Monday, October 31, 2005

153 miles to go

Unfortunately the wind is at 10kn, dead on the nose. We're currently motoring into it with all sails down, as we can only make 2.5-3kn good towards sailing our destination due to the wind angle. We'll hopefully start sailing again soon. We should arrive in <48hrs regardless. Its getting very cold for those of us used to tropical weather! The sea temp has fallen from 82 to 64 in the last week!

Looking forward to some fresh groceries!

Cheers, -Pete

Sunday, October 30, 2005

radio chatter

Communicating by radio instead of phone, takes a bit of getting used to. The first major difference is that the sound only goes one way. If both people talk at the same time, you won't hear them, just like with walkie talkies. The other major change is that anyone and everyone can listen into your conversations. We have two radios for communication. The VHF can reach between 20 & 25 miles away. We use it for "local calls." Everyone in a area keeps their radio on a designated channel and you listen constantly for hails. "Imagine Imagine, this is Wyndeavor." "Hey Wyndeavor, lets go one eight." Then we switch from channel 16 to channel 18 to have a private conversation. Except, everyone else in radio range can switch to 18 and listen in. You never say anything over the radio that is meant to be a secret. People listen in for a number or reasons. We call it "following" to the channel. SO much of the time we plan things in groups, and it's just easier to have everyone on the same channel getting the info together. FOllowing (read eavesdropping) is also a good form of entertainment. We don't have TV or FM radio to listen to, so we snoop on other cruisers. In busy anchorages, like TOnga, the radio is in constant use, and I have to turn it off while I"m doing school. With 300 boats hailing all day, it's really obnoxious. Some places we were in in MExico were so isolated we left the radios on a channel and just always listened in to everyone else's conversations. That was quite fun when we were with 3 or 4 other boats and we constantly joked all day and night if we were sailing.

OUr second radio is referred to as a marine single side band or HF radio. OURs is also equipped to do Ham frequencies. THis radio is much more technical but can reach anywhere in the world under the right circumstances. We use it to keep in contact with friends who are more than 25 miles away, to send e-mail, and to get weather info. There are informal times to just chat with a group, and formal nets to report our position on passages. We usually use channel 8122 in the mornings between 7 & 8 to hear what the fleet is up to. It's our "long distance." IT's hit and miss who will be on frequency, so you don't always get who you want, and you listen to a lot of other peoples' conversations in that hour, but since we know just about everyone who used that time, it's nice to listen in.

Right now we are within VHF range of 5 other boats, and SSB contact with everyone on route to NZ. We talk twice a day. We have only seen one or two other boats, but it's nice to hear familiar voices when we're so far away from everything except water. SOme people have SSB receivers that don't transmit. "Jasp" has a receiver, but is within a few miles of us and we have been chatting on VHF about weather and course adjustments for the last couple of days. Their good friends on "Dreambird" are still in TOnga. THey heard us telling Calliope that we were in VHF with Jasp and asked me to get him to turn on his receiver. I called on VHF and Jasp responded. Dreambird talked over SSB, Jasp replied to me over VHF and I relayed back over SSB to Dreambird. It's not unusual to "relay" info if boats are not receiving each other, but that was my first one with a microphone in each hand.

That's just one more aspect of life afloat. We're doing well today. Ellis is over her seasickness, but I'm still battling a headache. The waves have subsided but the wind is hanging in there. The boats 100 miles ahead of us are motoring. Only two more days to go, I think I got confused and said we'd be there TUes, but really it's Wed. I really have no idea what day it is anyways. THe computer says it's the 31st, so the kids are doing Halloween stuff, but the trick or treating will be a bit difficult.

Take care, write soon Kellie

Saturday, October 29, 2005

440 miles to go

Things are slightly brighter and easier today. The sea has calmed a bit and we're not taking water over the boat as often. We're flying a reefed main, the yankee and staysail, to maintain speed but not get walloped. We're making an average of 6.6 knots so far, with a couple of 170+ mile days. We expect to be in NZ sometime on Tuesday (NZ time). We've passed a number of boats which is good for moral. Physically I'm making the adjustment to the motion. It takes me 48 hours of rough seas to acclimate. I don't get particularly nauseous, but extremely lethargic and sleepy. I feel like my limbs are made of lead, which makes taking care of the kids a supreme effort. After the first 2 days, I get used to it and start to function again. By the time we get into port though we're both pretty sleep deprived. Ellie is still pretty nauseous and can't keep food down. She's sleeping alot, which is unusual for her. Carter is fine, but just can't seem to stop talking. I think his mouth has been running at full tilt since we left. He says whatever he's thinking, whether it's relavent or not. He's in the phase of wishing that he could fly and that magic was real. Don't we all.

We crossed the half way point yesterday and for one brief moment the GPS registered 17 knots. Pete announced it on the radio and now people are trying to top that. Rob on Dolphins claimed that he swung from stern to bow on a halyard during the night, holding his GPS, making it clock 27 knots. Wolfgang on Wetnose claimed to have catapolted his GPS out of a slingshot at the whapping speed of 31.5. Can you tell we're all a bit bored and maybe hallucinating? There is also a fishing contest posed by Ocean Breezes. This morning during the net, Chris caught a 24 inch tuna. Walt on Nowa Days retorted, "that's only bait," compared to his 7 foot sailfish from a couple of weeks ago.

We did have a small casualty yesterday during all the squalls and waves breaking over us. One particularly nasty wave made it's way downstairs and splashed the laptop. We've now lost a, s & z keys, so I'm writing from the backup computer. Why couldn't it have been x & v?

