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DOMINO 20 2019-12-12 10:52:00


Neptune must love us.  He welcomed us back in the water with wide open arms, blowing kisses and slapping our backs, with tears of joy and an all-nighter to remember!

November 26, 2019
San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico

It was a quiet afternoon, we had just anchored in San Carlos Bay, waiting for morning to fuel up and start our Mexican Riviera cruise.  True to our habit, we shunned the marina, its noise and forest of masts,  much happier in the bay, looking at the stunning “Tetas de Cabra” (Goat Teats) twin peaks, San Carlos’ postcard signature.  Our first night on the water in a year was perfect, until we took the weather report.  Ooops! Another Thanksgiving weather bomb was coming: a storm from the Pacific NW coast was swamping California and another storm SE of Mexico was churning up the Mexican coats.  Soon, we heard gale advisories for the Gulf of California.  We stayed put, anchored in 10’ of water over sand bottom.

By afternoon, the SE wind was ramping up into the 30’s.  San Carlos Bay is quite well protected from the swells and although it started getting sloppy-choppy, we weren’t worried.  Still, I kept an eye on our position, that’s my job on board… until I noticed that DOMINO was lying at 90 degrees from the other boats.  That’s a sure sign we were dragging anchor.  

Time for another Chinese Fire Drill!  JP fired up our twin John Deere 300 and I rushed to the foredeck, kissed by 35 knots of wind and buckets of driving rain.  It took some maneuvering to get us out of the jam: in these shallows, the chain had jumped over the bow roller and twisted all around it. Maneuvering any boat at low speed in high winds is a difficult task.  It took all of JP’s fine touch at the controls and his patience trying to understand the frantic hand signals that I invented on the spur of the moments to communicate a never-before encountered situation!  But team works always gets us through and we managed to disentangle that half-inch chain from the bow roller without ripping out my shoulder or cutting off my fingers (my absolute worst fear when working on deck) … and off we were to find a better anchorage.

NAVIGATION NOTE for San Carlos Bay.
– Anchorage in the shallows at the north end of the bay: not good holding, lots of grass (on which we slipped, we found out)
– Anchorage at Tomate (west end): not recommended, lots of abandoned moorings, poor-holding soft mud with junk scattered at the bottom: cement blocks, old chains… 
– Better anchorage in the middle of the bay  27*56.802N – 111*03.682W in 20-25’ of water, sand bottom… but can be patchy.  Test your anchor thoroughly, back down on it strongly.

Re-anchoring in a storm is never fun, even in warm weather.  JP found a new spot in the center of the bay, and we dropped anchor again, bridle again (that must be a quick maneuver, before the cat goes sideways!).  But upon backing up and applying tension on the anchor and chain, we started backing up… no go!  Up-anchor again, find a new spot, down-anchor again, bridle again, tension again: still blowing 35 knots, raining buckets,  but we are holding.  Time for a hot shower, a gallon of hot tea, deep breaths, and more anchor watch.

As night fell, the weather reports were damning.  Expect the conditions to worsen overnight!  So, we set up all our on-board anchor watch devices: Furuno, i-Sailor for iPad, Drag Queen app, and took turns.  JP can sleep through a storm, I can’t.  But we were holding pretty well, until the wind jumped to 45 knots and we backed up 15 yards!  I was biting the last of my remaining nails.  The boat anchored behind us started to look a bit close, but everything looks closer at night.  That boat was horsing wildly, fore and aft, right and left, so wild that it was hard to determine our relative positions.  But our on-board instruments showed that we were stable, hooked again. 

Panic call on the radio: “ALL SHIPS! ALL SHIPS!  I’ve just been hit by a dragging boat… 50’ blue-hulled Gulf Star.”  Time to keep our eyes open.
I was livid.  Never had I encountered such high winds for so long.  All night at 35-45 knots had me in a panic.  JP was checking on me every so often, not showing any worry —he never doe— but I kept asking, “How are we to re-anchor at night in such conditions.”  Thankfully, many of my Captain friends stood vigil with me, from all over the world.  Holly Scott from her boat in Tahiti, Philip Duss from his digs in South Africa, Steve Wedi from his trawler in Baja California, and more friends from Oregon, Paraguay, Florida… Holly shouted her FB command, “DON’T MOVE!” as she was reviewing the i-Sailor track we were recording… We stayed put, and finally, by 5 AM, the wind abated a bit, in the low 30’s, and I went to bed, reeling from another party night with Neptune.  I never thought that Facebook Friends would keep me going through hell night… time to get rid of that old SSB?

In the morning, the rain stopped and the wind dropped below 30 and we were treated to a splendid, fresh-scrubbed view of the bay.  

Fresh-scrubbed also was DOMINO, power-washed from her grime accumulated during a year on the hard, ready to take on some more!  But we would have to wait two more days for the wind to switch to the north, the 10-14’ SE swells to come down, for us to attempt the crossing of the Golf of California (Sea of Cortez), famous for its short, slapping 4-second waves that make any crossing a possible disaster.

This was a night to remember, one of the most difficult we ever encountered, another reminder that we are only 30 seconds from disaster.  Indeed, in the morning, we found that 50’ Gulf Star sailboat beached at the bottom of the bay, and it would stay there, battered by waves, for another two days before being towed back to anchor.

A humbling experience, a stern reminder from King Neptune to be always vigilant, always prepared, and to obey his rule!  

PS—- PICKLEBALL!   Oh yes, there is a wonderful pickleball community in San Carlos, great courts at El Mirador, above Marina Real.  We checked them out… on a rainy day!!  But they do have tournaments, clinics, some coming up in January.  Check it out!

Until next time…


Cruising Again


Puerto La Cruz, Mexico
December 10, 2019

Never say never!  We are back on board after a year off the boat, a much-needed break after 9 years of full-time cruising and almost 55,000 NM.  But it’s a strange feeling to be back on the water: everything moves!!! How quickly did we forget!

  SO… what happened, where have we been, what of DOMINO?

After 13 years of vagabonding, we realized we were getting a bit older (well, not JP, just me) and that it was time to plan for the next 30 years or more.  That was a very hard decision.  JP would love to finish his life on the boat, cruising around, but I was starting to miss “something,” didn’t really know what, but life on board had suddenly become “short” — short on family and friends, mostly.  

Fooling around with grandchildren in Vanuatu

Company on board is an issue on which we were totally mistaken when we started cruising.  We should have been talking with seasoned world cruisers instead of landlubbers and would-be-cruisers.  We thought we would be swamped with visitors, friends, family, guests who would love to spend a week cruising exotic waters.  It all looked so romantic, extravagant, somehow “special!”  It turned out that visitors were quite rare.  Even now in Mexico, close to home, visitors are not showing up.   Why?—and this is a point to consider when you buy a boat and decide to go passage-making. 

Grandaughter Zoe and her best friend Q: thank you. parents, for trusting us and giving your kids this amazing time!

We can think of several reasons:
– Young people are still working, kids have school and sports activity, and in general have very little vacation time; 
– Offshore destinations are far from the mainland.  It often takes a day or 2 to get to the boat, and another 2 days to get back, 4 days of travel out of a 10-day vacation? A waste, in many people’s opinion;  
– Cost of an airline ticket… for sure!
– Planning: do we know for sure where the boat will be in 3 or 6 months?  Can we guarantee that we will be on time at the rendezvous point?  Most people plan their vacation way ahead of time;
– Retirees – We still have hope for them to show up!

In Fiji: These girls will never forget that Grandpa can actually provide coconut milk!
We have been lucky, though.  Our kids have made the effort to send the grandkids over, parting from $$$ and the emotional ties that bind the mother to the child.  
– Will my 7-year old be OK without mom and dad?  
– Will cousins get along

      Many of our guests were on-the-spur-of-the-moment happenings: 
– a stop in Washington DC
– a halt in Myrtle Beach
– a honeymoon leg in Panama, 
– a plane stop-over in Fiji, 
– a lunch in  Maui… 

Or planned… thankfully, 
– a week with our sisters on the Chesapeake, 
– and 10 days in The Tuamotus and Marquesas with our Tahitian friends, good sports and great company.  

Celebrating our 47th anniversary, all alone, in Rongelap, Marshall Islands

But overall, we were just a crew of 2.
Passagemakers as R. Beebe had described in his first book, and validating the need for a simple boat, with only one head and one stateroom.  It all makes sense now.  Is it just us?  Do we smell? Is my cooking awful or our bunks that impossible? Not really… we have met the similar comments from our world-cruising buddies.  Cherish the visits, because they truly are few and far between.

Walking the rim of a live volcano in Vanuatu… unforgettable!

But back on land… pointedly, where were we going to land?  We left the boat on the hard in Marina Guaymas, Mexico, and took a bus to Tucson AZ where we bought a car and did the only sensible thing: go cross-country to find a landing spot.  

Boat was sold… we thought… and off we were to our new home, The Villages..
oops… shouldn’t have counted our chickens!

California? Our old stomping grounds of Huntington Beach had become too pricey and too crowded; Prescott, where grandchildren are oh-so-sweet?  Too cold in winter, too dry;  Houston, where quilting friends would be fun to hang out with? Too big a town; Louisiana? Alabama? North Carolina? No appeal;  West Palm Beach, where we already had ties? Oh, no appeal there either.  A bit discouraged, we turned around and stopped in Orlando, had heard of this retirement community, The Villages, and I suggested it to JP… “Old people? No way, not for us!”  But it was a cold and rainy January day, I was tired of riding in the car for so long, and JP indulged my whim once more: The Villages was our next stop.  Well, it didn’t take long for us to jump into the lifestyle with both feet: heated pool in the heart of winter, golf carts all around, entertainment, and… PICKLEBALL!!!  And friendly people, most retired, all transplants, all eager to meet new friends… this was for us!  But not yet; we had to go back to the boat in Mexico and do the yearly maintenance.

Kiribati (AKA Gilbert Islands)… so remote!

DOMINO’s Maintenance for 2019.
It didn’t matter that DOMINO passed our potential buyer’s survey with flying colors.   After so much time on the water, JP had decided to give our girl a good make-over.  This was the perfect spot to do it: the Mexican state of SONORA is “Zona Libre,” a region where there is no import duty on goods from the US.  So, we loaded our Acura MDX to the max, and off we were.

Family in Tucson helped us load the MDX with a full load!
– New ODYSSEY batteries:  6 x 1800 house bank= 1280 AHR @ 12v or 640 AHR @ 24v.  and and 3 starting batteries (2xPC 1200 for engines & 1x PC1200 for Genset);
– New solar panels with 70% more power (4×280 Watts);
– Complete maintenance of all engines, pumps, impellers, oil change, etc..;
           – HRO water maker: complete inspection by HRO dealer.  Change ceramic seal on booster pump, no other service needed;
– SureSeals: install 3 new seals on starboard shaft; port side on next haul out;
– Refrigeration: professional inspection and service of freezer and fridge;
– Windlasses Maxwell 4000, both of them entirely refurbished; new seals, bushings, inspected and cleaned. Like new, now good for another 10 years or 800 anchorages!
– Anchoring: galvananize-paint both anchors, install additional bow roller for better stability underway;
– Cabin sole:  re-finished the wood floor;
– Stove: all new burners (yes, I cook a lot!)
– Fridge-freezer: Re-finish lid insulation, re-paint;
– New displays: MAGNUM inverter, SIMRAD autopilot;
– Tohatsu 18 HP outboard: entirely inspected and refurbished;
– Bottom paint, of course!

