Aug 29 2010

Scuba Diving at Beveridge Reef

Tag: scuba diving,wild lifeJonathon Haradon @ 9:17 pm

(refers to events that happened August 22nd and 23rd)

I finally did some real scuba diving with my own gear.  Or rather the gear I’ve borrowed from the Martins.  Thanks Pat and Dave!

In Rangiroa, I purchased a dive outing with a local dive operator, 6 Passengers, so named because they limit the number of people with one dive guide to, yes, six people.  Scuba diving through Passe Tiputa was extremely fun.  I had almost as much fun simply remembering how to scuba dive as I did watching sharks or fish or coral.  I wanted my first time to be with a dive outfit, just so I could remind myself what it was like.  I was certified 15 years ago, and then took a three hour refresher course.  So in the last 14 years, I have only been scuba diving once, four months ago, in a pool.  My point being I wanted the first time I went to be with a dive master.

Then in Moorea, I decided to test out the dive equipment we have.  I only got through two regulators (of five), one BCD (of three) and both tanks before wanting to actually have fun.  And so with the dive gear on, I hopped into 12 feet of water where we were anchored and scrubbed the bottom of our boat.  I burned through over half of one tank doing that, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.

But finally, in Beveridge Reef, I went scuba diving with my own gear.  Matt and Karen were snorkeling above me as we explored the pass into Beveridge Reef.  One day we were at the south side of the entrance and the other the north.

Both were spectacular!  On the south side, I went down to the floor at about 40 feet. There was a fairly hefty current at the surface, but on the bottom it was not nearly as bad, and I could just kneel in the dirt to keep myself from moving.  The fish, though, the fish!! Three foot long bumphead parrot fish were there, at least a hundred it seemed.  Large groupers also abounded.  Both would swim up almost next to you!  I could have easily touched them if they would have stayed put.  But they darted quickly away.

The main attraction for me was the slots in the reef.  Underwater canyons!  One in particular was about 12 wide with 20 foot high walls of coral.  Swimming along the sandy bottom in this canyon was spectacular.  Fish were everywhere.  Like canyoneering on land, there was obstacles to maneuver around, boulders in the middle of the canyon and such.  And within the canyon, within this canyon were sharks.

The sharks, up to six feet in length lazily meandered around.  Most were smaller.  Some were hefty with girth.  Frequently the sharks would swim to within ten feet of me, as I knelt on the surface wondering what it thought of me.  Then it would angle slowly away, apparently I was rejected as something to eat.

The north side of the Beveridge Reef pass held even more fish.  There were hardly any parrotfish, but was a school of smaller silvery fish.  There must have numbered in the thousands.  In one particular instance, they completely surrounded me and were swimming in a 360 degree circle around me.  They were everywhere I turned, spinning around me in their attempts to protect themselves and keep me, as the potential predator, in confusion.  I felt like I was in one of the Blue Planet movies, when they show the schools of fish swimming in giant spheres.

The north side had an enormous overhang of coral, undercut by nearly 20 feet.  With a sandy bottom, I just kneeled down and watched the multitudes of ocean life cruise by.  This time, not just a few sharks but dozens.  It was fantastic to see.  I also drifted over to another coral garden 100 yards away that had grabbed my attention.  The attraction here was a ten foot high arch made of coral that I wanted to swim through.

Thanks again to Pat and Dave Martin for the scuba gear they loaned us.  Also a thanks to Dave, from the trawler Rock and Roll her at the Emeryville Marina who also gave us some scuba gear.  Diving in Tonga awaits and in Fiji, in Fiji its supposed to be spell-binding.  Fantastic!

(video of scuba diving and snorkeling at Beveridge Reef will be coming later when we get a faster internet connection)

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.

Aug 29 2010

New floors

Tag: boat workJonathon Haradon @ 9:05 pm

(refers to events that happened August 2nd – 6th)

After spending eight days just outside of Papeete, we were ready to move on.  The anchorage we were in had warm showers, but this was about the only up side.  The water was dark, cloudy and stank with sewage from runoff from Papeete.  You could almost see the rate at which stuff grew on the underside of our boat.