We're making plans for all the things we want to buy at the grocery store once we reach civilization. Bagels, ice cream, english muffins, cottage cheese, yogurt, fresh milk and tortillas top the list. I'd like to find some decent crackers and cereal too. A lot of the stuff I bought in Tonga turned out to be so far past it's expiration date, as to be stale. I'm not sure if they send the expired stuff there or if no one buys it except cruisers.

The air and sea temps have dropped significantly down into the low 70's. We're wearing long pants and sweatshirts most of the day and it's actually cold at night. The long summery season is over.

Hanging in there, Kellie

Friday, October 28, 2005

Splash Mountain

I feel like I'm living on Splash Mountain. Imagine cooking, taking care of kids, using the bathroom all under the disclaimer, "This ride will result in wet people, wet clothes and should not be ridden by anyone with a heart condition." Living up to it's reputation, the trip to NZ is proving to be every bit as difficult and rough as anything we've been through before. We've got a consistent 20-25 knots on the beam and regular squalls with rain and gusts to 35. Everyone is sleeping in the salon, trying to find some comfort and just moving around is tough. I am managing to cook, although I'd rather just serve up crackers and cheese. NZ quarantine officers will visit the boat upon arrival and throw away all meat, dairy and produce, so I'm determined to eat it. Try frying chicken on roller coster. We're getting waves over the boat from every direction, and the cockpit is wet and salty. But hey, only 90 hour to go!! I just keep reminding myself that my next voyage will be on a 747.

We did have a bit of excitement yesterday, when the NZ airforce buzzed us in a DC10. We hd herd them on the VHF, nd ure enough they found us and flew over low enough to red the name of the back of the boat. They just asked some question bout our route and passenger and flew off. Carter wanted to know if they were nice or mean soldiers and if they had cannons on board.

"If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." so that's all I can think of.


We're in the E. Hemi!

Unfortuntely, got wve in the cockpit, which plhed the computer gin... 5o 5ome of the key5 r not working.

We've croxxed over the 180 degree E/W longitued, 5o we're now in the E. Hemiphere. 30kn+ of wind, big wve5. Finlly put reef in the min 5il nd 5lowed down to 8kn. We hit 17kn urfing! New record for Imgine.

oll i5 well, 'cept for teh computer -Pete

26-31 5outh x 177-58 E... 608 mile5 to go

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

923 miles to go

We're bashing along with the wind forward of the beam, making for a bit of a bumpy ride. We're going fast (7kn), which if we keep this up will get us to NZ on Nov. 2, but it's really too early to be planning that far out.

All is well, we've got around 30 boats on this passage along with us. Most are a day ahead of us, but it's still nice to talk to others on SSB ("The Big Radio") and hear about their weather and daily doings.


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Beautiful sailing

We're currently sailing under full main and spinnaker in flat seas with 10-15kn of wind from the east, just aft of our beam. Absolutly perfect sailing conditions! We're making 7kn and able to tweak our course just enough to align with the passes thru the reefs. It'd sure be nice if it stayed like this all the way! (except without all the reefs... but they're what are making the flat seas, so it's a trade off).


And we're off!!

The boat is clean; there's muffins, bread, cookies and lasagna prepared; the winches are greased; the bottom is scrubbed; the rigging is inspected and the pitch in the prop is adjusted. Now all we need is a bit of wind. With 5 knots of wind on the nose, we're motoring out of Tonga en route to New Zealand. I can hardly believe it. It's with mixed emotions that we embark on this last passage. We'll be leaving the tropics soon as we cross the Tropic of Capricorn and bringing to an end 10 months of sun and sand. Again, we're heading south instead of west, bringing an end to our rise in longitude. By the end of this passage we'll have sailed 10,000 miles.

We left the northwest last September at the start of fall. We entered the Sea of Cortez, (beginning of tropics) in the beginning of winter. Spring came just days before we headed across the Pacific and changed to fall as we crossed the equator. Now winter has passed and we're in spring again. Starting in Puerto Vallarta, the average temps started hovering in the 80's. Now we think that anything below 78 is cold. We haven't been in a summer season the whole trip, but the weather has seemed like one long summer. Summer in the tropics is cyclone season, so boaters avoid it like the plague. Spring in NZ is a bit like home, with average temps in the 60's. What a shock to drop 20 degrees in a week. The kids think their warm clothes are like costumes. They've outgrown all their socks and most of Ellie's sweatshirt sleeves came half way up to her elbow. I did plan ahead and bring some warm clothes for them to grow into, just for this time, so we won't freeze. I hope I remember how to tie shoelaces.

The radio has been humming these last couple of days as everyone jumps on this weather opportunity to head south. Scheduled contact times (nets) have been set up twice a day by various groups to stay in touch and report positions. We're listening in to four nets per day and checking in a group kid boats. We're calling ourselves the "Giddy Up Net." By my count this morning, 25 boats are underway within 200 miles of each other. Some left from the north group and some from middle and south so we're spread out a bit, but all sharing our experiences together. As of this morning no wind was being reported anywhere in the group. It's forecasted to pick up tomorrow, so we're planning to motor overnight if necessary to arrive in NZ before the next group of lows is forecasted to arrive around the 3rd. I always like hearing all the familiar voices everyday. We know all most all of the boats and nine of us have kids. By the way, I mentioned back in Mexico about a boat called Tournisol with a blind couple on board. They are part of this fleet and we heard them on the radio this morning reporting all is well. check out

All for now. We'll keep you posted.


