About Us

Welcome to our blog, describing our voyage aboard Bravo, a Kelly Peterson 46 sailboat with homeport in Seattle, Washington. We headed south in 2010, destined for Mexico and beyond. Cheers, Adam and Cindi


"As for me, I am tormented by an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts." -Herman Melville, 1844


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Vanuatu wrap-up - Maewo and Pentecost Islands

Well,  more than a few miles have passed under the keel since our last blog post two months ago.  For that, loyal readers (if we still have any!!!), we apologize.  Now in Australia, we've been traveling by planes, trains, automobiles, buses, and, of course, boats.  We'll do a quick catchup of the last few months.


Our last report from Vanuatu was from Espiritu Santo, where we did quite a bit of diving on the reefs and wrecks.  But we still had time for a few more adventures before departing for Chesterfield Reef and Australia.  It was a good place for socializing, and after a fun few weeks exploring the eastern shore of Santo with friends Rich and Cyndi on Legacy, and Matt and Elizabeth on Rubicon, we headed east for a long daysail east to Maewo Island.  We made landfall at a rather open roadstead anchorage near the north end.

The morning after dropping anchor, we awoke to a steady stream of curious visitors in their dugout canoes.  It seems that few visitors stop here (we were just the 3rd boat this year), and all were eager for some trading opportunities.
















Soccer balls are our best trading items!!!


Men, women, and kids all wanted to tour Bravo, none had ever been on a boat larger than a canoe.  We had a great day visiting, and were sad to have to head south to beat a bit of squally weather in the forecast.







We enjoyed the sheltered anchorage at Asanvari, at the southern tip of Maewo.

















The diving at the point was excellent, and the bay and surrounding landscape was beautiful.





















Unfortunately, due to it's near perfect anchorage status, the village is rather inundated by yachts.  The locals were demanding of large gifts and seemed to just want to see how much they could get from us.  We felt a bit used, especially compared to our other interactions in Vanuatu.  I guess you can't blame them, but nonetheless we were quite ready to head south after a few days of exploring the waterfalls and pretty village.










As we were weighing anchor one morning in Asanvari to prepare for a quick sail south, we heard an enormous explosive BOOM!!!  We looked up, and just a few miles to our west, the large volcanic cone on neighboring island Ambae was erupting!!!  The threat level had been raised to "3" a couple of weeks prior, so it was not completely unexpected, but the eruption was spectacular, sending smoke and ash high in the air.  It was to continue erupting (considered level "4") for several more weeks.






Sadly, the eruption necessitated the evacuation of all 11,500 villagers on the island to neighboring islands.  The people fled with very little more than the clothes on their bodies, and when they were finally allowed to return to their villages weeks later, they found their crops largely destroyed by the acid rain caused by the eruption, their animals dead or dying, and, in some cases, their villages looted.  Our hearts go out to the people of Ambae, and hopefully the recovery from yet another natural disaster (the island was hit hard by Cyclone Pam, a bit over 2 years ago).


As the Ambae eruption began, we got underway for the north end of Pentecost Island, just about 10 miles away.  When we arrived at this beautiful bay, we found the villagers all sitting on the beach, spellbound, watching and listening to the eruption developing on neighboring Ambae.  Most had never seen an eruption before, so this was obviously a big event.  And the speculation was, of course, about what caused the island to erupt, and what might it mean for their island of Pentecost.

Bravo in a perfect Pentecost anchorage, Ambae volcano visible in the distance.

Ash plume, seen from Bravo's deck, anchored at Loltong Bay on Pentecost.

On the beach at the head of Loltong bay we met Mathew and his wife Mary, the proprietors of their local yacht club.  They welcomed us like family, and proceeded to give us a great tour of the village.  We had heard about their hospitality and tasting dinners of local Nivan cuisine, and we arranged for their 10 course (!!!) dinner for the following evening.  Wow!  Mary is a fantastic cook, and their 3 kids took their job of serving us very seriously.  We had a great time with them, and Mathew offered to take us to their garden area the next day, to show us where they grow all of the food up on the mountain behind the house.


Guys heading down from their field
Their gardens are about a 30 minute walk up the side of the hill.  We left early to avoid the worst heat of the day, but the temp and humidity were tough on us flat landers!  Finally we all made it, and we first checked out their new garden, just being carved out of the bush and planted with cuttings from the old farm.







