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The Logbook of White Swan....Bob & Dianna
 

This logbook is in chronological order...to see the most recent entry  click HERE.
Jump to White Swan's Logbook, January - December 2005
Jump to White Swan's Logbook, August - December 2004
Return to White Swan's homepage

Jan. 24, 2006, Chapter 32
    0234, my watch and day two of underway and heading south, well actually we are really heading very much easterly now and if you were to look at a map you would see why quite surprisingly to see how the land mass starts to curve in so drastically. We arrived in Barra De Navidad in time to spend a really fun New Years Eve with other cruisers having a really great dinner and then on to a local bar on the beach to dance in the New Year...it seems to me that tequila was involved at some point. You may remember that Bob and I really like the little village of Barra and had made a few friends from our first visit there 8 months before. We always seem to find lots to do, places to go and people to see.
    One of the things we were planning to do from  Barra was a trip to Guadalajara about a 5 hour bus ride. Our new bud Christy wanted to join us which made the trip even more fun. This would be our first time doing any real distance on a Mexican bus and we're wondering what the experience would hold. A lot of the buses that do longer distance runs are really quite nice and called Primera, our tickets round trip were 468 pesos each. What a cushy ride we had though the trip up (we climbed  4,500') was a very curvy, sometimes steep road. Although there was no food service on the bus when we would pull into little villages along the way to let off and pick people up there was always someone getting onboard with a basket of some kind of goodies. We also had fun watching the new King Kong movie, although it was dubbed in Spanish it was pretty easy to follow but I was reminded how much of the story line I didn't like, just too much of a soft touch I guess.
    After a nice ride in big cushy seats and great scenery we arrived in the out skirts of Guadalajara where the large central Bus station is located. Now we had been told and had also done some reading on things to do and not to do while in the city like always make sure to get the price of the cab fare before you ever get into the car. We were also supposed to buy a ticket for a cab ride into the heart of the city inside the bus station rather than out on the street....so we did. We were told the fare to our hotel would be $18 so paid it, we found out on our return trip the real fare is $8!  
    Soon we were in front of an old hotel only a couple blocks from the historic district that had been recommended to us. We went upstairs and into a very old and run down mansion turned hotel but it seems o.k. for $45 bucks a night after all we were close to the things we wanted to see. Guadalajara is huge, about the same size as L.A., the historic district is really quite impressive with many huge old elaborate buildings  housing museums, churches, etc. There were also many large squares full of wonderful sculptures, trees wandering musicians, artists, clowns and food vendors. We had found it true all over Mexico that the local people use their town squares as places to meet friends, take a stroll or just relax. One of the squares has had live music every Thursday and Sunday since 1898...no kidding  and  without missing one performance..... The central market was absolutely amazing, way too big to see in one visit since it was three stories high. The sights, smells and sounds were all deliciously consuming as we walked around nibbling on wonderful snacks. The central portion opened to the sky and was full of cages of small birds for sale, Paraquites, Parrots and many others, what a sound. Like all other markets large enough to have a top floor they are filled with eateries of all sorts with often times very aggressive owners trying to convince you that their tacos/tamales were the very best. As were the lower floors the lunch floor was huge and there were specialty sections as you walked through, like Chili Rellenos, Menudo, Tacos and Tamales, even Asian food and of course Mexico is famous for it's wonderful shrimp and lobster...then the desserts, flan's and cakes and all sorts of candies. The three of us finally decided on Terriyaki, can you believe it, I guess after over a year in Mexico it sounded and was very good.
    The following day we took another short bus trip to a little town on the outskirts of the City called Tonala, home to an enormous open market especially on Sun. when there are thousands of people there. We saw  everything from candles, glass ware, wooden ware, amazing dried/dyed plants, ceramics, all kinds of art and a whole lot I can't even remember. We spent from morning to afternoon just walking and trying to take it all in. At one point we came across an area where a lot of glass ware was being sold and had an opportunity to watch glasses being made from scratch ... from the initial melt down to the blowing etc.
    After burning ourselves out on the Tonala experience we hopped back on a bus for a half hour ride to another small town called Tlaquepaque. It was late afternoon by then and we were unable to take in very many of the amazing art galleries in the town. What we saw was all high quality and truly a shoppers paradise, if money were no issue and I was filling up a new house that is where I would go. Back to Guadalajara a bit more sight seeing and then off on the Primera for our trip back to Barra the next morning. Once again we stopped in many of the little villages along the way, one in particular that this time around we were told was the birth place of Carlos Santana by a man who was a school teacher there and knew Carlos as a child. We had another interesting movie to watch going back this time the new Charlie's Angles and yup, dubbed in Spanish. It was really amazing getting off the bus back at sea level, couldn't believe how humid it instantly felt. The air in Guadalajara was very dry and also a lot of pollution.
    We spent a couple more days in Barra and then went back up north just around the corner to a favorite cruisers anchorage called Tenacatita. It,s a huge secure anchorage and a very popular spot. Everyday there is someone organizing some sort of activity if you are so inclined to participate. This is also where the dingy jungle trip is located which we did 8 months ago, however Christy hadn't been before so we had another excuse to make the trip up the narrow channel through the mangrove canopy for about 2 miles to the other end where there are palapa's on the beach serving drinks and food. After spending 4 nights in the Tenacatita anchorage we headed back over to Barra to reprovision and do our official check out before heading south again. Christy began having problems with her transmission, she and Bob spent quite awhile troubleshooting and came up with the conclusion there was no easy fix. Even though Christy had decided to buddy boat with us down to Zihuatanejo she had to make a decision to stay and figure out her new course of action. Regrettably we ended up having to say Good Bye to Island Girl and we headed out of the lagoon in Barra at noon on the 22nd.
    It's now 0825 Jan. 25th and we are listening to Don our weather guru broadcasting over the SSB on the morning Amigo net as I type away. We had a great day sailing yesterday, however ended up having to motor all night and we are still motoring. We are about 15 miles outside of Caleta de Campos what looks to be a good anchorage for the rest of the day and night. Then it will be up early tomorrow morning in order to make the next 80 miles into Zihuatanejo before dark. We will be in Zihuatanejo until we make the Pacific crossing affectionately called the "Puddle Jump" in mid March.
    2000 (8 P.M.) the 25th, we spent 7 hours in the Campos anchorage which turned out to be quite rolly so decided to take off at 6 p.m. and as you can see have been underway a couple hours. As I sit below typing I can hear that the wind is dying and I expect to be listening to the iron lung very soon, better than the slat bang of limp sails.
How are you all? We hope and wish you all good health and happiness even if you are drowning in the rain...sorry P.N.W. friends. Love, Dianna and Bob
 Personals:
Amber Moon Merilyn, Been quite awhile since we have typed each other, Ray and Janie on Adios were also wondering how you are doing...so, how are you and where are you? Hope across the Sea by now and enjoying Mazatlan.
Gary and Celeste on Sol Surfin', many people are wondering about where you are now, are you already in Panama? How did the Tehuantepec treat you?

