Saturday, December 26, 2009

The effects of a tsunami, September 29, 2009, American Samoa

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Tuesday 29th September we were woken to the shaking of the boat and a deep rumbling sound. We raced on deck to see others milling on the dock, rubbing sleepy eyes and pulling on garments as they left their boat. Both Garry and I are were very sure it was an earthquake as we had experienced two while anchored off Panama City several months ago. We had discovered a website we had since kept on our favourites list ( and Garry raced below to check the latest reports, sure enough it was a large earthquake measuring 8.2 on the Richter scale only 120 nautical miles away. I remember looking around the mountains to see if we would have aftershocks or landslides and nothing eventuated. We had our radios on, as we always do, and there was no warning, sirens, broadcasts or anything to let us know we were in any imminent danger. We figured we were lucky and had come out unscathed and wandered below decks to make coffee and start the day.

Within minutes of getting below, in fact it was now, 7.20am my husband began yelling at us, for “everyone get on deck”. I remember dressing as I climbed the companion way to a sight that I just did not comprehend. Our crew member Chris was already on the dock, my husband was pushing our son, Jacob up the side of the dock and our boat was several metres below the dock. Our neighbour Wayne’s boat was on its side and I could see the fish flapping in the bottom of the harbour. We were dropping like we were in an elevator; it was like someone had pulled a plug on the harbour. I don’t know how I did it, but I knew there was no way my husband would be able to lift me off the boat, I am no light weight. I climbed onto the foredeck and our new bimini, and then walked down our main boom like a tight rope walker to shimmy up the mast and manage to get a foothold on some of the tyres that lined the dock before I hoisted myself up that last metre to the top. I could never repeat what I did and I remember my husband yelling at me to not tread on our new canvas work. I used to call him Captain Garry Bligh and I think I may have used a few expletives at this point basically stating that I did not care for the canvas work at this particular time. I yelled at my husband to get off. We don’t know if that was the correct thing to do or not, others were not quick enough to get off or cut their lines before they wore torn from their mooring like a mere plaything. The forces that were at play were beyond comprehension. That harbour emptied in about 30 seconds. As we attempted to race for high ground, our neighbour Wayne threw his small sailing companion, Ruby the cockerpoo to our son. She was sliding off the deck of his boat and he could not save her or deal with the situation on his boat at the same time. Jacob made a good catch and held onto that small black dog. There was no time to cut lines, undo them all or pull away from that dock before the water began to pour back in. We had envisaged a large wave, but it was more like a huge surge, the water was rising rapidly, our boat was the first on the pier, we tried to fend her off from the dock and Garry wanted to get back on and try and steer her in what we now knew was to come. There was no chance to do any of this. She was suddenly free and Garry wrung his hands in dismay and flung his hands to his head as he watched his pride and joy being tossed around out of his reach. She peeled off that dock, snapping 6 lines and pulled away from us like a twig. 21 tons of fibreglass was tossed around like a plaything in the maelstrom of water that swirled around us. We tried to help others still attached. My husband raced to a fellow cruiser’s boat “Mainly” from Merritt Island in Florida. We had a conversation with her owner Dan, the day before, as we had spent several months in this area and it was a favourite destination of our family. His wife Joan was standing at the helm, she asked Garry if he had seen her husband. Garry did not really understand what had happened, but asked if she could steer the boat and helped her off the dock. It was not until several hours later he realised the tragedy that had taken place.

At this stage we realised that the water was rising faster than we could run. There was no way we could race to the mountain until the water would be over our heads. I frantically searched for any handhold or some higher ground. In the middle of the dock was a raised flower bed with a lamppost cemented into the middle. I yelled at everyone to run and hold on. We waded through thigh high water to this pole. I yelled at Garry there was nothing now he could do for our boat and to come and hold on. The water was continuing to rise; we clung for our life to that skinny pole, not knowing how long we may be under water or how high it would go. Jacob realised he could not hold onto Ruby any longer and Garry grabbed her and placed around his shoulders and neck. He needed both hands free to safe himself and Jacob. That dog did not struggle or move during the entire ordeal.

I remember watching another boat, “Gallivanter” with Kirk, Catherine and Stewart on board get washed over and past our heads. It just did not make sense, they could have only missed the dock and the wall we were standing on by mere feet. They were extremely lucky they got washed out to clear water without impacting on the debris swirling around us. It seemed like an eternity, but perhaps only minutes that the water was over our head and suddenly we could see daylight again and we were coughing and spluttering water from our nostrils and mouths. I could not believe we had survived, but the horror was not over. I was facing towards the end of the bay and I could now see a wall of water coming back towards us. Oh my God, this was a wave and huge, but this time it had boats, cars, sea containers and bodies soaring towards us. I looked towards the pole in front of us to spy another cruiser, Emily from a Californian yacht who had become separated from her four other crew members. They were on their boat in the middle of the harbour. I yelled at her to hold on as this wall of water bore down on us carrying all manner of flotsam and jetsam. The forces were unimaginable, our hands were being plucked from that pole, Garry dug his fingers into Jacob’s arm and I remember letting go of our Canadian crew member, Chris’s arm as my fingers were about to be torn from their fragile handhold on the lamppost. The water was trying to pull our legs from underneath us. I would not let go and could not, I had my 11 year old daughter waiting for me at home. We discussed later that she must have had a “vision” as she begged us not to make her sail the Pacific Ocean back to Australia. After careful negotiation, our family had her in their care and she had been back in West Australia for the last six weeks of the trip. In hindsight this was a wise decision as I do not think we could have held her and our son and saved all of our lives.

