrete ramp ending hundreds of feet from the water.


Back in the bus we continued east to St. George, Utah and we plugged “Visitor Center” into the GPS and it took us strait to the biggest Mormon church in town right in front of a small sign that did say visitor center but this just happened to be the church’s not exactly the one we were looking for.


I have to tell you driving around in circles in a bus that gets 5 miles to the gallon is not even close to my favorite thing to do in life. Get us back to the freeway please Daria….


Finally back on the freeway we took what maps we had and continued down the road to our next state park. Sand Hollow State Park surrounds a small lake and we spend hours driving the trails through the dunes in the Polaris Ranger. Daria is funny she is brave enough to sail countless miles across open oceans, through storms and rough seas but put her in a off road vehicle and she thinks she is going to die. My wild driving most likely did not help all the time going as fast as I could all the while screaming Ranger Danger!
This park also has the most beautiful and cheap RV park, where we stayed during all our trip!

 

The next park was just 35 miles down the road and we decided to leave the motor home parked and take the bike. Thank goodness we made that decision because Zion National Parks roads were packed and we would never have found a place to park the bus with the trailer behind it, or seen as much as we did from the back of the bike.



Zion is another must see in life. The towering spires of stone reach to the sky the place has a magical feeling to it. The guided tour trams take you on a narrated trip up the canyon along the river to see the sites. Later we took the bike out to the east entrance through a really cool 2 mile long tunnel that was dug through solid rock back at the turn of the century.
At this point we had a general idea of where we were going but also had a few extra days to just see what we would find so off the road we went. With a dozen tires rolling chances are something sooner or later will go wrong. With just over 2000 trouble free miles behind us our good fortune changed. A truck behind us was flashing his lights indicating he wanted to tell us something. We pulled over and this really nice guy pulled along side us and informed us that one of our trailer tires was wobbling and not looking so good. He said he would lead the way for us to a good tire shop who helped him out a few weeks ago, and we slowly followed him into the next town. We thanked him for taking the time to help us out and backed up to the service door at the tire station.

The tire had a big bubble on the side but that was just the start of our problems as we found our after they removed the tire from the trailer and revealed further damage of a broken leaf spring. It was quite comical that the spring broke right in the middle of the “Made In (BIG CRACK)China” that was proudly painted on the spring! Why do they do this?? Put their country name on all this crappy stuff we buy?


Right away I was thinking there goes those few extra days waiting for a new spring while sitting in some small town in Utah. I asked the service manager where he thought I could find a new spring thinking I would unload the bike and ride to wherever it would be down the road. He told me to check at the auto parts store right next door under 100 feet away. As I carried the two pieces of the broken spring that way I was thinking that it would be highly unlikely they would have the right part in stock. I showed the parts manager the spring and he directed me to the last shelf on the left which was stacked knee deep in the very part I needed. Amazed I bought two (one for a spare) and was out the door 15 minutes later spending less that $100.

The tire guys had the new tire mounted and installed the new spring and in under an hour we were happily rolling down the road again thinking how fortunate we were that this man had taken the time to help us out. It was definitely about being in the right place in the right time for that one. Thanks to everyone in that small town that made our day so much better.

A few hours down the road we saw a sign for Coral Pink Sand Dunes State park and took a left turn to see what fun we could have there. Mid summer is the off season for these kind of places usually way to hot to be out riding the dunes and camping this time of year. We had temperatures in the mid 80’s and found ourselves being the only crazy sand fools in the dunes. The dunes and trails go on for miles and miles and with no one else around I was hoping we would not break down or get stuck.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

We loaded up and left later in the afternoon after a fun morning in the dunes and got a few miles down the road before I noticed in the rear view mirror that we were rolling down the road with the rear trailer ramp down like in an old episode of Knight Rider. The trailer seemed to be having a bad week and now sported a few new scratches where the rubber pads used to be.
 
Since we already had seen the south rim of the Grand Canyon we figured why not go see the north rim as well? We parked in a small campground in Jacob’s Lake and rode the bike 50 miles to the canyon twice during the next few days stopping at every viewpoint along the way. The bike it turned out gave us such maneuverability on this trip and the opportunity to see so many places we would have not driven to if we would have had taken only the bus, no to mention that it gets 10 times the fuel mileage. On the way into the park we saw lots of grazing deer and buffalo and just hoped neither would cross front of us on the road later that evening in on our way home.
 
Standing on the edge of this magnificent canyon leaves you speechless. The Indians that somehow lived here in centuries past had a hard life and the Spanish explorer Montezuma all but gave up his exploration when this giant obstacle stopped him in his tracks. There just did not seem to be a way around something as big or deep as this canyon. The canyon at this point is over a mile deep and up to 12 miles across The sheer sandstone walls drop strait down the first few hundred feet before gradually sloping with their houses sized boulder and ruble strewn slopes that make their way to the edge of light chocolate colored river that roars and gouges its way through the canyon. Amazingly the temperatures can be in the mid 80’s up on the rim and soar 30 or more degrees and into the 100’s on the valley floor.
 

 

We continued southeast towards Page, Arizona where we would see Antelope Canyon but there was a slight glitch caused by the recent flash floods damaging the most direct rout there. As it turned out we would have to take a 200 mile detour to get there which in our case converts into another 40 gallons of diesel and 4 hours on the road but it was well worth it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Antelope Canyon is a phenomenon where millions of years of water and wind erosion have slowly carved out tunnels and chambers in the narrow sandstone tunnels that you can walk through and see some of the most amazing natural sculptures in the world. There are some really interesting formations that can be seen walking through this canyon. These were pointed out by the skilled Indian guide who showed us the likes of eagles, famous faces and other animals if you just let your imagination run wild. He told us just weeks before we would have been walking 6 feet higher in the canyon but the recent flashflood had washed out at least 6 feet of sand from the floor. He pointed this fact out while showing us logs that had been stuck in crevices 20 feet above our heads from previous storms. This was definitely no place to be during a storm!


Back on the road we continued south east to the south corner of western Colorado where Mesa Verde Nation Park home of the largest archeological preserve in the Unites is located. This location is famous for the cliff dwellings where Anasazi (Puebloan) Indians started living at in 600 AD and continued to do so through the 1300’s. The site has some of the best preserved cliff dwelling in the world and over 4000 archeological sites and 600 dwellings. The tours were very informative and it was fascinating to walk through and see the 1400 years old structures! There were steep trails that lead down to the structures and most had ladders that we had to climb out on. Daria and ladders are not friends since she is scared of heights and it took a little coaching to get her to climb. The park has many miles of road and we found ourselves again on the back of the bike riding from one end of the park to the other. On the way to the eastern side we were even lucky enough to see a bear and her cub, Daria’s first bear in the wild playing in the shade of a tree right next to the road.

 

This is as far east as we would be for a while and we headed back west to Utah where we would stop at a place I had been wanting all my life to see, Moab, Utah. Moab is a four wheelers dream with hundreds of miles of off road trails to discover. We had the perfect vehicle along with us for that and put many exciting miles on the Polaris Ranger during the next few days. It was the off season here also and we saw very few people out on the trails. On one adventure we often found ourselves way too far away from home and then the worst thing possible happened, we got a flat tire with no spare tire aboard!! I had a bottle of fix a flat and a air compressor aboard but the damage to this tire was located in the sidewall and that was not going to be much help with the damage to this tire. To make maters worse we were a little disorientated (LOST)! We would drive about 15 minutes and then stop and put in more air and drive some more until the tire would be flat again. After 5 or 6 stops we were finally back on the trail home and pulled into camp just as the sun set. Moab is a huge place and on the next trip a spare tire, sat phone and a few friends will be along.