 
March 6th, 2006
    Hi all from Zihuatanejo, another really wonderful spot. We arrived less than a week before the start of the 5th annual Sail Fest, a week long event full of activities like Boat races, raffles, auctions, dingy poker, Chili Cook Off's and a parade with lots of beach parties in-between. The event is all about raising money for the local poorest schools and believe me it is needed. There were 100 boats anchored here. It was a very busy week full of volunteering and the rest. Bob and I did the Chili Cool Off in style by making 2 gallons of Charred Pablano Pork Mole Chili. For those of you who know us well the presentation was just as important as the Chili and out came the stash of costumes and such. I think people were pretty impressed to see Bob in a flaming red wig with red devil ears and a white long tailed tux with black bow tie (no shirt) and black shorts with a devil tail. I was his counter part....we had a lot of fun.  Pam has worked her magic of downloading all kinds of new pictures we sent in to the Family Yacht Club web site, so go there and take a peak, there are a couple of Bob and I at the Chili Cook Off too. 
    We have been loving our time in Zihuatanejo, it's a great town, not too big, just right. One of the highlights was seeing our very good friends, Phil and Kathy Roush as they came through here on a family vacation on one of the Cruise Ships, they had also brought us lots of goodies from the states. Thanks again Phil and Kathy, we love you!
Sunday nights here are always shore leave as the local families all come out to the town square for food and entertainment. There are always lots of vendors selling all kinds of yummy food, from Plantain wrapped Tamales, Taco, enchiladas, fried Plantains some of the most delicious hamburgers we have ever tasted and fresh juices and other snacks. Talk about a gastronomic delight. There is always some kind of regional dancing, mime and other sometimes quirky entertainment, just delightful.
    We have been planning and talking about our crossing for weeks now and have spent the past 2 weeks in preparation. You should see my note book, it is full of list's of things to accomplish before we go. Somehow I volunteered myself to put together a tee shirt design for the "Zihuatanejo 2006 Puddle Jump" and have the order of almost 60 printed up. They actually came out really cool, the back is a globe with the Mexico coast line all the way down to Panama with a slightly upward curving dotted arch from a red X at Zihuatanejo and ending with another red X at the Marquesas. Underneath are all the boat names leaving from here. All the boats leaving from Puerto Vallarta had there own tee shirts made up there. We have been having weekly meetings to exchange information and also cursing books and charts it's absolutely no problema having a book or full sized chart copied down here and pretty cheaply.
    The first couple of boats left for the Marquesas from here around the first week of March, it ended up being too early in the season as they were still motoring 600 miles out. We were hoping to get underway the 16th, however we are watching the projected weather patterns and see no wind all the way through the 20th....so we are now looking at the 21st as a hopeful leave date. Due to fuel capacity the last thing any of us want to do is have to motor out 600 miles in order to find the trade winds that will carry us the rest of the way. Bob and I will be taking White Swan into a marina around the corner from here for several days of cleaning and other preparation for the crossing....she hasn't seen fresh water or a dock in a long time. It will be a bit exciting, hopefully not scary as there are pretty large crocodiles floating around in the marina...better watch out for FiFi if I had one :)
    Hope this finds all in high spirits and looking forward to improving weather as you march into spring.
We will stay in touch from the not too high I hope seas. We are getting pretty darn excited.
    If you would like to correspond, please use our:  WDB5588@sailmail.com   address and remember to try to keep your messages somewhat short, we have a limited time to send and receive messages. Also remember we can not receive pictures or other graphics....text only. You can continue to send pictures to our:  bobanddianna@gmail.com  and we will pick them up on the other side when we can. We hear internet cafe's are few and far between.  Oh, and please don't use "reply" as we will have to spend our precious space downloading our original message to you, thanks all.
Sweet regards and more from mid ocean...can hardly wait. Remind me I am saying that 10 days out and no more 8 hours of sleep in a row!
Love, Dianna and Bob

March 25, 2006 Crocodiles, Tootsie Pops and open Ocean
   
Hello everyone from the high seas...day 6 now. We left Ixtapa Marina (right next to Zihuatanejo) on the Vernal Equinox, March 20 to begin our passage to the Marquesas, seemed the perfect day to leave and begin our big new adventure. The trip from Mexico to the Marquesas is approx. 2,800 miles.
    Under sail during an ocean crossing in a traditional cruising mono hull like ourselves we should be able to average 100 miles a day. If all goes well we could do the crossing in 28 days. Here are some basic statistics on White Swan. She is a Cape George Cutter, 36' long and weighing in at a grand 26,500 lbs (unloaded) with 10,500 lbs. of that weight in her big full keel. According to the scale at the yard in Puerto Vallarta where we hauled the boat there is an additional 2,400 lbs. of gear on board and I am sure we probably put on another close to 1,000 lbs. in food, fuel and water provisioning for the passage. That's a lot of weight being pushed, shoved or drug through the water. Amazing to me still how well White Swan moves even in light air. We have solar panels, a wind generator, diesel engine and water maker (1 1/2 gal. per hour)on board.
    Let me take you back to Ixtapa Marina before we left, we had been hearing before we ever got down to Zihuatanejo about the crocodiles in the marina, yikes, they were right. One evening our boat neighbors called over excitedly that the croc was next to their boat so we jumped on board, of course I couldn't go calling without a few steak treats. Oh my gosh...he was big, maybe 7' and fat! One too many FiFi's from the dock I think, actually we had heard stories of missing pets. There were signs all over the marina "NO SWIMMING" He really enjoyed the treats although his eye sight didn't seem that keen as he seemed to miss the pieces unless I hit him right in the nose, then he would lash out and snap them up. And the grin, well, you just gotta go to the web site: familyyachtclub.com/white_swan.htm where are friends have donated a page to us. You can see all our previous letters there plus pictures. Thanks again Pam!
    Our first couple of days out at sea were really quite raucous sailing with water rushing down the decks, we made more that 100 miles per day the first 2 days and then the winds began to slow down. Since we have been doing some good sailing, some motoring and some very light wind sailing. Still we are making our 100 miles a day and are now out 600 miles. Our Lat and Lon at 1200 was: N 15'17 W 110.11. There are 7 different radio nets every day you can tune into over the Single Side Band Radio to stay in touch with other boats and hear about what others are experiencing with the weather where they are. And as you can see I am sitting out here emailing all of you so we don't feel alone.
    One of the most remarkable things out here is the vastness of it all in every direction and given these weather conditions and seas it really is very relaxing and peaceful. I thought of a perfect analogy for you to be able to visualize the color of the water out here...do you remember blue Tootsie Pops? Hey, come on I know your old enough, perhaps you haven't had one in awhile or perhaps the blue ones weren't your favorite flavor (chocolate was mine), but that's the color. Even more so the color if you have sucked on the pop for a little while and it starts to get a bit translucent. We have seen lots of Boobies, unlike their diving for fish behavior in shore they do fly by's over flying fish and scoop them right up as the little guys are whizzing across the wave tops. We have also had two sighting of gorgeous White Tailed Tropic Birds, easy to identify by their 16" long white tail feathers.
    Even still after 6 days we continue to find better ways to stow the extra things we bought for provisions....like potatoes for instance. I bought 32 and they are now all nestled in their own net hammock at the foot of the V Berth. The onions (about 20) also have their very own hanging net on one side of the Main Salon while citrus is living on the other. I read awhile back about wrapping citrus in foil to prolong the life by 3 fold, we tried it weeks ago on limes and it really does work. It was an interesting process trying to figure out quantities for not only the passage but for at least a month in the Marquesas.
    Everything we have heard and read is that everything (and that isn't much in some places) is very expensive. As you can imagine, pretty much everything has to be shipped in. I bought 8 dozen eggs! Every several to 3 days I need to go through all and check to make sure there aren't any potatoes or onions spoiling and also turn the eggs over. With each passing day we are becoming more in tune with the rhythm of passage making....a few prunes don't hurt either, ha. The broken sleep patterns seem like one of the biggest hurdles never getting 8 hours in one stretch. It isn't about getting used to living with less sleep though you just need to nap more. So different from the life we are so used to on shore, nice to see we are still flexible enough to adjust. When I stop to think about the length we will be at sea it's really quite fascinating to think I could cut my nails down to a nub and they would grow back out by the time we get there. And then there are the nights....

March 26, Lat 14'46 N Lon 112'23 and now 732 miles off shore, looks like we have been averaging 5.5 knots per hour in the last 24. The night watches are getting a little easier, especially now that I have a new passion to look forward to, the stars. By 1:00 a.m. the Southern Cross is above the horizon, not as dynamic as our beloved Big Dipper, but easily distinguishable. I have also found Centaur, to the Cross's East, then The Fox and oh boy was I excited to see Scorpio..it's huge and once you have seen it you will never forget his shape. Keep on going east and you see The Archer, that's as far as I got last night, but I am already looking forward to seeing more. The only challenge is I have to keep going between my regular and reading glasses, wishing I had gotten those bifocals after all.
    Bob told me when I got up for a watch we had just passed through a total cloud bank and that "everything" had just gone absolutely completely black, it was very eerie. Speaking of Bob, well he is totally loving all of this, I am so happy for him, it has been his dream for a very long time to go off shore. I was also thinking about the fact that the constant motion has become the norm and I can only wonder what it will feel like to step back on Terra Firma, will we get dizzy?
    Yes bro, we have been dragging our fish line, no luck yet, well if I hadn't pulled it in a one point we may of had Boobie under glass that night for dinner! We hear that of course they are supposed to taste like chicken.
    The days are full of checking the fresh food stock, I found out all those (maybe 20) carrots I bought and wrapped in paper to lengthen their life which I had read in a book...well they are pretty darn flaccid now. Good grief, what will I do with all those carrots going off at once...stay tuned. Clean up from food preparation is certainly more involved due to having to wash out any plastic that has contained anything raw like meat etc. That all goes into one garbage bag, still unsure what will happen to it when we get there. Everything else pretty much goes overboard.
    On that fine note I think I will say good bye, we realize it truly is all about the journey and not just the destination, it's very humbling to be out here. More soon.
Love to all, Dianna and Bob

