Nagasaki



Dejima welcoming committee.

Dejima welcoming committee.

After a year of small towns, remote atolls, island villages and the rare supermarket, it has been a bit of a rush to visit Nagasaki, our first real city since Auckland. Our arrival coincided with the end of Golden Week and the park near the marina was packed with people, food stalls, live music and a giant blow up Pokeman character. The marina is in the center of the city and the crowds were streaming by as we docked and absorbed being in such a fantastic place. The piers for the several large high speed ferries is also close to the marina, all day there are the blasts of horns signaling arrivals, departures and maneuvers, along with the roar of the massive engines. There is a high speed hydrofoil ferry that sounds like a row of 747s when it leaves the dock. The ferries through a decent wake so the waters in the marina are choppy and we roll quite a bit. In the evening the marina quiets, the ferries end their rounds, and it is a lovely place to be. 

Douglas and Tumbleweed at Dejima Marina with a bit of Nagasaki in the background.

Douglas and Tumbleweed at Dejima Marina with a bit of Nagasaki in the background.

Dejima marina is at the waters edge of what was once the small island where the Dutch were constrained for their trading operations with the Japanese for over 200 years. In this neighborhood the Dutch had an exclusive trading arrangement and kept a small outpost on an island where they could trade goods from throughout the Dutch trading empire for all sorts of Japanese products and raw materials. Sugar, wool fabrics, various European manufactured goods, spices, medicinal herbs and the like were traded for gold, silver, copper and a variety of Japanese crafts and art work, such as pottery. The Portuguese had set up the initial relationship with the Japanese and Europeans but the Catholics over stepped their boundaries and there was a pretty violent response to Christians in the region, with the Catholics and the Portuguese banned from trading and the Dutch with an exclusive contract. An amazing bit of wrangling I’d venture. It’s also worth noting that for 5 years, during Napoleon’s reign and while France ruled over the Netherlands, this outpost was the only place in the world flying the Dutch state flag.

Sunset from Dejima.

Sunset from Dejima.

There is of course, excellent food in Nagasaki. This was lunch at a restaurant that focuses on many forms of tofu.

There is of course, excellent food in Nagasaki. This was lunch at a restaurant that focuses on many forms of tofu.

There is a recreation of Dejima village where the Dutch had homes and warehouses, it’s done really well and is an interesting museum. There are rooms that have been recreated based on paintings from the era, showing how the Dutch lived with a mix of European and Japanese goods. 

We also visited the Nagasaki Peace park and Atomic Bomb Museum, a short tram ride from the marina. It is a saddening experience. That as a species we have managed to create such devastating weapons, and to increase their efficiencies to the point where whole cities can be vaporized and the area polluted and toxic to all life is madness. There is a wall that has a timeline showing when nuclear weapons have been used in testing and when there have been accidents, such as planes dropping a weapon by mistake, or a plane crashing with a nuclear bomb on board, etc. The museum makes a point of demonstrating the horrors unleashed by one bomb on a city and leaves to us to imagine what a modern bomb so much more powerful than that dropped on Nagasaki would accomplish. After spending time viewing the photographs and evidence of what one bomb could do to Nagasaki our lesson should be, never again. But, as a species we do not seem capable of learning from our acts of violence. 

Nagasaki is a beautiful, vibrant city and the people have been welcoming and kind. We have enjoyed our visit here immensely and appreciate that this is a place with a powerful, rich history and has been an important place for us to visit. We’ll leave with fond memories of our time on the waterfront and walking through the various neighborhoods as spring begins to take hold, with plants and trees in bloom. The marina has been a wonderful base for us. There have been many Japanese sailors coming and going and we’ve had some good conversations. We spent a wonderful evening talking with Kirk Patterson who sailed solo around all of the islands of Japan. So much knowledge and information! Kirk is working on a guide to cruising Japan, something that will be incredibly valuable to those wanting to explore Japan by boat. We look forward to seeing him in Fukuoka.

In the morning we depart for Ike Shima, a small artificial island built on top of a coal seam. It was a coal mining town until the mine was shut down. It is supposed to have interesting buildings open to the public to explore. From there we plan to make our way to Fukuoka with a few stops along the way. We hope to work on a couple projects in Fukuoka before sailing into the Seto Naikai, or the Inland Sea in english. 

Yamagawa.

Yamagawa.


Yamagawa to Nagasaki 

Below are our Farkwar postings from the places we visited between Yamagawa and Nagasaki

Rainy day in Makurazaki. It was a real event getting alongside this seawall safely.

Rainy day in Makurazaki. It was a real event getting alongside this seawall safely.

Alice Otsuji Hager sailed this yacht from California in 1984 when she was 63. Tumbleweed was previously named Perseverance. I felt an affinity for them both.