As we re-emerged from this second onslaught we looked around at the devastation around us. It was like a war zone! We took our chances and raced down the end of the concrete dock some 150 metres in length and up the neighbouring hill face were a crowd of local Samoans had gathered for protection. As we reached their level they could not believe we had been the people momentarily standing below them clinging for our lives on that slender pole. They were sure we had been washed away. As we stood on that hill side we surveyed the damage that surrounded us. Our beautiful yacht who had carried us so far was no where to be seen. A few of our fellow cruiser’s boats could be seen still swirling in the whirlpools and ebbs and flows that were still occurring in the harbour. They struggled to maintain control of their vessels in the disturbed water. Around us were cars, buildings, sea containers, loose pleasure and commercial fishing vessels some around 45 metres in length. We later learned without gear boxes and engines in for repair, they had been at the mercy of this force of nature. The havoc that surrounded us was beyond description. What had been a beautiful and neat village was now a mere mound of rubble.

Garry needed to find “Biscayne Bay” and he headed back to the dock with Chris. I was dreading them leaving the relative safety of this elevated vantage point, but I also desperately wanted to know the outcome of our yacht and home. Jacob and I, with Ruby shivering on our lap watched as they approached the dock, Wayne on his yacht “Learnativity” saw them and tried to get as close to them as he could in the hope that he could take them on board to search the harbour for “Biscayne Bay.” It was just too dangerous to approach the dock and Garry decided to hike down the end of the harbour through the rubble, mud, flapping fish and eels to find her. I lost sight of him at this point and begun to fear the worst when police sirens started warning everyone to seek high ground again as another surge was on its way. We waited for several hours until the all clear was given and began the search for Garry, Chris and “Biscayne Bay”. The Samoan people we run into along the way kept asking us if we had found our boat and my husband. They had lost so much, yet were still concerned for our well being. I reasoned that our boat would be down the far end of the boat where I could see the large fishing vessels. Along the way we came across several boats stranded in the main street of Pago Pago village and the owners of these vessels later told us stories how they sailed down the main street taking down the power lines with their masts. Where there had been whole buildings was now only concrete slabs. Rescue workers were desperately trying to find missing people buried under the remains of these buildings. There were cars sticking out second story windows and we weaved our way slowly though this mess with the mud-sticking to our clothes and shoes as we dodged fallen power lines.

As we got closer we spied “Biscayne Bay” and could see Garry and Chris trying to move her off rocks at the end of the bay. I was amazed she was still afloat and from a distance she did not look too bad. As we got closer we realised the damage was more extensive than met the eye. She had laid on her side at some stage with a greasy, dirty high water mark and extensive damage to her teak cap rails and stanchions. We managed to scramble aboard as she lay against a muddy bank. Witnesses later told us she had been on the oval and then flung back to sea where she came to rest. The bilge pumps were working and she was obviously taking on water. I was so relieved that we were all back together.

Garry and Chris managed to lower our rib tender into the water and Garry went to see if he could get help or to ask if we could remove some of our belongings to Wayne’s vessel. We did not think “Biscayne Bay” would stay afloat let alone be habitable. As he journeyed across the bay he noticed Joan on “Mainly” still circling in the bay. He approached her and asked if she needed assistance. As he climbed aboard he realised that her husband, Dan was missing. He had been washed away why trying to cut the lines from the dock. The magnitude of the situation took on a new meaning as we realised that one of our fellow cruisers only two boats in front of us had lost his life. For Joan and Dan this was their retirement dream and now that dream was ended. Over the coming weeks as we talked and analysed and consoled each other the fragility of our existence became very apparent.

Garry helped Joan secure her boat, made sure she was safe and went in search of some assistance. Over the coming hours it became apparent that the local officials had their hands full and we would have to help ourselves. Garry made arrangements to ferry our personal belongings and valuables to “Learnativity” who was now secure back on the customs dock and we began shuffling our gear off “Biscayne Bay”. We dare not leave her unattended as she was vulnerable and already the looters where on the prowl. In the days that followed we met some of the “elders” who apologised for the behaviour of some of their people. I would have to say that these opportunists where the exception in the Samoan culture and they were a most generous and helpful people.

