Oct 10 2010

Jon. From the Yacht.

Tag: fun activity,humorous,route,tripsJonathon Haradon @ 11:06 pm

this post refers to events which primarily happened September 18th-21st)

“Did you notice how the masseuse, she giggled after saying -You must be Jon.  From the yacht.-”  I asked Allison after we emerged from our respective massages at Octopus Resort on Waya Island in the Yasawa island group of Fiji.

“Do you remember me telling you earlier today that everyone here calls you that phrase?” she dryly replied.

I protested that she hadn’t; she reminded me that she had today, and yesterday as well, and gave details to substantiate.  I had to concede.

I sighed a popular refrain of her visit here, “You’re right Allison,” and I think as I said it, she smirked.

In Fiji, a distinct classification between places to stay on the outer islands is the location is either a resort or it is a backpacker’s camp.  On the outer islands, there are few or no places in between.  Names can be deceiving as many backpacker camps will insert resort into their name as linguistic facade.  I have been unable to divine a hard rule to classify resorts from camps, but have settled on three guiding characteristics.  Backpacker’s camps have all three; resorts can sometimes have one, though in the end being classified as a resort is still no indicator you will enjoy yourself there.  1)  Backpacker’s camps are cheap.  2)  Backpacker’s camps have communal meal times where everyone has to eat each meal within a prescribed.  These times are normally shorter than is convenient to my style of lazy relaxation, ie. Breakfast is 7-9, lunch: 12-2 and dinner 6-8.  More importantly, tables at which to eat are also communal.  3)  Backpacker’s camps have some, but usually not exclusively, communal living space.  Dorms, mmm, fun.

So by this system, Octopus Resort is classified as a backpackers camp, though given it’s priciest accommodations, one could claim it fails #1. Lonely Planet agrees with the outcome of my classification scheme in this instance, though it does say: “Compared with your average Yasawa backpacker camp, Octopus is more than a few notches up the coconut tree in terms of quality and yet still retains its unpretentious charms.”

A few coconut fronds indeed.  After a day wandering Nadi, followed the next day by a sail to Beachcomber Island (a tiny speck of sand with a decidedly youthful backpacker camp) and anchoring off Beachcomber that night, we sailed/motored our way to Waya Island.  At Waya, Matt dinghied us into the resort.  We arrived to large booms of “Bula!” The ubiquitous greeting of hello in Fiji, which all tourist-minded businesses yell towards new guests or passerby.  At the resort desk, I said I was Jon, and was interrupted with, “Ah, yes, Jon.  Jon from the yacht.”  Yes, I replied, I am Jon from the yacht.  On our reservation, I had put that we would be arriving by sailboat, and would not require the customarily included transportation from Nadi, and it only would make sense that the front desk would know me as such, I reasoned.

Checked in, we relaxed at our private bure, (no dorms for us, I already did college) for a while before a welcome ceremony for anyone who arrived today.  The bure was ocean-side and we watched the sun set over the Pacific Ocean from the hammock that hung not ten feet away from our little porch.  The welcome ceremony involved kava, a drink I had begun to enjoy.  After the welcome ceremony was over I stuck around.  Seated around the kava bowl, I talked with the Fijians who had run the kava ceremony and who were now idly playing a small guitar, singing, drinking kava or passing it to others.  After a question one of them couldn’t field, he turned to another man, who turned out to be the resort manager.  He asked if I arrived today and after I replied yes and motioned to Syzygy anchored a quarter a mile away, he intoned, “Ah, you are Jon.  From the yacht.” As he spoke, he nodded knowingly and the corners of his lips turned up in a smile.  This may have been from the kava.

That evening I approached the bar with two bottles of wine for the bar to hold on to, I had brought them from Syzygy and you were not allowed to keep any food and drink in your rooms.  (the single small downside of Octopus is it seems a few mice scurry about the resort).  The bartender said he would certainly hold onto them for me and asked where I had gotten them.  I said I had brought them from my sailboat when we arrived today.  “Ah! You are Jon!  From the yacht!”  “Yes,” I smiled, “I am Jon from the Yacht.”  “Of course we can hold this for you!” he said smiling.  They do this for everyone by the way.  Allison and I would saddle up to the bar many times over the next three days drinking a variety of concoctions.  Their pina colada was good; their mojito (called a wayan mosquito) just didn’t stand up to ones I make at parties (and written about in magazines, no lie).  It was a espresso-ice cream-frangelico combination though that we went back for again and again and again.  Delicious.