Matt and I sailed the boat over to Moorea, a short 25 mile sail.  He then went off to meet his and Karen’s moms who were visiting for a week.  Matt and Karen would stay that night at the hotel and the subsequent three or four nights.  I had the boat to myself!! Let the party start!

Before the party could start though, Matt had given me a list of jobs to accomplish.  The list had one item on it.  Redo the wooden floors inside the boat.

O.K., that’s melodramatic.  Matt and I discussed and we both wanted a nice newly polyurethaned floor.  Matt felt any more wear in certain spots would cause permanent damage.  It would look great and be a huge bang for our buck in terms of enjoyment and resell value.

Step one: Scrape.  Using a scraper take off most of the old polyurethane over the entire floor.  Time required: 6 hours.  Sweat level: high.  Battery power requirements: none.

Step two:  Use Orbital Sander on 80 grit over half of the floor.  Time required: 12 hours.  Sweat level: moderate to high.  Battery power requirements: moderate.

Step three:  Use Belt Sander with vacuum attached over entire floor.  Time required: 5 hours.  Sweat level: low.  Battery power requirements: enormous.

Step three should have been step one and would have saved the time required to do step one and step two.  But Matt had initially suggested the scraper and orbital sander route.  After a couple of days of this, I met up with Matt, described the progress, and realized the belt sander was the way to go.  That it took three days of work before I made the switch is a testament to some stubbornness and my oft detailed lack of handiness experience.

Step four: Redo entire floor with Orbital Sander on 80 grit.  Time required: 6 hours.  Sweat level: moderate. Battery power requirements: moderate.

Step five: Use Fein tool with triangular sander tool to get into the corners and edges.  Time required: 3 hours.  Sweat level: moderate.  Battery power requirements: low.  Frustration level:  Enormous.

The Fein tool is a beautiful instrument, but this was not its calling.  The sandpaper we had for the Fein tool gummed up quickly, in about 5 minutes, and would then need to be changed.  Extraordinarily frustrating.

Step six:  Entire floor with Orbital Sander on 200 grit.  Time required: 4 hours.  Sweat level: moderate. Battery power requirements: moderate.

The floor was now bare wood, light and baby bottom smooth.  It was impressive to run my hand across after I had used the belt sander and think ‘oh that’s pretty smooth.’   Then after the 80 grit orbital sander was used, I’d think, ‘wow, THAT’s smooth.’ Finally, after the 200 grit sand paper, I was thinking, ‘This is better than the sexiest pair of smooth woman’s legs I’ve ever felt.’  That’s not true, but you get the point.

Step seven: clean.  Time required: 2 hours.  Sweat level: low. Battery power requirements: none.  Frustration level: high.

There was now sawdust everywhere.  I had failed to use the vacuum attachment in steps two and four.  This was a colossal mistake.  Sawdust was everywhere.  I had taped off Matt and Karen’s bedroom, but everywhere else had a thin to thick layer of sawdust.  Before laying down layers of polyurethane, which if the the sawdust got airborne and settled onto, would hold it fast like fly-stick paper, the boat needed to be cleaned.  I got to probably 90% of it.  Karen, bless her heart, spent an additional few hours cleaning up my mess a week later, getting to all the more smaller nooks and crannies of the boat.  A month later there is still sawdust visible in a myriad of places.

Step eight: wipe down floor with rubbing alcohol to clean.  Time required: 3 hours.

Step nine: repeat.  I went through six rags coating them in sawdust that had settled on the floor.

Step ten:  Finally the first layer of polyurethane was ready to be applied.   Time required: 2 hours. Brain cells killed:  some.  Satisfaction level: high.  I wore a respirator while applying because the polyurethane has a terrible headache inducing odor that forced me to sleep outside that night.  This step, by the way, was finished after a 16 hour work day ending at 4 am.