Position reports

We're ready to leave today for NZ. There's no wind right now, but it should fill in throughout the day (hopefully!). We've got 35 miles of weaving thru coral and shoals before we get out of the south end of the Ha'apai island group, so having to motor isn't as bad as it seems. The latest long term weather forecast indicates that we need to arrive in NZ before November 3rd, so we've got to get moving. The wind forecast between now and then sounds ideal - a steadt 15-20 kn from the east all the way. There are usually nasty low pressure weather systems marching across north of New Zealand at a rate of one a week or less. Conventional routing for this leg is to leave just after a low passes and try to get there before another one hits. They're more severe the further south you get, so many folks leave when one is coming and take it on further north, then have a longer window before the next one comes. If you're lucky (or REALLY good at weather routing!) you make it without experiencing any lows. If you're really not, you might get whacked by two (or more) of them. Right now seems like an unusually long window. A low is scheduled to pass south of us today... it's time!

We've got enough fuel to motor for 100 hours, fresh water for 4 weeks in non-conserving mode, (i.e taking showers and using fresh water for dishwashing). We've got the least amount of food on board because we need to arrive in NZ with minimal provisions - both because quarantine will take some of it, and we have to get rid of the rest before leaving the boat when we fly home for Christmas. Kellie has done a fantastic job of correctly estimating usage (how much catsup does a family of 4 use in a year and a half, etc.? ) Position reporting via YOTREPS is up and working again. Check out the "Where are we now" link on and follow our progress on the maps as we sail 1200 miles from Tonga to New Zealand


hermit crab and sea horse update

Just a quick note to say thanks for reading. I know you are because I have left two loose ends on the blog and have been asked to finish the stories. First of all, the hermit crab died overnight, and we felt really bad, so I didn't put it on the website. :( We didn't mean to kill him, and the shell is pretty great, so I got over my remorse fairly quickly. Second, we didn't see the seahorses. We did find pipefish, which are a very close relative. They swim horizontally, but have the same horse shaped head. We didn't make it on a night snorkel, so maybe they really only come out at night.

We're off tomorrow for NZ!! That's Tuesdays in the U.S. We're anticipating it taking anywhere between seven and 10 days!! I'm really dreading it, but am as organized as can be. I'd really appreciate prayers for energy, strength and joy. We all get exhausted and on each others' nerves on passage, so this is a bit daunting. This will be the longest sail we've done with the kids, without crew. We might stop in Minerva Reef for a break about 3 days down, so that might be the ticket to sanity. It's all dependent on weather, so pray for 12 days of moderate trade winds with no gales.

All for now, it's time to make dinner. We've learned how to make tortillas, which is great because we love tacos and really missed them after leaving Mexico, but it's time consuming so I better get started.


PS- I've gotten out all the warm clothes since it's estimated to be in the mid 60's in NZ right now. Ellie has just popped out of her cabin wearing a stocking cap, a sweatshirt, a coat, sweats and tennis shoes. It's 90 degrees today and I'm sitting in front of a fan as I type!! We'll see how long she lasts.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Too much excitement

I guess I'll start at the beginning of the saga of the last couple of days. It makes a good story when there's some fun, some drama and some fright. We waited out the rain storm of a couple days ago fine. Walt on Nowa Days had caught a 7 foot sword fish on his way down here, so they have been sharing it around with everyone. We went over there on Friday night to share Carter's birthday brownies and had a lovely dinner with them and Calliope (from Seattle.) Nowa Days' kids are a bit older, but Casey (11) plays with both of ours really great. She loves to bead, so Ellie enjoys the girl time.

Saturday morning the clouds had gone, leaving us with a scorching hot, humid day. We moved the boat to a calmer anchorage about a mile away and took off for the beach. The white sand, blue water and green foliage make this one of the most beautiful places we have been. No longer are the beaches made up of coral chunks, but actual white powdery sand. We collected some great shells, snorkeled and the kids built a fort with Casey and David. Sunday morning dawned hot and still. No breeze means no comfort, so a day in the water was our best bet. The elusive painted lobster inhabits the lagoon, so off we went in a parade with Nowa Days and Calliope in search of coral heads to dive on. With Pete on the bow and me at the wheel we kept watch for "uncharted coral" and navigated to a large charted head. Wendy, Pete, Walt and Casey dove while the rest of us snorkeled. The visibility was about 60 feet, so we watched the divers below us and swam through clouds of small fish. Skip saw a grouper, which he claims was the size of a Volkswagen! Pete surfaced with a 24 inch lobster in his bag that Walt had shot. Another goal for the trip was fulfilled and what to have for dinner was solved. Walt loves lobstering, so with the excitement of the first kill coursing through them, we set off for another coral head to do more hunting. The kids played in the bubbles from the divers and the guys dove with spears. Sure enough, Pete shot another huge critter and the day was made complete.