Alice Otsuji Hager sailed this yacht from California in 1984 when she was 63. Tumbleweed was previously named Perseverance. I felt an affinity for them both.

Makurazaki 

April 28, 2019 We had a short day on the water, out of Yamagawa at 08:20, tied to the wall at Makurazaki at 13:30 - quite a change from the passages we've been doing the past few months. Fluky winds would gust to 20 knots then drop to 8 knots, one moment dead downwind, then on the beam with seas that were confused with a growing swell that had us surfing the last hour and past the breakwaters. Most likely influenced by the topography, we passed a couple headlands, a volcano and the valleys between, the southern end of Kyushu is basically open to the East China Sea and the Pacific so all that ocean is rolling up on the shelf here. Makurazaki is a fishing village and looks quiet from where we've tied to a sea wall surrounded by fishing boats, a couple streets off the water there are several large stores, the biggest grocery we've seen since Saipan and a mega pachinko parlor. We attempted to tie to the a green floating dock we thought was a municipal dock but were waved off by man driving a forklift. With winds gusting to 20 knots as we tried to tie along the sea wall we cast an envious eye at the deserted green dock down the way. We had planned to go to Kasasa tomorrow but the forecast is calling for stronger winds than today so I think we'll stay put until that system passes. All's good on Tumbleweed

31º 12.192' N  -  130º 38.028' E

Kasasa. On the pier owned by the Ebisu hotel. A really nice location, the hotel was wonderful - excellent meals and a really nice onsen. MV Happy in the center, super nice folks we’ve enjoyed spending time with.

Kasasa. On the pier owned by the Ebisu hotel. A really nice location, the hotel was wonderful - excellent meals and a really nice onsen. MV Happy in the center, super nice folks we’ve enjoyed spending time with.

Captain Mike and his son rafted up to us at Kasasa. Hardy sailors. They had come through the gale we chose to sit out. The visited with beers and snacks.

Captain Mike and his son rafted up to us at Kasasa. Hardy sailors. They had come through the gale we chose to sit out. The visited with beers and snacks.

Kasasa

April 30, 2019Pouring rain, grey, chilly, green,gorgeous rugged shoreline. Are we in Japan or back in the Pacific Northwest? Yesterday a gale was blowing and there was a high seas warning so we stayed in Makurazaki. Today the winds had died and the seas calmed but for a large gentle swell. With winds at 3-5 knots we were forced to motor and keep a watch for the floating seaweed. We arrived at the Ebisu hotel at 13:30 and were surprised to see Ken on the Yacht Happy, who we met in Yamagawa, waving to us from the hotel. He was tied to the dock and came down to move his his yacht to the shorter end tie and let us take the long side of the dock. Very nice, as we would have not fit on the end. We are at the dock now and enjoying the luxury of being on a dock vs a sea wall with fresh water available. We have not had the convenience of fresh water to the boat since Fiji. This is a big deal for Tumbleweed. Depending on weather, and depending on how addicted we become to easy water, we'll either stay another night or head for Sato Ne in the morning. All is well on Tumbleweed. 

31º 24.954' N  -  130º 8.064' E

Along the sea wall at Seto Ne. A kind local man waved us to this spot while his little son shouted out greetings and directions while jumping up and down. One of the best greetings we’ve had.

Along the sea wall at Seto Ne. A kind local man waved us to this spot while his little son shouted out greetings and directions while jumping up and down. One of the best greetings we’ve had.

Sato Ne 

May 2, 2019 We are tied to a concrete sea wall in small fishing village on the island of Kami Koshiki Jima, some twenty miles off the coast of Kyushu. We had a sunny, near windless day crossing over from Kasasa, avoiding kelp and arriving in the early afternoon. Until recently there was a large hotel here that kept a pontoon in front that was reported by previous cruisers to be a good spot to tie to, but we were told by Kirk on Silk Purse that the hotel had recently closed and the pontoon was no longer available so we were prepared to find a spot on the sea wall. A man from the fuel station drove over with his son and directed us to a spot where we could tie up. It is really kind when we people take the time to help out us confused sailors. We knew we could tie up somewhere but we want to avoid spots that are preferred by or reserved for the fishing fleet. We had a short stroll around the neighborhood, this end of town is where the local fishing fleet and fish processing plant is located. It is pretty quiet here as in the other towns we've visited it appears commercial fishing is in decline. We stopped into the local market for a few supplies. While walking around Ravens were working over our cockpit looking for snacks, when we were a few hundred yards away they took flight leaving snack wrappers and a shiny marlin spike that were in the cockpit bag out on the cockpit benches. They also left a present to show their unhappiness at finding no snacks. All is well on Tumbleweed. It's a beautiful, wind still night and we are looking forward to a glass of wine and some pasta.