We learnt that the internet was still working and so I started contacting family and friends to advise we were safe. While I was doing this Garry began to push and shove “Biscayne Bay” off the bank and rocks using the rib tender. He could not start the engine as the propeller had fouled. He pushed her to the middle of the bay with Jacob at the helm and dropped the anchor. They sat for several hours to ensure the bilge pumps could cope and that she was not going to end up on the bottom of the bay. With Chris now at the helm and Jacob ready to throw lines, myself and Wayne remained on the dock as Garry pushed her back to the customs dock using the rib tender. We had a 25hp outboard and so Garry used the rib tender like a tug boat. With limited steering, amazingly we managed to secure her back where she started and could now survey the damage. She had always been a beautiful yacht and Garry had spent countless hours sanding, varnishing and cleaning her. I looked at the hull I had spent hours cleaning in Tahiti and wondered why we had ever bothered, she was a mess. We spent the evening having a meal on “Learnativity” that Wayne so kindly prepared, it was now 7:30 pm, 12 hours since the tsunami hit and we had not drunk or eaten all day. We decided to spend a rather fitful and sleepless night on “Biscayne Bay”. We thought it best to ensure we could keep the batteries charged and the bilge pumps going. We dare not leave her for fear of vandals and looters prowling the dock. The emergency services were strapped and could offer little assistance at this time. I was thankful for the water and supplies I had bought the day before as we had no idea of the extent of the damage to the island. There was no sanitation, fresh water, power or supplies on our side of the island and hence over the days that followed we were so grateful for the Red Cross and other aid workers who worked diligently to help us and others less fortunate than us. Some of the cruiser’s boats were so badly damaged they were inhabitable and there was no accommodation available on the island as space was limited and the services down. I was glad we had our trusty “Biscayne Bay” to still sleep on, as many slept on the dock or on the deck of other boats. She was not her normal beautiful self, but at least we had a roof over our head, a tank full of uncontaminated water and enough supplies to keep us going for several days.

In the days that followed the emergency services began to arrive onto the island. We were amazed at the lack of resources and assumed being a US territory that the response would be immediate. It was 48 hours before we saw anybody. The locals began the clean-up almost immediately and everyone pitched in to help. The security improved over the days that followed and there was a stop to the looters prowling the dock. I learned later that the USCG is land based only and it was over three hours later that they were able to respond with any presence on the water. Nor was their any help from the port authority, no Navy presence, and we were left to our own devices to help each other and coordinate as best we could.

The sad news is that many people died, including people close to us. It was several hours after the boat was secure on the dock that we learnt that Joan had gone to the hospital to identify Dan’s body. He had been found washed up at the west end of the bay. This was the sobering reality of the tsunami. Many people lost their lives and their families and friends were left to deal with the aftermath.

Over the weeks that followed we spent many hours reliving the nightmare, debriefing and consoling each other. We moved between the boats, but we felt like empty shells, drained and exhausted. We would quietly talk amongst each other and help where we could. As new cruising yachts arrived to port, some did not stay for very long. It was a depressing place to be and they would quietly slip in and out again. We managed to get our son back to West Australia with the assistance of the Australian Deputy High Commissioner to Samoa and our travel insurance company. In the days immediately following the tsunami I was frustrated beyond believe trying to get assistance. Unfortunately being Australian in a US territory was inconvenient! All the Australian aid was based in Western Samoa and we were the only Australians in this part of the world. It took several days to get any response from insurance companies and officials. It worked out in the end, but it took a lot of talking and negotiation on my part. Friends and family back in Australia were doing their best to help us, including members of our yacht club, Fremantle Sailing Club. They found a local bank manager on the island from our part of the world who was based in Pago Pago, David and his wife, Sue were our saviours and assisted us no end.

In the end we decided we were the lucky ones. We had our yacht insured unlike anyone else that had sustained damage. I had also taken out travel insurance prior to our adventure. I learnt that these are expensive options, but when you need them they are the best investment you could ever make! We also learnt that in the end it is the people we love and cherish that are the most important things in your life. We lost our boat, but would have it no other way if it meant we could have lost one of our family members. We asked ourselves over the months that followed should we have left the boat when we did. It was a natural reaction and we decided that we all survived so it was the best and only decision to make. We found out from eye witnesses later that “Biscayne Bay” was squashed between two large fishing vessels and so we would not have liked to be on her at the time. The amount of damage she sustained was extensive and the insurance company “wrote her off”. The remoteness of our location made the repairs required impossible. However, most of the people lucky enough to get swept out to the middle of the harbour sustained little damage . I have learnt over my time sailing that the best place to be is in open water. Our most dangerous times have always been in an anchorage or port. We had been so careful and well prepared for this journey, Garry was a diligent Captain and spent hours every day checking and maintaining systems on this boat. We had spare parts for every conceivable system and often loaned them to other cruisers who did not have such an extensive inventory. However, in the end nothing could prepare you for this disaster. There was no skill needed for survival here and if you come out alive and unscathed it was pure luck.