After a bit of cleaning up and some photo ops with the lobsters, we headed for a nearby anchorage to meet up with friends on Wetnose and Ohana. The chart book indicates "uncharted coral" in the area and recommends a sharp lookout. We took our stations on bow and wheel and moved off. Casey and Ellie traveled with us, while Carter and David rode on Nowa Days. We brought up the rear of the group this time. Everyone else was settled as were were making our final approach. Suddenly, Pete gave me the "hard over to port" hand signal. I hit the auto pilot "stand by" button and cranked the wheel hard over. A large coral patch loomed ahead, but as we turned we got caught in a current that pushed us right up onto it. Crunch. I hit reverse and Pete ran back to the cockpit, but it was too late. The current was too much for us and we were hard aground in five feet of water. Adrenaline began to flow as the boat tipped over one way in the swell and then crashed back the other way. Every 30 seconds or so we got picked up, came back down with a jolt higher on the coral. The mast vibrating back and forth and the scraping noises were nerve wracking. I watched over the side to see if we were moving on or off at all, as Pete gunned the engine. Nothing. The girls down below chased after their color books and markers that went flying as we tipped over 25 degrees from side to side. I put out an emergency hail on the VHF to the other four boats for help. Calliope immediately responded and came out, as Pete deployed the bow anchor from the dinghy to try to winch ourselves forward. I came back inside to find the girls getting more and more scared. I called on the radio again. "Nowa Days, Ohana, Wetnose, this is Imagine, we're hard aground and need immediate assistance," I said in a shaking voice. This time they all heard and were on their way immediately.

I started to use the electric winch to wind in the anchor chain while Pete took a halyard from the top of the mast to the dinghy and tried to pull us over to one side. We hoped that the boat would heal to port, and therefore not hit the bottom again while I winched us off. It didn't work and Pete went air born for 20 feet backwards in the dinghy as the boat rolled to the other side and brought him with it. The windlass breakers kept popping so I had Casey stand inside and keep flipping them back on as I pushed the button on deck. Three dinghies pushed from Starboard, but we were stuck and still pounding. Walt jumped in the water with snorkel gear and determined that we'd have to back off. Wolfgang deployed our stern anchor in Wetnose's dinghy so we could try the operation in reverse. Pete manned the engine and I cranked on the winch to pull us towards the stern anchor. Quickly we traded jobs, cause my muscles are no match for his. The new plan seemed to be working, and with Pete cranking, Skip and Wendy pushing in dinghies, Walt in the water and me calming the girls, we stared to inch backwards. Ellie and Casey helped anyway we asked, but they got more and more scared and upset as the minutes went by. The noise and the yelling and the jarring made it seem like the boat was going to fall apart any minute. Casey hyper ventilated and they both started to cry. I tried to reassure them that we had friends to help, and everything would be OK with God watching over us, but at the moment I wasn't sure what was going to happen. At some point in the process of running back and forth I took a good fall and twisted my ankle, strained my wrist and skinned my shin. Of course none of it hurt until the adrenaline calmed down half and hour later. Wolfgang took the halyard again and pulled us over a bit and we followed Walt's directions on which way to push with the dinghies and finally we broke free. Nothing felt so good as to be floating again in 12 feet of water.

The girls needed a fair amount of reassuring after it was over. Alicia (age 8) from Wetnose came on board and the girls were able to tell her their version of the story and I think that helped. Then, we had 2 tangled anchor chains to retrieve and a possibly damaged boat to deal with. The other cruisers really stepped up and helped get the bow anchor untangled and retrieved. Paul from Ohana retrieved the stern anchor and Pete jumped in the water for a look. Amazingly, no apparent damage was done to the keel. I can't say the same for the coral. The rigging still needs a close inspection, but I think we're in the clear. Everyone assured us that just 100 yards in front of us, the bottom was unobstructed sand and we'd be just fine. We moved in, got settled and went to Nowa Days for an awesome, and much deserved, lobster dinner.

Now that you think the excitement if over, we come to Monday morning. (Remember we're one day ahead of you all at home.) Before we were even out of bed, Wolfgang showed up in the dinghy with the message that the weather report had just come through from New Zealand and starting today there is a 10 day weather window to do the crossing. After that they are expecting several weeks of unsettled weather systems coming through. The recommendation to cruisers is to go now, or stay for weeks. Since we're in a bit of a time schedule to meet guests and come home, we're planning to go with the pack and head out. So instead of a nice relaxed week at the beach, we're in "get ready" mode. The wind today is too calm to sail but is expected to build by Thursday. We're planning to watch the weather forecasts and probably leave on Wed. I think there will be at least 20 boats going in a pack, so we'll have lots of radio contact, which makes me feel safer.

Well, I'd better get to work, cleaning, cooking, baking and organizing. Never a dull moment!!

-Cheers Kellie

Hope you got all that. I think 3 short messages is better in sailmail than one long one. I just couldn't make the story shorter! :)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Yesterday we did the passage to Ha'apai in squirrelly wind (mostly close hauled), rain, thunder, lightening and upset tummies. I guess it wasn't our best day. We've all been having a bit of nausea lately. I'm thinking it is because of the local vegies that we've been eating. They are home grown and need a lot of cleaning. I'm going back to my strict vegie washing routine of using bleach in the wash water. I've also been having a lot of headaches, and just found myself completely exhausted yesterday. I slept until 2 in the afternoon on and off. The kids each took naps too which is really rare. So much for school.

Pete sailed and checked weather forecasts every couple of hours, as we watched the sky darken. We arrived in the main village around 5 pm, just in time to get settled, put on the sail covers, plug up the scuppers and catch the rain that poured from the sky. It rained all night, and now today it's grey and dreary. Pete has checked in with the local authorities, bought bread and bananas and I'm doing some baking and school. We plan to move out to another anchorage a few miles away where reportedly there are lobsters. We have fulfilled most of our to do list for this trip, except catching lobsters.

I'm getting antsy to get a move on to NZ, so I hope this last week in Tonga will be great. Hopefully the sun will come back out and we'll be well rested before we go. Pete's finger is healing nicely, and much faster than we had been told to expect. It will have a pretty bad scar, but is mostly closed up although still sore. At least he's able to get wet and use it again. Your prayers are appreciated.

