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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

American Samoa tsunami aftermath

I had at the top of my "to do" list today to write a blog about where we are and what we've been up to since we left Tahuata. But the reports we've been reading from cruisers in affected areas has brought me to tears (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/pacificpuddlejump/). Some people have died and so many others have been extraordinarily lucky. Our hearts go out to the people of Pago Pago, American Samoa and Niuatoputapu, Tonga, and we hope that the devastation was not as severe in any additional locales. We had no idea at the time of our own "evacuation" of the damage being inflicted upon fellow mariners and locals alike, and it's a sobering thought to have participated in the same event with such a different outcome for us.

Today we're taking some time to think of those who were not as fortunate as we were.

Linda and John

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

No Tsunami Problems

You may have heard about the 8.3 magnitude earth quake (actually an under-sea earth quake, which I guess makes it a sea quake) near American Samoa. Well we sure did. About 1130 this morning just after Linda finished making lunch a Gendarme boat came flying up to NAKIA and started talking rapid fire French. The only word I got was 'ami', I thought the guy was looking for his friend. Fortunately, Linda heard the preceding 'Tsun' (as in Tsun-ami) and understood that we had to head off shore for a while. No other instructions were given, like when we'd know the all clear was sounded, but after we sailed around in the lee of the island for a few hours I checked email and my hippy-dippy weatherman, Stan, was kind enough to have sent us an update that let us know it was cool to return to our anchorage.

Another day in paradise.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ya Loses Some Ya Won, Then Ya Wins 'Em Back

I'm sure you'd much rather hear about our swimming nude with the manta rays this morning, but I'm going to blow my own horn again first. You'll have to wait.

Yesterday afternoon the tape player spit out the iPod tape. No matter how many times I tried to get the tape to work, it just kept spitting it back out. It was looking like another failure of the internal mechanism so once again I got out the Elect. tool box and tore open the stereo. The failure this time was catastrophic, the drive belt had snapped. So much for the iPod. What a bummer.

I burned a CD with an episode of Fresh Air for the following morning but came to the conclusion that doing so is not much of an option. We don't listen to these shows more than once so having a CD of them is a waste. Then I realized that I might be able to get the iPod audio to come out of the stereo when a CD is playing. I pulled out the cable that runs from the CD changer (it's an external 12 disk CD changer that hasn't seen much use since we copied all our CDs to the iPod) and carefully cut it open. Inside were eight wires, two of which were obviously small coaxial cables. Audio signals are often sent down coaxial wires to avoid noise, and since there were two coax inside the cable running from the CD changer to the stereo I figured these had to be the left and right line signals. I cut the two wires, stripped them back, and soldered on a three conductor earphone plug that's been kicking around in the Elect. tool box forever. Then I put a CD in the changer and pressed 'Play' on both the stereo and the iPod. Ha! Instead of Dido, which was on the CD, we heard Terry Gross interviewing Drew Barrymore. Who da man?

So this morning, while listening to the Drew Barrymore interview over the CD/iPod, Linda noticed a couple of rays swimming around the boat. They seemed bigger than the rays we used to see in Mexico (see July 11, 2005 blog entry) but it was hard to tell. After 10 minutes of trying to get a good look at them from the deck I decided I should just get in the water to watch them. I slipped quietly in and hid behind the rudder to keep from scaring them away and after a minute or so it was clear they couldn't care less about me so I swam over and had a great show; three 4-6 ft manta rays swimming slowly around in circles feeding. I signaled the 'all clear' to Linda and before long we were both taking in the show. One manta even had a couple of remora fish clinging to its underside near the tail. Way better than listening to Terry Gross.

I'm sure you're still wondering about the 'nude' part. Well NAKIA is the only boat in the anchorage and there's no reason to get your bathing suit wet if you don't have to. So instead of changing out of one suit into another we just took off our clothes before getting in. Really, I'm surprised the mantas didn't bolt from fright.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Ya wins some, Ya loses some

We've had a couple failures recently that one may not consider critical pieces of equipment, until they're gone.

First the tape player on the stereo gave out. Now this surely has got to be insignificant, right? You're probably wondering how we even noticed the tape player stopped working. I mean, who plays cassette tapes anymore? Well, we use the tape player as a method for hooking the iPod to the stereo. There's a special 'tape' that has a wire coming out of it that plugs into the iPod. The stereo thinks it's playing a tape but in reality the music is coming from the iPod. Now you may come to understand the seriousness of the situation. Without the iPod we're forced to listen to music from our CD collection. Not only that, our morning routine is not complete without listening to 'Fresh Air' and/or 'Talk of the Nation' via podcast.

The second failure was the saloon clock. One day it stopped, which usually means the battery needs to be changed in the cheap plastic movement (it actually says 'zero jewels' inside). But on applying a new AA battery the thing still refused to run. So I put a piece of tape over the face to remind us that it's not really 3:52 and tried to figure out how we were going to get a new clock.

