Thursday, December 24, 2009

sitting in LAX

The eleven hour flight from Auckland would have been more enjoyable if I'd been less grumpy about all the futile phone calls I made to two airlines over three to try to get Brian's seat upgraded to a first class seat so he could keep his leg elevated. It all turned out fijne, though.

His surprise the day before we were scheduled to come home got all stitched up finally on Tuesday morning. They kept him in the hospital until Wednesday. It was a miracle no bones or nerves or tendons were cut. The hospital staff were incredible. They foresaw all we might need before during and after the trip. Then, we were on our merry way.
So, it's in a back slab from above the knee to the ankle to keep the stitches from tearing out of the muscles. He entertained airport goers by using his crutches as ski poles to push himself along in his wheelchair.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A new chapter

It doesn't seem possible that four and a half weeks have passed here in New Zealand. Of course, it still doesn't even seem real that two years have passed since Nomad left the Santa Cruz harbor. Our time here in the land of kiwis has been a good limbo time of packing Nomad away, enjoying our friends, taking a road trip, and pondering what next year might hold. We've both realized that cruising just for the sake of cruising was enjoyable but not as rewarding as we would like. We visited Marine Reach offices while on our road trip and spoke to them about using Nomad to deliver small medical crews or supplies to remote islands in the Fiji groups. They are interested and we plan to stay in contact while we're away. This breathes a spark of newness and renewed purpose for Nomad for us.

Another thing we've been working on is acquiring a third crew member for Nomad. With our crossing of the Pacific behind us and possible work with Marine Reach ahead in 2011, we felt it a good time to add a member to the crew. He/she is due to be born at the end of June. So, as one chapter of our lives is closing, a new one is beginning.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Nomad getting loving care

Last week, we took Nomad over to Kawau Island again and tied her up to some posts next to shore during high tide. When the tide went out we (mostly Brian and John) got busy on her bottom. Two years of scrubbing algae and barnacles and other creatures off the bottom had left her anti-fouling paint looking pretty sparse. Some water blasting and a couple of layers of very expensive paint and she's ready to sit out the next year or so. Not only that we covered up the "white" waterline stripe that has plagued us by looking sort of greenish and speckled with the hull paint showing through. Nomad looks much tidier.

While the boys were doing that work, Annette and I polished stainless steel fittings all over the boat and removed rust stains with some near-miraculous enviro-friendly goo she brought. When the painting started, unfortunately, so did some rain. Annette was on the top of the boat plugging scuppers with rags and bailing out the collection areas so the water wouldn't run down onto the bottom where the boys were rolling the stuff on. I was down below, futilely trying to dry up the drips that escaped the scuppers. In between that, I was stirring paint and keeping roller pans filled. All in all it was an enjoyable team effort with a great result. We celebrated with burgers in the Kawau Yacht Club that evening while waiting for the next high tide to come in so we could get off the poles and back into the water.

Two days later we motored down to Gulf Harbour Marina a couple hours away. We needed some electricity for Nomad's next beauty treatment. Two years of pounding through waves and flexing from heat and cold had worked open some leaks. Not a good idea to leave a leaky boat unattended because it would make more work for when we return. So, we pulled out the leaf-blower. Yup. the secret to finding the leaks in the caprails and around fittings is a leaf blower. Imagine trying to find leaks in an inner tube. You blow it up so there's some air pressure inside and then you squirt the outside in a methodical fashion with soapy water. Where there's a leak, you see bubbles. That's exactly what we did to Nomad. We taped up the known airways and vents, hooked up the leaf blower on full blast and started around the whole boat with squirt bottles, rags, tape and pencils (for marking the leaks). This was an all day process but quite successful. I have never heard of any other boat owner attempting this so maybe Brian will patent his idea some day :) We have also cleaned out the water tanks and washed foul weather gear so they aren't grody when we get back. Brian has painted our anchor, caulked, moved outside gear for storage inside the boat among numerous other details.

Now we're back in Warkworth and Brian is getting in a few days of work with John while I wrap up paperwork and repair jobs on small boat parts. Saturday, we head off to Raglan for a camping/surfing trip.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

New Zealand Pics

snapper for breakfast!

Brian, John and Annette in the Bay of Islands

Nomad at the Quarantine Dock waiting for officials to clear us in to the country. Note the proud New Zealand flag flying!

Friday, November 27, 2009


It's been 4 nights of sleeping in a bed in a house with a real flushing toilet and as much hot water for showers as we want. Aaaah. John and Annette Carr joined us in the Bay of Islands and took the two day sail from there down to Kawau Island where we were met by other friends, Bill and Noelene Brown in their power boat tooting their horn and escorting us in to the moorings at their yacht club. We ate burgers and chips in the club and were joined by a "special guest". A well lubricated local decided we were his new best friends and plopped his drink onto our table and his body into John's chair and made himself at home during our whole meal.

After the night in Kawau, we motored the hour and a half past a few islands and around a headland up into the Mahurangi Harbour (note the British spelling) and onto E38 mooring buoy, Nomad's home for the next few months, while we're home.

John and Annette have arranged innumerable details for our stay on the buoy and our visit here. She organized Thanksgiving dinner (I made apple pie and cornbread stuffing), has made countless phone calls about supplies we need for Nomad, and driven me to buy bottom paint for our haulout this coming Thursday (she scheduled that for us, also). John has taken Brian with him to work for the past three days and is paying him! We are truly grateful for these kind friends who are fun to be with and incredibly generous.

There's more work before we leave. We have to pack the sails and external gear into the inside of the boat, empty the fridge, get the anchor chain galvanized, take a surf trip to Raglan on the west coast, off load a few items to John and Annette's garage for storage, pack everything we need to take home, fill the fuel tanks, clean out the water tanks and plumbing, etc.

Arriving in New Zealand feels a bit like graduating from college. I remember it had been a goal for so long and then as it approached, I wanted to backpeddle. Life after graduation seemed like a no-man's land. So much energy and focus had been spent on finishing school that I hadn't thought much for what would happen afterwards. Arriving in New Zealand has been our goal for about four years and now here we are. It's a satisfying, relieving feeling but is leaving me wondering, "What's our next 5-year goal?" I've decided not to worry about it but to focus on the things we know we have to do right now and trust that God has plans ahead that he'll reveal as needed.

Friday, November 20, 2009

First Impressions

We pulled in to New Zealand's Bay of Islands on Thursday, November 19 after sailing through a gale the night before. Needless to say, the waves were steep and I was seasick. But, as it eased, we turned on the engine and started motoring West, past the beacon on Cape Brett, into the wind but willing to put up with the wind chop because the end was near.

The sun rose and misty arms of hills surrounding various inlets, coves and islands shifted from charcoal grey to green. Cozy New England style coastal towns filled pockets between hills and boats of all types sailed and motored past us. Our friends, on the boat Red Herring, sailed toward us with arms waving wildly. We hadn't seen them since Apia, Samoa.

We found the Quarantine dock, pulled in and cut the engine. Soon a launch of 3 officials came over, filled out paperwork, went through our food stores and confiscated a few things (we were expecting more than they actually took). Then we were here.

It's been two nights of full sleep and no seasickness and I'm more and more excited to be here. We know many cruisers anchored in the bay and have gotten in plenty of socializing along with walking around, washing laundry, and buying fresh groceries. I've already consumed 6 kiwifruits in 2 days. YUM

Some images of our first few days...
large orangey brown jellyfish pulsing by in the tide. they have small brown circles polkadotting their tops
hugs from Marion on Balu, and Karen on Red Herring
quiet boat, no slapping or rocking
piney forested hills with green hills rolling between
tui birds piping in the tree foliage
not worrying about being robbed
wobbly legs from 8 days of disuse
sunsets at 8pm
coooolllld! shivering at night, wool caps in the day, it's not quite summer here.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

making progress

Well, we finally were able to tourn the engine off lst night at 5:30. The wind has rejoined us and we made 130 miles in the past 24 hours. This is encouraging progress. We've been making only 100 miles per day for the last 3 days. Looks like we may be pulling in to the Bay of Islands on Thursday. Only two more nights!

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Saturday, November 14, 2009


Well, I should have known better than to report on scientific facts while still seasick. LATITUDE lines are the same distance apart no matter where you are on the globe. LONGITUDE lines get closer and closer the further away from the equator you get because they meet at the Poles.