The waitress at our lunch the next day… same thing, “Ah, you are Jon.  From the yacht.”  Replete with little giggle.  When I asked another staff person at the front desk about a special lobster dinner I had booked when making our reservation, she replied, “Lobster dinner? You must be Jon! From the yacht.  Sabrina, this is Jon from the yacht, who gets the lobster dinner.  Can you help him schedule it?” And then all 4 women in the office I swear tried to hide a little giggle.  At the lobster dinner, our server came up to our table and exclaimed, “Bula! You are Jon.  Yes? From the yacht?”  I had finally caught on to the pattern.  Allison noted it the first time I believe.

Octopus is a laid back resort, there are a variety of activities to choose from, but the staff is supportive of being fabulously lazy.  Pool, dive shop, great snorkeling right off the beach, inexpensive, good food (lunches are best, and the lobster dinner is totally worth paying for)  traditional village visits.  On one of those village visits, Allison and I took the opportunity to go to a church service as Fijian village culture is renowned for church services with beautiful singing.  The Methodist service was quite impressive, if a touch awkward (for me) when many of the tourists (with the permission of our local guide) were taking pictures of the service.

Octopus Resorts is an amazing place to stay.  If you visit Fiji, I highly recommend staying there.

Aug 29 2010

Sleeping on passage

Tag: Passages,tripsJonathon Haradon @ 9:11 pm

(refers to events that happened August 12th – 20th)

We are currently in the middle of an eight day passage from Huahine to Beveridge Reef.  After a three or four day stop there, we will be headed on to Tonga, requiring another three days of sailing, and then another four days of sailing to Fiji.  While on passage, we have split up the watches so that I’m on watch half the time and Matt and Karen are on watch half the time.  The reason for the seeming inequity is so that I get the experience of being on watch half the time.  So that when Matt and Karen depart, if someone else joins me, friends or crew I pick up, I have a better feel for what the passage will be like with me as captain.

I’m on watch from 4 pm to 8 pm, midnight to 4 am, and 8 am to noon.  I’ve developed a routine for each watch, and each watch is different.  For example, on the midnight to 4 am shift, other than the required check for boats, tend to our sails, and keep us on course, about all I do is watch T.V. series on the computer.  Right now, I’m in the third season of ’24’, with Kiefer Sutherland.  Once this season is done, I’m going to start watching ‘The West Wing’, on of my all time favorite T.V. shows, which Karen’s mom brought for her.  Matt and Karen have been watching extensively and I’ve sat in on a few.  ’24’ is low brow, mindless enjoyment.  When I watch ‘The West Wing’ I actually feel like I get to have mental stimulation.

But this post is supposed to be about sleeping.  Because when I’m not on watch, pretty much all I do is sleep.  Each off period is four hours.  I frequently cut into that period and stay on watch for thirty minutes or so.  Maybe I need to finish changing a sail, maybe I’m hanging out with Matt and Karen.  I might be finishing an episode of ’24’  So that within that four hour period, I probably get three hours of sleep.  Three hours of sleep per off-watch times three equals nine hours of sleep.  Plenty right?  It doesn’t seem that way when it only comes in those three hour chunks.  I do think though, my body has gotten more used to falling asleep when I tell it to.

On passage, I sleep on the settees instead of my V-berth.  The V-berth, being in the very front of the boat, gets rocked up and down the most.  Matt and Karen frequently sleep on the settees as well.  They closer you are to center line on both axis of the boat the less motion you feel and so presumably more comfort.

But are the settees particularly comfortable?

The first issue is the width.  Each settee is two feet, six inches wide.  Do you remember the twin bed you had growing up?  This is narrower.  I like to toss and turn around a lot.   I barely have enough room when I’m by myself in a queen size bed. Two feet six inches precludes such tossing and turning.