King JP in the Marshall Islands…. 

Does that seem like a lot?  Well, JP thought we would cruise another 20 years and really wanted Big D. to be ready for it.  And, if we don’t find a buyer, maybe we will be cruising another 20 years, half-and-half, sun-birds in Florida in the summer, Mexican Riviera cruisers in winter… who knows?  But DOMINO is ready for anything!
We are taking her along the Mexican Riviera for the season, and how sweet is she!!!

Marshall Islands, Rongelap Atoll – JP confiscated my paddle and is towing me back to the boat…
our 47th anniversary celebration

And many of you ask… “Didn’t you sell her?”  We thought so… our broker thought so… our buyer really wanted town her until, 24 hour before close of escrow, the buyer changed his mind.  Why? we will never know for sure.  It’s all conjecture at this point.  We have been mulling this over for several months now and we have a few thoughts we’d like to share with would-be cruisers.  

47th anniversary celebration… all by ourselves

Questions to ask yourself before buying a Passagemaker*
– Do I want to cruise the world? Am I willing to cross oceans? 
– Do I have time to do this? If still working, even part time, can I really commit to it, knowing that any Transpac will take 10-15 days?
– Am I ready to swing at anchor on most days or do I need the support of a marina?
– Do I have the financial resources? It’s not just buying the boat, but also maintenance and budget for the cruising time.  In other words, am I financially independent or do I need to work to support this lifestyle?

Our adventurous grandkids in Vanuatu – 
         – Is my spouse OK with this?  This is a team adventure.
         – How much of a handyman am I? Mechanics, electrical, electronics, fiberglass, paint… am I ready to slide under an engine and get my hands oily or do I rely on specialists for an oil change? Can I read a technical manual and make sense of it?

We never had a wedding cake-cutting … on our 47th anniversary, it was a must!

We have seen many wannabe cruisers be unable to actually manage a boat once far away from home.  So, the question is, “are you able and ready?”

So many sunsets!

Perhaps this has been a sobering post.  Perhaps we’ve tried to convey what we have learned in the last 13 years, our errors, our dreams, our successes, but we wanted to share, once more, absolutely sure that building this powercat was the right choice, that cruising the way we did was a total success and our lives have been richer in the process, wishing all of those who dream of such a life to go ahead and do it… do not wait, go cruising, with the right boat and the right partner.


Remember, life is short… live your dream… NOW!

All 45 flags out… feeling the joy in Majuro, Marshall Islands

Until next time…

* PASSAGEMAKER definition   A simple power boat, with economy and range, capable of crossing any ocean, simple enough to be operated by a couple who is not necessarily a professional mariner, with enough room to accommodate occasional guests.  



December 1, 2018
San Carlos, Mexico

We often get asked, “How is it to cruise on a powercat versus a monohull?  Don’t they flip all the time? Aren’t they more expensive to operate?  How about room at marinas?”  These questions, I must precise, come 100% from US and Canadian would-be-cat owners, as Kiwis and Aussies have long-embraced powercats as mid-and long-range platforms of choice.  But, for some obscure (or, perhaps, not-so obscure) reason, North-American boaters seem to have a deep distrust and misconceptions of powercats.

This distrust comes, we believe, from large-production powercats designed primarily for the charter business.  For economic reasons, these yachts pack 3-4 cabins and 3-4 heads on a small platform, the hulls being wide enough to accommodate guest berths, and on short hulls to minimize marina cost.  It’s basic: short + wide hulls = poor performance.  Typically, these boats slam in head seas, plow at any speed, and have a short range of 500-800 NM.  They are wonderfully perfect for a week charter in the Caribbean or the Mediterranean, but totally unsuitable for trans-oceanic passages.  And so, the delivery skippers who must bring these boats from the constructor (European or South African) to the US market have a terrible ocean-crossing experience: the boat slams, the performance is poor, and the skipper is on edge the entire trip.  No wonder powercats have such a bad rep!  All it takes is a few negative comments from exhausted, all-knowing, professional delivery skippers to sow seeds of doubt into the yachties’ minds, and who can blame them?  But let’s not compare apples to oranges.  Charter yachts are wonderful for their application: a week or two of short cruise for 3-4 couples who want to have fun.  Small powercats with short-to-medium range are also wonderful to do the ICW or the Great Loop, to cruise the Med, to remain around New Zealand.  But they are not – I repeat, NOT – to be compared with the very few trans-oceanic powercats.  Of course, our DOMINO is such a ship, as others such as the newly-refurbished November Rain (another Malcolm Tennant design.) 

Fifteen years ago, we embarked on a journey with one main goal: to prove that a well-designed powercat was a very desirable cruising platform: faster, more fuel-efficient, safer, more comfortable,  more stable than any monohull in the same price bracket, with a go-anywhere and self-sufficient mentality.  We have cruised almost non-stop for 9 years, clocked 53,000 NM through 45 countries, completed 3 Transpacs, ditched a dozen hurricanes and shouldered a rogue wave, dropped anchor some 800 times, and—we think—have proven the point: powercats are a more desirable long-range cruising platform than monohulls.  I know we will not convince many people, especially in the US and Canada, but this is not about convincing anyone; we just wanted to share our final thoughts at the end of an incredible ride.  

Speed and Versatility – While the majority of monohulls cruise at 7-9 kts, our average speed over the entire 9 years has been 10 knots.  Sometimes we troll at 7.5 knots, and sometimes we run at 12 knots, sometimes we run away at 20 knots.  This power allows us to pick our departure and arrival time, wait for the latest weather report to decide on our route and dodge hurricanes.  

Fuel economy – DOMINO’s hull:width ratio is close to 16:1, which means that we have no hull speed.  We don’t need to unleash insane amount of power to go over our bow wave.  We have no bow wave, no wake.  As Malcom Tennant used to say, we “DISPLANE,” which is neither displacement nor planing, but rather a lifting of the entire hull once we hit a certain speed: at about 15-16 kts, the hulls lift about 15cm and the boat just flies.  It’s a sight! 
 As such, our fuel economy is (in moderate seas, at almost full load)
  • at 10 kts (1050 rpm), less than 5 gph  (better than 2 miles/gallon)
  • at 7.5 kts , 1.8 gph 
  • at 20 kts (2100 rpm), 24 gph
I’ll let you do the math and compare to a monohull’s performance.

Safety – Most monohulls come with only 1 engine. Some have a get-home engine, others have a sailing rig.  In most cases, this is OK, but how fast can a boat move on these minimal get-home systems? Will they get you home? Will the small engine be strong enough to push you against a nasty blow? Will the wind blow in the right direction to actually sail you home?  As for us, we felt much safer having two big John Deere 300 HP engines.  If one fails, the other one is able to keep us going at 7-8 knots for 8,000 NM!

We have seen very few trawlers in the South Pacific.  A few Nordhavn, all larger than 62’, and the excellent Reel Dreams (A Kadey Krogen 48-I think- with wind diesel engines) –  I know that smaller monohulls have made it around the world (EGRET) and I recall my favorite Nordhavn 57, BAGAN, making it to Tahiti, as well as some Rohmsdahl and Diesel Ducks, but compared to sailing yachts, very few motor yachts under 65’ cross from North America to the South Pacific.  I’m not sure why; perhaps few of us have a true spirit of adventure; or perhaps very few feel safe on a small boat.  Yet, we have safely crossed three times:
  • Galapagos to Marquesas and beyond (3,000 NM)
  • Marshall Islands to Midway to Hawaii (2800 NM)
  • Hawaii to La Paz (2800 NM)
(We were well underway from the Marshalls to Alaska —a 4,000 NM crossing— when a major storm forced us to ditch towards Hawaii!)

What about rolling over?  This may be the biggest objection we hear.  Cats capsize all the time!”  This is far from the truth for powercats.  It is true that some racing sailing cats push the envelope, over-canvassing their rigs, and some very famous yachtsmen have been lost that way; others under-laminate their hulls for the sake of performance, rendering them very fragile, and we indeed heard a PAN-PAN in Hawaii a few weeks ago to rescue a holed racing cat: the hull had delaminated and repeated beam-sea impacts holed the hull.  But it is not so with long-range powercats, and especially not of Tennant’s CS hull design.  These hulls have been tank-tested and never capsized.  Last month, while returning to Maui after escaping Hurricane LANE, we were surfing 10-12’ seas when a rogue wave appeared to starboard: a white wall, foaming and taller than our ship, slammed us.  To JP’s amazement, DOMINO tilted to 45* one way, slid a bit, tilted to 45* the other way, and went on surfing while shaking the white foam and green water from the flybridge.  I dare any monohull to behave as well as this powercat!  
And what if we had flipped?  We would not have sunk as this ship is un-sinkable, with multiple watertight compartments.  How would a monohull behave in such situation?  This is an open question.

Rooms with a view – Like their sailing cousins, powercats have spacious common living decks with large windows and amazing views.  In our case, we also elected to have our stateroom on the main level so that we never need to go up or down stairs for activities of daily living.  This one-level living has saved our knees and prevented accidental falls.  So, yes, we do consider this arrangement safer than any up-down set-up typical of a monohull.

No stabilizer needed – When we first considered a design, mono-vs-multihull, stabilization was our main concern.  I didn’t feel comfortable with handling paravanes, especially close to shore (crab pots) or in large seas.  We also were a bit concerned with draft associated with active fins sticking out from under the boat, a danger in reefy spots.  At the time, water ballast wasn’t an option, but our friends Wayne Hodgkins and Christine Kling are building their MOBIÜS aluminum monohull with water ballast, and we like that.  This said, catamarans have no need for stabilizer.
What with beam seas?  Haaaa. Beam seas!!! Tell me who enjoys 8-10’ beam seas?  While a sailboat will likely be fairly steady (but tilted at an angle) a powercat will sway, a short roll— tic-toc — but yes, it will roll and won’t be comfortable.  I have no idea how a monohull will behave in such seas, not having had the experience… so, you tell me!  I don’t think any of us enjoys beam seas: we wedge ourselves in and wait patiently for it to be over.  I must admit that DOMINO, being taller and narrower than ordinary cats, has a tendency to roll a bit more than others in beam seas.  However, its height prevent it from slamming.   That’s right, NO SLAMMING!

No slamming – That’s another complaint about catamarans, both sail and motor: slamming.  Again, this is a function of hull design and weight distribution.  Now, I’m not a designer and we trusted Malcolm Tennant and Eng. Anthony Stanton to come up with anti-slamming designs.  I’ll try to summarize in layman’s terms (please, be kind!)  The  knuckle first disperses the energy and lifts the boat; then, the “gullwing”-shaped wingdeck absorbs and disperses the wave’s energy through the tunnel, lifting the boat even further… at least that’s how I think it works.  DOMINO’s wingdeck is really high over the water, providing plenty of air-cushion space.  I’m not really sure how this magic of physics works, but all I know is that we don’t slam.

