I returned to Downtime after another hectic summer of traveling in the states in mid October. I had left the boat for a second time in the safety of Ocean View Marina, a small marina just south of Davao City located on the small island of Samal. This marina has the capacity for about 100 boats and is surrounded by a concrete wall that keeps all but the feistiest northern storms out except for when waves get big enough to actually go over the 8 foot wall. The 60 mile long bay is surrounded by 3000 foot mountains and the area is protected from the many typhoons that the rest of the islands in the northern Philippines encounter several times a year.
There were just a few things on the repair list before we set sail and one was to haul Downtime and have fresh antifouling paint applied to the bottom. It had already been over 2 years since the last time I had done this way back in New Zealand. The old paint had lost it’s ability to fight of growth and now the bottom was covered with thousands of barnacles that seem to thrive in marinas.
Hauling Downtime is a delicate process and having the right equipment in the form of a proper cradle that fits under her bridge deck is a must. Needless to say this had to be manufactured custom to fit Downtime and took days of welding 12 inch I-beams to a marine railway at the right height and distance apart to perfectly fit under the boat and serve as a temporary support while the bottom was painted.
Having a guy like Tjartan the marina manager in charge with years of experience made the whole process look easy.
I simply pulled Downtime up to the railway and and within minutes we were being slowly pulled out of the water by a massive winch up the railway.
Once out of the water the work began. In other parts of the world a pressure washer would have blown the barnacles to king dome come, but here labor is so inexpensive that all things are just done by hand. It took six guys two days to get the bottom ready for the fresh paint. It took a just few hours to scrape of the barnacles but much more time to sand off the cement they excrete to attach themselves with.
With the guys busy working on the boat we headed to the market to buy the first of many loads of provisions. There is no one stop shop to buy it all and we spent days looking through 4 different markets for all the things on our list. On our big shopping day we hired a cab for the afternoon and had him drop hundreds of pounds of shopping right next to the boat.
The next thing on the list was to fill the fuel tanks. A simple task in most parts of the world but here there are very few fuel docks and most fuel is carried to the boats in 5 gallon jerry cans. I was as close as I was ever going to be to a fuel station and the process of hauling 250 gallons of diesel painfully began by shuttling fuel hauling just 35 gallons a trip. Even getting this small amount the fuel station ran out 3 times in the next few days but I finally managed to get the boat filled.
With the fuel tanks full and the bottom paint applied we took sunday off and rented a motorcycle to cross the island and relax. We took the long way to the south end of the island chasing signs that should have taken us to a small dairy farm just a few miles away. We never did find the dairy but must have rode 20 miles across a 10 mile long island. In the end the we found this beautiful resort where you can sleep in a tree house 20 feet up in the air! The resort was quiet and had just two other guests at this small resort and it was nice to relax after a busy week.
The last job to do before we launched was to simply apply a fresh coat of wax to the topsides. I had the crew ready to apply a coat of wax, a job they obviously never done before from the looks of it. They all looked up at the boat 10 feet up in the air and thought I was crazy thinking they could reach that far up. It took several minutes to explain we needed scaffolding and to get them to carrying barrels and blocks to support beams to stand on. It was painful to watch the slow process but the last wax was being buffed off an hour before we launched the boat.
Back at the marina we wrapped up the last few trips to the market stocking up on produce and the last things we would be able to find in the civilized world. By Wednesday the forecast looked promising and we set sail for Sangihe just over 200 miles to the south. In this part of the world I do not know why I even bother with weather forecasts since most times it would just be easier to put the wind strait on the nose and start the engines and we would be going the right direction 90% of the time anyways.
At least I remembered about the 3 knot current that I fought going north last season a current that hat runs along the east coast of Mindanao and I set course for Cape St. Augustine. This is where the free ride south would begin after motoring 60 miles down the bay with little or no wind.
Once in the southernly current the boat speed picked up the predicted 3 knots and we actually found a breeze to sail with. With full sail we were cruising along at 10 knots over the ground in a 20 knot breeze. The only downside was that the wind was blowing strait back over the current and causing the waves to standup and knock us around. Then later just a few hours after the sun went down nasty squalls began , pouring down rain every few hours and the boat speed would fly up over 14 knots with 25 knots of wind in the sails. Needless to say the motion inside Downtime was very uncomfortable but we were making miles and it made no sense to further shorten sail.
The low pressure system passed and in the past 20 hours the wind clocked 160 degrees and what started as a starboard tack finished off the trip on the port side. Then just 40 miles out the wind turned strait out of the south back on the nose and it was time to finally put the sails away and burn a few more gallons of diesel to make port before dark.
We entered the harbor and were welcomed by our friends Paul and Lisa on Lorelei. Friends we last saw in the Marina in the Philippines and would be sailing this season with.