It's time to do the dishes, so I'm off-- Kellie

Monday, October 17, 2005

the other side

I've mentioned before that I try to write both sides of cruising. The fun is so fun and the difficulties can be so difficult. After such an amazing day on Sunday, we're now having two days of chores, frustrations and planning. There's always a list of last minute things to do before we head on to a new place. In this case, we're intending to stop in the central island group of Tonga, which has very little information published about it. Pete has been going from boat to boat with blank CD's and a memory stick, copying cruising guides, lists of uncharted reefs, and radio schedules. Someone recently remarked that modern sailors spend more time fiddling with their computers than with their sails. It's true. Pete also borrowed a DVD burner to back up our laptop, and after about 4 hours of messing around and letting it work, it ruined 3 DVD's and we had no back up. In the end, he did find something that worked, so we now have a disc with our whole life on it. I spent yesterday doing dishes, teaching school, putting on clean sheets, putting away laundry and cooking. Nothing unusual about that, it's basically what I did at home. Water is not free here or easy to get, so we're rationing a bit and it didn't seem unreasonable to pay $25 to have four loads of laundry washed, dried and folded.

We had hoped to be on our way today, but after a crazy day of computing, cleaning up, sharing digital pics with Dolphins and fixing the sailing dinghy mast, we didn't have it in us to stow the dinghies, put away the snorkel gear and leave at 4 a.m. The trip to Ha'apai is 60 miles, and with light winds predicted, that might take up to 12 hours. It's best to leave plenty early in the morning to arrive in daylight. Night entries around here are not safe, with all the coral and uncharted reefs. Luckily there is a full moon, so an early morning departure should be no problem.

Now today, I'm doing my usual school, dishes, cooking and cleaning up. The kids are jumping in the water off the rope swing and Pete is scraping green slime off the bottom of the boat. When we only travel at 5-7 mph, every bit of drag we can eliminate is helpful. "Imagine" really needs new bottom paint, which is on our to do list for New Zealand.

The kids have been extremely whiny lately, which isn't helping our general stress level at all. We keep enforcing that respect for one another is important. I am neither a maid or a short order cook. There will always be someone who doesn't like what I cook and someone who needs to pick up their own mess. Pete is thinking hard about making this next bit safe and sane. He's having another bout of insomnia, so isn't as up to his usual energy level. We have enjoyed Tonga, but it's been a bit tainted with the stress we're feeling about the future.

A number of people commented after the birthday party that I should coordinate events at home. Gee do you think so? I am really looking forward to some normal life for a while. I feel myself slipping into bouts of frustration and missing my own life at home. I've left a lot of myself behind for this trip and yet I've been stretched in new directions that I think will change me forever. Pete is the opposite and is really concerned about the future and his career opportunities. He would go on sailing forever. Our faith is pulling us through a difficult time, and your prayers are really appreciated.

Back to work- Kellie

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Tongan Olympics

With flags flying and smiles shining, 33 kids from seven different countries marched along Ano Beach in the opening parade of the Cruising Kids' Tongan Olympics. The long jump tested the skill and determination of all four teams as they leaped over rope lines in the sand to earn points. Ranging in age from four to 15, the bigger kids gave it all they had and sailed over all three ropes, while the little ones just ran across the course to the enthusiastic cheering of parents and team members alike. Video cameras filmed, cameras clicked and team leaders dads herded kids to the next event, the relay race. Around the course they went, handing off their team flag, testing the endurance of the dads as they guided and encouraged. A much needed water and popcorn break gave the official course setter (Peter) time to set up the shot put field. Each participant heaved a coconut across rope lines to earn more points for the teams. Team leaders began to feel the heat of competition as Chris's (Ocean Breezes) team (Ellie's also) pulled into the lead. An intermission to open presents gave everyone a rest, while Pete and Mark (Kia Orana) anchored buoys off the beach in preparation for the dinghy paddle and the boogie board relay.

Carter (6), Hugo (age 9 on Kia Orana), and Trym (age 13 on 3T) celebrated their birthdays together in the biggest kid party we've ever had. Presents are always a challenge when shopping in a remote island nation. A whale carving, a fishing lure and a "lock with it's own key" topped Carter's list of favorites. Everyone was raring to go in the water events. Each team piled into and around a rowing dinghy and by kid power only, had to propel it and themselves out and around their buoy. Little kids paddled with their hands from inside and big kids pushed and pulled from the water. Again, Chris's team prevailed and Paul's team (Ohana) asked for a handicap in the last event, the boogie board relay. We rallied the wet troops and each kid paddled a board out and around the buoy, in a relay of 8 turns. The bigger kids helped the little ones and the good sportsmanship and fun impressed the spectators.

As at all the cruiser parties, more and more food arrived to fill the makeshift tables. People brought engine room doors, gangplanks, and fender boards to prop on logs to make a buffet table. The kids generally won't eat anything at a potluck except hot dogs and bread, but the adults enjoy the variety and plenty.

What would the Olympics be without Gold medals, so after dinner, Eva (3T) gave another one of her now famous whistles and the teams reassembled to receive their awards. The scores were tallied and Ellie's team won by a landslide, while all three other teams came in very close together. Fourth place teams won red medals, third won bronze, second won silver and of course first won gold. Eva made all the medals out of painted cardboard, with graphics pasted in the middle commemorating the day and the prizes. Everyone felt a winner except Paul who offered me fifty bucks to improve his score, all in good fun. Carter's team won third and enjoyed the lollipops as much as the awards.