Shallow draft – Get close to shore without fear!  Our 4-5’ draft (depending on load) allows us to go where others can’t.   The Ragged Islands are notorious for their shallow waters? No problem!  Going over shallow reefs?  Carefully, but no problem.  Besides, the sacrificial wooden skegs provide the hulls with added protection.  And, without stabilizers sticking from their bottoms, powercats can really go shallow.  

What about maintenance?  Do powercats cost more than monohull trawlers?  
– Engines – With 2 engines, it makes sense that a powercat would be costlier to maintain than a one-engine trawler.  Yet, monohulls who have a get-to engine must maintain that engine as well or it may not get them home when needed; those with a sailing rig must also keep the rig in shape.  The comparison with a twin-diesel trawler is moot.
  While monohulls must maintain paravanes and/or active fins, keep their bow thrusters (and in some cases stern thrusters) in working order, powercats have no need for such devices.  So, cross that off the maintenance list.
– Oil changes are a function of miles traveled.  With a Reverso system, oil changes are a snap and cost of oil is not really an issue in maintenance.
– Fuel filters are a function of fuel quality.  Having a large capacity matters.  It allows the vessel to fuel up only at high-volume fuel docks.  Mono- or multi-hull, that’s the same issue.  In 9 years, we have not ever loaded any bad fuel, never had a drop of water in our fuel.  We stop at the pump only once or twice a year and change our filters once a year.  
– Fuel cost is a function of miles travelled and fuel efficiency.  As stated above in the fuel economy section, we are convinced that (efficiently-built) powercats cost less to operate than monohulls.  And I make this distinction: efficiently-built; many powercats have been designed to perform, yet once at the building yard either the builder or the owner or both start cutting corners by not respecting the specs (i.e. using timber instead of foam) and start loading the vessel with show-stopping items (i.e. marble, full panels of cherry wood, heavy chairs, etc…)  I’ve heard designers complain over and over again about it, their carefully engineered design now turned into a luxurious but sluggish tub.  
– Haulouts are similar, every 18 months to 2 years.  The cost of grinding and painting is equivalent.  Yards vary in their storage pricing policy and, on the average, we haven’t found a very significant difference (here, in San Carlos, all yachts pay the same price.)

All the advantages that we find in powercats — speed, fuel efficiency, safety, comfort, versatility— have convinced us that they are superior world-cruising platforms.  Yet, there MUST be some downsides, right?

Right!  Marina cost –  A 65’ yacht is not easy to berth, be it a monohull or a powercat.  They usually end up on an outer dock or an end-tie, and these are few but not impossible to find with a bit of advanced notice.  Since the price of berthing is per foot, yes a long boat costs more.  Sometimes we pay 50% more because of the width, sometimes not.  This said, we hardly spend more than a week/year at a marina, being totally self-sufficient and having no need for marina services.  We just anchor out! (In New York City, the marina wanted $400/day to berth us… we anchored for free for a month in front of Liberty State Park, free dinghy dock included, no neighbor, no noise!)

Pioneering – This reluctance to powercat was just brought up to my attention.  While there is plenty of info on cruising oceans on a monohull, there is hardly any write-up on crossing oceans on a powercat (in spite of my last 9 years of reporting.)  Frankly, I don’t see the difference.  The sea is the same, the conditions the same, and powercats’ higher speed capability allows them to thread through narrower weather windows (see our blog on TRANSPAC III as we ducked ahead of Hurricane WILLA.) 
When we splashed in 2009, we had never been on anything larger than our 21’ ski boat, had never spent a night on a boat, never been offshore, let alone crossed an ocean.  We learned, one day at a time.  We’ve done all the powercat pioneering and blogged about it, the good, the bad and the ugly!  So have our friends on NOVEMBER RAIN, now refurbished as a fantastic fishing charter based out of Vanuatu and New Zealand.

Few Powercats to choose from   Long-range powercats are few and far between.  Most of them are custom- or semi-custom built or one-offs —Sunreef and a few Aussies being the exception.  They are seldom seen at marinas for a good reason: they are out cruising!  In the end, these marvelous yachts remain unknown, almost mythical.  They quietly cruise the world in economy and comfort.

I first blogged about powercats on December 17, 2007.  That’s eleven years ago.  Since then, the page has logged over 600,000 reads.  JP and I hope that we have somewhat de-mystified the Passagemaking Powercats and encouraged a few of our readers to consider them as their next cruising platform.

For the love of powercats….

till next time,




Coasting along 

November 29, 2018
San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico

HECTOR, LANE, MYRIAM, NORMAN, OLIVIA, WALAKA… and then, WILLA! this was our hurricane train during our Hawaiian season and we had to play dodge-ball.

If anything else, we ate healthy foods! Say, ‘Poke?”

It took me a while to recover from our season in Hawaii, possibly the most difficult in the last 9 years of cruising.  As I mentioned in my first Hawaiian blog, protected anchorages and few and far between and marinas are full, unable to accommodate large transient yachts like ours (except for a few very expensive private marinas, some of them not even allowing stay-aboard.)  So we kept a weary eye on the weather and kept hopping around.

Checked that on my bucket list: Learned traditional Hawaiian quilting!

As soon as HECTOR dissipated, we headed south of Honolulu to Molokai.  
Lono harbor – 21*05.161N, 157*14.925W – used to be a commercial harbor for ships transporting gravel out of Molokai has fallen in disrepair since the quarry has been shut down.  It is nothing more than a mud hole, slimy and slippery mud with poor holding power.  After re-anchoring a couple of times, we found a solid rock to grip on and held.  By morning we were on our way to Lanai, aware that Molokai’s true magic resides on the north shore, not in a mud hole on the south shore.  Still, it’s a convenient overnight stop.

yep, one of the 7 Hawaiian quilts I had time to finish… bad weather has some good aspects!
Lanai’s Kaumalapau Harbor – 20*47.108N, 156*59.419W – Another “used-to-be” harbor, but in better shape than Lono.  A good seawall protects the inner harbor once used by the DOLE Pineapple company.  Lanai, the pineapple island.  Not much more of that any longer, though.  We dropped anchor in the narrow groove between 2 ledges, thankful to be the only yacht there since there is not room for 2 boats.  In spite of the wind gusts falling from the Kaumalapau Gulch, we enjoyed relative quiet, snorkeled the marginally interesting ledges to port and starboard, and hiked up the hill in search of a phone signal.  It was my birthday treat to be able to talk to my kids and take in the stunning view above the harbor.

The Lanai coast

The Pinnacles at Nanahoa – 20*49.667N, 156*59.717W –  Three grant pillars stick straight out of the sea and we gave the anchorage a try.  Three times wasn’t the charm as we kept plowing through coarse gravel as soon as JP put any kind of power into the pull.  We took a good look at the sea foaming around the pinnacles and decided this wasn’t the day to snorkel the place.  Off to the next anchorage.

Kalama Bay – 20*47.809N, 145*59.381W – Dubbed “A Snorkeler’s Paradise,” Kalama is indeed full of day-charters who dump dozens of tourists over the reefy boulders.  Again, we dropped anchor into a gulch between 2 ledges, again thankful we were the only cruisers.  Overboard we went and snorkeled the entire bay, noticed a good number of reef fish over rocks.  OK, that was it for us.  

Kalama Bay… rocky spot!
Yes, after the splendor of the corallian atolls of the South Pacific, we are jaded and underwater Hawaii left us unimpressed.  Time to check things above water.

To stay in Hawaii during hurricane season, we had to have a compelling reason or two: family and friends in Maui.  We were so excited to see our nephew in Lahaina, our friends in Pahia, and to have our grandchildren on board for 10 days!  We also kept an eye on the weather.  Hurricane LANE was spinning, currently SE of Hawaii, traveling west, on track to pass south of the Big Island the way HECTOR had done.  Seemed safe enough.  

Our favorite eatery: Mala Tavern

Mala Wharf – 20*52.511N, 156*41.081W – An easy and excellent anchorage in most conditions, Mala Wharf is close enough to Lahaina and Kanapaali to feed all touristic hungers.  And we indulged!  KOA restaurant in Lahaina, MALA TAVERN in Mala (Old Lahaina) took top gourmet notes!  Our nephew showed up for a wonderful sunset dinner and our friend Judie hopped on for a Champagne reunion.  How fun!
LANE is headed for us

Now, it was our grandkids’ turn.  But LANE had decided otherwise.  This Cat.4 hurricane was predicted to clip the south of Oahu and mad a 90 degree turn to starboard, coming NORTH, headed right for the heavenly little pond bordered by Maui to the east, Lanai to the west, Kaho’olawe to the south, and Molokai to the north.  The storm was still 3 days away but we had to plan ahead.  

Suddenly we were on alert.  We still had time to show the kids the turtles swimming around Mala Wharf, and had a not-too-soggy Road to Hanna excursion.  

Our nephew looked out for us, keeping us appraised of all the hurricanes’ tracks.
Soon, it became clear that we would have to evacuate the anchorage.  Our Hawaiian friends rallied to host the grandkids on land under the protection of Mt. Haleakala.  The kids were taken care of, even if their parents were frantic.   My nephew soon called me from his post at the USCG Maui: “expect 110mph winds and 22’ swells in Mala in 36 hours.  Get out!”

Reuniting with Judie, such a sweet moment!
And where were we supposed to go? We were now in Condition Zulu, all harbors closed to commercial traffic and the Maui Harbormaster did not consider us a private yacht, did not authorize us to anchor at Kahului Harbor (where we would have been safe) and only asked, “Can you get away from this thing?”  Well, of course, we could!  With the USCG airplane screaming the Hurricane Alert siren above us, we made our way NE of Maui…. 200 miles NE!  It was a new experience, slogging head on into 6’ waves, 25-30 kts of wind, taking it easy at 6.5 kts, relatively comfortable.  When after 36 hours we found some of the Navy ships maneuvering, we felt we were far enough.  An eye on the weather, Iridium-texting my frantic daughters, reassured by by bored-to-tears grandchildren who thought LANE was lame, we turned around… but it was a bit too soon.

After LANE, it was OLIVIA!

Oh my!!! How did we appreciate the toughness of our little ship.  We were surfing 10-12’ following waves, propelled to 17kts at times, and I was blissfully napping when (JP later reported) a wall of white foam suddenly appeared to starboard.  A wall! Foaming, breaking wave, taller than the boat!  And it was on us! No time to do anything.  JP thought “That’s it, we’re going down.”  But our DOMINO tilted 45 degrees this way, slid down a bit, tilted 45 degrees the other way, and then kept on surfing the following waves!  Catapulted out of my bed, I wondered what that was… a rogue wave that would most likely have swamped less capable boats, holed less sturdy ships, or sunk less seaworthy yachts.  DOMINO shouldered it like a pro, shook the foam off her decks, and kept on going without a hiccup!  Once more, we were astounded by our ship’s performance and sent a silent thanksgiving prayer to Malcolm Tennant who, we are sure, was grinning up above, quipping, “Told you so!”  … and gave kudos to the flawless engineering by Anthony Stanton.