The harbor in Sangihe is open to the west and had temporary moorings placed for a rally that was just here a few weeks before. Mooring scares me and always makes me wonder what is actually attached to the ocean floor? From the looks of the rope they scrounged together it would not take much of a storm to break them and it took us 3 tries to find one with a proper attachment to tie off to. We spent a few restless nights on the mooring tossing and turning before I got fed up worrying we would break off during the night and finally went across the bay and dropped the anchor in much calmer conditions.
This is my first time visiting Indonesia and my first impression was how friendly the people are. There is a continual greeting of smiles and a “Hey Mister, how are you?” as you walk down the road in a place were very few Americans have traveled before. Life here in the small town revolves around the local markets where a limited variety of fresh fish and produce can be found. There is no shortage of tomatoes, cabbage, potatoes and fish. But delicacies like pineapple, watermelon or other fruits can be hard to find, not to mention anything green to make a salad with?
We had planed to stay just a few days and be on our way but then we got news of a paragliding festival coming to town that would offer rides off the 3000 foot mountain the following weekend. 150 flyers were arriving on Thursday for a exciting weekend of paragliding and we patiently waited for Saturday to arrive so we could experience the rush of flying though the air on a paraglider
The weekend finally arrived and the ramp was built to launch the kites and then the rains began. Only one lucky jumper made the decent by kite while the others totally frustrated re-packed their gear for a long 20 hour trip back to Jakarta by ferry.
With the rains came the west winds which churned the anchorage into an uncomfortable slosh. It was even uncomfortable on Downtime but the mono hulls had masts pitching 60 degrees making all but impossible to live aboard.
This was our motivation to leave and we set sail on Monday for Mahengetang.
Mahengetang is a small island just 30 miles further south that is known for a dive site with an active volcano spewing bubbles from the ocean floor. We anchored of the east of the island and did 3 dives on this 400 yard long mound of rumbling rock. We never saw the bubbles but we sure heard the rumbles of the volcano under us!
On shore was a small village of a boat building community. They were in the process of building what looked to be a 60 foot ship trimming one board at a time with a small chainsaw. at the rate they were going it looked like it would take about a year to complete the project with 3 guys actively working.
30 miles further south is Siau and yet another island with an active volcano. This 6000 foot grumbling monster spews smoke continuously and last erupted in Aug 2013. At night you can see the orange glow lighting up the smoke clouds spewing off the top. The anchorage here is right next to town under the volcano and the kids on shore are waving “Hello Mister” every time they see you. Unlike the last anchorage the Catholic churches here out number the mosques and on Sunday I had front row seats to the amazing choir singing familiar hymns.
One day I had a bunch of kids swim out on the original swimming noodle (bamboo) to say hello. I let them on the boat gave them an oreo and some juice and then they all pointed to SD and wanted a ride back in the dink. I loaded 8 screaming kids in and roared off to shore with a boat load of laughter!
The Indonesian government realizes the value of tourism and provided us with a english speaking guide who showed us all the places we could inject money into the local economy. He brought us to the capitol building to meet the governor and took us to the best places to eat which in this economy only cost $5 US per meal.
We did 4 dives with the local shop that when we purchased two dives he gave us two free with our own gear and showed us our first of many species in Indonesia including a frog fish! Macro diving is new to me and focusing on tiny critters is like a long game of wheres Waldo. Paul and Lisa did a great job finding tons of critters and took these amazing pictures and were nice enough to share them with me.
It was a sad day when Deb finally got the results from a mole she had removed in Davao. She would need further tests and have to fly back to France to get this procedure done and endure the 30 hour plane ride to get there. To make the trip even longer the day she was set to travel the high speed ferry to Bitung broke down and she found herself on the slow boat that would triple the time of the trip and arrive at 5 am for a 6 am flight! She made it by 15 minutes !!
Continuing South the next stop was another volcanic island of Roeang. We anchored on the east shore next to a fairly recent eruption (within the last 20 years). The diving in front of this lava flow had some of the best coral we had seen and had a slow tidal current that let us drift dive between the two dinghies.
On our third dive we were 20 minute in and 80 feet down when what sounded like a large ship rumble started and progressively got louder. I kept looking up wondering why a ship would be this close to land and saw nothing? Then the roaring pulse got even louder and we had to cover our ears to protect our eardrums. At this point we concluded it was not a ship but an earthquake and saw huge boulders bouncing on the ocean floor below us. Several huge 4 foot around sponge corals that we had just swam past began tumbling down the wall towards us almost landing on Paul! I was swimming next to a vertical rock wall and quickly backed away when debris started tumbling down. Paul shot to the surface and thought the volcano was erupting but to our relief he signaled that it was not. The water clouded quickly from huge amount of debris that tumbled down the wall and our next concern was the possibility of a tsunami since it was obviously a large quake. Thankfully this did not occur at our location because we would have had no chance getting to the boats in time.
The quake we later found out registered 7.3 on the scale and was centered just over 100 miles north of us. Through the rest of the dive we heard small tremors but nothing like the roar of the original quake.
