Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year's Eve!

I feel like I have been slacking on the updates. The reason is that there have been little in any boating news from the Barco Crew, just having a very nice Christmas and New Year celebration with the two of us alone, with Meezer Kitties.

Christmas dinner was the usual Peking Duck with Mom and our Shipmate, Phil. We distributed small gifts to everyone and enjoyed the warm living room with TV as the main entertainment.

Today; In two hours, we depart for the Barco Sin Vela (1800) where we will shift to Mess Dress for the formal Wine Dinner and New Year celebration. I will wear my tux (With Gold Aircrew Wings and Surface Warfare devices) on my left collar, just to be a wise ass to the few retired Navy Captains who wear their Aviator Wings, similarly. The Spousal Unit has given me a stern "NO" for me wearing my leopard skin Fez. I have no idea why not. It has a tassle and is definitely, cool.

We will be dining on a five course wine dinner paired with five exotic wines with appropriate beef and sea foods. I generally get quite full on the foods offered and the staff always sneaks in some extra glasses for me and the Spousal Unit. Florida Yacht Club really goes the extra mile to make us feel welcomed, even if I am not as well heeled as some of the other members.

After dinner, there will be the live music and bubbly to ring in the New Year in boating style. Afterwards, we will be walking back to the Barco Sin Vela for a night cap and stay the night safely away from the roads and other craziness that will be present on the streets of Jacksonville.

New Years is "Amateur Night" for most drinkers, so prudent care and planning will keep us all safe so we can be with our loved ones for yet another year.

I would like to thank all of our readers for the past year, it has been a pleasure to jot down some of our adventures semi-coherently. Perhaps some of you may have been inspired to do a bit more outside your normal routines. Maybe my small utterances have entertained and made some sense.

It has been a wonderful year with our St Johns trips and the highlight being the trip across the Pacific which I hope to return for some more island hopping.

Can I get someone to donate $75K? It seems that Holland America Cruise Lines has a 112 day round the world journey leaving and returning to Fort Lauderdale, early in 2012. Two persons in a suite. Sounds like the perfect trip; someone else driving and navigating... five hots and a luxurious cot. That's livin', baby.

I can dream, can't I? The Loving Spousal Unit says that it would be a great celebration for my 50th birthday. She's always thinking of me! I remain a very lucky feller...

Speaking of lucky; I am. We live in a wonderful place with plenty of food and good times. There are many people in the world who do not have the same luxuries, so I hope you can pause and reflect and remember them, especially those who are imprisoned and suffer. Cuba Libre!

We all need to aspire to do something new which improves and energizes us, whether crossing an ocean or doing something as tough as keeping vertical in unhealthy times. Still, we all need to elevate ourselves to make it to the next day, season, valley, mountain or ocean.

Ocean crossings are easy. The departure is the tough part. Fear and Air are holding us back from our next grand adventure, so let's break through and live!!!

A most wonderful New Year to all. May you all receive maximum Good Luck!

(After all, it's better to be Lucky, than good!)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Christmas is once more with us, and I hope everyone is having a fine morning.

The Meezers are acting up and being excited. They seem to know it is a special morning and they are pacing about, jumping on us and complaining. I haven't the heart to tell them that they have no presents today. Their humans have selfishly acquired presents for themselves and have had nary a thought about them.

One nice thing with living in a house is that we are warm and have nice facilities (Bathrooms!) compared to the three Christmas's we spent living on Wildebeest III in London. As we dug into our crusty sourdough french toast this morning, we reflected on the past twenty Christmas mornings that we have enjoyed together. With sausage and coffee, reflect we did, in great luxury.

Mom and Phil will be over in two hours, we have presents under the tree for everyone, and every one of us will be happy to be together living in the greatest country. When we have our first Mimosa's, we will think of all those not present who have other duties which require them to be away from their loved ones. Like Steve, who is in that s%$&* hole; Afghanistan.

I type this with a large male Siamese cat head-bumping my hands as he purrs contentedly. Mao is a happy cat, as are all of us at Barco Base. Mally Cat has pushed Mao out of my lap as she begins the routine of pacing back and forth, looking for a way to climb onto my right shoulder.

She is there; Claws hooked into my skin and purring in my ear.

Have a great Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2010

This just in from Nigeria

I always knew that the Nigerians were really here for me!

Ministry of Foreign Affairs Federal Republic of Nigeria
Lagos Liaison Office
13/15 Kofo Abayomi Street,
Victoria Island,
G.P.O Box 1727,

Re: An Open Letter To All Scam Victims, 

Attn: Scam Victims,

We sincerely apologies for all the damages you must have gone through in the hand of Nigerian fraudsters. We are Projecting favourably the image of the government and people of Nigeria locally and internationally through a proactive mechanism (in line with global best practices) of informing, enlightening and educating Nigerians and the International Community about Nigeria. 