With Moab checked off my bucket list we headed just a few miles up the road to Arches National Park a place God must have made on Saturday after all the hard stuff was done with. This is another place where the millions of years of wind a erosion have created breathtaking sculptures out of sandstone. As the name of the park implies there are also arches made of stone some over 100 feet across others not so big but all amazing to see. Other parts of the park have what to looks like giant sand castles with different colors of sand making mounds and crazy shapes in the landscape. One of my favorites was a huge boulder that is resting on a small spire hundreds of feet in the air. It is there defying gravity for now but one day that baby is coming down and what a crash that will be! At the far end of the park Daria went for a hike that I decided to thankfully sat out on. Over 2 hours later she came wandering back tired and out of water after the 7.5 miles. She had hiked to see some of the most famous of arches on Devils Garden Trail. The geology of southern Utah is mostly red sandstone and it is fascinating to see how many forms and shapes nature can presents it in.

Our off road adventures were over until we could find a new tire for the Ranger and we headed north towards Salt Lake City. We found a nice campground to park at and spent the afternoon at the cinema and rode back home on the bike in the rain. The next day we were back on the bike for a short trip through the local mountains for a very scenic trip down a very narrow and windy roads thankful again we were not driving the bus!

Heading north to Wyoming our next stop we camped at was just out side of Jackson Hole and we rode the bike through.

 


Teton National Park a place where you can literally say “I have never seen so many huge rocks stacked so tall” The ancient jagged grey granite mountains rise up 7000 feet off the valley floor to almost 14.000 feet with peaks that are permanently covered in snow and glaciers. We rode the bike through the park and then took a boat trip across one of the crystal clear lakes to the base of one of the mountains. From there we took a short hike to one of the many waterfalls. We could have spent several days here but had reservations at a camp ground at the west entrance of Yellowstone, one of the highlights we would be visiting next just a few hundred miles up the road.

Yellowstone was one of the few places I had actually been to before. The last time I was here with my kids and drove through quickly in just a day and seen only a fraction of what it has to offer. Back then I would point to a Elk or Buffalo and the kids would say, “whatever” That was definitely not the case with Daria who was fascinated with every detail.

This trip we would take it much slower and spend three days to see ever corner of it. And every corner we did riding over 400 miles during the next several days from our base camp just outside the west entrance. One day when we were as far as we could have been from home we got caught in the middle of a torrential rain storm and had to find shelter and wring the water out of our socks while it passed. It was a long cold ride home that day. On another day we saw many or the guessers including Old Faithful which is still faithful by the way. The entire park is pure beauty from the many colorful mineral pools to the breathtaking mountain lakes that discharge massive amounts of water down huge waterfalls and down through picturesque canyons. At any traffic jam there is sure to be wildlife that countless tourists are stopped at and taking pictures. We saw many animals in the park including a majestic bald eagle sitting in a tree over the river and the not so calm rutting, rather aggressive buffalo that came charging across the highway in front of us. The next traffic jam presented a young elk which looked more like 70 percent legs and 30 percent elk.

 

Old Faithful erupts regularly and thousands of people gather around to see the show. Other small geysers bubble and gurgle but this most famous one spews steaming hot water almost 100 feet in the air. There are hundreds of geothermal attractions in the park and the smell of sulfur lingers in the air. Some make you feel like you are walking on the moon with the crusty alkaloid soil steaming all around you. Others have gurgling mud pits steaming like some mad scientists latest concoction. There are steaming pools of the bluest turquoise waters you have ever seen that are gradually changing to deeper shades of blue as they go deeper down into the earth. Along the edge of many of these pools are an orange bacteria that thrives in this steamy environment and somehow build intricate patterns across the bottom of the shallows of these ponds.
 
The bear and moose continued to elude us and we never did get a glimpse of either one of these creatures that should have been plentiful in the park this time of year. But we sure did see a lot of beautiful nature and after 3 days felt like we had actually seen all the park had to offer.
Our trip from here would head west to Flat Rock City, Nevada where we had tickets for another monumental event, Burning Man!
Until then,
Peace! Pete and Daria

The wild and crazy summer of 2013, part 1

Posted by on 8:23 am in 2013, July 2013, USA | 0 comments

December 25, 2013

 

After nearly three years of living on Downtime a sabbatical was in order for both Downtime and her crew.
We spent five frustrating days sailing from Palau to Holiday Ocean View Marina located on Samal island just south of Davao City a place where we would be leaving Downtime safely tied to a dock in the small marina for the next several months. You would think that in a country as huge as the Philippines with over 7000 islands they would have hundreds of marinas to choose from but this is not the case. There are very few if any marinas that Daria and I found safe enough to leave our floating home in the entire country.

Samal Island is located on the southeastern end of Mindanao inside a 60 mile deep bay just south of the city of Davao and is rarely hit with tropical typhoons. Now your probably thinking Aren’t the southern Philippines dangerous? And the answer is yes but mainly on the far southwest side where there are actually Pirates but thankfully this is some 350 miles from where we would be leaving the boat.

We spent the following week getting the boat ready for storage. We turned off the refrigerators and freezer for the first time in 3 years and gave away any food that would go bad while we were away. This made our helpers Donald and Carolyn very happy and they took home with them a few weeks worth of groceries. This couple became invaluable in the following months taking care of Downtime and keeping her clean and safe.

The list of things to be repaired while we were away was made and the boat yard had already shipped our torn sails, cracked fuel tanks and rusty anchor chain in to be sewn, welded and re-galvanized and by the end of the week our bags were packed and our next adventure by air and land was ready to begin.

We had quite the trip planned, our first stop on the flight east from Manila was Hawaii and we spent a few days breaking up the long flights in Honolulu with a beautiful view of Waikiki Beach and Marina from the Modern Hotel.



 

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I thought Daria found a heck of a deal when I signed the paperwork foolishly thinking that three nights cost $300 at this 5 star newly renovated palace with amazing sea view. I had been on the boat way too long… It was a $300 room all right but that was per night…

 
 
 
 
 
 
 





We spent the next few days walking around the high fashioned shopping centers and along the famous beaches. 

 

 
Our list of fine restaurants we would be visiting started on the ground floor of the Modern where there is Morimoto, a Japanese restaurant and we indulged in an amazing food and ice cold Japanese Kirin beers. The last few years had taken us to some very remote places in this world and fine dining was rarely and option and we found ourselves craving all kinds of favorite foods that we had done without for so long.


One day we rented a convertible and drove around the small island stopping at Pearl Harbor to pay our respects to those that lost their lives on the Arizona and other ships that December 7th so many years ago on that memorable day Japan “Woke the sleeping giant”. Next we walked the decks of the Mighty Missouri war ship and stood on the spot where the peace treaty was signed with that same country so many bloody years later.

 

 

Our next flight landed us in Las Vegas, a city Daria had been dreaming of going to for years. She had found another great deal at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel a five star paradise and we laid our heads to sleep in the most amazing hotel room I had even seen. The remote control operated the windows, light and AC along with the interactive TV that could make dreams come true with the click of a button if you so desired. There is just something about even the sheets in a place like this… Daria was amazed while she was having a bath watching TV which appeared in bathroom mirror…

 

 

Our next fine dinner found us sitting at a place way too fancy for this cowboy…Twist by Pierre Gagnaire’s was on the 23rd floor of the Oriental and had a stunning view of Vegas but also had prices that could literally feed a family of four in the Philippines for a month! I did my best to suck it up because I know Daria loves this kind of thing and I tried to get through it with a smile on my face. The bill came and I did not even want to know the damages and Daria took care of it. She is always good at those things, never once paying a bill that has an error on it. She had an issue with this one though and the next morning took it strait to the management and somehow got the whole meal taken off our tab?