I think all the kids must be exhausted by now, as I know I am. My voice has given out a bit and I'd give a lot to jump in a hot tub about now. I did have a luxurious and rare hot shower, after motoring yesterday to heat the water, so that helped a bit. Pete is making us Kahlua Cocoa and my book is calling me.

Tomorrow we'll get the boat sea worthy again and in the next day or so, move out to the southern most anchorage. Tonga is made up of three island groups, so on Wednesday we plan to head to the central one. Then it's just a matter of getting our final clearance papers and waiting for the perfect weather to make our last major passage to New Zealand.

What a wonderful way to be winding up our trip, with good friends, good fun and great memories.

Good night, Kellie

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

less excitement

We've moved to another anchorage. It's more protected here and less current, so the boats are hanging better and no crashing. There are apparently sea horses here, but you have to snorkel at night to see them. The local restaurant owner suggested feeding them peas and they will wrap around your finger. Not sure if we're all brave enough to swim at night, but we'll check it out in the light and see. We're with Wyndeavor and Ocean Breezes today, and are negotiating with the restaurant for a dinner tonight. He seems quite keen on our business and buttered us up yesterday with two for one drinks. The kids are happy because there is a trampoline on the beach. It's buried in the sand, with a hole dug underneath, so no one will fall off and get hurt. We'll do one more trip into town this week for groceries and laundry, then head out for the weekend. We'll celebrate Carter's birthday this weekend, along with two other boat boys. I've devised the Cruising Kid's Tongan Olympics. We'll have a parade of flags, events and gold metals.

We would appreciate your prayers in the next month or two. We are facing one of the more difficult passages on the trip, from here to New Zealand and we have so many administrative details to deal with when we arrive, that we're starting to feel a bit overwhelmed. The weather in the more southern latitudes can get rough, so we'll have to do careful planning. We don't anticipate anything more than we've had from time to time all along, but it's a longer passage, of 1,100 miles, so it will get tiring. We would like crew, but haven't heard that anyone is interested, so we'll be on our own. For safety, we like to travel in groups and always have good radio communication. The Lord has really protected us all along the way, so we thank you for your prayers and praise Him for His faithfulness. Pete is starting to think about what he wants to be when he grows up and it's a bit of a stress because the options in Bellingham are limited. We'd appreciate your prayers in that area as well. We look forward to being back in December to check into jobs and houses and answer some of our questions and concerns. Please pray also that Imagine would sell quickly, if that is the right thing for us, or that we would feel led to come back for more sailing, if God has a plan for us out here.

Thanks, -Kellie

Saturday, October 08, 2005

never a dull moment

What a day. All the kid boats are congregating in an anchorage called Blue Lagoon. It's a wonderful spot surrounded by reef and small islands. A large white sandy beach covers the end of one island, making a perfect place for picnics and parties. Seven boat kids have October birthdays, so three big bashes are happening. Half of us arrived on Friday and had a nice afternoon at the beach. Then on Saturday morning a group of six charter boats arrived to have lunch. Being the rookie sailors that they are, they came right into the middle of us and started dropping anchors. All the cruisers are nicely spaced, with enough room to swing in any direction. Two boats tried to anchor in the triangle between Calliope, us and Ocean Breezes. There wasn't room for even one boat, so we hollered to the second one that there wasn't enough room. He moved off behind us far enough, but when Lisa on OB asked the first guy what was up, he said they only planned to stay a few hours and thought it would be fine. Another one anchored just 50 feet on the other side of us. I gave them a direct stare and they hung around to make sure all seemed well before heading to shore. While they were at lunch, the tide changed and the current picked up enough to pull the lighter boats around in several different directions. Normally, all the boats face (hang) the same direction into the wind. With light wind and a strong current, chaos can happen. Sure enough, the boat next to Ocean Breezes hit them. Pete saw Chris straddling the two boats, while Lisa went for the fenders. Almost immediately, four other cruisers showed up in dinghies and pushed the charter boat away. The people did return, but only after Evan had boarded the boat, started the engine and pulled in a bunch of anchor chain. We could only imagine the mess if the second boat had been in the mix. Boats cannot be parallel parked like cars, there are no white lines on the ocean. Calliope almost got hit on the other side, and we got very close to our neighbor. Thankfully no damage was done to any cruisers, but the charter boat got a good scratch from Chris' dinghy. We all breathed a sigh of relief when they finished lunch and left. Charters are not allowed to stay the night here because of the difficult conditions. It makes it less crowded for experienced cruisers. -Kellie

If that wasn't enough excitement for one day, how about a forest fire to fight in the evening? The cruising kids had spent most of the afternoon building a fort up in the woods. In an effort to show off, some local kids put a match to it and burned it down. Several adults had gone up to check it out and thought the local kids had it under control. Hours later we were having dinner around a beach fire when 10 year old Marco came running up and said the fire had restarted and was spreading into the woods. Lisa from Ocean Breezes and I followed them up the hill... when we got there it was huge and spreading fast - probably 50-70ft long x 20ft wide, running uphill and downwind. Fortunately, I'd brought a shovel to the beach and had it along. Lisa went back to get help and I set to work scraping away the 3" of dry pine needles covering the ground to make a fire break across the uphill/downwind end. Soon the other cruisers arrived and we all toiled for hours completing the fire break around the perimeter and making sure we had it contained.

