Thursday, May 26, 2016

Mortai to Wayag

With the prevailing winds right now light SE, we waited a few days in Morotai for the wind to go a little north of east. We're using the GFS GRIB files from Saildocs, and they indicated a 2 day period of mostly ENE winds at under 10 knots. Not really sailable at that speed, to go 150 miles in 36 hours, but at least not on our nose.

We had a nice quiet night at Zum Zum island, a place where General MacArthur made his headquarters for a few weeks while planning the next phase of the planned assault on the Philippines. Nothing left of that except a couple of (unmaintained) statues, which we had gotten pictures of when we visited a few days before.

Zum Zum is only a couple of miles from the town anchorage, but it was night and day difference. We had a quiet night off a nice beach. Near sunset, after the rains, we could see the smoking volcano near Tobelo on Halmahera.

John on s/v Sapphire had stayed at the town anchorage and reported having loud karaoke until 3am, and then the call to prayer from several mosques at about 5:30am. He was happy to be going to sea to get some sleep!!

We 3 boats motored out of the Morotai lagoon around 7am. Because of the early morning low-light conditions, we opted to go out around the small island at the SW end of the lagoon. But Evia Blue took the shortcut, going just around the SW end of the main island, and reported no less than 15 meters deep, but he said he could see shallower reef to the south.

After an hour, the wind came up enough to where we put our main up and got a little boost from the wind. Throughout the day the wind varied from S to SE to E to NE and back, all at less than 10 knots. I think we were able to turn the engine off and sail for a couple of hours. Around 4:30pm we were rounding the NE tip of Halmahera, where we had an option to stop overnight and wait for better winds. But the wind forecast still showed that the best chance of ENE winds would be overnight and the next day, so we kept going.

At one point during the day, Dave went below and found water on the floor of the galley. Fortunately he tasted it and it was fresh water and not salt. He tracked it down to a leak under the sink where the Seagull filter was plumbed in. As he was mopping it up, he checked the bilge and found the bilge under the galley completely full of fresh water! So we must have lost a lot of water. Without a working watermaker (yet), this is a bit of a problem. There are no water supplies where we are headed, and we have been working hard at collecting water whenever it rains. Fortunately, our new hardtop we had made in Samal is 130 sq ft and designed for catching water (I don't think I blogged about this, but I did Facebook about it).

As we rounded the point, there were massive rain showers in toward shore. It was all I could do to get Dave to keep going rather than drive toward the rain showers.

Several times during the day, we encountered big logs floating. We managed to avoid all but two. One was sticking up high enough to hit the underside of the bridge deck with a big klunk. Fortunately, no damage.

Late in the day, Jan on Evia Blue hooked a marlin, but he got off.

On my watch, we had beautiful conditions... full moon and light winds which were almost sailable. We were motoring along easily on one engine at moderate RPMs.

Sometime during Dave's watch (1-6am), we had a squall and the winds got up to about 25 knots. A little bit exciting for a little while, but then the winds died again. Unfortunately, the NE winds never really materialized, or were so light that our boat speed changed the relative winds to almost on our nose.

By mid morning, we were only 25 miles from our destination, when the current picked up, going from SE to NW... almost on our nose. With the wind dying, and motoring against 2-3 knots of current, our forward speed slowed to sometimes 2 knots. The GPS started showing arrival at our destination, Wayag, as being after dark. Fortunately, there are 2 small islands 12 miles north of Wayag. We finally arrived at about 4:30pm, and found a nice anchorage in a large bay with a sand beach and a very healthy reef. Winds zero and seas flat. We had a nice snorkel and not 50 yards from our boat found a large coral head with a Manta Ray "cleaning station". Dave and I hovered in teh water for 10 minutes watching a large manta circle the coral head, with 20-30 small fish swimming around the ray's body and mouth, cleaning parasites.

Dave and I enjoyed sitting up on deck in our new "deck chairs" (4 plastic chairs purchased in Morotai) and watching the sunset. We had a nice dinner of yellowfin tuna sashimi, crackers, and cheese. (Tuna purchased in the market the day before). If I hadn't been so lazy, we would have had a salad too.

Dave laughed when I said "This is almost as good as the Bahamas." But of course, so different... Evia Blue had a local boat come alongside. But the people in the boat spoke no English and we don't speak any Indonesian. And apparently they weren't there to trade (there's a universal language for "I give you this, and you give me something else"). They left without communicating anything.