April 05, 2006, day 17th at sea, WOW! What an amazing mixed bag of tricks out here. The weather has been a little out of the ordinary this season with lots of squalls accompanied by stiff winds. We are making good head way though, averaging 140 mile days. Our position is: 03'31 N 128'56 W on a heading of due south, we will be at the equator in less than a couple days. We went through the ITCZ, Inter tropical Convergence Zone today without incident, it's a band that meanders along perpendicular and north to the equator where the N.E. trade winds meet the S.E. trades and as you can imagine noted for a disturbed area. After such a raucous start to our trip it was a piece of cake. The squalls we have encountered are absolutely phenomenal to watch and talk about packed with rain. The other day we just stood in the cockpit in our wet gear in awe watching as the torrential down pour beat the seas down into submission, it was very humbling.
    Looks like it is going to be a dark night tonight due to all the cloud cover. We keep the radar on Stand By and watch it now and then, it's amazing to see the squalls come up on you, they show up clear as can be on radar. I much prefer the starry starry nights myself. Let's see, what else is going on. We are both getting pretty tired as the exertion of trying to maneuver around the boat is a physically demanding job, every moment there is motion and you have to counter balance with an apposing motion. It's like a carnival ride that never stops. I had a great visual of myself yesterday as I was trying to walk forward with legs spread wide stomping back and forth like a baby with diapers full of...well you know. By the time I get done fixing and cleaning up from a meal of which there are an average of 3 a day I am exhausted.      
    Let's see, food...for breakfast we have granola, or muffins and scrambled eggs, or bacon and eggs, or fried potatoes and fruit or dried fruit crepe cakes or just fruit. Lunches are sandwiches, soups (I made some killer cream of carrot soup) quesadilas or left over's and dinners have been as easy as soups, pastas, tonight I fixed some scalloped potatoes, cabbage, mung bean sprouts (yes I have been sprouting seeds and beans)and onion salad and some pork chops that we ended up throwing away they were so tough. Mexico is def. not known for their tender meat, the safe bet there is to always buy tenderloins. We had stuffed baked potatoes for dinner last night. So you can see we are not starving. We are starting to run out of a lot of our fresh stuff though and I will be using more canned stuff soon. We are anxious to see what kind of fresh fruit, veggies and other food there will be available in the Marquesas.
    We will be making land fall on Hiva Oa, Taahuku Bay with the village of Atuona onshore. This will be where we will check into the Islands. This is also where Paul Gauguin spent so much time and it will be interesting to see how much of his influence is still there. Hiva Oa also boasts many archaeological sites that will be very interesting to check out, I can hardly wait!!!
    As for wild life out here there hasn't been very much to report, some dolphins, yes way out here! Still the occasional sea bird, we identified them as Petrils who live at sea unless nesting. The other day we were sliding off the back side of a wave and looked over to both see a shark fin, he just paced along with us for awhile, that was exciting. Then there are the flying objects....flying fish. I knew this could be a dangerous sport, but I didn't think the danger could come in the form of a small fish. They come literally flying across the wave tops really, really fast and often times end up on our deck. There for awhile we might get up to 10 a night...and smell, oh my gosh! Bob was on watch the other night and one went flying right past his face, hey it could of put his eye out! I immediately put us in a cartoon with us sitting in the cockpit with full on goalie uniforms with face shields, ha.
    04/06 Hi again, just after I was typing the last part of above I looked at the radar again to find there were a string of squalls marching down on us this time full of lightning too, great huh! So into the oven went the computer and our GPS's. For the rest of the night it was just keeping watch and hoping all would be o.k. After 2/3 more hours we seemed to pop through the string and when I looked back I could see pretty much a solid very dark line behind us stretching from east to west. So, I stand corrected to my above statement that we had already passed through the ITCZ, rather I think we were still in it until later on.
    We are chilling a bottle of Champagne for the Equator and a nip for ole Neptune too. I also need to dig out B.J. and Trish's "all you can wear at the Equator" gift...I will let you know what was inside.
    We indeed are now in the S.E. trades, though right now there aren't much of them, only 4/6 knots of breeze. The seas are fairly calm and have finally stretched out into those long languid legs we have been waiting for. I can feel my body start to relax a bit. It was laundry day and we both tried to catch up some sleep with naps. Now I am reading about the upcoming Islands to see what's ahead. Hope this finds you all in the glory of Spring where ever you are.
Thanks and love to all....more soon.

April 8, 2006 Pollywog's, Shellback's and hey, Neptune is Kinky! Lat. 02'38 S, 132'08 W, that's right the Lat. is now S and not N! We made it across the Equator early this a.m. at 0634, it was dark but we celebrated anyway.
    O.K. B.J. and Trish, you really set me up this time letting me go on about the excitement of what was in the package to open for the crossing with instructions to wear nothing else. I knew everyone would be curious to hear what was in that package, little did I know you would pick something so, well colorful, so, well edible. That's right everyone, they got us edible underwear with instruction they would be the only attire at crossing. I knew I wanted to leave something of significant meaning to me at the Equator and also something to honor the old man of the sea. I spent my watch prior writing a poem to read while going over the line. I will include it at the bottom. Bob relieved me on watch and told me he would wake me about 15 min. before we got to the Equator, he did and though groggy we donned our sticky briefs, grabbed some brandy, the poem and my feathers and headed for the aft deck. While reading the poem with great animation I tossed the small bundle of eagle feathers to leeward, finished the poem and then came a healthy shot of imbibment to Neptune and one for Bob and I. We were a bit uncertain as to what to do about our untasteful briefs, I had taken a nibble of mine before putting them on, not something you would consider a delicacy. Bob suggested we treat Neptune to our knickers, surely he would find them a treat. I bet we are not the first to read a poem at the crossing, but perhaps have the distinction of such an unusual offering. Thanks again you two!
    So, we are across and the once "Pollywog's" are now "Shellback's", it's a new title and an honor. Believe me it has not been easy getting here. As the sun came up so did a nice 5/7 knot S.E. trade breeze. We put up the Spinnaker and off we went. It's a gorgeous clear blue sky day with the occasional poodle cloud doing doggy tricks across the sky. The sea temp is 82.1 and outside it's 83'.

April 9th, 2006 Lat. 02'38 S, 132'08 N. Boy have things taken an unexpected downturn in our weather. By early this morning the sea's began to get much bigger and very confused...6/8' seas and coming from every direction, we are getting tossed around like rag dolls. It sure is a good thing I got so much done the day before, cooking (so we have left overs), bread making etc. Today almost all you can do is hold on thought ya gotta eat so it ends up taking 3 times as long to make anything. What a challenge. It's a good thing we talked to other boats ahead of us by a day who say, hang in there, it starts to level out a hundred or so miles down the way, we are on a course of 210 mag. Bob did the projection and figures we are about 585 miles from Hivo Oa. I hate to think about another night like last night with one squall after another and more torrential down pours, it is wearing us down and as before, sleep does not come easy. So many people that have done this passage have had wonderful trips with feet up trade wind sailing, not the case for this pack of boats. Still unsure how many will have made the transit this season. If interested you might check out Electronic Latitude online (Magazine) for more info. O.K., time to go peek back outside and see how many squalls are lined up this time.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Oh Great King Neptune we come with our respect
we offer small eagle feathers to the north for we detect
they will guard against all harm to fellow sailors we elect
and now for you this offering of something strong and we expect
you will drink deeply and sleep sweetly
it's all so perfect

April 14, 2006; day 26.....LAND HO!
    O.K., this is it, Bob was first to see the Islands on his watch just as it was getting light about 4:30 a.m. Right now at 7:00 we are cruising down the S.E. side of Hiva Oa towards the anchorage in Taahuku Bay with the village of Atuona ...population of about 1,500 people. This will be where we do our initial check in. Looks like we have about another 5 miles to go till we are in the anchorage. We hear it is already quite crowded and we will have to put out a stern anchor in addition to our bow anchor so we do not swing. I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to not pitching around, my body is so exhausted, there was never a moment  when our bodies were not working in some way, even in sleep just to hang on. The Island is incredibly rugged, steep cliffs covered with lush green, I can smell the musk from here. The cloud cover is quite dense, this is the rainy season so we expect there to be a lot of rain. Also seeing many more birds now, really didn't end up seeing that many animals during the crossing. We are trying to do email in hopes of getting this out to you all and also to receive information from Pacific Yacht Services who we will hire to do our paper work. The Champagne has been chilling for hours now, nothing like getting hammered first thing in the morning huh! I will be going into the anchorage blowing my big beautiful conch shell my sis got for me, it's really cool and even has an official mouth piece glued in. Hope the natives aren't restless. O.K., I want to go back up and see the sights, it's pretty surreal after so long with nothing but ocean. More soon, love from the Marquesas, Dianna and Bob

 