While we were having fun diving this boat pulled up and 8 guys hopped out and began making small rocks out of big rocks with sledge hammers. The guys who did not get the hammer duty were filling sacks with the black sand. It took them a just few hours to load the boat and while the captain hauled the first load of sand and gravel to the main island the crew stayed prepared another load. I joked with Paul that we are lucky we got here early because the island will be gone in a few years!
I did not want to look like a lazy sailor while they were busy bust rocks so I got out the grinder and polished the dive tanks.
Another quick hop of 36 miles put us at the Southern tip of Bangka in a calm bay in front of “The Pain In The Ass Resort” The bay was over a mile across but the only place to anchor as a few hundred feet off shore on the east side close to the “Pain in the ass” resort since the rest of the bay had a choppy swell or was to deep to anchor in. We dropped the hook and were settled in and a small boat came out “The pain in the ass crew” and asked us to move because “Big Ship” coming in tomorrow. We tried the other side but when the wind picked up we found ourself 20 feet off the windward side of a shallow reef, not a place to get a good nights sleep! We moved back over to the resort side and were greeted agin by PITA crew but this time we negotiated and said if the ship arrives and we are in the way we will pick up anchor and leave and this seemed to be a agreeable solution. The next morning we woke to a boat moored between us slightly larger that Downtime and safely 100’s of feet away.
While Paul was filling dive tanks Lisa and I went to the island test flew the DCMI Drone to make sure it survived the many flights on the boat. The drone flew perfectly and we found out the pilot (Me) still has a depth perception issue when I unsuccessfully tried to fly around a coconut tree 80 feet away!
After a few more dives and a wake board session we headed south to Bitung and the Lembeh straits where more diving awaits!
We will be staying in Bitung and diving the many dive sites for the next few weeks and you can follow up on Lorelei’s blog for some amazing pictures of what we find diving together.
Out here still enjoying the dream! Peace, Capt. Pedro
Hawaii October 2014
There are a few times when I have I traveled in the past that I buy plane tickets that do not seem to make any sense and this trip to Hawaii was one of those times. I had originally planned to stay on only two islands, Oahu and Maui on this trip, but like everything else in my crazy life that changed.
The Mexico thing pushed my Hawaii thing a week and then Deborah wanted to see Maui and Lanai and finally Kauai. So my flight from Mexico took me first to Denver where I had left two big bags full of boat parts to spend a night and then to Oahu. Next I spent one night in a crappy little motel close to the Oahu airport with what looked to me like 200 other travelers were doing the same thing due to the fact that I arrived after the last flight to Maui left. Then there was one last quick hop and I got on a morning flight to meet Deb in Maui.
We arrived at the same time and set off for our first frustration of the day, the rental car company. We had 250 pounds of luggage and wrestled them to the shuttle stop it was then that we first noticed that it is damn hot in Hawaii this time of year! The line at the rental car company was ridiculous and out the door and I did not see any reason standing in line for an hour at Budget when there was nobody waiting next door at Hertz. 15 minutes later I pulled into Budget in a Hertz car and loaded up the bags into the first of the 5 rentals cars we would have during the next two weeks. Sometimes when I mess up it all works out and this was one of them since I actually did not have the car booked at Budget until the following day and our hotel was just minutes away and we made our switch into a Budget rental car number 2 the next morning. The best way I found to rent a car is to get on Price Line and name my own price. I can usually get a car for about $25/day. When you rent with a major credit card you will find you already have insurance as one of the card features, or simply tell your carrier to give you a rider before you leave home and save yourself $12-15/day.
Our travel plans were simple, to stay in a place a few days and then make a new plan. Nowadays with tools like Booking.com and Expedia you can find some great last minute deals on rooms and can be flexible on where you stay on the island. The first hotel we found was a place close to it all in a newly refurbished older hotel for around $100.
Maui is shaped like two 25 mile across islands joined together by a strip of land and is one of the few places they still grow sugar cane in the islands, both have dormant volcanoes rising 10,000 feet up in the centers. The North West shore is where most all the big resorts are and the southern part of the island is way less populated. The two big tourist draws are the famous “road to Hana” and Haleakala Volcano. On our second day we drove up to Haleakala, a beautiful hour long drive that takes you to the craters edge and right up through the clouds. The 7 mile hiking trail down into the crater takes a few hours and is well worth the effort. The trail steadily winds down to the bottom and I kept thinking while easily going downhill that the trip going back was not going to be very much fun at all. After 5 miles I stopped but Deb wanted to go the last two miles and all the way to the bottom to get shots of one of the many small craters that lined the caldera floor while I found a place to relax and read my kindle. It took all the water we were carrying to get us out after hiking the 5 miles back up hill. We were huffing and puffing and were both amazed as we were passed up by a 60 year old woman who told us as she sped by that she had just ran the Maui marathon the day before.