One thing I can be accurate about is the temperature. It's colder. (See how accurate that is? I do myself proud) To be more specific, I had to wear a fleecy beanie and 3 layers of long sleeves last night to stay warm. Brian has pulled out his foul weather gear and worn it a few times at night. It's been almost two years since these types of measures were needed, way back in Baja Mexico. We're heading into the Spring season of New Zealand where in some places there is still snow falling. I'll have to find some pants to wear.

Brian really enjoyed his fried flying fish from yesterday and hopes another one volunteers itself soon. There was a 3-inch squid this morning, dried onto the deck. We didn't eat that.

Our estimate of eight days under way is being lengthened. We've had little to no wind for two days and are motoring at just around 100 miles per day. We go much faster under sail. At least it's calm, and I guess we'll have more days to eat up the food the NZ biosecurity people would confiscate when we get there (eggs, fresh produce, cheese, not sure what else). In light of food confiscation, we've been going through cupboards, reorganizing, throwing out old mothy bags of cornmeal, bags of melted fruit jellies, and similar delicacies. We have much more room and are enjoying the clean shelves.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

life under way

Brian is frying up the 10 inch flying fish Nomad caught last night. The only way to catch these creatures is to buy a boat and drive around in the ocean. Never heard of one biting a lure before. Up till now, we've only seen 3 - 4 inch long ones so this one is almost a meal size.

We're just about half way to New Zealand now. The first two days were rambunctious and fast and I was flat on my back sea sick eating crackers and mashed potatoes. The last two days have been a bit better with me being able to get up and do small tasks. Brian has been a good caretaker.

We're at 25 degrees South. Fiji lies at around 18 degrees south and Opua New Zealand is around 35 South. Even though we're "'closer" to Fiji in latitude numbers, we're half way because the latitude lines get gradually closer and closer together the further south you go.

We're looking forward to seeing the green hills of the Bay of Islands and meeting up with our Kiwi friends John and Annette. They'll get on board and travel from Opua to Warkworth with us, showing us the nice places to stop along the way. It's scallop season in New Zealand and they know where to get em. Yum.

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Under Way!

It's 5:30 am. Brian started pulling up the anchor about an hour ago. We're under way down the coast of Viti Levu, still in protected waters. Fifteen miles to Malolo Passage out into the great Pacific. Then, 1100 miles (more or less) to Opua, New Zealand. The last few days have been filled with cleaning the boat, inside and the bottom; cooking meals ahead for the beginning of the passage when we don't feel like doing anything; wrapping up the table top refinishing project at Marine Reach (they look great); and saying goodbye to friends.

We've encountered just in the last few days some new things. One is cumquat limes (they are small and when overripe they look just like orange cumquats) that are sweet and limey mmmm. Another Fiji novelty is "bele" which is the Hindi word for a green maple shaped leaf that is cooked like spinach. Not too bad. We have handfuls of it which Rakesh picked for us from his garden, along with long beans, corn on the cob, and eggplant. We went to church with the leaders of the Marine REach base on Sunday. The building is a flat roof with posts holding it up from a cement slab. One side of the square is walled up to about 3 feet with cement blocks. Otherwise, it's open to the cool breeze. There were about 25 of us there of all different races. At one point the pastor said, "ok, let's all pray for Brian and Megan for 60 seconds, out loud, very forcefully." This, was a very new thing for us. But it felt amazing. I felt like we were wrapped in a cocoon of loving prayers from many different languages. I couldn't stop smiling. It sure helps my pre-voyage nerves to know we have prayers like that carrying us.

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Thursday, November 5, 2009


Well Brian and I are now waiting for a weather window to head to New Zealand. While waiting, Brian has taken on some small fix-it jobs at the Marine Reach office. He's helped to hang some shade sails, started refinishing two table tops, and installed a new door handle. I've been doing some last minute shopping, organizing paper work for entry to NZ, and reading. (Not very challenging) This past weekend we spent 4 nights at Vuda Pt Marina taking on fuel, water, propane, and cleaning Nomad. IT's been nice not to have major overhauls to do. I guess all the time spent working in Panama and Mexico have paid off.

So, we're praying for a passage with good weather, and are excited to finally get to New Zealand.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

More pics from Kids Club

Lautoka Market

Ladies weaving palm baskets in the market. They fill them up with cassava root to sell.

Lautoka pics

Pictures from Navikai, working for the elderly Indian couple. The young girl with the baby is named Koma, she's trying to leave her abusive husband but has no where to go.
The train is the sugar cane train that goes through Lautoka.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Auburn haired mongooses are shy and quick. Imported many years ago to control Fiji's snake population, they rustle into foliage at the first sight of a human. They're cute but are known to steal chicks and eggs from the hen houses. When I see them, I think about brave Riki Tiki Tavi, the story of a mongoose in India.

Also the mynah birds. Their bright yellow beaks striping back to their yellow eyes are creatures from Riki Tiki Tavi, as well. They were an exotic creature when I read about them as a child. But they are ubiquitous in the Pacific Isles. In Fiji, there is a second type of mynah that is mostly black with three tiny feathers sticking up above its beak, like a mustache.

Yesterday, we went to the Indian squatter camp outside of Nadi (pronounced "Nandi"). It's been there for a few decades. Navakai is the place we went on the last tsunami scare. We were going to dig out the ditch behind the house of an ancient couple when we heard the warning. We left with promises to return. And we did. It was much better organized this time. We had more strong males, more shovels, supplies to patch the corrugated tin roof, and Rena was with us to translate. All Fijians over age 5 speak English but also speak either Hindi or a couple dialects of Fijian. Most are more comfortable in their non-English language.

When we showed up, the ancient Indian couple was not home. We were surprised because we'd called ahead. Nevertheless, we set to work. Brian, a boy from Kid's Club, and another lightweight young man went up on the precarious roof to look for leaks. The whole structure could have been pushed over with the strength of one or two men. The rest of the crew went out back to start digging. At first, a handful of neighbors gathered to discourage us from digging the ditch. Luckily, Brian had warned the team about this very possibility.

Because I had planned to be in the house with the couple, helping with inside projects, I didn't have anything to do. So I designated myself team photographer. After some pictures, a very curious and chatty neighbor called me over to sit next to her house to talk. Soon, it was myself and about 5 neighbors asking me questions about why we were there, what group we were with, where I was from, life on the sailboat, etc. The fact that the YWAM crew were volunteers providing the supplies with their own money made a big impact on one man.

A young woman called me over and put a chair next to the outdoor cooking fire. She proceeded to tell me her story. told me about living with her in-laws who hit her, her husband hits her, and she wants to leave but has two young girls and can't support them. He wants her to leave, also but let him keep the girls. It's not like at home where you can find ways to work if you have kids. The mothers are dependent on the men. She used to go to a Christian church but married a Hindu man and he won't let her go to church. There are so many needs. It makes me feel tiny. I guess that's good. God wouldn't want us trying to put our fingers in the God sized holes in people's lives. All I was able to do was pray with her, encourage her there were people to help, and put her in contact with Rena's church which is nearby.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Counselors going to Samoa

Seven or eight trained biblical counselors will be flying to Samoa and American Samoa within the next week to offer grief counseling to the Samoan villages that were worst hit in the tsunami. Losana, one of the gals hoping to go was telling me that some villagers are still living up in the jungley hills of Samoa in tents. They are still afraid of returning to the low lands where their village was.

If you would like to help pay for the airfare of any of the Personal Transformation Center counselors, write them:

If you want to check out more information about PTC, here's their website:

Marine Reach

Imagine seeing your grown children for the first time in many many years, or receiving glasses that made your previously blurry world, clear. Or, think about having severe tooth pain for months, unable to go to the dentist. What joy you would experience if a dentist arrived at your village by ship to relieve your pain for free. Marine Reach is a branch of YWAM that makes things like these happen. They use ships to reach remote islands, and 4 - wheel drive "mercy trucks" to reach remote inland villages with mobile medical and dental clinics. Marine Reach strives to meet people's medical, physical, and spiritual needs. While people wait all day to see the doctor, members of Marine reach listen to them, pray with them, and perform evangelistic or health-related skits. Dental chairs have been set up under mango trees, eye testing and glasses fittings under coconut trees. Members of teams have repaired outboard motors for local fishermen to be able to continue their livelihoods, other teams repair people's homes, unload medical supplies sent in containers from other countries, or build medical clinics, playgrounds, and install water tanks.