We had a nice quiet night last night, catching up on the sleep we missed on passage.

We are getting ready to get underway this morning, but paused for a few minutes for a passing rain shower. We just ran the starboard water tank dry this morning, but the port tank is full (around 60 gallons) and we have 20 gallons in jugs on deck. We managed to catch about 3 gallons of rainwater, which helps a little (our usage averages about 7 gallons a day when we are not working hard to conserve water).

PS, for those of you who have emailed us using our boat email address in the past, it has changed. New boat, new callsign. New callsign is WDI5677. But we are also able to receive email from our regular email addresses via Shadowmail.

At 5/25/2016 9:00 AM (utc) our position was 00°18.30'N 129°51.50'E

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Goodbye Old Girl, Hello Sweet Young Thing!

Soggy Paws - CSY 44 Walkthrough
One Helluva Cruising Boat

On our last night in Sangihe, Dave and I stopped for a nightcap (and a battery/starter consult) on Soggy Paws the CSY. Ah, the nostalgia...sitting in the same familiar cockpit that we'd spent so many many miles and hours...but it now belonged to someone else.

In the morning, we would be heading out ESE to Morotai, and our sweet old girl would be heading south to Bitung, and ultimately, Australia.

It was a very bittersweet experience. We are jumping for joy because she sold. We are happy that she's been bought by someone who will love her as much as we did. But she was a helluva cruising boat by design, and extremely well set up from Dave's 20 years of constant upgrades. Every time we turn around, we find something on our new boat lacking that had been comfortably set up on the old boat. And we knew every crack and crevice, every little quirk. So it wasn't hard work keeping her maintained... just tedious.

"This is the 5th time I've repaired this pump!" Only the 5th time? In 20 years? That's actually not too bad. On the 5th time, you have all the knowledge, spare parts, and tools to make a quick job of it. But it does get tedious, repairing the same old things over and over.

On the other hand, we are on the "first" on everything on the new boat. We still don't have half the tools we need, and certainly don't have all the spares that would make maintaining a cruising boat in far-off places easy. Though I've been scouring the internet for manuals and how-to's for all the stuff aboard, we don't have half the knowledge we need. We're starting all over again in that respect. Fortunately our Yanmar engines and saildrives are very common on cruising catamarans, so there are adequate dealers with spares, and lots of cruisers with experience and advice, and a few with common spares. All the "systems" aboard are a generation newer than on the CSY (rigging, pumps, electrics, etc).

Another problem we are struggling with is "Where did I put the...?" Because we moved all our stuff from the CSY over to the catamaran in a hurry--to get the refurb work started on the CSY--we put stuff everywhere and anywhere. The storage configuration in the cat is much different from the CSY. And of course we don't have the load-carrying capacity that we had on the CSY. So we have had to iteratively pare down our "stuff". We are still a little bit overloaded. Dave told me I couldn't take as much food and liquor as previously, and I told him he had to ditch the spare-spare-spare pump he bought at a yard sale 15 years ago. (We did neither)

Once we stored something aboard, we can't remember where it ended up. Something we used infrequently on the CSY, had been in the same storage location for 10 years, and I could put my hand on it in the dark. On the catamaran, as we loaded up, we have moved things a few times, and now are spending half our time looking for stuff. And sometimes we can't remember whether we actually have it aboard, or whether we gave it away, sold it at a flea market, or left it on the old Soggy Paws. Sheesh!!

However, after just a day or two aboard really cruising, we are in love with the catamaran. She sails fast and level, and is surprisingly dry in a breeze. With lower freeboard than the CSY, I expected it to be a fairly wet ride. But because she's so light, she just dances over the waves rather than plowing through them.

Once we have time to really settle in, we'll finish making the tweaks that we need to, figure out what spares we need without being excessive, and have time to enjoy the cruising life once again.

It's been a helluva year!
At 5/26/2016 5:13 AM (utc) our position was 00°09.72'N 130°02.02'E

Sail Samal 2 Raja Ampat Rally

Still catching up...

Another part of the "fun" we went through in April was that the original Rally leader, Luc on Sloepmouche, who had organized Indonesia Rallies from Samal for the last 4 years, decided that though he would organize the rally, he wouldn't actually go on the rally. Since Dave was the one who pushed Luc to hold another Rally, guess who got designated Rally Leader??