 

After our so-so dinner we walked across the street to the Aria hotel to see the first of two shows that we would experience this week. The new Cirque de Soleil show Zarkana kept us amazed for the next few hours. The quality of the performers is really something to see. There are balancing acts, juggling and some things you would not imagine humanly possible, a real must see in life! After the show we walked the strip to see the fountain show at the Bellagio one of the biggest fountains in the world where hundreds of jets spew thousands of gallons of water hundreds of feet in the air all choreographed to music and lights. Amazing!

During the next few days we must had walked 10 miles up and down the strip and through the malls. I found myself lacking a few things after living on a boat for so long, a few of those things being pants and shoes. I really did not use either for the past few years, but now found myself not being let into restaurants like the Hakkasan in the MGM without. Here in the states I would at the least need shoes to put on my flip flop blistered feet that had done all the miles of walking the last few days.

The final show Le Reve, which we saw, was at the Winn Casino a show that in itself was said to have cost a hundred million to produce! Picture a huge swimming pool surrounded by thousands of seats with over 100 performers and sets that come up out of the depths and divers falling from the sky disappearing and reappearing before your eyes into hidden passages below the surface. It was another mesmerizing few hours and well worth our time to see a show of this quality.

Three days in Vegas were more than enough to get our land legs back and our next flight landed us back in Liberal, Kansas my home town we had left just under three years ago. Time really does fly and sitting back at my desk in the office I recalled all the places I had travels since the last time I was here. That same chair I had spent years sitting in dreaming of this great sailing adventure was still sitting there timeless, as it always has been.

A small town like Liberal never really changes much and most things and people did not change at all. The really good friends I left behind were like family, you pick up where you left off like the years had not passed at all. The same old crowd remained at men’s night golf and the same old crowd was at Billy’s the local watering hole. Thankfully my favorite restaurant was still open and had the same chef at Amigo Chavez…a few wild cards like a new restaurant Bisteca had opened a few other shut down…basically the same old same old town.

It was nice to spend time with my two sons that we had not seen since Christmas a year and a half before in New Zealand. A lot had changed in their lives and Parker was married and Pete Jr. engaged and amazingly both my sons would wind up being married in the same year to two very nice girls.A few months before we flew home I had Parker get the old Holiday Ramble motor home out of the shop and serviced. After completing a lengthy list of maintenance items this 10 year land yacht was ready for her next trip around the western united states.
I wanted show my fiancé my country, so we only spent 10 days in Kansas before we were off again finally heading west for a change, motoring down highway 40 at 70 miles an hour 10 times faster than our cruising speed On Downtime! Suddenly sitting behind this wheel 1000 miles does not seem that far! Our first of many stops along the way was the south rim of the grand canyon where we both took our first ever helicopter ride. The canyon itself is breathtaking and seeing the grooves that had been cut through the sandstone during the last millions of years makes our time here on earth feel like a mere moment.

Back in the bus we continued west toward Blyth Ca. to meet up with some old friends from high school from the small town of San Jacinto, Ca. where I spent my teenage years. We camped out on the Colorado River for a few days, a place where I have fond memories of slicing up boat wakes from my younger days.

My life long friends Tony and Gina have a place in Palo Verde just west of Blyth where we camped at had a great time. The days when the river was too low to boat on we took off in the Polaris Ranger and ATV’s to explored the Arizona badlands spotting wild donkeys and coyote out amongst the played out silver mines. That weekend my daughter Cassandra and her boyfriend Anthony also drove out and made the week even more special. These special times with old friends always seem to fly by and all to soon the long weekend was over and it was back on the road west towards San Diego for a family reunion on my Moms side of the family.

We still had a few days before the reunion we spent them seeing the sites in San Diego first taking in the Zoo and then visiting Old Town both places I had never even been before. Strange? I had lived 80 miles away and yet never seen them….The zoo was great and we saw the lions, tigers and bears Oh My!! Old Town took us back to a tame when San Diego was brand new in the 1800’s and we found a photo shop that dressed up to look the part and had some shots taken of what we would have looked like back in the day. We had a great Mexican lunch of fish taco’s and Dos XX beer. After a day of walking around the zoo and Old Town we went to a place I remember as serving great sea food, The Fish Market. Well something had gone terribly wrong with this place since I last ate here, I think is was sold to the highest bidder and now was a tourist trap. Daria had her fish cooked three times only to have the Alaskan halibut come back extremely overcooked each time!

The last day in town we headed north to La Jolla and cruised the coast on the back of our motorcycle we took along with us in a trailer behind the bus. We were both thinking aw, sunny southern California is going to be nice and warm. Well not really, the temperatures never get to warm next to the coast here due to the 60 something degree water in the ocean that flows south from Alaska keeping the temperatures moderate and in the mid 70’s along the coast. Daria loved La Jolla and we found a nice little restaurant to have a quick lunch at.

Just two days before the reunion we found a small state park on the Ortega Highway just up the coast to leave the bus parked and took off for a blast from the past adventure and rode the motorcycle down to Chino, the small dairy town I spent my childhood in over 40 years ago. The dairy and house I remember growing up in as a kid is still there along with the neighbors that we surprised that afternoon when we knocked on their door. We spent the next few hours catching up with these old family friends before moving on and showing Daria much of the rest of the Valley I grew up in. Of the hundreds of dairies this valley was so well known for only a handful are left and the next big construction wave is on the way and soon they too will only be memories.

Next we headed for a big city adventure to Hollywood, again on the back of the motorcycle. Daria wanted to see Universal Studios, so we decided to do it right and signed up for the VIP tour which turned into an amazing day. The VIP pass puts you in a small group with your own personal tour guide and most importantly strait to the front of the line for every attraction and ride in the park. The VIP pass also includes an amazing lunch and access to parts of the studio that the regular pass does not. Basically you pay double and see double and get free lunch and parking! It was a lot of fun!

We spent the night in the Sheraton Beverly Hills whoohoo!! The next morning we went “tourist” and did the home of the stars tour through Brentwood and Bell Air, disappointingly a tour that we heard all to often “Behind that 40 foot hedgerow is so and so’s house” Then the tour took us downtown right in front of the Chinese Mann Theater and we walked down Hollywood Blvd. amongst all the stars placed in the sidewalk. Later in the tour I could feel Daria getting her shopping bug on when we drove down Rodeo Drive but thankfully the bus did not stop there! Back on the bike we went up Mull Holland drive and up to the overlook where you can see the big Hollywood sign on the hill and a good overlook of LA just below Ron Howard’s new home.

Two days in the big city were more than enough for this sailor and we headed back to the bus through some of the craziest traffic and doing the wildest motorcycle driving I had ever done. I know you most likely have seen the guys riding bike’s between the lanes when traffic is backed up? This is called cutting traffic and I was doing it for the first time. Riding between the cars when you literally have inches on each side of the handlebars at times. Thinking all the time I hope no body opens a door or swerves my way as you fly by them with inches to spare. Most drivers see you coming and give you a little extra room but others are texting or on the phone and do not see a thing. One of these types swerved a little the wrong way and BANG my handle bar takes out his mirror! Oh well we kept on moving thankful we were still on two wheels!

Up the coast a few miles is the small town of San Clemente where the reunion would be based at where we had a spot reserved in another state park next to some of the family members while others who chose not to camp stayed a few miles away in town. It was nice to see so many people show up and take the time to come to the event and too see my relatives some of which I had not seen in way too many years.

My two brothers and sister even made it out with their entire families. I have not seen most of them in over two years since my mothers funeral and was amazed in how much their kids had grown, a serious drawback of the sailing lifestyle being so far away from family.

My cousin Lisa and her husband Mark did a great job organizing the week. The big event planned for the week was going to see The Pageant of The Masters in Laguna Beach. This was another amazing experience where famous painting are recreated in life size with living actors posing inside the framed picture. We had twenty of my family members at the show sharing binoculars like a bunch of school kids.

We enjoyed few more restaurants like the Wind and Sea in Oceanside and Duke’s in Huntington beach where we had a great meal with my younger brother and his family, and other nights had a relaxing time at the camp ground cooking steaks and telling stories around the grill.

