Dated this day, June 5, Nineteen Hundred and Ninety Eight
VOLUME VI A, Subset 16R
All right, all right. I got a bit carried away. Let’s see, when did I last send you an update? Ah yes, Polynesia. OOPS. Well in the ol’ nutshell.... things have changed a bit and I guess the best way to begin is to start at the beginning! (Yes, I’m just as sharp as ever with a keyboard.) So, here it is, (drumroll, applause, confetti) my unofficial recollection of the voyage across the Pacific, our seven months of pain and suffering on the desert island of Australia and our thus-far voyage home!!! (Clapping and crowd-waves)
Bora Bora to Tonga
Medusa \ mu du sah \ n – Norwegian ketch containing three Norwegians, Toby, Rolph (like the Sound of Music “Rolllfff”) and Harold. All crazy.... just crazy. See also: lunatic, fun and alcohol poisoning.
The passage to Tonga was 1300nm over all sorts of interesting stuff going on under the water. After about four days of sailing, we needed to change course to MISS a reef in the middle of nowhere. Beveridge Reef as they call it, named after the late Captain Beveridge no doubt, is actually eight miles south of where it is positioned on the chart. Nice. A yacht in Polynesia had offered to give us some actual coordinates if we wanted to anchor there for the night. Anchor there for the night?! Suffice it to say we stayed well south and continued onward to Nuku-Alofa, Tonga where we arrived after nine days at sea.
Kingdom of Tonga
Tonga is considered to be the first island in the world to see the sun rise every day. It happens to lie just over the international date-line and contains such landmark sights as the International Dateline Hotel and the like. They’re trying to get a big tourist boost from the year 2000 festivities being the first place in the world to.... arrive.
Tonga, as you might expect, is full of Tongans. (I told you I was still sharp) All Tongans are big. Not some, all. They are about three feet wide and between six and seven feet tall, even the women. I met the captain of the Tongan Rowing Team named Malu. Apparently, in the old days, Tonga used to have wars with the neighboring Samoans. When they wanted to war, they would get these huge canoes, stuff about thirty Tongans in each and then paddle about five hundred miles to Samoa. They’d jump out of the canoe, kill a bunch of Samoans, take their heads and paddle back to Tonga. Thus, the sport of rowing was invented. The Tongans still seem to hate the Samoans, so there’s always a rivalry between them when they compete. The Tongans are the world champions. He says they clobbered Tahiti, Fiji, New Zealand and of course, Samoa. Apparently when they beat Samoa last year, they beat them by some outrageous distance. The Samoans accused them of cheating, saying the were using a non-regulation canoe. So the Tongans traded canoes with the Samoans and pounded them again! The king was elated and Malu got his picture taken with “his happiness”. It’s good to be the king.
The people of Tonga are very friendly. Thank goodness because I wouldn’t want to get in a fight with one. Jeff and I sat down for lunch at the local deli and a huge Tongan couple sat down next to us. After Jeff and I ordered our chicken sandwich., the couple ordered the same. When the sandwiches came to Jeff and I our eyes popped out at the size of the dishes! They were huge, covered in French fries and other wonderful fattening delights! We could barely finish half of it. The Tongans however polished it off without a burp. Then as we were pondering, the waitress arrived with two huge cheeseburgers, eggs on top and chips which they proceeded to toss back! We left before their desert came.
Business in Tonga is pretty simple. Make money however you can. For instance, there are always cabs in Tonga. Why? Because every car can be a cab! If you wave your hand and someone picks you up, they’ll charge you. We rented some videos from the local video store. It was amazing! The store was the size of a newsstand and they had more top movies than Blockbuster! How? They were all illegal copies! The video store where every movie is ALWAYS in stock! Whenever they run out of a top seller, it’s alright, they’ll just MAKE another one! Amazing.
Tonga does however have some wonderful natural sites. For instance, if you head to the Western part of the island, you will find the fruit bats! Big vampire looking things hanging upside down from trees. I was told the only person on the island who could hunt a fruit bat was the king. It’s good to be the king.
Tonga is also one of the only places in the world left where nothing is protected from sale. For instance, you can buy whale teeth, turtle shell, rare shells and anything else you can think of that’s ecologically incorrect. Unless of course the king says you can’t, that’s up to..............the king..
Tonga to Fiji
Our good friends Jamie and Bill flew in to meet us and sail across to the West side of Fiji. They arrived a bit grumpy after their 26 hour jaunt across the Pacific but what the heck, they were in Fiji!!
Fiji is full of Indians. Not the pow-wow Indians on horses from the Old West. These are India Indians with curry and gas stations. They run the place! Movie theaters and pizza. We hadn’t seen either of these in a long time!
Fijians are most commonly known among the islands as cannibals of past. All the cute little trinkets you pick up at the souvenir shop have connotations of their edible origins. The back of their five cent piece has a picture of a mallet which was used to bash peoples heads in. They sell ornate little forks which were used to remove eyes and, how do we say in the states, sweet bread? Yech! They also sell these big serrated wooden sticks which were used for inflicting major pain and death upon your unsuspecting victims. Imagine some crazy dude chasing you through the woods in a leather Speedo and wielding a head lopper with a brain remover stuck on his belt? Time to be...........Leaving!