We eventually sold the wreck of “Biscayne Bay” to a local family who will take their time and gradually restore her to her former glory. We packed our personal belongings and sent them back to WA in a container, we said goodbye to our friends and flew back to Australia. The friendships formed we will sustain for our lifetime, when you survive a disaster like we did you bond in a special way. So quickly life changes! Suddenly our dream was over and now we face the reality of land-based living again. We had thought we would be travelling for at least another year, but I have learnt to be adaptable and take each day as it comes. I would like to think we have become stronger and more resilient from our experiences. I would like to think that we will be planning another adventure in the future and we will eventually have another boat, but for the time being we are just going to catch our breath and savour life.

Pago Pago, American Samoa

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After another three night, five day sail of hand steering from Suwarrow to Pago Pago Harbour and American Samoa was the next port of call. An incredibly beautiful island with verdant green mountains and a large pod of humpback whales greeted us on our entry to this island paradise. We were very excited about being able to restock the boat with reasonably priced groceries and alcohol. The thought of some fresh vegetables and a restaurant cooked meal was something we dreamed about. Amazingly after trying to raise the harbour master without success and docking at the customs dock, the first sign of American culture was a MacDonald's. We commented on the incredibly safe harbour we were in and how protected it would be from cyclones, Little did we know what this safe haven had in store for us two days later. In typical island time, no officials were there to greet us, so we waited to see what we needed to do to clear customs and immigration. Eventually a quarantine officer wandered down and told us to come back on Monday for check in and we could officially now visit this magnificent and scenic island. No money or paperwork was exchanged, but we had learnt over the time we had sailed into so many harbours and islands you cannot rush things and do not get too hang up on officialdom.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Paradise found

After sailing some exotic and isolated places this would have to be the ultimate destination. There is no other way to get to Suwarrow Island (sometimes know as Suvarov), found in the northern most tip of the Cook Islands, except by your own boat. It is uninhabited, except for a ranger, John, his wife, Veronica and their four beautiful boys who live here for 6 months of the year. There are no shops or amenities of any sort, but it is beautiful with palm lined beaches, the clearest turquoise water that is teaming with life, some that can only be found in this National Park. Black-tipped sharks circle your boat, but they are so well fed they do not bother you when swimming. John and his boys feed the sharks the fish offal on the other side of the island daily and this is truly an awesome sight. After seven days of hand-steering the boat from Bora Bora, the sight of land was truly welcoming. We had a very unsettling passage with variable winds and swell and for the first time ever, Lisa had a small bout of sea sickness. Luckily it did not last long, but a new found empathy for those who suffer regularly was instilled.

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The beach life in Suwarrow Island, Cook Islands

This was one of the islands you would describe as true paradise. Every night we would journey ashore to this uninhabited island to share our dwindling supplies with other cruisers and the ranger and his family. After the expense of French Polynesia everyone was foraging in the bottom of the bilge for those few remaining tins of vegetables and other delicacies. Alcohol became very rare and some quick bartering became necessary.
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Suwarrow Island, Cook Islands

Jake with John and Veronica's boys preparing yellow-fin tuna for supper. This was a daily ritual on the beach, where our generous caretakers would share the rich bounty they caught each day from sea surrounding this stunning atoll.Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bora Bora

It took some effort to depart Tahiti, somehow we just could not leave. However, not because we did not want to but, we understood why they call it the "Isles de Vent". We spent a very scary night at anchor with 60 knot winds, watching boats dragging their anchor and flying by us why Garry stayed up motoring into the wind to take the pressure of the anchor and then when we finally got out the harbour we got whipped, broke our mainsail furler and limped back to port. After repairs we set off again thinking we would try a different tactic and head around the southside of Morea, again to be hit by confused large swells and 35 plus knots of wind. This time we found a break in the fringing reef and spent the night in a beautiful deserted bay, watching the locals undergo a canoeing regatta. We think our boat become part of the race as they rounded the bow to head back down the bay. In the end we just made a dash for it and headed towards Bora Bora. A beautiful night sail, with the moon as company saw us arrive at the reef edge of Bora Bora at sunrise, where we were greeted by a large whale frolicking in the early morning light. The island is beautiful and you understand why it is considered the jewel of French Polynesia. We spent several days walking through the markets and tourists shops, snorkeled in the most clear and warm water we have ever had, drank hideous Tahitian rum (paradise comes with a price and any imported alcohol is way too expensive). Unfortunately we have to leave as the cyclone season is breathing down our neck and we have altered our original plans to get home as soon as possible. We are heading towards Suwarrow (the northern tip of the Cook Islands) and then America Samoa where the cost of reprovisioning is much more reasonable and we can spend our remaining American dollars. So no more entries or normal emails for probably 10 to 11 days.
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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Tahiti Looks Nice!