The thing that draws Brian and me to this organization is its hands-on, practical approach to loving people. From 2002 to 2008, 30,121 people were treated in the islands of Fiji. This includes dentistry, ophthalmology surgeries, optometry (people given glasses), health education for entire villages, Bibles distributed, etc. Many other Pacific Islands as well as places in Asia, South America, and the Mediterranean received similar help. All services are provided for free.

We have been welcomed by the Marine Reach base here in Lautoka. It is a multi-ethnic group: Indians, Fijians, New Zealanders, a Korean and a Filipina make up the staff. This base will be hosting at least 12 short term (two weeks) land-based outreaches in 2010 with different medical focuses. One 5-month Discipleship Training School (this is the same school I attended in South Africa in 1999) is also planned. If you are a nurse, a dentist, a doctor, eye doctor, have other practical skills, or are just willing to help out, feel free to contact Marine Reach. They will put your skills to good use! If you are interested in attending either of their two Discipleship Training Schools next year, or becoming staff, contact them.

When I asked Richard, our main Marine Reach liaison here, what their needs/prayer requests were, he gave me the following list:
1. Doctors, nurses, surgeons and dentists are needed for short but preferably longer term basis. It's volunteer, and you pay for all of your expenses.
2. Financial support for the staff: Rakesh and Rachel, Richard and Thelma, Rena, Barry and Beryl, Ben and Kaba, and Lusi. They do not have paying jobs but they work hard leading groups, taking care of needy kids, starting a church, training volunteers, etc.
3. Ben and Kaba have four children of their own and are housing Kaba's sister and her six kids. They will be receiving 3 more small orphaned children in December. They need a larger house! We saw their shack and it is about as roomy as Nomad is.
4. The Marine Reach base in Fiji is looking to buy a property that would be set up to train 40- 50 students at a time, as well as be the headquarters for organizing the many outreaches. One million Fijian dollars would do the trick.
5. They have donated their current ship, M/V Pacific Link to the Marine Reach in Australia and are looking for a larger ship that could house two separate surgeries at a time (Pacific Link could only do one at a time).

Web Site:

Email: info-fj@marinereach.

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Friday, October 16, 2009


Yesterday, we visited Ben and Kaba at their village, Naviyonga. They had asked us to come to "tell stories and get to know each other". When we arrived, Ben was cutting a piece of wood to add to the newly built cooking shed outside their house. Kaba and her two sisters were sitting on the pandanu mat inside the house, kneading dough and placing it in washed out tuna cans. Kaba shooed us outside and Ben placed a plastic tarp on the ground under a mango tree for us to sit on together. Kaba came back out with changed clothes, apologizing profusely. Soon a little girl came out carrying a tray with glasses and a pitcher of Tang (or some equivalent). We spent most of the next 4 hours on that tarp sitting and talking. Ana, Kaba's sister brought us the homemade buns that had been baked in the tuna tins with fried eggs tucked inside. Those buns were about the best homemade bread I've ever had. That was our lunch. We talked about the children in the village, looked over the photocopies from 'Where there is no Doctor' I'd brought them. They devoured the information. pointing out things to each other in Fijian. The 2$ scabies medicine I'd brought for their nieces that live in their house was much appreciated. I showed them in the copies where it talked about the treatment. I had also copied a couple pages from the book that talked about malnutrition in kids and beneficial LOCAL foods to combat it. They were surprised that cassava leaves were high in protein. Kaba said she'd heard of people eating the leaves but hadn't eaten them herself. Cassava root is the mainstay of their diet. It's starchy and filling and easy to plant but the village kids need protein. Hurray for a local plant that provides free nutrition.

After our visit to their "farm" it was back to the tarp to have lemon tea made from the leaves from a bush 10 meters away. While we drank the water from the green coconut Ben cut for us, Ana brought a plate of fried cassava out for us and we pulled out the graham crackers we'd brought to share. We told them stories of life at sea. When it was time to go, Ben walked us through the village, over a narrow cement bridge NOT built by the Army Corp of Engineers into the next village where we waited for a taxi to take us back to Lautoka.

The hardest part of the whole day was sitting around visiting in the middle of the day. It's just not part of my culture to "visit" until evening. Even so, we felt humbled by their generosity. We carried a large plastic bag of cassava and some green beans they'd picked from their garden for us, as well as 4 more of the delicious buns we'd eaten at lunch.

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Sugar City trail of scents

Many mornings we walk from the wharf to the PTC. The scents of the town change as we go. With the sugar refinery on the edge of the city, the air is often filled with the smell of mild molasses. Other smells contribute to the story of the sugar industry and the life of Lautoka, the self-proclaimed "Sugar City". Smoke fills the air from September to November as the workers burn the cane fields before harvesting. The fires remove the extra leaves and allow them to chop faster, machetes unimpeded. Even though Nomad is half a mile from shore, the ash from the fields and from the sugar plant covers the decks and cockpit when we come back in the late afternoons.

Every day we dinghy across the main channel, pass the wharf with the containers, large cranes and container ships, and tie up the dinghy at a cement wall. When we leave the port security gates, we walk past the "hot bread and milkshop" (they don't sell milk. I asked.). The smell of bread and hot grease trickle out the door and mingle with the smell of pine sawdust from the mountain of wood chips at the lumber yard behind the hot bread shop. This side road goes to a roundabout where we turn left into the city and pass the sugar mill with trucks and drivers waiting across the street to deliver their loads of sugar cane. The diesel fumes and molasses mingle together all the way up the street and past the carts of cane loaded and waiting on the narrow gage rails for the sugar engine to bring them to the plant. We turn right at the post office and head up the street, passing under the fragrant frangipani tree which covers the ground with white blossoms. For about a mile we walk up an inclined main road and diesel fumes spew out of the open windowed buses and mix with the scent of cut grass. Many parks and large trees line this walk. Every day, men with weed eaters persistently cut the grass one section at a time. We have yet to see a lawn mower. At the top of the hill we turn left into the Simla neighborhood which contains more parks. Here, the cut grass smells are sometimes mixed with the odor of curry wafting out of the houses. Then we cut across a park and arrive at the gates of PTC's driveway.

In the town, the smells are curry, hot bread, grime, diesel, and that peculiar odor of its multiple grocery stores: dry goods, meat, and produce mixed together into the air conditioning.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Kid's Club pictures

time flying

The last week has been full! We sailed to Musket Cove, a cruiser's mecca on a nearby island. We relaxed, met up with another sailor we'd met before, met a new couple that are former YWAMers, took a hike, barbecued at the large outdoor pit on a tiny island, and Brian kiteboarded. Since we're both introverts, it was good to get away from the many people-oriented activities we've been doing. We sailed back to Lautoka on Monday in intermittent rain. We caught about 25 gallons of rain for our water tanks.
Tuesday, Brian finished working on the cupboards at PTC, we had lunch at Marine Reach and we learned more about what they're doing. Wednesday we had our dental hygiene talk at Naviyoga village (same place as the women's group). Hmmmmm. How do describe that. We brought 50 toothbrushes and there about 80 kids. There were about 80 kids. All hyper, not all understanding English. We had a lot of shushing sessions. Even Doctor Rabbit, the toothy bunny puppet wasn't distracting enough to hold attention. But we pushed through. Proper brushing, flossing and nutrition were our topics. When I asked for 'one more thing that helps your teeth stay healthy' a chorus of "gum" was heard. GUM? Where did they hear that? When the presentation came to an end, it was time to hand out toothbrushes. We decided to give 2 brushes per family. So they were told to sit in sibling groups. We were to give two per seated group. This only worked for the first 10 groups. When the other kids saw groups getting stuff that they weren't getting, the groups dissolved into thick clumps standing around myself and Brian. Toothbrushes gone, I decided to take pictures instead. It seemed to make them happy. All in all, not a totally rewarding experience. We learned things we wouldn't do in the future, though and realized first hand the frustration of not being able to solve all the world's problems with THINGS.
My favorite part of the evening was when a little girl was brought to us. The aunt showed us the girl's wrists covered with pimply sores and scratched bumps. They itche her all the time. I didn't know what to say at the time but I went home and read my book, "Where there is no Doctor" which has a skin condition diagnostic section. Scabies. I bought the ointment to treat it yesterday and we brought it out to Ben and Keba (pronounced kambah) with instructions. It is a relief to have the information to help people take care of themselves.