To complicate things, all the boats in Samal were really nervous about sailing south towards Indonesia, because of Abu Sayyef threat. As soon as Dave became involved in the Rally planning, he requested two things... (1) Minimal advertising and don't publish a specific departure date and (2) A Philippine Navy escort out of the Gulf of Davao.

In the end, it took 3 meetings with the Naval Forces in Davao to arrange, but we had a naval escort all they way from the marina to the Philippine / Indonesia border. The Philippine Navy ended up being very easy to work with, and we are ever grateful for their presence on our way out of Samal.

Then, about 2 weeks before we were to set off, one of the Rally participants said "I'm not going unless we also have an Indonesian escort from the border to Sangihe." Peter on s/v 2XS pointed out that, at the Philippine / Indonesia border, we were closer to Jolo and Basilan, the home islands of the kidnappers, than we were in Samal (where 4 yachties were kidnapped right out of the marina one Sunday night in September). If they could reach us in Samal, they could reach us on the border between Samal and Sangihe.

So Dave and Luc started pressuring the Indonesian side of the Rally organization to provide an Indonesian Navy escort from the border into Samal. Eventually, our Indonesian representative, Dr Aji, came through. And we were indeed met at the border by an Indonesian Navy frigate.

So after a really stressful and extremely busy April, we finally pulled out of Holiday Oceanview Marina on May 5. Embarrassingly enough, after all that work, we only ended up with 7 boats registered for the Rally, and one of those was coming from Malaysia. And the day we left, 2 boats were still trying to finish critical projects. So with 2 Philippine Navy boats escorting us, there were only 4 boats in the Rally!! :P And one of the 4 changed their mind and headed for Palau instead of Indonesia!! :P

The Indonesian Navy was really confused as to why they were there at the border, and only 3 boats showed up. They kept asking for 2XS, who had taken a left turn and headed for Palau. They hung out at the border for a whole extra day, to wait for the trailing two boats. Even though I thought we had clearly said "no escort required" for them.

Changing the Rally dates from early September to early May was definitely a good thing. The last time we went on the Rally (Sep 2014), we fought against strong southerlies all the way south. And the primary anchorage in the arrival port, Sangihe, was terrible in strong southerlies. One day the winds and seas were so high in the anchorage that the dinghy dock completely tore away from the seawall.

But in early May, we had light easterlies, and we were able to sail and motorsail quite easily from the marina to Sangihe, the first stop on they Rally. The conditions in Sangihe were much improved over the September conditions, and we really enjoyed our stay there.

After a week in Sangihe, being well looked-after by the Sangihe tourism contingent, we moved on to Morotai. We had an overnight sail that actually turned out to be quite pleasant. We sailed without the engine about half the way, and then had to turn on the engine when the wind went very light.

Only 3 boats stayed in Morotai (Evia Blue, Sapphire, and us). Verite and Sirius have family flying in to Sorong soon, and they skipped Morotai and went on ahead to Wayag. With only 3 boats--5 people--we still got a nice reception and were treated well. We tried to rent a car to do some touring around, but that got too complicated. Though the Morotai people REALLY REALLY want to establish tourism there, they have very little tourism infrastructure. They held a community forum while we were there, about tourism. They asked us to attend and give our thoughts. We spent 5 minutes talking, and then 3 hours listening, in Indonesian. Finally our primary contact, Rafik, suggested we could leave around 11pm. They kept at it until 2am!!

Instead of renting a car, Rafik borrowed his brother's car and spent the weekend showing us around the island. We saw their best beaches and their best waterfalls. We had a good time looking through the market, and stocking up on veggies.

I am studying Indonesian, but I'm a long way from being able to communicate. Several times during the week we were there, various tourism department (and English students) took the time to help us get around and get stuff done. But we were on our own in the market. It was pretty hilarious at times. It's complicated by the fact that the Indonesian money is 13,300 Rupiahs to the US Dollar. So even buying small stuff in the market, we are dealing with a lot of zeros. They would tell us "55" with hand signals. But we never knew whether that was 5,500, or 55,000. So far I'm only proficient in greetings and numbers up to 5. Beyond that, I'm over my head!! But we managed to buy 2 big bags of fruits and veggies, and some squid and fish.