Individuals of our approximate vintage may remember that soap add with the woman telling her pilot in her private jet "Tahiti looks nice".Well here we are and it is beautiful, friendly and does have something exotic about it. I don't know if it is the French language, culture and cuisine set in an idyllic, balmy tropical setting, surrounded by turquoise water and rimmed with reef, or the towering emerald, volcanic peaks that does it, but it has it all! Have I tempted you yet? Well Bora Bora is next and this is one place I have always dreamed of so more tempting stories are to come!Posted by Picasa

Land Ahoy!

After 22 days at sea the crew and "Biscayne Bay" arrived at the beautiful island of Nuka Hiva in the Marquesas Islands which form part of French Polynesia. The locals were most welcoming with invites to beach parties and feasts and even taught them some local dialect mainly in the form of drinking chants!! After a stay of 5 days and a chance to restock with some fresh produce and get their land legs back, they set sail again for a 5 day sail to Tahiti. This was the first time they were under any pressure to meet deadlines as Lisa was arriving from Auckland to rejoin the crew, they dropped anchor one hour before her plane touched ground and what a nice surprise for her to see Garry's beaming, tanned face as she walked through the arrival doors. A totally unexpected surprise for her!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Life at Sea en route to Marquesas Islands

This is the longest leg of the journey being almost 3000nM, as the boys are at sea I am (Lisa that is) enduring the anxiety of wondering how they are and where they are over the next 3 to 4 weeks. I decided the best way to record this time would be to include some of the notes/emails sent to me regarding their progress and their time at sea. They left on 21st July from Galapagos knowing that they needed to find the trade winds as soon as possible to conserve their fuel supply (we estimated it would last 10 days under full steaming).

Day 1: A message from 5NM offshore only 2945 to go!!!All is well and will stay in touch as often as possible.
Day 3: 2.40am this time and the 40m band works well at this time and doesn't interfere with the autopilot when TX.....I was sad when I looked back at Miami as we left Key Biscayne,just eager to get home now.Think we have the first of the trades, just turned off the motor and still making 5.5 kts under mizzen and staysail adjusted course to our rhumb line of 254 which takes us into the Marquesas.
Day 4: All is well,sailing now with staysail,mizzen and genoa at a pleasant 6 to 7 kts,massive swell but well spaced. We have some new creaks aboard here!Just missed a pro fishing boat approx 120',saw him ten mile out started hailing him about 5 mile out as we were on a collision course!Turned on our spreader lights shone a spotty at him ,started yelling into the vhf when he was a mile off,then virtually stuck the spotlight in his wheelhouse as he passed within 750' of us,no contact was made via radio and "no engaged in fishing lights" were displayed either. 310NM from land and they are still using us as target practice.
Day 10: Super huge seas out here at the moment very hard to do anything,had a whopper smack the Port side and punched out the laundry port light smashing it to bits!!That was fun to replace and mop up the sea water.Right now we have following seas at around 30' ,they are higher than the mizzen boom before they start to break!The old girl is handling it, as is the crew,but it is draining.
Day 11: The emails are getting hard to send and receive,like most things out here just bloody hard work.The seas today are massive at times 11m and just huge, almost on the stern so it's a bit like Adderley Cut for over 24hrs now and getting very tired of it indeed. We left the Galapagos Islands 11 days ago and still on the same tack, haven't touched the sails in all that time,the trades are certainly doing well, a big sea runs with them as well and makes it fun just trying to get dressed!Chris and I run 4 hr watches at night whilst his lordship Jacob will advise us at his leisure if he will be joining us on deck.He does however do a day watch along with a little school work and the daily fridge restock of juice etc and of course a couple of ales for the working crew.The solar panels I installed are first rate and keep the system 100% plus during daylight hours,at night I run the genset for about 3 hrs in total which is when I run the fridge as well.We had a port light punched out by a rather large wave the other day ,which gave me something to do ,smashed it in half!Other than that I read a 600 page book in two days.....throw approx a dozen flying fish off the deck each day then run the water maker to clean all the mess the fish make on deck and top off the tanks.......aah the cruising life for me!Stay tuned for more intense and exciting stories from the "Bay"
Day 14: All is well aboard,after yesterdays little drama,we had a smoke alarm go off!!!Ended up being a short of the main panel feeding the water maker,it had a old/bad resistive connection and got bloody hot and was smoldering!!Good job we fitted the smoke detector in the compartment under the microwave,Jake was ready with the extinguisher too.Fixed it today and all runs well.Saw a ship on the ,and had a pod of 40 dolphins playing with us for 3 hrs jumping and all sorts.
Then the emails became rare and the anxiety for the shore-based crew began to creep until:
Day 17 : ALOOOOO-ha from Garry. He has not had email for a couple day's. I am in Hawaii and am delivering a message from him:...All OK aboard.Please advise Shirley. 88's from Garry
via Randy, ham radio operator KH6RC
So, I was not anticipating any further emails or position reports until they arrive in Nuka Hiva, which should be around Day 21 and all we can do is wait for news of their safe arrival, however another connection was made.
Day 19: Very sorry about lack of contact HF has been awfull ,very hard to get anyone at all,hope you received message from KH6RC Randy from net control in Hawaii!?Right now I am using a pactor station in NZ so I guess we are on the way home.We have 344nm to go and cant wait to get of this boat for a while,the swells are still massive and everything is hard to do. Sending all my love....please let Shirley know all is well as it is still on and off with Pactor.
Day 20: We are getting slammed out here,lost a huge cooked breakfast today all on the floor due to a huge swell.Got woken up during the afternoon with the Genoa in the water....the halyard gave way and she dropped like a stone so a trip aloft awaits when we get to an anchorage!Looks like a ring broke on the lift!Otherwise all is well.
Day 21: The Genoa went for a swim yesterday when the halyard broke loose,loads of fun for sure,hope to sort it out on the anchor,just hoped its not ripped!It has cost us a day in speed and should be there early Thursday morning.Give my love to all.