If you have been scammed send your name and address to us via the email address stated below for verification at Western Union and MoneyGram offices and after verification if truly you have been scammed you will be reimbursed with the sum of two hondred thousand dollars only. The compensation fund has already been insured and the transfer charges have been paid by the Federal Government of Nigeria to avoid unnecessary deduction from the fund. Please note that we have never held any scam victims compensation programme in Nigeria. This is the First-Of-Its-Kind. 

This email address is set up for this compensation purpose only: 

Please do not respond to email which asks you to send your username and password. 

Yours sincerely,
(Mr)Kelly Robert

Monday, December 20, 2010

Back at home from the hospital.

Departed home base at 0500 with a tough job looking us in the face, today was the time for the required medical attention that we were a-needin' back in September.

We both were a bit nervous when we arrived at St Vincent's at 0515. There was a crew of greeters and explainers of where I need-to-be stationed right in the entry way, pointing the way to the various stations of the Hospital.

We stopped at a desk where we were pleasantly welcomed aboard with all the paper work ready and within minutes we were in the pre operating standby area. It had a curtain... The Spousal Unit was given one of those lovely green coverall devices and she was instructed to drop full trow.

By 0630 the Doctor was present and everyone mustered to the surgery where the guttin' and cuttin' was going to commence. (Of course, I exaggerate greatly, just to disguise my nervousness!)

We got the briefing from the Anesthesiologist crew and Surgeon and the cocktail was presented to the Guest of Honor. I was asked to kindly leave for the waiting area.

I gave Her the kiss and bade her well as she was wheeled outbound to another hall. My course was set and the traveling was down to the waiting area, whereas I slunk in silently with my sound suppressing headphones donned. Verily, I was jamming with Johnny, Joey, Dee-Dee and Tommy. Cranked to Eleven, as I wanted to appear to be shakin' and quakin' to the tunes. Also, I wanted nobody to be buttin' into my bidness, I needed solitude, baby!

About an hour and a half later I was summoned to meet with the Surgeon who reported that all was complete and that there were no runs, no hits, and most importantly; no errors and the inning was about up. I went to wait some more with a number of rude, flatulent people who complained about the no-smoking rules and the effort it was to walk to the tobacco area.

My name was called forty-five minutes later and I was led to a small recovery hooch where my coherent spouse was in repose. She was required to do a small task and then we were allowed to get her dressed and be wheeled out for discharge.

The five hours were spent well, there is no pain and we look forward to a rapid recovery.

We reflect in gratitude. Once again, St Vincent's Hospital exceeds our expectations and we are very happy with the results, and we are hoping that this takes care of any unfinished business.

On to Christmas, Boxing Day, and New Years. I hope everyone is healthy and happy!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Nothing really new going on here

Just juggling event from the day and trying to keep warm. Yesterday's excitement was returning home for lunch and discovering the smell of something burning in the air. It was like the airhandler for the A/C was doing something doubleplus ungood, there was also an aroma of oil in the air.

I called the local heating and airconditioning outfit who promptly sent out a technician. He arrived at 1400 and began tearing apart the airhandler.

Yep, the motor was leaking oil and it was shot. Thankfully, the motor was under warranty so he said it would be a two hour job and I only had to pay for labor.

I hate paying Journeyman's wages for trainees. This guy was not giving me warm and fuzzy feelings about his technical acumen. After struggling for three hours, he got the motor in and it worked. Warm air was flowing.

Not good enough, super-tech decided that we needed to make sure the outside compressor was working. He took it apart and had a rat attack him and then he decided the compressor was not working.

"But everything was working earlier, today..." I said in futility.

"Well, we gotta make sure that everything works. Did you know that you have rats in there?"

Like I really care... I will get some poison, later.

So after another hour and a half he puts it back together and calls it macaroni. Nothing had changed and everything worked. Like before.

"That'll be $321.00, please".

I just wrote out a check and dismissed him curtly. I weary that some will pad time for a few more bucks, but I was grateful that we were not going to have a air handler fire, like one of my insurance customers had on Monday.

That's how the week is going and we have a medical event for someone close to me this coming Monday, 0600.

Could all be worse; We could have had a house fire like the above mentioned customer.

"We endeavor to persevere," Says Chief Dan George (As Lone Watie: We thought about it for a long time, "Endeavor to persevere." And when we had thought about it long enough, we declared war on the Union.)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Welcome Aboard, John H!

John is the new owner of the Morgan 43 we used to own, Wildebeest III which has been renamed; Hoydin.

Hoydin currently based in Fernandina, Florida and hopes to get out cruising in May of 2011.

Just go to older posts listed on left side, and you can see some of the posts concerning Wildebeest III and the sail across the Atlantic.

We hope to visit the old girl and will be glad to answer any questions and help you off to your journey. That boat treated us well and we know that you will create some lasting memories.

You can email us at maogwaicat at gmail dot com

All the best!

Civilian UAV or better; First Person View soaring

From Wiki; 
"First Person View (FPV), also known as Remote Person View (RPV) or Video Piloting, is a method used to control a radio controlled model vehicle from the driver or pilots view point. Most commonly it is used to pilot an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) or a Radio-controlled aircraft. The vehicle is either driven or piloted remotely from a first person perspective via an onboard camera, fed wirelessly to virtual reality goggles or a video monitor. More sophisticated setups include a pan-and-tilt gimbaled camera controlled by a gyroscope sensor in the pilot's goggles and with dual onboard cameras, enabling a true stereoscopic view."