We spent 4 1/2 hours at their village with them, going over the "Where there is no Doctor" book, telling stories, asking questions, eating cassava and delicious homemade buns. We saw their cassava farm, with bananas and sweet potatoes and pineapples planted in between the cassava patches. A truly cross-cultural experience.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Its back looked as if God had pulled out the Sunday School arts and crafts box to decorate it. About ¾ of an inch long, in the shape of coat of arms, if he hadn't been slowly walking across a child's notebook I would have thought he was a toy. But no, the red sequin and careful glitter green X across the beetle's white back were real. Along the sides were stripes of bright blue and though I don't remember where it was placed, I remember a small patch of cheerful yellow.

Brian had just gotten back from the boat after the tsunami scare and I was getting ready to hug him when the creature caught my eye. A walking whimsy of God on a day when thousands of people had prayed for safety and been spared. We'd heard the radio announcement in a squatter settlement of Indians. A tiny ancient couple needed a drainage ditch enlarged and we 5 grownups and two kids arrived, greeted them with shovels in our hands, and walked behind the corrugated tin shack to survey the ditch. That's where we heard the announcer, "….the 8.0 earthquake that hit Vanuatu this morning has produced a tsunami….predicted to arrive at the Western Coast of Fiji at 11:40 this morning. All people in low-lying areas are urged to move to higher ground." I looked at my watch. It was 11:00. We had a hasty meeting, went to the car to listen to the radio for confirmation, told the Indian couple we'd be back another day and headed back to Lautoka. Brian wanted to get back to the boat and Lena and Mere were worried about their children. During the 25 minute ride back to the city across low lands, they urged Brian to go faster and to turn up the radio. Traffic was increasing and we passed many uniformed school children walking along the roads, released from school. At the turn off for us to go up to the base, Brian turned the driving over to Dave, hopped out and hailed the bus that was behind us. It was 5 minutes until the tsunami was predicted to hit but we hadn't seen the tide sucking out so Brian believed he could make it to Nomad in time. We kissed each other hastily, and as I looked into his eyes, I thought of Joan and Danny. They didn't even have a chance to say good bye to each other. Somehow, I knew everything would be Ok but I still didn't like seeing Brian heading toward the water.

The moment Brian hopped onto the bus, the radio announcer spoke, " inform you that the level of the tsunami warning has been raised from 'moderate' to 'high'." There was nothing I could do except pray. We headed up to the base and passed the park out front. The shade patches under the park's giant mango trees were packed with school children. Teachers had walked their classes up the hills to this park for safety. Streets were jammed with cars along the edges, waiting. At PTC, I could see the ocean was at an extremely low tide with mud flats extending from the islands. But I couldn't see the waters off of the main port where we were anchored. I felt relief anyway because I knew there was nothing severe happening. Within an hour the radio and the internet declared the tsunami warning cancelled. Streets started clearing; children dissipated. I checked my email and was happy to see Brian had just sent me an email that all was well at the boat. He would come up in time to help at the 3:00 Kid's Club.

Kid's Club had it's share of little jeweled creatures, as well. After I told the Bible story and the memory verse, it was time to bust out the arts and craft box. Brian was given face paints and brushes, I had a box of beads and stretchy shiny string. We were surrounded in moments by 5 - 8-year-olds. Jima had another box of beads and string for the older kids. For an hour, Brian painted crosses, flowers, bumble bees, stars and a few spider webs onto cheeks. I helped make bracelets and necklaces.

It was a full day in which we felt vulnerable and yet received many treasures of memories and joy.

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Personal Transformation Center

For those of you wondering about this place where we are volunteering, I'd like to describe it. It is a part of a world wide mission organization called, Youth With a Mission (YWAM). When it was started 50 years ago by an American couple, it was geared for young people, hence the "youth" in the name. Today, people of all ages participate. YWAM is made of "bases" all over the world. Each of these bases is unique and, though they all are non-denominational and agree with some fundamental beliefs, they have different vision statements. The Personal Transformation Center (PTC) here in Lautoka has two focuses: 1. offering courses and practice in biblical counseling and providing that counseling to their community. Yesterday I accompanied Lo to Tilak high school where she counsels students two days per week. We met with a Muslim girl who was abused by her boyfriend. Lo was trained at PTC in a 5 month course, and now offers her services free of charge. 2. Another focus at PTC is supporting the birth of a new base in China. They send groups to this base every year and are training them how to build their own counseling center.

Other bases have different focuses. Some offer schools of journalism, others teach dance, others offer courses in primary health care for remote areas. All of the courses offered at all of the bases all over the world are part of a world-wide University of the Nations whose motto is, "to know God and make him known." They believe that all disciplines can be used to communicate and demonstrate the gospel in all nations.

PTC is an active place. There are about 15 full time unpaid staff members, some with kids and some single. They coordinate the applications and preparations for the schools; they run the schools. In between the schools they maintain ministries. Lo's ministry has been doing high school counseling at 3 different high schools. Jima organizes kids clubs in the afternoons and in the mornings visits the parents of the kids that attend. Kafi runs the community preschool. Vini manages the base and does counseling. Meme co-organizes the single mother's group with Kamba from another base. Sisa is the base leader and coordinates with community leaders and other pastors. Others visit the hospitals weekly to sit with and pray for patients. The whole base turns out on Monday mornings to rake and clean the large park in their neighborhood. The list goes on. These people are actively compassionate about Fiji and their city. They receive no money for what they do and trust God to provide their needs. He seems to be doing a good job. They have food, clothing, and an ample building.

We have left the remainder of the school supplies our friends sent with us for PTC to use at their preschool, in their kids clubs, or to use as Christmas presents for the large kids' Christmas party in December. But there are more needs. I've decided to list them so that if you wish to help or pray, you know how.
1. Full time staff members, especially an office worker to manage finances.
2. an updated, more user-friendly website.
3. The monthly costs to run the base (rent, utilities, office needs, food, etc) is 4000 Fijian dollars per month
4. They're hoping for 200-300 community kids to attend the Christmas party on December 10. For decorations, food, gifts, etc. they have a budget of 2500 Fijian dollars.
5. School here in Fiji is not free. The staff members who have children pay for their fees. Sisa has one son enrolled in a Christian school which charges 1200 per quarter. Even the public schools charge various amounts.
6. Bibles in English or Buan (the national Fijian dialect).

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Danny's final passage

This is the message we received from Joan today, the 8th of October.

My dear friends,
Danny will be taking his final passage from the village of Pago Pago, American Samoa on Thursday Oct. 8th. Wade, Cole, and I will be leaving the harbour at 9:00 am (5:00 pm EST) with our newly found cousins, Evelyn and her husband, High Chief Lilio, Xavier, son of Wyatt Boyles and his wife Melake and also a pastor from the Congregational Church in Fagasa who will be leading the ceremony. Once we are 3 miles offshore, Danny will be returned to the sea that was his passion with those who love him watching in his wake.
Join us at 5:00 p.m. EST in a toast to celebrate Dan's life. Share your fondest memories of Danny and love the one you're with. Laugh and smile and remember that life is not measured by how may breaths we take but by the moments that take our breaths away. (thanks Nancy) Once we come back into the harbour we will be gathering on the Malaloa dock with all of our
American Samoan friends and fellow cruisers.
The people of Samoa and Fagasa Village have opened up their hearts to us. I will be eternally grateful to my cousin Evelyn, her husband Lilio, and nephew Xavier who have welcomed us into their village that was heavily damaged in the tsunami. They have planned a farewell my Danny would have loved.
Please remember the village of Fagasa and the Samoan Red Cross. Donations in memory of Dan can be sent to: High Chief Lilio, P.O. Box 3423, Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799 or to Samoan Red Cross, General Delivery, Pago Pago, American Samoa, 96799.
We love you all and have been nourished by your many e-mails. Joan, Wade, and Cole Olszewski

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Single Women's Club

Yesterday I entered the town hall of a Naviyago village surrounded by sugar cane fields.  Some women from the YWAM base where we are volunteering run a weekly single mother's group.  If this type of thing were to happen in California, it wouldn't look like yesterday.  There were women with two or three teeth in their mouths, 75-year-olds and 30 year olds sitting on a pandanu leaf woven mat with a few infants at breast and toddlers walking around.  In fact, single mothers is a term that includes widows with dependant children of any age, grandmothers raising grandchildren, and women whose husbands are often away working, as well as those whose husbands have left or died.