Daria, even though she is from Russia, was freezing all the time, so we bought her a nice pair of pink Uggs, which she did not take off even on the beach. She was really shocked how cold can be in California during the summer…

We had a great time in California catching up with so many friends and family but like everything in life you wait months for it seems to be over in a flash and you are left with many more priceless memories.

We continue the adventure heading back east toward the many national parks on the western half of this beautiful country to see all the sites they have to offer in our next story.

Until then, Peace!! And remember to get out there and live your dreams!
Pete and Daria

Palau, our last stop in the Pacific Ocean

Posted by on 10:22 am in 2013, July 2013 | 0 comments

When we tell people we are in Palau they say great, where is that exactly?  Well, Palau is a small republic located 6000 NM west sw of San Diego Ca. or 4100 NM sw of Hawaii or 1600 NM se of Japan or 500 NM east of the Philippines, so we hope you get the general idea.. A long ways from anywhere!

We arrived here after our 3 month stay in Micronesia and found it to be one of the easiest countries to clear into.  We simply filled out a few questions and sent a e-mail to the port authorities with boat and crew information along with a general time that we would be arriving.  We were a few miles out and were hailed on the VHF around  that time with out arrival status and were greeted at the customs dock by all the officials and were cleared within the hour.

After clearing in we made our way around to the small anchorage in front of Sam’s Tours and spent a few days on a mooring ball, our first in a long time!  Sam’s is very yacht friendly and even has a small yacht club and will help you find a solution to any thing you might be in need of.
 


 
Naturally after spending 6 months cruising in small atolls our first things on he list was to go to the market’s and restock the boat.  We had last seen a “real” grocery store way back in New Caledonia and were just about out of everything!  Not to say we did not have our fill of banana’s that we did and were amazed they did not even have then in the markets here?  What they did have on the shelves in the markets here was a very good selection of fresh fruits and vegetables, something Daria had been craving for weeks!  Our shopping carts when we headed for the checkout looked like we were going to feed two goats and a pony that were starving back at home!  Much of the produce is flown in and you can sign up for text service that notifies you when the plane lands and then it is first come first serve.
 

The next thing we were craving was a good restaurant, so the quest began trying all the local hotspots.  After a few days we found a few good places with decent food but “service” was the one thing that only a few special places had to offer.  Kramer’s and The Taj had the best of both!  Several others had good food and even the small street place I Love Noodle’s had excellent food for reasonable prices with good service.

It took us about a week to settle back into civilization and get caught up with internet and to feel part of the world again.  We met some old friends that we had met way back in Suwarav Atoll, Andy, Monica and their son Jake on Savanna who we had last seen a year and a half ago. A few other boats we had briefly met along the way were also here staging for their journey south to Indonesia for the season.

The northern route to Palau is the path less taken and only about 30 to 40 boats a year travel by the route we came and it seemed the same people keep showing up at different places along the way.  The majority of all the cruising boats that travel across the Pacific head south for the typhoon season to New Zealand or Australia and rarely make it this far north.  Needless to say there are very few yacht facilities or places to have work done in this neck of the wood with this small of a customer base so you are pretty much on your own in that department.  One thing that makes life a little easier is that all the islands we had recently been to have US Mail service and US zip codes and you can get just about anything shipped from the states in less than a week for the same rates as shipping within the states.
 

The main tourist draw to Palau is its world class diving and we spent the second week here enjoying it all with a guide Jonas and his girlfriend  Maria. We hired them to come aboard Downtime for three days and show us the best dive sites without having to put up with the crowds.  We would get to the best sites before or after the groups left and would have them all to ourselves.  It was also nice to have a guide with a few thousand dives under his belt to give Daria that little extra boost of confidence she needed on some of the trickier dives that has strong currents.  On one dive Jonas took his camera along and took some amazing pictures on a day everything seemed to fall in place, the weather, the water clarity, and even the fish and turtles were all there!  When were not diving Jonas took us around the lower islands and showed us some really cool anchorages that  we would have never found on our own like the one at 11 Islands.  When it was all done I had good idea where everything was all at and we had 7 great dives under our belts!  Thanks for a great “Downtime” Jonas and Maria!
 

 


 
 
 

 


 

 

 



 
Apart from diving there is also a lot of history here in Palau.  The southern island of Peleliu was the location of one of the bloodiest battles in WW2 on in which the 1st Marines went in for a 3 to 4 day battle to take over the air strip.  The battle turned into a 73 day standoff with the well fortified Japanese who were dug into hundreds of caves on the island.  The battle turned into a living hell on an island without fresh water or provisions and in the end over 18,000 brave souls gave their lives in the name of freedom.  The next island down,  Angaur had a similar story of many lives being lost.  We toured the island and the sense that something terrible had happened never left me and the site of old burned out equipment made me think of the ones that gave their lives so many years ago.
 


Palau is made up of hundreds of islands and the main island of Koror is only 6 miles across and is home to most of the 17,000 inhabitants.  The largest island to the north Babeldaob has only a few thousand living on the 40 mile long island. The islands were formed of uplifted limestone where two of the earths plates buckled upward to form the rocky islands.  Just offshore lies the beginning of the Marianas Trench and some of the deepest oceans in the world.  The main industry is tourism and the area south of Koror is known as the Rock Islands and home to the many dive sites people from all around the world come to see. The diving is amazing and the variety or fish and coral is the best I have ever seen.  Not only the variety but also the size and quantity of fish is something that surprised me.  On one dive in Ulong Channel  we saw no less that 3000 groupers that were spawning and coveting every available nook and cranny.  Other dives had several varieties of sharks, white tip, black tip and grey reef sharks that would get up close and personal with no fear at all of you.  Then there are the napoleon fish that must be 50 years old and 4 feet long that swim right up to you and let you pet them and then keep sneaking up behind you during the rest of your dive!  If wreck diving is your thing then Palau is your paradise since there are over 20 wrecks to explore within 100 feet of the surface!
 


We spent a few weeks exploring Palau covering many miles in SD soaking it all in and then it was time for Daria to fly home for her first time in over a year.  While she was home visiting family and friends I had a few old friends fly in and we spent some good times diving and catching up.  First down was Tim from Indiana a friend that has been on Downtime 6 times before helping with repairs and moving the boat from place to place.  Then Josh flew out from Oklahoma for his second cruise aboard, the three of us spent a week doing all the best  dives and one day took SD down to Peleliu to see the war remains since Tim had family that fought there.  We hired a local named Kyle and he gave us the 3 hour tour.  The east side of the island was wiped out by a typhoon last December add the effects could still be seen in the tangled jungle and the barren beaches where millions of tons of sand were swept out to sea.  Next we drove across the airport that was so ferociously fought for and saw a few old guns and tanks that were left behind.

The memorials sit up next to bloody nose ridge and I have to say the Japanese really do a nice job building theirs. It was hard to imagine what it must have all been like back then…….

The week flew by and before I knew it Josh and Tim were on a plane and my Brother in law Todd was on his way out.  Well he was till his flight got delayed two days….His old friend Sterling showed up on time and helped me stock the boat for the week when Todd finally arrived.  It was beginning to feel like groundhog day for this Captain as we set of for the same trip for the third time in 4 weeks!
 

The next day we moved up to 11 Islands to another secluded anchorage away from all the dive boats and anchored next to Savanna.  This would be our staging spot to dive Blue Corner. Blue Hole, New Drop Off and German Chanel some of the best dives in Palau.

 

 

 
Sunday came around and some of my friends from Koror came out and we had a nice B-day party on Downtime with Patric my friend cooking up lots of good food in the galley.
 

 
A few more days of diving and the week was over way too fast and Todd was packing his bags to go home…It seemed like he just got here?