Step eleven:  Wake up in the morning and bask in the glory of a beautiful floor.  Take pictures of your exquisite work.  Drink multiple beers in the morning toasting your success.  Then prepare for another coat of polyurethane.  The directions say to apply two coats.  Matt, in his infinite wisdom, and constant striving for anal perfection, wants four.  (In his defense, in hind sight, each layer was necessary and improved the floor markedly)

Step twelve: Lightly sand with the orbital attached to vacuum.  Wipe down with rubbing alcohol to clean.  Time required: 2 hours.  Battery power requirements: colossal.  It will be necessary to run the engine in order to charge the batteries.  This is the first time EVER this has been necessary.

Step thirteen:  Next layer of polyurethane.  Time required: 2 hours.  This time making sure, once an area is covered in poly, to ever so gently run the brush across the area.  Like tickling someone with a feather…

Step fourteen through nineteen: Repeat steps eleven through thirteen twice more.

A week worth of work later, and now we have a beautiful floor.

Aug 29 2010


Tag: introspection,musings,victoriesJonathon Haradon @ 9:01 pm

(refers to events that happened most importantly on July 20th)

I have toyed with the idea of getting a tattoo for about eight years now, starting right at the peak of my young adult ‘I’m-trying-to-find-and-define-myself’ phase.  We all have one right? Back then, my ideas for a tattoo ran the stereotypical Chinese or Japanese character, or a Greek or Latin word.  How cliche right?  Thankfully that phase passed before I acted on it.

Matt rekindled my interest three years ago when he suggested Jonny, Matt and I all get similar tattoos to mark our journey, something with a sailing theme.  I toyed with a number of drawings.  Again nothing inspired a decision.  When it was clear the trip would not happen as planned with the three of us, our inaction seemed prescient.

When, however, I was going to join the trip again, I knew the last last five years of effort towards a sailing trip and this past tumultuous year in particular deserved a special remembrance.  So I began researching traditional Polynesian designs and locations on the body.

For a location, I settled on my right shoulder; my right because for some reason it feels more natural to look down at my right shoulder.  As for the design, Polynesians frequently make use of a spiral.  Most often, one path spirals around itself; Karen’s tattoo is an example of this.  Part of Matt’s tattoo has two paths that spiral around each other.  In all the pictures I looked through, I never saw a tattoo with three, so I painstakingly made a sketch that had three symmetrical paths that spiraled each other.  I then re-worked it on a computer.

As for a design, I wanted a tattoo I could attach my own personal symbolism to, and my idea had three distinct parts representing three phases of life over the last five years.  As for location, I wanted to be able to see it.  This ruled out the popular Polynesian location of the entire ass-cheek.  It also needed to be somewhere I could live with should I rejoin the proper business world.  This ruled out the less popular but very traditional facial designs.  Recalling all the styling I had seen of Polynesian tattoos, I made a terrible sketch, I am a terrible artist, of what could be within each spiraled path.  My sketch was by no means what I actually wanted, just a visual to attach my very visual brain around.  One was a basic geometric design; simplicity and un-complex. Another, a dark swirling, heavily inked pattern; change, turmoil, confusion, loss, sadness.  The third, many Polynesian symbols and a smiling tiki face; looking forward, happiness and a trip realized.

I took the outlines of the spirals (but not my styling sketch, I didn’t dare show a true artist my awful renderings!) to Simeone.  His shop is upstairs in the main market of Papeete, tucked away behind one of the myriad of jewelry and cloth booths.  Friends of Jerome, whom I stayed with in Papeete for a week, highly recommended him.  The many awards on his walls of contests won spoke to why.  I flipped through five books of pictures of tattoos he had done, pointing at styling that was similar to what I envisioned.  I then tried to indicate that he was free to do what he wanted within the spirals, let him do his artistry.  As usual, I was reduced to pantomiming and basic phrases; Simeon was not talkative and did not seem to speak much English.

It took two and a half hours to draw and ink.  Normally, there wasn’t much pain, but a few times it was more painful that I anticipated, but not unbearable.  I am extremely happy with the result; Simeon did an excellent job reproducing the spirals and his artistry within them is definitely to my liking.  All in all, I know I’ll be happy 30 or 40 years down the road looking down at my shoulder.