The next day we headed south to Hana and we enjoyed the drive taking lots of pictures along the way. We had stopped that morning at Whole Foods and brought a tasty picnic for along the way. The drive takes about 6 hours to make the loop around the south end of the island and there are several waterfalls and black sand beaches that must be seen along the way. The seven pools are located on the south tip of the island is a place that looked a little too busy for this sailor, but if you want to swim under a waterfall you should stop and take swim.
Heading back up the west shore the climate changes drastically and it becomes arid. The majority of the rain falls on the eastern shores of these islands as the clouds are lifted by the winds going over the mountains they drop their moisture. The west sides rarely gets rain and reminded me of pictures of the African savannah.
After a long day of driving we headed to the small town of Paia to pick up a surfboard Deb had her eye on and then grab a bite to eat. When we got out of the car and went to grab the backpacks they were nowhere to be found. Someone had lifted both our backpacks somewhere along the way! We had the car locked or the backpacks with us all except one short time when we stopped and took a picture of one waterfall, I noticed a car pull in next to us at that turnout but did not notice them even get out of the car. They must do this daily and wait till the unsuspecting tourist turns there back and then grab what they can. You think you are safe being in Hawaii, but I have heard many stories of thefts just like these in places where a fresh set of easy targets drive through every day.
Getting robed is a sickening feeling and the stuff we carry around is sometimes very difficult to replace. The item on top of that list in my bag was my passport that small book that has absolutely no value to anyone else in the world. At least I had my credit cards in my pocket and the rest of the stuff like cash was just painful to lose.
The first thing you need to replace a USA passport is a birth certificate. Luckily I had several copies of this document the only problem was they were several thousand miles away in either direction. One copy was on the boat in the Philippines and the other copy in my office in Kansas. Fed ex to the rescue! The second is to get to a US Post Office and get a passport application form. Next we chose to hire a agency to expedite the process and hired Fast port Passport to move the process along since our flight to Davao was leaving in just 10 days. We obtained the services and documents were on the way but it would be a few days before fed ex could get the birth certificate to where we were so we set off for two days to visit Lanai.
Lanai is a small island off the North West shore of Maui that until about 10 years ago was known as the pineapple island, it is now the one of largest private owned islands in Hawaii. We had planned to catch the 3:30 ferry which Deb thought left at 4:30 and we wound up on the 5:30 boat. Glad I am not the only one who has these issues with time and dates. The upside was that happy hour starts at 3 in Hawaii but the downside was that we would arrive after dark.
The plan for what it was was to get to Lanai and then take a bus to the only small town on the island and find a place to stay. The first and only bus I saw was going to the Four Seasons and the passengers he was waiting for must have missed the ferry. New plan Deb, I just talked to the bus driver and he called up and there was a room available at the Lodge at Koele. When I say room, it was actually a suite and one of the nicest rooms I have ever stayed. The Four Seasons experience is not soon forgotten, the bill will make sure of that! This location was amazingly beautiful, set up in the hills and landscaped to make you feel you were in one of the world’s great parks. The rain fell through the night and the morning sun burned of the mist of the 150 foot pine trees as we sat on the balcony overlooking the entrance. The central dining hall was in what felt like a huge family room with 30 foot tall stone fireplaces at either end. Towards the center there were couches surrounding the fire place and a grand piano softly playing and where we had desert after our delicious meal. Our breakfast was served a the same table and the morning light let us admire the beauty of our new backyard and its big pond with wild turkeys nibbling away at the grass around it.
In the afternoon we rented one of the last jeeps available on the small island and set off for a tour of this small island. The one and only blacktop road headed just 6 more miles east and down to the beach before branching in either direction along the coast in dusty two track. Some of the spots in the road were deep talcum powder and the dust went flying others had big mud puddles that tempted us to get this freshly washed jeep muddy. The mesquite trees provided cover for the deer and other wildlife that have been introduced here. Deer season is open year around and you can get permission bag 3 a day since the population has exploded to 17,000 or so. The other game is wild turkeys, rock quail and doves that also have no predators to keep their numbers in check. You can literally catch quail and dove with a butterfly net here since they have no fear of man.
In the morning we followed a dusty red clay dirt road and drove north from the hotel through the old pineapple plantations. On the north end of the island was a volcanic area named “Garden of the Gods” with places that looked like you were driving across the moon and then the road got really rocky and headed down to the beach. The jeep had decent off road tires but they were no match for the soft sand this beach had miles of. Within 15 minutes we were buried to the axles and stuck but by simply letting the tire pressure down to increase the tire footprint the jeep crawled out. With the tires aired down and twice as wide as before the jeep floated on the sand and we easily drove the few miles of coastline to the nearest shade tree and had a picnic.
We saw only 3 other people the whole day and felt like we had this slice of paradise all to ourselves for last two days. We checked out of our room the following day and had lunch in town but had to rush to catch the 4 pm ferry after making yet another wrong turn? We stopped for directions and were told of the “shortcut” make the first right turn, go past the solar farm and then left cross one road and then turn right. Darn jeep needs a compass for a sailor to tell where he is going I say!