31º 50.814' N  -  129º 55.338' E

Along the seawall at Ushibuka. I’d like to recommend arriving at high tide…A nice village, people were so friendly.

Along the seawall at Ushibuka. I’d like to recommend arriving at high tide…A nice village, people were so friendly.

A nice lady handing Douglas some treats. We bought some produce with the locals out of this truck.

A nice lady handing Douglas some treats. We bought some produce with the locals out of this truck.

Ushibuka 

May 3, 2019 Another near windless day, though beautiful with clear sunny skies, as we crossed from the harbor of Sato Ne to the town of Ushibuka back on Kyushu. There is a series of concrete basins inside the massive breakwater that shelters the town and harbor, we worked our way back to the innermost basin but found that it was filled with fishing boats. In the next basin we found a spot along the sea wall and made ourselves fast at 13:30 this afternoon. The infrastructure is geared toward fishing vessels, mostly on a scale a couple magnitudes larger than Tumbleweed. We arrived at low, low tide and the bollards were far above our heads, we were down below aligned with the barnacles. A fisherman came to our rescue and Douglas was able to heave a line up to him and he helped get us tied alongside. Though the innermost basin if full, the outer enclosures are mostly empty and there were many options for tying alongside. We had a walk through town and stopped to buy produce from a little truck that was stopped in one of the neighborhoods, a woman gave us some sort of candy and the owner of the truck gave us some bread. We got good laughs out of the neighbor ladies. Later we stopped at a smoke house to ask what they were smoking and if we could buy some, it smelled delicious. A man sold us a bagful of small smoked fish for a dollar. We found out later they are for katsuobushi, so we'll make some soup and dashi broth from them. Tumbleweed is now smelling of sweet smoked fish. The town was very quiet as we walked around, it is Golden Week, but it might be quiet in general. All is well on Tumbleweed.

32º 12.03' N  -  130º 0.624' E

The seawall at Nomo Ko. There is a pontoon but it is designed for lighter vessels. We arrived at low tide and had a bit of a challenge getting alongside here.

The seawall at Nomo Ko. There is a pontoon but it is designed for lighter vessels. We arrived at low tide and had a bit of a challenge getting alongside here.

Yottos to the rescue! These kind folks helped us with our lines and then moved their yacht to a pontoon to give us their space along the sea wall. We continue to be humbled by how helpful and friendly people are to us.

Yottos to the rescue! These kind folks helped us with our lines and then moved their yacht to a pontoon to give us their space along the sea wall. We continue to be humbled by how helpful and friendly people are to us.

Nomo Ko 

May 4, We arrived at Nomo Ko after several hours of motoring from Ushibuka. Big day for fishing, the last weekend of Golden Week and the waters are calm so many boats hit the water today. Nomo Ko is a lovely village, very quaint. We attempted to dock at the floating pontoon recommended by previous cruisers but were asked to tie at the sea wall instead, the pontoon is to be used only by small, light craft. A Japanese cruiser moved to another pontoon and gave us his spot on the sea wall so we can go ashore, otherwise it would be tricky getting to shore at low tide, the top of the wall was well above us as we arrived. We spent a couple hours wrangling fenders and line and fender boards and tires to try and keep us from being gouged by oysters and barnacles. We lost a bit of gel coat at the bow coming in when we barely touched one of the rubber fenders bolted to the wall but covered in rough shells. Extra large fenders are on the wish list for Nagasaki. We'd been warned and thought we were covered with fenders, but I don't think you can have too many or too large of fenders. These harbors are set up for working fishing vessels not yachts. We were reminded again of how kind and gracious people are in Japan. The port manager, after asking us to move, which we completely understood and after we apologized for inconveniencing him, came back a few moments later with beers and ice for us. And the kindness of the yachtsman who saw our predicament with the sea wall and no access to a ladder, etc. and somehow negotiating the ability to move to another pontoon that would accept his lighter boat but not Tumbleweed, both examples of the interactions we are experiencing during our visit. All's well on Tumbleweed. 

32º 35.016' N  -  129º 45.222' E

Nagasaki 

We motored past Hashima Island on our way from Nomo Ko to Nagaski.

We motored past Hashima Island on our way from Nomo Ko to Nagaski.