The next problem is the motion.  Even in a small swell of one meter, you can still feel the boat rocking around.  Imagine lying in a hammock with an evil child pushing you around.  She rocks the hammock gently back and forth, back and forth, through a larger angle than you might like, but it’s O.K.  Then sometimes the evil child will jerk in one direction or another as a particularly different wave in either size or direction hits the boat.

The motion is insidious.

Sometimes we have lee cloths up.  Lee clothes are a netting you can raise on one side of the settee so that you don’t roll off the settee and onto the floor.  These only serve as a reminder that the boat is pitching about even more wildly.  With the lee cloth up it looks like you are in a cocoon.

You can move the back cushions of the settee if you’d like.  This gives an extra three to four inches of width.  But then you are simply rolling into wood cabinets from time to time.

Then there’s the noise.  Sails popping.  Lines banging the mast.  The main snapping against the shrouds. Water rushing by.  Hanging nets holding various foodstuffs lightly swaying back and forth hitting the cabin top.  Creaks.  Groans.  Cans of food sliding and banging against each other.  Is this an insane asylum?  Or should I be put in one because I hear all the noise?  I even wear headphones, though I keep the music so low to still hear everything.  The sweet melodic sounds of Sarah McLachlan are an engram for my brain to fall asleep but she does not cover up her new accompanist: boat noise.

To top it off, sheets feel damp/dank.  Airflow is not superb.  And if you are Matt and Karen, you have to worry about being doused with water, full buckets of water through hatches or rouge waves that break over the boat into the cockpit.  It has not yet happened to me.  I am simply, and only, lucky.  A drenching is, I’m sure, somewhere in my future.

So I sleep between 9 and 11 hours each day.  I still feel lethargic. I am ready to get to Fiji and for passages to be over for a while.

Jul 10 2010

Getting to Fakarava

Tag: tripsJonathon Haradon @ 9:59 am

(concerning events, June 12th-June 16th)

I wanted to take a rugged cargo ship from Tahiti to Fakarava.  A small cargo ship that bucked through wild seas for three days.  A vessel where I had to bring my own food and sleep on the deck for want of space anywhere under shelter.  The Cobia.  A wild adventure to start a indefinitely long voyage.  Sure there are nicer cargo ships, the Aranui 3 for example or the Stella Marie X, where the ships are large with less rolling, you are given a deluxe cabin, and fed three generous meals a day.  The Cobia however, is not one of the nicer.  It was the cheapest and the only amenities as far as i could tell was a life jacket.  It would take three days for the Cobia to reach Fakarava.  I imagined three days of pitching over a wild ocean, holding onto the rail and praying my one hundred pounds of supplies I was taking to Syzygy would not fly into the ocean.  I couldn’t wait.

On Friday, trying to buy my ticket on the cargo ship to Fakarava, I had to walk three miles from Papette, mostly along a nearly deserted road leading to the cargo ships.  It was deserted because the cargo dock workers were in cahoots with the firemen, who had decided to strike on Thursday.  Incidentally, my flight from Los Angeles was the last international flight into or out of Tahiti for a week.  No firemen = no international flights.  For some reason, domestic flights could still happen.  Apparently the airport has lower standards of safety for it’s domestic travelers than the international tourist travelers.

In route to the cargo ship offices, a mile from downtown Papette, I had to walk past a blockade.  In the middle of the two-lane road there were just a couple of small tires.  There was also a dozen large Tahitians.  They looked to be happily inebriated.  As I walked up to the blockade, I debated whether or not I should turn around as I had seen a number of cars and motorcycles  do during my tedious on-foot approach.  I figured the worst they could do to me was direct me to an alley, rob me and leave me for dead, but that most likely the worst would be a simple get lost.  So I strode up to the largest Tahitian I saw.  He was laughing, clearly enjoying not working and instead turning frustrated drivers around.  With my limited (read: non-existent) French, I pantomimed that I wished to walk over the bridge separating Papette from the cargo ships on Moto Utu.  I stumbled the words, I ‘erred’ quite a bit.  I smiled.  I said ‘It’s O.K.?”  repeatedly.  He boomed with laughter, clearly at me and kept repeating something in Tahitian.  Definitely not French, I can at least recognize French.  I walked on, sure I was the laughing stock of the dozen bouncers, but glad to have been able to walk across.