and then first thing on Day 22..... the phone rang and it was Jacob to let us know all was well, they had arrived, cleared customs, paid their bond, bought fresh food and the adult members of the crew were celebrating with large quantities of the amber ale.


After 10 days at sea, some very large swells and generally unfavourable winds the crew and Biscayne Bay made it to the Galapagos Islands where they rested for a week. They refuelled, did some restocking of fresh produce before they set off on the next leg of the journey which was approximately 3000nM to the Marquesas Islands. Anastasia and Lisa killed some time in the USA and visited the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam and Las Vegas before they embarked on the 36 hours in transit back to West Australia. Lisa of course is now enduring the long wait before she can rejoin the boat in Tahiti to complete the journey back to Australia. Anastasia has adjusted to life back on land and has returned to school, her pets and friends. She will remain in Australia with friends and family while we bring the boat to Australian shores, this will mean the family unfortunately will be split for a few months, but we will be reunited in Queensland with the hope of cruising the Whitsunday Islands for the summer months.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The one that got away!

This one did really get away and Chris was ready with his camera to record the evidence. Jake is into the big game fishing now and hooked himself a black marlin en route to Galapagos Islands. This was an occasion that it was a better option that it escaped rather than dragging it onto the deck.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Panama Canal

After all the reading, preparation, anticipation etc. the Panama Canal transit was a relative breeze. Thanks to the organisational skills of our agent, Tina McBride and her team of colleagues the whole process was very professional and the transit staff courteous and very helpful. The first set of locks known at the Gatun Locks were transited without incidence thanks to our skilled handlers, in particular Rudi who instructed Chris on the finer details of Panama Canal line handling. We now have visions of Chris' future career! We spent the night on Lake Gatun where the howling monkeys kept us company in the thick jungle that surrounds the lake. We had an early start and moved down the "Banana Channel" to make our booking time for the "Miaflores Locks". Again our advisor was most helpful and provided us with many interesting stories and facts regarding the lock's history.For all of us the whole experience was quite amazing. We spent a few nights at Balboa Yacht Club before moving to Flamenco Marina to restock the boat for the long haul across the Pacific. After cooking, shopping, servicing engines, minor repairs, completing all the official paperwork we were ready to go and to say our goodbyes. Peaches our ship hamster found a new home on a fishing boat with Sagi, a 12 year old American boy. Anastasia and Jake where sad to see her go, but Australian quarantine will not allow her entry to our country, so a happy outcome really. Anastasia and Lisa said goodbye as well, as they head back to Australia for a semester of school. It will be another 6 weeks before Lisa rejoins them in Tahiti. So we waved goodbye from the dock and wish them fair winds and smooth seas en route to the Galapagos.
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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Colon, Panama

After 11 days at sea the boys and "Biscayne Bay" arrived in Colon, Panama. They had a good trip, but very little wind to assist their travels. They had some sloppy seas with occasions of big 5 to 6 metre swells and sometimes 50 knot squalls, but the "big old girl" pulled through and bought them all safely to harbour. We are booked for a Panama Canal Transit for Tuesday, 30th June 2009. Lisa and Anastasia rejoined the boat to travel the canal together and to restock the boat ready for the big "transpac". Now we are this far there is no turning back, so watch out Australia here we come!
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En route to Panama

