Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Gentlemen don't go to weather

Current Location: Underway from Majuro, Marshall Islands
Current Position: 07 18.20 S 179 54.66 E
Next Destination: Savusavu, Fiji
Miles Traveled: 1121
Miles to Go: 590

"Gentlemen don't go to weather" is an old sailor's saying, not sure where it
comes from, but either it's not true or there are no gentlemen aboard
Billabong, as we have been "going to weather" for 10 days now … 1121 n.
miles of running close to the wind. When it's calm it's not so bad, but
when the wind picks up or a squall hits how I long to be heading downwind.
Some mornings I wake as though beaten with a baseball bat; sore, stiff and
aching. I do believe Billabong might think she's some type of sea animal as
she leaps into the air belly flopping from crest to crest. Not only can it
be uncomfortable, but it seems this passage has required more of our
attention than others. Typically we can set the autopilot and more or less
forget about it, but in this case we have to constantly monitor our wind
angle, always trying to keep the angle tight, without pinching. Honestly,
it is a pain in the booty and I'm just about ready to be done! Chris
continues to keep the carrot out in front of me, assuring me that once we
are far enough east we can start to bear off. The question is, when is far

It's slowly paying off though, as last night we finally crossed over the 180
degree line. We are now just about due north of our entrance point
into Savusavu, however we must continue making some easting in case the
winds clock around, and so yes, we are still going to weather. But it is
one of those calm mornings and so life, even close-hauled, doesn't feel so

On the bright side, we seem to not have hit as many squalls, knock on wood,
as the boats ahead of us. In addition, I seem to have finally found a
sea-sickness remedy that works for me, and for our first passage ever I
finally feel like a normal human being at least 75% of the time!
On the fishing front; we caught two small skip-jacks the other day. We
don't know what these guys must have been thinking … they must be near
starving, as the lure(s) they hit was nearly the same size as them!!! We
threw them both back -- a little too small and we are being fish-snobs;
holding out for a mahi-mahi, wahoo, tuna or something related.

Continue reading "Gentlemen don't go to weather"...

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Fish ON!!!

Current Location: Underway from Majuro, Marshall Islands
Current Position: 02 35.22 S 178 32.29 E
Next Destination: Savusavu, Fiji
Miles Traveled: 811
Miles to Go: 900

Big news aboard Billabong - two HUGE fish caught!!! The first was on the afternoon of the 20th. Chris had just set out a new lure and was going on about how good it looked in the water; talking about how it dove up "for air" and then sunk down again trailing bubbles. Further describing to me the noise makers that were attached to the lure as well. He was so into it, that I finally had to look for myself. You can tell how exciting passage life is when we both stared out at the lure for a good ten minutes! Within the hour, BAM - our "Fish On" snubber pops out, tightly stretched. "We got a big one!", Chris says. Just as we both look back some type of Bill Fish / Marlin surfaces, and boy howdy is he big. Already we're pretty sure he's too big to keep. I quickly grab a camera and start filming while Chris hand reels the big guy in. Just as he's nearing the boat - BAM - our other "Fish On" snubber goes "Oh no we got another one", Chris shouts as I start laughing at the excitement of it all. But in less then a minute the second line goes slack, thankfully he got off himself. Meanwhile Chris
has pulled in our big guy close enough to realize just how big he is (about 5.5-6 feet), and to confirm he's too big to keep (not to mention that big 'ol bill is a little frightful, as I picture Chris losing a few
fingers). We had to let the line partially back out while we got the proper tools, and so Chris had to hand reel him in again. The hook was not easy to get at, and the fish just didn't understand that we were trying to let him go, so he kept flopping around … so we had to cut the line just above the hook; leaving the Marlin with a fancy new nose ring.

The second fish hooked the following afternoon. We couldn't tell what we had, and from a distance (underwater) we thought it might be a Wahoo - which are quite tasty. So this time when Chris [hand] reeled him in, we were ready, but alas it was a Shortbill Spearfish … about 4.5 feet. There was that daunting bill again, and a beautiful sail. Still a little big, and not the best eating (compared to Tuna and Wahoo), so Chris once again wrestled with the fish in order to get the hook out (which he was able to do) and then released him. No fish for dinner either night, but at least a little afternoon
entertainment to break up our day!