I have been very interested in this First Person View soaring, which is a Radio Controlled Glider with a small battery powered motor and camera which provide the operator with an actual view of the flight path.

This is new to me, I knew of the technology, but never knew the actual costs. It seems a person can get into this hobby for less than fifteen hundred bucks which happens to be a month's worth of boating.

Not terribly sure I can actually get into this, for now I enjoy the videos provided by .

These guys really rock! If you follow the video link you can see some of their great videos which are a wonderful way to view the Alps in Europe, all in the comfort of your computer room.

Here is a link to Vimeo and "Team Black Sheep" soaring over New York City.  I know that I would not have the skills to pull off a flight like that, but still, this is a great way to do some touring from home.

She who will be obeyed will not approve of me buying the gear to do this. She knows that I would be interested for a few days and slip back into my lazy routine. Plus, I would hate to spend a grand or more on these beautiful gliders only to crash and burn in the swamp.

As for this weekend; Had a great dinner with Mom at the Club on Friday, watched the Navy beat Army and had an early evening yesterday and will visit Mom this afternoon. I think we will go to the Elks Lodge to watch the Raider/Jaguar game. It is rainy and cool out, so no outdoor activities.

Hoping you all stay safe out there, only a few more weeks to endure in this holiday season.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Freezing in Jacksonville and a look to the weekend

A couple months ago, I spent weeks soaked in sweat from the island heat enjoying 32 degree (Celsius) heat. Now, we enjoy the same 32 degrees of heat only in Fahrenheit. Somehow, I am not happier. Neither is the grapefruit tree out back, currently swaddled in black plastic bags to keep from a frosty demise.

I like the great stores and the abundance of foods and everything else, but you can give this cold weather back to the North, I don't want it!

On to important things:

This weekend is the Army Navy football game, a favorite at our house. The bitter tears shed by Army fans are like an annual tonic that lightens my step and brings joy to the hearts of the big and little children who roost at the Barco Home. What better way to celebrate the holidays than with watching the annual Navy smack down of their brethren from the South Hudson Institute of Technology? Popcorn and Brie, says I, along with fine libations to accompany our game viewing pleasure.

Another thing; This will be (for the Seniors in both schools) the final amateur football game to wrap up many years of football and other sports that each Cadet and Midshipman grew up with before they graduate and go out to fight for all of us overseas.

No more fun for these guys, it's all "Marlboro Country" out there.

But on Saturday, it's THE game. The Cadets and Midshipmen deserve some good natured fun and sport and I think we can all use a break from the politics and business as usual.

I think that America wins, no matter the outcome of a mere football game.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pearl Harbor Day thoughts

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives Collection.

Pearl Harbor day. Not a good day for America in 1941, but it became an opportunity to rally forth and show America's inherent greatness. We lost at least 2400 Americans in this attack (Not unlike that sneak attack on 9/11); But I will be different, I am sorry for the loss but the attack removed the Navy's Battleship Fleet as an effective primary fighting force which compelled our leaders to shape a new war plan with the Aircraft Carrier as the focus of our fight. Had we attempted to combat the Japanese with the old battleships, we might have lost over 15K valuable, experienced Sailors as those ships would have been destroyed in the early part of the war. Instead, those Battleship sailors became the core of a mighty Navy which built more ships and they trained the future crews necessary to win this war.

Today, the smell of cookies' baking floats out of the kitchen and into the rest of our house. I think the Sailors and Marines of Pearl Harbor would think that this would be a fitting tribute to their sacrifice for the American way of life. 

We will get to boating again, soon.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I love maritime justice!

This in from;


Great online book: Confessions Online

Confessions Online

You can either download to kindle or read this book for free. Outstanding story of sailing alone around the world. Sorta makes me want to do it, too.


I require another person if only to make me sandwiches and pass up coffee while I steer the boat!

Either way, add this to your list of Boat Reading.

Monday, November 29, 2010

New Tim Dorsey book is coming out

In January. As usual, we will have to pre order to be sure we don't miss it. Here is a video from to shill for the latest Travelogue starring that zany Floridologist; Serge A. Storms...

Haven't made it to "Don's Bar" in Key West, I usually frequent the Green Parrot and Captain Tony's.

That's as good a reason to read a book and travel like we do.

See ya!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sunday Film Watching

Sunday Afternoon:
I napped for at least an hour or so, with the Meezer cats and found I was home alone for Sunday afternoon. I decided to watch some tv. First, I watched the Jaguars lose to the Giants. No biggie, I have no dog in that fight. Next I watched a film that had been recorded on our dvr in August while I was away sailing. The film is a Disney Documentary called "Morning Light".

