Christmas Season in Wayag

Sophie hasn’t moved since our last update. We’re still in Wayag, enjoying the most beautiful spot we’ve visited on our entire trip so far.

We haven’t seen any other boats in 3 days. It’s still just us and Per Ardua and 10,000 fish and 100 little islets.

Erin from Per Ardua celebrated her 8th birthday 2 days ago. A birthday cake fairy actually snuck onto Sophie and left an 8 layer cake in the shape of an “E” in our aft cockpit fridge. We have no idea how it got there. The Per Arduans dinghied over later that afternoon for coffee and cake. We gave Erin a (Sophie colored) tourquoise dress with white polka dots and “La Petite Pop” written on the front of it. She’s worn it for 2 straight days. Later that night we gathered on the beach for a bonfire and “dampers”, which involves wrapping bread dough on the end of a stick and cooking it over the fire. We also broke out a guitar and sang some songs. It’s the first time I’ve ever sung Radiohead’s “Creep” at a family campfire sing-a-long.

Our highlight from yesterday was a 2 hour drift snorkel across one of the reefs here. We posed for underwater pictures with a clam shell that was a foot across. Later on we broke out Sophie’s Christmas tree and our Christmas mast lights. We had a bit of a decoration party and served up cans of chilled cherries with the leftover whipped cream from the birthday cake. The nozzle on the whipped cream canister had seized, so I had to rip open the can with some needle nosed pliers. That was a first.

The kids are working hard at school. Leo is in the final stages of finishing up a school year by Christmas. He was working until 9:30 last night, and is back at it at 7:00 this morning. He is learning.

Food is an interesting topic right now. The Per Arduans, who are 80 percent vegetarian, ran out of fresh produce yesterday. We still have an onion, some bok choy, a carrot, a couple of apples, and a freezer full of fish. Yesterday I made stir fried beef in a ginger/soy/coconut milk sauce accompanied by scalloped potatoes in cheddar cheese, coconut milk, and vegetable broth along with the last of the green beans. For the beach party I made yellowfin tuna party nibbles in a sweet and sour sauce. The night before it was duck confit pasta with mushroom and onion in a white wine sauce. So we are not exactly starving. But it’s not like we are hitting Christmas party buffet tables every night for the next 10 days. I think Jenna and I are both getting smaller.

There is a produce market and small store in Waisai that we plan to visit on the 23rd. I think I will spend some time this morning scheming on the best way to use that carrot. In case you are wondering, I am very, very relaxed. We are all relaxed.

We’ll stay here 2 more days and then stop at the Swiss dive resort for some wifi and beer (we are out of that, too) before hitting the market in Waisai. So far we’re having a low key Christmas on the equator. We miss celebrating the holidays with all of our family and friends. But this isn’t too bad.

Nothing

Sophie and her crew have been doing pretty much nothing for the last 3 days. There is no need for us to move the boat for at least another week. If you look up our location of 00.09.757 North 130.01.948 East on Google Earth, you can see why. It’s spectacular here.

Jenna describes some of the islands here as perfect little gumdrops.

The Per Arduans came over for a sushi party yesterday, and we stayed up until 11:00 PM! That’s quite late for us.

The kids are doing schoolwork every day. We swim. We paddleboard. We watch the manta rays do backflips. For the first time since 2008 there is no red wine on Sophie. We have long conversations about what we would buy if we could go to a Trader Joe’s. The answer is pretty much everything.

We have no access to news. There is a gentle breeze that keeps the boat cool. We’re feeling quite relaxed.

That’s about it for now

Back in the Northern Hemisphere, Visiting Paradise

Sophie crossed the equator today as we traveled northwest to the Raja Ampat island of Wayag. This is our second crossing of the equator and took place at 00.00.000 North, 130.03.193 East, which is 6,060 nautical miles west of where we crossed it in March of 2013. Appropriately enough, we were surrounded by a school of small jumping tuna during our crossing today, and we could actually see a waterspout 10 miles off in the distance. Jenna got the photo. The children offered cookies to King Neptune, and Jenna poured a shot of vermouth into the deep. Leo then shared the following with us:

“Two years ago we crossed the equator. The first time on Sophie but our second time. We had become Shellbacks! We had an excellent time in the southern hemisphere during which we crossed the Pacific Ocean. Now we cross again, and we will continue onward. May good winds and gentle seas come with us as we follow the sunset.”