It was interesting to observe the different reactions and actions of various people. We'd all somewhat ignored the kids during the day when they said their fort was on fire - a few minutes then would have been time well spent! During the big blaze, someone had gone to get help from the locals who's kids had started the fire. The husband was rude and said it wasn't his concern (the kids' mom did come and help, tho). The local kids showed up and were genuinely trying to help, but their methods were actually making things worse - whacking with palm fronds and spreading embers and burning sticks outside the fire break. Some of the cruisers went back to their boats to get fire extinguishers, then again for buckets to carry sea water. In hindsight, they would have been much more effective clearing the fire line and pulling brush and potential fuel out of the way. The fire extinguishers might put out a small wastebasket ablaze, but were totally ineffective against a thousand square feet of burning trees and brush. The water was good, but it was a really difficult and slow job to haul it up the hill (several hundred yards). I should have spent more time directing people who weren't sure what to do. Shoes sure would have been nice, and more shovels... or a helicopter with a big water bucket. -Pete

On a more positive note, Pete's hand seems to be healing nicely with no sign of infection despite the firefighting. He did relinquish the shovel to other guys and didn't over do it, for which I was very glad. Now if I can keep him out of the water for another few days at least, hopefully we'll be home free.

Hope all is well and maybe not so exciting at home. -Kellie

Thursday, October 06, 2005

close knit community

Over the course of our trip we've noticed the amazing sense of community that develops between cruisers. People of all nationalities, walks of life and ages form a group in which friendships solidify very quickly and everyone comes to the aid of everyone else. For the last two days we've been on the receiving end of that help. Day before yesterday, Pete cut his finger very badly while opening a coconut. One of Pete's favorite activities is hunting and killing coconuts with a large machete. We've learned about all the different stages and uses of the nuts, and he loves eating them almost as much as hacking them. Since he didn't have the perfect coconut machete he bought one here in Tonga and at the first opportunity, and after sharpening it razor sharp, set off to put it to use. We were anchored off a tiny deserted island with Wyndeavor enjoying a lovely afternoon on the beach. The kids were playing and Mike, Kelly and I were chatting when Pete appeared out of the woods dripping blood. He calmly says, "I've hurt myself," and then proceeded to slump to his knees, fighting nausea and shock. Praise God, the cut is not as serious as it could have been, but it is serious enough to be affecting our lives. He had given the husk a good wack and then while trying to remove the blade, he rolled it over the back of his left index finger. It cut virtually down to the bone, but missed the tendon, arteries and the major nerve. Mike and I got him back to the boat and he began to come out of shock a bit. We've been traveling with a boat called Calliope, whose captain, Skip, is a doctor. So I called him and got some advice. We were 2 hours from town and coming up on dark, and not sure if we should head for the hospital or do self care. Mike had some Dermabond, which is Superglue made for skin, so we used that to close up the wound. On Dr. Skip's advice, Pete jury rigged a splint to immobilize his whole finger in line with his palm. The next day it seemed to be doing alright, although still painful, somewhat swollen and causing frustration. Today, we decided to head for town, check in again with Skip and get some groceries. While pulling up the anchor, he tore it partially open again and had to redo the glue. In that process, we realized just how much glue had actually gone into the wound, creating a hard lump of rock solid glue between the two sides. So he tore out the whole lump and started over. Try number two, while underway to town, went a bit better. He put a small piece of gauze over the cut and glued it down with Liquid Skin, a bit like fiberglassing. That lasted well and held great. We stopped at Dolphins to say hello on our way to town and they said that another boat, Iron Mistress, had a hand surgeon on board who had heard us on the radio and wanted to help. He came over and took a look and put Pete's fears to rest about the damage from the glue and possible long term effects to the mobility. He approved the homemade splint, made out of copper wire (what else for an electrical engineer) and given us instructions for care. The real bummer is that he will have to stay out of the water for 1-3 weeks and have it splinted for the same amount of time. We'll just have to see how fast it heals up. Stitches aren't necessary if he keeps it glued shut and immobile, so he was saved that hassle. Our next dilemma was anchoring. In town, we tied up to a mooring buoy, but we really wanted to be out in a nice anchorage with a beach. We gave a call to Chris and Lisa on Ocean Breezes asking about buoys in Blue Lagoon, where all the kid boats are headed for another birthday party on Sunday. There are none and the anchor is too heavy for me to hand down. We headed out there and Chris met us in his dinghy and let the anchor down for us. By this point we've been helped by five families in 2 days, not to mention Bob on Plane Sailing, who carried my giant zucchini to the dinghy for me.

Once again, I know we are being looked after and prayed for. A few weeks of inconvenience are inconsequential compared to the damage that could have been done and the difficulties if friends hadn't rallied around. Thanks to all at home who are praying and thinking of us and sharing in our experiences via this log. We look forward to seeing you all soon for the holidays.


Tuesday, October 04, 2005

amazing day

Carter finished his school early, changed into his bathing suit and boogie boarded to the beach to play with Finley and Connor. Ocean Breezes, anchored right next to us, has the nicest boys and both of our kids enjoy them. Ellie didn't do so well with school, but after lunch we took our mats, magazines and masks to the beach for a bit of sun, snorkeling and snoozing. Pete and Carter did a dinghy trip to a cave and returned a few hours later to join in the beach fun. We have never seen a higher density of fish in all the snorkeling we've done. Not as many species as in Moorea, but definitely lots. We've discovered that clown fish are not as cute and cuddly as Nemo makes them seem. Several of us have been attached by them as they defend their nests. Pete saw a lion fish and got a terrific picture, which I'm sure will show up on the website next time we post photos.