We headed over there next, to get the cuttings of tarot, kava, manioc, yams, and island cabbage to transplant.

Mary and Cindi off on a planting mission...


Mathew shows off a kava plant ready for harvest.


On the way, we passed through another village near the top of the hill, and Mathew remembered that there was to be a fund raiser in the village that evening.  The chief had the only vehicle on the north end of the island, a nice pickup truck, that all used to bring their crops, especially the bundles of kava, down to the shore to sell to the island trading boats.  They held these fund raisers to raise money to give to the chief to cover his costs to run the truck.  We heard that the bash would begin later that afternoon, and 500 Vatu (about $5.00 USD) would get you a bit of dinner and all the kava you could drink!!!  We already knew that Vanuatu kava was the best in the Pacific, and the kava of Pentecost was reputed to the be best of the Vanuatu swill.....how could we say no???



With our load of cuttings we headed back to the new garden plots to get the sprigs, and some seeds in the ground before lunch.  The kids worked the field with us, especially their son, who had been given his own plot to grow kava as a cash crop.  Though primary school is free in Vanuatu, families need to pay for secondary education for their kids.  The boy wanted to go to high school when he gets old enough, about 3 years away.  Kava takes about 3 years to mature for market, so he was planting his garden now to have it ready to sell when he graduates primary school.  We were impressed!!!





Preparing cuttings for planting








After planting seeds, we built little shade canopies to protect the new seedlings and keep them moist in the sun






When it was time for lunch, the kids went out and found some yams, taro, plantains, "bush spinach" and coconut.  Mathew built a fire, and they cooked their typical daily meal.  It was great, and we had a terrific time playing farmer for the day.




Yam, papaya, and plantain roasting on the fire








Squeezing coconut milk over bush spinach before cooking.....tasty business!









Meanwhile, back at the nakamal, the women of the village were preparing the meal for the fundraiser.  It would cook all day in the open earth ovens.
















A beautiful building, this nakamal is the heart of the village's social fabric


After a bit more planting, it was time to head over to the nakamal, or community long house for the fund raiser.  The men were already at work making vats of kava, and the women had been cooking all day over the open fires in the building.


Kava prep begins outside, pounding the roots into a pulp

Cindi had blown out a flip flop in the field, and one old boy was determined to fix it.  He worked his magic using a bush knife and bits of plastic shopping bag twisted into a string for the thong.  He chuckled, "white man makes the shoe, black man fixes"!!!  The repair held for several weeks!!!







Finally, it was time for kava!





Texting is important between shells of kava!!!


Filling "travelers" of grog for the walk home.  

We spent a long evening with the gang, drinking LOTS of grog, and getting to know a bit more about local village life.  A few of them were curious about the US, and seemed especially concerned with whether the US was about to go to war with North Korea!!!  Amazing how bits of news make it into the smallest corners of the world.

Finally the truck showed up at around 10 to give about 20 of us a ride back down the mountain to the lower village in Loltong Bay.  A good day all around!

This wraps up our 4 months of cruising in Vanuatu.  The country is not without its problems, to be sure, but the people could not be friendlier and more welcoming.  We eagerly look forward to our next chance to visit again one day.

Next up, photos of Chesterfield Reef, enroute to Australia.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Passage Notes - Chesterfield Reef to Australia, BRAVO gives Murphy a ride!

Well, we finally pulled out of Chesterfield...it is a magical place, but waiting there for a weather window was getting a bit old after a 9 day stay. Finally the stars seemed to align, and we hoisted anchor in a 20 knot SE breeze. The winds were perfect, but the beam-on 2-3 meter seas were a bit sporty. Provided enormous breaking green waves over the entire boat.....yuchhh.

Shortly after leaving the reef, we noticed that Otto, our trusty auto pilot, was not steering....at all. The hell, Otto, what gives? You've always been Mr. Reliable!!! No worries, though, we have a wind vane steering system called a Hydrovane. Unfortunately, Otto has been SO reliable, that we decided not to mount the Hydrovane rudder, FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 7 YEARS of passages!!! Big mistake, as you need to either get into the water in the 10 foot seas, or launch the dinghy....neither looked too good. And its only a bit over 500 miles to Brisbane, no worries!!! Uhhh, no. We hand steered for about 24 hours before the seas calmed down enough for Adam to crawl under the aft bunk to see if Otto's problem was fixable. Immediately saw that the pilot's dedicated steering quadrant on the rudder shaft had completely gone on walkabout.....all 4 bolts had unscrewed, and the bugger was just lying in the bilge!!! A few hours later, and heaps of upside down sweating and swearing, and Otto was back at the wheel! Sweet as...