As for the passage we are now making better time with the increased winds. We crossed the equator in the middle of the night on the 20th; thanking King Neptune for our safe journeys and throwing in a wine bottle message (only one this time - we weren't quite as prepared as in our first two crossings). We had a uncomfortable patch the other day, when current counteracted the wind, but by nightfall it was once again smooth going. One squall caught us a bit off-guard and we had to scramble to reef (in the pouring rain of course), but otherwise the skies have been mostly clear and dry. And we've finally decided where we're heading …Fiji (Savusavu). We just haven't been getting in enough Easting, and the forecast doesn't look like much is going to change (in wind direction). (Fiji is at about 180 - just two degrees east of our current location, whereas Samoa is at about 170 W - a good 12 degrees east).

Continue reading "Fish ON!!!"...

Friday, May 19, 2006

Another 200 miles down

Current Location: Underway from Majuro, Marshall Islands
Current Position: 00°55.54' N 176°40.71' E
Next Destination: Samoa, Wallis & Futuna, or Fiji
Approx Miles Traveled: 568
Approx Miles to Go: 1232

Today begins our sixth day at sea, and another clear blue day. It has been
slow going, averaging just over 100 miles per day, but it's been smooth and
mostly relaxing. We've been under sail since about 4pm on the 18th; it is
so delightful to turn that monster off and enjoy the peaceful sounds of the
ocean. I'm quite sure that my 10-hour headache the other day was due to
the diesel fumes.

The other night we were barely making way (going about 2 knots) under a
magnificent sky of stars and with nearly flat seas. It was better than
some anchorages we've been in! While our speed lacked, I couldn't help but
enjoy the evening and serenity of the night. The next morning I was
debating what I would prefer; going slow and taking twice as long to get
somewhere but having flat seas, or having more speed with bigger seas. I
still haven't decided. But I was quite grumpy that morning, since the wind
had picked up and the seas were more confused - jostling Billabong back and
forth. On top of that we are still running close-hauled, so we were heeled
over quite a bit. I have decided that I wasn't meant to live at an angle;
besides being uncomfortable (all kinds of joints start to hurt), it is damn
inconvenient … even the most minute tasks become difficult.

It has since calmed a bit and life aboard is once again somewhat relaxing.
The seas are still confused, so every once in awhile Billabong does a head
dive into the chop causing quite the racket and shudder, but otherwise we
are just cruising along enjoy the blue skies and starry nights, and looking
forward to our third equator crossing!

Of course we can't post an update without fishing news: there is none!
We've had a few hits on our teaser line, but nothing on the lures. The
other day Chris had four lines going! Tonight will be our last meat dish,
so we are definitely ready to catch something.

Continue reading "Another 200 miles down"...

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Billabong begins cruising season 3

Current Location: Underway from Majuro, Marshall Islands
Current Position: 03°37.00' N 174°58.47' E
Next Destination: Samoa, Wallis & Futuna, or Fiji
Approx Miles Traveled: 370
Approx Miles to Go: 1430

You know it's time to leave when a cockroach the size of a small kitten
flies from shore, through your open hatch and lands on your bare back in
the middle of the night. I am thankful for two things; that Chris is
the one who sleeps directly under the hatches, and that he has very
quick reflexes (which he used to capture and destroy the unwanted

With light winds and flat seas predicted we departed Majuro on Monday,
May 15th. Even I, the non-sailor, thought the conditions were pretty
comfortable. In order to make it to Western Samoa or Wallis & Futuna,
we need to get pretty far east, and have therefore been pinching every
degree possible - slowly inching our way over. We haven't been
completely successful - as we didn't make the Eastern side of Milli, but
have since been able to make up a few degrees.

Our first two days at sea were beautiful, winds were light, but enough
to keep us moving around 5 knots … and the seas were some of the best
we've had (in my opinion) since leaving Ventura. Chris dove right into
his reading, already finishing over five books. I held off, testing out
some new sea-sickness remedies (which include not reading in the first
few days, and so far seem to be working). We've had a few bites on the
fishing lines, but nothing hooked - we aren't trying to hard yet as I
precooked five days worth of food that we have to first get through
before we have room for fish. We also spotted a large pod of small
dolphins, who didn't hesitate to show off with some amazing jumps.