We have now entered the area of the world where they are also known for their Kava. Kava is a root which is grown all through the islands of Fiji and Vanuatu. Basically you take this stuff, grind it up and mix it with water by sifting it through cheesecloth. It is consumed all through these islands like Americans would drink beer. The stuff in Fiji tastes like bark and numbs your mouth a bit. I suppose it’s technically a mild drug which mellows them out. Thank goodness. When you arrive at an outlying island your supposed to enter the village bearing kava root and present it to the village chief. He then says a few things you don’t understand and hopefully gives you permission to enter and visit his village. Basically, that IS how it works. We visited the island of Benga and there were wonderful, friendly people who actually live in huts and live off the land. The chart of Benga actually had a mango tree listed as a major navigation point on the corner of the island. It was there! Unbelievable.
After having traveled across the bottom of Fiji, we arrived at Musket Cove, home and starting point for the Musket Cove to Port Vila, Vanuatu regatta! Musket Cove hosts a little 400nm jaunt to Vanuatu every year. Jeffrey went home for his brothers wedding, Chrissy Mcgilvray and Scott Sabella joined us for two months.
Chrissy- name \ chris-yyyy\ female. From Squantum Massachusetts. Pronounced “sqauaaannnttum.” With an aaahhhh. Wonderful personality. Easy to talk to. Difficult to stop talking to. Loves to talk. Talk, talk, talk. Talk, talk. If you ever want to hear a THICK Boston (Baaahhhhston) accent, give her a call! Everyone loved Chrissy.
Scott- name\ Scot \ male. Our friend from Westport, CT. , Joins us every few months. Always entertaining, always welcome. Loves to steal Alex’s clothes and drive him crazy.
Fiji to Vanuatu
They also seem to have the Kava thing down pretty well. I liken the strength of their kava to that of Fiji as I would Grain Alcohol to beer. I took a sip of this stuff and couldn’t feel my face. I seriously doubt the FDA will approve this stuff in the states.
We sailed from Efate (pronounced Efatay) to Espiritu Santo Island where our troops were stationed during WWII. There’s a wreck there called the President Coolidge which we all wanted to dive. While sailing up through the islands during the night, I was on watch at about 2:00am when I looked off to starboard and saw what appeared to be the sun rising! I looked at the chart and it was, in fact, the island of Ambrym. A live volcanic island. The glowing was molten LAVA!! I woke everyone up and we sat there in awe as we sailed by it in the dead of night. It looked like something out of King Kong. Apparently, you can take a boat to the island and a guide will take you up to the mouth of the volcano and you can look down into the lava pit! I don’t think Disney will have anything to match that for a while!
After arriving at the island of Santo, we proceeded to dive the wreck of the Coolidge for four days. Unbelievable! The wreck was a 600’ troop carrier which hit one of our own mines in the channel. In a gallant attempt to save the ship, the captain attempted to drive this thing onto the shore. It hit the bottom and fell off the side of the island and sank in 200’ of water. Two people out of over 5000 died. She lays on her starboard side with the stern in two hundred and twenty feet and the bow in about sixty. One day we dove down to the stern on compressed air and Al and I were at the bottom with our gauges reading 221feet (70meters), gazing at this HUGE propeller shaft! Unreal! The scariest part was the way we felt ! Narcosis had set in and Al and I were feeling quite “happy.” Not happy like “yahoo” happy. Borderline losing your mind “happy.” Very dangerous stuff and neither of us are in any hurry to try that stunt again.
Vanuatu to Solomon Islands
We passed one cool island in the eastern Solomons called “Makira.” Remote caves in Makira’s inaccessible interior are inhabited by the Kakamora, a race of midgets a meter tall who have been called the leprechauns of the pacific. As legend has it, they go naked, have very small teeth, and their long straight hair comes down to their knees. Most are harmless, but some Kakamora have been known to attack other men. It’s said that one Kakamora is as strong as three or four men! Whooah! The rumor was confirmed twice. Once in Guadalcanal and once in the Florida Group. For real.
The diving in these islands is stunning. Some of the best corals we’ve ever seen. There is a B-17 bomber off the shore which is stunning. Almost fully intact. Jeff actually sat in the cockpit!
Basically, there we were, stuck up in the Solomon Islands with a ripped main and no spinnaker. Hardly capable of crossing the Coral Sea. There are also no sewing machines in the Solomons. After calling the sail loft in California for suggestions, Dave Ulman from Ulman sails told me the nearest loft was in Brisbane, Australia. Scott had planned on departing from Australia anyway, so I decided to head to Oz (as it’s called) to get the sails fixed. So onto the plane we went and landed in Brisbane at 06:00am, October 5th.
We arrived at the sail loft at around 8:00 and dropped off the sails for repair. I asked how long they expected it to take and they told me about a week. I said “where do we go for a week?” They said “ you can either go south to the Gold Coast, or north to Noosa. He continued “If you go to the Gold Coast, you’ll feel like you’re in Miami.” “ If you go to Noosa, it’s much quieter and there’s Mick.” I said “What’s a Mick?” “Mick is our sailing buddy and he’ll show you around.” So north we went and welcome to Australia!
We met Mick at the Sunshine Beach Surf Club on our first Friday night on Oz. Screeeech!!!
Sorry. I can’t type anymore. Fingers stopped. Brain overload. Eyes fogging up.All the best from all of us on the good ship “Out of Bounds.” As they say in Australia “Good on ya, mate!”
To be Continued.....