Finally after many months of trying Jacob managed to land that elusive Mahi Mahi(dolphin fish). They caught not only one, but a second one, one hour later after crossing the Gulfstream towards the Grand Bahama Bank. Unfortunately, Lisa and Anastasia did not get to enjoy the fish dinners that followed, totally planned they thought. They managed to make good progress and moved towards Colon, Panama at a good pace making only one stop at Great Inagua, as one of our crew members, Bob become ill and had to be flown back to the USA for some follow up treatment. This left a crew of Jacob, Chris and Garry with Lisa and Anastasia waiting impatiently on shore hoping all would be fine and organising the paperwork and meeting the agents to ensure a smooth transit through the Panama Canal.
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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Goodbye to the USA

After much planning and organising we have said goodbye to the USA as the "Bay" makes her way south to Panama Canal. Lisa and Anastasia headed back to Titusville to stay with friends and then will fly to Panama City to wait for "Biscayne Bay" to arrive. Garry, Jacob and friends Bob and Chris will crew her on her last journey through USA waters. It was with some sadness and fitting that her last port of call was "No Name Harbour" on Key Biscayne. Garry will attempt to plot her position daily on the following link.

They are currently on route to the Bahamas and will then make their way to the Windward Passage and Jamaica, where they hope to pick up the trade winds to make for a fast sail to the canal. We wish them smooth seas and fair winds and hope that the next blog will be news of their arrival.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Fenton's and the Cross's Vancouver Island

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Horse riding Vancouver Island British Columbia

My favourite uncle "Ray" (he likes to hear that) gave Lisa and Anastasia a horse fix,after 10 months of travelling the girls really miss their horses at home in Oz!
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Anastasia and her first snow!!

Juneau Alaska was Anastasia's first taste of snow,we think she enjoyed it,even when she fell over in it!
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MS Norweigan Star alongside in Juneau Alaska

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Biscayne Bay Field Trip

Well after many months of bleating we managed to get Garry to leave the boat for several weeks while we headed off to take advantage of the amazing travel bargains. Thanks to a secure marina and some great people to look out for the boat, we headed off on a belated honeymoon for seven days on the Norwegian Star, for a cruise through the inner passage of Alaska. What an amazing place and experience. We got waited on hand and foot; no cooking, dishes, navigating or winching. Bliss!!! The children got to experience snow for the first time and loved the unlimited choice of food. We managed to keep their schooling going, much to their annoyance, even if it was only a token effort at times. We spent sometime in Vancouver and Seattle and then drove to Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. We caught the ferry for a two hour trip to Duke Point, Nainamo to visit Garry's Uncle Ray and Aunty Hilary. The children felt immediately at home and enjoyed their warm hospitality. We were totally spoilt and enjoyed the many stunning sights of this lovely part of the world. Anastasia and Lisa went horse-riding through the forests with Ray and this will be one part of our trip that will always be remembered. Garry met his cousins, Natalie and Clarke for the first time and had not seen his uncle and aunt since he was eight years old. So this was a special trip for all concerned and we were sorry to say goodbye. We hope that the children may be inspired to make the journey back in years to come.
We drove back to Seattle and then flew to New York for four days of playing tourist. We braved the subway and caught the train from JFK airport to Manhattan Island. What the hotel lacked in glamour it made up for in location. We could walk outside the foyer and see the Empire State building. We spent the next few days walking throughout New York and would limp back to the hotel late at night. What an amazing and crazy city, so many people, but so much pollution! The beautiful weather followed us everywhere and it was quite warm in each place we visited. We saw the Empire State building, Statue of Liberty, Broadway, Madison Square Gardens and the Natural History Museum (which was a special favourite of the children). We visited the Seaport Maritime Museum where we toured "the Peking", which is a four-masted barque built in 1911 and was one of the last steel sail boats in service. Garry and I had both read the story of her voyages and so that was quite a meaningful experience for us. They also had the lighthouse ship "Ambrose" available for touring, again this was an amazing piece of history. We enjoyed a horse-carriage ride through Central Park and would walk through Time Square each night and found a great little deli where we would eat "New York" pizza. We managed to squeeze everything on our "wish list" into the four days we had, then caught the train down the East coast of the USA back to Florida. We passed through Baltimore and Washington DC and saw some of the landmarks. We travelled by Chesapeake Bay and saw many of the southern states. Amazing we crossed from one side of the country to the other and have now visited each corner. A fantastic and tiring trip and now we go back to preparing the boat for her sail home.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Cape Canaveral, USA