May 5, 2019 This morning we arrived at Nagasaki after motoring over calm waters with no wind from Nomo Ko. It is overwhelming to be in our first real city since we passed through Auckland in March of last year. We have spent the past year in the islands mostly in small towns, remote anchorages or villages. This is quite the change. A busy port with a large shipyard and many shipworks, docks, repair facilities, ferry terminals, etc lining the waters. We are tied up at Dejima marina in the heart of the city. This is the spot where the Dutch had set up their trading post and where they were confined in Japan. A lot of history in this city. We plan to spend a week visiting

32º 44.616' N  -  129º 52.206' E

Opua

Opua, New Zealand

November 30, 2017

 

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Tumbleweed is resting in what sounds like a lake of champagne, snapping shrimp are making a constant popping sound that calls to mind celebratory bubbly more than weird critters drifting in the dark. A nice welcome to Opua. Seven months after leaving La Paz, Mexico Douglas and I are both still a bit awed by the realization that we have been at sea the past half year, moving steadily across the Pacific Ocean. We have explored the islands of French Polynesia, visited Suwarrow of the Cook Islands, anchored at at Pago Pago in American Samoa before digging in deep for a two months in the Vava’u group in Tonga. So many great adventures over these past few months, excellent sailing, beautiful wild anchorages and making new friends. At this point it is all a high speed collision of visuals in my brain and will probably take some time to find order. It feels really good to be here, to be at rest for a bit and to collect ourselves.

Douglas on the last few miles of our passage. Flying the Q flag and about to drop the trys'l. That's New Zealand over his shoulder. Look - fog! Haven't seen that for awhile. 

Douglas on the last few miles of our passage. Flying the Q flag and about to drop the trys'l. That's New Zealand over his shoulder. Look - fog! Haven't seen that for awhile. 

The passage from Tonga to New Zealand was one among the finest we have had. We left Tonga on a perfect afternoon and had a day of ideal sailing, water as flat as a lake, broad reaching under a clear blue sky. We made our way south from Tapana through the Vava’u group, weaving our way through a collection of small islands with waters that shimmered electric through various shades of green and blue as they shallowed on to golden beaches. A magic sendoff.

Sailing from Tonga to Opua pretty much directly, on the rhumb line, took a little over 1200 miles and eight days. The first 6 days we had strong winds, 25 knots gusting to the low 30’s with fairly organized seas, swell running 2-3 meters, wind on the beam. Ideal conditions for Tumbleweed we sailed mostly with a double reefed genoa and a trys’l, making an average of 7.5 knots, near hull speed for us. It was thrilling sailing, the view from the cockpit was like seeing a massive battering ram slamming into the sea, large sprays of water hitting the foredeck and running back along the cabin top. I spent a great deal of time standing at the stern arch, an arm locked around the bars as we bashed along, feeling the impact of each wave as Tumbleweed would shudder and then gather up speed again, occasionally racing over 10 knots as we surfed down a wave.  30,000 pounds sliding with some grace down the face of a wave was very cool.

We had a near full moon waxing at the beginning of the trip and it was a friendly companion to the night watch. Rotating through our 3 hour shifts with the light of the moon shining on the sea, watching waves break in the distance made of silver by the moonlight was unforgettable. Nights we had cloud cover the moon would hide and dim for a while then come back unexpectedly, shining like a street light. It was bright enough to move about above deck without a headlight and nearly enough to read by.

Opua in the morning.

Opua in the morning.

It is 65 degrees, raining and blowing a gale outside today with winds in the 30’s gusting to 50. I am happy to be in New Zealand but feeling a little wistful for Tonga and the ability to hop overboard for a quick swim. There have been a handful of adjustments to getting used to being in New Zealand. Weather high on the list, also traffic, high population, grocery stores filled with all we desire. Most of it is great but there is a strong appeal to the slowed down island life in the south pacific.

 

Douglas flew back to the states to visit his father and I took the bus to Auckland with him. It was shocking to be in a place that with so many people and cars and what felt like chaos after so many months wandering around small outposts. We lived in Auckland for a few months about 15 years ago and kept pointing out the changes. The city has developed rapidly in those intervening years, cranes are busy on the skyline, traffic congests the city core, the sidewalks are dense with people dressed for business. Many neighborhoods have been transformed with restaurants, shopping, and corporate buildings. Feels very much like parts of Portland or Seattle. So many excellent looking coffee shops and restaurants. Downtown feels cosmopolitxan with a high mix of people from all areas of asia – South Asia, SE Asia and China, making for a diverse and lively restaurant scene. We had lunch at Mekong Baby, an outstanding Vietnamese joint on Ponsonby and dinner at Cassia, a dialed in restaurant serving next level Indian cuisine. Both meals were excellent, so much better than any place we have eaten in the past couple of years. The restaurant scene has exploded and become much more sophisticated than I remember from our last visit. As in Portland and Seattle, high design and refined cooking seem to be leading the scene.

Douglas will be gone through to start of the New Year, he’s only been gone two days and life aboard Tumbleweed feels so different. I am trying to not miss him yet, to work on a scale of some sort, so that I can miss him a little this week, a little more next week and so on until January. To start off missing him greatly at this point will not be sustainable.