As far as I could tell there was no agenda.  Sara, one of the YWAM leaders asked myself and two other new women to the group  to share something with the ladies.  I introduced myself, Rena introduced herself and then Leda introduced herself and preached a mini-sermon.  Then it was over, or at least that's what they said.  But really it meant that it was time for us to eat the cakey rolls spread with margarine, and the fresh roti rolled with coconut cream, and drink the tea and juice the ladies had made us.  I was confused.  What was the purpose of this meeting? 

Kamba, the YWAMer who lives in this village answered my question later.  These women work all day long in the homes caring for their disabled grown children or their grandchildren or their children.  To leave and sit together and meet "strangers" is large moment in the drudgery of their every day lives.  To sit and visit and have people to encourage their faith in God is a gift. 

While sitting and munching, I remembered the gallon-sized ziploc bags in the back of the minivan outside.  Two years ago our Bible study had packed these homeless care bags to give away to street people in Santa Cruz.  Soon after, we left on our boat journey bringing 10 of the bags with us.  Never used, I decided to bring them along to the women's group in case they could be of use.  I noticed there were ten ladies present.  Ding Ding, the bell went off in my head.  I asked Kamba what she thought and went to get the bags.  As I passed them out they were polite and excited and started to poke around inside. Each one held a bottle of water, a dish cloth, a granola bar, a bar of soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, small daily devotional booklet, and bandaids.  They wanted to know if the water was from the U.S.A.  When I said yes, some of them wouldn't drink it.  They wanted it as a souvenir from America. 

YWAM has been working with this village for some time.  They have brough health workers to talk to the women about reproductive cycles, HIV.  Also, they have had classes in flower arranging, baking (saves money not to buy store bought bread), and other topics. 

It was a joy to be with them and humbling to eat the treats they shared out of their almost nothing. 

Sunday, October 4, 2009


just wasting time in the internet cafe that's located in the chinese restaurant.  this morning I helped the people from the base rake the mango pits, leaves, grass clippings, and tamarind pods up from the football field sized park in front of their base.  hot but satisfying work.  Brian spent the morning organizing construction tools and assessing what supplies are already available at the base so he can begin building the cabinet doors they need on some hallway shelves.  We ate lunch with them and then off to the the Marine Reach headquarters to meet with Richard.  Marine Reach is the branch of YWAM that focuses on medical and dental and mental health issues.  They not only use ships and boats to bring care to remote places, but use mobile truck clinics to bring care to villagers inland.  I'm excited about what they're doing and how we could be a part of it.  Richard has long wanted to use cruisers to transport workers out to remote locations where their large ship can't reach.  He is a Kiwi with a lot of knowledge of sailing and his enthusiasm for what he's doing and how we could be involved was quite encouraging.  I'll be posting some more detailed descriptions of what they do.

Friday, October 2, 2009

more about Pago Pago, Samoa

This is Danny and Joan at the top of a hill we climbed together in Bora Bora. Our last time together.

Below are three articles about the incident. (this is the best written one, with the most details) We actually are friends with Wayne on the boat Learnativity. Glad he is ok and able to help out with Joan.


Thursday, October 1, 2009


Last night, we received news from our friend Joan on the sailboat Mainly.

We had quickly become friends with their family, Dan, Joan, and Cole (their grown son), in the Marqueses. Dan and Joan treated us as if we were their kids. We have been doing hikes, snorkeling, and socializing with them since. On our passage from Bora Bora to Samoa we were within few miles of each other for the passage and in contact twice a day. We were both headed for Apia. W. Samoa. On the last night out their main halyard chafed through, as it was a roudy passage. They were forced to pull in early to Pago Pago, American Samoa. We continued on. They were preparing to depart for Fiji in a few days after repair were finished. Pago Pago bore the main force of the tsunami created by the 8.3 earthquake on Sunday. Unfortunately, what we gather from the email is that Danny went down to the boat, or was still on it when the water started to go out. He was loosing the lines on the dock. Then the water came back in. She said he didn't have chance...

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

No Worries

Hi all.
Thank you for the many outpourings of concern about our safety.  We are not in Samoa where there are sadly, 40 people already reported dead. 
However, there was a tsunami warning for Fijian waters.  It was supposed to arrive at 9am or so local time.  We heard about the warning at about 10am local time by shamelessly eavesdropping on a conversation on the VHF radio.  The warning was cancelled before 9am but we didn't hear about  the cancellation until about 2 this afternoon while waiting for the customs office to open so we could clear in to this port. 
All is well for us.  Pray for the people in Samoa!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Savu Savu to Lautoka

Since getting to Fiji I've spent a very solid amount of time up in the spreaders looking for reefs. Two days we were coming into the very narrow Nasonisoni passage, with bad charts, GPS all off, computer a mile off, and a rain storm hitting. My polarized shades were getting soaked, but even then, if I took them off, I could not see an inch into the water. With them on I was able to navigate Megan into the entrance using VHF radios to communicate. Once through the wind was blasting and we sailed at 7 to 8 knots for the next two hours around Salevu Point on Vanua Levu (Fiji's big north island). It felt like race car driving, avoiding the odd rock mentioned on the charts and flying around corners of islands. It was necessary speed, too. We pulled into the anchorage at Nambouwalu bay around 5pm. An hour later, it was impossible to see the edges of reefs, no matter how high I had been in the spreaders.

Yesterday morning we got up at 5:30am, preparing to leave Nambouwalu and cross the Bligh Water for Veti Levu, the big island. We rowed to shore and asked some fishermen the best passage and they told us where to go. The captain's name was Simili. He was dark with a 2 inch scar starting at the corner of his right eye and down. We ended up giving them two packs of Marlboros from Panama, and they gave us a freezing cold, gutted barracuda and cooked taro root which they pulled steaming from a battered aluminum pan tucked in a hole in the front of the boat. They showed us as well as they could on our chart, something they had never seen before, where their little local passage to leave the fringing reef offshore of Vanua Levu. Should have seen the wonder in their eyes as they looked at the island they are from on paper.
As we pulled the anchor to leave, and Megan yelled to me that there was something wrong with the engine. I ran down, heard scratching, figured a main bearing was out or a belt was going, could not find it, ran back up, dropped 200 feet of chain in 5 seconds, and signaled for Megan to kill the engine. After turning off the ignition, she still heard whirring. The starter, I knew it, it never disengaged after I started it. It was hot as hell. I quickly removed it, with a towel to hold it, put the replacement starter in and figured we were off. Nothing. The new one that I had all ready to go was a no go. Solenoid must be out. So it was out with that one I had just installed, put back on the old one, and away it went. A side note, when I was putting the old one back on I heard the dreaded hacking of a person choking. I lept out of the engine room and made it to the galley where Megan had just cleared two pills that had gone down her trachea. She was doing the full on no air in, no air out with a few gagging noises. I was thinking Heimlick...She cleared it on her own. By that point we were two hours behind schedule to make our next anchorage. I thought if one more thing goes wrong, we are going to wait a day. It seemed like if we were delayed another 5 minutes it was a major message for us to stay put. But all went smoothly after that

Later, I was up in the rig thanking God for my polarized Kaenons looking at Simili's passage. I'm not kidding. This passage was definitely not in any cruising guides, charts, maps, or ever will be. Total local knowledge coupled with me being able to see and us threading the needle. After clearing that, we weaved around three or four more obstacles that led us out into deep water. Crazy place this Fiji. I may not surf too much, but the sailing is fast, powered, and you have to keep on your toes. Megan is an incredible navigator. Two nights ago, after we made anchor, she was worked up into such a navigating frenzy that she was sitting at the table with a chart and instruments at hand. (editor's note: I don't know if it was a "frenzy" but I've been spending a few hours a day watching where we're going, plotting points and reading all the information we have about various routes and anchorages.)