We made it back to the USA after the most amazing night sail, with a near full moon and the gulf stream behind us we managed a speed of 9.5 knots for most of the night. We covered 190nM in 23 hours. Somehow, I do not think we should get used to such speeds! Despite dodging the many cruise ships, tankers and fishing trawlers we made it to Cape Canaveral at sunrise and here we are back in the US and A! The kids have settled into marina life after so many months on the anchor and are reluctant to leave all the wonderful friends we have made. The highlight has been the space shuttle launch and an invite to family day at the space centre by Kent and Terry (who is the nurse for the astronauts when they return from their missions). Everyone has been so generous and lent us their cars, tools, time and entertained us over the months. Lisa's highlight was an invite by our neighbours Hank and Annette to see Fleetwood Mac in concert in Sunrise, Fort Lauderdale, her first night away from the family in 8 months. The wonderful people here have included Bob and Nancy who loaned us no end of equipment, Cathy and Steve for their car and hamster sitting abilities, Milt for his entertainment and chauffeur talents too; Tammy and Jim the wild and crazy guys with no end of specialist tools and RUM!!! We have managed to get our precious "Bays" bottom painted and repaired the stuffing box, a first for Garry, but as usual always completed to perfection. We said goodbye to the " Rebellers", our lovely Canadian family in Titusville as they headed North back home for the summer. We had a lovely visit from Jon from "Cattitude" our sailing buddy from the Bahamas and our friends from Dania , Bob and Bear (Francesca) from "MV Tiger Cat". They decided to move their boat to Harborside Marina with us and we spent several weeks enjoying their company before they returned to the UK and France. Well we were all packed and stocked ready to head south to Panama. We decided that the original plans to head North were not going to be feasible with regards to time and finances, but as usual we got side tracked and ended up in Alaska. We decided to do some sight-seeing around the USA and booked a cruise to Alaska. It all happened very quickly! The bookings were completed on Thursday and we had to be in Vancouver on Saturday! Well we managed to get there after a frenzy of packing and arrangements.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

One more sunset!

Another beautiful sunset with " the Bay" in Great Sale Cay, Bahamas.
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Dolphins on the bow from Fox Town to Great Sale Cay in the Abacos, Bahamas .
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Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Bahamas

With intermittent Internet maintaining the Blog and updating it has been a challenge. We are now in Treasure Cay in the Abacos en route back to the USA. We decided to head back to the States as we have some work to do on the boat and we still have not seen any of the sights. We have met lots of fantastic people throughout our three months in the Bahamas and have been sailing in company ever since we left No Name Harbour in Key Biscayne. We are thinking of heading north to Chesapeake Bay to visit Washington DC, Baltimore, Newport and New York. We may even manage to make a trip to Canada. We have seen some amazing places in the Bahamas like Bimini, the Berry's, Nassau, Exumas, Royal Island in Eleuthera and now the Abacos. We are enjoying the Abacos like many other places we have been to, but are ready to experience some other cultures and sights. The children have enjoyed the challenges of fishing and have had a couple of fish on their line, but have never been able to bring them on board before they escape or snap the line. We are looking forward to heading north and seeing what challenges come our way.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Irwins in Shroud Cay bay

Garry with two Irwins in the bay"Biscayne Bay" and our cruising buddy Fred's
35 Citation "Casa Mare".
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Allens Cay

Lisa and her new found best buddy............Iguanas.A native to only the Bahamas and in particulary this small island in the Exuma chain .Prehistoric little things that come and eat lettuce and the like from your hand.
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Atlantis resort Paradise Island Bahamas

A highlight of our trip for the kids..............besides Disney World of course was Atlantis ,an amazing sea aquarium resort and world class marina.Underwater rides through glass tubes filled with sharks and various fish really caught Jacob and Anastasia's attention.
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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Back in the Big Smoke!

We have just spent five days in the Bahamas capital, Nassau on New Providence Island. The kids had a great time and spent three days at Atlantis on Paradise Island. What an amazing place! Disneyland on the water, but there is something quite beautiful about the place because they combine the ecology of the area by having the most amazing aquariums you have ever seen with rides and entertainment. We were blown away by the shark tube which combines a water slide going through tunnels in the shark tank. Scary! Just being dockside was luxury with electricity, showers and unlimited water! Aah, something we only dream about since cruising.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Under Sail Berry Islands, Jan 2009

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New Year Sail through the Berry Islands

We spent New Year in Great Harbour Cay, Berry Islands, the islanders even had fireworks! We had a great run from Bimini and spent the night anchored on the Great Bahama Bank. Amazing in the middle of nowhere, 50 nautical miles offshore and you can drop the anchor in 8 foot of water and in another 1 nM you are in 5000 feet. Incredible! The colours of the water are amazing, and we jump off the boat for a morning swim in the crystal clear water before we head off again. We have been sailing in company since we left the USA, which is always comforting. Fellow cruisers are always so ready to help. We spent Jacob's birthday under sail, and our fellow cruisers helped celebrate on board that evening. We are currently anchored near a lovely island called Frazer's Hog Cay and head off in the morning to Nassau on New Providence. We hope to spend Anastasia's birthday and a belated Jacob's birthday visiting Atlantis on Paradise Island. We plan to lash out on the Atlantis Marina and spend a night using their facilities e.g. pools, free entry to the aquarium and the luxury of a long hot shower!! We get excited when we get internet now days!!! We are all well and are enjoying the cruisers life! We are intending to keep sailing South and hope to sail to Georgetown in the Exumas in the coming weeks.