Once we got past the sappy first hour of watching fourteen wealthy caucasian 21 year olds trying to get in shape (The fifteenth was an inner city kid who was a real trooper and deserved a place on the boat) I started to really get into the sailing portion of the film. In fact, I wished I could be sailing, too. Just not on a TP-52 racing sled. I need creature comforts like a shower, proper head (The toilet roll is visible hanging in the navigation space) and most importantly shade and cover from the weather.

Trailer for the film;

This is a well made film and it does not end like you would expect. But it is worth the watch with your family since this is a film you could watch at church. Very well done, indeed.

This has been a pleasant weekend and I will be sorry when it comes to an end tomorrow morning when I head to the J.O.B.

We did take the Barco out on Friday (I think I covered that), but the rest of the time has been at home entertaining the guests. They are all at the local Elk's Lodge, watching even more football.

Have a great week!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Ugh. I am stuff-fed.

Too much food and wine. This is Friday morning and I still can't consider eating another bite. Maogwai Cat has been chastised (Loudly) for hopping on the counter to lick the turkey pan and Mally is on my lap demanding attention.

The four bottles of Pinot Noir echo dully in my empty and throbbing head.

So much for Thanksgiving's corpulence and over indulging. On to Christmas' crazy orgy of spending!

Now we can gird our loins and do battle with the rest of the holiday season. I do not participate in Black Friday shopping, I prefer to wait for January sales where they really cut the prices.

One good thing about December's holiday season is listening to Adam Sandler singing the Hannukah (Not sure how to spell...)  song. It never grows old... I wonder if they did a song about Americans who celebrate Boxing Day (Kwanzaa)?

So put on your christmas yarmulke, head on out to wally world and get our economy back on track. I will go elsewhere and be selfishly alone.

Mao! Get off the counter!!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Yet another video

This time we go back to the Musket Cove regatta, the Round the Island Race. It was a beautiful day for sailing but we made some critical mistakes which took us out of the competition and into a pleasure cruise.

Tough duty, indeed.

Pretty much what it looks like; Mucho Fun!

WE finished about last, but we were back in time for barbeque's and beer.

This is a busy week, we have Spousal Unit's Dad and friends down for the Turkey and we are a happy crew.

The J.O.B. is the same as ever. I need to sell about twenty Life Policies before the end of December.  Just Term policies, so it should be easy, right?

I have gotten involved with Facebook. Very dangerous place, I have been in contact with about ten people from the distant past. As one friend commented, "Dude, that was like, two lifetimes ago..."

Hmmm. Wondering what it might look like on film, with cooler people:

I still don't think I have accomplished enough on the fun front.

Who's with me? Let's get the band together.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, all of you.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I have to post some silly stuff

I like to cruise a few blogs, Buck's, Ace of Spades, People's Cube and finally; The I can haz cheezburger blog.

This is the most awesome tattoo evah;

Wait a Minute . . .
see more Ugliest Tattoos

This next funny was stolen from Facebook (Shamelessly stolen from our friend, Wendy)


Yes. I know that the tattoo is some dude from Seattle and not Bob (Banana Splits) Marley. As for the sticker; Let's face it: Most truckers (who show the skinny version of hot naked babes on their 18 Wheeler Mud Flaps) Go home to a lady who might resemble this decal. Honesty is refreshing!

For your enjoyment:

Video of arrival at Coff's Harbour, Australia

These videos are time consuming to publish, so that is my excuse.

Today is Thursday, I have about four more days of freedom before I return to the J.O.B. and become a wage drone for my boss once again. My tasks for the day are to visit the boat yard and dispute a small bill, vacuum and clean the floors of the house and finally, take a nap with Mao Cat and his sisters Malli and Saffy.

Looking forward to the nap.

I have a number of videos from the trip, some are crappy due to weather or are just plain stupid. The weather ones are dull from being nothing new. Bad weather is bad weather, its just that if you are in the ocean you tend to get wet from inclement skies. No running home to a dry warm hearth, we have to learn to endure the motion and dampness and hope to get a dry berth for the too short period of rest.

We were tied to the Customs and Marina Office Pier

Stewart the Customs Dude lectures Skipper while Bear lurks

GPS view of Coff. Bear is still lurking

After we cleared customs we went to the fuel dock and filled up. We would depart from Coff's Harbour at 0300 the next day for the final 200 miles of fun.

Have a nice Thursday!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ok, Back to normal shoreside living

It has been a busy weekend. Did a Wine Club dinner on Friday night, closed the joint down. After the great food and wine pairings, the Club raffles off a bottle of each wine that had been tested. There were three couples at our table, one couple got a bottle of the White. Another table won the next wine and they came to the dessert wine and gave it to the second couple at our table. The Chef came up and thanked the Club for coming to the dinner and announced that there was no bottle of Chateau Montelena (Because people like moi had three or more glasses- They ran out!) So a replacement bottle was dug up. It was a Stags Leap Artemis which like the Montelena, had been a winner at the 1976 Judgement At Paris wine exposition which was so artfully described in the film, "Bottle Shock".

There was no WAY that we could be so fortunate as to win the bottle, right?