After crossing Bligh Water, at a very high rate of speed in a very comfortable manner, we approached Malake Passage, again with me in the rigging. It was a nice wide open pass with the sun at the perfect angle for conning. In time for sunset we had the hook down in 17 meters of water next to the grass-topped, tree-fringed Malake Island. We could hear small pterodactyl squawks (turned out to be large dark egrets) from the bushes and then buzzing of cicada type bugs after the wind finally eased. This morning we rowed to shore and saw that the buzzers were about 3/4 of an inch long shiny metallic green beetles clustered on certain brown pods in the trees. Beautiful.
Now we're out in Bligh Water again on the north edge of Viti Levu sailing downwind. We'll anchor near Vatia Point tonight and make Lautoka tomorrow.

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Savu Savu Fiji

The pink building is called the "Bargain Box (Fiji) Ltd." and plays Indian music all during working hours.

Pics from Samoa

1. Brian and the bull dorado he caught on the way to Samoa

2. Conch blowers at the dance performance we went to

3. traditional Samoan meeting house

4. Lady demonstrating how to make coconut cream

5. Samoan scenery

Friday, September 25, 2009


Thursday the 24th of September never existed for us. We sailed into the evening of Wed 23rd and sailed out of the night into the morning of Friday, the 25th. The International Dateline is located at 180 degrees of longitude but didn't receive the fanfare we gave the crossing of the equator.

We like Fiji! All official paperwork for this port was finished in two hours instead of the entire day and a half combined for checking in and out in Samoa. We have a cruising permit for all islands in Fiji except the Lau group which has rural communities. We don't have time to visit there this trip anyway.

There are lots of Indians here. At least 50 50 Indians to Samoans in Savu Savu. They add a feeling of energy to the town we're in and it's not even very large. Lautoka (the second largest city in Fiji, our next major destination) must be BUSTLING. Lots of smiley people.

Bula is the word of greeting and we hear it often and in many places. This morning, walking down the street, an older gentleman gave me a "Bula bula" from across the road. I'm happy I'm here.

Savu savu is on the Eastern edge of 12 mile wide bay that has green zigzaggey hills climbing up from the edges. Sailboats on moorings are out in front of the town which appears to be next to river because a small island lies opposite its banks. So we're quite protected and cozy with gentle cool breezes blowing and Indian music floating the short distance from the mainstreet along the shore, to our home.

We'll leave tomorrow (Sunday) and do short day hops between many reefs and tiny islands until we get to Lautoka.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I now have a feeling to associate with the word, "Godspeed". About two hours after we left Fiji on Sunday, the wind came up from the East and we have maintained speeds around 7 knots ever since. The seas are gentle and Nomad feels as if she is flying on her own with only a few minor adjustments occasionally to her direction. The skies are blue with fluff scattered across the horizon. It's addictive. I wish every passage was like this one.

We hadn't even planned to leave on Sunday. We departed Apia and arrived on Saturday evening to the south easterly port of Savaii (Second island of Samoa) with the intention of staying a few days and availing Brian of the nearby surf spot. As we entered the crooked pass with it's series of red beacons on the left and green ones on the right, I ran to the bow to look out for shallow spots. The Savaii harbor master hailed Brian on the VHF and insisted we come immediately to the commercial wharf to have our documents inspected. What we wanted to do was find an anchorage before the sun went down but we complied. The Assistant harbor master, Palu, and a few other fellows met us and tied up our lines. Palu came aboard to rifle through our paperwork. We were missing a form, he told us. "it is unfortunate that you are unwilling to go to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to receive official permission to visit our island. I cannot welcome you to come ashore." This wording has since become fodder for jokes between Brian and me but at time it was rather irritating. We'd heard only one mention of said form and it was from another cruising couple while we were standing outside of customs, completing our (we thought) final exit paperwork from Apia. Since it was late in the day, we had no opportunity to track down this office in town. Also, we've heard enough "you have to do this" type information from other cruisers to take most things we hear with a grain of salt. So, we agreed we'd done what we knew we needed to do and we left without much concern.

Palu, who based on his odor, had already started drinking for the evening attempted to call his boss and got no answer. He berated us for not hailing him when we arrived at the pass (not something we ever did in Mexico or South Pacific) and reiterated that he could not welcome us ashore until his boss arrived possibly on Sunday and more likely not until Monday. He granted us permission to spend the evening and stay on our boat until the situation could be sorted out. However, he wanted to know if we had any alcohol on board. We said we had a little bit. He insinuated quite boldly that he'd like us to offer him some and sat in our cockpit patiently. I pulled out two partially filled bottles for him to decide between knowing that this was a weird situation. Officials have never requested anything more than a drink of water, juice or coffee, who did this guy think he was? He sniffed my offerings and somehow thought better of his request, left our boat and shooed us off the dock. We pulled off the dock and found a decent anchorage near the inside of the pass. In the morning we began finishing our sail repairs (reinstalling grommets on the main sail for attaching the sail to the sail track and finalizing a rip repair). Around 11 am we finished our work and hadn't gotten a call from the harbor master so we weighed anchor and headed to Fiji. We'd been able to receive a weather file that morning and things looked fine for our trip. They've been more than fine. The first day out 3 more cars broke off the sail track so we had to fix them while under way. But the seas have been rhythmic, the wind steady, and we're happy to be flying to Fiji and excited to meet up with the folks from the Lautoka YWAM base where we will be volunteering for most of October.

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Saturday, September 19, 2009


We pulled in to Samoa (formerly known as Western Samoa) on Tuesday, Sept. 15. In the next three hours we received three visits from officials: Quarantine Officer interested in fruits and vegetables aboard, Customs Officers interested in goods aboard, Immigration Officers interested in people aboard. The next morning we were told to wait for a Health inspector. So we waited aboard our spotlessly clean home not wanting to do any chores or pull out any projects because we wanted to leave right away and start exploring.

Solomon, the bored harbor pilot dropped by and asked for a cup of coffee. So we visited. Then the marina clerk, Tuna, came by to give us security passes and tell us the slip fees. No Health Inspectors. Solomon suggested that perhaps the Health Inspectors wouldn't come because their budget doesn't provide fuel or vehicles for travel to the marina. Tuna said that if they hadn't arrived by 2pm we could take down our yellow Quarantine flag from the rigging and forget about it. "only in Samoa," he laughed.

I started packing up our laundry, heard Brian talking to some people on the dock and looked out to see officials. Oh good, we could get it over with! But these officials weren't inquiring after our health. They brought a beautiful black Labrador and sent him to sniffing for drugs. He was quite interested in our garbage bag with old fish parts in a Ziploc bag. Then he "indicated" something in the general area of the salon. Bak, the lab's handler started a line of questioning about marijuana. Perhaps it was some Tahitian surfers he'd had aboard in July, Brian suggested. Regardless, for the next hour and a half, two Samoans with surgical gloves pulled things out of cupboards and bags. Through it all, we had a very informative conversation with Bak about drug traffic in the South Pacific, effects of the recent switch from "right side of the street driving" to "left side driving", politics in Samoa and the U.S. He was an intelligent, humorous man with a beautiful smile. When he and his associate left having found nothing, he said, "well I guess I'll see you around town," shook our hands, and left.

Our boat was in shambles. The salon looked like it had been turned upside down.

We left and visited the Robert Louis Stevenson museum, the mansion he and his wife lived in until he died.

That evening we splurged and paid 65 tala (about 45 U.S. dollars) to attend a traditional dance and feast at the famed hotel, Aggie Grey's. It was well worth it. The drumming, guitars, dancing, fire throwing, taro leaves stuffed with coconut cream, shrimp salad, sweet and sour pork were delightful.

That brings us up today which we spent attempting to repair a rip at the upper batten on the mainsail and visiting official offices for permission to depart to Savai'i ( the neighboring island) and then Fiji. Tomorrow we have a van tour around the island and then we leave.

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There was a miracle in Apia Samoa the rainy afternoon we arrived. Some say so, at least. A dark smudge appeared on a north facing 5th story awning across the street from a no-name church. It gathered a crowd of subdued locals craning necks to witness. There was even a small spotlight wandering aimlessly over the side of the building. I thought someone was about to jump.

The vague figure of Jesus' mother in a smudge gave people pause, gave others glimmers of mystery, and gave others further reason to mock.

There were other charcoal grey streaks on other awnings of the same building. But this particular one made the devout stare and point and wonder. I wonder too. What is a miracle? I suppose it is a mystery. I suppose it's also hope and relief - relief that I'm not alone and my tiny existence is noted by One in the cosmos.