Two miles later, I arrived at one of the cargo ship offices.  It was small, clean and wonderfully air-conditioned.  Sweat that had been running profusely stopped in it’s tracks.  No matter what happened, I planned on stretching out this visit as long as possible.  This would not be hard, I’m sure, given my aforementioned skills in French.

Short it was not, but I exited with a ticket on the cargo ship Cobia bound for Fakarava.  I was even in a cabin instead of sleeping on the deck.  For food and water though, I was on my own for the three day trip.  It took me asking them about the strike though, for the nice ladies to realize I should call the captain first thing Monday morning to ascertain whether or not the Cobia would be leaving.  I left with his number in hand.

I called Monday morning.  The Cobia was not leaving.  The strike was still on.  The captain said call the next day.  I called the next day.  The strike had lifted!  The Cobia was still not going.  Trouble with the fuel.  Try again next week.  Frustrated, I envisioned this laissez-faire attitude continuing indefinitely.  I wanted to be on my way to Fakarava now!  The incompatibility of travel outside industrialized nations combined with industrialized-nation-attitude of impatient hurry-ness was becoming apparent.

No other cargo ships were leaving for Fakarava until next Monday so I wouldn’t get to Fakarava until next Thursday.  Nine more days of waiting in Papeete and on a ship was simply unacceptable to me.  So Tuesday afternoon a refund was procured, the nice Tahitian ladies in the air-conditioned office profusely apologized, and the cute French woman at Air Tahiti was happy to fly me to Fakarava.  I would be in Fakarava tomorrow.

I flew from Papeete to Fakarava on Wednesday for three times the cost and in only three hours, instead of three days.  A symmetrically fair trade I suppose.  I also traded the rugged wild seas for plush seats and fantastic overhead fly-by views of the atolls.

Landing in Fakarava, you could look out both sides of the plane and see nothing but water.  The atoll ring is merely 450 feet wide, taken up almost entirely by a runway.  After the plane landed, a walked about 100 feet to the tiny open air baggage check.  20 feet beyond that was a small dock for dinghies.  I was disappointed that Matt was hanging out at the dock, but apparently he was having fuel problems of his own.  with my stellar French skills, I hitched a ride into town, got dropped off at the main dock, and asked the one boat there if he had a VHF.  I asked him this by pantomiming that I was holding something and talking into it and then said “VHF?”  with a clear uplift of my voice.  He replied “Oui!” but then intimated that it might not work.  Karen’s voice rang through though, when I called and Matt was sent to pick me up.

I have finally joined our boat.  I am now part of the trip.  I am emotionally simultaneously exhausted/overwhelmed and bursting with energy.  I am ready for an indefinitely long voyage!

May 02 2010

Another position update

Tag: tripsJonathon Haradon @ 2:48 pm

Day 18 finds Syzygy having crossed the ITCZ and within a day of the equator.  For the last 500 miles they have been sailing nearly due south in order to cross the ITCZ as efficiently and quickly as possible.  Now that they are in the southern trade winds, they should be able to make straight for the Marquesas.

Matt and Karen have been at sea now for 17 days and have traveled 2400 miles.  They have almost exactly 1000 more miles to go and so might be making landfall in about 7 days. 

Apr 24 2010

Syzygy position update from another boat

Tag: route,tripsJonathon Haradon @ 11:59 pm

Ten days have passed since Matt and Karen left the Mexico coast on April 14th.  The SPOT tracker lasted for nearly 700 miles, but the last way point from SPOT came on Tuesday, April 20th.  This was expected, in fact I’m surprised it lasted that long.  Karen’s mom has worked diligently on a way of communicating with Syzygy and managed a circuitous route.  Right now, Vicki is in contact with some people who are land-bound and have a ham radio.  Those people are able to contact s.v. Io, who are also crossing the Pacific, about 2 weeks in front of Syzygy.  The crew aboard Io are Hyo and Mike who are awesome people.  I met them when I was down in La Cruz, and Matt and Karen have become good friends with them.  Hyo and Mike are then able to contact Matt and Karen over the pacific crossing SSB net that most/all sailors check in with daily.