Chef Stephen looked surprised when the name was drawn from the basket... "Uh, the fix is in... " He muttered and he announced our name as the winner of this much coveted wine!!!

Oh, I loved the murderous glances of the Hoi Polloi as the Spousal Unit walked up to claim our just desserts. What a delicious way to wrap up the evening. A good Buzz and a great bottle to take home.

Some of the puttering about is getting the vids online. Here is the latest from the trip Fiji to Coff's:

SO I have all that going for me, which is good.

Have a fine Tuesday!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mission Complete

I am exhausted. I have just finished the 28 hour return trip from Sydney and feel whacked.

The final trip from Fiji started on 23 October in sunny conditions. Once we cleared the outer coral reef we encountered 25 knot winds from the south east and confused seas which were quite ugly.

Not a problem, just 1500 miles to go and I was not a happy camper. In fact, I got sick (with full puking over the lee rail!) first real illness since the Ramsgate trip in the English Channel in 1998. Yewgly!

We reefed in the head sail (reduced sail area) and the main and when the winds backed to the port quarter we began to settle into a very comfortable reach on our course to Australia. I soon felt much better and drank plenty of water to rehydrate and stand my watches. The night watch saw us doing about 6.5 knots on average with Heidi steering admirably. It was a little bumpy but not too unpleasant. We were finally on the way to the new home.

The second morning had the seas still confused and  a strong 18+ wind, but the boat and crew was settling
into a routine that would see us through Thursday with fair winds and following seas. The nights were bright with a full moon and steady winds, in fact we averaged 7 knots for three nights in a row. This meant 150 mile days for the passage and our routine was quite pleasant. Except for our refrigeration completely failing on the third day we were having a legendary sail!

Oh, the fridge... All the fresh food had to be eaten up and that was going to be tough. You can only eat so much ground beef and salad. We concentrated on eating up the veggies and let the meat spoil which was sort of bad but not health wise. Dinners became a scavenger event with the search for black beans, corned beef and cans of Irish stew. I actually enjoyed our mismatched dinners which were usually quite delicious. The fridge turned out to be not so much a loss except for no milk and no cold drinks.

I drank filtered water from the tanks and did not have coffee or tea. Usually, I had a 3/4 liter bottle of water on each watch so I was well hydrated. I also took stugeron to keep the sea sick bug at bay, I only had one more sea sick issue on the next to last day, but it was not as ugly as our first evening.

By the way; I make it sound like I was debilitated from my first evening Mal De Mer event... I was feeling a bit uncomfortable but was still standing my watch. It was after a quick dinner of chicken soup and bread when I suddenly felt the urge to chum for fish. I was definitely sick for about fifteen minutes and soon felt much better. After my off watch nap I was completely back in form and the Stugeron did the job keeping me able and willing to face the challenges.

The night watches were a real pleasure, my favorite time of sailing. We had a beautiful full moon for most of the trip and usually good winds that did not exceed 20 knots. With double reefed main and sometimes reduced head sail we really cooked along in a very comfortable manner. Indescribably good to be more exact. A person on night watch can really do some reflection and deep thinking about where you are heading and have been both physically and metaphorically. The ocean water winks and flashes back at you with bio-luminescence as the miles tick away. I wish my camera could have recorded these images to share with you, the reader.

The seventh day saw the winds go away and we began to motor in order to maintain our 6 knot average passage speed. We had 130 gallons of diesel so we were sure of at least 600 miles of motoring range. It just so happened that we had 600 miles to go! Saturday evening was calm and we motored through the night.

Sunday, the eight day was even more calm with the sea being like glass. We started the day with a bit of laundry and had the rails covered with drying t-shirts and shorts. I commented that I really appreciated sunny calm days on the ocean and was glad for the calm for the flat seas and a chance to read and relax. Of course, my words brought out a vicious squall in which the winds went over 30 knots with a complete washdown of the boat in fresh rain. So much for calm...

Sunday evening and Monday morning brought out some more winds that kept us going towards Australia but there were some definite changes in the weather patterns, we were being affected by the continent and we were not having as much of the trade winds. This meant winds from the West becoming more common. In fact, we were getting some strong westerlies with rain which slowed our progress to about 3 knots. So I took a nap. Usually, after I snooze for about three hours I will find the weather changes for the positive and it did, indeed. I took over the watch with winds being more favorable and us traveling 4 knots towards Coff's Harbour. As my watch progressed, our speed picked up to over 7.5 knots, apparently aided by an ocean current which was in our favor!

This situation continued to the point where we had to actually de-power the sails at 0400 to slow us down so we did not arrive in the dark.

We approached Coff's Harbour with a lovely clear sky and calm winds and wrapped up our 1500 mile trip in the proper way with the sun behind us. Not too bad considering we had only been underway for ten days and I was expecting hard weather and a fourteen day passage. We tied up at the Customs dock and checked in.

Stewart, our Customs and Quarantine agent, was very nice and polite as he inspected the vessel and documents. Then he kindly took the remainder of our eggs, bread, sunflower seeds, dried milk and milk products, raisins, dried fruits, etc. It was quite a large bag of good food that were taken away with the authority of the Australian government to keep Australia safe from contaminants. At least he was nice about it and we complied fully.