The farewell dinner was at Pacific Beach Resort, the nicest hotel in Palau.  It was great to spend time with family and friends that I had not seen in so long.  And I want to thank them all for taking the time to fly so far to come spend some time with me.

Daria’s time in Russia flew by and before I knew it I was heading to the dock to pick her up.  We spent a week back down in the Rock Islands relaxing and getting ready for our trip to Davao, Philippines.  We knew we would not need much in the way of provisions for this short trip since we would be trying to eat our way to the bottom of the freezer before we left the boat in a few weeks when we would fly back to the states.<  

 
 

In our next adventure we conquer the Philippine Sea for the first time!

Until then, Peace
                  Pete & Daria.

Yap and Ngulu Atoll, FSM

Posted by on 9:53 am in 2013, May 2013 | 0 comments

May 19, 2013

 

After spending a few interesting weeks on Ulithie we continued our journey west to Yap one of our last stops in Micronesia.  We had heard mixed reports on the coconut telegraph about the port officials there but decided to go see for ourselves what was going on.  We found out like any other story or bad wrap there is usually one boat that does something wrong and makes it sound like they didn’t.  The boat causing all the commotion pulled into Yap a few months ago and did not even call the Port Captain on the radio and just plopped the anchor down and kept the radio off.  Then he had one crew who wanted to jump ship with empty pockets and a bag full of problems.  Well, in a case like this it is the Captains responsibility to pay for any crew he has aboard even when they want to jump ship. So in the end that is just what happened.   We were greeted with total professionalism and paid the published fees of just over $120 to clear in/out which is not bad considering we had to talk with 5 different departments to do so. One of the first things we noticed  after we anchored was the lack of activity on shore, it almost seemed like a lazy Sunday afternoon with very few people driving and walking around.  I guess we were assuming this was a busy place since a lot of outer islanders come here to shop and take a break from small island life. The island itself is one of the few volcanic islands in  Micronesia but did not have high mountains to catch the rains like Pohnpei or Kosrae does and is considerably drier because of that fact.  

We finally were able to get to shore late Monday afternoon to scout out the town and see what we could buy to replenish our dwindling provisions on Downtime.  We found pretty much everything we were looking for at one store that resembled a mini-walmart right in the middle of town.  We bought a few watermelons and to our surprise they turned out to be a bright yellow/orange color when we cut them open and were the sweetest melons we tasted in a while!   The rest of the produce fridge looked more  like a science experiment with once fresh veggies transforming themselves in to stinking globs.  Luckily we had caught lots of fish so we were good on meat since the choices in that department were pretty slim also.  Oh well Palau is just a few weeks down the road…

 

 

Our next mission was to find a good restaurant to relax at but this too was a challenge since anything they served would have had to come from the market right?
We ate at a few and other than the exception of the Pacific Dive Resort the food was pretty much plain but it was nice for Daria to at least have someone to cook for her for the first time in almost two months. The next day we hired a car to drive us around the island to see the stone money, the main thing Yap is famous for. Stone money is just that, a circular stone quarried and painstakingly shaped into a circular stone with a hole in the center.  These stones range in size from 6 inches and go up to 12 feet in diameter that weigh many tons.  The most remarkable thing is that they were not made here but 250 miles away in Palau! They say only 60% or so made it over and the rest litter the bottom of the ocean between here and Palau from shipping mishaps.  The money was only traded once when it was brought over  for mostly taro crops.  The new owner would then proudly place this stone in front of his home as a status symbol and naturally bigger was better so hence the need for 12 foot diameter money.  The hole in the middle served it’s purpose in that they could slide a bamboo log through and transport the money by rolling it across the ground.  There are now countless pieces of  this stone money laying around the island that have long since become a currency of the past.  

 
 


 

 

On the rest of our island adventure we were impressed at the quality of the schools we saw one of which was a brand new high school just completed last year. As we cruised along the freshly paved road our guide Susan told us many interesting fact and showed us a few traditional “Men’s House”.  The architecture is slightly different than the eastern Micronesian islands and I thought it more like what we saw in Fiji with high peaked roofs and carvings along the eaves.  

 
 

 

Looking back I have to say the best thing about the anchorage in Yap is that we had access to free high speed internet the whole time we were there!  I say “FREE” but in reality… when you have not been online for shopping for a few days.  This was great because we could order our “stuff” on eBay and it would be shipped US Priority mail and meet us in Palau in a few weeks!  Well that was the plan anyways… As I am writing this we still have two packages floating in a container somewhere in the pacific heading this way by boat because that’s how the USPS rolls….when the plane is full they put it on a growing pile that when big enough gets put in a container and shipped on the slowest possible (cheapest) ship.  And wouldn’t you know it one of the delayed items was a new jacket for Daria to take on her trip home to Russia!  What luck….

After a few days of frenzied internet shopping I was ready to set sail  since the credit card had about all it could take.  There was not much else I could say about Yap as a tourist destination but word on the street is that the Chinese are working on building a huge hotel casino project and that should give the place some excitement for a while.

Clearing out of Yap was a breeze, we just notified the officials 24 hours in advance and they had our paper work and clearance papers waiting for us at the dock at the agreed upon time. We set sail just after 5 on Friday after noon which is supposed to be bad luck but we missed this superstitions wrath by a few miles the next morning.  We were sailing slow and I decided to leave two poles out just to see what might bite them on the moonless night. At around 11 pm one pole started screaming as the line tore off the reel with something big on it!  I first thought it had snagged a log or something because what could possibly see a bait on a night this dark?  Well that idea lasted only a few minute when the pole started jerking erratically after I gave it a few tugs, it was definitely a fish, a big one at that! An hour later the monster appeared after lots of work on the reel.  We had our first sword fish on and it was somewhere in the 150 pound range with a bill that was over 3 foot long!  I was able to get a gaff into the monster but wondered what I was going to do after that?  Reaching down and grabbing that huge pointed bill did not seem like a smart idea since one lunge from the fish would make a kabob out of this sailor!  I thought if I could just get the fish to tire out and calm down then  I would take my chance grabbing the bill, but then the gaff ripped out and it was back to holding onto the leader which is never fun to start with.  We managed to re-gaff the fish but this just made him more angry and he thrashed one last time and tore loose but unfortunately  this time the hook also failed and we watched this magnificent creature return to the deep. The winds had been light and we were just sailing on the Genoa and going 5 knots.  We only had 80 miles to sail during the night to reach  Ngulo Atoll and from where were at I calculated we would arrive no sooner than 8 am so I double checked the course and set the auto pilot and took a little nap.  The fish must have taken a lot out of us both because the next thing we knew it was 7 am and the atoll was 3 miles of to our starboard.  Apparently the wind had picked up and we arrived an hour before I thought we would, just thank goodness I had steered the boat well away from the island or else we would be wrecked on a very nasty looking reef!  A good lesson I learned in the past,  never point the boat directly at an island!  It is always better to backtrack or divert a few miles that to hit a reef! Like a few other places in the past we were stopping here without permission so I got on the radio and began hailing the island to say hello.  A while later we were greeted by George and his son the caretakers of this deserted piece of  island paradise.  They came out in there skiff and came aboard for a cup of coffee and began telling us the story of these islands.  Apparently some 30 years ago the Chief decided to move the entire population to Yap and abandon the outer island life?  Now the village is a ghost town with the exception of George and his family to take care of things.  George also monitors illegal fishing of the atoll with a radar system that is perched on top of an 80 foot tall radio tower.