So with the SPOT information and a couple of updates from Io, I’ve constructed the map below to show people how far they’ve gone.  10 days, 1350 miles.   They should be turning more southerly soon and heading through the ITCZ, a band of still air that sits on the equator.  Hopefully that won’t slow them down too much.  They’ve still got 1900 miles to go!

Apr 07 2010

The Night Watch

Tag: failures,navigation,trips,Uncategorized,victoriesJonathon Haradon @ 8:21 pm

(post dated–this post generally refers to events on 3/29 and 3/30)

At midnight Karen grabs my foot and gives it a shake. I take off my eye mask and take out the earphones I’m wearing which along with my I-Pod and Sarah McLachlan, had me asleep in minutes three hours earlier despite the noise of the engine.  I was surprised at how much louder the engine sounds at night versus during the day.  I suppose the new soundproofing in the engine room was doing something, but I couldn’t tell.  I stumble around for about 10 minutes, getting dressed slowly and wobbly.  I can’t find my headlamp or my sailing knife.  I want some light and so switch on a light in the cabin, and quickly move the switch to the red light setting that is supposed to preserve your night vision.  The cabin now resembles a submarine on high alert.  I half expect Gene Hackman to barrel down the companionway yelling “down ladder!”  I imagine us on high alert.  Matt is up, walking around and off-handedly comments that he and Karen stopped using the red lights.  They don’t really provide enough light to do anything, which I quickly found to be true, and your eyes adjust fast enough when you are up on deck. High alert deflates immediately.  The engine continues to groan away as we travel through unfortunately light winds for our passage.  I plop down at the nav station to look at the log book and the AIS chart on the computer.  My night watch is about to start.

Before I even arrived, we had started talking about sailing a day or two north to San Blas.  However, the weather seemed to be less than ideal to the north, so Karen found a entry in the cruising guide that talked about a fine anchorage to the south that had some snorkeling and a fantastic sounding dinghy river trip.  South it was.  Next came talk of who was going to take what watch.  I knew this conversation was coming.  And i knew exactly what I wanted.  The night shift.  Wake me up at midnight or 1 am and send me out.  I wanted this for a number of reasons.  One, I feel, (it’s not just a feeling, I definitely am) behind in this obscure scale of mine that measures “personal discomfort” investment into the boat.  I don’t have much of this.  Matt has, well it’s somewhat amazing he hasn’t collapsed under the weight of how much he has endured.  Second, I wanted to experience as much of the cruising experience as possible.  Taking the night watch fit nicely there.  Finally, it just seemed the nice thing to do, to let Matt and Karen sleep together through the night.

After examining where we were on the AIS, I head up on deck.  Matt joins me and says we should put up the main sail and the drifter.  I’m super excited that we’ll actually be sailing on my watch, at least to start, instead of motoring.  It feels so much more pure.  After Matt helps me put up the sail, he heads off to bed, and I’m left alone on the night watch.  An alarm is set to ring every 23 minutes.  After two iterations of the alarm, I’m starting to get tired, and so lie down in the cockpit, realizing that I’ll be sleeping during some of this watch.  I’m looking directly up at the stars, and soon I’m dozing off, 1/2 awake, 1/2 asleep, dully waiting for the alarm to go off.  It does, I go through the watch routine, and quickly get back to lying down.  This time I’m out quickly.  Thirty minutes later Matt is in the companionway reaching out to the cockpit to hit my feet saying “Dude, you slept through the alarm.  You can’t do that.  Put the alarm closer to your head.”

On the night watch, there is one main responsibility.  Make sure the boat doesn’t hit anything.  Two lesser responsibilities are to 1) sail the boat well so you get to your destination faster. 2) control the boat so that it is easier for others to sleep.  Matt and Karen’s system they developed uses a watch that goes off at set intervals.  Pretty much all cruisers have an alarm set for certain intervals.  Matt and Karen have the watch set for 23 minutes.  So every 23 minutes, it’s the job of whoever is on watch to stand up, or wake up if necessary, look all around the horizon for other boats or land, and make sure you aren’t about to hit either of those.  It’s fascinating what you can see at night on the horizon.  All night we were in sight of shore so lights from there abounded.  At various times, other boats were on the horizon.  It’s enjoyable to spot lights on the horizon and watch over the next hour or two as they slowly move in relationship to the boat.  Of course if they are moving that slowly, it’s probably another sailboat.  The fast lights are the ones to worry about.  The cargo ships.