We spent the next night at a 100 year old hotel right on the wharf in Lahaina which has the biggest banyan tree growing next door in the park we had ever seen. Kathryn at the front desk of the Best Western is an amazingly efficient person and got us checked in within minutes, we loved the retro style hotel. When you are in Hawaii and think you absolutely need stuff like jewelry, pearls or a souvenir to take home you in luck here in Lahaina and can fill that itch with at least 50 jewelry stores and 100 other shops to browse. It was our inside joke from then on and we would say “need jewelry”? Nope, thanks but I been to Lahaina!
We had my passport documents shipped to Kauai which would be our next island and had a flight booked for 4 that afternoon. I had left the two big bags in Oahu with a baggage service to baby sit so we just had our new backpacks and new huge surfboard bag to tote around. I dropped of the car and Deb spent the next hour checking into the 30 minute Hawaiian flight that would supposedly take us to Kauai. I met her at security and we proceeded to the gate that said Kona on it. Kona! That is not on Kauai it is on the big island! Damn did it again. For the next 30 minutes I tied up the only available Hawaiian agent getting this all sorted. Needless to say our luggage and two paid empty seats were on that way to Kona and two not so cheap seats had us on the flight to Kauai. But the bright side is that the surfboard and other bags will have been to all the major islands in Hawaii by the end of this trip, lucky them!
The race was on to see which birth certificate would show up first, the one from the Philippines had a two day head start but many more miles to go but the tracking number showed the one from the US took the lead and would be there the next morning. We had several l copies to make so in the morning went to the Sheraton business center at the resort next door and were making copies when who of all people walks in? The Fed ex Man! I asked if by chance had the envelope for me on his truck and he took me through the lower corridors of the hotel to the delivery dock and found my package and saved us both some time. I was finally feeling like I was going to get this new passport as we drove to the post office located in a small western town on Kauai. The lady that helped us went out of her way getting us an appointment to fill out and notarize the forms at the post office but frowned when we told her that we would send them fed Ex to New York. She kept telling me I had to take them to Honolulu, but I just said no thanks and I appreciated the help anyways. From there we rushed back to the airport to the Fed ex terminal and posted the package just to find out it would leave the island in 23 hours since the one and only plane of the day had just left. We were really cutting it close, but did all we could do so it was time to relax.
Our finding hotels on the internet had been working well so far and we logged on to Booking.com to find our next home for the night. We chose a lower end place with great reviews located on the east shore of Kauai for just under $100. It was not hard to see that we set our sights a little low right when we walked in but after staying at the posh Pour Seasons we thought how bad can it be right? Well, the first room we saw was located right next to the laundry and had zero view of anything but a wall outside, I went and told reception this was definitely not going to work and got a ”better” room on the 3rd floor. Again we thought how bad can it be right? The room was older than me and amazingly had zero ventilation at least the room on the first floor had a ceiling fan. The twin beds were shoved in the corner and I thought who-who were kids again! Next I walked into the bathroom which had enough mirrors to make feel like I was at the carnival and I actually had a hard time finding the door out! We toughed it out and tried it for the night, but by morning Deb had her bed dragged out onto the balcony and was literally sleeping outside and I woke in a pool of sweat saying pack the bags Deb I can’t do this $E%^T!
Back on the computer we found the Aston and for $20 more and for just over $100 you can stay in one of the nicest place we found in the islands! (Not Counting Four Seasons but that was not $100 either) Everything about the place was first rate from the staff to the location. The room had just been updated and had a nice king size bed and best of all AC! There were several local places to eat within walking distance and even a nice beach to relax on.
The surf report showed promise of a north swell and Deb was ready to try her new board out. We drove up to Hanalei Bay but arrived there to find the waves were huge and much bigger than she had rode before, but that did not stop her from getting out there and giving it a shot on some of the smaller sets. After surfing we headed to the small town and sat down for lunch just before the skies opened up and it began to poor down rain. We had an amazing view of the steep mountains that hug this coast and magically began seeing new waterfalls appear before our eyes from all the rain. In the end there were no less than seven waterfalls rushing down the steep mountain face. When we returned to our hotel we heard on the radio that the only bridge on the highway out that small town was threatening to be closed from the water leaver rising in the river. Later we found this little town lies just below one of the wettest spots in the world with over 700 inches of rain recorded last year.
We were on the road early the next morning to beat the afternoon showers for our visit to Waimea Canyon which is located on the west side (other side) of the island. This promised to be worth the drive and it was at the end the highway winds right up into the clouds to the top of the volcano. Just before the top you find yourself driving right next to a one of the biggest canyons in the islands that is over 4000 feet deep at points. The contrast in colors is amazing with the deep greens of the vegetation next to the bright red volcanic earth. The canyon is a beautiful place to explore where thousands of years of erosion have created another small wonder of the world. Hiking down into the canyon is a must but flip flops would not be my shoe of choice next time and hiking with the backpack with those things we were afraid could get stolen added a few more pounds, considering who really needs to take a laptop on a hike? Deb carried the roasted duck in her backpack that we bought at a Chinese market that morning and we had a nice picnic at the waterfall at the end of the trail.