How to verify? How to scientifically measure claims of miracles? Or maybe the question isn't How, it's Why? If I think a thing is a miracle and you don't, who is worse off?

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

92 Day Bill

Ninety-two-day Bill. We met him in Uturoa, the largest town in the Marquesas where 90% of cruisers go to check in. The weather was miserable, the anchorage crowded and we just wanted to get the official paperwork over and leave. But, as I said, the anchorage was crowded. There was only one boat pitching violently outside of the breakwater and we decided to anchor next to him rather than risk getting our anchor fouled inside where the boats were packed like sardines in a can.
We got the anchor down and by the time we'd gotten the dinghy in the water, I was feeling green. We took off toward the dock at full speed and were passing our 32-foot neighbor when Bill hailed us. He was talking a mile a minute before we even reached the edge of his boat. He had the same kind of boat as we do (that's what he said, at least) and he was going in to town soon too, and he was trying to work on his engine which was not working too well, and …. We extricated ourselves and zipped to town, found the gendarmerie, and satisfied the officials within a couple of hours. On our walk back to the anchorage, we passed Bill sitting in a café nursing a Hinano beer. We walked the 2 miles together back to our dinghies and we heard many stories of his life.

Bill's single-handed passage from Panama to the Marquesas took him 92 days. One witty cruiser calculated that in that time he could have NEVER put up sail and never turned on the engine, simply drifting the distance with the prevailing currents as his only locomotion. In truth, that was part of the story. In order to sleep, Bill took down his sails and drifted through the nights. Neither of his two self-steering devices were functioning and so, in the mornings, he often found he'd lost a few miles, 10 miles, or 30 miles towards his goal. The doldrums also featured in the 92 day journey. With a non-functioning motor, when the wind stopped, so did Kymika, Bill's boat, unless a beneficial current picked her up.

We heard about his 70th birthday which passed during those 92 days. He had one beer, and one can of soup remaining. He fired up his refrigerator (quite a splurge on a boat with no engine to charge batteries) cooled his beer and heated his soup on his propane stove.
We heard about his life working the aluminum mines in Western Australia; we learned of his 22 year girlfriend who left him and married another man when Bill started planning to sail away in Kymika with her.
We heard about the year during his circumnavigation which he spent in Conway, Wales, his birthplace.

We met Bill again in Raiatea. He'd been there a few weeks hunched for hours in his engine room working on his seized up motor. I brought him some of our 150 bananas. We had him to dinner at our boat. He brought a box of wine,"biscuits," and the same 4 lines of a Fred Astaire song to sing over and over to us. The next day, we assisted when he moved Kymika (uncertain of her half-repaired motor) from anchor to a mooring ball. Though it was a joy for us to have something to do, he insisted on thanking us by taking us out to dinner. He and I rode bikes and Brian skateboarded.
At the restaurant (a Black and white converted van with cash register, fridge, and cookstoves inside and a huge grill outside next to the 3 covered plastic tables) he spoke only a long string of English to the amused waitress who smiled along as if she understood. At the end of our meal, Bill regaled the chef behind the grill with his Fred Astaire song.

A couple more evenings together, and we heard stories of a huge waterspout that swept over Kymika, of hauling anchor in the middle of a gale, of fun times at the pub in Conway. He brought 4 tidy haphazardly arranged photo albums, a newspaper clipping about Kymika's arrival in Conway, and a Conway calendar featuring Kymika tied up at the stone quay with a castle in the background.

Almost at the end of his voyage which began in Fremantle, Australia Bill hopes to replace (for the 2nd time) his motor in New Zealand. If he leaves Raiatea and makes no stops as he's planned, he should be to Whangerei NZ before we get there. He has 60 days to cover the distance we've allotted 25 days to cover. We'll see who gets there first!

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passage poem

Inter Tropical Convergence Zone Blues

Lurching, tossed side to side
Thunked by waves
Sitting, eyes closed, waiting for nausea to diminish
Rain rain rain
Nomad slides starboard
yanks to port
Abrupt Stop.
jerks back
rock rock rock sliiiide lurch

That about sums up the last week of passage. We're hoping to arrive at a quiet marina in Apia Western Samoa in 2 days time.
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Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Laurel and Hardy would have been jealous. If I'd have been watching, I would have been laughing. Instead, I was tripping all over myself, with a net (no pun intended) benefit level of ZERO trying to get our beautiful dinner on board the boat.

It started with a pleasant conversation in the cockpit regarding the desirability of catching a Mahi Mahi for dinner. I'd seen 5 displayed in Bora Bora on the side of the road waiting to be purchased. I described them to Bran and wondered if it meant there was an ample supply of that fish in the local waters. I also asked how the fishing net was attached to the solar arch so that I'd know how to untie it in case it was needed.
We'd left Bora Bora a few hours before and the hand line was already deployed with a pink plastic squid attached. It happened to be attached on the port side of the boat and in a shady spot. Brian sat in the shade and watched the 100 lb test line wiggle through the waters behind us. About 20 minutes after the conversation, Brian said, 'there's one back there.' I hopped up and scrambled to the back deck to watch. Sure enough. I could see the yellow and silvery blue missile darting through the water, just behind the lure. Brian was jiggling the line and giving it sharp tugs to further entice the Mahi Mahi to lunge and bite.
"We got 'im" Brian said moments later. "He's running with us…. Oh my gosh, did you see that? ( I hadn't). He just jumped."
Meanwhile I was operating under full adrenaline. It's my job to net the creatures that Brian pulls out of the water. So I had the net untied and was trying to position myself in a convenient location. After a few more jumps and runs, the fish approached the side of the boat. I put the net down slowly above the water so as not to spook the already agitated victim. My chest was leaning against the aft anchor tied on to the back railing. "OK, get 'im" I shoved the net in front of the head and attempted to pull up. He slipped off of the edge of the net. I tried again, "I got 'im" I said as I saw the fish laying across the top of the net. He was so long he didn't go in, just laid across. I tried to lift the net and tilt it so he'd slide in. No go, his head wasn't going down because it was attached to the line. Not only that, the laws of physics came into play and the heavy weight at the end of my fulcrum (aka net) was too heavy to lift from the handle end. He slid off again. "AAH we're gonna lose 'im" Brian squawked. I went after the fish again with the net and all of a sudden the line was looped around the net handle and down to the fish. Keep in mind that fish don't like to be jerked around by their mouths. This one was flopping and swimming forward and trying to dart sideways. So, the net was now useless but I couldn't put it down because it was twisted in the line. With my right hand I held the net and the left, I grabbed the line underneath leading to the fish. WE had him almost raised to the gunwale when a vigorous lurch pulled the slippery line out of my hand. "AAAAH" Brian lunged for the line with his free hand and started hoisting. Another lurch away and another flash of panic that the meal would slip the hook and get away. Brian grabbed again and in a tangle of line, net and colorful flopping, the fish was aboard and very unhappy about it. I attempted to untangle the net handle and Brian dropped to his knees on top of the tail with his hands holding the head down. I stumbled to the cockpit as fast as I could and grabbed our winch handle. Brian gave some sharp whacks to the head, there was a lot of flopping and the cleanup could begin. I untangled the pile of fishing line and dumped buckets of sea water on the deck. So you see, there were mishaps, mistakes, messes, clumsy moves, and sharp whacks to the head. A perfect Laurel and Hardy skit!
And now….the hot oil is popping in the frypan. Guess what's for lunch.

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Sunday, September 6, 2009

departing French Polynesia

English Speaking Samoa, here we come! We've been busy the last week and I haven't written much but we have a 10 day passage ahead of us so I should be able to fill in the blanks about dancing, hikes and boat life. As it is, the flurry of weather talk on the cruiser radio nets has culminated and finally subsided in direct correlation to the wind. Looks like the weather has settled down and our change of plans to go the northerly route to Fiji via Western Samoa appears to be the right choice. The southerly route, we had previously planned to take through Tonga, is still fraught with clashing weather systems. Also, the more we hear about Western Samoa, the happier we are to be going there. Brian even received an email from a surf guide he met who is currently in W. Samoa saying, 'the waves are great'. Another cruiser also told us that the people in Samoa are warm and happy and that the culture is more similar to how it was before the white men came to Polynesia. We shall see.