April 24, 2006    Underway for Fatu Hiva
    After spending 10 lovely days in the Bay of Taahuku, on Hiva Oa we are  now heading down to see the southern most of the Marquesan Islands, Fatu Hiva. We really enjoyed our time on Hiva Oa, hitch hiking into the main village of Atuona was  usually very easy as the only gas station is out near the anchorage. It seems the local vehicle of choice is a small pick-up or jeep so there is always room in the back and the locals don't hesitate to stop and give you a lift even if it is out of their way. We found out the reason the locals all seem to have such nice vehicles is the Noni fruit which are highly priced for their  antioccident benefits. The Noni trees seem to grow all over the Island and are readily available although regulated each native is only allowed to collect so much.
    We ended up using an agent from Papeete to do the check in procedure who we contacted via email, it was an easier process and we also now received duty free fuel. We were fortunate to have the last small cruise ship (they are few and far between, nothing like Mexico) from Papeete come into the Bay and we got a chance to see local native dancing and drumming. There was also a lot of local art for sale, wood carvings, carved bone jewelry and the traditional Tapa art work which is the inner bark from the Bread Fruit, Rose Wood or Mulberry trees which is pounded until quite thin and then a traditional design applied with black ink.
    We were pleased to see several pretty well stocked grocery stores with new and interesting French foods. There are many wonderful fruit available especially Pamplemousse, closest to a grapefruit with quite a unique flavor and huge! There is a bakery, (in French Boulangerie) that makes fresh Baguettes daily and they are only 40 cents a loaf, it seems they are government subsidized somewhat like the corn tortillas in Mexico. There is a local Caravan type truck parked by the library most days that makes fresh baguette sandwiches for 250 Polynesian Francs which is $2.50. You get a sandwich about 15" long with a choice of fillings like Chicken pieces with either salad or French fries inside, yup they put the French fries right in the sandwich! Or you could order a Chow Mien sandwich, or an omelet sandwich with French fries, wow. The local Tahiti beer is good but expensive, if you order one in a little cafe you spend 5 bucks, in the grocery store they are $2.50.
    One day the locals brought a carved canoe/catamaran down to the water, it was at least 50' long and all carved with Tiki's and other designs with a platform in between, a Chinese film crew had come to do a documentary. We were treated to a festive launching and traditional costume and dancing onboard the boat while it was  being paddled by 12 very strong Marquesan's. I will let you all know when I have a chance to send pictures to the web page for you to see.     
    We also did a guided trip in a small 4 wheel drive truck with a local man named Ozanne. He was originally from Tahiti but has been living on Hiva Oa now for over 30 years. It took almost half a day over a very rough rock road to get to the ancient (early 1500's) sacred site of the Tiu tribe. The site was a ceremonial complex with many stone platforms and basalt stone carved Tiki's, the largest was about 6' tall. Ozanne took us to the beach after and B.B.Qued some Wahoo and sweet sticky rice and beans for us. While we were eating lunch some locals who had been hauling Coconuts for the Copra trade, (they extract the meat, dry it on racks and then it is used for the oil in perfumes etc.)brought their horses down to the beach, took off their saddles and led them out into the waves for a bath, quite a site. Once again, I will post pictures.
    Now: May 3rd. Our next Island was Fatu Hiva, the southern most and claimed to be one of the most beautiful in the South Pacific. The bay is surrounded by amazing Basalt pinnacles that raise up 100's of feet and steep cliffs that plunge into the ocean. The elevation of most of the mountain peaks seems to be around 3,000, 4,000 feet. There is no airport on Fatu Hiva so it is fairly cut off except for a monthly supply ship. The people were friendly and all wanted to show us their Tapa's or wood carvings and most were interesting in trading. The things most requested were Perfume, lip stick, shampoo, tee shirts, ball caps, and candy for the kids, life vests and fishing line. We did do some trading with things we had and now have a nice little Tapa collection and several tiki carvings.
    We spent one day hiking up to a waterfall and taking a dip in some very refreshing water in the pool underneath. From Fatu Hiva we went to the Island Tahuata to another anchorage off the small village of Hapatoni with an ancient path bordered with a large lava rock wall on either side, what a picturesque place. It didn't take long for the local gang of kids (6 or 7) to adopt us and patiently try to talk to us through my translator (from English to French). One of their favorite pass times was to go to the steep launch ramp and wait for a surge to draw back out at which point they would take off running and then skid down the steep ramp on the slick growth in their bare feet to then fall/dive into the water below and then be carried back up with the next surge. We watched until they exhausted themselves. It was quite an amusing and wondrous thing to see and we took lots of pictures which they loved to see on the digital camera. See Video.
    We did some snorkeling along the rocks in the anchorage, amazing tropical fish, even saw an octopus! We spent part of the next day in the anchorage also, printed out some of the pictures of the kids and took them back in for them with some candy necklace's (thanks Gayle) which went over great.    
    We tried another anchorage that afternoon and did some more snorkeling which was great. Then is was back to Hiva Oa to check out, we arrived there yesterday, did a run in our dingy with our portable fuel tanks to the fuel dock, did laundry (in a bucket by hand on shore) and got fresh water. Got back to the boat and hung the laundry out to dry only to have to run around the deck like the mad woman I am grabbing it all back down and hour later when it started to rain...it is rainy season here and it does rain quite often, talk about humid!
    This morning we went into Autoana and checked out,  bought some of that fabulous fresh French bread and groceries and headed back to the anchorage. We put all into the dingy and headed back out to White Swan stopping at another boat to say good by since we were heading out to another anchorage a.s.a.p...it was then we learned about the earth quake in Tonga. There was a bit of a scare from a Sunami warning, however within an hour the warning had been canceled for our area. We are very concerned for all those on Tonga and wishing we had more information. We will be seeing the damage left when we arrive there down the road.
    We are now sitting in a sweet little anchorage on the north side of Hiva Oa called Hanamenu Bay. It's time to fix dinner so will close and hope we can get this letter sent out to all of you tonight. If propagation is poor it will go out soon. I want all of those who have been emailing us to know we have been having some difficulty getting a connection to sailmail. We love you all and are sorry we haven't been able to respond directly. For now you all have an update and know we are safe, sound and pretty darn happy, I hope the same is true for all of you. Please don't hesitate to write a short letter to us and let us know how you are. I will try my best to stay more on top of responding, there are so many distractions, you can imagine I hope. Like watching blow holes, rainbows, spinning dolphins, the tattoo artist using a modified battery operated razor to drive his needles, (yes, I have a new tattoo surrounding my old one on my hip), picking wonderful tropical fruit, watching Marquesan's carve beautiful native art, seeing big stone carved ancient Tiki's and on and on. I still have to pinch myself sometimes to believe I am really here, this is truly an amazing place on the planet. Love to all, Dianna and Bob

 

    May 14, 2006 Hello from the Island of Nuka Hiva, northern Marquesas. We are now sitting in what some claim to be the loveliest anchorage in French Polynesia, Anaho (ah-nah-ho) It is beautiful, after a good rain the waterfalls start to pop out and it is a magnificient sight seeing copious amounts of water free falling down 100's of feet then disappearing into the lush jungle until another peak view. There are many jagged peaks and thousands of coconut palms. We went snorkeling yesterday, (saw a shark...he was at least 15" long, ha) and I hit a small rock beach and found quite a few large Cowrie shells plus others and even a wild goat horn. We also went to shore with a couple other boats and did a little exploring. Today we will go out into the outer bay opening at low tide to check out an area known for finding Cowrie shells. Tomorrow we will take a bit of an aggressive hike up over a slope, over a small Mountain and down the other side to a village and then beyond to another ancient ceremonial grounds. Sounds like a full day, hope it doesn't kill me! Also hope the bugs don't eat me, I will be greased up with an oil the locals use called "Monoi", one of it's main ingredients is Citronnela. From here we will sail west along the North side of the Island and then down the West end and into Daniel's Bay, that's where they filmed the well known Survivors episode. Pretty sure we will be meeting Daniel and his wife as he will give us instructions on how to take on water from a pipe he has lead out into the bay attached to a small buoy. Then back to Taiohae (Ty-o-ha-eh) the biggest village here on Nuka Hiva and the Capital of the Marquesas to check out before heading to Ua Pou (wa-poe) which will be our last Island to visit before taking off for the Tuamotu's.
    Also wanted to let you all know you can go to the web site and check out a lot of pictures we have taken of great scenery and lots of kids here in the Marquesas: familyyachtclub.com/white_swan.htm

Hope this letter finds everyone happy, healthy and filled with your own dreams. Love, Dianna and Bob

 

