Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Northern Bound - Tuvalu and beyond

If you take any one day out of our life here cruising, you will find that it can be
remarkably mundane or just plain remarkable. Take passage making, for example.
Here we are on our way to Tuvalu from Samoa, with 10 knots of wind, making about
4 knots ourselves with the Samoan island, Savaii to our port side for the last 13
hours. I mean really, are we ever gonna pass this thing? The boat is rocking to it's own little rhythm and unfortunately, due to some power issues, we had to turn on
the engine. So you can add to the rocking that soft - or loud, depending on your
outlook on things - drone that comes with the iron wind. Pretty monotonous.
Pretty mundane.

If, on the other hand, you take your glass half full, you could look at it from the
perspective of adventure, traveling great distances - well, not great, but definitely
long, 658 miles - with our one and only, 6 year old son. No doctor in case one of us
gets sick or hurt. No mall or park to go to when we have cabin fever and he can't
play outside (or needs new shorts, for that matter). No babysitter so Andy and I can
go out to eat alone or watch a movie. Just the boat, the water, and us. He plays all day with the few toys we let him bring along, pretending that the Death Star has just been completed and Darth Vader is taking over Savannah. We, together, must unite and take the evil lord down before Savannah sinks on a planet full of lava. We do this for five or six days before arriving at a remote little - well, not so little - atoll where only 10-12 boats visit a year. Quite remarkable if I do say so myself.

We have just begun to sail "the path not taken." All of our friends and acquaintances went south to either Tonga or Fiji and we've turned north to head our way up to the Marshalls for the cyclone season. Why, you ask? Well, it took me a while to remember why, outside of "because we wanted to," but there is a reason. You see, we didn't want to rush through Fiji and Tonga. We hear they are both incredible all by themselves and people get there wishing they had more time. Not to mention, we want to hit Vanuatu and New Caledonia before landing in Australia. Most people go to New Zealand and then make their way back up the next year to spend more time at their favorite spots, or perhaps the spots they missed. I, for one (and the captain is with me on this one), think New Zealand is going to be very cold, never mind that it is a 10 day trip with 7 day weather windows. I've only heard a handful of people - and they're out there - that enjoyed themselves during that passage. "But you don't want to miss New Zealand!," everyone tells us in a panic when they find out we're not sailing there. You're right, we don't. Calm down. We're going to fly there from Australia at some point and do it by land (after I buy a few sweaters).

Another option for cyclone season is to go up to Hawaii. Andy and I have both been
to Hawaii and don't feel a great desire to sail there either. Not because it's not
beautiful, but again, from good sources, we hear it's not the best cruising ground. If we had intentions of leaving the boat and heading back to the states for a few
months, it might be a great option, but with our budget and spending habits, we
couldn't survive in the states for more than a few weeks, let alone a few months.

Many people leave their boats in Tonga or Fiji in a hurricane hole. Literally, a hole dug out of the land with your boat in it. As cool of a picture as that would make,again, we have the problem of where would we go for that amount of time. Not to
mention, the captain isn't too keen on leaving our boat alone...anywhere (hence, all
the trips back to the states sans Andy the last year and a half).

So, after much research, we found the Marshalls to be an option that grew more and
more appealing.
1) It's off the beaten path - as much as we love the friends we've made, we
really didn't come sailing to meet more people like us. Andy and I both can
be rather introverted at times and after 6 months of traveling with the same
people, we're ready to fly the coop, so to speak. No offense to those we now
call our friends. We really do love you.

2) It has some great diving - World War II debris is scattered far and wide in
this area. Combine what we know about, with what we don't know about
and the crystal clear water, and it makes for some of the best diving in the world
(so we hear). That's number one on my underwater photographer captainÕs

3) Meeting the Natives - While we have certainly met many different people
and learned about many cultures along our way, we've been on the Milk Run
and they have grown quite accustomed to seeing us cruisers. Some of them
are still enjoying having us, but most have learned that we're a very
profitable people to have around. While I'm somewhat scared of some of the
places we're going - yes, I did decide to download that copy of The Sex Lives
of Cannibals - we are a "glass half full" kind of cruiser and have seen time and
time again that you can't judge a place until you see it for yourself. If we
listened to all of the people that told us the Sea of Cortez was too hot in the
summer and it was miserable and we were crazy, blah, blah, blah, we would
have missed out on one of the coolest adventures of our lives (remember
those whale shark pictures?).

4) Lastly (and no, it's not the most important, but is kind of nice), There's a
military base there - Kwajalein is an Army base in the Marshalls that is used
to collect the ballistic missiles used in testing. You have to be sponsored to
go there by someone who lives on the island, and we're in the process of
working on that. But the real draw is the ability to use the commissary,
hopefully the medical and dental clinic and be back in a comfortable
environment for a few weeks (I know, I just said I wanted to meet the
Natives, but by the time we get to the Marshalls, we will have had two
months of meeting the Natives. Give me a break.). And hopefully, Jake will
meet some kids who speak English. He's really getting the hang of playing
with the little kids who don't speak English and w're trying to teach him all
the different ways to say hello, but my heart goes out to him sometimes and
it feels like it would be a nice Christmas present for him to get to say "Hi, do
you want to play with me?" and be understood.

So, for all who were wondering, that's why we're heading north, instead of south
this year. We know all about the pooping on the beach in Tarawa and the butterfly
size cockroaches in Majuro (that incidentally, have been known to make their way
out to boats) and even the petty theft that happened there earlier this year. But
we also know about the wonderful, friendly people with a goofy sense of humor and
the gorgeous outer atolls waiting to be explored. I'm hoping the latter will WOW us
enough to ignore my most feared insect and MOVE us enough to smell the roses
instead of the, well, you know. Stay should be interesting.

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1 comment:

Kevin said...

Just found your blog a couple weeks ago, thanks for all the great info! I can't find any other way to get hold of you, so I will mention this here. My wife has a niece (and her husband) that recently moved to Kwaj. They may be of some help in getting sponsored there. Let me know if I can help.

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