Just as things were winding up at the beach and everyone's tummies started growling, I spotted whales. Pete had said in the morning that the two things he wanted to do in Tonga were caves and whales. We jumped in dinghies and headed over to the other side of the bay. A mother humpback and her calf put on quite a show for at least 45 minutes. People here swim with the whales and get within a few feet of them. Too many snorkelers were already in the water though, so we just took video and oohed and aahed in amazement. The baby, who is probably 20 feet long, splashed it's tail over and over, poked his nose out of the water, slapped his fins and generally acted like a rambunctious kid. Mom hovered patiently at the surface or just below. Adult humpbacks reach 42 feet in length. We floated in the dinghy about 100 yards away, which is the recommended legal limit. Lots of people zoom right up in their boats, but it is frowned upon. Our respect paid off when they decided to moved away from the group and came right at us. Kelly in Wyndeavor's eyes got so big when the mothers back appeared on the surface like a slow moving submarine headed right for them. Mike quickly backed up, and Pete filmed. They passed within 75 feet of us, blowing, rolling and fluking. Nothing like a 25 ton animal coming at your 10 foot dinghy to get your heart beating. They passed beyond us, and continued to play further down the bay. We'd like to try swimming with them, but only when they aren't so overwhelmed with attention. Lots of our friends have swum with them and rave about the experience.

We finished off the day with a game night on Wyndeavor and caught up on news. What a day!!

The birthday party the other day gave all the kids in Tonga a chance to play together and all the adults a nice visit. It's great to be back in a small island group where everyone is together. Between the Societies and here there are so many choices, we didn't see some people for months. Today we're off to another anchorage around the corner. It's supposed to have great diving and shelling. Hopefully school will go better today and the sun will stay out.


Sunday, October 02, 2005

Sun and sand

Hurray, after a really really really windy night, we finally have sun. We're anchored in front of a perfect white sand beach, complete with palm trees, turquoise water and lush scenery. Tonga is finally living up to the praise of our friends who arrived ahead of us. Pete went for a nice snorkel this morning and I enjoyed some quiet minutes with my book and beach chair. The kids had a marvelous day playing with other kids, making forts in the trees. Tomorrow we're invited to celebrate two kid birthdays. We figure 26 kids and 23 adults will eat two roasted pigs, four cakes, one rum punch, one sangria, one box of white wine, a lot of juice and as many salads as we can make.

I hope this week we can have a regular routine of school and varnishing in the morning and playing in the afternoons. For over a month now we've been sightseeing like crazy and moving around so much we're behind on boat chores and feeling quite worn out. With all the wind and all the rough anchorages, we haven't slept well in a long time. So far this evening is quiet and calm, so we hope to collapse into bed early and actually sleep through the night. Living on a boat equates to having a new born baby sometimes with all the night interruptions. Everyone in the anchorage this morning compared notes about lack of sleep and anchor problems. Only one cruising boat dragged, but the charters fared worse due to lack of experience, I guess. A current came through from a different direction than the wind and had everyone swinging around towards shore at 3:00 in the morning. No harm done, just "knackered" people as the Brits say.

Pete found a fantastic shell while snorkeling, but a hermit crab is living in it. For some reason the hermits have terrific taste in shells. We have a no killing policy when collecting shells, so we have become adept at evicting hermits and relocating them to ugly shells. Sometimes they can be pulled out, sometimes they will come out if put in fresh water. This guy is stubborn, but we've turned his shell upside down, put him in fresh water and offered him another shell to move into. We'll see what happens by morning. If he's unwilling to move, we'll set him free.


Saturday, October 01, 2005

dry laundry (almost)

So the thing that has taken up the most of our time since we've been here is drying the laundry. Yes, we sailed 9,000 miles to sit in the boat in the rain grumbling about wet clothes. In our first 5 days, we've done a lot of socializing, a lot of chores and no sight seeing. It has rained on and off everyday, getting even more of our clothes wet. We did catch about 100 gallons of rain water, so that is the plus side of torrential downpours. The boat is really clean, although quite messy due to clothes lines everywhere. There are so many people here that we know, it's a constant pattern of stopping to talk and having people drop in. It's fun to catch up with people, but hard to get anything else done without interruptions. We did get a babysitter for the night on Thurs and had dinner out with Wyndeavor and Aurora B. Kelly and I about fell over when Laura offered to keep all four kids for the evening. No one had to think twice. Service here is just not up to the standards of home. It's obvious that we've been gone a year, because we didn't get too irritated. It took an hour to get our table ready, they didn't bring silverware, and the owner told us he was so busy there was only one menu left. "So busy" in Tonga means 2 parties of 6 and one table of 14. Oh, well, the food was decent, the company great and the peace of a grown up meal, invaluable.

Friday night we visited on another CSY. It's a walk through, not walk over like ours, so the inside is quite a bit different. We compared notes and it turns out they were moored next to Imagine in Puerto Vallarta the year before we bought her. She suggested that we should have bought a "Kelly Peterson", but since Peter Schmitt designed the CSY's we figure it's just as good. We've only run into two other CSY's on the trip, one in Newport Beach and one in Nuku Hiva.

This morning we hauled out a bunch of extra boat stuff and took it to a "treasures of the bilge" sale on shore. Pete sold a fair amount and I sold a few cards. Like a community garage sale, most people socialized and bargained. This afternoon, after a couple of hours of baking, putting away laundry and general straightening up, we're off to an anchorage with a beach. There is a double birthday party on Monday for two boats kids, so there will be a huge reunion and gobs of kids. We're looking forward to some beach fun and sun. The weather is still unpredictable, so hopefully we won't get rained out. The snorkeling is supposed to be good too and also some caving.

Happy October, it's the 1st here in Tonga. -kellie