Friday July 28, 2006
Good Bye French Polynesia...Hello Cook Islands
    Hi friends! We spent the last month + of our visa's in the Societe Islands making landfall in Papeete/Tahiti. We weren't ready for the intense pace of city life with car's and buses racing around and plenty of exhaust too. And what a shock to find out a burger and fries was going to cost anywhere from $10 to $15 bucks and hey, ya wanna a brew to go along with that...another $5 bucks a pop!
    We did get some things accomplished on and for the boat and were able to do quite a bit of laundry in the washing machines at the Marina...mind you we were anchored out and only using the facility, what a bargain...only $7 bucks to wash one load, forget another $7 bucks for drying, we did that on the boat. I hope someone got a picture since we looked like the Clampat's with pants, tee shirts etc. hanging from every conceivable line on the boat.
    We spent a little time checking out the city, really enjoyed the huge open market downtown with the whole lower floor full of fresh produce, flowers, fish and trinkets. Upstairs was donated to handicrafts from the Marquesas, black pearls from the Tuamotu's and of course pareu's, the colorful tropical cloths you can use as a quick wrap...shhhh, Bob has one of his own, he only wears it around the boat though. One day we enjoyed a great pizza for lunch, thanks for the recommendation Rich.
    We decided to head north from Papeete to the Island of Moorea, beautiful! The anchorages were snug and the pace was a lot more laid back after time in Papeete. We rented little miniature four wheel drive buggies with two other couples one day and did a circumnavigation of the Moorea, a really nice way to spend the day....especially the stop at the juice factory where of course they give you samples of their juices and also all the yummy liqueurs they make!!!
    Then it was off to Huahine Island, we are really getting laid back now, reminded of us a little Mexican resort town in a way. Unfortunately there seems to be a huge problem with thievery from visiting boats, a definite connection to the local surfing population as the missing items are mostly surf boards. I have now become aware of how far some surfers will go in order to protect what they consider to be "their" waves. Too bad we had to get on the net and inform fellow cruisers that anchoring in front of the little town of Fare probably was not a good idea,however the other anchorages on Huahine were really pretty nice.
    We are getting a lot more comfortable going in and out of the passes through the reef in order to access the island's, you just have to remember that the buoy system in French Polynesia is opposite from the U.S, you keep red to port when entering here. It is somewhat strange motoring along inside a reef in pretty much flat calm water that can be over 100' deep while watching the huge breaking waves on the outside of the reef.
    From Huahine we sailed to Ile Raiatea and were lucky to find room to side tie to the town wharf with other cruisers since most of the anchorages around the village were pretty deep, up to 80/90'. We spent quite a few days checking out the village of Uturoa which had great grocery stores and one really good Chinese restaurant. I had a tooth checked out that has been bothering me and now know I need a root canal...yuck. Another cruiser came into the wharf that happens to be a Dentist from England and he confirmed the diagnosis from the local Dentist who didn't really speak much English. I didn't feel confident having work done by someone I couldn't really communicate clearly with and the cruiser/Dentist said it would be o.k. to wait as long as I was willing to put up with the discomfort till we got to Tonga or better yet Fiji. Evidently the cost for Dental work in Fiji is 80% less than in New Zealand and the Dentists are all very well training. We hadn't planned on going to Fiji this season, our plan was to head for New Zealand from Tonga in Oct. I guess we shall see how all pans out...as usual pretty much like jello, ha.    
    Then it was off to the famed Bora Bora, wow, what a gorgeous Island, we got in a bit late and decided to grab a mooring ball in front of the fames Bloody Mary Bar/Restaurant. All you really have to do is go and have a beer to Pay for your boat hanging on the ball. Of course they are hoping you will be tempted by what you see for tonight's  dinner fare and order some up for $25/$30 bucks. Right as you walk in there is an old wooden hull filled with ice and topped with whatever is fresh for the day, Mahi Mahi, (with two big (4') long ones as a back drop), Sea Bass, Shark, Parrot Fish and others, prawns and scallops shish-ka-bobs, Beef ribs and Chicken. It's quite impressive and many a famous person has munched down seafood there.
    We did some really fun snorkeling not far away in about 10' of very clear water. The little fish are very used to being fed there so they come right up and surround you, I found out they liked corned beef, but really went fish eyed over chicken hot dogs.
    All in all even though Bora Bora is quite the expensive destination for many it was lovely. We rather enjoyed seeing some of the same wood carvings we bought in the Marquesas for $60 with $600 price tags on them there, geeze...we also saw many black peals in the thousands of dollars.
    As we had officially checked out of French Polynesia on July 18th when our Visa's ran out we decided it was time to leave so we did provisioning and off we went Tues out into the big blue Tootsie Pop Sea, we are underway for the Southern Cook Islands with land fall at Rarotonga. There is a small harbor on the north side of the Island able to accommodate  a few boats Med tie...(drop the anchor off the bow and tie your stern to butt off the wharf). The Harbor is pretty vulnerable to any wind coming out of the north and as of this morning (Friday) the weather we have heard and files we are looking at tell us there may be a low system forming over Rarotonga with higher 25/35 knot winds coming in from the north. We will wait and see how things look tomorrow, if we can't stop there we are another over 800 miles to Tonga and I will not be a happy camper if we can't take a break! Well, this is sailing.
    For now I will close, I beg forgiveness from those that have written to us if I haven't gotten back. Internet has been pretty much non existing and very expensive..up to $24 per hour. Also the propagation for sail mail has been sketchy until now we are out here in the big blue again. Know we think of all of you and are wishing you are all having a fabulous summer. Love, Dianna and Bob

 
August 28, 2006
    Fakalofa lahi atu, Niuian for Hello! We are moored off  Niue, the Jewel of the Pacific, Latitude  19 degrees 03 min. South Longitude 169 degrees 55 min. West
    Guess I should really back up to 07/25/06 when we left Bora Bora on route to Rarotonga since it has been a little while since I have sent a letter. Our passage was very challenging, big winds and big cresting waves galloping down on us, I even got re-baptized on my birthday about the same time I was born around 3 a.m. by a big wave that hit the side of the boat, lifting up the sky light hatch and dousing me as I lay in the main salon sea bunk. Never a dull moment out there.
    We were very glad to arrive in Rarotonga 5 days later. What a challenging anchoring/line mooring situation in front of the small town of Avatiu, the harbor is very small with large container ships coming and going fairly regularly plus a National Geographic small Cruise ship at one point. You came into the harbor and dropped a hook then backed down and used two long lines from the stern to secure to the Cement wharf and also lines off the bow to another boat on one side and the wharf on the other. As more boats showed up they anchored in a front line with lines coming back to those of us in the back. Pretty hard to paint a picture of this, but when someone from the back wanted out it presented an almost day full of jockeying.
    We did really enjoy our stay on Rarotonga, pretty exciting as everyone spoke English, without aid from New Zealand Rarotonga would be in trouble financially however, just not enough to export. They are slowly building their tourist trade, it's a beautiful Island and the people are extremely friendly. We were fortunate to see an amazing dance competition which was part of their week long celebration of Constitution Days.
    One day pretty much all the cruisers rented motor scooters and did a tour of the Island, it was a real knarly cruisers gang (ha) and of course I was singing "Born to be Wild" at the top of my lungs. By 8/15 we were underway for Beverage Reef, it was north of Rarotonga on the way to the Island Country of Niue, it's nothing more than an enclosed  reef with only one way in out in the middle of no where but a place to stop for a rest after a number of days at sea.
    Unfortunately we had another extremely challenging passage to Niue, 5 nights 6 days of some of the worst weather we have encountered our whole time out cruising, we were pretty beat up by the time we arrived. There are a limited number of mooring balls on the N/W side of Niue and anchoring is not very good as the bottom has a lot of coral to contend with. All the mooring balls were taken and we were forced to anchor. Several things happen when anchored around coral, your anchor chain drags back and forth over it and the noise reverberates back up the chain and makes a horrific sound, after all we are living in a Guitar box, and also wrapping your chain around coral is always a present danger and can sometimes require a diver to free it. It took three days before someone left and we were able to pick up a mooring ball.
    There are very few beaches on Niue and they are all behind a reef system,  the only way to get your dingy ashore is to lift it out of the water at the wharf with a power winch which is self operated. The only drag came when there was a power outage on the Island and you had to hand crank the dinghies up. The Island was absolutely remarkable, very little soil so the surrounding water is incredibly clear, up to 100' +. There are caves everywhere along the coast line, you can hike down to them swim and float in beautiful pools while watching bats fly around the roof of the cave overhead.  There are also thousands of beautiful sea snakes everywhere, they are poisonous, but their mouths are too small to bite you.
    I took a trip into the rain forest with a local man, Misa, who showed the group all about how to live off the land, he had grown up in the bush. There were Butterflies everywhere, orchids, hibiscus, frangipani and bougainvillea, poinsettia, huge birds nest ferns where the long tail tropic birds nest. There was also a unique breed of rhododendron and ancient ebony trees. Niue is internally self-governing in free association with New Zealand and as with Rarotonga, with out financial aid these people would be in worst financial shape than they are. I just read that aid from New Zealand supplies three-quarters of the local budget, 6 million. Imports are 20 times higher than exports. Cyclone Heta hit Niue very hard in March of 2004 and the skeletons of many devastated building still remain. It was truly a wonderful place to be for 2 weeks, we met an amazing artist who has lived on Niue for many years, his name is Mark Cross, go check him out on line to see his work.
 