Aug 29 2010

Misadventures with the dinghy: Part 4

Tag: boat work,victoriesJonathon Haradon @ 8:55 pm

(refers to events that happened July 12th -July 20th)

We have never been happy with our outboard engine for our dinghy.  It sat on the rail of Syzygy for over a year before anyone bothered to start to tinker with it.  And what they found was not particularly encouraging.  It didn’t run particularly well.  We rarely used it.

Fast forward three years and once Matt and Karen left San Francisco, the dinghy actually started getting used.  And yet again, the outboard was not particularly reliable.

It puttered at higher RPM’s.  It was difficult to start.  It cut out randomly.  It seemed to be overheating.  Old supposedly adjustable plastic parts would break upon adjustment.  It looked old and ugly.

Then, once I arrived, shortly thereafter we did not tie up the dinghy well enough.  It came loose, and on its drift away, flipped over, submerging the engine in salt water.  When I say ‘we’ did not tie up the dinghy well enough, I mean ‘I’, but choose to use the royal ‘we’ in an attempt to lesson my embarrassment.  Submerging an outboard engine in salt water is not good for it.  In fact, it effectively dooms it.  Salt gets onto the piston walls, immediately begins to corrode them, which causes all sorts of bad things.

But really, my action only hastened what Matt has wanted to do for the last six months.  He even joked about purposely wanting to lose the dinghy not two days before it drifted away.  So after tinkering around and cleaning some of the salt off, I came around to Matt and Karen’s point of view.  It was time to spend serious money on our outboard, either a large overhaul on ours, buying a used one, or buying a new one.

A few days later, we arrived into Papette, Tahiti from Rangiroa after one long overnight sail.  First thing the next morning, I was up and motivated.  If we wanted to do something about our outboard, we needed to get started right away because it would take a few days and none of us wanted to be in Papette very long.  Matt supported, but did not share, my enthusiasm and so I struck off alone early Saturday morning around 8 am.  That it was Saturday was unlucky, as I knew many places would close at noon and some would not be open at all.  This is how they do business in paradise, ‘island time’.

Since I had wandered around Papette for a week before flying to meet Matt and Karen, I knew of at least one outboard engine store and so started there.  At each place I went, I had three questions.  Do you fix outboards?  Do you sell used outboards? What are your prices for new outboards?

The first place, Evinrude/Suzuki Outboards, said: “No.  No.  $1800.”

This was not particularly promising.

The salesman was extremely courteous however, and did direct me to the authorized Evinrude repair shop and other outboard engine retailers.  I spent the rest of Saturday wandering around, asking questions, saying “I am sorry I don’t speak French, do you speak English?” and trying to determine what to do about our engine situation.

Repeatedly I heard, ‘there are no used outboards for sale anywhere.  Tahitians run them until they disintegrate.’

On Monday, Matt and I went to the repair shop and on Tuesday returned with our engine.  I visited them again on Wednesday to hear their prognosis.

The owner gave me the gist:  “Pas possible,” he said.  Not Possible.  He then began telling me what might be wrong, but they weren’t exactly sure.  And to fix what might be wrong would take over a month to get the part and cost $500 just for that part.  With no insurance that would fix all our problems.  He was right.  Pas Possible.

Resigned to the fact that we would have to by a new engine, I asked him if he was interested in buying ours for the parts.  He crossed his arms, rubbed his chin and appeared in thought.  The head mechanic walked over and the owner asked him if he thought they should buy it for the parts.  The head mechanic was not so diplomatic and simply scoffed! Laughing out loud.  This was embarrassing.  I left saying we would be back to pick up the engine in a couple of days.  We never did return.

One of the shops I had contacted, Mercury, had quoted me a price of 130,000 Pacific Francs, about $1,300.  Matt had talked to them separately at a different location and they offered him a price of $1200.  I called back to confirm Matt’s price, he gave me a slightly higher price, I sort of paused on the phone, hedging, and then he gave me a final price of $1125.  Done.

We now have a brand new, shiny, 5 hp, 2-stroke Mercury outboard  It purrs.  It starts with one pull.  It easily goes up to its maximum RPM.  It planes over the water with ease.  Did I mention it purrs?

We are very happy.  We had to spend some money, but we are very happy.  Who says money can’t buy happiness? Misadventures part 4: success!