Our hike ended none too soon and by the time we returned to the car the afternoon showers began. We continued north around the island and found ourselves on the longest beach in all the Hawaiian Islands.
We had been trying to book a helicopter tour the whole week and from we could tell the morning flight was the best since the rains started every day after lunch it seemed. We tried to get on a flight with no doors to get the best pictures but the Hughes 500 (the one they flew on Magnum P.I.) has a strict weight limit and we were 10 pounds over and that required us to buy 3 seats for something like $800! We passed on that and found our next best option was to get on a plane which turned out to be an amazing flight. Not only did the weather cooperate it felt like the sunshine was actually following us and we were able to see the very top of the volcano which was the wettest marsh lands on earth. You know you have had a great flight when the pilot keeps saying “I have not seen that in a while”. The crew at Wings Over Kauai showed us the best Kauai had to offer and were fun to fly with.
This was our last day in Kauai and from there we caught a flight to Oahu on Friday to go pick up my passport. Having triple checked our tickets that morning for time, date and destination we felt fairly confident we would see Oahu that afternoon.
It was our lucky day at the Hertz rental car place too, they did not have our class of car in stock so it was pick a car any car and have a nice day. We drove out in one of the biggest cars they had and Deb thought we looked like the perfect soccer parents.
Cliff the bag babysitter met us at the airport with the two bags full of parts and we loaded the back of the Ford Flex with 5 suitcases and a surfboard with no problem. My trusty 8 years old Motorola Android GPS led us strait to the Fed Ex office and soon I was holding a small blue “golden ticket” that would allow me back into the Philippines.
We then drove east over the mountains to our last hotel surprise in the afternoon rains. This Hotel was one of the places you find on the internet and wonder what angle they actually took the picture from when you arrive? The room was located on the bottom of the steepest driveway I been down in a while and had just a faint resemblance to what I had seen when I booked it. This was a higher end room price wise but the location had much to be desired being located down a busy residential road without any view to speak of.
The surf report showed flat conditions during this transition time of the year and famous breaks like Pipeline could be wake boarded over since they were so flat. We did a small island tour and found our Hawaii adventure was suddenly over and packed our bags for the long flight to Manila.
Of all the places I had been in Hawaii in the last years I find Kauai to be my new favorite. The “Garden Isle” has much to offer and has a little slower pace than some of the bigger islands. My next favorite would be the big island which I went to last year with its many miles of road to explore. You can find all varieties of activities and sorts of adventures here or put your feet up at the nicest resorts in the world. We stayed in all price ranges of rooms and all I can say is “You get what you pay for” with the exception of the Aston which was exceptional for the price. You can do Hawaii on as little or much as you want to spend and the best of all you’re speaking English, never that far away from the mainland and your phone still works!
Our Adventure continues in the Philippines so stay tuned,
Peace, Capt. Pedro
After another wild summer in the states I am finally back home aboard Downtime.
The summer of 2014 was just slightly less hectic that the previous and like last year I found myself traveling countless miles across the states.
I left the boat safely secured in Ocean View Marina again this year, a small marina which is located on Samal Island just a few miles south of the city of Davao on Mindanao Island, Philippines.
I booked my flight home with high hopes of sitting on the top deck of a 747, something I have had on my bucket list for quite some time. My first flight like many flights these days departed Davao for Manila slightly late and sadly just late enough for me to miss my connection in manila and consequently being able to sit in seat 16J on the top deck of that big east bound 747.
United made up for it by getting me a 1st class seat on a ANA flight with the fully flat reclining seats and very good food and fine looking flight attendants.
We touched down in San Francisco on our second approach 12 long hours later after one of the few go abound flights (missed landings) I had ever been on. From here it was just one last short flight south to San Diego where I was picked up by my younger son Parker and his wife Briana. A few hours later we were at Parkers house back in the small town of San Jacinto where I spent my teenage years. No big surprise that the word for the next day was “Jetlag”.
I was nice to spend a few days with my Daughter Cass and Parker back in the small town I had not lived in since I was their age. Later in the week we headed down to Glamis Sand Dunes a place only the insane go to in the summer time because the heat is up in the triple digits by 10 am. We unloaded the Wildcat and 4 wheelers at daybreak for a quick ride before going a few more miles to the Colorado River in Palo Verde for some wakeboarding fun.
The endless sand dunes in Glamis go on for miles in every direction and we were having a blast racing across them. It was strange to be out there and have no other traffic but the rising temperatures were the reason for that.
We went on one last ride and 15 minutes after Parker told me that I was the only one he felt confident to let drive his $20K side by side Arctic Cat Wildcat because I was one of the few people he knew with enough money to fix it, not necessarily for the fact that I was such a great driver then I crashed.