Sept.19, 2006
    We got back underway for the Kingdom of Tonga Sept. 1 and arrived in the Vava'u group, Nieafu on Sept. 4th. Due to its position just west of the international date line, Tonga is the first country in the world to usher in each new day, so we gained a whole day on arrival. By the way, Tonga is not pronounced with a hard "g", but instead like the "ng" in long. It's Tuesday here and back in Washington it's Mon. and 5 hours ahead. The biggest news here right now was the death of the King on Sept. 11.  There has been quite an impact on how everyday life has changed due to the official mourning period of one month, we hear it is 100 days for the family. There is a very subdued nature here now with no loud music or shows, most of the locals are wearing black and the cruisers are encouraged to do so also when in town. Today is the day of the funeral in Nuku'alofa which is in the Tongatapu group and everything is closed, including here.
    We were in Neiafu a couple days ago having coffee at a little cruisers hang out which is down by the wharf. The ferry had come in from Nuku'alofa the night before and was in the process of unloading people and cargo. All Tongan's had been asked to donate food for the huge funeral feast in Nuku'alofa and we spent over an hour witnessing the procession of people bringing huge sacks of food, crates of pigs, stacks of wood for the traditional underground umu ovens, piles of taro and on and on. Most of the people were dressed in black and had their traditional ta'ovala finely woven pandanus leaf mats wrapped around their waists. It was a profusion of color and activity.
    The local market in town is fabulous, with stacks of watermelon, taro, coconuts, papaya, pineapple, breadfruit, carrots, lettuce, cabbage, onions, fresh herbs and on and on. The  basket weaving is also very extensive here with too many choices and all very reasonably priced. Tapa's (material often from the mulberry tree pounded to a thin pliable surface then painted with traditional art)  are also in abundance. One of the very most exciting things about the Vava'u group is it's  the South Pacific's main whale watching venue for humpback whales. July-Oct. more than 100 humpbacks come to Vava'u to bear their young and mate.  We are looking forward to being woken up with the sounds of the whales mating calls as has been reported. We'll be heading to the area where the whales hang out soon and I will report back. There are even whale watching tours you can go on that will let you swim with the whales! So, life is great, though looking forward to a land fix for our 6 month stay in New Zealand, we've been on the move for a long time now. Hope everyone is happy, healthy and happy. Love,

Sept. 24, 2006
    Hello again, since we have yet to go back into town to send all our emails out, we plan to do that today, I thought I would write a little more about what we have been doing and seeing. We had a pretty good blow come through anchorage #11 the other night, glad we were on a mooring ball since a lot of boats on the hook dragged in the middle of the night. Most all of the anchorages here are numbered, it's a system the rent-a-boat company "The Moorings" came up with to help identify safe places for people to go. The Vava'u group is a great place to cruise, somewhat like the San Juan's with lots of small islands and anchorages to check out and attracts many people coming to rent a sail boat for a week or two. We ended up spending a week in #11 working on the boat, Bob burned a lot of movies borrowed from other cruisers and we checked the place out on land and in the water. We took in a traditional Tongan feast one night on the beach....interesting, but you don't come to Tonga for the dinning experience. The Tongans do a lot of their cooking in an umu, an underground oven.  We met a local Tongan woman at the feast named Mary who is 49 and has 14 children the youngest being 4, she has had one child every year starting in 1992/2002, mind boggling isn't it. 
    We are sitting in anchorage #7 now, Pt. Maurelle. We took two really cool hikes to two very small but extremely quaint villages on the Island of Kapa. Rolling little green hills with pigs running everywhere, fields of Taro, Banana's and Vanilla, what a sight. I found out pigs like dog bones, I tend to carry a few around with me to make friends with local skinny hounds. Yesterday we went to a huge cave, "Swallows Cave" in the afternoon when the light is pouring through the opening. The lighting turns the water inside the cave (which you can drive your ding in) into a brilliant azure blue that is absolutely stunning. Once in the water you can swim over to the spot where there are rays shooting down into the water which is about 30 feet deep,  when I stopped there it  felt as if  I was surrounded by cosmic blue light waves, it was glorious. Though there is present graffiti on some of the interior walls there is also scrawling from the whaling days dating back to the 1800's. It was a fabulous way to spend the afternoon. O.K., that catches you up now and we will be getting all our emails out probably tomorrow. Once again, hope all are absolutely wonderful, we are. Love, Dianna and Bob 

 

August 07, 2007 and Black Opal Seas...

    I bet you all thought we'd  been eaten by Cannibals it's been so long. Well, no excuses, just a very full and exciting life. I have thought about starting a letter so many times but found the task daunting. So now I will just dive in and do a very short version of many very detailed stories.
    White Swan had a wonderful time in Tonga seeing many Whales and experiencing the culture after the death of their King. Amazing the poorest people send the best of their crops/pigs etc. to Nukualofa as a gift to the departed for a huge feast. When I get to spend some serious time online I will download pictures to the familyyachtclub.com Web site.
    I discovered the root canal I knew was looming seriously needed to be taken care of so I decided to fly to New Zealand and our good bud Phil Roush flew into Nukualofa (the Capital City of Tonga) and did the passage with Bob. The boys left 3 days  before the Pro-Democratic rioting and burning of the city. My oldest and dearest friend Kathy (Phil's wife) flew into Auckland to meet me we got to spend some great quality time together waiting for our guys and the boat to arrive. Soon after Bob and Phil got in (a 10 day passage from Tonga) we took 3 days and drove around the north end of the north Island, New Zealand is very scenic...and you gotta love all those rolling green fields full of furry white sheep.
    After biding our buds good bye we got White Swan all settled in and then Bob flew back to WA state the end of November to be with his brother Andy who was dealing with Cancer. It was a challenging time, Bob was gone for a little over 2 months...the amazing news is recent tests show Andy is now Cancer free. Puts a good lump in my throat Andy! I started the huge deck job of re-plugging our wooden teak deck while Bob was gone. It was quite a project, every plug came out, every screw was backed out and the holes counter sunk a bit more, then the screws went back in with some Sika Flex Adhesive...then new plugs and finally the whole thing was sanded down flush. We are very lucky Cape George boats are built so massively as there is plenty of teak on the decks so no worries sanding. I think I was about half way done with the deck job when Bob got back, then we worked in tandem. All in all with all the boat work we didn't end up seeing much of New Zealand, perhaps we will go back again some day. We were at the Ray Robert Marina in Whangarei, north of Auckland, it's not a big marina so things were very friendly and all of us there had BBQ's every Sunday. I became very close with a very extraordinary couple who are visually challenged, legally they are considered blind, they are doing a circumnavigation. Their names are Scott Duncan and Pamela Habek and their sailboat is "Starship". Go check them out at their web site: www.blindsailing.com 
    After getting White Swan ready for sea again we left New Zealand May 03, 2007 for the passage to Fiji, 1,100 miles and 10.5 days. We had about 4 good days of sailing and then spent the next 4 in everything from 25 to gusting 50 knots, it was "no fun" to say the least. We were very tired from lack of sleep and being tossed around, so much for what looked like a good weather window for the passage when we left....two and a half days later we made land fall on the west side of Viti Levu, Fiji. We spent the next few weeks cleaning up and doing some work on the boat and then started to check out the West side of Fiji. Our favorite place was the Yasawa Island Group. We had great experiences in the Yasawa's and fell in love with the people. We were in a bay at the south end of Waya Island for 4 days getting to know the villagers and went to the school quite often. One day we taught the 8th Class how to solve a Sudoku Puzzle, talk about enthusiasm when they started to catch on. The teacher Maggie timidly asked if might be possible for the children to come out to the Yachts, there were three boats traveling together at that time and we all unanimously said yes, then with shock found out they had never been invited before. We had the Principle come our to the  boats one afternoon and the next day we split the class into 3rd's and ferried them, out in many trips to the boats. Bob and I had made 60 ginger snap cookies and there wasn't one left by the time they left. I think they thought Bob was a "God" when he made them all Coke with our soda machine. They were mystified by many of the things on the boat, radar, head, refer, water maker and on and on. It was very enriching for all of us. It was pretty teary when we left not knowing if we would be back.
    One month and three days later we did go back, this time with our good friends Joe and Cindy on Maggie Drum. You anchor a bit far out since it's gets shallow fast close to shore. The four of us were in our  dingy going into the village when we saw the children running down the beach waving their arms and jumping up and down...I said "oh look, they love to see yachties....then as we got a little closer I could hear them screaming "Dianna, Dianna"...oh, my god. Can you imagine how that felt for me, like I was the Princess Diana. Seems most people I have met all remember my name due to the connection with Princess Di. When we got to the beach they were all over us, talk about a love fix, just amazing...they wouldn't let go of us. We didn't realize how deeply we had touched their lives, makes me shed a few tears right now thinking back on it. We spent another three days and had an awesome time. We also went snorkeling with pretty big Manta Rays (12/15' wing span) in a pass where they go to feed, they were right under us, talk about thrilling. They are truly beautiful and graceful beings. So many experiences to type, but I am taking too much power for the time being so will close for now.