So, we turned back away from the storm once more and waited another 6 hours in the company of the tugboat fleet and the Hawaiian Responder environmental ship.  When we saw them turn around, we joined their flotilla.
Smiles at last, as Miles, our Hawaiian son, joins us for a sleepover . Nothing like breakfast!

Useless to say, the kids were ticked off at having to stay 4 days off the boat, cooped up indoors, waiting for the storm to pass.  Yeah, for sure, at 8- and 16-year-old, a sad way to spend you hard-earned vacation, but a learning experience, especially one of gratitude towards our Ohana, our Hawaiian family (Moe, Janet, and Miles) who kept our kids safe.

What could be sweeter than time with your grandchildren… Luau at the Marriott

It will remain a summer in the kids annals, and no matter how much fun we tried to pack in their last 3 days of vacation, this will remain in their memory the Summer from Hell, a special bond that Jackson and Zoe will share for ever!

LANE killed our flag and our port side navigation light.

All told, LANE unleashed 70-80knts winds and 8-10’ swells in Mala and we sure were glad to have left, even if it cost us 470 NM round trip!

More family fun, our nephew and niece and their spouses…. 

Honolua Bay – 21*02.892N, 156*38.43W – Once the kids were gone and the seas calmed down, we checked out the popular Honolua Bay.  Good anchorage, many charter boats during the day, many tourists in the water, and marginally appealing snorkeling.  Time to move on!  But where?  Hurricane MYRIAM is churning to the east of the islands, so we wait another day to move south to KONA.


Kailua Kona – 19*38.269N, 155*59.763W  – In calm conditions, this is a very picturesque spot.  The old hotel, the church, the hills, it’s all so lovely in calm conditions.  Not too many spots to drop anchor since the harbor is peppered with moorings.  Oh yes, you could theoretically grab a DSLR mooring, as long as you bring all your tackle and drop someone to set it up before you tie up, and retrieve it after you leave!  

Kona harbor… not as big as it seems

We chose to drop anchor, once more between the reef outcrops, once more nervous about chain damage and holding.  We also had to stay away from the Bay entrance directional light, another anchorage restriction.  

Coffee tasting

 This said, Kona is a lovely town and of course we tasted the coffee and visited the quilt shops and the beautiful Hawaiian quilt museum.  Yep, I was happy!

My happy place!
But what else than two more hurricanes on the horizon?  NORMAN is ending up being a non-issue, passing way east of the islands, but OLIVIA is churning our way… time to find shelter!

The very protected anchorage at Cook Bay

Kealakekua Bay (Cook’s Point) 19*28.426N, 155*55.416W – This has to be one of the most protected anchorages in Hawaii and we felt safe for the entire week we stayed there.  Anchorage is restricted and skippers must mind the coral at the bottom.  There is coral in this bay, struggling to grow, but there is good sand also.  So, watch your sounder and open your eyes!

Yes, this is where Captain Cook was… cooked!  Captured and killed by the locals, this extraordinary mariner is immortalized by a memorial at Napoopoo point.  This is also a good place to snorkel, the only spot where we found a bit of color, albeit swimming in the oily residue of suntan lotion and sunblock oozing from the dozens of tourists floating around, freshly disgorged from the cruise ship anchored in Kona… as I said, popular spot!

Olivia passed NW of us, sparing the Big Island but scaring the beejeesus out of our friends in Honolulu and wrecking havoc in Kauai.  We had dodged that one! Time to move north.  

But we should have waited.  We made the mistake of leaving a bit too soon and made the poor decision to anchor (again) in Kona while the swells from Olivia where still kicking out of the west… straight into the harbor.  Needless to say, crowd was not a problem as the locals had moved somewhere else and we got our butt kicked all night!

Coasting along Molokai

MOLOKAI – … butt kicked all night and all the way to Molokai!  But once we turned the NE corner of Molokai, it was suddenly Heaven…

or rather, the garden of Eden, the primal forest dropping into the ocean, waterfalls playing with cloud wisps, and we were in Jurassic Park.  
More MOLOKAI raw beauty

It was totally unnerving!  JP tried to convince me to anchor at Waikolu, behind Okala Island (21*10.472N, 156*55.933W). This is possibly the most stunning anchorage we have ever seen, small and almost on the rocky beach, but I could not even breathe!  Yes, I was in a total panic!  Something about this place is PRIMAL!  I could not consider spending a night alone in that anchorage.  

Off we went, anchored in the large Kalaupapa Bay – 21*11.303N, 156*59.179W – Nothing to note in that bay if only the lepers colony building and the stunning relief of the mountains.  Molokai will keep its mystique in my book!

Hanalei Bay, on a misty afternoon

Hanalei Bay – 22*12.615N, 159*30*079W – They wrote songs about it!  Hanalei Bay is one of the most picture-perfect bays in the world.  This easy anchorage did not disappoint.  But the shore access was difficult.  Hurricane LANE had destroyed the wharf and swamped the beach.  Landing the dinghy on the beach proved a challenge in the rolling swell, but well worth the effort.  

Hanalei is a lovely town that we enjoyed to the fullest, even if the $9 loaf of artisan French bread was a bit extravagant! 

The Oceanic Arts store took our top mark, with its exquisite art creations from all over the Pacific Rim… the best, by far, a little museum of sorts!  Not to be missed.
The best Poke in town!

 What we missed, though, was a bike ride up the coast, since the road was still closed after last springs’ torrential rains.  We just delighted in the views from the anchorage, short-lived as it turned out to be, since Hurricane WILLA was coming our way!

Nawilliwili Harbor – 21*56.960N, 159*21.341W – Now, THAT’s a protected harbor!  We got there a few days before the storm, afraid there would not be any room.  And it was a good idea!  As always, the marina was full, derelict boats were taking 20% of the free anchorages, and the odd mooring ball available had no tackle.

  But JP was patient and calculated his radius, dropping DOMINO in the center of all the boats, on a short scope with only 1.5m under the hull.  Yep, we were fine there!

Smack-dab in the middle!
Kauai will remain our favorite island.  It was easy to rent a car and tour the island one day, then hop on a helicopter and see it all from above. Stunning!  Well worth the money!

As Hurricane WALAKA was passing to the west, charter boats were limping into the harbor, seeking refuge at the commercial wharf.  Soon our friend Kim on her BLAZE II limped in too, reporting 10’ swells at Port Allen overnight, her boat battered and in disarray.  

We had dodged yet another one!

Well, it was still early October and we were waiting for a weather window for our departure for Mexico.  By the 10th, it looked good, even though something was spinning off of Honduras. 

We fueled up, paying the $200 docking fee at the old fuel dock to have access to the fuel truck… and off we went, racing against the spinner coming towards Cabo San Lucas… yes, we were dodging WILLA too!

Saying goodbye to Kim, our sweet friend on BLAZE II

Hawaii was a season to remember, for its ruggedness and its raw beauty!

Heather Brown Art… the essence of Hawaii
till next time…



October 26, 2018
La Paz, Baja California, Mexico

DOMINO deserve a badge: 50,000 NM under the hulls, and counting.

Honolulu to Cabo San Lucas in less than 11 days, it was my kind of Transpac; one with absolutely nothing to report, no mechanical problem beyond a blown fuse that stopped the autopilot for a few minutes, no engine problem beyond a distended alternator belt (easy fix) and the best weather window we could have hoped for… expect for Hurricane WILLA that was waiting for us in Cabo.

Leaving Hawaii behind, sunrise to the east
For weeks, JP had watched the weather and patterns for this 2,660 NM trip.  Since this route is traditionally against Force 4 winds (11-16kts) and 8’ seas, running against 05-1 Knt current, he had been looking for a bit of a break, hoping for lesser winds.  PredictWind could give us a 10-day outlook, so the plan was to leave when Predict Wind was clear and to make the crossing as quickly as possible, hopefully in 10 days, clocking 260 NM/day.  We waited and waited, and suddenly a window opened.

October 10: take the Honolulu bus to Pier 1 and get our Zarpe from Customs to please the Mexican authorities.

The fuel dock in Ala Wai no longer sells fuel to the public.  It is now privately owned.
BUT.. for a fee ($200) the owner will let you dock and fuel up from a truck.
We used the Fuel Man
On October 11, at 0400, in pitch darkness, we eased to the old fuel dock at Ala Wai Marina in Honolulu, paid a $200 fee to the owner of the dock to use the space (yikes!) and the Fuel Man truck rolled in.  Two hours later, we had loaded 2,600 gallons and lowered our waterline by a foot.  A bit of cleaning up, a nice breakfast, a last run to the store for croissants, and by 1100 we were off.
The first 2 days were a dream: less than 10 knots of SE wind and flat seas, a Dorado in the cooler.  We were running 10-5 to 10.7 kts.

The next 2 days were rougher, 20-25 kts E wind on the nose, 6’ swells with a crossed 2’ wind chop.

Going upwind, 13-18Kts of wind, 10.5 Kts boat speed

The last 6 days were just peachy, the wind stabilized around 15-18 kts,  seas 4-6’.  It was a good time for fishing and catching another Dorado. While we were running East, the wind backed progressively from SE to E, then gently to ENE, N, and to NW 1 day out of Cabo.  We were expecting to make 14 Kts on the last day (1500 rpm) but, surprisingly, we were working against 1.5 to 2 knots of current.  So yes, it was uphill all the way, except maybe for the last 50 miles.

Five-day outlook: we knew it was going to be close
Our only concern was Hurricane WILLA.  We kew it had a chance of developing even before we left Honolulu.  After sort of petering out on day 1 and 2, WILLA reappeared on day 3 and looked horrendous, as if it were going to hit Cabo and run up the west coast of Baja the way GEORGE had just done.  We decided to wait and see, slow down to 8.5 kts, not just because the going was rough that day, but we also wanted to see what that hurricane was doing.  

Arriving Cabo: we need to keep on going!
The next day, WILLA had stalled in her track and we decided to make a run for it, go as fast as possible with keeping a 500 gal reserve just in case we would have to ditch our route.  And, as the days went by, running faster and faster (up to 13kts) as our load got lighter, we ducked the storm and made our destination at last.

Our daily recon: WP14, we clocked 283 NM that day

By the numbers:  
  • Distance: 2,661 NM
  • Time: 10 days, 18 hours
  • Average speed: 10.3 kts
  • Fuel used: 2,000 Gal.
  • Reserve: 600 Gal.
Arriving Cabo ahead of WILLA

We arrived Cabo San Lucas early on the morning of October 22 as WILLA’s outer bands were churning overhead, the sky heavy with clouds, the air misty, but no big wind. The barometric pressure had dropped to 1009, 12 ticks in the last 3 days.  