Next, we noticed that the headsail genoa had no tension in the luff. Since we had just tightened the hydraulic backstay to provide that tension, it called for a major OH SHIT.....we had now blown a seal in the hydraulic, and the backstay was providing minimal if any support to the mast.....a very bad thing. So McGuyver got back off his butt, and rigged our spare main halyard as a backstay to add support. Not great, as it can't be tensioned anywhere near the hydraulic, but at least we won't lose the rig!

OK, good to go now, right? Not so fast.....Last night we noticed a strong thumping noise coming from the aft end of the boat. Thinking it might be related to the Otto fix, we tore the bunk apart again. No joy, all looked fine. So what could it be? We felt like Robert Redford in his awful flick where he hit the shipping container.....did we have a bit of shipping or fishing debris stuck down there, banging on the hull? Looked as much as we could w/ flashlights, but couldn't see anything. So the problem persists, still banging down there. Hopefully its not the rudder going into failure mode, but clearly not much we can do out here. Now only 90 miles to go to Brisbane, and the winds are down to 10 knots....should be ok.

So this little passage has been surprisingly challenging, and completely unexpectedly so! But we'll soon be in Australia, marking the end of our 7 year crossing of the entire Pacific (well, not yet including cruising Alaska.....one of these days!) We're really looking forward to the next year cruising in Oz, and after that??? Indonesia and rest of Asia are beckoning! But first we need to wash off the salt....on Bravo and ourselves!!!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Passage to Australia - Chesterfield Reef

We had a terrific 3-1/2 day sail from Luganville to Chesterfield Reef. Seas were a bit rolly at first with about 2 meter seas on the beam, but died down after the first day. The only challenge then became trying to slow down in the 15-20 knot broad reach to allow for a daylight entry into the reef. Actually, scratch that.....there was another challenge.....Bravo became an official Booby Transport Vessel. Each night, we had from 2-5 large booby birds stowing away for a several hour ride toward Chesterfield. We thought it was pretty funny to watch them make landings on the flat glass solar panels.....sort of like watching Top Gun fighters try carrier landings without a tail hook!!! They'd usually skid right off, and keep at it until they settled in for the ride. But the challenge came in the morning, when we found that, like all animals, birds are what they eat. And they eat fish, and show their gratitude for a nice night sail with a leave behind of piles of stinky fish crap.....thick enough to nearly shut off our solar panels!!!

Chesterfield reef itself is extraordinary. Actually part of a few reefs joined together over a distance of nearly 60 miles, Chesterfield is a series of low sand bars and rocky shoals surrounded by ocean depths of over 10,000 feet, all hundreds of miles away from any other land, with occasional entries into a beautiful blue inner lagoon. While the low sandy shoals offer nearly no protection from the wind, they break the swell nicely, allowing for a terrific interlude in the passage to Australia.

The reef is a major sea bird rookery, with various boobies, noddies, shearwaters and terns all nesting in the low scrub or right on the sand. Young hatchlings are learning to fly (the beach is littered with the carcasses of the slow learners!!!), and the area where we've anchored has continual fly bys of parents out fishing. Walking on the beaches is amazing. You can literally walk right up to the birds, as they have zero fear of humans here in this remote outpost. We remain a respectful distance, and save the occasional feisty booby parent, all seem fine with our quiet presence.

The sand also serves as a nesting beach for loggerhead turtles, which we frequently see swimming near the boat. Although we've seen many tracks on shore, as well as the big holes indicating their nests, we have yet to find a turtle laying her eggs, even when we stayed ashore after dark one evening.

The big issue now is the weather. We've now been here at Chesterfield for 5 days, and are ready to head on to Australia. Unfortunately there is a very large high pressure system south of us, creating winds of 30-35 knots on the passage route, with higher gusts in the squalls. The winds will likely reach us here at Chesterfield in about two days, and hopefully after they pass, in 5 days or so, we'll be on our way again to Oz in a nice weather window. In the meantime, the sun is shining in this beautiful spot, and it may be time to head back to the island for some more photos!!!

We also plan on some snorkeling or diving while here, as the coral looks promising. The 3 meter tiger shark that swam by does give a bit of pause, though!!!