Islands of big Ju Ju Magic...Vanuatu
   
Story #1. It's 7:30 a.m., just having coffee and starting to type when I heard Bob say "here come the kids again"...it is standard practice for the villagers to come paddling out in their out rigger dug outs to the boats with fruit, vegies and amazing baskets to trade for goodies. Yesterday we showed the kids that Bob had lost one of his shoes out of the dingy and that we thought it might of washed up on the beach, of course if they found it, it would be very good for him to get it back. So, guess what they were holding up when they got close...yippie! Needless to say, we gave them more stuff, bright blue finger nail polish for the girl, marbles for the little boy and a huge chocolate bar for the older boy. This place is....purely "magic", it's in the air, in the people (some in strange ways) and certainly in the Fire breathing Dragon who lives in the bottom of the Volcano. I have never felt this energy anywhere else I have been on the planet and I have been from Alaska to Panama and through the Canal, to Hawaii and now all the way through the South Pacific Islands...all by water. It's been pretty whirl wind since we arrived here in Port Resolution, Tanna Island, Vanuatu. We are all saying the same thing, nothing we have seen so far is as special and authentic as this place. Friday we took a 4 wheel drive truck (one size smaller than a standard truck) on an hour and a half trip to Lenekel on the other side of the Island for check in. The roads are all dirt/ash and most full of pot holes. The truck was already full with 10 cruisers sitting in the back on benches, the cost was 2,000 Vatu ($20) per person. There was a big soccer tournament going on in Lenekel and part of the team also needed a ride, so two of them got up front and the rest got in with us or were hanging off the back. We ended up with 20 people total! Hope someone got a picture of that. A bit of a grueling ride, but the scenery was stellar, especially when we were crawling our way up to go over the mountain (amazing view of the coast line) and then down the other side. We got our first glimpse of the Volcano during the first part of the trip, it's located not too far from the bay we are anchored in, Port Resolution. There was a large group of cruisers (there are about 12 boats in here now) who had pre-arranged a trip to the Volcano and then to go hear and see the music and dancing at a Jon Frum Village in the evening. If you have never heard of the "Cargo Cult", go on line and do a little reading, it's pretty darn fascinating, while your there, find a picture of Yasur Volcano, the most accessible active (and sometimes dangerous) Volcano in the world. Our trip to town went pretty well, Bob and Joe (from Maggie Drum) did all the paper work while Cindy and I walked around poking into little stores and the Open Market, we were lucky since Market days are Mon. and Fri. Let's see if I can paint a picture of what we saw at the Market, beautiful baskets with the finest weaving we have seen yet, a small one cost 200 Vatu or $2.00 US. Papaya, Banana's, a 2' long stick thick with Tangerines was $1.00, Cabbage, Bok Choy, Green Onions, Pompelmoos (huge grapefruit), Bread Fruit, Green Beans, Ginger Root, their local grown Tobacco, Watermelon, Pineapple, Sour Sap, live Chickens, a whole Cow Head I could go on and on. It was 3:00 P.M. when we got back to Port Resolution and then we dashed out to our boats to get the things we needed for going to the Volcano and music after. I can't begin to tell you how dirty we all were, covered with dust and ash from the day trip, but off we went anyway. It was another scramble to get everyone into the now three trucks (by the way, gas is about $13 per gallon). It was dark by the time we got up to the parking lot, then you walk up a very steep ash path about 600'.
    The whole trip up to Yasur you begin to sense the imminent, enormous, awesome and literally explosive power you are about to witness...it does not prepare you for what you are about to see and feel. The experience even still as I'm typing has the emotions and feelings re-visiting me. It was dark by the time we arrived at the place where the truck parked, then we began the hike up a steep ash covered path, (actually the entire Mountain is covered in solid ash). As you get higher you begin to hear the Dragon breathing and your pulse quickens. Several more feet and we were staring down into Yasur's mouth about 300 meters below. The huge plug was very visible in the center of the fiery orifice. Right now Yasur is mostly at stage #1 with a little Stage #2 thrown in, at Stage #3 you are not allowed to go past the place where the truck parks. When there is an eruption of lava we were told it is moving at 200 meters per second. Bob and I sat quietly on the second rim watching in dumb struck absolute awe. After a little while you begin to hear a rhythm in the venting, when there is a lull, then you know something is about to happen, you can just feel it...then you see a glow begin and within seconds there is an explosion (some much bigger than others) of lava bursting into the air below us. The sound of the molten lava falling back into the crater below (some seemed pretty darn close, maybe 200 meters) was like hot sizzling huge "plops". When we get to a place where we can down load some pictures we will add some to the web site of the experience. Bob,Joe, Cindy and I have decided that going back again is well worth the effort. The next time we will be going up before dark to sit with Yasur, watch sunset and then experience the Volcano slipping into night with a black back drop for much more exciting viewing of the explosions. The music and dancing at the Jon Frum village was very interesting to witness, not a place you particularly felt welcome, they are singing of their spiritual connection to Jon Frum...they are still waiting for their dreams to be realized. We understand they continue to play and sing on through the night.
    The villages and people are precious and so very poor by our standards. We have seen many other cultures of poor people in our travels, but the Ni-Vanuatu people (Melanesian) in the out lying villages are the poorest as far as worldly goods. The are almost totally subsistent on what they grow, gather or find in the Sea. Pigs are of higher statue here than the women. We have met many villagers and their Chiefs and they are all so very grateful for anything you bring them. I asked Chief Ronnie if he would like our compost for the Pigs, he said he would be very grateful. Luckily a lot of the people  speak enough English so we can communicate, they also speak some French, Bislama (a form of pigeon English) and their own specific Village language. There are 70 different Village languages spoken on this Island, Tanna.
    I will close for now and be collecting many, many more experiences to hopefully share with all of you. Until then, we hope you are all able to find some "Magic" in your day...Love, Dianna and Bob
 

Getting Stoned by Yasur
    I know, I know, one minute I don't write for 8 months and now your getting two letters almost back to back...guess our lives have gotten pretty interesting. We are in Pt. Villa now on Efate Island a day and a half sail north from Tanna. What I wanted to tell you about was our second trip to experience Yasur...
    We arrived at the place where the trucks park around 5:30 this time while it was still light. Again we hiked up the steep path to the rim just two days after our first visit, we had to go back to see him again. It didn't take long after cresting the rim and being able to look once again into that cavernous throat to feel something was different. It was beautiful seeing the surrounding view of the coast line which was spectacular with Islands to the north and south, but that wasn't what occupied our attention. It didn't take long to start experiencing episodes of deafening explosions as hot molten lava shot 600/800 meters into the air, it was potent and scary. That night Yasur was way more active even though the guides were saying it was still at stage 2 I had to wonder if it really was a safe and sane thing being up there. By the way, the instruments that monitor the Volcano are here in Pt. Villa 130 miles away. Just as before we seemed to have a pre-warning of the "events" to come when the breathing would stop, seeming to equate a build up of pressure and then the imminent release to come...before you could repeat all those words there was a huge blast that almost knocked the breath out of our lungs and deafened us for an instant and then the lava came blasting out and falling not all that far below us...except for one huge watermelon sized piece that just kept going straight up. We were all enraptured by the sight watching until it found the end of it's upward trajectory and then we realized it wasn't falling straight back down but arching right towards us. There was complete silence as everyone kept their eyes glued on the fiery  projectile trying to gauge where it would come down...then we realized it was going to shoot over our heads, and it did with a sound I have never heard before. To try and describe it was something like an incredibly powerful searing zing as it shot over head a couple hundred meters coming down a couple hundred meters behind us with a huge sizzling plop. On an emotional scale, what once was in the scary category definitely went into fear. We all tried to calm down and continue to watch but felt that the pressure was just continuing to build and 15/20 min. later we decided there was no need to tempt fate any longer and descended back to the truck. Another 30/40 minute of a very dusty, bumpy road in the back of the truck and we were sitting in the funky little open air thatched hut Port Resolution Yacht Club sipping wine and wondering if we had really just experienced all "that" or was it just a dream? I think I will always be dreaming of Yasur.
    Good story eh! Seems the weather has been a bit grey and rainy...I am struggling with an intestinal infection. Went to a Dr. here who put me on some Ciprofloxacin so I am hopping to start feeling better soon. The food born illness thing is a constant worry when your cruising in the tropics. I have found one really neat little treasure here so far in a little trinket stall, it's an old crazed ceramic Old Spice after shave bottle left behind during WW II.
I bet there will be more stories...stay tuned. Hugs from the crew of White Swan

 