View from Opua hill looking out to the Bay of Islands.

View from Opua hill looking out to the Bay of Islands.

 I’ll be working on various boat projects. There is a long list to tackle, nothing major thankfully, but plenty of small things we’ve put off waiting for New Zealand and easier access to parts and supplies. When we were in Auckland we wandered through a chandlery for 15 minutes and then fled, I think it was too overwhelming to have so much choice. And we wanted to make time for the excellent maritime museum. Highly recommend visiting the museum, quite the collection of history from life on the seas. From the immigrants who arrived by sea – Maori with their sea canoes, Europeans on various types of ships – to the contemporary racing scene – the yacht that won the America’s Cup is on display in a vast hall with all sorts of displays on various racing efforts. Super cool. There is also a section filled with sailing dinghies, some gorgeous classics included. The museum was not built when we were there last, it looks new and nicely done. High marks.

The bus ride from Opua to Auckland is about 4 hours and goes through mostly rural farm land on a two lane road. Opua is in the sticks, surrounded by small farms, with plenty of rolling green pastures, sheep, cows, horses. Pretty low key. No sign of the thousand acre mega farms I’m used to seeing back home. Maybe they are inland? On the south island? Do not exist?

The green, green hills of New Zealand. From our ride into Auckland. 

The green, green hills of New Zealand. From our ride into Auckland. 

We are still trying to figure out our next moves once Douglas returns from the states. Wellington is looking inviting and we are looking into making that our base. Summer should start kicking in here in a month or so and will make for nice sailing heading south. We plan to be based here for a year if we can make that work.

From the day we arrived. The water is mostly very still in the marina with the non-stop crackle of snapping shrimp it's a nice spot to be at rest for a bit. 

From the day we arrived. The water is mostly very still in the marina with the non-stop crackle of snapping shrimp it's a nice spot to be at rest for a bit. 

But for the next couple of months Opua is going to be a great base to work on boat projects and explore the area. We have visited Paihia a couple of times, it’s a small village about 10 minutes by car or 2 hours walk along the water. KeriKeri is the “Big” town about a half hour away and I’ll check that out soon. Russel is another small town nearby, a ferry ride away from Paihia, also on the list of places to visit, it was the original capitol of New Zealand and sounds interesting. Once the weather settles down I’ll put together the kayak and explore the bay.

 

 

Tonga

Tonga Blogpost

Neiafu, Vava'u, Kingdom of Tonga
October 22, 2017

The tourism season in Tonga is winding down. The anchorage in front of the village of Neiafu, once packed with around 75 yachts now has half or less as many. The outer anchorages are also lightly populated and the village itself feels like it is folding in on itself. Booking offices, dive companies, whale tours, a little boutique that sells nicely made crafts and clothes, all either have closed completely or are in the process of packing up and getting ready for the off season. Our conversations with other sailors is pretty much focused on what their plans are for sailing for New Zealand or in a few cases hauling their boats out to have them stored on the hard for the cyclone season.

We have spent almost two months in Tonga and have enjoyed being here. There are 61 islands all gathered together protected by an outer barrier of reef and islands, scattered southward of Neiafu the largest of the group. All these islands make for sheltered sailing and anchoring along sandy beaches, and stony shorelines, against islands all crazed with jungle growth. Coconut trees are abundant and mangroves trees cling to the rocks at the edge of most islands. The fragrance from the islands as we travel past can be a heady perfume of sweet jungle flowers, earth and decay. Intoxicating.

Most islands are unpopulated and where there is a village it tends to be rustic, with basic infrastructure, like the solar panels along the streets in Hunga, gifts from Japan. Otherwise, a couple dogs on the streets, fishermen tending nets and boats, women weaving palm fronds in the shade of a church. Neiafu is the main town with several small stores, a large fresh market, and all the basic services those of us out sailing need like diesel, butane, boat services and parts, all in a walkable village along one of the most sheltered harbors in the pacific.

That has been life in Tonga, an ebb and flow with visits to one of the islands, then back to town, mostly a week in a place. It's been a pretty good pattern. Mixed into that has been our preparation for sailing to New Zealand. Our intended passage window is approaching quickly, we plan to watch the weather for a good opening at the end of October. Sailing to New Zealand this time of year is complicated by weather forecasts that are really only accurate a few days out, after that there are all sorts of models but they tend to be open to variables after three or so days. We expect our passage to take around 10 days, we'll have a good sense of what we are getting ourselves into for the first few days, but as we get closer to New Zealand the weather will be in a new cycle. And of course close to New Zealand is where all the exciting weather happens.