Very nice. Then it was back to school.

We wound up spending four nights at the Raja4Divers resort. They charge $20 per night per adult for yachts to use their mooring and facilities. That can seem a little pricey for some cruisers, but it includes use of their grounds, wifi, garbage service, and laundry facilities, along with being able to join them for their guest happy hour. They cater to German and Swiss tourists, and one night one of the guests served up swiss cheese and deer sausage from back home. It was delicious.

We wound up doing a trade with them, where they gave us free moorage in return for our taking their guests and some staff out for a sunset cruise. Unfortunately, it has become somewhat rare for us to simply go out for a sunset sail, and last night’s cruise was tremendous fun. We had a gentle breeze and a warm sunset.

The resort is a good stop for cruisers as long as you know that you should take advantage of what they offer. If you are living back on land and are looking for an exotic scuba diving vacation, I cannot imagine a better place to go. Please check it out. http://www.raja4divers.com. Tell them Jamie sent you.

After the equator crossing excitement, we passed through five more schools of small jumping tuna. We had no hits. Nothing. So I swapped out our big hoochie lure for our smallest little squid. Within 5 minutes we had a nice 4 pound albacore on board. I threw the lure back in, and ten minutes later we had another hit. Leo reeled it in, and Hazel did the netting. Call it a double kid takedown. I now think we can catch small tuna at will in this part of Indonesia. I was beginning to worry.

Then we entered Wayag. Holy Cow. We’ve never seen anything like this. Easily the nicest anchorage we’ve ever been to. Anywhere. Ever. Imagine hundreds of little mushroom shaped limestone and palm tree islands, with mini beaches and coral reefs scattered among them. No one lives here, and Sophie and Per Ardua are the only boats. Manta rays are doing double backflips every few minutes. Birds are singing in the trees. We’re anchored in 40 feet over sand. Our plan was to spend 9-10 days here, and we are already trying to figure out how to extend our stay. It’s that nice.

The 3,500 mile push from Fiji is increasingly becoming a distant memory. We are heading into the holidays with a sense of reflection and sharing. We miss our friends and family back home, but we love this adventure we are on. Especially right now.

Peace.

Off the Grid, Literally

WIN_20141210_073514Sophie and Per Ardua left Yanggelo and motored 5 miles north to the Island of Pef where we are currently moored in a completely protected lagoon that does not appear on Navionics or CMAP charts. And when I say lagoon, I don’t mean a nice harbor protected by a fringing reef. I mean a cut in the cliffs that opens up into a half-mile long set of bays that are ringed by cliffs and deeply wooded banks of trees. It shows up on the Google Earth pictures of the area, but not on the charts. So I guess that means we are literally off the grid.

Check it out for yourself. 00.26.554 South, 130.26.623 East.

Before we left, we all went for a 2 hour float snorkel through the northern side of the pass at Yanggelo. Lots of fish and coral, and Jenna took photos. We’ve all been swimming for a couple of hours a day since we left Sorong. It’s awesome, and it will continue.

There is a small eco dive resort here on Pef called Raja 4 Divers, and they maintain a couple of moorings in the harbor. We went to visit the resort’s buildings on the other side of the island, and it is the nicest beach resort we’ve seen in our crossing of the Pacific. It was built 3 years ago by a German woman named Maya, they have ten bungalows located over a beach, and they have a resident artist who creates sculptures scattered across the grounds. All of the guests are German or Swiss, who come out for some of the best diving in the world.