 
Daria asked for a few coconut crabs and an hour later we had 4 huge crabs on the back of the boat!  We traded him for a few Downtime Tee shirs and what ever else he was lacking on the island.  Then George gave us permission to dive anywhere we wanted and to also come visit him ashore later. In the morning the winds were calm and we went for a snorkle along the southern reef and saw a very healthy and lively reef system.  We should have taken our spear gun because this was the first time we saw so many large groupers and snappers of harvestable size.  Oh well I hope they breed and make tons of babies! The only downside to this beautiful atoll was the fact that the anchorage was exposed and the holding was poor.  In a few months with winds would change direction but that did not help our situation out today.  I would have loved to stay a few more days diving but at this time of the year the winds begin to change and you must pick your passages with them or find yourself motoring. We went ashore and thanked George and his family for everything and he gave us a huge bunch of bananas and his wife came out of the garden with a nice pumpkin that was big enough to feed us for weeks! Also she made very beautiful lei’s for us, our last flowers in Pacific!
 

 

That afternoon we set sail with Ngulu fading on the horizon.  As I sat an recounted all the amazing experiences we had in these beautiful island of Micronesia I wondered what all of our new found friends were doing on their own little parts of paradise?  It was an amazing experience and the highlight of our trip, so many beautiful people living in a beautiful environment sustaining a lifestyle that has been passed down for generations. We want to thank all of or friends for their generosity and welcoming attitudes, it truly made our trip into something we will never forget! Our next adventure will be exploring Palau! Until then, Peace!  Pete & Daria

Ulithi Atoll

Posted by on 10:32 am in 2013, April 2013 | 0 comments

April 23, 2013

 

Leaving Woleai was a bitter sweet experience… This would one of our last “South Pacific” islands to visit and we knew it would be an experience that we would compare many islands to in the future, but we had to move on. Very few islands left a deep impression on us and the friendliness of Woleai definitely was one of them.

We set sail with intention to sail strait to Sorol Island 220 miles to the west but the shifting winds had other plans for us. The wind was predicted to be easterly at 15 knots on the weather report but shifted a little more north and intensified to 25 knots. With winds of this force Downtime moves between 8 and 9 knots and at that speed we would arrive at 7-8 pm and just after dark. Our choice was to turn north to Ulithi or try to slow way down to be able to arrive during daylight at Sorol. We decided to head north and set a course that would get us to Ulithi by the following morning after sailing 280 miles and two nights at sea.

Sailing during our first day we only had one line get hit but the fish did not take the bait. I put the lines back out at sunrise on the second day and we drug them all day before we had any takers. But, when the fish did finally show they came in force and all 4 lines were screaming with a mahi on them! Somehow we managed to get them all aboard before the shark that was following us took a bite out of any of them. I seen his dark shadow going after one of our fish but Daria must have been reeling too fast for him to sink his teeth in.

All that wind we had been having kicked up quite a swell by the second day and we were feeling the effects of the big waves pounding against Downtime. It is a great feeling at the end of a passage to see your destination appear on the horizon. The first thing you see is coconut trees, the highest points on the islands appear on the horizon at about 10 miles out. As you get closer you start picking up the island itself and the waves crashing on the reefs around them.

Ulithi is the 4th largest atoll in the world and is 20 miles long and 8 miles wide with a giant lagoon in the middle surrounded by small islands. This atoll is where the US navy staged over 600 ships to make the final assaults of WW2. Most of the islands spread around the atoll are small and uninhabited and just a few of the larger ones are inhabited with less than 200 people living on them. The exception of Falalop which has a high school and airport and about 600 people.

With the winds still blowing strong we were looking for and anchorage with protection from the strong NE winds but only a few islands in the entire atoll provided that. The first one was Fassarai which is located on the lower south east side of the atoll. The island is just over a mile long and you have to anchor 200 yards off shore to stay out of the coral heads. The anchorage is rolling at high tide from the waves wrapping around the island but the holding is good.

We no sooner had the anchor set and we were hailed on the radio by Martin on the island. We told him we would be ashore after we settled in to say hello. An hour later a guy name Pive came by and gave us a few coconuts and also welcomed us ashore.

We went ashore later that afternoon and were met by 8 or 9 men sitting under the men’s house next to the church. The seen was much different than at the last islands and nobody was drinking tuba. Apparently the chief of this entire atoll banned the making and drinking of the stuff and everyone was just sitting around chewing bettle nut. Everyone warmly welcomed us to their island and Pive then took us on a tour of the rest of the island and to the school to meet the kids.

As always the kids were happy to see us as we gave our gifts to them. The elementary school only has about 30 kids and the entire village has less than 100 people.

What they did have that they were proud of was solar power! The whole village was given a solar station and underground connections to each home by the EU several years ago. Each home gets enough power to run a small fridge and lighting for just a few dollars a month. This was an impressive setup with over 150 solar panels feeding a huge battery bank. Power is limited to the basics and air conditioning is not allowed.

All the water they drink is collected from rooftops and stored in cisterns since the groundwater is too salty to drink. The breadfruit and banana trees seem to grow just fine though as well as the taro plants.

After our tour we met the men back at the men’s house to see what else was going on this week. We met Martin who had hailed us on the radio and who was also one of the sons of the chief that had recently passed away and is acting chief of this island.

Naturally Daria asked about coconut crab! Martin told us his family owned the islands 7 miles across the lagoon and if we took him and a few guys over there he would be happy to catch us a some. Well that sounded like a plan to me and we told him we would meet him in the morning for a crab catching adventure.

The next morning we met Martin at the village along with Jaymin and Luciano, two very good crab catchers and we loaded into SD for the bash across the lagoon. The winds were still blowing strong and the waves toward the west side were 3 to 4 feet and I was soaked by the time we arrived at the island. We dropped the guys off at the island and Daria and I went out to the edge of the reef and went for a snorkel. With an off shore wind the ocean was nice and calm and we saw lots of interesting fish and even a sneaky moray eel and several sharks.

After about an hour we went back to the island and found the guys who were having a little trouble finding the coconut crabs. They did manage to find a few and decided to give the next island a try. The tide had fallen sine we had been here and now we found ourselves dodging coral heads on our way across the shallow pass between the islands. We wound up getting out of the boat and walking to the island while Jaymin walked the boat through the shallows. Daria went along the shore and took pictures while I went into the jungle with the guys to find crab.

The creatures live in holes any where they can burrow into the ground. So the first thing is to find the pile of dirt they dug out and then see if the entrance to the hole is open or closed. Closed holes mean someone is home and then you start probing the ground with a stick to see where he is at. They are usually not deep and when you find a soft spot you start digging to find them. When you get lucky you find a nice size crab and you grab him by the top of the body and make sure you watch out for the powerful claws that can take a finger off!

Luciano is a seasoned professional and can tell just by looking at the size of the hole just how big the crab is and if he is there or not. The ones that are there are dug up and bound in less that 5 minutes and he off to find the next one.

We wound up with 7 nice sized crabs and called it a good morning and headed back to Downtime for a fresh a mahi lunch. It was Darias turn on the way back to catch the waves on the windward side as I stayed dry. She did not care though she had a sack full of her most favorite food in the world – coconut crab!

Daria was more than happy to feed these guys lunch for all their hard work, a fair trade for all those crabs. I asked the guys what they needed in trade and dug into the fishing tackle and “hooked” them up with a bunch of new gear. Next they asked if I had any rum?…well they do drink!! Just not tuba? I broke out a bottle of Bounty Rum from Fiji and warned them to be careful and the rest is history! Soon after the rum disappeared they were happily dancing to their favorite band CCR on the back of Downtime.

Jaymin eyed my ukulele that I just bought in Majuro and asked if he could play it? I replied: Can you? I brought it to him and he tuned it and began playing. I have to admit this was much more music than this instrument had ever played since my learning to play was short lived. Then he boldly asked if he could have it and I told him why not since I would never learn to play. This made two people very happy, Jaymin and Daria, who would not have to listen to me practice and longer!