We left Morotai yesterday for Wayag, 150 miles SE of Morotai. We will stay in Wayag for about 2 weeks (with no internet) and then move on to Waisai and then Sorong. We have to be in Sorong by around 1 July to renew our visa or check out for Palau.

We are posting position updates via Winlink. You can see them here:

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Selling Soggy Paws

In early April, we signed a contract on Soggy Paws the CSY. The new owner took physical possession of Soggy Paws at Holiday Oceanview Marine on Samal on April 24th.

We had obligations that kept us very busy with both boats right up to the day we left the marina (May 5th) and beyond... replace the radar screen, get both liferafts repacked, put bottom paint on both boats, and get both Soggy Paws's launched and ready for cruising. We also promised to support the re-commissioning of systems (refrigeration, watermaker, putting the sails back on, etc) aboard the old Soggy Paws. Work on the new Soggy Paws took back burner right up until we waved goodbye to the new owner and crew in Sangihe, Indonesia on May 14.

Fortunately, the new owner, Rick, had wisely hired an experienced cruising couple to help he and his girlfriend deliver the boat from the Philippines, through Indonesia, to Western Australia. Jason and Jolene have turned out to be a significant asset on both sides of the transaction. The new owner is fairly novice at sailing and cruising... with big dreams but not much experience at either cruising or boat maintenance. Jason, a former Australian Army Lieutenant, now eco-crusader aboard s/v Labyrinth, is a good and patient instructor in all things sailing and cruising. And he's very good at that critical factor to enjoying cruising, boat maintenance. Jolene is an experienced cruising partner, and promised to show Rick's girlfriend, Melanie, the "ropes" needed to keep a cruising boat running from the "care and feeding" side.

We turned over a 200 page manual that we wrote on Soggy Paws' specifics, plus about 5GB of "Electronic Manuals". But still Dave ended up spending 3/4 of every day showing and coaching the Rick and Jason through all of the quirks of a 40 year old cruising boat, with many advanced "systems".

When we bought the catamaran, we opted to name her Soggy Paws as well, and without the II (two) after the name. We figured we'd be stuck with the "Two" for the next 20 years, and opted not to. The USCG in its infinite wisdom, permits duplicate boat names as long as they don't have the same hailing port. We figured the new owner of our boat would opt to name her something else. But the new owner really liked the name "Soggy Paws" and asked us if we minded if he kept it. There was no other Soggy Paws in the Australian registry, so no problems with Rick registering as just Soggy Paws. So now there are two Soggy Pawses.

This brings up another "fire drill" we went through in April... getting Soggy Paws the CSY legally turned over to Rick, and registered in Australia, so he could leave the Philippines, travel through Indonesia, and make it to Perth before his July 1 target date. Rick really wanted to leave with the Indonesia Rally, which was scheduled to leave on May 2. Through the marvels of the modern electronic age, and some hard work on both Rick's and my part, we managed to get Soggy Paws undocumented in the US and re-registered in Australia in about 2 weeks. Fortunately, the USCG accepted a scanned (PDF) copy of the Bill of Sale, to get the de-registration certificate. They accepted the Australian form of the Bill of Sale, which did not require a notarized signature. If they HAD required a notarized signature, that would have thrown a big wrench in the works. There are no US notaries in the Philippines, except in Manila or Cebu. We were poised to fly to Cebu for a date with the US Consulate there, to get our Bill of Sale notarized, when the USCG came through with the de-registration certificate using the Australian Bill of Sale. We did have to Express Mail the original Bill of Sale to the Australian Ships Registry departement, but they accepted the emailed copy of the USCG de-registration certificate.

Amazingly, Rick had the electronic copy of his Australian Registration Certificate in about 10 days.

Lots of other fire drills on both Soggy Paws in the last 10 days before we left on the rally... things like... one of our 4 6-volt batteries died. Fortunately the battery bank is large enough that the new owner could cruise back to Australia on just half the bank, and take his time replacing the batteries. Our Profurl roller furler on the genoa "locked up". This is the Profurl that had never failed us in 8 years of full time cruising. Rick went into Davao to the bearing place to get new bearings, and Jason and Dave rebuilt the thing on the dock. The foil on our staysail furling system had been re-assembled wrongly and we had to cut the Sta-Lok off to fix it, and then put it all back up. Every day was a new adventure!!

But we eventually worked through all the problems and headed off on the Rally on May 5. More on the Rally in the next episode.