We were allowed to go ashore, so we took Beaujolais over to the fuel dock and refueled. Then we went to our overnight berth and cleaned up and went ashore for some liberty. We kept it safe and sane and only drank about ten beers each along with a fine Indian dinner out in town.

Reveille was held at 0300 and we were underway for our final 200 mile excursion to Newcastle, which was to be the new home for Beaujolais. After leaving the harbor I was directed to go below or the second watch which I gratefully accepted. At 0700 I was back on watch in a cloudy rainy sort of morning. But we were in the Australian southerly current so we were hauling along at 8.5 knots. Since the wind was on our nose we were motoring. But at over 8 knots, so our mood was bright despite the ugly weather.

My first night watch was 2000 to 2300 (8:00 pm to 11:00 pm) and the winds were picking up over 20 knots off the nose and the seas were reacting to a "wind against current" situation, which is to say not optimal. Very doubleplus ungood.

When I returned to watch at 0200 it was worse. The winds had increased to a high of 37 knots, we were having to hand steer to keep on our course of 240 magnetic. And the winds were from an easterly direction causing huge ocean swells to collide with the already confused and bumpy seas. And it was dark. With a blinding rain, we were unable to see any of the many commercial ships heading north and south in our area.

We. Could. Not. See. Anything.

At  0300, we were hit by a breaking swell on our port side which blew out the plastic side curtain and filled the cockpit with cold water. I stood there soaked from the waist down and my feet were in a standing puddle, ankle deep as the cockpit drains did their thing.

Roger called from down below asking if I had called to him, I replied that I had not called to him but  had said "F&^%*!!!"

I could not react to seas and steer away from danger, I could only try to hold our course in the gusting winds and hope that we did not get knocked down or flattened by one of the house sized breakers. This was not how I hoped my last turn at watch would be on this voyage. Actually, I was wondering if I would ever go sailing again. Certainly not off the Australian Coast, anyway...

My watch was supposed to end at 0500, but since I was already soaked, cold and awake, I might as well make it to sunrise. Besides, we were only ten miles away from Newcastle Harbour which is a commercial one so I knew that weather would not be an issue to us arriving. Roger was up at 0600 and joined me in the cockpit and took the helm for our approach.

We were a two miles out and could finally see the entrance lights in the brightening gloom of rain and misty winds. At a mile and a quarter I called Newcastle Harbour Control to let them know we were going in the channel when we were instructed to not enter the jetty; "There is a large Commercial Vessel making its way out and you need to stand clear."

"Well, ok... but it is quite bumpy out here so if they expedite we will comply", I replied.

Sure enough a large ore carrier came out and we stood off. As soon as the ship turned east and left the breakwater we shot in like a bullet heading for the calm of the harbor and tied up at the marina with no further ado.

That was it.

Roger and I shook hands and I congratulated him on his Pacific crossing, one more check off on his bucket list. We cleaned the boat some, reset lines and took long, hot hollywood showers.

Janice, Roger's wife was soon at the dock and we went to a cafe for breakfast and coffee. A surprise for the Skipper was his two daughters with three grandchildren in tow to welcome Roger back to Australia. What a homecoming!

Champagne and coffee and loud family conversation filled the salon of the busy sailboat. While all that was going on, I tried out my cellphone and found it worked on the Aussie Cellnet. So I called the Spousal Unit and let her know I was safely in port and celebrating with the family, but feeling like a fifth wheel wishing she was there with me.

It really was a wonderful morning seeing Roger's family (They have been acquainted with Spousal Unit and I from 14 years ago in London) There were two new children since my last visit in 2008 and it was great to see everyone again.

The last day saw a long three hour drive to Sydney on Thursday and I said my goodbye's at the United departure terminal to Roger and Janice. Just a quick hug and handshake and an exchange of "Thanks" and I was gone.

Twenty four hours of flying and I was home at midnight, Thursday. It was like I had never left.

So, that was that. Cook Islands to Beveridge Reef, Niue, Tonga and Fiji. Then off to the land of Oz.

Mission Complete.

Friday, October 15, 2010

How to video on making bubbly in a far off island

We were having fun in Malakati. The wind howls about every fifteen seconds, but hopefully this rough video is watchable.

No animals were harmed in the making of this film.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A last minute reprieve

We did a skype chat with Roger last night. The latest news is that Nadi has been getting rain and that work on the boat stops whenever there is precipitation. Apparently, only topside varnish is left and it is vital to have dry weather.

So the final word is that there is no way we can leave by even Monday. 

I called Qantas and got my flight pushed back to Saturday, which gets me to Fiji on Monday at 0510. This saves me from a couple nights in the hotel and I get to be with the Spouse and kitties just that much longer. The Meezer's know that something is up...

This evolution is not unlike how it is in the Navy, although there is less wailing and gnashing of teeth. I remember how it was going to sea on a Spruance Class destroyer (Deyo, DD-989) that was in and out of mini yard periods while trying to perform the mission. 