The beautiful white rocks at Cabo San Lucas.  We arrived with drizzle and flat seas, no wind

We had just turned the Cape when the Port Captain announced that he had closed all the beaches, anchoring in the bay and was warning agains high-sea navigation since WILLA was but hours away.

Would you know there is a hurricane coming?

There was nothing for us to do but keep on running, all the way to the safe harbor of La Paz.  

Rounding Cabo San Lucas, the cave.
Nobody on the beaches, the Port Captain has shut down the beaches,
restricted navigation to wharf-to-wharf only.

We slowed down and enjoyed the scenery, trying to adjust to the heady smell of Mexican scrub brush, lazing on 1 engine wile 2-meter waves from the south were pushing us along.  A last PredictWind download confirmed that we would be safe to anchor at Bahia de los Sueños (B. de los Muertos) and so we did, loathe to navigate the San Lorenzo channel at night.

Bahia de los Muertos (rebaptized Bahia de los Sueños)

It was nigh when we arrived at the anchorage and, of course, after some 800 anchor drops without a hitch, Big Bertha’s foot switch refused to work.  And that is why we have 2 anchors!  We dropped Lit’l Lou (43Kg Raya) and left it at that.  JP would replace the foot switch’s corroded connector in the morning.

It was a splendid night, clear to the north, clouds churning to the south, and a small swell rocking us gently.  

WILLA to the South… we are just at the edge of the weather system

From there, it was another half-day run to La Paz where Marina La Paz happened to have a vacancy for a few days.

Marina de La Paz: Great docks, spa time for DOMINO
And so we are!  Washing and scrubbing and rinsing and waxing and giving our Big D. a full spa treatment.  She worked hard once again and did it all happily.  Darn, we love that boat!

Off to the islands…
till next time




August 19th, 2018
Lahaina, Maui

Hawaii in Summer… Dodging Hurricanes… HECTOR
If a major storm had not thrown us off our course to Alaska and forced us to divert to Honolulu, we never would have chosen the Hawaiian Islands as a cruising destination.  There are several reasons for that.

Kewalo Basin and Ala Wai Boat Harbor, Honolulu.  No transient docking available

The sad state of Ala Wai Boat Harbor
  • Few protected anchorages.  The Eastern coasts are, obviously, exposed to the trade winds and unsuitable.  The Western and Northern coasts are made of steep cliffs and rocky shores, steep drops, and count very few natural anchorages.

The work dock… we nudged Domino next to the SWATH 
  • Decrepit harbors.  I hate to say it, but it is true.  The yachting population is not a State priority and the State-controlled harbors are in dire state of disrepair.  Take Oahu, for example.  It took us 4 days to find a berth at the Ala Wai in Waikiki, and only after we got denied by all of the other State-harbors, private harbors and yacht clubs.  

The splendid and immense Pearl Harbor, the only safe harbor in all of the islands, of course, is reserved to the military and the only way to get a mooring is to be military personnel.  Well, scratch that!

Riding HECTOR on the lagoon

Keehi Harbor (State-owned), by the airport, is another enormous harbor, with fair protection.  We called, and there is NO berth or mooring for a 65’ boat, and there is NO anchoring in the enormous Keehi lagoon.  Yet, when we took a peek at the harbor, a good 30% of the docks were destroyed, and of the boats present, I’d say a good 20% were derelict.  Some weird traffic goes on at night too, making you wonder what’s going on under the nose of the harbormaster!  However, when hurricane HECTOR reared its head, we anchored in the lagoon anyways, and beseeched permission as soon as the harbormaster’s office opened.  After some back-and-forth, we were allowed to stay until it was safe to cruise again.

Friday Night in Waikiki’s Ala Wai Boat Harbor
Kewalo Basin (State-owned) had no room for us.  We waited 4 days for any yacht to be moved around, but no, no room for a transiting yacht.

Koalina Boat Harbor (private) was promising… but no, no room for a 65’ boat, and even if there had been, the monthly fee was $3,000 and NO live aboard.

The yacht clubs were no better.  The Hawaii Yacht Club had no room above 45’ and the Waikiki Yacht Club had no room, period.

The perk:  Fabric shopping!
Ala Wai Boat Harbor, Waikiki (State-Owned)    After spending 4 days at the loading dock (usually a 30’ limit) and with no other option available to us, we begged the harbormaster to let us stay at the work dock, a 24-foot wide berth for our 23’ wide cat… a tight fit.  We took it, at $231/week, no easy-way electricity 9have to register with the city; we passed1), no facilities, no bathroom and transients and taxi drivers urinating outside the condemned public bathroom.  The weird thing?  We were happy of have found a space to park our boat.

The Ala Wai Boat Harbor – So many derelict boats that should not be there!

All this to say, don’t cruise Hawaii with a big boat!

By now, I’m sure that you have written to the Hawaiian congressmen and begged to support yachting in their district, right?

Learning the Hawaaian quilting with the pros… the real deal!

For all the ugliness of the situation, there were a few bright points.  Hotels, restaurants, bars, shopping (Don Quijote is the best!), night life, Ukulele lessons, Friday night fireworks, World Cup on TV, and —my favorite— learning to quilt the traditional Hawaiian way with the legendary Poakalani clan, the Serrao Family. 

Ukulele and Hawaiian Quilting!

But once JP got the fuel pump fixed and installed the new washer dryer (you read right!), we were off cruising again.

Thank you, my Captain!

POKAI BAY – (Wai’anae) 21*26.661N, 158*11.536W
If you have a small boat, you can anchor behind the breakwater, but we found the proximity of the park a bit loud.  This is a cool spot.  Every morning, large pods of spinner dolphins come to feed in the area… and an armada of charter boats follows, dozens of people in the water to swim with the creatures.  With a bit of luck and patience, we managed to slip quietly down our swim ladder and have some 1-on-1 with a small pod, papa, mama, and newborn baby!  

How can we not love these amazing creatures?  Spinner Dolphins
Snorkel on the outside of the breakwater and you are sure to find a few turtles.  As for me, I was pretty jaded and ready to go back to the boat when I was surprised by a 4-foot Zebra Moray Eel.  You never know!

Zebra Moray (Photo Graham’s

NORTH SHORE – WAIMEA BAY – 21*38.421N, 158*03.943W
Strange… sailboats are allowed to anchor close to shore.  Motor yachts must anchor outside of a line that stretches between the outermost structures built on both sides of the bay.  Still, it’s good holding and a mythical spot.
All day, we watched hundreds of enthusiasts jump off the Black Rock… they jump at night too, crazy buggers!
The snorkeling in the bay is marginal, just big boulders and nothing much.
But…. we anchored at North Shore and could just imagine the force of the winter waves by looking at the steep grade of the beach and the cliffs around.  Moana! Never to be underestimated.

Fourth of July at the Ala Wai… we have 40 flags out!

Off to Molokai, Lanai, and Maui….
Till next time,

Ahi Poke, anyone?

Transpac 2 – Part II

Week 2
Running from the storm
This is definitely NOT Alaska!  Aloha Waikiki!

Day 8 – June 11 – Dang! This storm is not going away!  Instead of weakening, it’s gaining strength and dipping south, forgetting to turn north.  The NOAA report is transmitting yet another PAN PAN and the edge of the storm is bearing southeasst, in our direction.  The two highs to the NE of us were supposed to give this huge front the boot, but they are quickly vanishing.  Meanwhile, the monster is gobbling a couple of small disorganized lows, gaining in strength and scope, bearing down on us.  Our guardian angel, Peter Mott of Northland Radio in New Zealand, shoots us an email, urging us to dip south, as low as 25N, four degrees south of where we are.
June 11 GRIB – We are at the green marker… 31* North –  planning on going SE

  Easily said but not really possible since the entire area to the south is restricted, from Midway to the French Frigate Shoals near Kauai.  That’s right!  Midway atolls is under the control of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, and my inquiries as to whether or not we could seek refuge in case of Force Majeure were answered sternly; do not attempt to enter the Midway Wildlife Refuge or any part pf the Papahānaumokuākea Reserve or you will be fined heavily.

Plan A: Run south and double back to the west
Plan B: Run south, wait, and run back north
A&B impossible, of course!
Plan C: Stick to the northern border of the reserve

Fortunately, DOMINO’s range of speed and her fuel capacity give us options.  For now, we’ll just go as south as possible, trailing towards 27 degrees N, along the northern border of the Papahānaumokuākea Refuge Zone until the next weather report, as slow as we can on 1 engine: 7.5 KTs.

 If the storm decides to dip even more south, we’ll be left with only one option: hightail it to Kauai, 760 NM away, steaming at 15 kts, a 50-hour trip.  Refuel, wait for weather to improve, and resume to Sitka!  
In anticipation of some rocky seas, I’m taking advantage of the smooth ride (8 days of smooth ride!) to bake a turkey-and-leek quiche.
Miles today: 166NM
When in doubt, cook!
TURKEY and LEEK Quiche
  • 2 leeks, steamed, sliced thinly, sautéed with onions and ginger (see Wahoo recipe in Week 1)
  • 6 slices of turkey or ham (sliced or cubes)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/4 Cup milk or light cream
  • 1 Cup grated Swiss or Cheddar cheese
  • Salt, pepper.
  • Herbed Pie crust for 9” pie (250g flour, 120g margarine, pinch of salt, 1 Tbsp thyme or Herbes de Provence, 1/4c water)

Pre-heat over 375F – Roll out dough to form circle wide enough for 9” pan, and line the pan with herbed crust.
Prick the bottom, place waxed paper at the bottom, line with baking weights, bake at 375 for 12 minutes.
In a bowl, whisk together, the eggs, milk, salt, pepper.  Fold in the meat and grated cheese.
Take the crust out of the oven, remove weights and paper, pour egg-meat-cheese mixture, bake at 350F for 25 minutes or until golden.  Insert a toothpick in center to check cooking: it should come out just moist.
June 12 GRIB
Day 9 – June 12 – The wind is still SSW, but starting to ramp up in the 18-20Kt range, the barometer has fallen 5 points overnight, and I wake up to an obstructed horizon, the air thick with mist, the ceiling so low it seems to crush us.  Bad signs. We fire up the Iridium and download an updated PredictWind GRIB.  The southernmost bands of the storm are on us, and we are getting into the squash zone, the low to the west, the high to the east, and we know it’s not a good place to be.  

June 13 – We gotta get out!
This is as much as we want to wait.  Time to make our exit.  Escaping hurricanes isn’t new to us: Thomas in the Caribbean, Irene in New York, we wait as long as we can to see where these unpredictable beasts will decide to go then we zoom out. 

By mid-morning, we are zooming at 15 kts toward Kauai.  I’m amazed to see how squeezed we are, the wind at times from the SSW, at other times out of the SSE, trying to make up its mind, sometimes in the teens, sometimes in the 20s, the seas small but incredibly confused.

By evening, JP announces that we have used almost half of our fuel and going to Alaska is no longer an option anyways.  We’re only 500 miles from Hawaii and that’s where we are going!