Funny, I had just asked Bri how my driving was and she gave me the thumbs up and said I was much crazier driver than Parker. Suddenly the Wildcat flew over a ridge and into a hole, Parker found Briana and me hanging upside down by the seat belts after making a wrong turn. Thankfully nothing was hurt but my pride and a few very expensive parts on the Wildcat. The next problem was to get this damaged machine out of the dunes with a blown rear CV joint and a folded up front A-Arm.
Parker and Bri went to find help on the 4 wheeler and left me with the wildcat and a small bottle of water. After an hour of baking in the sun I was thinking that was not such a good idea as the temperatures crept closer to the century mark and shade was nowhere to be found. Thankfully we had a GPS and he was able find me out in a place where all the dunes look the same.
Luckily the found some other heat loving dune riders out there who ironically they were off duty firemen from san Diego and with a job like theirs they did not mind the heat. One guy had a lifted F-250 diesel with huge sand tires and he simply drove out there as if floating over the sand and towed us back in.
At this point jumping in the river sounded pretty good and after being stranded in the desert for hours and then getting lost for a frustrating 45 minutes on our way to Tony’s. After stopping and asking for directions we finally found our way to my friend Tony’s camp in Cibola. Funny how we have been become so dependent on cell phones and GPS that we no longer even have a map in the car and find ourselves totally lost when they do not work? Cibola is a small community of desert lovers on the lower Colorado River and a place where you rarely get cell phone reception.
The weekend at the river was fun and relaxing but I all to quickly found my first week in the states had already flown by and found myself sitting on yet another plane, this time heading to Kansas on Tuesday morning.
I hopped into a rental car in OKC because my experience in the past flying Great Lakes Airlines into Liberal had just a 50% chance of getting me there. I drove north in Toyota Hybrid getting 37 MPG in some of the coolest weather I had ever experienced in all my 20 years of living in the Midwest. I rolled into Liberal 3 hours later in 70 degree drizzling weather. The previous years of drought were finally over and the crops were looking good from the recent rains.
It had somehow already been a year since I had been to the dairies’ but it did not feel like it at all much time had passed. The small town of Liberal still looked the same and the Wednesday night golf had a few new faces playing but it just did not feel the same. Thankfully the milk business was recovering and having a good year with feed prices finally getting back to normal with the promise of continues showers to finish off the crops.
I spent what seemed like a very long week in Kansas but unlike Dorothy and Toto in the Wizard of Oz I did not find myself saying “there is no place like home”. With the house that I raised the kids in long sold and gone and all three of my kids living in different states this left only the cows binging me back, but after 20 years of dealing with cows the appeal has long since faded.
With my first and only week of work under my belt I hopped a plane to New Orleans to go fishing with my good friend Jeff at J-Bar Lodge in Buras, LA. The Mississippi delta is one of my most favorite places on earth and fishing with Jeff a guy who can find Redfish most any day of the week makes it just that much more enjoyable.
I had the pleasure of riding in his brand new 25 foot center console Blue Wave with a big 300 HP Yamaha on the back. This equipment is a far cry from back in the day when we took out the 19 footer with the 100 HP Evenrude. We put over 200 miles on the boat that week finding fish and telling the old fish stories were still bringing on the laughs. Jokingly I would be casting of the front of the boat while fishing was slow, and say Jeff, when fishing is slow it was all about presentation, presentation, presentation… (which was mostly all crap) but then wham I would get a strike and we would start laughing all over again.
At one point we were crossing a huge bay and saw a few fish feeding on shrimp we slowed the boat and the next three casts landed three 10 pound Red’s, awesome presentation I would say!
It is always a good time staying at the J-Bar Lodge and listening to Lyn, (Jeff’s Dad) tell stories of cattle ranching in west Texas but the week of fishing was already over and my next destination would take me north to Springfield and visiting my brother Todd and his family at his lake house on Table Rock Lake.
I checked my ticket before heading to the airport something I have learned to do after showing up on the wrong day once, amazed I found had done it again! Somehow Tuesday and Thursday got mixed up but for a mere $650 I could change the flight! I passed on that and hopped in a rental car and toured Louisiana and Mississippi for the next 5 hours and drove to Springfield for under $150.
Luckily I was well rested by the time I got to the lake because standing in my little brothers shadow can be exhausting! We spent two days at the lake wakeboarding and enjoying his amazing lake house before hopping in a plane flying north back to Nebraska.
My oldest son had been living with Todd for that past few months going through some life changing growing pains. He is learning the dairy business after discovering life in sunny So. California is not always that sunny. Todd puts the people he trains to work for him through a tough training program that teaches all aspects of the business and it all starts on the bottom with walking many miles bringing the cows to the barn. It was good to spend time with Pete Jr. and talk about his new goals in life. I was proud to hear that by December he would be manager of one of these 4500 cow milk making machines.
Todd had a little project for his handy man brother and we spent the next afternoon bonding and building a chicken coop for his wife Mandy, a project I think he was waiting for me to show up for to help finish. It was fun but I told him that those are some lucky chickens because it was the last coop I would ever build!