Oh, and they let their boat guests use the wifi. :-)

The water in the lagoon is like a pond. It’s deep, dark, and flat. Jenna and Mellia (the mother of Per Ardua) went off for a 2 hour paddleboard the other day. They explored reefs, cuts through mangroves, and towering pinnacles of rock. When they returned, the kids all took turns on our inflatable kayaks until dark. Then we gathered on Sophie for a communal meal: barbecued chicken, mac and cheese, cole slaw, bok choy, purple rice, and tofu sticks in a peanut sauce, all followed by some Trader Joe’s dark chocolate.

We did the same basic thing yesterday. For dinner, Jenna cooked handmade vegetarian wontons, accompanied by curried marlin in a coconut sauce with bamboo shoots, polenta, fried green beans, and coleslaw.

We have a large collection of Christmas music on Sophie, and you could easily hear it all the way across the pond. We are having fun nights.

It’s a sunny and clear morning here. I see no reason why we won’t spend at least another day. We want to get up to Wayag, which is 41 miles north of here. But we’ll probably do it in a couple of hops. Our days of rushing are over.

Unfortunately, our days of fishing might be over as well. According to Jeremy from Nalukai, Indonesia has been fished out of everything resembling the game fish we’ve been catching for the last 2 years. We might get a spanish mackeral or wahoo between here and Banda, but from there to Thailand will be pretty much nothing. I am still trying to internalize what this means for me. Maybe I’ll learn how to play the guitar. And for Easter we’ll eat the marlin tail that’s been hanging off our stern since last May. Sophie without a freezer full of fish will be a different boat.

Also, the one town in Raja Ampat, Wasai, is not the Wasai on the chart that we pass on our way up to Wayag. Wasai is actually a new town the government started building 5 years ago when they declared Raja Ampat a nature reserve. It’s located at 00.25.982 South, 130.48.075 East. It’s where the ferry from Sorong lands, where the grocery store is located, and where the only cell phone coverage in the area can be found. That explains why we inexplicably had cell coverage on our trip over to Yanggelo. It also means that we probably won’t have cell or Internet coverage between now and Christmas Eve. Most importantly, it means that we will likely be in the right place when our friend Steve from Seattle gets off the Waisai ferry to join us on Christmas day! I assume Steve will appreciate that.

But Holy Cow! Only 15 more shopping days until Christmas! With no stores and no Internet after today! What do we do?

I guess the answer is to swim a lot.

 

Finally Relaxing, Beyond Sorong

Sophie has traveled over 3,500 miles in the last 3 months, but it finally feels like we have stopped and are beginning to relax. Our boat is currently tied off in a mangrove in the pass between Yanggelo and Gam islands in the Raja Ampat area of Indonesia. We’ve been here 2 nights now in our own little coral reef nature preserve. Per Ardua is with us along with some new Ozzie friends in the aluminum cat Nalukai. Among the three boats we have 8 children between the ages of 5 and 11.

Heaven. 00.30.719 South, 130.27.321 East.

Getting here was a bit of an adventure. Two days ago, Per Ardua left Sorong at 2:00 AM in order to make it out here in a day. We stayed behind to run a few last minute errands, including mailing some packages at the post office (opened up at 8:00 AM instead of 7:00 AM); procuring some extra data for our mobile phones (which involved being driven on the back of a motorcycle by a hotel security guard in search of a cell phone store open so early in the morning); and checking out of the Sorong Harbormaster office (which involved spending an hour participating with the entire Harbormaster staff in their Friday morning parking lot team dancercise session.) This last item for me was one of the most surreal moments of the entire Sophie Adventure Cruise, and afterwards the Harbormaster said he was very happy that I was the first foreigner to ever join them in the class. He signed my papers on the sport, telling his staff to fill in the details after the fact.

And if you are ever on a cruising boat and visit Sorong, by all means PLEASE CONTACT Victor Saputra (0812 4833 831, vicror.s@intracodharma.com.) His family is from Singapore and has run a heavy equipment supply business in Sorong for the last 40 years. Victor is helping them get into the yacht business, and he helped us source diesel, LPG, spare parts, and run paperwork. He speaks perfect English and is the best local support person we’ve met in the last 2 years. Call him!

