Monday, November 30, 2015

Hell in a Handbasket
By Michael

It seems every group of Pacific islanders
employs their own local boat. With so
much protected waters, this is what the
Tongans use. Almost no freeboard and
always seeming top-heavy. You're seeing
a sliver of a tiny island and I was
captivated by this home--doesn't show
up so well in this pic.
On Thanksgiving, we Skyped family and enjoyed some long chats. It was wonderful to hear everyone’s voices and to anticipate our pending visit, just a month away.
But also on the line was fear and a world’s-going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket kind of dejection.

I read the news, I know what’s going on in the world, but I don’t feel the same way. The attacks in Paris were horrific, police race relations are troubling, more gunfire in classrooms is agonizing. Yet these events and all the rest of the turmoil do not seem like a departure from the norm.

I was born in 1968. King, riots, Vietnam, Khmer Rouge, Kent State, Manson. I grew up during the Cold War, during the Iran hostage crisis, during bloodshed in Northern Ireland, hatred in South Africa, and Lockerbie. My generation of Salvadorans and Guatemalans and Nicaraguans came of age in a war zone. The Soviets tore up Afghanistan for a decade, the Iraqi oil fields burned like something out of the apocalypse following the first Gulf War, then Columbine, then 9/11, then we tore up Iraq and Afghanistan.
I’m writing from a country of barely 100K people. I don’t have a phone or television. I have vastly different inputs as a cruiser, fortunate to be living a peaceful daily life so far from it all. It must influence my perspective more than I can appreciate. Maybe it’s like the disparate impressions of the televised debates between Nixon and Kennedy.
I like how Obama put it the other day, about being careful not to overreact, about how the Paris attackers are simply social media savvy murderers wielding guns. Granted they are symptoms of larger social problems, ones we must tackle on our terms.

There is fear at home and it highlights not just how removed we are from that fear, but how different our perspectives are as a result. Our biggest threat is from Mother Nature, brewing a storm just to the north of us.
As I write this morning, birds and cicadas are singing loudly ashore. The girls are ashore too, by themselves, buying bread in Neiafu. From this side of the International Dateline, tomorrow has already happened, and I can assure you that it wasn’t as bad as it might seem from today. 
This is the supremely protected harbor of Neiafu. Most of the
cats in this photo belong to the charter company. Most of
the other boats in this picture are hauled out or gone now. We
literally have Tonga to ourselves. Anyone ever been the only
boat in Port Maurelle? It's our norm.
We walk by the pretty front yard of this Neiafu home everyday.
Sunset from Tapana Bay.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Video Only
By Michael

The Voyaging With Kids book experience highlighted for me how little video we capture. The eBook editor compiled hours of outstanding video for the book and regrettably, very little of it came from the Del Viento crew. And yet, the few videos we have taken during the past few years are great, I really enjoy watching them as they take me back in a way that photos do not. So, I’m determined to take more video and to share it here, bandwidth permitting. Following is a short clip shot recently from the bus in Pago Pago. We miss American Samoa.



Friday, November 20, 2015

It's Who You Know
By Michael

Our Torqeedo outboard is displaying
an error message I can't resolve. Until it's
fixed, we row or sail everywhere.
Windy is unfurling for the trip to Del Viento,
in the upper left corner of the photo, a
half-mile away.
And fortunately, I know Sara Johnson.

Quickly, for those of you who don’t follow the Wondertime blog, Sara and Michael and their two daughters are weaving an interesting life. They sailed from the PNW to Mexico in 2011, crossed the Pacific in 2012, cruised and settled for a spell in New Zealand, got residency, moved back to the PNW to try the house life for the second time in their married lives (they’ve lived aboard and cruised three different boats), abandoned said house life this year, and moved back to New Zealand to travel and explore the country in an RV.

All of which put them in the perfect position to be ready and available when an old cruising friend asked them to oversee the lux resort they own on a small private island in the Kingdom of Tonga…for almost three months.

All of which put the Del Viento crew, hanging in Tonga for most of this cyclone season, in a perfect position to hang out with the Wondertime crew late into the evening for their daughter’s birthday party a few nights ago.

We’ll be back in time for Thanksgiving dinner, cooking in a large, open kitchen in paradise.

In the meantime, we are preparing Del Viento to ride out a major storm (or storms) on a mooring in the relatively protected waters of the Vava’u group of islands. It’s unnerving. There is no discrete, perfect list of things we can do to guarantee a good outcome if Mother Nature unleashes on Tonga and Del Viento. It’s a matter of doing your absolute best with all the knowledge you have and can get from others, and then hoping for luck.

We’re prepping to attach two independent mooring lines to the boat via the anchor rollers, attaching both our anchors to the leads where they attach to the mooring blocks, and running last-resort, back-up lines through the bow chocks, around the mast, and down to the mooring.