Tuesday we walked the east of his two dairies outside of Columbus and put a few quick paced miles walking around with rubber boots on. (More work) Wednesday we hopped back on his plane and flew to Wisconsin to his other farm that his Son TJ manages. I had enough of rubber boots and cow $@$ and I chose to spent the next two days visiting with my Dad.
We hopped back in the plane and flew home Thursday and finished off the chicken coop, repacked our bag’s, had a nice dinner with the family and flew out the next morning to Las Vegas where he would drive his race car in the Vegas to Reno off road race, a grueling 500 mile off road parts smasher. The end result was Racecar 0, Rocks 1. Apparently hitting rocks at 100 mph knock brake calipers clean off a race car!
After an exciting weekend of racing I drove the rental car we had picked up in Vegas 350 miles back to California back to my son Parker’s town. Parker was all packed and I was ready to help move him and a trailer full of stuff all the way back to Wisconsin 2300 miles to the east! Parker would start his own training at Todd’s dairy in Wisconsin working with his cousin TJ.
The credit card had a workout buying fuel with 8 miles to the gallon but I would not have missed spending the week with Parker for the world. We took a few detours stopping in Kansas, and then back to Nebraska. The next stop was Inwood, Iowa to see my sister and her family and then a quick 60 miles out of the way to see an old friend and neighbor in Ames. After 4 days on the road we finally arrived in Clinton Wisconsin after driving through a 12 hour long rainstorm.
Two more days with Dad and I was west bound heading back to Kansas in a plane I just found out I owned part of! The cow business must be good!
I don’t know how many miles I traveled during those few months but it was way too many and I found myself looking for the light at the end of the tunnel. One more week long stop through Kansas and I would be on my way back to the boat, indirectly of course…
Everyone asks at some point how it is possible for me to do all this traveling and still have the cows. Well there is just one way this would ever be possible and that is Brian Hemann. Brian and I have been partners in the dairies for the last 14 years and I think he enjoys the big business part of it all as much as I do sailing.
The Mexico surprise has popped up the last few years and this year’s destination was Puerto Vallarta. If you remember last year it was the Baja 1000 that my brother asked me to come along and race with him. Puerto is a place where my new friend Deborah who will be sailing with me this season had lived a few years ago. She thought since she was heading west from France she should stop and see her old friends and dogs on her way to the boat. She asked if I would like to come and I thought “why not”? One more plane ticket change was not going to hurt at this point. I wound up changing that flight 3 times by the time I got back….
Being my first time in Puerto Vallarta other than a quick drive through to a Club Med many years ago, I was ready for some Mexican style adventure and relaxation. We got online for a rental car and found the unbelievable rate of $5 a day! I knew this was bogus and when it was all said and done it turned into $25 a day for decent car after insurance and other fee’s. We used Alamo and upon returning the car they tried to stick us with a damage claim for a scratch that was on the underside of the bumper! They had taken pictures of almost every angle of the car before we left so I asked to see the one of the bottom of the bumper. I played this game before and insisted on talking to the manager and sorting this out now. Lucky for us they missed taking that angle and I walked out the door saying “I will Remember the Alamo”!!
We had found a few places to stay on RBO and the first was a guest house right on the beach that had tree house feel to it, being built in the jungle on the side of a hill surrounded by trees and overlooking the ocean. The main house was just below and had 3 bedrooms and was located right on the beach.
We had some great pictures of Mexico that all got stole in the back packs in Hawaii so that is a bummer but here is a few we did find.
The next place we stayed was up the road in San Pancho, was our favorite of the 4 places we stayed. This condo was part of a three unit complex with the main house on the top level and two other units down the hill towards the beach. We stayed in the middle unit which had a nice outdoor kitchen, a huge air conditioned king size master suite and a semi-outdoor bathroom that had a giant 60 foot tree growing out the middle of it. It felt like you were showering in the jungle with wood rails set in one wall instead of windows that gave you a view of the ocean. Each unit had its own pool and on the first night we experience a powerful thunderstorm and watched it poor rain while the sky lit up with lightning. 500 yards down the beach was the small fishing/surf town of San Pancho and there were two nice restaurants where you ordered your margarita and meal with your toes in the sand. On our walk back to the condo we saw a green turtle crawling out of the ocean to lay her eggs. There was a group of people that were waiting until the turtle was done and then move in to dig up the eggs and place them to a fenced off sanctuary so they would be protected.
The last place we stayed was a 2 room condo in town. The location was good if there is such a thing in town? (no Beach out the back door) but it was much nicer than staying in some resort. After 4 days of city life we went back up the coast to a small resort closer to Deb’s surf break and dogs in a small town of Bucerias.
After a relaxing two weeks in Mexico and we were ready for the last stop, a stop we hoped would be as relaxing as Mexico in Hawaii but that will have to be for another story.
Next post will bring us to Hawaii were the adventure continues!
Util then, Peace Capt. Pedro