Aug 29 2010

Misadventures with Slurpy Part 3

Tag: boat work,failures,humorous,victoriesJonathon Haradon @ 8:51 pm

Part 3

(refers to events on July 11th)

“Syzygy, Syzygy, this the Gendarmarie.”  cracked the VHF in a heavy and thick French accent.  So thick, it was almost impossible to tell they were calling us.  My heart quickened as I glanced at Karen while answering.

“Gendarmarie.  this is Syzygy.  Want to go up one?”  I said, asking if they wanted to go to another channel.  They didn’t understand.

There was only one reason I thought they could be calling however.  They must have our dinghy!

“Syzygy.  We haz yur zodiac.”  Sweet!!!!!

The gendarmarie wanted us to report to them immediately.  Apparently, we were supposed to check in with them four days ago when we arrived in Rangiroa.  Technically we were outlaws.  Outlaws in the land of Rangiroa.  But they were pretty laid back about it.  They were, however, now effectively holding our dinghy hostage until we officially checked in.

We went ashore at 1 pm, the gendarmarie meeting us at the docks.  We were 30 minutes earlier than our scheduled arrival time.  They were a little too in a hurry for me.  We piled into the back of the car, and I couldn’t help but think we must look like fugitives to those whom we passed on the drive.  But they were pleasant enough and once we had officially checked in, the police chief himself took us to the restaurant/pension where our dinghy was.

And there it was!  Looking perfectly fine.  The engine was still there, though the fuel tank had mysteriously gone missing.  The oars were still there, as was snorkeling gear.  But no fuel tank.  Odd we thought, but if that’s the price, we easily acquiesce to that finder’s cost.

After a round of drinks, we began to contemplate our return.   There was the matter, however, of how to get the dingy back to our boat.  With no fuel, we couldn’t run the engine, and well, our outboard is a piece of shit anyway and probably couldn’t handle that.  Matt however, thought we could easily row back on our own.  Karen came down on the side of deflating the dinghy and getting a taxi.  I sided with Matt encouraged by appeal that it would be a fun team building exercise.  He seemed jazzed about the idea and so I was for it simply because he was jazzed about something.  So we pushed the dinghy into the water and began to row.

We rowed and rowed and rowed.  It quickly became apparent this was not going to be an exercise in team-building, but an exercise in futility.  We were taking on more water than we used to; there must be a leak somewhere.  There was no seat through the middle so the rower couldn’t sit properly.  We have miserable oarlocks and soft bottomed dinghy, both of which reduce the ability to row effectively.  We were fighting the current.  We were going against the prevailing wind.  This was a terrible idea.

After thirty minutes, we had made maybe 100 yards of progress.  I think that is generous. Karen was the first to get out of the dinghy and try to swim along and push the dinghy.  This didn’t work so well.  I took a turn at rowing.  It was miserable.  So then I hopped out, tied the painter line around me and began swimming in front of the boat pulling it along.  With Matt rowing and Karen bailing, this was our best method and we managed to increase our speed to about 300 yards per 30 minutes.  At this rate, it would take us over eight hours to get back to our boat.  Clearly, we were bumfuzzling idiots.  Well, maybe just Matt and me who originally thought this would be fun.  Karen, smartly, had never thought this was a good idea.

Luckily for us, another couple was motoring nearby in their dinghy looking for someplace to eat.  They took pity on us, and told us they would tow us back to our boat.  THANK YOU!

It still took us nearly an hour to get back.  Matt insisted we row to help us along.  I’m not sure how much it helped, though it made me feel more in control and helpful.  It also made me feel ridiculous.

Back at our boat, we begged them to let us thank them with some gift and ended up promising to deliver some movies and books to them in thanks sometime in the next couple of days.  We plopped down in various places on our boat, exhausted both mentally and physically from the ordeal.  The dinghy had yet again gotten the better of us.  So despite that we got the dinghy back to our boat, and could be happy at not having to buy a new dinghy, (the P.O.S. engine might be another thing) it still didn’t feel much like a victory.

Misadventures part 3: monetary success.  emotional failure.

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