And now for the rest of the story: We’re all headed back to the States in a few weeks to stay Christmas through Easter with our families. We’re leaving Del Viento unattended for a chunk of the season. Unattended for the first time since we began cruising.

Before we depart we need to remove the sails, the dodger, the solar panels, some running rigging, the kayaks, the dinghy, and everything normally attached to the rails. The spinnaker pole deck chock could chafe some of the lines we plan to run, so that’s coming off too.

We’ve got to prep our water tanks—If they’re filled with rainwater, how much chlorine bleach do we add to stave off yuck and yet not damage the stainless?—and make sure every locker is ventilated. We’ve got to eat all our food and open the fridge up. That's just a taste; Windy's making lists.

Then we can start being anxious about our uninsured home floating alone, thousands of miles from us.


Holly turning 7 at the Mandala Resort on Fetoko Island.
It could be worse.
A splendid place to hang with old friends.
And it's pleasant enough at night to enjoy a fire--though
it's supposed to get warmer as the summer months come.

This was our approach to the Vava'u group. The geographic
comparisons to the San Juan and Gulf Islands came immediately.
This little speck of a each is on the end of a small island that
I snorkel circumnavigated. I saw some things I've ever seen
and unfortunately didn't have the wet camera with me. We've got months
here though and I think we'll spend a lot more time exactly here.
These clothes are for sale. Someone hangs them here daily, in
Neiafu. Haven't seen the salesperson, but I think these are her kids.

Walking past a couple high school girls. That's the big Catholic
church in the background.

School kids catching a ride back out of Neiafu to home.

One of the highlights of my week was receiving a copy of
the book I wrote, brought to me by one of my co-authors. This
thing's been selling for a couple months and I've heard nice things
from so many folks who've all seen it before me. Weird.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Timing is Everything
By Michael

Watching American Samoa go by from
a bus window.
Poor Eleanor.

As our stay in American Samoa was extended by Dengue Fever, waiting for a weather window, and our being totally charmed by the place and reluctant to leave, Eleanor grew increasingly anxious.

“Are we going to be at sea for my birthday? What about Halloween?”

Windy, our weather guru and route planning officer, hesitated, “I don’t know, we’re going to have to wait and see—but it’s possible Eleanor.”

Eleanor was scheduled to turn 12 on the 29th, two days before Halloween. It would be a two-and-a-half-day passage from American Samoa to the Kingdom of Tonga. She watched the calendar carefully.

A weather window appeared, we were all healthy, and our business in American Samoa was over. It was Wednesday the 28th. Windy declared it time to go.

“Worst birthday ever.” I joked.

“DAD! Seriously, my birthday’s going to suck.”

Windy leaned in to assure. “We’ll still celebrate.”

“But Tina and Shane won’t be there—and we’re going to be at sea for Halloween…”

I saw an opening, “Being at sea will be better than being in Tonga, they don’t celebrate Halloween there.”

Underway to Tonga, Frances
writing in one of her journals,
wearing Halloween cat ears.
“What? Dad, stop.”

So the first 24 hours, force four on the beam, passage heaven. The next day, we woke Eleanor with a couple gifts and I made a special birthday breakfast with eggs and the veggie sausage we were able to buy in American Samoa. Windy chopped up a fresh Papaya. Then things went downhill.

In the middle of making the lemon tart that Eleanor requested, we ran out of propane. I’d gambled that we’d have enough to get us to Tonga.


“It’s okay, your birthday’s over anyway.”


“We just crossed the International Date Line; it’s now the 30th.”

“Mom, seriously?”

“Uh, yeah. Tomorrow’s Halloween.”

“Uhn…my birthday’s gone…and how are we going to trick-or-treat?”

“We have candy.” Windy said.

“But there are no other boats.”

“Just keep coming back to us,” I suggested, “‘Trick or treat! Trick or treat! Trick or treat!’”

“Oh my god—worst birthday ever, and worst Halloween.”

I’ve got to say that Eleanor’s a trooper, that most of her sentiment is tongue and cheek. In fact, I think she thinks it’s kind of cool that she got to celebrate her birthday under such exotic circumstances.

“Next year can we at least sail the other direction so I can have two birthdays—or two Halloweens?”


Frances walking along a pretty stretch of coastline
near Pago Pago.

Viewing Leone from remnants of an abandoned home.
This will be the last year Windy is taller than her oldest child.

A rugged stretch of coastline.
So far, the only photo of me I public wearing one of my
lava lavas.

The girls discovering a puddle with thousands of pollywogs
on a hike with Britney and Matt of Tipsea.
Underway to Tonga, Frances looking for hidden candy. We
did an onboard Easter-Halloween mash-up in lieu of
The birthday girl underway, enjoying fresh papaya from a
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...