Anyway, we had our anchor up by 10:00 AM and motored the 60 miles to Yanggelo with ease. Our goal was to pass Per Ardua before we got to the anchorage, but they beat us by 30 minutes. That 30 minutes made a huge difference, because a fairly fierce squall hit us right as arrived. Nalukai was already here with a cat named Ocelot (sailed by John and Susan from Seattle), and the tenders from the 2 boats had helped tie off Per Ardua with 4 long lines to a pocket in the mangrove. By the time they raced over to help us, the wind was blowing 25 knots. I actually saw a whirlpool form in the middle of the anchorage and for a nanosecond was scared a waterspout was going to form. And technically, this is too deep to be called an anchorage, it’s a place where boats tie off to trees.

So I told the two tenders to go back to their boats and wait for the squall to pass. We held Sophie steady in the middle of the mangrove while we prepared 3 long mooring lines. These included one of our spare anchor lines, our two 100 foot dock lines tied together, and our 200 meter yellow floating stern tie line we initially purchased for mooring up in Desolation Sound. This last line is rolled on a spool located in the bottom of our port forward locker, lovingly known as the “Pit of Despair” for the difficulty you encounter whenever you need to find something useful in it because we store SO MUCH STUFF THERE. So Jenna manned the wheel and held Sophie steady while I emptied half of the contents of the locker in order to get the spool out. This all took place in the hammering rain as the sun was going down.

But the boys came back, we successfully tied Sophie off, and the relaxing finally began.

We awoke yesterday to a bright, sunshine-filled day. For the first time in months, we had no schedule. We emptied out the rest of the port locker and cleaned it out. We also cleaned and organized all of its contents. We inflated the Relaxation Station and our kayaks. When the crew of Nalukai saw all of this, they declared a school holiday and their three girls paddled over in their three matching pink kayaks. The Per Arduans soon joined them.

While the kids played, I grabbed my speargun and hunted for some dinner. I got a small trevally the moment I jumped out of the dinghy, but then had no luck for the next 2 hours.

At 4:00 in the afternoon, we all dinghied around to the west side of the island for a sunset beach barbecue. The trevally was delicious. The company was excellent. The kids roasted bread dough over the open fire using sticks Leo sharpened with his pocket knife. It was one of those “this is why we are out here” moments.

Ocelot left this morning, and the crew from the three remaining boats went on a 2 hour drift snorkel through the pass. We saw thousands and thousands of fish and hundred of different types of coral. Best of all, there is no one else here. It’s like we have our own private island and coral reef. This afternoon the kids will all head over to Per Ardua for art projects, and we will do another beach barbecue for dinner.
We have no internet access here, so it may be a while before you get any pictures. But you will.

At some point in the next week we will likely wander north to Wayag, the island where most Rajat Ampat boat photos are taken. We might be able to grab some Internet from the town of Waisai along the way. We’ll spend Christmas around here, pick up our friend Steve, and then head south to Misool, Ambon, and the Banda Islands.

But that is all just a general intention. We’re enjoying being relaxed and being back in cruising mode. And realizing how lucky we are.

Epilogue: What Caused the Cable to Snap?

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As I mentioned yesterday, we broke the cable that connects the bowsprit to the starboard hull. In this photo, you can see how the cable on the port side looks.

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Here is a photo that shows how the end of the cable attaches to the starboard hull. This fitting is called a swage, and it is intact. Please accept our apologies for the moss growing on Sophie’s waterline, it was totally clean 2 weeks ago. (Thanks for the muck, Jayapura!)

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Here is a photo of the  swage after I removed it from the fitting on the starboard hull. It is hard to tell in this photo, but there is a slight bend to the swage.

Now let’s get to the money shots.

20141130_110357Here is a photo of the inside of the swage. You can see the cable has snapped off at the end of the swage. The three inner strands of the cable are rusty.

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Here is the other end of the cable. The strands did not break off uniformly. There is no fraying. The three inner strands are rusty.

So …what happened? Do you think it broke due to minor corrosion combined with ongoing wave action? Or do you think we hit something like a log? Or was the cable a victim of a shark attack?

We welcome your thoughts…