Over the last day and half the wind has been on and off, and we've had
to motor over fifteen hours. So far it looks like we might have to
continue motoring for a bit longer. The positive side of motoring is
that we are able to get further east. As of now we still haven't
determined whether our landfall will be Samoa, Wallis and Futuna, or Fiji.
We've been lucky to not hit too many squalls and so far the passage has
been relatively dry. We are slowly getting back into the groove of
passage making; rediscovering our sea rhythms after four months at
anchor. The trip up to the Marshall Islands was deceiving with all the
stops we made; most of our "passages" were easy one or two nighter's.
We hadn't realized, until preparing for our passage back south, that we
had covered over 1800 n.miles! With a potential two weeks left at sea,
we'll have plenty of time to get our sea legs!

The most ironic thing-the DAY AFTER leaving our last package finally
arrived in Majuro!!! Unbelievable! Luckily a few boats are still in
Majuro and will be heading in our direction, so with any luck we'll hook
up with the package in Fiji.

Continue reading "Billabong begins cruising season 3"...

Monday, May 15, 2006

Majuro Journal

Majuro, Marshall Islands (w/ a side trip to the States)
December 20, 2005 - May 15, 2006
by KT

Position: 07‹ 06.30' N 171 22.39' E

Since spending cyclone season in the Marshall Islands, a number of people have asked us "how were the Marshall's?"  In all honestly we can't really provide a good answer.  Even though we spent five months there, we never got out of Majuro, so we don't have an accurate, whole view of the island chain.  We absolutely loved going up the Tuvalu and Kiribati chains, but once we arrived in Majuro, between the holidays, flying home, and a number of boat projects, we never got out to explore.  True, we probably missed out on some cool places, but we quite enjoyed staying put for a bit, and managed to keep quite busy in Majuro.


It was exciting to arrive in in Majuro for the Christmas holiday.  Since Majuro uses the American
dollar, gets NFL football & ESPN, and utilizes English, it felt like a piece of home.  Trees were decorated with twinkle lights and stores played English Christmas music.  After the Kiribati chain, Majuro felt like a thriving metropolitan city!

Christmas came quickly.  We had John & MJ (Island Sonata) over for Christmas Eve dinner, and joined a group of cruisers at the local resort for Christmas brunch.  We spent the rest of our time checking out the various small stores that covered the 35 miles of Majuro's main road, meeting new cruisers (and locals), and enjoying cold beer while watching NFL football.


Majuro puts on a terrific New Year's block party.  There were game vendors, food, and at least five bands.  After an excellent dinner out, we joined other cruisers at a local's party and then wondered the street, enjoying the various bands.  We danced until the new year arrived and then called it a night.

Since Majuro utilizes the United States Postal Service, upon arriving we went on a huge internet shopping binge.  One of the "must have" items we ordered was a home-brew kit.  So with the new year, we also brewed our first batch of beer.  We had to wait two weeks before testing, but it was worth the wait, as it's some of the best beer we've been able to get since cruising!  We also went on a huge cleaning spree, anxious to ship home the numerous souvenirs we'd accumulated over the last year.  Chris discovered that Majuro is the perfect spot to load up on fishing gear, and may have gotten just a bit carried away when he, along with five others, ended up buying an ENTIRE fishing store!

We volunteered to help out the local Vet Clinic who was putting on a three day massive dog and cat spading.  It was an unique learning experience, with some 'sites' that I had never guessed I'd see!  Chris helped the 'capture' team, wondering through Majuro collecting the stray dogs, and later carrying back the groggy animal.  It was a bit sad for both of us as ill cared for animals were brought in, dogs covered with tics and fleas, and cats nearly starved.  Hopefully with more clinics such as these the animal population can be brought into control, and proper care given.

Originally we had planned on flying home for a visit when we returned to Fiji in May of 2006,
however after scoping out the mooring field of Majuro, we decided it was safe enough to leave Billabong, and by traveling home from Majuro we could spend more time in the States.   We celebrated Chris' birthday early, before I departed on the 18th for California. Chris would come later, on the 27th.

The States were a whirlwind of noises, cars, and people for Chris and I.  We had both forgotten just how 'fast' things move back home, but the real shocker was the noise ... cars, planes, people, everywhere we went it felt like sensory overload.  I felt a bit out of place with my casual (out of style) clothes, un-styled hair, and makeup-less face.  The stores were amazing, so clean, so big, so full of STUFF!  I loved going to the grocery store, and more than once made my dad walk all the aisles while I gawked.  Waist line be damned, I was thrilled to eat out ... I frequented In-and-Out at least three times in my 2 1/2 weeks in California.