Our final course

The rest of the trip is uneventful.  The Coast Guards inform us that Kauai is a port of entry but there is no customs office and must divert to Honolulu (still trying to figure that one out!)  
June 14 GRIB forecast… need to be as far as possible
Of course, there is always a mechanical challenge.  This time, the STB high-pressure fuel pump starts leaking a bit of diesel as we rev-up the engines to hold our 15kt speed.  Hot fuel is the diagnosis.  But if we keep the RPM below 1200, no problem.  JP figures we eventually will have to install a fuel cooling system, and fix that fuel pump anyways.  
Glad to be safe in Honolulu and not on our way to Alaska!
It took us 10 days 10 hours to travel 2827 NM.  This was definitely NOT the Transpac we expected, and was a very long detour since Majuro to Hawaii is only about 2000 miles.  Of course, we are disappointed not to have made it to Alaska.  Of course, finding a place for DOMINO in Honolulu is a nightmare.  But here we are.  We had a beautiful cruise, dodged another major storm, learned a lot more about our boat, and live to play another day!

Four days later: should we go now?
Till next time

Nah… let’s play!


Transpac 2, Part I

Week 1
Marshall Islands to Midway
June 4-11, 2018

* I hope you enjoy the recipes and book references.

June 7, 2018,  some 750 NM north-northeast of the Marshall Islands.

 When I think of crossing oceans on board a power yacht, I want a good captain, one who can fix anything in DOMINO’s twin engine rooms.  Automatically, my mind flashes back to Robert Mitchum (or was that Kirk Douglass? or Bogie? My memory fails me…) peeking out of his stinkpot’s engine room, on a Carribaen-blue background, captain’s cap askew, a crooked smile across his face, nonchalantly wiping his grimy hands on an oily rag (Name that movie?)- Well, I don’t have a movie star on board, but I have my captain JP who, if  not as nonchalant as the heartthrob Mitchum, is at least as handsome in my eyes, and a true mechanic.  In this second transpacific crossing, from Majuro (Marshall Islands) to Sitka (Alaska), a 4,000 NM endeavor, once more I place my life in JP’s very capable hands.

Leaving the Marshalls (bottom left of the screen: all calm)

Day One – June 4, 2018 – For the last ten days, we have kept an eye on the weather.  We had provisioned early, not because we expected an early departure, but because the produce cargo ship had just arrived in town, and in Majuro you buy the produce when it’s on the shelf!  From the GRIB data, we were expecting to get underway on June 8.  But, last night’s data turned our plans upside down: a 3-day window had opened, with almost no wind in the dreaded trade wind belt north of Majuro.  Just like that, we had to go!  I just had time to prepare and freeze some cauliflower au gratin and vegetable lasagna.

  • 2 heads of cauliflower, steamed
  • 2 cups Bèchamel Sauce
  • 1 cup grated Swiss cheese
  • 3 hard boiled eggs, halved lengthwise
In an oven-safe dish, place the steamed cauliflower florets. 
Mix the still-hot Bechamel sauce with the grated Swiss cheese to make a Mornay Sauce.  Pour on top of Cauliflower and eggs.  Bake for 20 minutes, let cool, vacuum-bag lightly and freeze.

The beefy commercial bunkering dock in Majuro.

9 AM local time- We are at the fuel dock in Majuro, bunkering 2,500 Gallons on top of the 420 gallons left in our day tanks.  The fuel is sampled, tested, and not a drop of water found.  This load should take us all the way through our 4,000 NM crossing, at 10 Kts, in average sea conditions.  By 1300 (0100 UTC), after the obligatory rounds of Port Captain, Customs, and immigration, we slip our dock lines and off we go!  The weather GRIBS were right.  Instead of the typical 20-25 Kts trade winds and 2m beam seas, we encountered no wind over 15 kts and no seas above 1 meter, except for a few squalls during the night, 30 knots and buckets of rain, a bit of a roll, but short-lived.  
Day 1 – 239 NM made good
Our planned rhumb line… but Moana had another plan for us!

Day 2 – June 5 – You gotta love it when the GRIBS over-estimate the wind!  We are finding nothing above 10 Kts and a gentle, 1-m long swell.  But why is the sun not showing?  We can’t even identify a definite cloud cover.  The haze drifting from the Hawaiian volcano to the North-East is enveloping us in an eerie, cottony bubble.  Engine checks: all is good, but perhaps a few drops of something under the starboard engine show up on the late evening check, nothing much. Time to bake bread!
Day 2 -244 NM made good

DOMINO’s Multigrain Bread   In the breadmaker (I use a BREVILLE) pour:
  • 2 1/4c water
  • 2 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 4 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 1 cup organic whole wheat flour
  • 3 Tbsp powdered milk
  • 1/2 Tbsp organic gluten flour (gives added structure to the bread)
  • 1 1/4 Tbsp yeast    
Set the bread maker for basic bread, large loaf, dark crust. 
In the seeds dispenser, add the grains:
  • 1/4 cup oats
  • 1 Tbsp sesame seeds (white or black)
  • 2 Tbsp sunflower seeds
  • 1 Tbsp Chia seeds

3 1/2 hour later, voila!

Day 3 – June 6 – 0100 UTC –  Engine check:  OOPS!  Coolant, a lot of coolant is leaking under the Starboard (STB) engine, something like a gallon in the bilge… not good!  What possibly could be leaking?  JP’s brain revs up, now in high gear.  On thorough inspection, he finds out that one of the four bolts holding the turbo is missing, the stud broken, the bolt shorn off.  This has to be fixed immediately.  We are at risk of the turbo completely breaking off, hot, dry exhaust gas coming out and setting the boat on fire.  “Not good,” says JP, biting his lower lip.  “Gonna be a bitch to fix!  Dunno if I can do it.  Gonna need to help me.  Gonna be hard to do!”  

In times of crisis like this, the 1st Mate’s job is to get quiet, trust the captain 100%, let him think, and think hard, and be efficient.  But JP and I have worked together for over 40 years, and when the proverbial shit hits the fan, we go into our team mode.  First, turn off the STB engine and keep going on the PORT engine at 900 rpm, still making 7.4 kts, not losing too much headway.  While the STB engine cools off, I periodically irrigate the STB Sureseal to avoid overheating and melting that could be caused by  the still-turning shaft (probably not necessary but the last thing we want on this crossing is a melted-down Sureseal!) 

JP gathers tools, parts, and his wits… just like the old days in the Emergency Clinic!  The plan? Remove the turbo, extract the shorn-off studs, and put everything back in place.  Fortunately, the wind has decreased to 6 knots and the swell is now below 1 meter, a very long and smooth Pacific swell.  Thank you, MOANA!

The culprit: shorn-off bolt #1

And thus it goes:  drain all the coolant, remove the air intake casing, the stainless steel dry exhaust tube, disconnect all hoses to the turbo, and find out that not ONE, but TWO bolts have shorn off.  OK, so remove the last 2 bolts standing and take the turbo out.  Easy-Peasy.  Now the hard part: removing the shorn-off studs.  The 1st one hads a little stub coming out and is removed fairly easily, but not so for the second one, shorn-off flush with the exhaust manifold.  Simple solution:  drill a small hole in the center of the stud, insert an extractor screw, and counter-screw the little bugger out of its place.  No dice! It’s frozen.  Desperate times ask for desperate measures: Propane torch time!  A few drops of penetrating oil, a bit of heat to the area, and BINGO!  Out pops the reluctant stud.

Always a good idea to have an extractor set on board.  Got the broken bolt!

From here on, it’s all back-tracking, taking advantage of the situation to replace the exhaust manifold-to-turbo gasket.  All done?  Check for extra parts left on deck?  None?  That’s good.  Fill up with coolant, settle it, top it off… restart the engine, check for leaks, shift into forward, check for leaks, throttle up, check for leaks, all good.

It took JP just over 5 hours to fix this potentially devastating situation.  But here he was, sweaty, grimy, and a grin on his face, “No leaks!”  Yeah, I like my captain, the fact that he had planned for this eventuality by stocking on parts and tools: gaskets, bolts, studs, coolant, empty drums and cans, drill bits, extractor set, propane torch, even a new lighter! 
After a refreshing shower, JP had earned his favorite dinner: “Timbale aux Coquillettes” (that’s French for Mac-and Swiss-cheese-and-ham casserole, sans les champignons.)
In the morning, not a drop of coolant in the bilge!  Time for a second treat for the Captain: banana bread… oh, did I forget to mention?  We had a bunch of bananas on board!
Day 3 – 225 NM made good
Timbale aux Coquillettes (for 2)
  • 4 Cups cooked macaroni, still hot, salt and pepper
  • 2 Cups grated Swiss Cheese
  • 1 1/2 Cup chopped ham
  • 1 1/2 Cup sautéed mushrooms

Mix the macaroni, ham, mushrooms and half the cheese.  Fill an oven-proof dish with the mixture. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top.  Bake at 350F for 20 minutes, switch to broiler and broil till the top is golden.  Eat half, freeze half.

A perfect day… (we are the white dot)

Day 4 – June 7 – What a perfect day!  Yesterday’s repair of the turbo is holding, no leak, and the weather is as calm as one could wish for — gentle seas and 5 to 10 Kt. wind, and even if it’s on the nose, it remains quite pleasant.  Domino unleashes her long stride, running an easy 10 Kts. at 1180 rpm, burning 6 GPH, a bit hungrier than normal, but expected in head seas, contrary currents, and a full belly.  We lucked out on the weather window, really, since the area we just covered in the last 48 hours is now buffeted by 20-25 Kt. trade winds.  At last, in the afternoon, the winds shift to the SE, giving us a push, and we are now running at 10.8 Kts. at 1100 rpm, 5 GPH… yes, that’s more like it. 

But a Transpac wouldn’t be right without a bit of drama.  Suddenly, a massive squall line appears on the radar, 16 NM in diameter, impossible to avoid, so we brace for it.  For an hour, we are buffeted by sustained 30-kt winds, gusting at 44 Kts, 3-4m head seas, pounding rain and tons of foamy water breaking on deck, strong enough to bend one of our windshield wiper blade… well, that’s a first!  After a 30-mn relative lull, another squall pounds on us, only in the 28-kt range and shorter-lived.  Once more, we brace and let DOMINO perform her usual samba through the pounding seas.  Once more, we are amazed at this awesome powercat’s stability, its ability to rise above the crests and not slam into the troughs, the smoothness of the ride, and we have gotten used to her trademark “samba” sway.  Never do we experience the bone-shuddering slamming that we have witnessed or heard of on so many other catamarans, sail or motor.  Once more, we silently thank Malcolm Tennant and Anthony Stanton for their CS hull design and strong, commercial-grade structure.

  After 3 hours, at last, the wind abates, the rain stops, and the seas gradually recede.  Thankfully, all that rain has scrubbed the air from the volcanic ash and gasses, and we can sea the sun again.  This was the strongest gale we’d ever experienced, but we had learned to trust our boat and felt absolutely confident that DOMINO would strut her stuff when needed, and she didn’t disappoint. 
At last, the sun returned, the wind shifted to the SE and gave us a push once more as we carried on at 11 kts on 5 GPH, 1100 rpm.  Lunch, though, was a small affair, a half a turkey sandwich with a handful of baby carrots… and a slice of banana bread!
Day 4 – 248 NM made good
Cream-Cheese and Honey Turkey Sandwich
Slather cream cheese on both slices.  Arrange basil leaves on the cheese, add a twist of ground pepper.  Place turkey on one side, close the sandwich, slice in half.  Serve with slices of green apple. 