After a while I figured I should give fixing these things a try. After all, I couldn't break the clock any more than it was already broken and as for the tape player I thought I could limit any new damage done to the non-functional tape player. So I got my tool box out (I have one especially for electrical work labeled 'Elect.' surprisingly enough) and set to work. It took a good hour to dismantle the tape player, where I found that the drive belt had jumped it's pulley because a rubber roller was jammed. I applied a little dry lubricant to the roller, re-routed the belt, and put everything back together. A quick test showed that it could actually work again so I re-installed it and sure enough we can once again hear Terry Gross in the AM. 'I'm the man'! I said to myself. Now time to work on time.

I took the cheap plastic movement out of the clock and dismantled it. This was a little harder. Inside is a small printed circuit (PC) board with a few components. Somewhere in there I figured there must be a bad connection. I probed and prodded, and found nothing. Finally decided I had to remove the PC board from the rest of the movement. Boing! out popped the board and Snap! went the two wires that drive the little motor that turns the clock. Having worked on things I don't totally understand for most of my life (I used to take all kinds of things apart when I was a kid just to put them back together; some of them even worked afterword) the 'boing-snap' is the most dreaded result of the disassembly process. 'OK, no problem,' I say to myself, 'I'm the man'. I'll just have to re-solder these two wires, don't worry that they're about the size and strength of a the hair from the head of a one week old infant, I am the man. As I prepared for the soldering process I noticed that the end of one of the wires was green, an indication of corrosion. This must have been the problem all along. Then, just as I'm set to apply the soldering iron, Boing-Snap, the PC board popped out again and this time the wires broke off at a point where they can never be re-soldered. So much for the clock, at least now it's 12:00 instead of 3:52.

I guess I should have said, 'I have been the man.'


Thursday, September 03, 2009

To Hiva Oa and back to Tahuata

On Monday we watched the Taporo IX unload cargo and take on copra at Hapatoni, Tahuata, and then we pulled up anchor for the short sail to Vaitahu. There we put 38 gallons of water into our tank, and loaded another 25 in jugs. We did it by taking a long hose to the quay from the dinghy. John stayed in the dinghy with the filter end of the hose filling the jugs, and I manned the water faucet and tried to hold the dinghy off the rough concrete wall with a stern line. There was a little surge but we managed to get that chore done without incident and before it started raining in earnest.

The next morning John dropped me off on shore with a bucket load of laundry which we'd let soak in soapy water on the boat overnight. I put it in the first rinse cycle (a bucket of fresh water) and then went off to see what new food items the Taporo IX might have off-loaded. We hadn't gone into the first store you come to on our last visit and to my delight I found fresh baked baguettes on bakery racks inside the front door. We're discovering that the great thing about shopping in the Marquesas is that all the prices seem to be somewhat fixed. So no matter where you shop, baguettes are always 64 CFP. Of course I loaded up on those, along with some onions and potatoes, and went back to finish rinsing the laundry in between showers. I saw some beautiful rainbows as I hurried to get done before the next big shower arrived. Fortunately John saw the black cloud coming in down the valley and raced over in the dinghy to pick me up before it really started to pour.

We waited out that shower and then got underway for Hanamenu on the NW side of Hiva Oa, only about 14 nm away. The sail across the channel was nice and fast, and we managed to get out of the worst of the rain as soon as we left Tahuata. The wind died in the lee of the cape, so we already had the engine running when we rounded it and ran smack into a building headwind and chop. Well, this was unexpected! As unpleasant as it looked, we persevered through another hour of slow motoring (to avoid taking salt water splashes over the bow) to get to the anchorage where the wind and chop were blowing straight into the beach. We were shocked to find another cruising boat bow and stern anchored in very shallow water off to the north side of the bay. Why would anyone want to stay there in such awful weather conditions?! We anchored twice because the first time we ended up too close to some submerged rocks extending out from the side of the bay. We ate lunch, watched the wind build, and thought about spending a sleepless night there. John did some calculating and figured we still had enough time to make it back to Tahuata before sunset so we got the heck out of there. I guess it could be nice under better circumstances but I was not impressed with the dry Baja-like scenery, the murky water, or the brown/gray sand at the head of the bay. Yes, there is a coco plantation covering the little valley in between Grand Canyon like walls, but we wanted to get back to the blue water backed by green tropical cliffs that we'd grown accustomed to.

We sailed over to Ivaiva Nui anchorage on Tahuata, arriving just at sunset. This is a pretty little anchorage with a private home and neat farm above the sandy beach. It doesn't get much protection from the swell though, which has been higher than when we first arrived, so yesterday we sailed back to our favorite Tahuata anchorage at Hana Tefau. That afternoon we saw our first shark, a 3' black-tip, on our swim from the boat (anchored in 55') to a great snorkeling rock close to shore (where we saw yet another new to us kind of fish!). This morning the dolphins were back in the anchorage where they've been all day. I got a closer look at them and they have white tips on their noses and are speckled so now I think they must be spotted dolphins, although they do a lot of acrobatics similar to their cousins, the spinning dolphins. There seem to be lots of babies, so I wonder if this isn't a nursery of sorts for them.

Today we did chores. I defrosted the freezer and cleaned the fridge, and puttered with some additional cleaning, while John sewed himself a new pair of swim trunks. We should go into Hapatoni tomorrow for a walk I guess, but for now we're just enjoying the solitude and beautiful scenery of the anchorage. Here's wishing you all safe travels over the Labor Day weekend!

Linda and John