Happy New Year, 2015!

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It’s New Year’s Day here in Sorong, Indonesia. We decided to slip in here yesterday to grab some diesel and cheese and then watch the fireworks display. We are headed south to Misool and Ambon with Per Ardua. Fortunately, there were 6 other cruising boats iin the harbor, and we got together for a party on the Privelege 58 Downtime. We drank beer, watched fireworks, and were asleep by 11:00 PM.

Remember, when you’re cruising in the tropics, 8:00 PM is the new midnight.

We had a busy yet relaxing holiday week. Our little Christmas fleet scattered after Boxing Day, and Sophie and our BFFs on Per Ardua sailed up to an anchorage on the north side of Gam called Kabui Pass.

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We stayed there for three or four days, snorkeling the pass and playing in the water. The kids had a great time on the kayaks and paddleboards.

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Even Jenna got into the act with some standup paddleboard yoga.

We were low on food over the course of the week and had to get creative with our cooking. We had lots of fish, noodles, and beer.

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One night I made marlin poached in coconut milk with ginger, soy, turmeric, and corn. This is the same marlin that Dan Rogers caught last April. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, and man does Sophie have a good freezer!

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Another night I served grilled yellowfin steak sandwiches on home made rolls. It is the first time in my life I’ve ever baked bread in an oven. It tasted as good as it looked. The middle loaf was a gift to the Per Arduans, 80% of whom are vegetarians. That means they have to eat twice their body weight in food every day in order to match the caloric intake of us cruising omnivores. The loaf was devoured in 12 seconds.

Jenna also made pad thai a couple of times. Her Southeast Asian cooking skills are becoming quite good.

Steve Schufreider from Seattle is with us for a few weeks. He was an excellent mule on his flight from Seattle, bringing with him Leo’s fifth grade books, new cables for our bowsprit, 2 new pumps for our freshwater system, some Christmas presents from back home, and a container of honest-to-goodness real American dishwasher pellets. No more concoctions of dishwashing soap and baking powder for us!

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One of the first things we replaced with the parts Steve hauled halfway around the world was the broken water pump. We think it may have been damaged in Fiji when someone took an exceptionally long shower. Or it may have simply worn out.

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As you can see in the photos above, it’s part of a two pump system. The bottom pump draws the water from the freshwater tanks and pressurizes it to 2 bar. The top pump increases the water pressure to 2.8 bar. This system enables us to take showers, flush toilets, run dishwashers, and wash clothes all at the same time. With the top pump out of order, our water pressure was much lower and we couldn’t do all of these water activities simultaneously.

Fortunately, the replacement pump fit exactly where it was supposed to. We got everything wired and plumbed together and fired that baby up. Can you guess what happened next?

Pipes started bursting!

The first to go was in a length of bad hose under the floor in Leo’s cabin. The hose was installed by Lagoon in their factory in 2007. This 2 meter stretch of hose has sprung 5 leaks since San Diego almost 2 years ago.

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I’ve used hose clamps and rescue tape over the last 2 years to continually patch pinhole leaks in this … thing.

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We cut the … thing open and saw that the outer hose, the layer of reinforcing nylon, and the inner hose had completely delaminated. We think the hose may have been left out in the sun in some warehouse parking lot for a year or two before it was installed in Sophie.

Fortunately, while walking around Waisai we spotted a shop with coils of 1/2″, 3/4″, and 1 inch nylon-reinforced high pressure water hose, and they were selling it for around a buck a meter. We bought a lot of each size, and I was able to replace this … thing once and for all.

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That’s the shiny new hose at the bottom of the photo.

Later on that day, we had two failures in a length of 1″ hose that runs directly from the water pump into a series of manifolds that distributes the water around the boat. The first failure was right under the hose clamp at the pump itself, so Steve simply cut off 2 inches of hose and reattached it. The second failure was catastrophic, meaning the water leak forced the bilge pump (and its shrieking alarm) to run constantly. So Steve replaced the entire run with the brand new 1″ hose we had just purchased.

IMG_0068Here is the offending hose. And yes, this is indeed a selfie showing off a broken hose, a Christmas tree, and a bit of my tattoo. While anchored in Sorong, Indonesia. I believe it’s a world’s first.

Anyway, the plumbing has been stabilized for several days now, and we are enjoying our increased water pressure. We think we might be using more water now, and I will install a switch that turns off the new pump if we ever want to go into water conservation mode.