On quiet crossings, JP loves to tinker with boat design.

Day 5 – June 8 – We love it when there is absolutely nothing to report, but sun, calm seas, gentle wind on our STB quarter, and making 11 kts on 5 GPH.  JP throws a trolling line in the water as a flock of red-tailed Phaetons materializes on our stern.  Meanwhile I attend to a bit of laundry, bake bread, and we decide to bake macaroons together.  If the bananas are now gone, we need to get rid of the coconuts: let’s go grate some coconuts!

Coconut Macaroons
 Mix all ingredients together.  With your hands, fashion small cones and place on cookie sheet lined with wax paper.  Bake at 350 for 15 min.  Open the oven door and let dry in the oven 5 minutes more.  Transfer to cooling rack.  

Day 6 – June 9 – Three things happened today:
1- We crossed the date line   180 degrees of longitude.  In the middle of the night, we went from 179*59 East to 179*59 West and 180* was just a bur.  A stealth move! No longer are we a day ahead of our US and French families.  No longer will we be the first to post “Happy Birthday” on their Facebook pages.  No more 2-day celebrations, which really was fun on Christmas, New Years and birthdays.  We are back into the fold, a small step towards coming back to the norm.  I’m not sure what I feel about that; a small sense of loss, perhaps?

2- We completed 1/3 of our crossing – Since we’d left I had been nervous about our fuel burn.  Oh, sure, we had our historical data, our trip fuel burn expectation, had loaded an estimated 400 gallons extra fuel, but I was still nervous about the reality of this crossing.  Well, no need to fret.  We have consumed 800 gallons to cover 1300 NM at an average of 10 knots, or 0.6 gallons per mile.  Sure, it’s a bit more than our usual 0.5 GPM, but we have been riding into head seas, against currents, on a full belly of fuel and water, and against a few gales.  Yet, with 2,700 NM left to go and at that rate, we would only need 1,620 gallons.  We have 2,100 gallons left, an almost-500 gallons overage, allowing us to speed up if needed (we can go up to 20 kts) to run away from a front, slow down and divert if we need to wait for a front to pass, or even completely divert to a new location if the weather sours.  Five hundred gallons, or nearly one thousand miles of safety options.  I’m feeling better.
  The weather has been absolutely perfect, no wind, slight swell on our starboard quarter, and now the wind has turned to the SSW, only 6 knots, but we expect to see less of a current against us, improving our performance.  At this moment we are traveling at 11.4 kts, 1114 rpm, 5.2 GPH.  

3 – We caught fish!  A nice, meaty wahoo, another Red Eye Lure catch… just like that, we have 7 kg (15 lbs) of filleted wahoo in the fridge, looking forward to more recipes!

Perfect time to cook a nice meal: Wahoo on a bed of gingered leeks.

Wahoo with gingered leeks
Blanch the leeks by dumping them in boiling water for 3 minutes. Drain and set aside.
In a large skillet, melt the butter, add the ginger and heat up till it smells good.  Add the sliced onion and sauté until translucent.  Add the leeks, stir, and simmer – partially covered— for 15 minutes or until leeks are tender. Salt and pepper to taste.

Place the fillet of wahoo on top of the leeks, cover, reduce heat and steam until fish is barely cooked.  Remove from heat, transfer to serving platter.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, a pad of butter on top of the fish.
= Serve with steamed Chinese rice with organic wakame seaweed.

2 nice fillets!
Day 7 – June 10 – Another perfect day, sunny, no wind, flat seas, and a whale sighted use to our port side.  We reached the NW end of Midway Atoll National Reserve, under the control of fish and game, and took our heading towards Sitka, Alaska, using the Great Circle Route, as generated by our on-board Navnet system.  But before committing to this heading, we took a look at the weather, downloaded from PredictWind  via Iridium on our iPad, and were in for a shock.  

Uh-oh… We are the bottom-left white dot, on our way to the green marker…
Let’s keep an eye on this baby

Two large storms are forming NW of us.  If we can dodge the first storm, there is serious doubt as how to dodge the second storm which looks very powerful already.  So, we remain on the straight course, a bit south of the rhumb line, waiting for the next weather report.  From our current position, the rhumb line affords a distance saving of 121 NM, not worth committing to it if we need to turn away from it later, so we remain on a straight course.  In the morning, the weather report is daunting.  This large storm is headed straight into our intended path and our NE route is now unthinkable.  There is nothing better for us to do but alter course to the ESE, remain below the 31st parallel, and keep an eye on the weather.  The storm is supposed to dip very low, possibly south of the 30th parallel.  This means also that we must drop out speed, not only to let the storm pass us, but also to save fuel.  This new course means an extra 500 NM, or about 250 gallons of fuel, which is well within our 500-gallon security margin.  

We are at the green spot… this storm is picking up steam.
Plan is to duck southeast till the storm passes.

There is nothing wrong with steaming at 7.5 knots on one engine, 900 rpm, burning barely 2 GPH.  We are in no rush to get to Alaska.  In fact, I thoroughly enjoy these warm, tropical days, traveling on flat seas and preparing meals for a stormy day!

Duck south!  Way South!

Lunch is a refreshing affair of marinated wahoo and gingered cabbage salad.

Marinated Wahoo 
In an air-tight container or large glass jar, place the sliced wahoo, onion, carrot, garlic, herbs and spices, cover with olive oil.  Mix well.  Add lime juice, mix and close the container.  Keep refrigerated, serve cold.  Will keep 5-7 days in the refrigerator.

Quick easy lunch!  Marinated wahoo.

  • Origin (Dan Brown)  5 stars 
  • The Black Book (James Patterson)  4 stars
  • The Fallen (David Baldacci)  4 stars
  • Red Sparrow (Jason Matthews) 5 stars
  • Palace of Treason (Jason Matthews) 4 stars
  • The Kremlin Candidate (Jason Matthews) 3 stars
  • At the Edge of the Orchard (Tracy Chevalier) 5 stars
till next blog

Gratitude in Kiribati

Most Grateful People: Kiribati 

Our lady friend in Abaiang, south village
Memorial Day 2018
Majuro, Marshall Islands

On this memorial day, 2018, I thought it would be appropriate to thank our servicemen and their families for their sacrifices.  The price of freedom is high, ultimately high, and knowing that the freed people do not forget their liberators is a balm.

Sitting on the Equator
In November 2017, we stopped in Kiribati (pronounced “Kiribass”) without the foggiest idea of what we were going to find.  We only had heard from other cruisers that on November 20th, every year, the islanders of Butaritari commemorate the battle of Makin.  Since Kiribati was on the way between Vanuatu and the Marshall Islands, just north of the Equator, we thought it would be a nice stop, even if the authorities only grant a 30-day visa to cruising yachts.
Tactical error on landing: choosing a neap-low tide to land the troops

Betio Beach – 1*44.453 N, 171*01.795E – As we dropped anchor at Betio Beach, it suddenly dawned on us that this was the infamous Tarawa of the previously-named Gilbert Islands.  This very beach is where Operation Galvanic took place, one of the bloodiest battles of WWII, where, from November 20th to 24th 1943, a total of 35,000 U.S. marines and soldiers attacked this 3,800 yard wide strip of land, decimating the 4,500 Japanese soldiers, making the battle of Tarawa one of the bloodiest in the history of American landing assaults.  It was also the first American victory over the Japanese, and the turning point of war in the Pacific.  The cost to our forces? 1,113 dead Marines and 2,290 wounded.

Betio Beach
We dropped anchor at Betio’s Red 1 Beach, just short of assault ship wrecks, and let the history of the place slowly seep into our minds. So many dead, on such a tiny strip of land, it seemed obscene.  In the bus to the the immigration office, it felt surreal to drive along the Japanese Causeway, passing decrepit bunkers, rusted pillboxes, jutting defense guns, pressed against a human throng of Malay, Indonesian, Japanese, Philippino, even a few token Polynesian, trying to ignore the squalor of shanties and unfinished cement block buildings.  Dealing with immigrations and customs authorities did nothing to lift the malaise: customs and immigration seem to have their own internal war, each wanting to control the movement of foreign ships, forcing the yachtie to kowtow to both.

Taking a nap underway, I can always see the islands
There is only ONE port of entry in Kiribati: Tarawa.  Yachts may not enter or exit anywhere else. In order for us to visit Butaritari 140 NM to the north, we had to ask special permission from immigration AND customs in Tarawa, then return to Tarawa to process our exit.  With only 30 days to visit the entire atoll and the paperwork hassle, it’s no wonder that very few cruisers bother to make landfall in Tarawa.  What a shame, though.  If Tarawa is nothing much than an overcrowded shanty town, the rest of the atolls are just wonderful.

No wonder that a large tuna fishing fleet loiters in these waters
Two days later, armed with permits to visit Abaiang and Butaritari, we made for Abaiang Atoll, 38 NM away.  With the wind from the south, we decided to make for the southern anchorage and wait for the wind to shift to the East before landing at the main village to present our paperwork. 

So many islands… one of them
Pass Waypoints: 
WP1 outside – 01*44.983N, 172*58.034E
WP2 inside – 01*46.206N, 172*58.977E – Turn 90* to starboard, straight to the anchorage.

We used the middle pass on the west side of the lagoon, since the southernmost pass is too shallow and the northernmost is still loaded with unexploded depth charges!
Abainag, South anchorage – talcum-powder sand

ABAIANG SOUTH – 01*44.453N, 173*01.795E – 3.5m –  Thick sand.  If the snorkeling failed to impress us, the villagers won our hearts.  The homes? A simple platform made of coconut trunks, a roof of woven palm leaves, woven coco mats on the floor.  

Typical home conatruction.  The COCONUT tree is the life of these island

Wherever we walked, people would hail us, make us sit on the platform, share fresh coconut (“Moimoto”) and communicate with smiles and a few words in English.  

Homework time!

They are the loveliest people.  Their needs are few.  Gardens?  it doesn’t rain much in Abaiang, but depressions in the ground (old shell craters from WWII???) retain enough water to grow taro, banana, and pumpkin. 
Our favorite couple.

ABAING TABUARO VILLAGE – 01*49.088N, 173*00.871E – sand – Of course, the policeman was waiting for us on shore, adamant to see our permit.  We obliged, and he was not too happy to have waited a week for us to show up at the village.  Was he going to arrest us?  He just motored away on his moped, asking us to slide the documents under the door at the police station.

School pickup
 The village was quite deserted.  Yet, we were impressed by the cleanliness of the streets, the hedges made of braided coconut palm, and the water distribution at each house: a halved fishing float for sink, PVC faucets and lines to carry water from the cisterns to each home.  The best we’ve ever seen in the islands.