One way to help break up the passage and improve our forecasting is to stop at Minerva Reef, about 400 miles from Tonga. The reef is an ocean oddity, rising out of the ocean in the middle of nowhere, providing sheltered anchorage and good snorkeling/diving. I talked with a sailor who had anchored there in 50 knot winds and gave it high ratings. Plan "A" is currently to make for Minerva and watch for weather developments in NZ, plan "B" is to head directly for NZ if we have favorable weather ahead.





Yesterday we left the mooring field at Neiafu and had an excellent sail to Tapana. The sun was out and the colors along the shore of all the little islands we passes were stunning. So many shades of turquoise, emerald and jade where the sea washes over reefs and up along the various shorelines, some little crescents of light sand, others sheer stone with jungle overhanging to a few feet above the water's edge - a ruler straight line of worn stone and clipped plants marking eons of high tides. Neiafu harbor is well protected and it isn't until we are out of the passage that we get a sense of the true winds. Yesterday was typical in that we unfurled the Genoa in 9 knots and over the next half hour watched the winds drop to 6 knots, pick up to 15 and soon settle at 18 gusting over 20, all a sweet downwind ride for a few miles until we jibed to port at Oto island and made our way south and around the southern end of Kapa island, where our pleasant beam reach switched to an exciting close haul as we made our way through the pass and for Tapana.

The Rabbits are on a mooring a couple of hundred yards away, it's pretty cool to think that we met them in Newport, OR last year and have been bumping into each other all over the pacific since then. It always makes us happy to find our way into a harbor and see Pino. Late in the afternoon Alex and Sarah on "Bob" arrived under sail and dropped anchor off our stern. Hats off to "Bob" for arriving in such style, it's always impressive to watch someone arrive to an anchorage, select their spot under sail and drop the main with confidence and kick the anchor off the bow.

There are several moorings here, a few are heavy duty "cyclone" strength. On these moorings a line connected to a float drops down to the sea bed and attaches to a large piece of metal, maybe an old engine block, from the heavy metal there run 8 long pieced of chain run out in every direction, at the end of each chain is a large anchor buried in the sand. If the winds pick up and a boat is pulled in one direction there will be resistance from several anchors if the first begins to drag. The moorings are well sheltered from all directions but west. To the east is the low lying Motuha that breaks any swell and cuts down most winds. To the west is Pangaimotu island, fairly high and wrapping around from the east, running westward with the build of the island to the north. To the south is Tapana island and it blocks any swell and most of the winds coming from that direction.

I've kayaked around Tapana a several times, it is beautiful and has only a couple homes in sight. There is a paella restaurant run by a Spanish couple and their beach has a few boats but otherwise the island appears left to nature. The eastern and southern shores were the most interesting to explore, with a few small sandy beaches and many small shelves of reef with coral up against the steep stone edge of the island.

Last week we were anchored out at Hunga lagoon, watching as another sailboat left the mooring. We were eying the boat and noticed they had a tiny radar reflector, there are all sorts of these devices on sailboats, usually up the mast, to help create a larger target for boats that might be scanning with radar - help the boats show up in the clutter of waves at sea. Douglas and I made a comment to each other about how such a small reflector probably doesn't do much good, certainly not as good as our fancy, high tech tri-lobe reflector. At which point Douglas leaned out of the cockpit, glancing up at the mast to take in our futuristic reflector, tilting his head to one side quizzically, then getting up, walking to the mast and staring upward, to where our fancy radar reflector used to be firmly bolted to its own platform and where it no longer was, for how long we have no idea. I climbed the mast to inspect the platform to see if there were signs of damage, perhaps the thing had been wrenched off by an albatross and there'd be bits of broken plastic? But no, it was cleanly gone, what ever sort of bolt system used to install it must have all dropped off, bounced off the deck and into the sea without us hearing a single thing. The lesson being not to question your neighbors undersized radar reflector, until you can confirm yours is still in place. Then, you can brag away.

It's been a year since we left California, we are looking forward to being in a place where we can source the parts we need for our various repairs and improvements. It has become a running joke, anything that isn't perfect we say we'll fix when we get to New Zealand, as though it is some Valhalla of answering all desires. Cheese! New Batteries! Kale! Delicious coffee! Thai Food! Hot Water! And a chorus line at the shore kicking up their legs and singing out "New Zealand"... I'm ready to do a tourist spot for the country focused on the needs of sailors. It is a common refrain among the sailors we meet. Ah the promised land. Of course, a day after landing and running through a grocery store, buying bags of ice and plugging into marina power we'll be staring off to the horizon crying about how we miss the gentle turquoise waters and remote anchorages of Tonga...

Last night we had a strong weather front move over Vava'u and we caught a large bucket of rainwater and watched lightening flickering across the sky. One blast was nearby and lit up Tumbleweed's interior but most were off in the distance and we couldn't hear the thunder. We met a sailor in Suwarrow who was struck by lightening in Panama and he went through the extensive list of every possible electrical device on his boat that was destroyed, extensive and sobering. He was able to replace or repair many systems but many of them were beyond his budget. It was a new yacht and his insurance had been cancelled not long before the strike.