Unfortunately when Chris arrived, he was quite sick, so spent his first week just trying to get better.  It was lucky he made it at all, apparently he was almost booted from his Continental flight from Majuro to Hawaii.  The Marshallese travel to Hawaii carrying hundreds of pounds of fresh fish .... by the time Chris had checked in, the plane was full -- not of people but of fish!  Thankfully he was able to sweet talk his way aboard as the next available flight was five weeks away!


Our next stop was Scottsdale, Arizona to visit my sister and her family, and my mom.  I arrived on the 8th, with Chris spending an extra weekend in California and arriving on the 12th.  This time I was sick ... not sure what I got, but I arrived at my sister's with some type of stomach flu (too many germs in the States!).  It made it hard to try and get to know my niece and nephew (who last time I'd seen them were barely 2 months old).  Luckily it passed fast, and soon I was running around with them as if I'd never left.  This time Chris departed first, leaving for Massachusetts on the 17th, with me following on the 20th.  Time was moving fast, and none of our visits felt long enough.

We stayed in MA until the 28th, visiting with Chris' family.  In both AZ and MA it was extremely hard to say goodbye to our nieces and nephews ... they are the ones who are changing the most, and our visit home only stressed on what we were missing.


After three airline carrier changes, over 12 hours of layovers, and losing one day crossing the dateline we arrived back in Majuro on the 2nd.  The first thing that hit us was the humidity and heat, especially after the cold snowy temperatures of MA.  After the intensity of the States, Majuro felt unnaturally quite, small and even a bit barren ... which is exactly what we needed!  During our entire visit home we had both been on and off sick, at varying degrees, and upon returning Chris seemed to take a downward dive.  We believe that most likely he returned with Strep Throat, which we were able to treat, and finally a week later he was back to his 'ol healthy self.

The rest of the month was quite mellow.  Chris spent huge portions of his time developing and creating his own fishing lures and organizing all the new fishing goods he had purchased.  With the endless amount of sunshine, I spent a lot of time on the computer, creating our Year 2 DVD.  In between there were numerous happy hours with other cruisers, and bowling (yes bowling) every Thursday night.

On the 25th, the local yacht club put on the Coconut Regatta [boat race].  Chris crewed on our friend's boat (Navire), while I helped MJ as part of the race committee.  The local's raced their outrigger canoes while a good percentage of the cruisers raced their own boats.  As I'm not that big of a fan of sailing just to sail (I like to change destinations), and being within 2 miles of any other boats makes me nervous, we had opted to not race Billabong.


It seems we did a lot of eating in April.  We had dinner on Island Sonata with two young World Teach volunteers that we had befriended over the last few months.  We attended the yacht club BBQ, where we also participated in a soda pop boat race fundraiser.

The local children make mini sail boats out of cans, which are sold at the BBQ and then raced across the resort's pool.  The proceeds go to the local canoe sailing 'school'.  We dined out for Kim's (Navire) birthday as well as mine.  We had to experience Prime Rib night at the resort after all the rave reviews!  And couldn't help going back after discovering their awesome Tuesday night pizza & salad bar night.  We also had a couple of drink and appetizer nights on Billabong, and a few potlucks.  I don't know how we didn't end up fifty pounds heavier!

An extremely fun 'eating event' was the "sushi fest".  Windswept had won a huge tuna at the Coconut Regatta, and donated to a cruiser potluck/sushi party.  Three boats (Suka, Billabong, and ) competed in sushi making, while other's competed with their desserts and side-dishes.  Chris and I loved getting sushi tips from other cruisers, and enjoyed sharing our own 'secrets'!

Besides eating, there was more bowling, a swap meet, and a backwards dinghy race.  The race was an absolute riot.  Five boats participated, in a three heat race on a short route near the wharf.  Chris and I took on three local children as "crew" and had a blast.  Anything goes, and the more the water you can throw at the competition the better!  We won all three heats, but in doing so managed to "break" our engine!

Chris spent the next few days "re-building" it!


It was crunch time ... lots of small projects to finish up in order to get Billabong ship-shape and ready to move.  Fun stuff like cleaning the bottom and re-provisioning.  We had a few issues with the postal service, waiting for a package to arrive that we had shipped over six weeks early (from our visit home).  Finally, with a good weather window appearing, we the Marshall Islands, on the 15th.
Continue reading "Majuro Journal"...