Tabuaro: The loveliest, cleanest village we’ve visited, 

There was, once, a pearl farm in this village, but it seems that pearl oysters did not like the conditions of the lagoon and the farm has long been abandoned.

Every home is fitted with running water
It is any wonder that the village has been labeled ORGANIC?  There is absolutely nothing to pollute the place!  

BUTARITARI – Main village – 03*04.566N, 172*47.120E – 6m – sand.  This is a peculiar anchorage. A very shallow reef stands between the anchorage and the village, which makes it almost impossible to land at low tide.  We had to time our landing just right.  Another squalid village, dilapidated school house, rubbish-littered streets and paths: not a pleasant place, but the police officer met us quickly enough, gave us a bit of a hard time about our length of stay (we declared 14 days while our document only authorized 10 days) and it wasn’t long before we anchored up and left for a more hospitable village.

A typical food storage shed

KUMA VILLAGE (Butaritari) – 03*10.539N, 172*57.242E
– 7m – sand.  Did you say HEAVEN??? We dropped anchor just short of the shallows that fringe the village.  Yes, another place impossible to reach at low tide!  But what a reception.  If there is heaven on earth, this has to be it.  Never have we encountered people so warm, happy, simple, absolutely at peace.  The community (just a few families) is strong. 

Our host in Kuma, speaks English, served on a ship for many years…
His trunk is behind him, the key around his neck, and that’s about it!

Not a single cement block house: only traditional platforms, open to the elements, sheltered by a palm roof and woven palm shutters on coconut fiber strings to keep the sun or rain out.  Possessions? They all fit in a locked trunk or battered suitcase, the key hanging on a string around the owner’s neck.  Would our whole life fit in a single trunk?  Can life be that un-embarrassed? 

A typical “window blind,” lowered or raised to provide shade or protect from the rain
On November 20th, we were ready to travel to Ukiangang Village, at the south end of the island.  JP had rented a motorcycle and we did OK until we hit a bump on the causeway and took a spectacular spill.  From that point on, I rode behind our hostess on her vespa-like “put-put”.  And hour later (and sore butt) we reached Teinaura Primary school where the WWII Memorial ceremony was held.  

The local kids are always ready to tag along

What a reception!  We were the only tourists, only joined by 2 LDS missionaries, one from the US, one from Fiji.  

“Thank You America”
We presented an American flag to the community and the kids took us under their wings: school classroom visits, how to wash our hands, peppering us with questions about America, and giving us more “moimotos” to drink. 

How to wash your hands!!!
At last, the school principal collected us and sat us in the VIP section.  Flag ceremony (Kiribati and US), prayer, speech (oh yes, I had to give a speech too!) and finally, the parade.  

Year 5 school room
Each classroom, each church and community group paraded in front of the War Memorial, laying a tropical-flower-wreath.

When one of the village elders stood, all went quiet. The old man waved away the microphone, and his stentor’s voice retold the story of the liberation of Butaritari, when thousands of Marines landed and defeated the Japanese.  A scared 5-year old boy never forgot, and to this day keeps reminding the islanders that “Without the Americans (he points at us) YOU and I would not be here today.”  In a very emotional moment, he walked to us and shook our hands.

More parades, this time by the older groups who pretended to entertain the GI’s with songs and a bit of ribaldry.   This was an emotional day for us.  Never had we met with so much respect and gratitude, a deep sense of remembrance, a day of fellowship.

NATATA ISLAND – 03*12.921N, 172*56.978E – 10m, sand.  It may lay only 3 mile NW of Kuma village, but Natata might as well sit at the end of the world.  Nobody lives there.  This may be one of the most beautiful anchorage we’ve experienced, and I’ll leave it at that because there is no word to explain the vibes that emanate from this sanctuary.

Until next time


VANUATU – The Happiest People

VANUATU – The Happiest People on Earth
Bettina… my little friend
May 14, 2018
Majuro, Marshall Islands,

As our 8-year island-cruising extravaganza draws to a close, we look back and draw hyperboles, unearth superlatives, and clumsily catalog our most unforgettable experiences.  Let’s start with the happiest people on Earth: VANUATU.
Children everywhere, laughing and happy. 
But parents are concerned that the island may not be able to sustain so many lives.
Family planning is sporadic, with accent on” family,” not so much on “planning” as the health worker often runs out of BCP

It’s true.  A recent survey determined that the islanders of what used to be known as the New Hebrides are, indeed, the happiest people on earth.  We could debate whether they absorbed their joie de vivre from their early French colons or retained the phlegmatic cool of their English tutelage.  Certainly, it was unsettling to land on a beach and address the villagers to the North in French, those to the South in English, observe how the twain didn’t meet, each happy in their identity (French-Catholic vs/ English/Protestant).  

this 5-year-old already wields his dug-out with mastery

Yet again, there still exist the traditional villages where no visitor are allowed, possibly the most authentic and worry-free people we ever met as they came out of their villages to meet us and share their culture with (Yam Festival, High Jump, Canoe Festival in the Meskalines.)
In the lush valley, the village lay still
This authenticity is especially true in the North of the archipelago, the Banks Islands.  If Port Vila, the capital, is an amalgam of shanties, corrugated tin walls, black plastic-wrapped rotting frames, and rubbish-strewn streets, the villages in the Banks Islands are neatly built, houses of woven pandanus and coconut, the sand-and-pounded-dirt streets raked and clean, the gardens neatly tended.  

Cynthia, Fred’s wife, works hard, as all Vanuatu women.
When she is not at the garden, she weaves mats and handicraft
In the Banks, the needs are simple: water (usually from mountain streams) and food (lagoon and pelagic fish, yam, and fresh veggies from the gardens.)  

The bath house and shower stalls
Farmers Market – Never used… perhaps when the supply ship comes?
Very traditional, with dramatic backdrop
Our 3-week stay in Ureparapara opened our eyes.  This is a rather isolated island, nothing more than a volcano whose crater has collapsed, letting the ocean flow in, where the soil is fertile and the valley hospitable.  There are six active volcanoes in Vanuatu, and evacuation of an island or another is frequent, as it happened in Aoba while we were there, 11,000 islanders evacuated.  But Ureparapara is an extinct volcano, safe for now.

The key to the crater
As we steered DOMINO into the maw of the swamped crater, we were enveloped by the absolute magic oozing from the steep banks, the mist caught in the coconut trees, the hush of the jungle broken only by the sound of a conch signaling our arrival.  Soon, dugout canoes were converging on us, welcoming us (and wondering if we had caught any fish!)

The receptions committee

We arrived 2 weeks after Cyclone Donna had done a ravage on the island: ruined the gardens, decimated the coconuts, uprooted and brined the taro roots.  

Shells – great game pieces!
The only fiberglass panga used by the villagers was holed in several places.  The village had run out of rice and no government help had arrived yet.  What could we do?  We had not even caught a fish, skunked again, having lost some 12 big fish in a row… pitiful!

Papa Fred and his brood
Simply, Fred (could be the village greeter, or Big Papa since he can always be seen with a dozen kids trailing behind him) invited us ashore.  Of course, we brought all the rice we had on board which, we knew, would not cover the needs of the 120 or so souls on the island.  The 6 dozen cookies I had quickly baked were reverently accepted by the kids while Fred portioned out the 2 banana breads (I hoped for a miracle!).

Fred and Cynthia’s home… for a couple and 6 children
  The village, though simple, was immaculate.  Family compounds were neatly arranged, the paths raked clean, 3 water spouts were strategically placed for water distribution (water piped from a mountain stream), a central shower hut, outhouse, a community solar panel and individual home solar units were in disrepair, but the village was holding together.  Then, the fishermen grabbed JP and asked if he could fix the panga.

JP Inspects the damages, and John is very eager to learn, under all the men’s supervision
No 110v power on the island?  Just paddle the panga over to our stern and start grinding away.
John gets a lesson in wielding the grinder
A thank-you gift from the fishermen
Oh Boy!  the rest is history… we had three weeks of fiberglass grinding and laying, fiberglass lessons, making blankets for the 6 newborn babies, baking hundreds of cookies, banana bread, and polenta pies, repairing solar panels and HF radio, and night fishing with our hosts.  

6-month old Fred loves his quilt
1-month old Katrina
Named after the anthropologist who lived with the village for a year, an honor for Katrina.
The supply boat — who anchors about once a month in the shallows  — finally brought some rice, more than a month after the cyclone hit.  It left with the coconut harvest, poor, the trees decimated by the cyclone.  Copra production is the main income source on the island, and it will be another 4 months before they collect any coco of value.  Bananas? ripped out too!

The supply boat keeps on its schedule, in spite of the dismal weather,
18-20′ waves outside!
There is no phone service on the island, the HF radio was broken and we had to take it to Port Vila for repair, so there is no way for the villagers to communicate with the outer world.  But, for those who have the courage to walk a few hours, over the crest and to the other side, there is a weak reception… 4-hour round trip!
John’s canoe, super light and fast
As we ran out of butter,  flour and eggs for making cookies and breads, my little friend Bettina organized a supply gang.  Hey kids, you want cookies? Let’s find what we need!

Shy, Sweet, Resourceful Bettina

The team of 18 kids delivered a quart of freshly-squeezed coconut milk (28 coconuts squeezed!), sweet potatoes, ad 14 eggs, begging for more cookies.  Sweet-potato/coconut milk and lime zest make, indeed, wonderful cookies. 

But the eggs?  oh my!  Sure, chickens roam free and you just KNOW there are eggs around… but where?  No chicken coop!  Although Fred swears that he knows his chickens and where they lay, out of the 14 eggs produced, twelve yielded chicks in various stages of development.  Chickens are a status symbol on the island, a sign of wealth, a brick in the road to power, therefore it’s more important to grow chickens than to harvest eggs.

Chickens roam free all over the islands

This incident, of course, had to be immortalized in a quilt, “Island Chickens.”

Bok Bok!
At the end of our stay, the gardens where starting to produce, the guys were fishing on their panga, and all was well again. 

Flower crowns, AKA Leis
Served kava on bended knees
But we were not to leave this island without the Chief throwing us a party — or, as they call it, a “Program.” 

The Shaking of the Hand
On the eve of our departure, the entire village converged to the meeting grounds, the Chief introduced us and thanked us, flower necklaces, kava ceremony, speech, prayer, and the amazing “shaking of the hand” reception line, as every single villager shook our hand in thanks.  

John’s brother gives JP a ukulele lesson

To top it all, John-the-fisherman, our “go-to” man, even named his first grandson “Jean-Pierre” — probably a phonetic version— and sent us on our way with a bag of Pamplemousse and a bag of coconuts, laughing, crying, singing, ringing the boat with their canoes, waving from shore.

Time to say goodbye
Fresh scallions and Island Cabbage (tastes between spinach and taro leaf, yummy!)

Yes, happy Vanuatu, simple, traditional, endearing.  If you cruise the Banks, do not miss Ureparapara and say hello for us.

Till next time.

Pamplemousses, limes, and we are very grateful
This beautiful hanging flower is actually a nut
The fruit
The nut, incredibly hard to crack