But enough about plumbing, let’s talk about garbage and diesel. After Kabui Pass, we decided to head south to an unnamed anchorage on the eastern tip of Batanta Island, with a 2 hour stop in Wasai along the way to buy produce and dispose of our garbage in an actual dumpster in the market. There is a lot of plastic in the water here, and we do not want to contribute to the problem.

As part of this trip to the dumpster, we decided to get rid of our beloved Relaxation Station, a floating lounge that often drifts behind Sophie at anchor. This one simply had too many tears along its seams for us to keep afloat. I am already scheming on how I am going to replace it in time for our stay in Bali next month …

After Batanta, Jenna and I decided we should make the quick overnight stop in Sorong since it was on our route south to Misool. It was New Year’s Eve in Sorong, meaning the shops were full. Jenna apparently had to fight through a bit of a frenzy at the grocery store, including a crowd of angry women shaking their fists at the empty meat counter. Procuring the diesel was much easier. Our friend Victor simply arranged for 600 liters to be delivered to the waterfront in 25 liter jugs, and we once again ferried them out using Sophie’s dinghy and siphoned it into the tanks of the 2 sailboats.

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Fortunately, Steve and Peter (the omnivore on Per Ardua) were there to help. And yes, that is the famous cat Skimpy in the background. It is legally registered in the Bikini atoll, and it does indeed have the words

Skimpy
Bikini

written across its transom.

What a journey.

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A year ago we celebrated New Year’s Eve with fireworks on the Auckland waterfront. We’ve sailed over 5,000 miles since then, enjoying our best year ever. Above is a photo of our track from 2014.

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Who knows where we will be a year from now?

On behalf on Jenna, Leo, and Hazel, we want to wish all of you a Happy New Year. We are extraordinarily fortunate to be on this adventure. We miss our good friends and family back home, and we hope all of you come and visit us 2015, which will be the best year of our lives.

Again.

Christmas in Gam

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Sophie is spending the Christmas Holiday in a harbor in the island of Gam with the other cruising yachts Per Ardua, Honey, Nalukai, Blue Star, Ocelot, and Villa G. There are ten children between the ages of 6 and 11 in our little fleet. Everyone here is enjoying a relaxing, family-oriented holiday.
INDO9744We were greeted on Christmas Eve morning by a couple of large manta rays swimming slowly off Sophie’s bow. One even did a barrel roll and showed us his white belly. This is a Christmas first for us.
The kids spent the day making presents and then preparing for a Christmas pageant that we hosted on Sophie’s foredeck in the late afternoon. The pageant was organized by Jude off of the Catana Honey. She is a former schoolteacher and came prepared with multiple clipboards with laminated stage instructions.
I must confess that I love calling the yacht Honey using our VHF radio. “Honey, Honey, Honey … this is Sophie, over.”
INDO9745Leo played the role of a shepherd, and of course he made a shepherd’s crook out of Lego.
INDO9754He looked over a flock of sheep along with a cow with horns made out of screwdrivers.
INDO9756Hazel, in case you had any doubt, played the role of the blessed virgin Mary, mother of Jesus. Samuel played her husband Jospeh. Other children performed as the Archangel Gabriel, the innkeeper, the three wise people, and a star. The performance was lovely.
INDO9809Afterwards the Christmas music went back on and the girls resumed the ongoing dance party on Sophie’s trampoline.
People returned to Sophie for a Christmas Eve potluck dinner after sunset. It’s an Utzschneider family tradition for the youngest child to read the story of Christ’s birth from Luke, and Hazel did so with confidence and excellent audience eye contact with each turn of the page.
INDO9861We then broke out the guitars and sang Christmas songs. Here’s a shot of me and Peter from Per Ardua getting our Irish on and belting out “Fairytale of New York.”
It was a great day, and we only wish that Sara, Max, and others from our family back home could have been here to share it with us.
Children across our little fleet were all pleased to learn on Christmas morning that Santa Claus had paid us all a visit. Hazel got a couple of Indonesian dresses, and Leo thinks his new Liverpool football Jersey and Ferrari hat make him look like he works in a Formula One pit crew.
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What do you think?
We all then went over to Nalukai for Christmas coffee, and then everyone returned to their boats for quiet family time and naps. Then we all played in the water on kayaks and the relaxation station, followed by another potluck on Sophie.
This has been one of our best Christmases ever.
Today is Boxing Day here, and there are no fascinators for us this year. Jenna and I just took the boat up to Wasai to collect our friend Steve along with 7 cases of beer, and the kids are back with the fleet playing games and sports events.
we’ll be back online tomorrow. Merry Christmas everyone!

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.