Monday, July 18, 2011


Whether it is on the boat, at a house on dry land, or in a camper van somewhere, there is always maintenance to be done.  Without it, the house - the boat - your health won't be ready to go when you are.

So, since we have been back in SLC we have been varnishing the teak from our boat as well as doing house work so that when we are ready to go, everything is in place.  It's not glamorous but it keeps us moving forward.

It is also very hot in Utah (I hesitate to say that when it's not even August yet, but...I'm just sayin').  Kala is a black dog (hence her name) so we bought her very own pool so she can cool off anytime she'd like.  While we're on the boat - she'll be able to jump in and cool off, so this is her "SLC ocean" for the time being.  She loves it!  Splashes around, sticks her nose under and blows bubbles, and plays dunk the tennis ball all by herself.  It is instant entertainment - good for her border collie side.

Our plans for the summer are up in the air.  Maybe Sturgis, maybe Yellowstone, maybe rock climbing, music festivals, farmer markets, etc... Definitely some boat prep, trip planning for the fall, canyon rides on the motorcycle, and definitely some good outdoor workouts.

Monday, July 4, 2011

South Pacific Expedition - Mopelia & Rarotonga

 Mopelia (Tahitian name: Maupihaa) is an atoll in the middle of the South Pacific, located about 100 miles west of Maupiti.  It is basically deserted with Hini, a Maupiti woman about 45 years old, being its only inhabitant.  It hasn't always been that way, but with devestation by Tropical Cyclone Martin in 1997, everyone has left and not returned.

Mahina Tiare approached the pass which was about 15 yards across and about 10 yards long.  The current coming out of the pass is usually about 6 knots but the highest we saw was only about 3.5 knots.  As long as you have a good engine, there is no problem.  Just make sure it doesn't stop midway through.  The pass has reefs on both sides and these reefs are about one foot deep, with 20 feet in the middle of the pass.  Motoring through, we saw the dorsal fins of a few sharks who were on the reefs - very cool to say the least.  Once you are in the lagoon, there is still coral navigating to be done with shallow spots about 5 feet deep straight ahead of the pass.  We moved to port, then to starboard, back to port and continued on with bow lookouts towards the island about 3 miles away.  Once we anchored, Amanda readied herself to jump in and check the lay of the hook and the danger of coral heads once it set when she immediately noticed three black-tip reef sharks in the lagoon.  After they were done scoping us out, they went on their way, Amanda jumped in and we all had a nice cool swim and an afternoon nap (we had been on overnight watch from Maupiti and were pretty tired).

The next day we dinghied to shore for a morning walk.  We found our way over to the ocean side of the atoll and it was such a difference - very rugged with huge breaking waves and rocky beaches.  The lagoon side of the island is flat water with white sandy beaches and beautiful shells.

That afternoon, we each climbed the mast to the second spreaders (about 80 feet high).  As fun as it was, it was actually a class.  Every sailor has to be comfortable going up the mast in case a halyard breaks, radar beacon needs to be repaired, windex needs to be replaced, steaming light goes out, etc... Baxter had a great time and decided he would take the fast way down and jumped from the spreaders into the water.  No mind that we had been feeding the sharks about thirty minutes before hand.

Afterwards, we went back ashore and met Hini.  John invited her to dinner aboard MTIII that night.  In the meantime, on board the boat, we did more MOB drills with the whole crew dodging pearl farm buoys and airing out the sails.  Hini later remarked that as she was getting ready for dinner, she was surprised to see us raising the sails and moving - she thought we were leaving and was slightly confused.  Dinner with Hini was entertaining.  As a collective, the entire crew used our french translation skills to understand and put the conversation together.  Hini had a slight accent and was hard to understand.  At one point Baxter looked at me and said "I think she just said Dolly Parton sailed on an expedition".

Part of the engine.  You can also see one of the sharks in the top center.
After navigating our course to Rarotonga which is 420 nautical miles from Mopelia, we headed out of the atoll through the pass.  Baxter and Verne snorkeled behind the dinghy into the ocean.  I was not extremely excited about it but as usual, it went off without a hitch.  We anchored off the reef, just outside the pass in 20 feet of water and jumped in to snorkel the wreck of the SMS Seeadler.  The story of this ship, which was originally a three-masted windjammer, and later became a German warship, is amazing.  If you have the time, I suggest reading more about it.  The natural trenches made by the current were the holding place for the crankshaft and many other old rusted parts of the engine.  It is hard to realize that ship has been there for almost 100 years.  While we were swimming, five black-tip reef sharks came out to play, as well as a HUGE sea turtle who was not expecting to see us.  It was definitely a highlight of the trip.

Black tip reef shark
After snorkeling, we began the 4-day sail to Raro with the wind behind us and then it turned and we sailed close hauled the rest of the way.  During the trip we had cruising medicine class and celestial navigation class - where we learned to use the sextant and take noon sites.  We also learned a few more knots and took our four watches per day at the helm.  On the second day, while we were mid-ocean, the rest of the crew went for a swim behind the boat, but at that point my eyes were so swollen and red I couldn't stand the thought of the salt water running over them.  We continued on to Raro, passing Mitiaro and Atiu.

On Thursday morning, Baxter and Annika were on the helm watching the sunrise and spotted Rarotonga reflecting the sunlight about 8 miles out.  We pulled into the harbor and moored stern-to (called Med mooring because of its abundance in the Mediterranean Sea).  John then went to the Harbor Master and notified customs & immigration of our arrival.  It took a few hours to get cleared and then we all headed ashore to stretch our 4-day-old sea legs.  Then it was off to dinner at Trader Jack's to celebrate the expedition.  We spent that night on the boat and then everyone went separate ways after breakfast Friday morning.  Of course, John and Amanda make their home on the boat and they would be preparing for the next 6-member crew and leg three of their expedition (Rarotonga to Western Samoa).  The six of us who had crewed on the boat had become friends and really enjoyed sharing the last three weeks together.  Though we all had different accommodations across the 25 mile island, we continued to meet every night for dinner and drinks and share stories and laugh together.

Rarotonga is definitely on our list of places to revisit.  We stayed at The Cooks Oasis and the kiwi family who runs it could not have been nicer.  The room was comfy and clean, they had snorkels and kayaks at your disposal, they arranged a scooter for our transportation during our stay.  It was really easy and enjoyable.  Rarotonga is simply beautiful.  Life is slow-paced, but there is nothing you need that you can't get there. Baxter and I took advantage of our last day on the island and hiked the Cross Island track which climbs up to a ridge to The Needle, the highest point on the island.  Towards the top of the hike, the path is so vertical, you are scrambling up tree roots like steps on a staircase.  Very good workout and well worth the vantage point at the top.

That night, we had a direct flight to LAX and it was uneventful (the best way to travel).  We picked up Kala on July 4th and she was full of wags and kisses, crying and spinning circles she was so happy.  We were just as elated to see her and I think she knew it.  Salt Lake City is one of the prettiest places on the planet and the Wasatch Mountains had mere remnants of last winter's snow but were mostly a beautiful bright green.  As we drove to the house, there were cyclists and runners everywhere and we were excited to get back to an outdoor fitness routine...after we catch up on some sleep, of course.