Believe me, there was much screaming and yelling, and always some maintenance project seeming to keep us from departing on a planned date. But we always sailed on those dates ordered so I think much of the stress was self induced just because that is how the Surface Navy works.

Funny how memories from 18 years ago are so vivid. Believe me, I feel no stress about this trip other than dreading the 24 hours of travel. Cold beers and tropic sunshine await me, and when we do leave it will be the routines of sailing 24 hours a day in the blue Pacific Ocean. 

With flying fish buzzing about our heads!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Update on the Beaujolais in Fiji

T-minus 4 days until I am outta here. Here are some pictures sent to me with progress of paint job.

I should be underway for the West by Saturday, I wish I did not have to go back because the home front is nice for all the goodies and I like being with the loved ones. The kitties are going to be angry!

Beaujolais was sanded down, a filler used to smooth rough spots and then was primed for the two part paint which is mixed and sprayed. After the first coat, a blue paint is used to find any anomalies which are sanded and repainted.

Today, Beaujolais will be lifted from it's hole and placed on stands for painting the bottom with anti-fouling paint, two coats worth.

After the paint has cured, Beaujolais will be back in the water and heading around the point to Lautoca for final clearance out of Fiji. I will meet the boat there, get an afternoon and evening of rest and be off the next morning for Australia.

I'm hoping for fair winds and following seas, it will be fifteen days underway, unless we make some stops in New Caledonia or Chesterfield Reef. It will be a good time.

P.S. I am looking forward to seeing a new boat! Beaujolais has been getting a complete refit job which has been in work for the past four years. Everything from standing rigging to the heads has been replaced or completely redone.

Sanded with some filler in the flawed areas

Tented for spraying

Great job masking off. Makes all the difference.

Almost there

These guys are real artists.

Look at the sheen on that coating!

View Larger Map

As for last weekend, The Spousal Unit went home to visit her family (Planned before I suddenly came home), so I took the Barco over to the NAS Jax and hung out with my fellow retiree buddies for Friday and Saturday nights. This included a really nice trip up McGirts creek on Saturday afternoon, South of Timuquana Bridge with three passengers. It gets so dense with forest by RInghaver Park that you would not know the boat is only a quarter mile to the West of the NAS Jax runways. Plus; having friends aboard who haven't seen this waterway makes it a real treat.

It was strange, getting underway from the Yacht Club Marina on Friday evening and leaving the NAS Marina on Sunday morning with only me to pull lines and tie up. Good to see I can do all that alone, but it is not fun being on the river solo. I never could understand why anyone would want to single handedly cruise any kind of vessel, even though it is done all the time.

Any day on the smooth water in 80 degree sunshine is a good one,  right?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Fiji Photo Dump

Well. So we come to this. Most of the story is already told and all that was missing is the rest of the pictures.

We departed Tonga for the three night run to Fiji and it was like the other times. Clear, a bit of squalls, here and there but mainly not as much wind. There would be a bunch of motoring. I don't mind, since motoring means heading on the right course but using the diesel costs about three bucks a gallon.

Two nights later we were in the Fiji group, but we still had another 24 hours before we could arrive a Savusavu, which along with Suva is a major check in city.

Unfortunately, we arrived on a Saturday so we had to pay extra for the check in process. And they made us wait about two hours before we could start.

Copra Shed was a great host. They helped us get the officials out to us and even did our laundry for $9.00 U.S.!

One funny story about Copra Shed; They have a nice Yacht Club (Click on this link to see a great photo of the club Savusavu YC), beer is cheap and all the cruisers go there and get good and loaded while socializing and playing chess. Sunday morning a radio call goes as follows:

"All cruisers monitoring this net, this is "So and So" (Boat Name unimportant), I have to report that my dinghy was stolen between 0200 and 0800. Anyone having any information, please call me back on this net. Out"

Roger and I looked at each other in glee. We knew that this person was probably one of the really hammered folks we left at the club. We snickered that he probably misplaced it.

About five minutes goes by and another boat comes up on the net with a question; "Where did you leave the dinghy?"

We hooted and laughed on Beaujolais.

Our victim came back and said that he had tied it onto his boat at 0200 and went to bed.

The reply to that was "Look on the dock. Your dinghy is tied there. Maybe someone borrowed it."

Naturally, the victim was super pleased that he got his property back. But I think the locals and a few others were insulted to be accused of stealing.

We think the guy got a ride back to his boat because he was so hammered and forgot that someone gave him a lift in his own dinghy. It was funny to us, at the time...

We met with several boats from the past voyages, most notable was Sojourn. They came back to Beaujolais where they asked if we had a guitar on board. We did. There was a great sing-along where we slaughtered Jimmy Buffett songs until the wee hours. I have video, but am unsure if it should see the light of day.

I wonder if we were bothering the other boats with our bad singing? Since we departed Savusavu the next day, we shall never know...

Last look across Vava'u Harbor

We borrowed some charts from this boat. What a beauty!