Sorry for the lack of photos. We obviously have no internet here (how refreshing!!!), so this blog post is made via ham radio Pactor email, which is extremely slow...text only. Photos will have to wait until we arrive in Australia, hopefully in 1-2 more weeks.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Getting wet in Vanuatu

We've been having a great time underwater here in Vanuatu.  Both diving and snorkeling, there's a lot to see.  Most known for its wreck dives, mostly from WWII, we've also found a fair variety of fish, and great underwater topography thanks to the volcanic origin of the islands.  The coral may not be as vibrant as we've found in Fiji or French Polynesia, but its fairly good in many places, especially where protected from the ravages of recent cyclones.

Wrecks
SS President Coolidge when launched
The big attraction in Vanuatu is the wreck of the ship SS President Coolidge.  It is an enormous luxury liner which was in use during WWII as a troop transport ship for allied forces.



With Vanuatu (then New Hebrides) used as a major allied base during the war providing bomber support for the Guadalcanal theatre in the Solomons (the largest base in the Pacific except for Pearl Harbor), the ports of Espiritu Santo and Port Vila saw enormous buildups of ships and troops.  It seems that the Coolidge was entering the port at Santo, which was heavily mined to defend against Japanese submarines.  She was given the secret coordinates of the safe course to navigate, but was not advised that the course was set through a mine field.  The captain, thinking the course was a bit close to a reef, and unaware of the danger of a deviation from the recommendation, made a change, and hit a mine.  The captain, knowing he was about to lose his ship, tried to run her up on a beach, but she hit a coral reef near the shore instead, sank, and gradually slid down to her current resting place.

Abandoning ship

The "Coolidge" is a big ship (653 feet in length, compared to the 883 foot Titanic).  She is also very accessible, as she sank close to shore, and as such is a very popular recreational dive destination.  (Most guidebooks and articles rate her as one of the top 10 wreck dives in the world).  There's a lot to see, both from the early days as a luxury ship, and her later days as a naval vessel.



The diving is quite deep.  She lies on her side on the sloping bottom, with depths ranging from 35m to 60m.  Dives at this depth have short bottom times, with some decompression likely required.  The payback is lots to see.  We found old military hardware, guns, and ammunition, medical supplies in the sick bay, a barbers chair anchored to the "wall", actually the floor, but the ship is on her side, which can be a bit disorientating, and other bits and pieces.  We only did two dives on the ship (a minimum of 6 are recommended to see it all, including the swimming pools, china closets, Japanese baths, engines, etc., but we felt we got a great intro to this amazing wreck.  Here are a few images from the Coolidge dives...

Descent to ship bow
 


Trying on a gas mask found in a locker on deck









Supplies in sick bay





 Another unique dive in Santo harbor is what is known as "Million Dollar Point".  When WWII ended, the Americans were preparing to abandon the base as they pulled the troops out.  New Hebrides was governed as a sort of joint colony of the British and French governments at the time.  The story goes that the Americans offered the huge quantity of military hardware to both the Brits and French for pennies on the dollar.  Hardware included trucks, tanks, jeeps, bull dozers, cranes, spare parts, etc.all in tremendous quantities.  Both governments declined the offer.  They knew that the Americans would not ship the hardware back to the States, and felt that if they waited until the yanks pulled out, they could get the goods for free.  The Americans didn't like these terms, and instead decided to drive all of the equipment into the sea.  A huge waste, and testament to pig headed leadership even among allies around the world.

But there it all lies, perhaps the worlds largest underwater military wrecking yard.  Makes for fascinating if not overly scenic diving, as you can make your away around and into the old equipment.  There's even an old naval boat wreck to check out while down there.










Cindi tries to start an old truck, while a little scuba gremlin jumps on her back!!!

Just to add to the variety, there are also plane wrecks to explore around Vanuatu.  Here are the remains of an old Dauntless dive bomber which went down, broke into three major sections and sank next to Aore Island, right near our current mooring position.  We went over with the crew of Legacy in our dinghies one morning.....made for a fun dive in about 75 feet of water..






Finally here are just some random shots from other dives we've been doing in Vanuatu.  This country just continues to amaze us with the variety of species and often great water clarity!!!


Arc eye hawkfish


Great camouflage of black striped goatfish



Dorid nudibranch



Granular sea star



Lionfish, highly venemous






Gorgonian fans










Snowflake moray eel



Mantis shrimp