It was quite a day and later that afternoon we went ashore to bid our fare wells since we would be leaving in the morning. I have to say this is the third island in a row where we really made a connection with the people and had such a wonderful experience. You can tell this is a place where everyone shares and you could also tell everything they had they would gladly give to help someone out. Lucianos daughter gave Daria a beautiful necklace with over 100 tiny shells woven in a beautiful design.

Thanks to Martin, Luciano and Jaymin for an amazing day!

We headed north in the morning fighting the north winds the whole way, it took us 3 hours to make just 12 bumpy miles to the next island of Asor. This was another small island in the top NE side of the atoll and the anchorage was just a rolling at high tide, but beautiful. Again we were met by a few guys that welcomed us ashore and to their island. In the morning we went ashore and met the chief and paid the $40 entry fee. The village was small and about the same size as the last island and we had enough gifts for all the kids on the island. This island also had solar panels and everyone had cheap power available.

What really got my attention of this anchorage was the 2 mile wide reef that the 20 knot NE winds were blowing strait across onshore creating perfect kiting conditions! In the morning we moved Downtime right in the middle of the reef behind a tiny island and got the kite gear out. The conditions were all coming together with enough wind and low tide falling behind a long reef all at one time. I was able to kite 3 hours strait the first day skimming over crystal clear 1-2 foot deep flat water of the reef. The outer reef absorbed the crashing ocean swell just yards away while I glided over the calm inside reef for a mile in either direction. This was by far the best kite spot I had ever enjoyed with 85 degree water and no obstructions to dodge. It is amazing to skim across the reef and see all the fish darting away inches below you! I even saw an occasional shark scooting away wondering no doubt, what was that? On the far side of the reef was another small treeless island just a few feet high and a half mile long that blocked all the waves and had perfectly flat water behind it. The wind blew unobstructed over the island while I kited on glass behind it going as fast as I could just feet from the beach! This never got old and we spent the next two days enjoying this very special reef.

Just to the west is another island, Mogmog, which is known for being very traditional and we went there for church on Good Friday to meet the villagers. The surrounding islands came here for church and everyone was dressed traditionally with the women in lavalava’s and the men in Tu’s (loincloth). There were not as many flowers as on Woliea though, but I guess there never will be! It is too bad all the services are in the native language…but we did enjoy the warm welcomes of the villagers.

The anchorages in this entire atoll are marginal and it really depends on wind direction where you will be able to safely anchor.

With another week coming to a close it was time to move on and Monday we set sail for Yap, the island where we would finally have the first store to shop at in 6 weeks and would also clear out of Micronesia before we head to Palau.

In our next adventure we will be in Yap, our first chance to shop and to check e-mails in 6 weeks!

Until then, Peace

Pete and Daria

Woleai atoll

Posted by on 10:40 am in 2013, April 2013 | 0 comments

April 15, 2013

We set sail around 3pm for the short 120 mile sail west to Woleai Atoll from Olimarao island.  The forecasted  were showing winds to ease to 15 knots out of the east so we set the screecher sail and expected a slow 20 hour passage.  Instead of easing the winds did the opposite and increased to over 25 knots!  With a breeze like this Downtime was really moving and surfing down the swells at over 11 knots at times! Needless to say we were going way to fast to fish and just sat back and enjoyed the smooth downwind ride.

Around 10 pm with the winds still blowing strong we decided to change sail and slow the boat down so we would not pass up our destination during the early morning hours.  Furling this huge sail can be quite a challenge in high winds like we were experiencing and I was not looking forward to going on deck and wrestling with it while the boat going 10 knots and sliding down waves in the dark.  We were lucky tonight and everything rolled up like it was supposed to and the dreaded job was done in 15 minutes and Downtime was now cruising along at a comfortable 7 knots.  Having cover nearly 80 miles in the first 8 hours of the trip we had just 40 to go and were due to arrive a 7 am at the south pass into the atoll.

As we approached the island we were hailed on the radio 4 miles out by a watchful eye on shore who asked us our vessel name and intention.  This was a first in a long time that we had been spotted so far out and we were impressed that they were watching their waters so closely.   After entering the lagoon we were handed over to a guy name Tommy who would be our go to guy for the week and he gave us directions into the anchorage.  After we got settled we were contacted by him again and he welcomed us ashore to meet the chief.  We lowered SD and went ashore after breakfast and were greeted with a beautiful lei and a warm handshake.  There are several villages on Woleai and Chief Francis lives on the south end of the island.  We met in a circle under a men’s canoe house with the 78 year old blind Chief and few other village leaders.  Everyone we meet gets the condensed version of our travels and most are amazed by all the places we have been.   We gave the Chief a zip lock full of tuna filets and a hat and he welcomed us to stay on the island as long as we like.

 

After all the formalities were done we set off to do our favorite thing on a new island, find the kids and hand out gifts and candy.  Soon after we arrived at the elementary school our bags were empty and we were surrounded by smiling faces.  Most the kids spoke English and it was fun to throw a Frisbee and blow bubbles with them. The elementary school has about 120 kids and  there is also a separate high school with another 200 students from here and also a few surrounding islands like Likiep and Elato.  The dress code is loin cloth for the boys and lava lava for the girls and everyone is topless including the teachers.

 

Five 8th grade girls from the elementary school showed us the way to the high school, down a path that took us through the jungle and across the island.  I was thinking as I walked among them that if I was 15 again and walking through the jungle with 5 top less girls that I would be the luckiest man alive…..

 

Five 8th grade girls from the elementary school showed us the way to the high school, down a path that took us through the jungle and across the island.  I was thinking as I walked among them that if I was 15 again and walking through the jungle with 5 top less girls that I would be the luckiest man alive…..

 

We met with the principle’s at both schools and gave some supplies to the grade school and accepted an offer do a presentation of our travels to the high school.   I have to say that it looks like they are doing a good job teaching and they have enough resources to do their jobs.  The kids are very well mannered and are attentive in class.

 

We made it to church on  Sunday and caught the end of the service.  It is kind of hard to get motivated to get to church and sit there for hours listening to a language you do not understand….. So we just show up late and meet with the people afterwards.

 

 

 

The night before I had asked permission from the chief to be able to teach some of the boys how to wake board and he said it would be fine after church to go have some fun.  I met the kids on the beach at 10 and the fun began in the rain.  I had 40  5th and 6th grader boys ready to go!  I started the first load of 5 kids on  the wakeboard.  The second kid who tried got up after 2 tried and went a few hundred feet!  I thought great now I have a teacher who can help me explain to the other kids…..WRONG!!  I was only able to get 1 out 15 kids up so I switched to the much easier surfboard, where they could just lay on it and be pulled across the water behind SD.  I kept encouraging them to try and stand and only one brave soul hung ten for a few hundred feet before he wiped out.  I tried telling them all that  it is OK to let go of the rope when they crashed, but most held on for dear life and became human torpedoes!

 

There were big things going on at the high school with the arrival of 24 new computers filled with tons of information.  John Bush a computer tech from Hawaii and longtime island volunteer was just finishing up the installation.  The mainframe was state of the art and will supply limited information to these students who most of have never operated  a computer.   They are still a long way from having internet but that is not all that bad considering what a waste of time it can be…..instead the mainframe is loaded with all the national geographic issues, the latest world book encyclopedia’s and lots of other useful information that can broaden these kids view of the world.

A few days later we returned and John set up a projector and Daria and I showed the high school kids where we were from.  Daria had lots of great picture from St. Petersburg and I dug up a few of the cows back in Kansas.  Next we showed them a few places like Maccu Pichu, the Mayan ruins in Belize and then shots from the Panama Canal and  New Zealand.  I think they had the most fun with shots we took on their own  islands since they rarely see pictures of themselves let alone projected life size on the wall.  It was good times sharing with all these kids and we were loudly applauded after each presentation.