Customs Wharf

Heading electronically out of harbor

We looked forward to rain. It would mean adding water to tanks.

I never tire of looking at these odd limestone islands.

Notice how the sea dissolves the lower edges

The blue line is our intended track. The green is our real heading!

The rains never came. But we still had about a hundred gallons of water.

Land Ho! Fiji.

It was exciting to be in such a large island group. We still have one night to go.

On our approach to Savusavu, the biggest squall yet welcomes us.

It was a real soaker, we got at least twenty gallons of fresh water.

The Copra Shed

Nice little harbor.

Sojourn is on the left. Good friends, there!

Sojourn's Crew who serenaded us with a big sing-along.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I really need this toy.

epic fail photos - Toy WIN
see more funny videos

Stolen from the "Failblog". No doubt; The manufacturer will have many questions about child safety issues from the Narwhal Tusks, not to mention the Koala.

Don't mention the koala and the Narwhal sharing the same environment.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tonga photo dump

Upon arrival at the Customs Wharf in Vava'u, we began a wait and see period that lasted about four hours. We would have to wait to see about four various officials each of which expected a "Present" for doing his f&*(%ing job. In this case it was a bottle each of Beaujolais wine.

Otherwise the veiled threat was a full search of the boat for pornography (none on board!) unauthorized alcohol (Only about 45 bottles of wine, six of rum and at least three cases of beer) and anything else they can think of. In fact, we noticed that there were extra officials as the day wore on. Word about goodies gets around, oh yes.

Finally through, we were allowed to visit any part of the island group as needed. So we went over to the mooring field and called the Aquarium Cafe to arrange for a mooring. We were assigned a nice one near the dinghy dock and we proceeded to get ourselves ready for some shore liberty. Read: Beer drinking!

We spotted the sailboat, Aliisa and I looked forward to meeting up with Laurie and Annina, nice people I had read about in their sailing blog. How cool is it to meet friends like that? Read their blog and check out what a real sailing couple is like.

So, we headed out to find some repairs for some zippers and in search of refrigerant for the fridge.

And beer.

After a few days of hunting and gathering, we left the mooring for Barnacle Beach, where we had signed up for a Tongan Feast.

It was a brief trip of about an hour and a half, we had a bit of difficulty setting the CQR anchor so we gave up and used the danforth. This and about a hundred meters of chain set in thirty meters of depth. We would suffer when the time to depart would come but we were definitely moored.

We went ashore for the feast which was held in a long house on the sand. Kava was offered to all but I declined; It looks and smells like dirty dish water, Roger says that is how it tastes, too.

There was a great table set and the food was pretty fair. After we dined the Feast Hosts had their 14 year old daughters come out in cultural garb and had them dance for us. AS the girls danced, Grandpa was passing a basket around for "Tips" for their education. Now, we paid $46.00 Tongan for the feast, I have no problem with tipping 18 year old pole dancers but this was not nice. The girls looked like they were unhappy and uncomfortable with dancing for us and I felt the same. I do not approve of exploitation of teenagers, so I took no further interest in watching these charades and also took no photos.

The party was over at 2200, so we piled in the dinghy and went back to Beaujolais where we got rid of a bottle of rum mixed with homemade cola.

Sunday was a wreck as I was completely hung over. We dinghied over to the Swallows Cave and got some great afternoon photos.

When we left a few days later, back to Vava'u, we needed to refuel and check out. The officials were much nicer and they let us go quickly. But fuel was another issue.

The only mobile fuel tanker truck was inoperative. Fortunately, the fuel company sold us two fifty gallon drums of diesel for 300 bucks. So we had to decant the fuel manually without a pump. Not too bad when the boat was at low tide below the dock. As the tide came in, we had a problem siphoning. It took four hours and a huge mess to get the fuel into the tanks and our jerry cans.

If it was easy, everyone would do it, right?

Ok, the rest of Tonga was fun, too. Another great destination for your bucket list!

Swallows Cave is to the right, we will be back to this one.

On the way to Barnacle we had to pass these two islands

View to the West of Barnacle. All uninhabited.

Swallows Cave, again

View to North, Vava'u 

Raining, watching some unfortunates dinghying to Barnacle Beach

High and dry at Barnacle Beach on way to feast

Pretty nice set up for the guests

One of the cruising ladies

Kava ceremony

Guest of Honor, Suckling Pig. By the way, pigs roamed freely on the islands.

This is where they brought out the teenaged girls to do the Cultural Dances. I turned off my camera.

Everyone going back to their boats.

Swallows Cave, the next day

Unfortunately, everyone felt obligated to deface the cave with graffiti. Not me.

This is an entrance to a dry cave within Swallows Cave, where feasts used to be held in the past.

Panoramic view from anchorage. I was barbecuing chicken on grill.

Some of our fellow anchored boats at Barnacle.

Time to go back to Vava'u for fuel and checkout

We use Klim for our coffee and milk needs. Outstanding stuff!

Barnacle Beach in distance.

Tonga is a first rate group of islands. I must return...