We just talked to our friends, Dan and Joan, on the sailboat Mainly, moored directly behind us here in Bora Bora. They are leaving to the Cook Islands today as well. So, we should be in close contact during the time our paths overlap. It's nice to be traveling at the same time as friends. It makes the vast waters seem less lonely.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

smallest Nomad crew member disappears

I'm missing Moko. We haven't seen him since last week when we were tied to the dock. Did he hear the call of the wild and jump ship? We were hearing other geckos chirping in the palm trees at night. Maybe he heard them too and followed their voices.

In other news, it was not 50 bananas in that bunch we received, it was over 150!! I have since given away almost 80 bananas but they keep ripening too quickly for us to eat them all. However, I'm now beginning the process of drying them-I slice them long and very thin and then lay them in the sun or (as is the case now) when there's rain and overcast skies, I put them in the oven on a low setting for a long time. Fortunately they are only about 3-4 inches long and getting smaller the closer they get to the top of the stalk. The top banana is only 1 inch long.

In the next few days we will leave for the one day journey to Maupiti, a rural island and the last of our French Polynesian stops. From there, we will depart for Fiji with a possible stopover in Western Samoa.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

surf pics

Brian on his "paddle board/windsurfer"
Another wave from Teahupoo
The M10 is repaired after it broke at Vairao. The local pearl farm workers were very interested.

pics on Raiatea

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

free bananas and more

It sure was a treat to hop off the boat and walk the 50 yards to the grocery store. Had yummy pizza from a pizza truck and took a great hike with an incredible view, went to church and got groceries and gas and hung out on internet for a few hours. It was civilization! :) After our two nights on the free dock at Uturoa we left "civilization" for Baie Faaroa. There was a river flowing into the head of the bay that we dinghied up. We passed were pretty much covered by shade all the way up, it was so thick with green growing things. Pretty. We stopped at the public botanical garden with a dock in the river. There was no signage, we just were told how to recognize it by other cruisers. At the garden, a local named James met us at the falling down dinghy dock and started showing us around and telling us the names of the plants and giving us things to smell and look at, some weird round purple and green fruit called canela that has sweet pulpy white insides to eat. When I ate it I had to ignore the way the flesh reminded me of ripping out a living organ from a purple skinned animal. We smelled the fragrant lime green strings that grow on the oolang oolang tree. We received a free vanilla bean, and a flower that looked like a purple speckled balloon with a probiscus. Then, he chopped down a whole banana tree and gave us about 50 bananas. Next he rowed down the river ahead of us in his kayak and stopped on the side to climb a palm tree and retrieve for us 3 green coconuts, which he husked. He wanted nothing for it.
This morning we dinghied down a few bays to the Marae Taputapuatea. Here's how the guidebooks describe it, "The Taputapuatea archaeological area held great importance to ancient Polynesians. When constructing new marae on neighboring islands, a stone from Taputapuatea had to be used in the making of the new temple...." This temple was also the staging grounds for the ancient Tahitian explorers that ROWED and sailed to New Zealand, Hawaii, and the Marquesas. Rumor also has it that Captain Cook was present at a human sacrifice, held in his honor, at this marae. Allegedly he was offered the victim's right eye (usually reserved for the priests) to eat, and he swallowed it. I figure, if this is true, he was just grateful he wasn't the one on the chopping block. Today, the place didn't look quite so ominous.
After we returned to Nomad, we pulled anchor and for the first time in a long time, SAILED (instead of motoring everywhere) around the north end of the island, hooked up on a mooring ball and hope to find a welder nearby. We are near a good surf break where Brian has already enjoyed two sessions.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009


I went to the local protestant church which was conducted in Tahitian and has a cappella congregational singing interspersed throughout the service. It makes me want to get to heaven right away. The harmonizing that lifts and lulls, the echoes on the high vaulted ceiling painted the color of the summer sky, the strange tongue put me right at the throne of God with the full congregation of the saints. I imagined I was standing next to Grandma Krake. Brian came about 10 minutes before the service ended. He'd been surfing and came when he got back. He got to hear 2 songs and the Lords Prayer (we think that's what it was) spoken by the whole crowd.
After church walked around the marina and kept spotting old plastic kayaks and old windsurfers. Brian has been trying to buy one since last year in Mexico. We saw two in a pile covered with an old sail and asked a kid about it. He was French but spoke enough English to tell us the yellow one was for sale. We bought it off his dad for 5000 Pcf's. Brian paddled it back to the boat, quite happy. Now we have a "kayak" and a paddle board and a windsurf board for whenever Brian can find a new mast to replace the one that snapped while it was being our fill-in whisker pole.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Postcard Perfect

Yup, we're anchored in the ultimate South Seas postcard photo. Twenty feet of clear turquoise water and sand below us. The water changes color about 30 yards away to a color I can't describe very well. It's a pale pale creamy green over white sand surrounding two small palm covered motus, one of which has palm thatched cottages on pilings over the water. In the distance behind the tops of the palms, stand the peaks of Bora Bora. In between the two motus is a snorkeler's paradise. It's called the Coral Garden. Coral heads in purples, maroons, lavenders, yellows and whites. Fish in stripes, spots, solids of velvet black, neon blue, silver, butter yellow, maroon, and canary yellow flutter and fly around, ducking into crevasses or staring snorkelers cross-eyed they get so close.

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

boat bound

It's been blowing hard for the last 3 days and the next two are supposed to blow even harder. Makes the anchorages a wee bit less relaxing because the boat swings and if you're near anyone, they swing toward you and maybe slide a little bit closer. The rigging alternately sounds like someone banging on a door, someone playing the same three musical notes over and over, or a ghoul screaming on Halloween night. Because it was a little less windy yesterday than any other time in the next 3 days, we left Huahine yesterday and sailed to Raiatea, 20 miles away. I was nauseous about 80% of the time, so Brian did all the work. Just as we arrived at the pass into Raiatea's lagoon, a lovely squall blew over with pelting rain adding to the 20ish knots of wind. Luckily, it is a well-marked, deep pass with no breaking waves so we went on in and into the less rolly but equally windy lagoon. Now, we say Raiatea (pronounced rye-uh-tay-uh) but it actually is two separate islands, Raiatea and Tahaa, enclosed by one coral reef with about 2 miles of lagoon and reef in between the two. We're anchored all alone in on the West coast of Tahaa, the north island, in Hurepeti Bay. These two islands produce 70% of the Tahitian vanilla. When we walked around this morning we saw these distinctive orchids being cultivated in many pockets of the forests and in large shaded green houses in peoples' yards (next to the canoes and the headstones). We hope to take a tour of a vanilla farm and a pearl farm (also quite prevalent here) some time before we leave.

So all this wind has us feeling quite boat bound. The surf is all blown out, and snorkeling or swimming is no fun with so much chop. Inviting people over is not so great because everyone wants to be tucked on their boats doing anchor watch before it gets dark. So, we've had movie night two nights in a row and tonight. Today, Brian has proposed a "dress up" night just for something different to do. I guess I'll go see if any of my nice clothes aren't too moldy to wear!

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Teahupoo wave

Photo taken by Vaughan, a cruiser we met


Yesterday, (August 11) we rented bikes in the afternoon with our friends off of Mainly, Dan and Joan. We rented for a 24 hour period so we had half of yesterday and the morning of today. It was a good arrangement because none of us has ridden a bike recently. Let me tell you, if the scenery and company hadn’t been as great as they were, the saddle pain would have mitigated the enjoyment. As it was, we had a great time riding the circumference of Huahini Nui, seeing beautiful bays, vanilla crops, ancient stone fish traps, ruins of maraes, and “sacred, blue-eyed, fresh water eels”. Everywhere you look on the island, you see green. Off of the island are the blues and turquoises of the lagoons inside of the coral reef.
Huahini is actually two islands inside of one coral reef. They are connected by a 50 foot bridge over the shallow water between. Legend has it that the warrior, Hiro, split the island in two by paddling his canoe into the middle and breaking it apart. He must have been very large and strong because there’s some tall mountains and a lot of volcanic rocks in the soil.
What I like about Huahine is there are no large resorts to be seen. Small “pensions” and cottages serve the tourists. It is relaxing and feels like the island belongs to the locals and we are their visitors. In Tahiti, it’s more as if tourism owns the island and the locals serve tourism. I wish we had more time here and on Raiatea, the next island over. There are many bays and ancient sites to explore but not much time left on our visas. We need to depart for Tonga by the end of August.