 

The winds had been calm for a few days so we  contacted Tommy to see if he could find us a dive guide.  We were in luck, Morgan had recently returned from Yap and is a professional dive guide with over 2000 dives in his log.  We set it up for Monday after we had our presentations at the school and hoped for sunshine.  The weather cooperated and we did two good dives along the pass.  We spotted lots of things with the help of Morgan who could find a needle in a haystack!  We saw several moray eels,  octopus, starfish, a flounder that I thought was sand until it moved, nudibranch, sea stars and even a few pieces of discarded artillery from WW2.   It was strange to see a 5 inch shell laying on the ocean floor knowing it was most likely fired at some unlucky ship so many years ago.

 

 

Wolbai Atoll has 8 islands surrounding a beautiful lagoon.  Inside the shallow lagoon  are two small island that might have been candidates for the Corona Beer commercial with a few swaying palm and white sand beaches.  The main island is Woleai which was occupied by over 7000 Japanese troops during the war.  Chief Francis remembers the war vividly and told me that when the troops were here there was not a tree left on the island and you could see from one end to the other.  Like many other islands in the pacific it has a runway built on and has many concrete bunkers doting the landscape.  All the locals were evacuated to Yap during the war and he told me he went to school there until one day when bombs fell on the island and blew up the schools and that was it for school for a while.  Very few locals were killed during the war itself and the only casualties were from people playing with hand grenades they found afterwards.  The Japanese were not as fortunate….he told me only 3000 of the 7000 walked on the ship after the war the rest remain buried on the island.

 

Every afternoon the men gather around at 5 to drink tuba (palm wine) and discuss what went on that day and they all seem to want the new visitors at their villages circle for the night. There are 5 circles on main island.  I have learned on thing and that is to bring your own cup and drink slowly!

 

The men were sitting around one night and discussing fishing and turtle hunting, neither of which they were having much success at lately.  It seems turtles are harder to find and there are not many large fish left on the reef.  I had seen the boat come in and there were 7 or 8 guys with spear guns and maybe 50- 4-6 inch long fish on the ground that they were dividing…not much meat for all that work…..Things used to much much better….

 


 

Being a farmer I asked the question of what they were doing to sustain their resources?  Their answer was that they closed certain parts of the reef to fishing certain times of the year.  I asked them to explain how they thought this was helping when obviously a few months was not really helping the catch size…..I took the floor and presented the idea of closing certain parts of the reef for years not months so that fish could mature and actually become old enough to reproduce.  Then they would spread to other parts of the reef and replenish it.  The idea was well received and they said it made sense….but implementing it will be a whole other mater in itself….The next idea I had was how they could harvest more and larger turtles….The practice now is to catch and kill everything you see no matter what size or time of the year it is.  It is even fair game to track the females onto the shore and kill them when they are nesting and laying eggs!  Sadly the eggs are a bonus and they dig them up and eat them too!  What chance does a turtle have when only 2 or 3 eggs will develop into a mature turtle undisturbed in the wild….now with hunting [practices like these it is ZERO!` A turtle lays 70 to 80 eggs and most baby turtles are picked off on their way to the ocean or are eaten by sharks or fish before they are 3 months old.

 

I suggested to the chief that it would be in everyone’s best interest to stop digging up the nests and taking the eggs and to also stop  killing the females during nesting season.  Another idea was instead of eating the eggs they should gather them and move them to one of their uninhabited islands and protect them.  They also need to build a pen to keep them safe for the first 6 months of their life and feed them.  When they are big enough to survive turn them loose and in 2-3 years these same turtles will return weighing hundreds of pounds.  Only then after a female lays its eggs can they harvest them for meat having created a sustainable farming program.  Again the idea made sense to them…but time will tell if future generations will even know what a turtle looks like……

 
 
 
 
 

It seemed every time we went ashore we were given fresh flowers by someone… Wednesday was Raymond’s birthday one of the teachers at the high school and he invited us ashore for a small party. Daria made some chocolate cupcakes and I put together some fishing gear for a present.  Both were very much appreciated and soon  Daria was covered in flowers again.  There was no shortage of tuba either….but I was still in pain from the night before when I almost drowned in the stuff at another party!  We made a short night of it and went back to Downtime early.

The next day we met Tommy and he took us around to see the war ruins.  We saw a few planes in the jungle and some old equipment rusting away.  Most the building were bombed to smithereens and only foundations remained .  Walking through the jungle we saw many craters where bombs had dropped which now were taro gardens where the plants like to grow in standing water.

 

Our week here was quickly coming to an end and we told Tommy we planed to leave on Saturday.  Next thing we knew a going away party was being planned at the main village.  There was one other boat leaving on Friday so, Thursday night it was.

The culture here is much different than back in the states and only the men showed up to the party!  The women obviously spent many hours preparing the food and flowers but the men served it to us.  The younger guys had been out fishing all morning and our meals had one small fried fish and boiled taro in coconut sauce and had enough food for two people!

 

The tuba flowed freely and the guys from the other boat brought a few cases of beer so there was plenty to drink. We brought some yellow fin tuna which the men sliced and ate raw, a favorite of theirs.

 

It seemed that everyone that showed up brought flowers and soon we had 2 or 3 lei’s and 4 or 5 head bands stacked up on our heads.  I had never seen so many flowers!

The next night we asked John to bring down the projector so we could do a slide show at the church for the village.  There had to be 70 or 80 people sitting around as Daria and I showed them pictures of our travels.  We were glad we could share our world with them since they were so generous with sharing theirs.

Our last night on the island Raymond invited us over again and had another bunch of fresh flowers for us to wear.  Wow what an amazing experience!  The generosity and love these people showed us will be treasured for a life time!

 

In our next adventure we will be stopping Ulithie Atoll the 4th  LARGEST atoll in the world!

Until then, Peace!
Pete and Daria

Hey Bob

Posted by on 10:55 am in 2013, April 2013, Uncategorized | 0 comments

April 7, 2013

We are a Ngulu Atoll our last stop in Micronesia! We got here yesterday morning and were greeted by George the Ranger for the preserve. Daria asked about coconut crabs and george and his son went to the island after coffee and caught us four huge ones that yielded a 2 quart bowl full of meat after we cooked them!
Anyways the reports about Yap being difficult and expensive are all false! It cost us $75 total to clear in/out and we had free internet all week that was amazingly fast 24 hours a day! the clearing process is strait forward and you just call the port captain on ch 16 and he arranges everything. The report that other boat gave was a bunch whooie and we were treated nicely. If anyone would have trouble it would have been us since we stopped at 7 islands after Pohnpei!
The town is small and shopping can be done, just watch the dates on the packages since most every thing is old!
We will sail to Palau late this afternoon and should arrive by morning. Oh and the latest fishing report!
The purple/pink squid strikes again!! This time I left two poles out at night just for fun..At around 11 pm on a pitch black moonless night we get a strike! Something huge too!! I am like what could it be and fought for an hour to get it to the boat. Then the leader finally starts winding on the reel and we see a 8 foot sword fish! The bill must have been over 3 feet long and i was wondering how the heck I was going to get it aboard! I got a gaff into it and pulled but it was just too big to lift and the gaff ripped out! I re-gaffed and the fish kept fighting and we finally got the boat stopped and I was attempting to get a line on the tail when the gaff came out again and we lost the fish after all that hard work!
Then the line with a yellow feather that was just dangling short has something on it? A foot long squid attacked it while it was dangling in the lit up water! Calamari anyone!
one last thing…we had an intruder last night!! Daria woke me up saying: “There is someone on the boat”! I got up and looked around thinking what a bunch of crap we are anchored on a uninhabited island! Well in the morning we found the intruder…a black seabird had flown into an open port on the far side of the boat and was disoriented and still trying to get out bouncing off the walls. I thew a towel over it and let it go.
peace,
Pedro and Daria

PS: we will post stories about Woleai, Ulithi and Yap in few days from Palau!