Season 2 Photo Journals

Season 2 Route

Continue reading "Season 2 Photo Journals"...

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Oh weather window where art thou?

Location: Majuro, Marshall Islands
Position: 07°06.30' N 171°22.39' E
Next Dest: Fiji (with potential stops in Kiribati, Wallis, or Samoa)

Apparently Mother Nature doesn't realize that we are ready to depart ... and have been for many days now. The wind has all but died; a nearby large system sucking up all the wind and spitting down rain. We've thought about leaving anyway-- motoring to the winds, but with the system nearby we don't want to chance beating into squall after squall ... especially not on our first nights of passage.

So we wait.

And since we are ready to go with not much else to do but wait, we just seem to aimlessly wander, typically ending up in the stores getting in more look at all the Yummy American foods. Billabong is busting at the seams with more treats and snacks then we've ever departed with. Of course that means that Chris and I are also busting, as we seem to both have developed an enormous sweet tooth that Majuro is all too happy to satisfy.

At least we aren’t yet bored; we still have friends here, Tuesday night salad bars, Thursday night bowling, and lots of internet time!
Continue reading "Oh weather window where art thou?"...

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Waiting for weather

Seems to be the story of passages ... waiting for good weather. We are now quite ready to leave (even if we didn't yet get our last package in the mail), but now the weather for the next 180 hours does not look so good ... unless we want to spend lots of money on diesel and motor! At this point we are just taking it a day at a time and seeing what happens. We are still hopeful that we might get out of here on Wednesday or Thursday. In the meantime we continue to eat our way through the stores, getting our last "fills" before heading back into deprivation!!!

On Saturday our good friends on Island Sonata returned, so we are thrilled to get a few extra days with them before parting ways.

On Monday we finally left the mooring ball after 4 months of not moving! We took Billabong out for a test sail ... making sure that both Billabong and her crew are ship-shape!

Hopefully our next BLOG will be sent while underway ...
Continue reading "Waiting for weather"...

Monday, May 01, 2006

Almost Ready to Leave

Location: Majuro, Marshall Islands
Position: 07°06.30' N 171°22.39' E
Next Dest: Fiji (with potential stops in Kiribati, Wallis, or Samoa)

Yippee! We just got some very exciting news … another package has arrived. Which means only one more to go! We may leave here yet! Apparently the package was first mis-shipped to the UK … now how does that happen? Way to go US Postal Service.

As for the last 10 days or so, we’ve managed to keep busy. Miscellaneous boat projects here and there (like cleaning the bottom, which seemed to have grown its own ecosystem since December, and a bit of sewing), and many social nights; including my (KT’s) birthday, a few sun downers, bowling, and a most excellent Prime Rib dinner at the Resort.

Last Saturday (April 29th) a cruiser’s swap meet was held, where Billabong left with more than they came with (once again having to go through the “where are we going to fit this” game). Following the swap meet was a backwards dinghy race. Chris and I were joined by three of the local children for the madness. Basically anything goes and lots of water is thrown. It is a hilarious fun time, and while Billabong took first in all three heats it was not without a price … the next day our engine continued to overheat and we had to be towed back from a local BBQ party! Chris spent Monday re-building the engine, which didn’t go very smoothly – thankfully we had just recently purchased a duplicate non-working engine (for its spare parts) … it is now that “spare” engine that is working!

The local BBQ on Sunday was great fun. Kim and Tony on Navire had spent a lot of time with a local family, and they threw Navire a going away party. What a terrific family … we had a fabulous time. I am just continuously amazed at the closeness of these island families; so intertwined that it is impossible to tell who is brother-sister versus cousin; mother-father versus aunt-uncle. Children from five to fifteen playing together and socializing.

We are now within one to two weeks of departing Majuro. It is going to be tough going to get enough Easting to hit Samoa (or even Fiji), so we’re keeping our fingers crossed for the right winds. A huge supply ship is currently making its way into the lagoon, so our timing is perfect, we’ll be able to stock up with lots of fresh goodies before leaving. We are very much looking forward to beginning our third cruising season … although I personally wish it didn’t have to start off with two weeks at sea!!!
Continue reading "Almost Ready to Leave"...