With another week or so ahead before we sail for New Zealand I've been doing a mental inventory of our friends we've made crossing the pacific. Shindig, Pangaea, Magic, Tiger Beetle and Peregrine are either hauling out or anchoring in French Polynesia for the cyclone season. Zatara and Wiz have gone on to Australia, Wiz have bought a catamaran in Spain and will be heading for the med to cruise there for a while before sailing back this way. Zatara is looking at a cat in Florida. Several are "ahead" of us on the same plan to make for New Zealand, Alcyone arrived a couple days ago and had an a good trip with all sorts of weather, a couple other boats have left Vava'u and are in the Ha'apai group making their way to Tongatapu. Pino is still in Vava'u and we've been discussing weather and routing with them.

It's been a vibrant season and it's been an interesting group of people to travel with. We are looking forward to seeing many of them in New Zealand, and missing their company already. Since beginning this post we've seen the Rabbits head off for Minerva Reef. We are also watching what looks like a good weather window opening up in a few days, we are going to try to be ready for a Tuesday check out with maybe a Wednesday departure. It will at least get us in passage mode and get us focused on the final tasks we need to do to make us ready.


















 

Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz Island and Ventura

Santa Barbara - Santa Cruz Island - Ventura 

Ventura CA 

November 20, 2016

 

View from our slip in Santa Barbara

View from our slip in Santa Barbara

Tied up in quaint and quiet Ventura marina. We had an excellent sail over from Santa Cruz island a few days ago, steady 15 knots for most of the short trip. A glorious morning, full sun, large gentle swells to keep things interesting. The marina was pretty easy to navigate, though at near low tide there were several spots that left only a few feet under our keel. Once we settled into our slip and the tide hit its lowest point we had about 6 inches under the keel. The past month we’ve made our way from Santa Barbara to Ventura with a few nights spent anchored at Smuggler’s Cove off Santa Cruz Island. 

Looking east from Smuggler's Cove, Santa Cruz Island, to Anacapa Island and the almost super moon. 

Looking east from Smuggler's Cove, Santa Cruz Island, to Anacapa Island and the almost super moon. 

Santa Barbara was intended as a short stop to install our wind generator and solar panel. It was a classic lesson in how we continue to under estimate the time and complexity of boat projects. We had all the parts, we thought, and a clear plan for installation. Douglas had spent considerable time in the planning phase and working with E-Marine, where we bought all the parts for the project. In our minds it was as simple as clamping a few parts to our stern arch, running wires down through the stern arch, through the convenient areas under the cockpit coaming, to the quarter berth and wire in the control panel, a couple other small steps and we’d be wired into the battery bank making free electricity. 

The plan didn’t go as planned.  It was about two weeks of solid days working on the project, with I think 4 side trips to Santa Barbara proper, I abandoned my post twice to check out the amazing farmer’s market and felt slightly guilty until I realized as I walked into town that I hadn’t been out of the marina in days and only off the boat for the hour or so lunch break we took for fish tacos. 

But the project is completed, and the electricity we are getting from both the solar panel and the wind generator, although not much, is exactly what we wanted. We have a genset, an on board diesel generator, that we can run for 50 amps of power - that will run our refrigerator, and other high demand equipment, as well as charge up the batteries. We like to run it as little as possible, and can usually get by with running it for the fridge every couple of days or so for an hour. That doesn’t fully top off our batteries, and our AGM battery bank likes to be topped off regularly. With solar and wind we can keep pace with our daily use, running the chartplotter, lights and other small electrical devices, and still top off the batteries. 

Solar power had always been high on our list of projects for Tumbleweed, we just kept pushing it back waiting for prices to go down on hardware and for the technology to improve. It is the last of our intended projects for Tumbleweed, a major milestone for us. Future projects will be maintenance or repairs, replacements, etc. but we don’t have anything on the books of that sort. Which feels pretty good.  We ended up installing one 100 Watt solar panel, and a 75 amp wind turbine, with a second solar panel that could be, one day, daisy chained to the first and run through the same controller. 