Sept.17, 2007 Krazy Kava, Turtles and Delightful Dugong's

    Hope this letter finds everyone doing great. Bob and I are continuing to experience a lot of amazing and new events. From the Island of Tanna we sailed north to Efate Island and the largest town in Vanuatu, Port Vila. It was fun having a bit of a town fix with pretty much anything you could want. Good groceries a wonderful open market and lots of places to have a meal out. Unfortunately I picked up some kind of intestinal bug or ? from Tanna so eating much of anything wasn't high on the list of my priorities. The weather was a bit stinky and we ended up being in Vila for 10 days. We heard about a particular Nacamal ( a specific place you go to drink Kava) with a wonderful view so Joe, Cindy, Bob and I all went up one night. We have all been hearing about how much stronger the Kava is in Vanuatu, supposedly the strongest in the world. We all ordered up a bowl, maybe 8 oz. or so and sat down to watch the sunset and sip the Kava slowly. All of the locals pretty much just gulp down the whole bowl at once then go about snorting, hacking and spitting, rather disgusting sound effects, but all apart of the experience. Of course, we on the other hand just swallowed. It didn't take long to feel your lips throat and mouth begin to go numb, Kava comes from a species of the Pepper plant. I was half way through my second bowl, watching a man walk by and all of a sudden I realized he was walking in slow motion...everything had slowed way down...I was sinking into the full effect of Kava and I liked it! After we all finished we went out in search of some food though Kava naturally curbs your appetite so no one ate very much. Pretty interesting experience all in all and very organic.
    We finally took off and headed to an anchorage at the north end of Efate and got to see our first Dugong's, they are similar to the Manatee except they have a tail shaped just like a whales. We also saw many turtles. The water wasn't very clear however nor was the weather clear so none of us got in the water there.
    Then it was off to a small Is. further north for a one nighter since it was too rolly. We have just now left from Lamen Bay at the north end of Epi Island where we stayed for 6 days. The people on shore were really great, open, kind and very friendly. We went on a walk with a local man Atis Jack one day. His English is very good and he is real knowledgeable about all the local plants they use for medicine. It was really fascinating and his property at the top of the walk has an amazing view of the whole harbor and Islands beyond, just beautiful. We bought fabulous bread made by Atis Jack's father backed in a cement oven, 100 vatu (a buck) a loaf. These people all have gardens and are happy to sell you what every you need. They grow, tomatoes, green beans, corn, kumara (sweet potato) a type of spinach, cabbage, garlic chives, spring onions, peanuts, lettuce, capsicum (green peppers), cucumber and I'm probably forgetting some things. Of course there are banana's and paw paw (papaya) every where.  The thing that is in short supply is protein. They do raise some cattle, pig and there are chickens running around. It seems fish are all outside the bay and their dug outs aren't really safe to go in the big water. We had read about how some of the locals use palm branches as sails to go back to their Island at night after a day tending their gardens on the mainland, it really was quite a site. The bay was alive with big turtles and it was delightful to jump in the water and swim with them as they lazed along the bottom eating. Bob got some great pictures we will send to the web site when we get to internet again...that might not be until Australia.
    We found out about a local man William that knew where to find the Dugong's so we jumped in Joe and Cindy's dingy one morning and headed across to the smaller Island and the reef that jets out to the north. As soon as we got the hook down William was in the water and off in search of the big (maybe 10/15') lumbering creatures. The rest of us jumped in and began swimming out to wards him as he continued to search. The current was strong and the wind was blowing so there was a good chop and it didn't take long before we all started getting pretty darn tired and by then were quite a way from the dingy. We were almost ready to turn back when we saw his hand waving and pointing down into the water...sure enough there was a Dugong swimming right at us, if was really exciting to watch how graceful they are in the water. We had heard they are docile enough to touch, but not that day so we just watched. We had the good luck to see another on the way back, all in all it was another stellar moment.
    We are underway again heading north to Ambrym Is. about an 8 hour trip at 5 knots. There are two active Volcano's on Ambrym and much talk about potent Black Magic there so more interesting stories to come.

    Warm Regards and Love to all, Dianna and Bob

    P.S., it's now evening and we are into our anchorage on Ambrym...we caught a 30 lb. Wahoo on the way in about 30 min. after Maggie Drum caught theirs, by then they had theirs all cleaned and in the fridge so we just bleed and gutted ours and kept it under a tarp. The locals came right out to welcome us to their Island and took home a whole lot of fish, pretty cool. We will include that picture to the web site later. Sweet Dreams all

 Oct. 10, 2007  Hi to everyone and if you haven't seen the sun lately this email will be full of sun shine :)
   
 We continue to enjoy ourselves tremendously here in Vanuatu. We are now anchored at the southern bottom of Malakula Island in the Maskalyn group. It's an intimate area with many little Islands and villages. There are only three families living on the closest Is. here and I think they have pretty much all been out to say hello.
    They love to trade for vegies and fruit and we are well stocked now. One of the things I've really enjoyed giving them is different spices and watching their faces when they smell them. They live very basic lives here so if I can help spice things up a bit for them I think that's great. I have been sneaking bananas into all kinds of things lately since we always seem to have an abundance and they ripen so fast you can watch it happen. I don't think store bought bananas will ever be the same for me again. We have had several greenish blue pumpkins lately with bright orange flesh inside that is absolutely wonderful, I made curried pumpkin in coconut milk. If you are in a village big enough to have an open market the choices for fresh vegies and some fruit goes on and on...out in the Islands they seem to grow fewer things, but it's all fabulous. So far today we have gotten a small stock of sweet eating bananas, a pumpkin, 2 big paw paw's (papaya), a bag full of fresh limes and 2 huge cucumbers...oh and 2 drinking coconuts. Seems much of my day is spent planning, cooking or cleaning up. We have been sleeping with the light pretty much in bed by 9:00 and up at 6:00. I had a loaf of bread coming out of the oven by 10:30 this morning.
    Tomorrow we will decide on another anchorage and start slowly working our way back up the east side of the Island back to Luganville on Espirito Santo. The Rally arrival time in Bunderburg, Australia is on Oct. 29, 30 or 31. It should be between a 7 (which means there will probably be a lot of wind) to 10 day passage so we will see how the weather window looks and decide which day to leave. We have a slip waiting for us in Bundy for two weeks then we will start working or way down towards Sydney. Bob and I have decided to sell the boat and take a break from cruising. I know I am starting to feel pretty tired, this isn't an easy life style at times. And if your wondering what we will do next the answer is...we have no idea, I guess that will unfold.
    Hope this finds you all enjoying what ever you are doing and as happy as you can be.
Love, Dianna and Bob

Oct. 25, 2007..."Where Do Boobies Go At Night?"
   
Probably caught your attention there, but more on that in a bit. White Swan is presently at 18.09 S and 161.48 E. We have come 369 miles since we left Luganville, Espirito Santo, Vanuatu on the 22nd at approx. 8 a.m....that's 69.5 hours ago. That also means our average speed has been...5.4 knots, "not bad". The old gal moves pretty well in light winds which have been pretty consistent the past 48 hours, 10/15 out of the S.E. seems to be the average. We also have a 1 knot current in our favor. We've passed one reef (about 13 miles to it's north) and also the northern tip of New Caledonia and our next obstacle is Chester Field Reef which is about 211 miles away. At this speed we should arrive there in about 42 hours. The Reef is owned by the French and stopping there is not legal unless you have checked into New Caledonia, however it is a good place to hold over if your tired or waiting for weather...I think Bob would like to stop, I am more inclined to continue on since I am just beginning to re-set my internal clock for the night watches. If we stop we will sleep a whole night and then I we'll have to get back into the watch routine again. The whole trip to Bunderburg Australia is around 1,00 miles, from Chester Field Reef only another 469 to go.
    Now, about those darn Boobies...in reference to "birds". You tend to notice anything out here that isn't a wave, hence yesterday evening we saw a rather large vortex of Boobies. The birds were probably pondering the logistics of an aerial assault on some delicious looking pod of kipper snacks below no doubt. Occasionally you do see a Boobie at night circling over and over from just above the mast looking hopefully for some secure place to land for the night. Luckily (being pretty hefty) we haven't had too many problems, but the other day one tried to commit suicide by flying right into the spinning blades of the wind generator. It knocked him into the water, he was looking pretty stunned, will never know if he ended up as a snack for some roaming shark. I do wonder if they just keep gliding all night long when the sea is too rough to land.
    Here's a story I thought was pretty funny that happened in an anchorage on Malakula in Vanuatu before we left. We and two other boats had arranged to see a dance in one of the custom Small Namba villages. Bob and I had spent a couple days going to shore, meeting people and being invited to visit them in several dif. villages. I noticed many of the woman had pierced ears but had no earrings. The next time we went to shore I took in six pairs of earrings I had made and gave them to one of the woman explaining to share them. That afternoon we went back in for the dance and low and behold out comes one of the young men sporting pretty much nothing but his penis sheath and...one of my earrings. What a crack up, you just never know. We ended up seeing three dif. dances on three dif. Islands, all very dif. and very "native".

    It seems the wind has died down and now we are slat banging back and forth...may have to motor for awhile.

More again soon. Love to all, The Skipper and Me

 

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