Matt disappears back down the companionway, leaving me alone fuming at myself.  My first night watch and I’ve made a HUGE mistake.  Damn it.  Not how I wanted to start.  Not the impression I wanted to make on Matt and Karen that I was a competent addition to the sailing team.  I am furious at myself and embarrassed.  Sure, the likelihood that at the exact interval I fell asleep 1) another boat would be just over the horizon that I couldn’t see on the last sweep, 2) wasn’t on the AIS that would alert me to boats further out, 3) was headed on a collision course with us and 4)  did not veer off that collision course because they of course don’t want to hit us…. yes the likelihood of all that happening is low.  Doesn’t matter.  Sleeping through a watch interval is way out of line.  I was not happy with myself.

Later in the night, the alarm goes off.  It is strapped to the band on my headlamp now, directly next to my ear, and so it wakes me immediately.  I get up and start to go through the routine I began to do at every alarm.  I rapidly check our compass heading and speed.  I then spend longer than necessary gazing in a slow 360 degrees off into the distance, looking for lights.  Each time I see lights, I get our binoculars (Thanks mom and dad!!!) and using the internal compass of them, note the heading to the lights and try to discern where it’s going.  If I see a red light, it means I’m looking at the port side of the other boat.  If I see green, I’m looking at the starboard side.  You can also tell things by the location and height of the white lights from a boat, but I’m not as sure about those. Need to learn that.  Next I slide down the companionway, moving as quietly as possible past the quarterberth where Matt and Karen are sleeping, generally with the door open to increase airflow and keep it cooler in the cabin.  I  have a seat at the nav station and take a look at the awesomest part of the night watch routine: checking the AIS transponder which is linked into the navigation software MacEnc, on the computer.  Matt has discussed his love for it in the past, and I have to back up that opinion 100%.  After checking the AIS both for ships and to ensure we are headed in the correct direction, I head back up on deck and do a quick scan of the horizon.  Finally, I look at our sails and see if they need adjustment.  Then it’s back to reading, writing or sleeping.

At 2:30 am on the second night, I watched us thread the needle between two 900 foot long cargo ships doing 14-18 knots.  I had seen the two ships when they were 20 miles away on the computer, long before I would be able to see them on the horizon.  Nonetheless, as soon as I saw them on the computer headed straight for us, I excitedly hopped up on deck, grabbed the binoculars, and stared out into space to where the boats should be.  I was met with nothing but blackness.   A black sky with foreboding moon and a glistening, flat, black sea.  An hour later however, I could see lights.  Lots of lights.  High, towering lights.  That still seemed to be coming straight for us.  The AIS, though, showed their actual heading, and ours.  We would pass the first to our starboard, by a mere mile.  The other, five minutes later, passed to port by even less, about 1/2 a mile.  I didn’t sleep at all for that hour, and gained an enormous appreciation for the additional safety the AIS brought us.  I saw them when they were over an hour away and knew their exact heading relative to us.  If we didn’t the AIS, they would have been twenty minutes or less away on an uncertain course that would have looked extremely troubling.  With the AIS, we didn’t have to divert our course, and I felt no danger to the boat, though I did anxiously watch the AIS and the horizon for the entire hour.  I certainly was too excited to sleep, this being only my second night watch.  But I felt confidently safe.  Without the AIS, I would have had to hail the vessel, not always possible, and try and figure out a way by both ships.  I can envision this being a confusing hail, with both boats so close, heading in the same direction and with the approximate same speed.  With the AIS, there was minimal concern.  The rest of the night passed uneventful.  My second night watch slowly winding down, I finished most of the novel I was reading, enjoying the near full moon as it arced lazily across the sky.  My first real introduction to cruising.  I think I’m going to like it.

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