Sunset at Santa Barbara

Sunset at Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara was a beautiful place to be stuck working on projects. We were at the eastern most end of the dock, looking out over the breakwater to the sea and to the east to the San Ynez mountains. The harbor dredging contraption is kept near there and is the home to hundreds of birds - pelicans, ducks, herons, gulls - including laughing gulls. The neighbors had raised a pair of mallards who had given a late season birth to a duckling. The experience was a  vibrant choir of fowl. In the mornings we’d wake to the sound of the mallards honking and bleating to be fed, in mid-thought we’d be interrupted by the maniacal laughter of a gull, walking down the dock in the evening we might startle a heron and off it would go with a thunderous, cranky rant of a call. Pelicans would skim the waters of the marina, egrets would stand still on the breakwater as evening fell, their pure white glowing off the darkening rocks. It was a mesmerizing place. In the evenings, usually for an hour or so, the winds would shift from the east and we would get a wave of eye watering air from the bird community. Hundreds of birds can be a beautiful sight, but also a pungent one. 

I give the Santa Barbara marina high marks for running a tight set up. They were near capacity for transient yachts when we arrived. The docks were clean and newer, and the marina staff were professional. Very few of the abandoned yachts that seem to be the scourge of almost all the marinas we visit. The boats that have been abandoned and sit there in the slip, rotting away, someone still paying the fees but never visiting the boat, keeping new folks from getting a slip and casting a sort of pall of doom over the vicinity of where they are tied up. In Santa Barbara they have a weird rule whereby the renter of a slip can sell their option to rent the space - which means that often times people selling a boat sell it with the option to rent their slip, people pay X for the boat, something else for the slip, then sell off the boat and and park their own yacht in the slip. There were slips listed for $100K…. for the right to rent the slip from the city. Bonkers.

Ken and Loretta Minor's Morning Song

Ken and Loretta Minor's Morning Song

Ken Minor

Ken Minor

We met a man who spent 28 years building a perfect wooden sailboat. Ken Minor built a Lyle Hess cutter, Morning Song. It is a stunning vessel, built by a perfectionist with the talent and patience to take boat building to another level.  Morning Song is named for the time in day he would spend at the beach in religious contemplation, and there is something sacred about her. Webster’s defines a vessel as “a person into whom some quality (as grace)is infused”, and though some might think it a stretch to think of a vessel as a person, sailors tend to acknowledge the spirit within their boats.  

Webb Chiles has written of how  he “loves to enter the monastery of the sea”,  Morning Song, with her perfect lines, trim almost spartan interior and glorious cabin brightwork has the feel of a space for contemplation. Running my hand over the interior’s woodwork I could grasp how a man would undertake the work of decades to be in the space of bringing such a vessel into the world.  

Morning Song is identical to Taliesin, designed by Lyle Hess for Lin and Larry Pardey and made famous in their books and articles. That small boat and the couple who sailed her launched a generation of dreamers and romantics to all points of the world. The story of building Taliesin is described in “Bull Canyon” and “Details of Classic Boat Construction”. I was struck by how spacious the cabin felt and how light worked into the interior through the deck mounted prisms and small port lights.  

I spent several hours over a couple of afternoons talking with Ken, part of the time on camera. At some point I’ll post a video of our conversation. I’m glad to have met him and Loretta. Inspiring people. A group is working at creating a full documentary on the building of Morning Song. They were funded through kickstarter and have a trailer for the film here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/morningsong/ken-minors-morning-song-the-film   I wish them luck. It would be cool to see this story as a film. 

Smuggler's Bay, Santa Cruz Island

Smuggler's Bay, Santa Cruz Island

From Santa Barbara we had a short sail over to Santa Cruz island. We dropped anchor at dusk, just as the moon rose over Anacapa island. It was the night before the full Super Moon, and the moon was massive and haunting, filtering through the various bands of color of dusk. Santa Cruz island is beautiful, barren, arid. The views from Smuggler’s cove are open, and we felt exposed, the winds died and the gentle swell was enough to keep us rolling about the time we were there. With no wind to keep us turned into the prevailing swell we would just bob back and forth. Occasionally a heavy swell would march through, tossing us from side to side, flipping plates or cups across the table, sending us lurching about, grasping for handholds, trying to balance whatever item was trying to escape what was once a level surface. 

From Santa Cruz island our plan had been to sail for Ensenada, check in there and start exploring Mexico. But in the course of a routine inspection of the engine Douglas realized that we had a small fuel leak in our fuel injector pump - specifically in a delivery valve. That shifted our plans, we’d rather deal with something as complicated as a fuel pump here in California where shipping is easy and we have access to people we’ve worked with in the past. An hour after tying up Douglas was working the phones and tracked down a solid diesel engine mechanic nearby. Steve, the mechanic, has been really helpful and talked us through a few diagnostic tests we could work through ourselves.  

We are pretty sure at this point that  the O ring on one of the valves needs to be replaced. Steve is dropping by tomorrow with a set, and is going to show us how to replace them, and give us a set of rings to replace the others if that is a problem down the road.   If all goes well we should be able to leave on Tuesday. We’ll see - our plans tend to take on a fuzzy edge when we are working on a project.

We hope to send out our next update from Mexico.